The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [Age of Louis XIV, V. II] - Vol. 23

The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [Age of Louis XIV, V. II] - Vol. 23

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The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [Age of Louis XIV, V. II] - Vol. 23

The Works of Voltaire: A Contemporary Version [Age of Louis XIV, V. II] - Vol. 23

Read FREE!

Excerpt

THE WAR OF 1701 — CONDUCT OF PRINCE EUGENE, MARSHAL VILLEROI, THE DUKE OF VENDÔME, THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH, AND MARSHAL VILLARS; UNTIL THE YEAR 1703.

The first general to put a check to the superiority of the French arms was a Frenchman, for so we should call Prince Eugene, though he was the grandson of Charles Emanuel, duke of Savoy: his father, the count de Soissons, had settled in France, where he was lieutenant-general of the king's armies, and governor of Champagne, and had married Olympia Mancini, one of the nieces of Cardinal Mazarin. From this match, so unfortunate in other respects, was born this prince, who afterward proved so dangerous an adversary to Louis XIV., and was so little known to him in his youth. He was known at first in France by the name of the Chevalier de Carignan; he afterward took the petit collet, and was called the Abbot of Savoy. It is said that he asked the king for a regiment, which his majesty refused him, on account of his being too much connected with the princes of Conti, who were then in disgrace. Not being able to succeed with Louis XIV., he went to serve the emperor against the Turks in Hungary, in 1684, together with the princes of Conti, who had already made a glorious campaign there. The king sent an order to the princes of Conti, and all those who had accompanied them in this expedition, to return home. The abbot of Savoy was the only one who refused to comply with this mandate: he continued his journey, openly declaring that he renounced France forever. The king, when he was told of this, said to his courtiers, "Don't you think I have had a great loss?" and these gentlemen gave it as their opinion that the abbot of Savoy would always be a mad-headed fellow, and fit for nothing. They founded their judgment on certain sallies of youth, by which we are never to judge of men. This prince, who was held in so much contempt at the court of France, was born with all the qualifications which form the hero in war and the great man in peace. He had a just and lofty mind, and the necessary courage, both in the field and cabinet. He was guilty of faults, as all generals have been, but these were lost in the number of his great actions. He shook the greatness of Louis XIV. and the Ottoman power: he governed the empire, and in the course of his victories and ministry showed an equal contempt for vainglory and riches. He cherished, and even protected, learning, as much as could be done at the court of Vienna. At this time he was about thirty-seven years of age, and had the experience of his own victories over the Turks, and the faults which he had seen committed by the imperialists in the late wars in which he served against France. He entered Italy by the country of Trent, in the territories of Venice, with thirty thousand men, and with full liberty to make such use of them as he pleased. The court at first forbade Marshal Catinat to oppose the passage of Prince Eugene, either because they would not commit the first act of hostility, which was bad policy when the enemy had already taken up arms, or else because they would not disoblige the Venetians, who were, however, less to be feared than the German army. This first mistake in the court occasioned Marshal Catinat to commit others. That person rarely succeeds who follows a plan that is not his own; besides, we well know how difficult a matter it is, in a country cut through with rivers and streams, toprevent a skilful enemy from passing them. Prince Eugene, to a great depth of scheming, added a lively promptitude of execution. From the nature of the ground on the banks of the Adige, the enemy's army was more compact, while that of the French was more extended. Catinat was for marching to meet the enemy; but the generals started difficulties and formed cabals against him. Instead of making them obey him, he gave way; the mildness of his disposition led him to commit this great error. Eugene began on July 9, 1701, by forcing the post of Carpi, . . .

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