Studies in Eighteenth-Century Diplomacy, 1740-1748

By Richard F. Lodge | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
D'ARGENSON'S RELATIONS WITH GERMANY AND
SARDINIA

Inefficiency of French Foreign Office after 1740--Fleury yields to Belleisle as to Austrian succession--Louis XV dispenses with a First Minister on Fleury's death--Treaty of Fontainebleau with Spain--French expedients to meet Carteret's successful coalition--France saved by Prussian return to the war--D'Argenson becomes Foreign Minister and Carteret falls--Prospects of peace--Death of Charles VII--D'Argenson's prepossessions--His imperfect control of French policy --Futile attempt to oppose election of Francis I--D'Argenson secures neutrality of Empire--French successes in the Netherlands--Triumph of "Gallispans" in Italy--Frederick's defence of Silesia and Treaty of Dresden--Refusal of d'Argenson to quarrel with Prussia--English capture Cape Breton-- Sardinian overtures to d'Argenson--His Italian plans-- First mission of Champeaux to Turin--The agreement of 26 December--Disclosure to England--The draft treaty and the armistice--D'Argenson's letter to Maillebois--Outcry from Spain--Champeaux's second mission--Narrative of Villettes--The younger Maillebois brings signed but conditional armistice--Rupture of negotiation--Fall of Asti-- Quarrels of French and Spaniards--English reticence-- Austria regards Sardinian ill-faith as forfeiting Worms cessions.

IT cannot be disputed--and was, indeed, admitted at the time1--that the French Foreign Office was inefficiently guided during the war of the Austrian Succession. There had been no warning of this beforehand. At the close of the previous decade France seemed to have recovered the ascendancy in Europe which it had lost in the later years of Louis XIV. If Fleury had been so fortunate as to die in 1740, he would have come down to history with a halo as the statesman who had dealt a mortal blow to the Utrecht Settlement by concluding a Family Compact with Spain and by establishing a Bourbon King in Naples and Sicily, who had removed the last weakness

____________________
1
Noailles to Louis XV, 8 July, 1743. Rousset, Correspondence de Louis XV et le Maréchal de Noailles, i., 148. "Je ne puis me dispenser de dire à Votre Majesté que ses affaires étrangères sont tres-mal conduites."

-80-

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