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betwixt laadame de Maintenon and the princess de Ursins. An inundation of the Loire came to complete the havoc that the winter had caused. The hand of Providence seemed to accumulate woes. A scurvy in the crowded hospitals of Paris took the appearance of a plague. “In short,” writes De Maintenon, in a melancholy letter to Villars, “God has brought us to that lowest point of ruin, from which it may be hoped he will retrieve us by a sudden turn.” The pious hope of the wife of Louis did not go altogether unfulfilled.
Meantime, the allies had entered the field, well supplied from the copious magazines of Holland. The French army, in a state of starvation and nudity, opposed them. “Send us bread, for heaven's sake l’” wrote their commander to the minister; “send us bread; we will do without waistcoats or whirts.” This commander was the mareschal Villars. He was indignant at the arrogance of the confederates, and the despondency of the court: it was he who roused the drooping spirits of Louis and of his ministers, and who alone preserved a confidence in the French soldiery and in the fate of arms. Villars appears to be one of the truest and finest specimens of the French soldier: he was ardent, bold, and valiant; qualities which he enhanced by an air and habit of boasting. Full of resources, he never lost confidence in himself; firmly believing that neither Marlborough nor any general could contend with him. With this he was blunt and rude; could not brook to be commanded; too independent to be a courtier; all ministers hated him; and the butterflies of the court joined them. “I am going to fight your enemies,” said he to the monarch, as he was departing for a campaign; “I leave you amongst mine.” .
The duke of Marlborough and prince Eugene had taken Tournay, and now menaced Mons. Villars advanced by the road from Valenciennes to succor it, and posted himself to the right of the road, in an interval betwixt two woods, near Malplaquet. By advancing he might have routed prince Eugene, who was at first inferior in numbers; but Marlborough coming up, the two generals determined to attack Villars, who, on his side anxious to measure himself with them and secure an advantage, had covered his strong position by intrenchments and abatis, or trees felled and thrown with their branches toward the enemy. The envoys of the Dutch states dissuaded Marlborough from fighting; and they were right. Mons was in the rear of the allied army, and Villars was in no condition to disturb its siege, without at least quitting his intrenchments. Marlborough, however, accustomed to conquer, somewhat undervalued his enemies, and resolved on the attack.
1709. BATTLE OF MALPLAQUET. 131
The battle of Malplaquet was fought on the 11th of September. Each wing of the French was in a wood, covered, and intrenched, whilst the centre, occupying the interval, had taken scarcely less care to cover itself. Opposite the French centre, however, was a farm and a little wood, which prince Eugene occupied, and filled with troops that did not appear. The action began on the wings, Marlborough charging Villars, and driving him back after a struggle. To support himself, Villars drew reinforcements from the centre, and was making fresh head against the English, when a ball struck his knee, and incapacitated him from commanding. Prince Eugene, watching his opportunity, seized the moment that Villars had weakened his centre, and, leading his infantry from the farm and wood, rushed on the centre, and broke it, carrying their intrenchments. This was victory. In the mean time, the Dutch attack on the other wing, where Boufflers commanded, was defeated. Despite the valor of the young prince of Orange, he could not establish himself in the wood, or within the intrenchment; and he was driven back. But the success of Boufflers was to no purpose. The French left and centre were broken; and all that its victorious right could accomplish was to cover the retreat, and prevent Malplaquet from being converted into the same rout as Ramillies. The allies lost a prodigious number of men in the attack of the woods and intrenchments. The number of French slain was much less. Villars, in consequence, was as proud as if he had gained the battle. “If God should grant us another such defeat, our enemies would be destroyed,” wrote he to Louis. He afterwards boasted that but for his wound he would have won the victory: Voltaire, who, was present, remarks, that few believed the boast. Mons surrendered immediately. This was the last victory of Marlborough. In the next campaign, indeed, he showed his decided military superiority to Villars, by breaking through lines that the mareschal had declared impregnable, and this without losing a man. But whilst France, with the languor of an exhausted but still valiant combatant, was warding off these blows, which the Dutch, in their anxiety for capturing towns and forming a barrier, prevented from being straightforward and vital, fortune was pleased to prostrate Marlborough, and rescue Louis from ruin by the means of a canting clergyman and an obscure woman, who rose to court favor. Sachevere. and Mrs. Masham effected what all the warriors and statesmen of Versailles despaired to do. Marlborough was overthrown, and with him England's inveteracy and force.
Previous to affairs taking this unexpected turn, the situa.
tion of Louis was desperate. Again he sent envoys to sue for peace, and they were treated with the same contempt. Sympathy is here excited for the monarch, struggling bravely not for his conquests, but for his crown and country. . Louis on this occasion showed a spirit that more entitled lim to the name of Great, than all his early triumphs. What were his intentions, in case of the war's continuing, and of Marlborough's invading France? He has himself recorded them in a letter to Willars: “I reckoned,” said he, “on going to Peronne or St. Quentin, gathering there every disoosable troop, wherewith to make a last effort with you, that we might perish together: for never could I remain a witness of the enemy's approaching my capital.” This, indeed, breathes the pride of Louis XIV., but at the same time his magnanimity and heroism. The battle of Villa-Viçosa, gained by the French over the Austrian party in Spain, revived his hopes; the disgrace of Marlborough, and the blunted hostilities of England, restored him to security and confidence. Whilst the clouds in the political sky were thus clearing up for Louis, a mass of private misfortine, almost unexampled, fell upon him. His pride had been brought low. He was now stricken in his nearest affections: his only son, the dauphin died of the small-pox. The son of this prince became, in consequence, heir-apparent to the crown. The greatest hopes were entertained of this youth. He had been the pupil of Fénélon. Though most violent and extreme naturally in his passions and temper, a sense of religion had worked a reforma tion in him, and he became forbearing, pious, just. His reign promised to be a golden one for France. Such was the young duke of Burgundy. His duchess was of a character as rare. With the most buoyant spirits and the aptest wit, she was the delight of her royal grandfather, who could not take a journey without her; and with him she took all kinds of liberties. It was she who remarked, on hearing him speak of the triumphs of queen Anne's reign, that “queens reigned more prosperously than kings; because under a queen men governed, and women under a king.” This prince and princess were both carried off suddenly by some unknown disease; possibly by the small-pox, which was then universally prevalent and fatas: but none of the external marks of that malady appeared on them. The title of dauphin fell, within a very short time, upon a third head; and it too was carried to the grave. The second child of the late duke of Burgundy was then at nurse, and about two years old. The same malady seized it: and it was saved, probably, by its superintendent, who would not permit either bleeding or emetic to be employed,—the favorite
1712. CONFERENCES AT UTREAYHT. 133
remedies of the time for every ailment. This infant lived, and became soon after Louis XV. M. Popular belief could not assign so many deaths of such important personages to the cause of nature or disease. They were attributed to poison; and the physicians, either through alarm and ignorance, or to excuse their want of skill, corroborated, all save one blunt man, the same opinion. Who could be guilty of such crimes? was the next question. And this unanswered, suggested, Who could profit by them 4 All eyes turned towards the duke of Orleans, nephew of Louis. His life was profligate, his character reckless, and his pride seemed to be to brave public opinion. The king, with his wonted jealousy, had kept the prince from all high or martial employ, except on one or two occasions. In Italy he had shown courage. In Spain, contemming the dullness of Philip V., who at that time had meditated retiring to the Indies, he had intrigued, it was averred, to take his place. This put him in disgrace at court. Even his studies gave handle to calumny. Chemistry was what he most delighted in, and in this pursuit he was said to be actuated by an unholy curiosity to read and influence his future destinies. Of a sarcastic spirit, that despised and mocked humanity, the duke perhaps encouraged these opinions of him in order to cater to his own amusement. The cry of suspicion was now serious. The court entertained it. The people clamored about the Palais Royal, and were only prevented by the police from breaking in and tearing the poisoner in pieces. To such accusers the duke scorned to justify himself. He sought however an interview with the 'king, who, worn with sorrow and tormented with suspicion, granted it. Orleans demanded to be sent to the Bastile, confronted with witnesses, and tried. Louis for answer could but shrug his shoulders. The monarch's mind was paralyzed with his misfortune. The duke's teacher of chemistry was arrested; and there the matter ended. Posterity seems to have acquitted Orleans of the crime; but his contemporaries, more credulous, were far from resigning themselves to the same opinion. Some indeed accused the house of Austria; and the absurdity of this supposition, upheld by many creditable persons, has the effect of invalidating the other. But none at that time dared to doubt the agency of poison. Conferences for peace had opened at Utrecht in the commencement of 1712. It was no longer Marlborough, but the duke of Ormond, who now commanded in Flanders. He concluded a suspension of hostilities with the French; and Villars, delivered from the English, undertook to strike a blow against the prince Eugene. That commander besieged Landrecies
communicating with his magazines through the intrenched camp of Denain. Villars, pretending to assault the besieging army round Landrecies, made a side march suddenly, broke into the fortified lines, called arrogantly by the imperialists the road to Paris, and advanced upon Denain. His officers cried for fascines to fill up the ditch. “Eugene will not allow you time,” cried Villars, “the bodies of the first slain must b our fascines.” They advanced, stormed the camp, which wa commanded by lord Albemarle, a Dutch general, and carried it ere the prince could arrive. This gallant action roused the spirits and fortunes of the French, and gave weight to their efforts at Utrecht. By their own writers Denain is almost swelled into comparison with Ramillies; its success is said to have saved the kingdom. The defection of the English, under their tory minister, from the grand alliance, was, however, the true and only cause of their safety. Without it Villars could not have won the day of Denain, nor Louis made peace at Utrecht on any terms less than the abandonment of the crown of Spain by the house of Bourbon. In April, 1713, the plenipotentiaries of France signed the treaties of Utrecht with England, Holland, and Savoy. The former country was gratified by the demolition of the port of Dunkirk, the cession of Gibraltar and Minorca, together with Newfoundland, Hudson's Bay, and the island of St. Christopher's. Spain remained to Philip W. on his renouncing for ever all right of succession to the crown of France. The English ministry endeavored to render this unwelcome part of the treaty palatable to the parliament by a number of advantages stipulated in favor of British commerce, which, however, as savoring of free trade, and inimical to the connexion with Portugal, failed of being well received. The duke of Savoy, in addition to his paternal dominions already recovered by him, had Sicily thrown into his lot. The treaty with Holland was but provisional till the following year. The emperor held out and refused to accept the ample concessions secured to him in exchange for the crown of Spain. But the brilliant campaign of marshal Villars on the Rhine soon made Austria recede from its warlike tone and the treaty of Radstadt came in 1714 to complete that of Utrecht. The Rhine was here acknowledged the frontier line on the side of Alsace. The elector of Bavaria was restored to his dominions. The emperor, in lieu of Spain, received Naples, Milan, and Sardinia, together with Spanish Flanders, in which however the Dutch retained the right of garrisoning the principal towns, forming, as it was called, the barrier against France. Namur, Tournay, Menin, and Ypres