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Reign of William III page 3

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On the 30th of July the elector of Bavaria attacked Vauban's line that surrounded the defences of the castle, and broke through it, and reached even Cohorn's celebrated fort, under the eyes of Cohorn himself, but could not effect a lodgment in it. On the 2nd of August another party of grenadiers, headed by the dare-devil lord Cutts, attacked and lodged themselves on the second counterscarp. The governor, count Guiscard, now engaged to give up the town, time being allowed for the garrison to retire into the citadel. This being done, and the allies having engaged to give up the one thousand five hundred wounded men left below, on the 13th the bombardment of the fort commenced with renewed fury. Both sides fought with the fanaticism of courage, and committed great havoc on each other. Boufflers at length attempted to cut his way through the besiegers in a headlong sally, but was repulsed, and shut up again.

At this crisis Villeroi's army had reached Fleurus, and fired ninety pieces of cannon to apprise the besieged of their vicinity. William immediately left the conduct of the siege to the elector of Bavaria, and drew out a strong force to confront Villeroi, who was reinforced by a large body of troops from Germany. This was a most anxious moment to the people of both England and France. The armies of the two nations were drawn out against each other, and covered the plains of the Sambre and the Meuse. Boufflers was urging Villeroi to strike a decisive stroke for his deliverance and the rescue of Namur, and William had Boufflers in his rear if he was beaten by Villeroi.

At Versailles Louis was imploring heaven for victory, with all his court on their knees, confessing and receiving the eucharist; and in London the Jacobites, frantic with confident expectation that now William would be annihilated, filled London with all sorts of horrible rumours 'and alarms. But after having faced each other for three days, Villeroi saw that the position and numbers of the allies were too formidable, and he quietly decamped along the river Mehaigne to Boneffe. As Boufflers was now left without hope of succour, the allies informed him of the retreat of Villeroi, and summoned him to surrender without occasioning more slaughter. But there was a tradition in the French army that no marshal of France had ever capitulated, and he stood out. The bombardment re-commenced on the 21st with sixty-six cannon and sixty mortars, and, says Ralph, "As if the besiegers had designed to level the walls like those of Jericho, with one blast, the dreadful business of the day was opened with one general discharge from all these batteries at the same instant with such an effect, that not only the whole circumference of the castle, but the very hill it stood on, seemed to reel with the shock, and to be lost in the cloud of dust and smoke that followed it. Scarce could the besiegers themselves sustain the horror of their own experiment; and, as to the besieged, their consternation and confusion were inexpressible; those that escaped could scarcely believe that they had escaped; every object round about them wore a face of ruin; for bursting bombs, fractured battlements, dying men, and horses staking themselves on the palisadoes, or plunging headlong into the ditches in a fit of ungovernable frenzy, were the only objects they were surrounded with."

Yet this did not induce Boufflers to surrender; there must be yet more carnage. Early in the afternoon an assault was made in four places at once. Cutts, as usual, led on the chief body of grenadiers. They were mowed down by wholesale. Cutts himself received a wound in the head, which disabled him for some time; and, whilst his wound was bandaging, the grenadiers recoiled before the murdering fire from the batteries. But again Cutts presented himself at their head, and they turned to support a body of Bavarians who were ordered to support them, but who were in vain endeavouring to force the palisadoes, and were fast being shot down. The English coming up as they were on the point of giving way, by a desperate effort burst through the palisadoes, stormed the battery which had made such havoc with the Bavarians, and turned the guns against the enemy. In the meantime the Dutch and Brandenburgers had also been successful; lodgments were made for a mile in length in the French outworks, but two thousand of the allies had fallen.

Boufflers now demanded forty-eight hours to bury his dead, which was granted him; and, in truth, he had need of it, for his trenches were all choked with the fallen, and his force was already reduced to about one-third its original strength. When he entered the town the garrison mustered fifteen thousand men; now it was only about five thousand. When the dead were buried, Boufflers offered to surrender in ten days if he were not relieved before; but the allies would not listen to anything but an immediate surrender, and he complied, on condition that the garrison should be allowed to march out with the honours of war, but leaving the artillery and stores to the conquerors. The allies announced the surrender to Villeroi by the discharge of all their artillery, and by a running fire of all their musketry three times repeated. He knew the meaning of it, and retreated towards Mons.

Accordingly, on the 26th of August, Boufflers marched forth with drums beating and flags flying, William, the elector of Bavaria, and all the officers being assembled to witness this gratifying spectacle. Boufflers lowered his sword in token of submission to the elector of Bavaria, and the troops marched on. Before Boufflers, however, passed out of the trenches, Dykvelt informed him that he was the prisoner of the king of England. Boufflers was highly enraged at what he regarded as an act of gross perfidy; but he was informed that he was detained in consequence of his sovereign having broken the cartel, and refused to deliver up the two captured garrisons of Dyxmude and Deynse, and that he was held as a hostage for the faithful discharge of the articles agreed upon. There was no denying the perfidy of his king, which had caused this refusal, and Boufflers sent an express to inform Louis, who immediately returned a promise that the garrisons should be sent back, and Boufflers was forthwith released. On his return to Fontainebleau, he was received by Louis as if he were a conqueror, and created a duke, with a grant of money to enable him to support his new rank.

This was the great event of the campaign, and spread exultation throughout all the countries of the allies. It seemed to wipe out the successive defeats of Mons, Fleurus, Landen, and the former loss of Namur; it showed the allies at length victorious, and Louis discomfited and on the wane. William retired for a while to his favourite Loo, leaving the elector of Bavaria to command the army, which towards the end of September retired into winter quarters. In other quarters nothing very decisive had taken place. Marshal de Lorges had once more crossed the Rhine, and once more menaced the unfortunate Heidelberg; but the prince of Baden, joined by some of the Confederates, approached De Lorges' camp at Bruchsal, and he made a hasty retreat across the Rhine again. In the east the sultan died, and was succeeded by his nephew Mustapha, and the new sultan crossed the Danube, took Lippa and Titul by storm, attacked, defeated, and killed general Veterani at Logos, and then retreated to Orsowa. In Piedmont the duke of Savoy took Casale; and in Catalonia, by the presence of Russell on the coast, the French were compelled to evacuate Ostalric and Castle-Follit, and might have been driven entirely out, but, as usual, the viceroy and his Spaniards engaging to unite with Russell in reducing Palamos, fell back and left Russell to bombard the town alone, Russell complained that the Spaniards had made no preparations whatever for the campaign, and failed altogether in their engagements to supply the British with tents and provisions. On the 27th of August Russel sailed for the coast of Provence, but was compelled by stress of weather to return to Cadiz, where he left Sir David Mitchel with a division of the fleet, and returned to England with the rest.

Lord Berkeley had meantime been engaged, with the Dutch admiral Allemonde, in harassing the French coast. On the 4th of July they attempted to bombard St. Malo, but received more injury than they did the town. On the 6th they assaulted Granville. A similar attack was made on Dunkirk by the Dutch engineer Meesters, but with little effect. Another English squadron, under captain Wilmot and colonel Lilingston, was sent to seize the towns of the French in Hispaniola, in conjunction with the Spaniards; but Wilmot, one of the commanders, behaved very ill, seeking plunder for his own benefit instead of conquest for his country. Lilingston strongly remonstrated, and there was nothing but dissension amongst the officers, and the remains of the expedition returned to England, having failed to do any real service. The marquis of Caermarthen also disgraced himself. He was stationed off the Scilly Isles to look out for French privateers, which swarmed in both channels; but, seeing a number of merchantmen together, he mistook them for the Brest fleet, and made away with all haste to Milford Haven. The sea being left open in consequence, the French committed great depredations on our traders, taking a considerable number of ships homeward bound from Barbadoes. The merchants complained bitterly of the mismanagement which thus victimised them, but to little purpose; for the Jacobite traitors in the government were not only careless to defend their country from the French, but they were still active to give the enemy the earliest notice of all the English movements, by which they were able to do them such constant injury.

William arrived in London from Holland on the 20th of October. He was received with acclamations, illuminations, and ringing of bells. His progress through London and to Kensington was like that of a conqueror. As if he was destined to take no rest, that very day the council was assembled, and it was concluded to dissolve parliament. William, however, had been enjoying relaxation at Loo, and no doubt this question of the dissolution of parliament had been discussed and arranged prior to his arrival. It was deemed much better to take the nation at this moment when it was in a good humour, than to defer it till the 25th of next March, when, by the Triennial Act, it must expire, and the public mind might possibly be different. There was another motive which was said to operate with William - the impeachment of Leeds. We have seen that William had a great reluctance to bring great delinquents to justice; but in the case of Leeds there were causes for this reluctance which we must respect. It was to Leeds, as Lord Danby, that William owed his match with Mary, and Mary had always had the greatest regard for Leeds, and he had, on his part, served her assiduously during William's absences. A new parliament would not be likely to take up again his impeachment, and accordingly, the old one was dissolved, and the new one called for the 22nd of November.

This announcement threw into full activity the newly acquired liberty of the press.^ Since the revolution, spite of the restrictions of the censorship, the press had been extremely busy, and when it was obliged to work in secret, it had been all the more venomous. The Jacobites had employed it to spread sedition and lies, it now came strongly forward in favour of the king and the constitution. There were abundance of tracts on the subject of the election, and besides the old news-letters, there were regular newspapers which advocated their own views, but with a decency and moderation which surprised all parties. Probably they were so delighted with their new liberty as to be anxious not to risk any withdrawal of it. Amongst the pamphlets was one, the last literary effort of Halifax, called, "Some Cautions Offered to those who are to Choose Members," which gave some good advice, especially not to choose lawyers, because they were in the habit of pleading on both sides, and were sure to look after their own advancement more than after that of the country; nor officers in the army, who, he thought, were out of place in parliament, and attempting to do what no man can ever do - serve two masters. He also warned them against pensioners and dependents on the crown, who do not make good representatives of the people; and against those who, for reasons best known to themselves, had opposed the Triennial Bill. Finally, he bade them seek honest Englishmen, but warned them that they were not very easy to find.

If the people were alert to secure good representatives, William, for once, shook off his reserve and made a progress amongst his subjects to win popularity. There were six weeks till the meeting of the new parliament, and he resolved to see something of his subjects, and let them see something of him, in the meantime. Before leaving town, too, he paid a visit to the princess of Denmark, and there a very agreeable bit of flattery was prepared for him. Anne's son, the duke of Gloucester, a child only six years of age, presented himself with a little musket on his shoulder, and said he was learning his drill to help his uncle to beat the French. William was delighted by the circumstance, and before leaving London invested the little hero with the garter.

William first directed his course to Newmarket, a place much more frequented by Charles and James than by himself. There he was waited on by a deputation of heads of houses and learned doctors from Cambridge, who made him a very complimentary address on his splendid campaign and safe return, but gave him no invitation to honour the university by a visit. Thence he went to Althorpe, the seat of Sunderland, who, no doubt, was only too happy to receive such a mark of royal favour after his disgraces, rebuffs, and zealous endeavours to climb again to power. He entertained the king with all the splendour and profusion of a brother prince, and the nobility and gentry of the country round flocked hither to kiss his hand. Thence he travelled on to "Burleigh House by Stamford town," the seat of the earl of Exeter, thence to Lincoln, and so to Welbeck Abbey, the seat of the duke of Newcastle, since fallen by heritage, as if by the wish of William himself, to the descendants of his friend, the earl of Portland. From Welbeck, William directed his course to the earl of Stamford's at Bradgate Park, near Leicester, the old seat of the Greys of Groby, and where Ascham represented lady Jane Grey as reading Plato whilst the rest of the family were hunting; so on to lord Brook's at Warwick Castle, to the duke of Shrewsbury at Eyefort, into Gloucestershire, back by Woodstock to Oxford, at which place he was met by the duke of Ormond as chancellor of the university, the vice- chancellor, and the doctors and magistrates in full costume. A Latin oration was addressed to him, of which we may fairly predicate that William would not understand many words, our English pronunciation of Latin being so different to that of all the world besides. He was presented with the usual compliments of a Bible, a prayer-book, a pair of gold-fringed gloves, &c., and was about to sit down to a superb banquet in the theatre, when an anonymous letter found in the street, warning him not to eat in Oxford or he would be poisoned, cut short the festivity, and he made an early departure for Windsor. He was welcomed back to London by a grand display of fireworks in St. James's Square, given by Sydney, now earl of Romney.

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