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The Wars of Louis XIV. page 2

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Louis was by this time at the height of his power and fame. The Empire, Spain, and Holland disbanded the forces specially raised for the struggle, but the French army was maintained, and with trickery backed by a display of force Louis gained more territory in the Rhine-land, including the "free city" of Strasburg, at once refortified by Vauban, who erected works commanding the passage of the Rhine at Kehl. The French monarch, as the bully and tyrant of Europe, had his troops and diplomatists intermeddling in almost every country, and bore himself with an insolence and arrogance which aroused the awe of the weak and the indignation of the strong. In 1664 a French brigade, including a picked body of nobles, had aided Austria in Hungary against Turkish attacks. The Austrian army, commanded by Montecuculli, fought against the famous vizier Kouprougli, and the French contingent won great fame by their valour, in the battle of St. Gothard, on the Raab. In the following year a body of Frenchmen helped Portugal in her war of liberation against Spain, and contributed to her victory over the Spaniards at the battle of Villa-Viciosa, which firmly established the independence of the Portuguese. The king of Spain had, at an even earlier date, been forced to grant precedence to the French ambassador over the Spanish envoy at foreign courts. In a quarrel with the Pope concerning an insult offered to the French envoy at Rome, Louis obtained full satisfaction, and forced the Holy Father to restore certain territories to minor Italian princes. In 1669 men-of-war were sent by Louis to help Candia (Crete) against the Turks, and a French nobleman, La Feuillade, headed over 300 fellow-countrymen of his class in what was known as "the last of the Crusades." At a later date, French emissaries were engaged in rousing Hungary against Austria. At the Turkish court, Louis' ambassadors had the great distinction of being allowed to sit on a sofa in the Sultan's presence. In 1684 Genoa was bombarded as a punishment for supplying munitions of war to Algiers, and for building warships for Spain, and the republic had to seek peace on humiliating terms. The Doge and four chief senators were compelled to go to Versailles, and the Genoese had to retain the same ruler in power, though the immemorial law of the state deprived of office any Doge who should quit the city even for an hour. The fame of the French king extended to remote regions of Asia, and in 1684 and 1686 his pride was flattered by the arrival of embassies from Siam, where the prime-minister, a Greek named Phaulkon, sought the favour of France in his dread of English and Dutch power in the East. When another Pope, Innocent XI. (1676-1689), a good and able man, dared to remonstrate with Louis for rousing the Turks against the Empire, he was insulted by the dispatch to Rome of a new French envoy attended by a strong armed escort. In 1688, in a quarrel with the same Pope concerning the electorate of Cologne, Louis took possession of Avignon, in the south-east of France, which had been in Papal hands since 1307.

We now turn to other aspects of Louis the Great's character and administration. In his relations with the female sex, he was as shamelessly immoral as his pensioner, Charles II., taking about in the same carriage, amid the splendour of his festivities, his queen Maria Theresa and two of his mistresses, in full sight of an army under review and of a crowd of spectators. Religious bigotry was the cause of the most shameful and pernicious doings of the reign, apart from the wicked wars of ambition which, before the close of the period, brought financial exhaustion of far-reaching consequences. It was in 1682 that Louis finally took up his abode at Versailles, and maintained the splendid court and elaborate etiquette which became the admiration of all the high-born and wealthy flunkeydom of Europe in that and succeeding times. In 1683 his queen, Maria Theresa, and Colbert died. Two years later Louis married Madame de Maintenon, widow of the poet Scarron, a lady who won the king's favour by her devoted care of his two sons by Madame de Montespan. She acquired a great influence over him, being herself governed by the Jesuits. Cold in heart and severe in morals, she was devoted to strict propriety, orthodoxy, and the Church, and to her is partly due the religious persecution which is the great blot on French history in this period. After the fall of La Rochelle in the time of Richelieu, and the capture of all other Protestant strongholds, the Huguenots, left defenceless as they were, bereft of all political power, and entirely dependent on the will of the court for the exercise of their religion, had not, for many years, been subject to interference. This happy state of affairs came to an end when Louis listened to Madame de Maintenon and his famous Jesuit confessor Lachaise, though they were not responsible for the worst cruelties perpetrated. The Huguenots were gradually deprived of civil rights under the renewed persecution, and then attempts at extirpation began. In 1681 bodies of mounted troops (dragoons) began the infamous "Dragonnades." Accompanied by monks, these men passed through the country, and being quartered in Protestant villages and houses, strove to force the inhabitants, by outrage and plunder, to renounce their faith. The places of worship were demolished, and the preachers were put to death. Many of the "heretics" made insincere professions of Catholic "orthodoxy," and were outwardly reconciled to "Mother Church." Hundreds of thousands fled to Switzerland, Holland, Germany, and England. At last, in October, 1685, the French monarch, pious creature as he was, resolved to do what in him lay to complete the good work of conversion to the true faith. All rights of Protestant worship were formally withdrawn by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, a step in which the war-minister Louvois was largely concerned. The Huguenots had been already forbidden to practise in professions and several important trades, or to hold any public office. By a royal edict all privileges were now swept away. The churches were pulled down, the worship was suppressed, the ministers were banished, and the Protestant laity were forbidden, under severe penalties, to leave the country. They were to stay in France, forsooth, in order to do the work of slaves, and to furnish material for slaughter in the "Grand Monarque's" campaigns. Disobedience to this atrocious decree was visited by imprisonment, torture, outrage, and death. The Huguenots sought safety and freedom of conscience abroad, and in a few years France was deprived for ever of over half a million of her best subjects, including professional men of high ability and culture, and crowds of industrious and skilful artisans. London was indebted to this flight for the establishment of a long-flourishing silk-manufacture at Spitalfields, and our country profited in the introduction or improvement of work in tapestry, glass-making, pottery, dyeing, and paper-making. William of Orange, when he became king of England, received the valuable support of Huguenots in military, political, and financial affairs. They fought beside him at the Boyne, and in other ways strengthened the Protestant cause in Ireland. Under Queen Anne, London alone contained 30 Huguenot churches, and the number was only diminished, towards the close of the 18th century, by the absorption of Huguenots in the Anglican Church and other religious bodies. To Louis XIV. Great Britain owes many leading families among the professional classes, and the adornment of her annals by the achievements of men and women bearing the honoured names of Chenevix, Trench, and Romaine in the Church; of Ligonier in the army; of Romilly in the law; of Martineau in literature and philosophy; of Millais in art; with the Boileaus, Bosanquets, De Crespignys, Du Canes, Layards, and many other noted families. The fury of the persecutors, inflamed by loss due only to their own suicidal policy, found vent in new outrages. The marriages of Protestants were declared null. Their children were robbed of the right of inheritance, and forcibly incarcerated in religious houses. The preachers were everywhere put to death. In the south of France many thousands of Protestants fled to the Cevennes mountains, and worshipped according to their fathers' faith. A fanatical energy was displayed, and the " Camisards," as the rebellious Huguenots were called from the camise or blouse worn by the peasantry, maintained a struggle for many years, with much success, against the forces of the monarchy. Prophets and seers roused the people to frenzy, and the insurgents were aided by the people of many towns. After the repulse or destruction of several detachments of royal troops, Marshal Montrevel, a renegade Huguenot, was sent, in 1703, with 60,000 men, who shot down or executed large numbers of the mountaineers and destroyed' some hundreds of villages. The Camisards, in return, slew scores of priests and burned 200 churches in the diocese of Nimes. Their brave and able leader, Jean Cavalier, was aided by supplies of necessaries furnished from Nimes, Montpellier, and other towns, and by cannon cast by the citizens from the bells of the burned churches. In April, 1704, Marshal Villars, one of the best generals of the day, was dispatched to take the command, and his mingling of conciliation with prompt severity and skilful action at last suppressed the revolt. A free pardon was given to all who surrendered, and all prisoners were released on swearing allegiance. Every person taken in arms was shot at once, and flying columns broke down the revolt in every quarter. In the same year Cavalier accepted the amnesty, and peace was for a brief time restored. Another outbreak, in 1705, due to the severity of the duke of Berwick (a natural son of James II. of England), ended in the desolation of the whole region and the slaughter or banishment of most of the surviving inhabitants. Such were the blessings due to "orthodoxy" under Louis XIV.

William of Orange again roused Europe against Louis, in 1686, forming the League of Augsburg, which embraced the emperor and several German princes, Sweden, and Spain. The French armies took the field, numbering in all, in the course of this new war, from 1688 to 1697, over 400,000 men, a prodigious force in that age. In 1688 Germany was invaded by the French in great force, and then one of the great crimes of modern history was perpetrated in the frightful devastation of the Rhenish Palatinate. Town after town was captured by Vauban's operations. Early in 1689, in the depth of winter, the French generals gave notice to the people of the many flourishing, well-built towns, of countless villages, and of more than 50 castles, that they must leave their homes, or become the victims of fire and sword. Men, women, the aged, the young, fled in haste. Some wandered up and down, others took refuge in neighbouring countries, and the French troops sacked and destroyed everything. Mannheim and Heidelberg were first plundered and burnt. The electoral palaces, with the houses of the townspeople, were destroyed. The tombs of the emperors at Speier were broken open, the silver coffins stolen, and the bones of the dead were left scattered on the ground. Europe was aghast at the foul deeds of ruthless ambition; the French officers themselves blushed to be the instruments of such deadly wrong. It was Louvois who gave the evil counsel; it was Louis who acted thereon, and on their brows history has stamped an ineffaceable brand of infamy. The German army was led by the duke of Lorraine, who had aided Sobieski, as we shall see, against the Turks at Vienna, in 1683, and by the elector of Brandenburg. Bonn and Mayence were retaken from the invaders after severe sieges. The "Grand Alliance" was formed in 1689 by William of Orange, now king of England, who united his new realm and Holland to the League of Augsburg, which the duke of Savoy had joined in 1687. By sea and land the contest was waged with variations of success. In 1690 the French admiral Tourville gained a victory off Beachy Head over the English and Dutch fleets, and our coast was then insulted by the burning of Teignmouth. This disaster was amply avenged in 1692 by the great battle of La Hogue, partly fought in mid-Channel, and finished off the coast of Normandy, where the British sailors, under the eyes of James II. and of a French army prepared for the invasion of England, made an end of that enterprise by burning many French first-rate ships of the line. The chief glory, on the French side, in the land-warfare, lay with Catinat and Luxembourg. Catinat, fighting in Italy with Victor Amadeus, duke of Savoy, an able prince and brave warrior, gained a complete victory at Staffarde, south-west of Turin, and forced Savoy to submission. In the following year, 1691, Catinat passed into Piedmont, stormed the enemy's lines near Susa, captured that town, Montalban, and Nice, and finally, in 1693, gained the victory of Marsaglia, the more glorious that Prince Eugene of Savoy, one of the foremost soldiers of the age, was one of his opponents. The operations of Luxembourg and other generals in Flanders against William III. are well known from Macaulay's immortal work. In 1691 Mons was taken, under the eyes of Louis, and in presence of William's army. In 1692 Namur fell, in the same fashion, and Luxembourg defeated William at Steinkerk. In 1693 the same great commander was again successful over 'the English king at the battle of Landen or Neerwinden. His antagonist, great after defeat, soon showed as bold a front as ever, and the death of Luxembourg, in January, 1695, rid him of his most formidable foe. The duke of Savoy still maintained the contest against Catinat, and a French invasion of Spain had little success. Louis was fighting a many-headed hydra, and all his victories were of little real use. Men and money were beginning to fail, and the spirit of the armies was flagging. Louvois had died in July, 1691, and the organisation of the troops suffered. In September, 1695, William effected the great military success of his career in the capture of Namur from Marshal Boufflers, in the face of a vast French army under Villeroi. The town and citadel had been newly fortified by Vauban; the garrison was very strong; the relieving-army, which did not dare to attack William's lines and covering-force, had 100,000 men. The great Dutch engineer, Cohorn, had a chief share in this grand achievement. Tired at last of the struggle, Louis made peace in 1696 with Savoy, the duke receiving back the territories conquered by Catinat, and giving his daughter in marriage to the young duke of Burgundy, grandson of Louis. The war ended in October, 1697, with the Peace of Ryswick, a village near the Hague. The French king's acquisitions in Spain and Flanders were restored, as also several German towns. Alsace, with Strasburg, remained in his possession.

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