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The Wars of Louis XIV.

Modern History. (a.d. 1492-1898). Peace of Westphalia to French Revolution (1648-1789).
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The reign of Louis XIV. ushered in a series of warlike contests, continuing, with some intervals, through the latter half of the 17th, the whole of the 18th, and the earlier years of the 19th, century. These struggles have no parallel in medieval or modern history for the importance of the issues involved, the number of the combatants engaged, the power and resources of the belligerent nations, the skill of the commanders, and the interest attached to the chief battles fought by land and sea. Dealing here only with the wars prior to the French Revolution, we find that our own country was engaged in five great wars, varying in length from 7 to 12 years. These contests were on a larger scale than any previous ones in our history, entailing vast expenditure at the time, and incurring a portion of the enormous burden of our national debt. The first of these wars, waged from 1689 to 1697, was due to our last revolution, and in this contest William III. vindicated British independence of foreign control against the king of France. The second was that of the Spanish Succession, from 1702 to 1713, settling the effort of France to become predominant in Europe. The third war, from 1739 to 1748, is called that of the Austrian Succession, and was one in which we took part on the Continent with reference to the Hanoverian dominions, but it began, on our part, as a war with Spain concerning her claim to the "right of search" of vessels along the "Spanish main" in America, and it was, to this extent, a struggle for commerce in the New World. The contest turned into a war with France, in which the French and British colonists in America fought against each other, while we were also at war in southern India with the French for supremacy in that quarter of the world. The fourth, or Seven Years' War, from 1756 to 1763, was one in which we fought on the Continent again for Hanover, and against France and Spain in the East and West. In India and North America we were engaged with France, and at the Philippine Islands and Cuba with Spain. The fifth was the American Revolutionary War, from 1775 to 1783, in which we fought against our own colonies, Spain, Holland, and France, the struggle with the three foreign nations being mainly a desperate naval contest. The period is thus chiefly one of rivalry with France, in a kind of renewal of the Hundred Years' War of our Plantagenet days, after we had been during the 16th and most of the 17th centuries, to a large extent on friendly terms with that country. We were fighting France for supremacy in North America and in India during all the middle part of the 18th century, carrying on the contest there even while, in Europe, we were at peace, under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, for the eight years between 1748 and 1756. In the war of 1776-1783 the French aided our revolted colonists in revenge for their loss of Canada and of their chance of dominion in India. It was thus a contest for the possession of power in the New World that was waged between 1740 and 1783, and it ended decisively in favour of Great Britain.

Louis XIV. (1643-1715) was but five years of age when he succeeded his father, Louis XIII., and the regency was held by his mother, Anna, daughter of Philip III. of Spain, called by the French "Anne of Austria," meaning "of Hapsburg," as belonging to the Spanish branch of the Austrian house. The chief minister was Cardinal Mazarin, an Italian naturalised in France, and a political and diplomatic pupil of the great Richelieu. This able man was a consummate intriguer, a supple courtier of the smoothest manners, and a good administrator except in financial affairs. The successes of France in the Thirty Years' War, during the first five years of the reign, have been given. The monument of Mazarin's ministry, which continued, with some brief intervals of banishment, until his death in 1661, was the gaining of Alsace for France by the Treaty of Munster in 1648. The wretched civil war called the Fronde, from 1648 to 1653, was in part a final attempt of French nobles to recover lost authority, and it ended in the extinction of parliamentary influence and the establishment of royal power. Matters had gone badly in the war with Spain which had arisen during the Thirty Years' War, but the French cause was restored in 1658 by Turenne's success, aided as we have seen by some of Cromwell's troops, at the battle of the Dunes, and the retaking of Dunkirk from the Spaniards. The contest ended in 1659 with the Peace of the Pyrenees, cemented by the marriage of Louis with the Infanta of Spain, Maria Theresa, eldest daughter of Philip IV. In 1661, on Mazarin's death, Louis assumed the direction of affairs, in his 23rd year, and at once showed himself master of the position. This celebrated man, styled by Bolingbroke "the best actor of majesty that ever filled a throne," and described by Macaulay as "a consummate master of kingcraft - of all the arts which most advantageously display the merits of a prince, and best hide his defects," was rather what the French call "grandiose" than great. Never did a monarch more thoroughly impress and impose himself on his subjects. Throughout a tenure of power held for 54 years, Louis never, even amidst disaster, disgrace, and ruin, failed to command the reverential regard of his people. Never did a European sovereign demand and receive a submission, in outward demeanour and in practical obedience to the word of command, so closely resembling that yielded to an Oriental sultan. The truth is that, with despotic power, he was not compelled, by the least resistance, to make a cruel use thereof towards his own subjects, and it was only under the influence of religious bigotry that his absolutism became disgraced by tyranny. His head was cool and clear; his energy and resolution cannot be denied; his manners were dignified and graceful, if somewhat pompous. His glory consists mainly in the skilful appropriation of the merits of others, though to him belongs the credit of a keen eye for genius and ability in men of every class, and of a politic generosity in rewarding their efforts. Assuredly no man was ever more ably served in his capacity as his own chief minister in all affairs. His generals and diplomatists were the ablest of the day. The renown of " Louis le Grand" is closely associated with the achievements of French literature and art, with the names of Corneille, Racine, and Moliere, and with the fame of such orators and divines as Bossuet and Fenelon, Massillon and Bourdaloue.

On assuming power, Louis at once prepared for the execution of his ambitious schemes. Colbert, one of the greatest French statesmen, had control of the finances from 1662 until his death in 1683. He had been strongly recommended by Mazarm, and amply justified his selection for office by a restoration of affairs in the punishment of fraudulent "farmers" of the revenue, and the introduction of order and reform. Under his able direction the whole administration was rearranged. Agriculture, commerce, colonial affairs, received unremitting attention. French skill and industry in manufactures were fostered. New roads and canals were made, including the canal of Languedoc which joined the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Deserted and ruined harbours were restored and fortified; Brest, Toulon, and Rochefort became great naval arsenals. The creation of a powerful fleet was essential, and in 20 years from his assumption of rule Louis had a truly formidable naval force, including 100 ships of the line, many of which carried 100 guns or more, and manned by 60,000 disciplined sailors, a greater force than England and Holland together could display. Under Duquesne, French squadrons swept the seas free of the corsairs of Algiers and Tripoli, and against Algiers were used, for the first time in war, floating bomb-batteries, by whose fire part of the town was crushed and burnt. French squadrons and cruisers were, in the course of the wars waged by Louis, to be found in many seas; damaging British property on the coasts of Newfoundland and Jamaica; capturing British and Dutch merchantmen on the high seas; attacking the Spaniards at Carthagena, in South America. The war-department was under the control of Louvois, from 1668 until his death in 1691. To this strong-willed, brutal, autocratic personage the French monarch was largely indebted for his successes in war. This consummate organiser and administrator of armies, never surpassed, even by Napoleon, as the creator and maintainer of a vast military machine, made a revolution in the art of training, distributing, equipping, and provisioning land-forces. He set on foot a standing army, commanded by officers recruited by compulsion from among the nobility. The drilling of the infantry was entrusted to the famous officer Martinet, whose name became proverbial for stern discipline. Conspicuous in the ranks of the formidable new array were the Royal Guards, the renowned "Household Troops," the finest corps ever seen up to that day, mainly composed of young nobles. Commissariat and hospital services were established; meritorious service was recognised, and disabled valour was rewarded, by the conferring of orders of decoration and in the comfortable retirement of the newly founded Hotel des Invalides. In Vauban, Louis possessed one of the most honest and most virtuous men of the time, gentle, kindly, blunt in manners, sound in judgment, of courage unsurpassed, ever successful, and never unduly elated by success He was the greatest of all military engineers. Left a destitute orphan at ten years of age, indebted for food and education to a village cure", enlisted as a private soldier under Conde, this extraordinary man rose, by sheer ability and force of character, to be Marshal of France. This father of the science of fortification first introduced the method of approach by parallels, and carried the art of fortifying, attacking, and defending towns to a degree of perfection before unknown. During his long career Vauban re-fortified over a hundred ancient citadels, erected more than 30 new ones, and had the direction of about 50 sieges. The kingdom was surrounded by a cordon of fortresses, especially on the eastern and northern frontiers, a triple line of strongholds which included the citadels of Strasburg, Lille, and Metz, impregnable to the artillery of that age.

The projects of Louis comprised the extension of the frontiers of France to the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Rhine, and, ultimately, the acquirement of European predominance in the annexation, by the House of Bourbon, of all the Spanish dominions. For these ends the blood and resources of France were lavished, and, in the prosecution of this purpose, not the least respect was ever shown to the most solemn obligations of public faith. Every promise was broken, every treaty violated, without scruple, as soon as the moment for action arrived. The first occasion for war came with the death, in 1665, of the French king's father-in-law, Philip IV. of Spain. Louis then claimed, in right of his wife, much of the Spanish Netherlands, and in 1667 he marched into Flanders with about 50,000 troops under the great general, Turenne. No resistance could be made by the small Spanish force; town after town was taken and all the territory afterwards known as French Flanders was occupied, including Douai and the strong fortress of Lille. Early in 1668 came the conquest of Franche-Comte, or the "county" of Burgundy, as distinct from the duchy. This territory, corresponding to the modern departments of Doubs, Haute-Saone, and Jura, was called "free" (franche) as not being French. It had passed from France, under Charles VIII., to Germany, and came to Spain on the abdication of Charles V. Its peculiar privileges made it almost a republic. At this aggression "drowsy Europe awoke" in the words of Voltaire. Germany began to stir; the Swiss were alarmed; Holland trembled for herself, and Spain applied to her for help. Louis' military power was then only partially developed, and he was forced to recoil by the famous Triple Alliance, of England, Holland, and Sweden, concluded at the Hague between Sir William Temple and John de Witt, one of the chief statesmen of Europe. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, in May, 1668, deprived France of the Burgundian territory which had been seized, but left her in possession of the Flanders fortresses. Bent on revenge, Louis bought the neutrality of England by the infamous secret Treaty of Dover concluded with Charles II., and then again took the field.

Holland, the chief object of the French king's hostility, was at this time torn by two factions, one the republicans, under John and Cornelius de Witt; the other, a semi-royalist party, supporting William of Orange (afterwards William III. of England), in depressing the aristocracy, or aristocratic republicans, who were in favour of an oligarchical rule like that of Venice. Sweden had also been bribed into neutrality, and in May, 1672, a great French army, under Conde, Turenne, Luxembourg, and Vauban, poured into Holland. Louis was there in person, heading a picked corps of 30,000 men, including the "Household." To this wicked invasion the Dutch, with magazines almost devoid of stores, could oppose only 25,000 ill-trained militia, under a prince of 22 years, in feeble health. Most of the country was speedily overrun, and Holland seemed to be in a desperate condition, but the old heroic spirit was not extinct. The brothers De Witt, who desired terms of peace, were killed by a furious mob at the Hague. William of Orange was made Stadtholder, and the French forces were driven from much of the country by the cutting of the dykes, and the turning of Holland into a sea out of which Amsterdam stood up as a vast fortress, the symbol of unshakable firmness and resolve. William had already used diplomacy with good effect in forming a new coalition against the French monarch, and the Dutch received aid from the Spanish Netherlands, from the emperor (Leopold I.), and the elector of Brandenburg. Turenne fought the imperialists in Westphalia; William faced Luxembourg in Holland. De Ruyter, on the sea, fought bravely against combined French and English squadrons. In the end, after much cruel devastation of the country, the French were forced to quit Holland and make the Rhine-countries the main scene of warfare. In 1674 and the following year, Turenne was gaining his last laurels in brilliant work against the imperialists in Alsace, where he was faced by the great Italian strategist and tactician Montecuculli, one of the best generals of the age, until his own death by cannon-shot in July, 1675. Meanwhile, Conde and William of Orange had met, in August, 1674, at the great battle of Senef, near Mons, where both leaders freely exposed their lives in a desperate drawn contest. Conde, succeeding Turenne in his command on the Rhine, had much success, and on his retirement the war was continued for France by generals of his and Turenne's training, of whom the ablest was the due de Luxembourg. In April, 1677, William suffered defeat at Mont-Cassel, near St. Omer. In the Mediterranean, the French fleet, under Duquesne, fairly held its own against the Spanish, aided by Dutch vessels under De Ruyter, who received a mortal wound after a glorious career. In August, 1678, the war er.ded with the Peace of Nimeguen, leaving France in possession of many of the Flanders fortresses, and of Franche-Comte.

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