Battle of Ramillies
The Battle of Ramillies, fought on 23 May 1706, was a battle of the War of the Spanish Succession. For the Grand Alliance – Austria and the Dutch Republic – the battle had followed an indecisive campaign against the Bourbon armies of King Louis XIV of France in 1705. Although the Allies had captured Barcelona that year, they had been forced to abandon their campaign on the Moselle, had stalled in the Spanish Netherlands and suffered defeat in northern Italy, yet despite his opponents' setbacks Louis XIV on reasonable terms. Because of this, as well as to maintain their momentum, the French and their allies took the offensive in 1706; the campaign began well for Louis XIV's generals: in Italy Marshal Vendôme defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Calcinato in April, while in Alsace Marshal Villars forced the Margrave of Baden back across the Rhine. Encouraged by these early gains Louis XIV urged Marshal Villeroi to go over to the offensive in the Spanish Netherlands and, with victory, gain a'fair' peace.
Accordingly, the French Marshal set off from Leuven at the head of 60,000 men and marched towards Tienen, as if to threaten Zoutleeuw. Determined to fight a major engagement, the Duke of Marlborough, commander-in-chief of Anglo-Dutch forces, assembled his army – some 62,000 men – near Maastricht, marched past Zoutleeuw. With both sides seeking battle, they soon encountered each other on the dry ground between the Mehaigne and Petite Gheete rivers, close to the small village of Ramillies. In less than four hours Marlborough's Dutch and Danish forces overwhelmed Villeroi's and Max Emanuel's Franco-Spanish-Bavarian army; the Duke's subtle moves and changes in emphasis during the battle – something his opponents failed to realise until it was too late – caught the French in a tactical vice. With their foe broken and routed, the Allies were able to exploit their victory. Town after town fell, including Brussels and Antwerp. With Prince Eugene's subsequent success at the Battle of Turin in northern Italy, the Allies had imposed the greatest loss of territory and resources that Louis XIV would suffer during the war.
Thus, the year 1706 proved, for the Allies. After their disastrous defeat at Blenheim in 1704, the next year brought the French some respite; the Duke of Marlborough had intended the 1705 campaign – an invasion of France through the Moselle valley – to complete the work of Blenheim and persuade King Louis XIV to make peace but the plan had been thwarted by friend and foe alike. The reluctance of his Dutch allies to see their frontiers denuded of troops for another gamble in Germany had denied Marlborough the initiative but of far greater importance was the Margrave of Baden’s pronouncement that he could not join the Duke in strength for the coming offensive; this was in part due to the sudden switching of troops from the Rhine to reinforce Prince Eugene in Italy and part due to the deterioration of Baden’s health brought on by the re-opening of a severe foot wound he had received at the storming of the Schellenberg the previous year. Marlborough had to cope with the death of Emperor Leopold I in May and the accession of Joseph I, which unavoidably complicated matters for the Grand Alliance.
The resilience of the French King and the efforts of his generals added to Marlborough’s problems. Marshal Villeroi, exerting considerable pressure on the Dutch commander, Count Overkirk, along the Meuse, took Huy on 10 June before pressing on towards Liège. With Marshal Villars sitting strong on the Moselle, the Allied commander – whose supplies had by now become short – was forced to call off his campaign on 16 June. "What a disgrace for Marlborough," exulted Villeroi, "to have made false movements without any result!" With Marlborough's departure north, the French transferred troops from the Moselle valley to reinforce Villeroi in Flanders, while Villars marched off to the Rhine. The Anglo-Dutch forces gained minor compensation for the failed Moselle campaign with the success at Elixheim and the crossing of the Lines of Brabant in the Spanish Netherlands but a chance to bring the French to a decisive engagement eluded Marlborough; the year 1705 proved entirely barren for the Duke, whose military disappointments were only compensated by efforts on the diplomatic front where, at the courts of Düsseldorf, Vienna and Hanover, Marlborough sought to bolster support for the Grand Alliance and extract promises of prompt assistance for the following year's campaign.
On 11 January 1706, Marlborough reached London at the end of his diplomatic tour but he had been planning his strategy for the coming season. The first option was a plan to transfer his forces from the Spanish Netherlands to northern Italy. Savoy would serve as a gateway into France by way of the mountain passes or an invasion with naval support along the Mediterranean coast via Nice and Toulon, in connexion with redoubled Allied efforts in Spain, it seems that the Duke's favoured scheme was to return to the Moselle valley and once more attempt an advance into the heart of France. But these decisions soon became academic. Shortly after Marlborough landed in the Dutch Republic on 14 April, news arrived of big Allied setbacks in the wider war. Determined to show the Grand Alliance that France was still resolute, Louis XIV prepared to launch a double surprise in
Battle of Oudenarde
The Battle of Oudenarde was a battle in the War of the Spanish Succession fought on 11 July 1708 between the forces of Great Britain, the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire on the one side and those of France on the other. It was a great victory for the allies. Great Britain, the Netherlands, the Holy Roman Empire were disturbed at the thought of a union between Spain and France, leading them to ally against France, thus beginning the War of the Spanish Succession; the commander of the allied armies was John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, whose chief deputy was the commander of the Empire's army Prince Eugène of Savoy, his close friend. Meanwhile, the two French army commanders had a contentious relationship. Louis Joseph, duc de Vendôme was a experienced soldier; the Duke of Burgundy had less experience, owed his position to the fact he was the grandson of the King, Louis XIV of France. Marlborough's army consisted of about 80,000 men just south of Brussels. Eugène's forces were assembled at Coblenz.
These two areas were somewhat far apart, while the French army's 85,000 soldiers were concentrated near Mons. At this time, the French commanders began quarrelling. Vendôme wanted to attack the city of Huy; the eventual plan adopted, was to attack Flanders. The army moved eastward, until they reached the city of Braine-l'Alleud, about 25 km south of Brussels, threatened the nearby city of Leuven. Marlborough placed his forces a few miles south of Leuven; the French army remained inactive for more than a month. This allowed the much-delayed Eugène to bring his army from the Rhine River. On 5 July, the French unexpectedly moved west, taking the cities of Bruges and Ghent; this demoralized Marlborough and his army, he did not recover until Eugène was at his side. The French army had the entire length of the Scheldt River from the French border to the newly taken city of Ghent. Only one British fortress remained: Oudenaarde. If they took that city, Marlborough's army would be cut off from the coast, causing them to lose communications with England.
Marlborough detected this objective, correctly guessed the method by which the French troops would attempt to take it. They would march down the east bank of the Scheldt, while leaving a large covering force between the two opposing armies; the French army marched on 8 July, toward the city of Lessines. However, Marlborough made one of the most inspired forced marches in history, taking the city on 10 July; this forced the French commanders to attempt to march across the Scheldt and thereby take the city of Oudenaarde. Again Marlborough ordered a forced march; this time, though, he ordered 11,000 troops to hold the main crossing point across the Scheldt, under the command of his Quartermaster General, William Cadogan. Cadogan's force built 5 additional pontoon bridges to allow Marlborough to get his 80,000-strong army across the river, until French foragers discovered the allied presence around 09:00 AM. Cadogan, a superb Irish cavalry commander, ordered some dragoons, under Danish General Jørgen Rantzau, to take prisoners from the French advance guard.
Many of those troops escaped and alerted Lieutenant General Charles-Armand de Gontaut, duc de Biron, who commanded the vanguard, of the presence of Allied troops on the west bank. When de Biron advanced, he was disagreeably surprised by the large number of Allied cavalry across the river, along with the approaching Allied infantry. Although he was ordered to attack by Vendôme, he hesitated upon seeing the reinforced line of 20 battalions. Biron's own forces comprised 20 squadrons, he had been given reliable advice that cavalry could not negotiate the marshy terrain in the area and decided not to attempt a crossing. At this time, Eugène, along with 20 squadrons of Prussian cavalry, moved across the river and occupied crucial positions. While Biron's troops were manoeuvring, the leading British infantry brigade had arrived, under the inexperienced but gifted John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll. Cadogan, with authority from Marlborough, attacked Biron's 7 battalions with his soldiers; the isolated Swiss mercenaries were pushed back and the Allied force destroyed Biron's squadrons, until they reached a large mass of French cavalry, at which point they were forced to retire, outnumbered.
The force which performed this action was Rantzau's cavalry, with the future King George II of England among them. Burgundy, making another mistake, decided to attack; the French right wing began to attack the Allied positions near Eine, while the left wing remained stationary near Huise. A strong position was held by the Allied left wing. 28 cavalry squadrons protected the right flank of Cadogan's infantry, which would receive the attack. Burgundy ordered the assault, which landed on Prussian cavalry squadrons under Dubislav Gneomar von Natzmer. Although hard fighting ensued, the attack was dispersed. Vendôme made a dubious decision and led an attack of twelve regiments, fighting hand-to-hand with a half-pike; this meant that while one commander was in his headquarters, with no view of the battle, the other was fighting, with no possibility of control. Most historians agre
War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession was a European conflict of the early 18th century, triggered by the death of the childless Charles II of Spain in November 1700. His closest heirs were members of the Austrian Habsburg and French Bourbon families. Charles left an undivided Monarchy of Spain to Louis XIV's grandson Philip, proclaimed King of Spain on 16 November 1700. Disputes over separation of the Spanish and French crowns and commercial rights led to war in 1701 between the Bourbons of France and Spain and the Grand Alliance, whose candidate was Archduke Charles, younger son of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. By the end of 1706, Allied victories in Italy and the Low Countries forced the French back within their borders but they were unable to make a decisive breakthrough. Control of the sea allowed the Allies to conduct successful offensives in Spain, but lack of popular support for Archduke Charles meant they could not hold territory outside the coastal areas. Conflict extended to European colonies in North America, where it is known as Queen Anne's War, the West Indies as well as minor struggles in Colonial India.
Related conflicts include Rákóczi's War of Independence in Hungary, funded by France and the 1704–1710 Camisard rebellion in South-East France, funded by Britain. When his elder brother Joseph died in 1711, Charles succeeded him as Emperor, undermining the primary driver behind the war, to prevent Spain being united with either France or Austria; the 1710 British election returned a new government committed to ending it and with the Allied war effort now dependent on British financing, this forced the others to make peace. The war ended with the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, followed in 1714 by the treaties of Rastatt and Baden. In return for confirmation as King of Spain, Philip V renounced his place in the line of succession to the French throne, both for himself and his descendants; the Dutch Republic was granted its Barrier Fortresses, while France acknowledged the Protestant succession in Britain and agreed to end support for the Stuart exiles. In the longer term, the commercial provisions of Utrecht confirmed Britain's status as the leading European maritime and commercial power, while the Dutch lost their position as the pre-eminent economic power in Asia and the war marked their decline as a first-rank power.
Other long-term impacts include the creation of a centralised Spanish state and the acceleration of the break-up of the Holy Roman Empire into larger and more powerful German principalities. In 1665 Charles II became the last male Habsburg King of Spain. In 1670, England agreed to support the rights of Louis XIV to the Spanish throne in the Treaty of Dover, while the terms of the 1688 Grand Alliance committed England and the Dutch Republic to back Leopold. In 1700, the Spanish Empire included possessions in Italy, the Spanish Netherlands, the Philippines and the Americas and though no longer the dominant great power, it remained intact. Since acquisition of the Empire by either the Austrian Habsburgs or French Bourbons would change the balance of power in Europe, its inheritance led to a war that involved most of the European powers; the 1700-1721 Great Northern War is considered a connected conflict, since it impacted the involvement of states such as Sweden, Denmark–Norway and Russia. During the 1688–1697 Nine Years War, armies had increased in size from an average of 25,000 in 1648 to over 100,000 by 1697, a level unsustainable for pre-industrial economies.
The 1690s marked the lowest point of the Little Ice Age, a period of colder and wetter weather that drastically reduced crop yields. The Great Famine of 1695-1697 killed between 15-25% of the population in present-day Scotland, Finland, Latvia and Sweden, with an estimated two million deaths in France and Northern Italy; the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick was therefore the result of mutual exhaustion and Louis XIV's acceptance that France could not achieve its objectives without allies. Leopold refused to sign and did so with extreme reluctance in October 1697. Unlike France or Austria, the Crown of Spain could be inherited through the female line; this allowed Charles' sisters Maria Theresa and Margaret Theresa to pass their rights as rulers onto the children of their respective marriages with Louis XIV and Emperor Leopold. Despite being opponents in the recent Nine Years War, Louis XIV and William III of England now attempted to resolve the Succession by diplomacy. In 1685, Maria Antonia, daughter of Leopold and Margaret, married Maximillian Emanuel of Bavaria and they had a son, Joseph Ferdinand.
The 1698 Treaty of the Hague or First Partition Treaty between France and the Dutch Republic made the six year old heir to the bulk of the Spanish Monarchy and divided its European territories between France and Austria. The Spanish refused to accept the division of their Empire and on 14 November 1698, Charles published his Will, making Joseph Ferdinand heir to an independent and undivided Spanish monarchy; when he died of smallpox in February 1699, a new solution was required. This was of doubtful legality but France and the Nethe
Battle of the Boyne
The Battle of the Boyne was a battle in 1690 between the forces of the deposed King James VII and II of Scotland and Ireland and those of Dutch Prince William of Orange who, with his wife Mary II, had acceded to the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1688. The battle took place across the River Boyne near the town of Drogheda in the Kingdom of Ireland, modern day Republic of Ireland, resulted in a victory for William; this turned the tide in James's failed attempt to regain the British crown and aided in ensuring the continued Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. The battle took place on 1 July 1690 O. S. William's forces defeated James's army, which consisted of raw recruits. Although the Williamite War in Ireland continued until October 1691, James fled to France after the Boyne, never to return; the symbolic importance of this battle has made it one of the best-known battles in the history of the British Isles and a key part of the folklore of the Orange Order. Its commemoration today is principally by the Orange Order, which records the first commemorative parades as having been held in 1791.
The battle was a major encounter in a war, about James's attempt to regain the thrones of England and Scotland, resulting from the Invitation to William and William's wife, Mary, to take the throne. The previous year William had sent the Duke of Schomberg to take charge of the Irish campaign, he was a 75-year-old professional soldier who had accompanied William during the Glorious Revolution. Under his command, affairs had remained static and little had been accomplished because the English troops suffered from fever. William, dissatisfied with the state of affairs in Ireland, decided to take charge in person. In an Irish context, the war was a sectarian and ethnic conflict, in many ways a re-run of the Irish Confederate Wars of 50 years earlier. For the Jacobites, the war was fought for Irish sovereignty, religious tolerance for Catholicism, land ownership; the Catholic upper classes had lost all their lands after Cromwell's conquest, as well as the right to hold public office, practise their religion, sit in the Irish Parliament.
To these ends, under Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnel, they had raised an army to restore James after the Glorious Revolution. By 1690, they controlled all of Ireland except for the province of Ulster. Most of James II's troops at the Boyne were Irish Catholics; the majority of Irish people were Jacobites and supported James II due to his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is known, the Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience, that granted religious freedom to all denominations in England and Scotland and due to James II's promise to the Irish Parliament of an eventual right to self-determination. Conversely, for the Williamites, the war was about maintaining Protestant and English rule in Ireland, they feared for their lives and their property if James and his Catholic supporters were to rule Ireland, nor did they trust the promise of tolerance, seeing the Declaration of Indulgence as a ploy to re-establish Catholicism as the sole state religion. In particular, they dreaded a repeat of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, marked by widespread killing.
For these reasons, Protestants fought en masse for William of Orange. Many Williamite troops at the Boyne, including their effective irregular cavalry, were Ulster Protestants, who called themselves "Enniskilliners" and were referred to by contemporaries as "Scots-Irish"; these "Enniskilliners" were the descendants of Anglo-Scottish border reivers and large numbers of these reivers had settled around Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, hence the name "Enniskilliners". Historian Derek Brown notes that if the battle is seen as part of the War of the Grand Alliance, Pope Alexander VIII was an ally of William and an enemy to James; the opposing armies in the battle were led by the Roman Catholic King James II of England and Ireland and opposing him, his nephew and son-in-law, the Protestant King William III who had deposed James the previous year. James's supporters controlled much of the Irish Parliament. James enjoyed the support of his cousin, Louis XIV, who did not want to see a hostile monarch on the throne of England.
Louis sent 6,000 French troops to Ireland to support the Irish Jacobites. William was Stadtholder of the Netherlands and was able to call on Dutch and allied troops from Europe as well as England and Scotland. James was a seasoned officer who had proved his bravery when fighting for his brother – King Charles II – in Europe, notably at the Battle of the Dunes. However, recent historians have noted that he was prone to panicking under pressure and making rash decisions due to the onset of the dementia which would overtake him in years. William, although a seasoned commander, had yet to win a major battle. Many of his battles ended in stalemates, prompting at least one modern historian to argue that William lacked an ability to manage armies in the thick of conflict. William's success against the French had been reliant upon tactical manoeuvres and good diplomacy rather than force, his diplomacy had assembled the League of Augsburg, a multi-national coalition formed to resist French aggression in Europe.
From William's point of view, his taking power in England and the ensuing campaign in Ireland was just another front in the war aga
Battle of Blenheim
The Battle of Blenheim, fought on 13 August 1704, was a major battle of the War of the Spanish Succession. The overwhelming Allied victory ensured the safety of Vienna from the Franco-Bavarian army, thus preventing the collapse of the Grand Alliance. Louis XIV of France sought to knock the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold out of the war by seizing Vienna, the Habsburg capital, gain a favourable peace settlement; the dangers to Vienna were considerable: the Elector of Bavaria and Marshal Marsin's forces in Bavaria threatened from the west, Marshal Vendôme's large army in northern Italy posed a serious danger with a potential offensive through the Brenner Pass. Vienna was under pressure from Rákóczi's Hungarian revolt from its eastern approaches. Realising the danger, the Duke of Marlborough resolved to alleviate the peril to Vienna by marching his forces south from Bedburg to help maintain Emperor Leopold within the Grand Alliance. A combination of deception and skilled administration – designed to conceal his true destination from friend and foe alike – enabled Marlborough to march 400 kilometres unhindered from the Low Countries to the River Danube in five weeks.
After securing Donauwörth on the Danube, Marlborough sought to engage the Elector's and Marsin's army before Marshal Tallard could bring reinforcements through the Black Forest. However, with the Franco-Bavarian commanders reluctant to fight until their numbers were deemed sufficient, the Duke enacted a policy of plundering in Bavaria designed to force the issue; the tactic proved unsuccessful, but when Tallard arrived to bolster the Elector's army, Prince Eugene arrived with reinforcements for the Allies, the two armies met on the banks of the Danube in and around the small village of Blindheim, from which the English "Blenheim" is derived. Blenheim was one of the battles that altered the course of the war, which until was leaning for Louis' coalition, ended French plans of knocking the Emperor out of the war. France suffered as many as 38,000 casualties including the commander-in-chief, Marshal Tallard, taken captive to England. Before the 1704 campaign ended, the Allies had taken Landau, the towns of Trier and Trarbach on the Moselle in preparation for the following year's campaign into France itself.
The offensive never materialised as the Grand Alliance's army had to depart the Moselle to defend Liège from a French counteroffensive. The war would rage on for another decade. By 1704, the War of the Spanish Succession was in its fourth year; the previous year had been one of success for France and her allies, most on the Danube, where Marshal Villars and the Elector of Bavaria had created a direct threat to Vienna, the Habsburg capital. Vienna had been saved by dissension between the two commanders, leading to the brilliant Villars being replaced by the less dynamic Marshal Marsin. By 1704, the threat was still real: Rákóczi's Hungarian revolt was threatening the Empire's eastern approaches, Marshal Vendôme's forces threatened an invasion from northern Italy. In the courts of Versailles and Madrid, Vienna's fall was confidently anticipated, an event which would certainly have led to the collapse of the Grand Alliance. To isolate the Danube from any Allied intervention, Marshal Villeroi's 46,000 troops were expected to pin the 70,000 Dutch and English troops around Maastricht in the Low Countries, while General de Coigny protected Alsace against surprise with a further corps.
The only forces available for Vienna's defence were Prince Louis of Baden's force of 36,000 stationed in the Lines of Stollhofen to watch Marshal Tallard at Strasbourg. Both the Imperial Austrian Ambassador in London, Count Wratislaw, the Duke of Marlborough realised the implications of the situation on the Danube; the Dutch, who clung to their troops for their country's protection, were against any adventurous military operation as far south as the Danube and would never willingly permit any major weakening of the forces in the Spanish Netherlands. Marlborough, realising the only way to ignore Dutch wishes was by the use of secrecy and guile, set out to deceive his Dutch allies by pretending to move his troops to the Moselle – a plan approved of by The Hague – but once there, he would slip the Dutch leash and link up with Austrian forces in southern Germany. "My intentions", wrote the Duke from The Hague on 29 April to his governmental confidant, Sidney Godolphin, "are to march with the English to Coblenz and declare that I intend to campaign on the Moselle.
But when I come there, to write to the Dutch States that I think it necessary for the saving of the Empire to march with the troops under my command and to join with those that are in Germany... in order to make measures with Prince Lewis of Baden for the speedy reduction of the Elector of Bavaria." A scarlet caterpillar, upon which all eyes were at once fixed, began to crawl steadfastly day by day across the map of Europe, dragging the whole war with it. – Winston Churchill. Marlborough's march started on 19 May from 32 kilometres north-west of Cologne; the army mortars totalling 21,000 men. This force was to be augmented en route such that by the time Marlborough reached the Danube, it would number 40,000. Whilst Marlborough led his army, General Overkirk would maintain a defensive position in the Dutch Republic in case Villeroi mounted an attack; the Duke had assured the Dutch that if the Frenc
Nine Years' War
The Nine Years' War —often called the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg—was a conflict between Louis XIV of France and a European coalition of the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain and Savoy. It was fought in India, it is sometimes considered the first global war. The conflict encompassed the Williamite war in Ireland and Jacobite risings in Scotland, where William III and James II struggled for control of England and Ireland, a campaign in colonial North America between French and English settlers and their respective Indigenous allies, today called King William's War by Americans. Louis XIV of France had emerged from the Franco-Dutch War in 1678 as the most powerful monarch in Europe, an absolute ruler who had won numerous military victories. Using a combination of aggression and quasi-legal means, Louis XIV set about extending his gains to stabilize and strengthen France's frontiers, culminating in the brief War of the Reunions; the Truce of Ratisbon guaranteed France's new borders for twenty years, but Louis XIV's subsequent actions—notably his Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685— led to the deterioration of his military and political dominance.
Louis XIV's decision to cross the Rhine in September 1688 was designed to extend his influence and pressure the Holy Roman Empire into accepting his territorial and dynastic claims. Leopold I and the German princes resolved to resist, when the States General and William III brought the Dutch and the English into the war against France, the French king faced a powerful coalition aimed at curtailing his ambitions; the main fighting took place around France's borders in the Spanish Netherlands, the Rhineland, the Duchy of Savoy and Catalonia. The fighting favoured Louis XIV's armies, but by 1696 his country was in the grip of an economic crisis; the Maritime Powers were financially exhausted, when Savoy defected from the Alliance, all parties were keen to negotiate a settlement. By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick Louis XIV retained the whole of Alsace but was forced to return Lorraine to its ruler and give up any gains on the right bank of the Rhine. Louis XIV accepted William III as the rightful King of England, while the Dutch acquired a Barrier fortress system in the Spanish Netherlands to help secure their borders.
With the ailing and childless Charles II of Spain approaching his end, a new conflict over the inheritance of the Spanish Empire embroiled Louis XIV and the Grand Alliance in the War of the Spanish Succession. In the years following the Franco-Dutch War Louis XIV of France – now at the height of his powers – sought to impose religious unity in France, to solidify and expand his frontiers. Louis XIV had won his personal glory by conquering new territory, but he was no longer willing to pursue an open-ended militarist policy of the kind he had undertaken in 1672, instead relied upon France's clear military superiority to achieve specific strategic objectives along his borders. Proclaimed the'Sun King', a more mature Louis – conscious he had failed to achieve decisive results against the Dutch – had turned from conquest to security, using threats rather than open war to intimidate his neighbours into submission. Louis XIV, along with his chief advisor Louvois, his foreign minister Colbert de Croissy, his technical expert, developed France's defensive strategy.
Vauban had advocated a system of impregnable fortresses along the frontier that would keep France's enemies out. To construct a proper system, the King needed to acquire more land from his neighbours to form a solid forward line; this rationalisation of the frontier would make it far more defensible while defining it more in a political sense, yet it created the paradox that while Louis's ultimate goals were defensive, he pursued them by hostile means. The King grabbed the necessary territory through what is known as the Réunions: a strategy that combined legalism and aggression; the Treaty of Nijmegen and the earlier Treaty of Westphalia provided Louis XIV with the justification for the Reunions. These treaties had awarded France territorial gains, but because of the vagaries of the language they were notoriously imprecise and self-contradictory, never specified exact boundary lines; this imprecision led to differing interpretations of the text resulting in long-standing disputes over the frontier zones – one gained a town or area and its'dependencies', but it was unclear what these dependencies were.
The machinery needed to determine these territorial ambiguities was in place through the medium of the Parlements at Metz, Besançon, a superior court at Breisach, dealing with Lorraine, Franche-Comté, Alsace. Unsurprisingly, these courts found in Louis XIV's favour. By 1680 the disputed County of Montbéliard had been separated from the Duchy of Württemberg, by August, Louis XIV had secured the whole of Alsace with the exception of Strasbourg; the Chamber of Reunion of Metz soon laid claims to land around the Three Bishoprics of Metz and Verdun, most of the Spanish Duchy of Luxembourg. The fortress of Luxembourg itself was subsequently blockaded with the intention of it becoming part of Louis XIV's defensible frontier. On 30 September 1681, French troops seized Strasbourg and its outpost, Kehl, on the right bank of the Rhine, a bridge which Holy Roman Empire troops had exploited during the latter stages of the Dutch War. B
Siege of Limerick (1690)
Limerick, a city in western Ireland, was besieged twice in the Williamite War in Ireland, 1689-1691. On the first of these occasions, in August to September 1690, its Jacobite defenders retreated to the city after their defeat at the Battle of the Boyne; the Williamites, under William III, tried to take Limerick by storm, but were driven off and had to retire into their winter quarters. Following the successful defence of Derry and the Siege of Carrickfergus, the Jacobites had lost control over the north of Ireland by late 1689, their defeat at the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July 1690 saw their forces make a disorderly retreat from the eastern part of the country, abandoning the capital Dublin in the process. James II himself had fled Ireland for France; the Irish Jacobites still in the field found themselves in the same position as the Catholic Confederates of a generation before – holding an enclave behind the river Shannon, based on the cities of Limerick and Galway. The main Jacobite army had retreated to Limerick after their defeat at the Boyne.
Some of their senior commanders, in particular Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, wanted to surrender to the Williamites while they could still get good terms, but they were overruled by Irish officers such as Patrick Sarsfield, who wanted to fight on. The principal reason why many Jacobite officers were reluctant to surrender was the harsh surrender terms published by William in Dublin after his victory at the Boyne; these terms offered a pardon only to the Jacobite rank and file and not to the officers or to the landowning class. The Jacobite’s French commander, Lauzun wanted to surrender, expressing his dismay at the state of Limerick’s fortifications, saying that they could be "knocked down by roasted apples". There were however sufficient Jacobite troops to defend Limerick. A total of 14,500 Jacobite infantry were billeted in Limerick itself and another 2,500 cavalry in Clare under Sarsfield. Moreover, the morale of the ordinary soldiers was high, despite the defeat at the Boyne; this was due to the circulation of an ancient Irish prophecy that the Irish would win a great victory over the English outside Limerick and drive them out of Ireland.
This may seem bizarre, but such prophecies were an important part of Irish popular culture at the time. Williamites mocked such superstition in songs such as Lillibullero. Lauzun's deputy Marquis de Boisseleau backed the hardliners in their attempts to defend the city, oversaw improvements to Limerick's defences. William of Orange and his army reached Limerick on 7 August 1690 with 25,000 men and occupied Ireton’s fort and Cromwell’s fort outside the city; however he had with him only his field artillery, as his siege cannon were still making their way from Dublin with a light escort. This siege train was intercepted by Sarsfield’s cavalry, at Ballyneety in county Limerick, destroyed, along with the Williamites' siege guns and ammunition; this meant that William had to wait another ten days before he could start bombarding Limerick in earnest, while another siege train was brought up from Waterford. By this time it was late August. Winter was approaching and William wanted to finish the war in Ireland so he could return to the Netherlands and get on with the main business of the War of the Grand Alliance against the French.
For this reason, he decided on an all out assault on Limerick. His siege guns blasted a breach in the walls of the "Irish town" section of the city and William launched his assault on 27 August; the breach was stormed by Danish grenadiers but the Jacobite’s French officer Boisseleau had built an earthwork or coupure inside the walls and had erected barricades in the streets, impeding the attackers. The Danish grenadiers, the eight regiments who followed them into the breach, suffered from musketry and cannon fire at point blank range. Jacobite soldiers without arms and the civilian population lined the walls and threw stones and bottles at the attackers. A regiment of Jacobite dragoons made a sortie and attacked the Williamites in the breach from the outside. After three and a half hours of fighting, William called off the assault. William's men had suffered about 3,000 casualties, including many of their best Dutch, Danish and Huguenot troops; the Jacobites lost only 400 men in the battle. Due to the worsening weather, William called off the siege and put his troops into winter quarters, where another 2,000 of them died of disease.
William himself left Ireland shortly afterwards. He subsequently left there to take command of Allied forces fighting in Flanders, left Godert de Ginkell to command in Ireland; the following year Ginkell won a significant victory at the Battle of Aughrim. Following the siege, William Dorrington was made Governor of the city and preparations began to improve the fortifications. Limerick was to remain a Jacobite stronghold until it surrendered after another Williamite siege the following year. Following the loss of this last major stronghold Patrick Sarsfield led the army into exile in the Flight of the Wild Geese to the Continent, where they continued to serve the cause of James and his successors. Childs, John; the Williamite Wars in Ireland. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2007. Simms, J. G. Jacobite Ireland, London 1969. Wauchop, Piers. Patrick Sarsfield and the Williamite War, Dublin 1992. Webpage on the Williamite sieges - including good maps and photos