Battle for Europe: How the Duke of Marlborough Masterminded the Defeat of the French at Blenheimby Charles Spencer
"Plunder, murder, destroyand if it be possible to commit yet greater cruelties, be not negligent," ordered one of Louis XIV's generals. Another boasted of atrocities his soldiers committed against Dutch civilians: "We lit the town and grilled all the Hollanders in it." Louis XIV had created the largest army Europe had seen since Roman times, and he… See more details below
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"Plunder, murder, destroyand if it be possible to commit yet greater cruelties, be not negligent," ordered one of Louis XIV's generals. Another boasted of atrocities his soldiers committed against Dutch civilians: "We lit the town and grilled all the Hollanders in it." Louis XIV had created the largest army Europe had seen since Roman times, and he encouraged his marshals to fight with Roman ruthlessness. For forty years, it was unstoppableno army and no alliance could stand against the Sun King's soldiers.
Then, on August 14, 1704, amidst the pomp and splendor of a court celebration honoring his military conquests, Louis received word that the unthinkable had occurred: his "invincible" army not only had suffered its first defeat in two generations, but had been utterly routed. An entire army of 60,000 men had disappeared and its commander had been taken prisoner by the English.
The Battle of Blenheim changed the course of history. Louis's hitherto unbeaten army was destroyed in a day, never to recover. And just as astonishing to contemporary observers was that the British, seemingly overnight, had become a power in Europe for the first time since Henry V beat the French at Agincourt.
In Battle for Europe, Charles Spencer recounts how, under the command of the military genius John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, the British army was transformed from an unruly, ragtag collection of misfits and social outcasts into a highly disciplined fighting force. British soldiers made up only a fifth of the victorious allied army at Blenheim, but their contribution was decisive. In the wake of Blenheim, the greatest land victory won under an English commander on foreign soil since 1415, the British took their first faltering steps toward empire.
Spencer reveals how Marlborough, aided by his friend and ally Prince Eugène of Savoy, brought about this incredible victory despite crushing personal and political pressures. Marlborough's sixteen-year-old son had recently died in his arms; his beloved wife was on the verge of madness; and both parties in Parliament were plotting his impeachment. With his friends and allies urging caution, the Duke gambled everything on a single day of battle.
In his remarkable debut as a popular historian, Charles Spencer breathes life into the women and men behind the mannered portraits of the era. From Louis XIV's grisly experience at the hands of his dentists to the violent fury of the battlefield, Battle for Europe is a compelling chronicle of an age and an enthralling story of courage under fire.
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