In 1709, after eight years of war, France was on her knees. There was not enough money left in the treasury to pay, equip or feed the army and a bad harvest led to starvation throughout the kingdom. Circumstances had worsened to the point that King Louis XIV was forced to offer to end the War of Spanish Succession on humiliating terms for his country. However, the allied powers – Britain, the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire – refused Louis' offer, believing that one more successful campaign would utterly destroy French power.
This book examines the campaign of 1709, culminating in the battle of Malplaquet, which would prove Louis' enemies disastrously wrong. Led by the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy, the allied armies achieved a tactical victory – but it was a hollow one. The allies suffered 23,000 casualties to the French 11,000 in what was the bloodiest battle of the 18th century. The scale of casualties shocked Europe and led to a reversal of fortunes, with the dismissal of Marlborough and a newly confident King Louis resolving to fight on. When the war finally ended, it did so on terms favourable to France.
In this illustrated title, Simon MacDowall examines the campaign in full and shows how, though it is generally accepted that Marlborough was never defeated, the Battle of Malplaquet was ultimately a French strategic victory.