Sunday, June 30, 2019

5 Great French Commanders of the Franco-Dutch War

The Franco-Dutch War was the first major conflict where King Louis XIV embroiled his kingdom in and faced the might of Europe's major powers. Behind King Louis' ambition stood his generals from different backgrounds, innovations, and  achievements.
Battle of the Dunes

1. Marshall Sebastien Vauban

Born on May 15, 1633 to a modest petty noble family, Sebastien le Pestre de Vauban fought during the Fronde in the side of the Prince de Conde distinguishing himself as an expert in siege and fortification until his capture by royalist forces in 1653.

He earned further acclaimed for each of the wars Louis XIV embroiled France. He contributed to developments in siege, fortification and even basic infantry weapons. He introduced parallel trenches during sieges that protected troops in attacking a fortified city. He designed new fortification meant to withstand modern weapons for various towns and cities in the Kingdom’s frontiers such Landau & Strasbourg. He also promoted the use of bayonets and ricochet fire for cannons.

In return for his extensive service, the King rewarded him graciously with wealth and titles. In 1676, he became Marchal de Camp or Brigadier General and in 1703, received his highest distinction with his appointment as Marshal of France – the highest military post in the Royal French Army.

Vauban continued to serve the Kingdom until 1706 and ultimately passing away in March 30, 1707. He left several works which added to his legacy of innovation in the French Army.

2. Marshall de Turenne

Born on September 11, 1611, Henri de La Tour d’Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne came from a family of Huguenot noble family related to the famous Dutch family of Orange. He began his military careers at a young age from the great military minds of the Dutch Republic such as Maurice of Nassau.

In 1630, he began to serve the Kingdom of France receiving command of an infantry regiment before being promoted to Marechal de Camp (Brigadier General). He earned a reputation of a courageous soldier and capable of motivating his soldiers during the bloody and chaotic Thirty Years’ War in the theaters of the Rhine and Italy. On May 16, 1643, he received the illustrious title of Marshall of France.

He played a major role in the civil unrest called the Fronde before dedicating himself in the service of King Louis XIV. He fought for the wars of the crown from the Spanish-Franco War, the War of Devolution, and finally the Franco-Dutch War of 1672. His previous experience in the Rhine and the Low Countries made him into an effective commander in the field. He placed importance on logistics and maneuverability of his army. He believed in “few sieges and many combats.” On June 1675, he fought in the Rhine against his rival in the Holy Roman Empire – Raimondo Montecuccoli. He fell in battle on July 27, 1675 after being hit by cannon fire.

3. Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Conde

Born on September 8, 1621, the Prince de Conde later known as the Grande Conde and the Great Conde came from an influential and powerful branch of the House of Bourbon. At a young age of 19, he saw action during the Siege of Arras during the Thirty Years’ War.

In his early 20’s, he earned his first victory in the Battle of Rocroi on May 19, 1643. Equally valiant as his senior and contemporary Marshall Turenne, he also preferred battles rather than sieges and mastered maneuvering his army against the enemy. He made a name for himself during the Thirty Years’ War, but his life and reputation soured when he fought the monarchy for his hatred of King Louis XIV’s First Minister Cardinal Mazarin during the civil war known as the Fronde. He ended up in exile while courts sentenced him to death on November 25, 1654. By 1660, King Louis XIV allowed his return to France and the Grande Conde devoted himself to the monarch.

He fought during the War of Devolution and finally the Franco-Dutch War (1672 to 1678). The French military operation relied on his talent along with his colleague Marshall Turenne. He won series of battles and successfully defended Alsace against the Holy Roman Empire’s foremost general Raimondo Montecuccoli in 1675. Plagued with gout and old age, he retired to his palace in Chantilly until his passing on December 11, 1686.

4. Marshall Luxembourg 

Born on January 8, 1628 from the nobility, the young Fran├žois-Henri de Montmorency-Bouteville, duc de Luxembourg did not possessed the characteristics of a great military leaders. Instead of physical strength and appearance, Luxembourg offered physical deformities.

Despite his defomities, he fought well for the Prince de Conde during the Franco-Spanish War and the Fronde. He then received a pardon for his treason after the Grand Conde returned to France in 1659. In 1661, through marriage he elevated himself to the position of Duc de Luxembourg. In 1668, he once again served the Prince de Conde as Lieutenant General during the War of Devolution. He gained insights to the strategies and tactics of Conde and later became a commander on his own in 1672 in charged of a Franco-German army in Cologne. His rise to prominence continued with the eventual death of Marshall Turenne and the retirement of the Prince de Conde in 1675. Despite his stellar rise, he earned both notoriety and a victory in the Battle of Saint-Dennis against William III of Orange even 4 days after the conclusion of a Franco-Dutch peace treaty in Nijmegen.

After criticisms for his actions in Saint-Dennis, his career further soured with his involvement in the Affairs of Poisons and quarrels with Secretary of State for War the Marquis de Louvois. Eventually the War of the Grand Alliance in 1688 brought him back to favor and glory until his passing in January 4, 1695.

5. Marshall Francois de Crequy

Born in 1624, Crequy served at a young age in the Thirty Years’ War. He became a prominent young officer becoming a Marechal de Camp by 26 and a Lieutenant General by 30. He showed his loyalty to King Louis XIV during the Fronde and fought during the War of Devolution where he distinguished himself further.

In 1672, however, he chose to go to exile rather than to serve under Marshal Turenne during the Franco-Dutch War. Like the Duc de Luxembourg, he did not rose to the top ranks of the military and in the forefront of French War effort until 1675 with the death of Marshall Turenne and the retirement of the Prince de Conde. Overconfidence and arrogance, however, led to his defeats in Conzer Bruck and his capture by the enemy. Later released and humbled, he redeemed himself with victories in the Rhine during later years of the Franco-Dutch War defeating top generals from the Holy Roman Empire. Despite his opposition to Turenne, he followed the principle of favoring head to head battles rather than sieges.

After the war, he served as a diplomat and later governor of Paris. On February 13, 1687, he passed away.

See also:

Lanning, Michael Lee. The Military 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Military Leaders of All Time. New York, New York: Kensington Publishing, 2002.

Boue, Gilles. “Luxembourg, Francois Henri de Montmorency-Bouteville, Duc de Piney (1628 – 1695).” Ground Warfare: An International Encyclopedia. Edited by Stanley Sandler. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2002.

Lynn, John. “Conde, Louis II de Bourbon, Prince of.” The Reader’s Companion to Military History. Edited by Robert Cowley & Geoffrey Parker. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996.

Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed on June 30, 2019. URL:

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