« AnteriorContinuar »
one of her daughters to his son.Louvois, after the discoveries of La Voisin, gave orders for the arrest of the countess, who was terrified, and fled from Paris to Brussels. But though probably guiltless, in her intercourse with La Voisin, of all but a silly belief in supernaturalism, the suspicion of being a poisoner and sorceress clung to her for life. In the Low Countries the mob beset the carriage of the empoisonneuse with cries and insults. Though after a time she was enabled to live tranquilly in Brussels, yet when she visited Madrid with her son Eugene, with the view to procure him a career in Spain, the foolish King Charles II. believed that she had thrown a charm upon him. When the Queen of Spain, the niece of Louis XIV., died, her ancient lover exclaimed that the young Queen had been poisoned by the Comtesse de Soissons. And the peace-party in England in after days made the most use they could of the scandal against Prince Eugene.
The Comtesse de Soissons had five sons and three daughters; these all remained in France under the protection of the Princess Carignano. The youngest son was Eugene Francis, better known as Prince Eugene. The countess's care for her children appears to have been remarkably slight, and Eugene, we are told, was allowed to run about like a galopin. His appearance was by no means imposing: he was small in stature, weak in constitution, rather humpbacked, of brown complexion, with a short upper lip, so that his mouth was always open and displayed two great front teeth; his nose somewhat retroussé with large nostrils. Yet his eyes were noticed to be fine and full of fire and intelligence. Early in life he was seized with the warlike enthusiasm which prevailed among the young nobles of France, and which was heightened by the new splendour which the genius of Condé, Turenne, and Vauban, and the early victories of Louis XIV. had thrown on the science of war: he loved the glitter and display of troops, devoured the life of Alexander the Great and military memoirs, and studied mathematics and fortifications. Louis XIV., however, looking on his unprepossessing exterior, destined him for the church, and the boy was called at Versailles l'abbé de Savoie and le petit abbé. Every effort made by the young prince to escape from a priestly life and to enter the military service of the King was rejected by Louvois with contempt; and it is said that, at last, in exasperation, he swore that he would leave the French territory and never return except with arms in his hand. Two of Eugene's elder brothers, disgusted with the treatment they had met with, had already left France, and entered into the service of the Duke of Savoy, One of these, Emanuel Philibert, Comte de Dreux, died soon after his departure; but the other, Louis Jules, called the Chevalier de Savoie, when hostilities broke out between the Turks and the Roman Empire, passed over to the service of the Emperor of Austria, and obtained a regiment of dragoons.
The noise of the preparations of the Turks had resounded throughout Europe. The French princes of the blood and a brilliant band of nobles — among whom was the Prince de Condé, the Prince de Roche sur Yon, and the Prince de Turenne — went to serve as volunteers in the army of the Emperor. With them departed Eugene, then nineteen years of age, and overwhelmed with debt. He was well received by the Emperor, and obtained a commission in the dragoons. In his first skirmish he lost his brother. Prince Eugene then served under his cousin, the Margrave Louis
of Baden, who commanded the cavalry in the Imperial army. In the conflicts under the walls of Vienna, which ended in the raising of the siege, the Prince was noticed for his ability and his daring; and so ambitious a young soldier could not have found himself, in any other place or period, in the presence of men or events more calculated to stimulate his military ardour. The relief of Vienna by the chivalrous Sobieski was one of those events which mark a period in the history of the world; and, besides the brilliant King of Poland, Eugene bad also before his eyes other generals of European celebrity - the war-worn Duke of Lorraine, the impetuous Maximilian, Elector of Bavaria, and his cousin the Margrave Louis of Baden, an able but somewhat pedantic tactician.
Charles, Duke of Lorraine, a pupil of Montecuculli, was the general-in-chief of the Imperial army: under his leadership the troops of the Emperor maintained the reputation which they had achieved some twenty years before in the great battle of St. Gotthard, which liberated Europe from the Turks. Under the Duke of Lorraine Eugene rose to be a colonel at twenty and lieutenant-general at twenty-five. On the death of that prince, Maximilian of Bavaria succeeded to the command of the Imperial army. At the capture of Belgrade, Eugene distinguished himself by that reckless bravery wbich was one of his peculiar characteristics : he was the first in the breach, but the distinction was near being his last; a janissary clove his helmet in two with a sweep of his sabre, Eugene replied by plunging his sword into his adversary's body.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Europe, Austria was already involved in an immense contest, and was launching forth armies and urging onwards her allies to set limits to the am
bition of the French monarchy. Among the princes who were necessarily forced to take part in this great conflict, none stood in a more precarious position than Victor Amadeus II., the Duke of Savoy, who, in diplomacy, dissimulation, and military and political ability, was the latest and greatest proficient of the subtle teaching of Machiavelli or Guicciardini. Wedged in between the two colossal Powers, France and Austria—who were always in collision or on the verge of it — his small territory was either threatened or trodden under foot at every movement of diplomacy or war. He had little love and equal fear for either of his neighbours; and, as they courted his alliance, he leaned to whichever side seemed most to favour his independence or his aggrandisement. The French monarch, by possession of the strong fortresses of Pignerol and Casale, held his little dominions as in a vice; and the duke, though he anxiously feared such a destiny for his state as was then hanging over the House of Lorraine, had nevertheless been constrained to accept the French alliance. But his astute and politic mind saw in a general European collision an opportunity for withdrawing from his engagements.
He feared, indeed, the encroaching power of Austria in Italy equally with that of France. Nevertheless, as neutrality was impossible, he listened to the offers of Austria, who proposed, among other things, to put his ambassador on an equal footing with those of kings, and to take and give him Pignerol. On such conditions he secretly joined the League of Augsburg. When his defection became known at Versailles, Catinat was sent with an army to occupy Piedmont and take possession of Turin. The duke met him at Staffarda on August 17. 1690, and gave battle ; though he suffered a defeat, yet his retreat was so well covered by his cousin, Prince Eugene, who had been sent from Vienna to his assistance, that the march of Catinat upon Turin was arrested. From his relationship to the duke, as well as for his diplomatic and military ability, the Court of Vienna conceived it advisable that Eugene should remain at Turin. Consequently, two years after, he accompanied Victor Amadeus in his irruption into Dauphiny, and thus fulfilled the boyish threat of entering France sword in hand, which he had uttered when refused a company in the French army. Louis XIV. shortly after endeavoured to repair his mistake, and offered to make Eugene a field-marshal of France; but the Prince refused, being already a field-marshal in the Imperial army and decorated with the Order of the Golden Fleece. When Eugene next appears in history, it is as general-in-chief of the Imperial forces, and victor over the Turks in the great battle of Zenta, by which he became at once one of the great names of Europe.
The victory of Zenta, and the peace of Carlowitz, mark, indeed, an epoch in the history of Christendom, as affording, by diplomacy, the first incontestible evidence of the decline of the Turkish power. In the campaigns in which Eugene had already taken part, after the relief of Vienna by Sobieski, the Turks lost in six campaigns as much as they had gained in two centuries. The intrigues of the French, the machinations of the insurgent Tekeli, their own indignation under defeat, and the high spirit of the young Sultan, Mustapha II., who had just, according to Eastern custom, placed the corpse of his predecessor in the funeral car, brought about another campaign. The young Sultan, in true Moslem spirit, published a hatti scherif, announcing that God had given him the khalifat of the world, inveighing against the luxury of his predecessors, denouncing vengeance on the infernal swarm of infidels, and proclaiming a sacred war,
Immense preparations were made by sea and land; and at first the Turks were successful. During three years of warfare both Venetians and Austrians suffered a series of disastrous defeats, until Eugene was appointed to the command of the Imperial army. The Sultan himself, brave and arrogant as he was, knew nothing of generalship. There were no Kiuperlis now to direct the fortunes of the Ottoman Power; and he was dependent for advice on an incompetent grand vizier, ignorant pachas, and second-rate French engineers. After some indecisive movements, in which the Sultan showed that he was powerless in the hands of a real master of modern warfare, Eugene came upon the Ottoman army, on the evening of September 11. 1697, two hours before sunset, half of it having already crossed the Theiss. The remaining portion was formidably entrenched: but Eugene knew his troops, saw his advantage, and, full of confidence, was about to engage, when a sealed letter from the Emperor was put into his hands commanding him not to risk a battle. Divining its contents, he gave it back to the bearer, and proceeded with his dispositions. His
His troops stormed the entrenchments on all sides ; and a detachment of the left wing of the Imperialists pierced through the rear of the Turks, and cut off their retreat to the bridge. The massacre was tremendous : scarcely 1,000 Turks escaped by swimming; 10,000 were drowned ; 20,000 were cut to pieces. The Grand Vizier and four others, the Vizier Aga of the Janissaries, the Governors of Anatolia, Bosnia, Roumelia, and Diarbekir, and a legion of pashas, perished by the sword. Seven horse-tails, 423 standards, and the Seal of the Empire, were captured. The Seal of the Empire had never before been taken by an enemy; and its loss was deemed to portend a future of evil to the house of Othman. On the morrow — the anniversary of Eugene's first battle under the walls of Vienna - he crossed the Theiss, and took possession of the camp of the Sultan, where 500 silver kettle-drums of the Janissaries, the Sultan's carriage, eight horses, the women of his harem, and 3,000,000 of crowns, formed a portion of the immense booty. The famous peace of Carlowitz was not signed until more than a year afterwards, on January 21. 1699. It was the first in which the Turks admitted the mediation of any Christian Power; and each successive treaty they have since made has marked a further descent of the Ottoman Power in the scale of nations.
By the victory of Zenta the name of Eugene had become celebrated throughout Europe ; but that success was gained against a nation of ignorant barbarians, to whom the art of war remained as rude as it was in the Middle Ages. In the first campaigns of the war of the Spanish Succession Eugene was matched against the best and most experienced generals of the most military nation in Europe. Catinat, one of the most estimable of all the statesmen and soldiers who served Louis XIV.;- a pupil of the Great Condé and Turenne, - a commander of antique simplicity, dignity, and virtue, and with scientific acquirements second to none except Vauban in his age, was at the head of the French in Italy, in superior numbers, when Eugene, with 30,000 Imperialists, descended the Adige. But the Prince was now in the enjoyment of all the vigour, brilliancy, and good fortune of youth full of confidence in himself, and fushed, not only with the great victory of Zenta, but with a still greater victory he had obtained over the Aulic Councils, which enabled him to carry on war independently of the restraint of councillors at home. Catinat, on the contrary, was old and worn, his spirit broken with the recent loss of a brother, who was to him all his family, his self-respect wounded by the imperious and meddling dictates of unworthy ministers, and the ignorant presumption of favourites placed over his head. His military plans were overruled by restrictions transmitted from Versailles, where the incompetent Chamillart was blundering through the duties of Minister of both Finance and War, and labouring under responsibilities greater than Colbert or Louvois had ever dared to undertake. On the present occasion, especially, Catinat was lamed for decisive action by being ordered to keep the defensive.
Eugene commenced the campaign by a stroke of genius worthy of Hannibal or Napoleon. He had descended as far as Roveredo, and was there cooped up in the narrow valley, with Catinat on