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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Marshal Berwick was intrusted with the command


The

preparations for war with Spain meanwhile continued; the Prince of Conti was nominally at the head of the army, Marshal Berwick was intrusted with the command. He accepted it, in spite of his old connections with Spain, the benefits which Philip V. had heaped upon him, and the presence of his eldest son, the Duke of Liria, in the Spanish ranks. There were others who attached more importance to gratitude. Berwick thought very highly of lieutenant-general Count D'Asfeldt, and desired to have him in his army; the Duke of Orleans spoke to him about it. "Monseigneur," answered D'Asfeldt, "I am a Frenchman, I owe you everything, I have nothing to expect save from you, but," taking the Fleece in his hand and showing it, "what would you have me do with this, which I hold, with the king's permission, from the King of Spain, if I were to serve against Spain, this being the greatest honor that I could have received?" He phrased his repugnance so well, and softened it down by so many expressions of attachment to the Duke of Orleans, that he was excused from serving against Spain, and he contented himself with superintending at Bordeaux the service of the commissariat. The French army, however, crossed the frontier in the month of March, 1719. "The Regent may send a French army whenever he pleases," wrote Alberoni, on the 21st November, 1718; "proclaim publicly that there will not be a shot fired, and that the king our master will have provisions ready to receive them." He had brought
the king, the queen, and the prince of the Asturias into the camp; Philip V. fully expected the desertion of the French army in a mass. Not a soul budged; some refugees made an attempt to tamper with certain officers of their acquaintance; their messenger was hanged in the middle of Marshal Berwick's camp. Fontarabia, St. Sebastian, and the Castle of Urgel fell before long into the power of the French; another division burned, at the port of Los Pasages, six vessels which chanced to be on the stocks; an English squadron destroyed those at Centera and in the port of Vigo. Everywhere the depots were committed to the flames: this cruel and destructive war against an enemy whose best troops were fighting far away, and who was unable to offer more than a feeble resistance, gratified the passions and the interests of England rather than of France. "It was, of course, necessary," said Berwick, "that the English government should be able to convince the next Parliament that nothing had been spared to diminish the navy of Spain." During this time the English fleet and the emperor's troops were keeping up an attack in Sicily upon the Spanish troops, who made a heroic defence, but were without resources or re-enforcements, and were diminishing, consequently, every day. The Marquis of Leyden no longer held anything but Palermo and the region round AEtna.

Alberoni had attempted to create a diversion by hurling into the midst of France the brand of civil war. Brittany, for a long time past discontented with its governor, the Marquis of Montesquiou, and lately worked upon by the agents of the Duchess of Maine, was ripe for revolt; a few noblemen took up arms, and called upon the peasants to enter the forest with them, that is, to take the field. Philip V. had promised the assistance of a fleet, and had supplied some money. But the peasants did not rise, the Spanish ships were slow to arrive, the enterprise attempted against the Marquis of Montesquiou failed, the conspirators were surrounded in the forest of Noe, near Rennes; a great number were made prisoners and taken away to Nantes, where a special chamber inquired into the case against them. Three noblemen and one priest perished on the scaffold.


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