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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The Sardinian contingents did not arrive


It

was not more splendid in Italy, where the outset of the war had been brilliant. Presumptuous as ever, in spite of his eighty-two years, Villars had started for Italy, saying to Cardinal Fleury, "The king may dispose of Italy, I am going to conquer it for him." And, indeed, within three months, nearly the whole of Milaness was reduced. Cremona and Pizzighitone had surrendered; but already King Charles Emmanuel was relaxing his efforts with the prudent selfishness customary with his house. The Sardinian contingents did not arrive; the Austrians had seized a passage over the Po; Villars, however, was preparing to force it, when a large body of the enemy came down upon him. The King of Sardinia was urged to retire. "That is not the way to get out of this," cried the marshal, and, sword in hand, he charged at the head of the body-guard; Charles Emmanuel followed his example; the Austrians were driven in. "Sir," said Villars to the king, who was complimenting him, "these are the last sparks of my life; thus, at departing, I take my leave of it."

Death, in fact, had already seized his prey; the aged marshal had not time to return to France to yield up his last breath there; he was expiring at Turin, when he heard of Marshal Berwick's death before Philipsburg. "That fellow always was lucky," said he. On the 17th of June, 1734, Villars died, in his turn, by a strange coincidence in the very room in which he had been born when his father was French

ambassador at the court of the Duke of Savoy.

Some days later Marshals Broglie and Coigny defeated the Austrians before Parma; the general-in-chief, M. de Mercy, had been killed on the 19th of September; the Prince of Wurtemberg, in his turn, succumbed at the battle of Guastalla, and yet these successes on the part of the French produced no serious result. The Spaniards had become masters of the kingdom of Naples and of nearly all Sicily; the Austrians had fallen back on the Tyrol, keeping a garrison at Mantua only. The Duke of Noailles, then at the head of the army, was preparing for the siege of the place, in order to achieve that deliverance of Italy which was as early as then the dream of France, but the King of Sardinia and the Queen of Spain were already disputing for Mantua; the Sardinian troops withdrew, and it was in the midst of his forced inactivity that the Duke of Noailles heard of the armistice signed in Germany. Cardinal Fleury, weary of the war which he had entered upon with regret, disquieted too at the new complications which he foresaw in Europe, had already commenced negotiations; the preliminaries were signed at Vienna in the month of October, 1735.

The conditions of the treaty astonished Europe. Cardinal Fleury had renounced the ambitious idea suggested to him by Chauvelin; he no longer aspired to impose upon the emperor the complete emancipation of Italy, but he made such disposition as he pleased of the states there, and reconstituted the territories according to his fancy. The kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies were secured to Don Carlos, who renounced Tuscany and the duchies of Parma and Piacenza. These three principalities were to form the appanage of Duke Francis of Lorraine, betrothed to the Archduchess Maria Theresa. There it was that France was to find her share of the spoil; in exchange for the dominions formed for him in Italy, Duke Francis ceded the duchies of Lorraine and Bar to King Stanislaus; the latter formally renounced the throne of Poland, at the same time preserving the title of king, and resuming possession of his property; after him, Lorraine and the Barrois were to be united to the crown of France, as dower and heritage of that queen who had been but lately raised to the throne by a base intrigue, and who thus secured to her new country a province so often taken and retaken, an object of so many treaties and negotiations, and thenceforth so tenderly cherished by France.


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