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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

The two villages of Fontenoy and Antoin

The King of France henceforth maintained it almost alone by himself. The young Elector of Bavaria had already found himself driven out of Munich, and forced by his exhausted subjects to demand peace of Maria Theresa. The election to the empire was imminent; Maximilian-Joseph promised his votes to the Grand-duke of Tuscany; at that price he was re-established in his hereditary dominions. The King of Poland had rejected the advances of France, who offered him the title of emperor, beneath which Charles VII. had succumbed. Marshal Saxe bore all the brunt of the war. A foreigner and a Protestant, for a long while under suspicion with Louis XV., and blackened in character by the French generals, Maurice of Saxony had won authority as well as glory by the splendor of his bravery and of his military genius. Combining with quite a French vivacity the far-sightedness and the perseverance of the races of the north, he had been toiling for more than a year to bring about amongst his army a spirit of discipline, a powerful organization, a contempt for fatigue as well as for danger. "At Dettingen the success of the allies was due to their surprising order, for they were not seasoned to war," he used to say. Order did not as yet reign in the army of Marshal Saxe. In 1745, the situation was grave; the marshal was attacked with dropsy; his life appeared to be in danger. He nevertheless commanded his preparations to be made for the campaign, and, when Voltaire, who was one of his friends, was astounded at it, "It is no question of living, but of setting out," was his reply.

[Illustration: Marshal Saxe 154]

The king was preparing to set out, like Marshal Saxe; he had just married the dauphin to the eldest daughter of the King of Spain; the young prince accompanied his father to the front before Tournai, which the French army was besieging. On the 8th of May Louis XV. visited the outskirts; an attack from the enemy was expected, the field of battle was known beforehand. The village of Fontenoy had already been occupied by Marshal Noailles, who had asked to serve as aide-de-camp to Marshal Saxe, to whom he was attached by sincere friendship, and whom he had very much contributed to advance in the king's good graces.

"Never did Louis XV. show more gayety than on the eve of the fight," says Voltaire. "The conversation was of battles at which kings had been present in person. The king said that since the battle of Poitiers no king of France had fought with his son beside him, that since St. Louis none had gained any signal victory over the English, and that he hoped to be the first. He was the first up on the day of action; he himself at four o'clock awoke Count d'Argenson, minister of war, who on the instant sent to ask Marshal Saxe for his final orders. The marshal was found in a carriage of osier-work, which served him for a bed, and in which he had himself drawn about when his exhausted powers no longer allowed him to sit his horse." The king and the dauphin had already taken up their positions of battle; the two villages of Fontenoy and Antoin, and the wood of Barri, were occupied by French troops. Two armies of fifty thousand men each were about to engage in the lists as at Dettingen. Austria had sent but eight thousand soldiers, under the orders of the old and famous General Konigseck; the English and the Hollanders were about to bear all the burden and heat of the day.

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