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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

But it cost the life of the Duke of Boufflers



The battle of October 11 left the battle-field in the hands of the victors, the sole result of a bloody and obstinate engagement. Marshal Saxe went to rest himself at Paris; the people's enthusiasm rivalled and indorsed the favors shown to him by the king. At the opera, the whole house rose at the entrance of the valiant foreigner who had dedicated his life to France; there was clapping of hands, and the actress who in the prologue took the character of Glory leaned over towards the marshal with a crown of laurel. "The marshal was surprised, and refused it with profound bows. Glory insisted; and as the marshal was too far off in the boxes for her to hand it to him, the Duke of Biron took the crown from Glory's hands and passed it under Marshal Saxe's left arm. This striking action called forth fresh acclamations, 'Hurrah! for Marshal Saxe!' and great clapping of hands. The king has given the marshal Chambord for life, and has even ordered it to be furnished. Independently of all these honors, it is said that the marshal is extremely rich and powerful just now, solely as the result of his safe-conducts, which, being applicable to a considerable extent of country, have been worth immense sums to him." The second marriage of the dauphin--who had already lost the Infanta--with the Princess of Saxony, daughter of the King of Poland, was about to raise, before long, the fortune and favor of Marshal Saxe to the highest pitch:

he was proclaimed marshal-general of the king's armies.

So much luck and so much glory in the Low Countries covered, in the eyes of France and of Europe, the checks encountered by the king's armies in Italy. The campaign of 1745 had been very brilliant. Parma, Piacenza, Montferrat, nearly all Milaness, with the exception of a few fortresses, were in the hands of the Spanish and French forces. The King of Sardinia had recourse to negotiation; he amused the Marquis of Argenson, at that time Louis XV.'s foreign minister, a man of honest, expansive, but chimerical views. At the moment when the king and the marquis believed themselves to be remodelling the map of Europe at their pleasure, they heard that Charles Emmanuel had resumed the offensive. A French corps had been surprised at Asti, on the 5th of March; thirty thousand Austrians marched down from the Tyrol, and the Spaniards evacuated Milan. A series of checks forced Marshal Maillebois to effect a retreat; the enemy's armies crossed the Var, and invaded French territory. Marshal Belle-Isle fell back to Puget, four leagues from Toulon.

The Austrians had occupied Genoa, the faithful ally of France. Their vengefulness and their severe exactions caused them to lose the fruits of their victory. The grandees were ruined by war-requisitions; the populace were beside themselves at the insolence of the conquerors; senators and artisans made common cause. An Austrian captain having struck a workman, the passengers in the streets threw themselves upon him and upon his comrades who came to his assistance; the insurrection spread rapidly in all quarters of Genoa; there was a pillage of the weapons lying heaped in the palace of the Doges; the senators put themselves at the head of the movement; the peasants in the country flew to arms. The Marquis of Botta, the Austrian commandant, being attacked on all sides, and too weak to resist, sallied from the town with nine regiments. The allies, disquieted and dismayed, threatened Provence, and laid siege to Genoa. Louis XV. felt the necessity of not abandoning his ally; the Duke of Boufflers and six thousand French shut themselves up in the place. "Show me the danger," the general had said on entering the town; "it is my duty to ascertain it; I shall make all my glory depend upon securing you from it." The resistance of Genoa was effectual; but it cost the life of the Duke of Boufflers, who was wounded in an engagement, and died three days before the retreat of the Austrians, on the 6th of July, 1747.

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