Eugene Of Savoy

EUGENE OF SAVOY [François Eugène], Prince (1663-1736), fifth son of Prince Eugene Maurice of Savoy-Carignano, count of Soissons, and of Olympia Mancini, niece of Cardinal Mazarin, was born at Paris on the 18th of October 1663. Originally destined for the church, Eugene was known at court as the petit abbé, but his own predilection was strongly for the army. His mother, however, had fallen into disgrace at court, and his application for a commission, repeated more than once, was refused by Louis XIV. This, and the influence of his mother, produced in him a lifelong resentment against the king. Having quitted France in disgust, he proceeded to Vienna, where his relative the emperor Leopold I. received him kindly, and he served with the Austrian army during the campaign of 1683 against the Turks. He displayed his bravery in a cavalry fight at Petronell (7th July) and in the great battle for the relief of Vienna. The emperor now gave him the command of a regiment of dragoons. At the capture of Buda in 1686 he received a wound (3rd August), but he continued to serve up to the siege of Belgrade in 1688, in which he was dangerously wounded. At the instigation of Louvois, a decree of banishment from France was now issued against all Frenchmen who should continue to serve in foreign armies. "The king will see me again," was Eugene's reply when the news was communicated to him; he continued his career in foreign service.

Prince Eugene's next employment was in a service that required diplomatic as well as military skill (1689). He was sent by the emperor Leopold to Italy with the view of binding the duke of Savoy to the coalition against France and of co-operating with the Italian and Spanish troops. Later in 1689 he served on the Rhine and was again wounded. He returned to Italy in time to take part in the battle of Staffarda, which resulted in the defeat of the coalition at the hands of the French marshal Catinat; but in the spring of 1691 Prince Eugene, having secured reinforcements, caused the siege of Coni to be raised, took possession of Carmagnola, and in the end completely defeated Catinat. He followed up his success by entering Dauphiné, where he took possession of Embrun and Gap. After another campaign, which was uneventful, the further prosecution of the war was abandoned owing to the defection of the duke of Savoy from the coalition, and Prince Eugene returned to Vienna, where he soon afterwards received the command of the army in Hungary, on the recommendation of the veteran count Rüdiger von Starhemberg, the defender of Vienna in 1683. It was about this time that Louis XIV. secretly offered him the bâton of a marshal of France, with the government of Champagne which his father had held, and also a pension. But Eugene rejected these offers with indignation, and proceeded to operate against the Turks commanded by Kara Mustapha. After some skilful manœuvres, he surprised the enemy (September 11th, 1697) at Zenta, on the Theiss. His attack was vigorous and daring, and the victory was one of the most complete and important ever won by the Austrian arms. Formerly it was often stated that the battle of Zenta was fought against express orders from the court, that Eugene was placed under arrest for violating these orders, and that a proposal to bring him before a council of war was frustrated only by the threatening attitude of the citizens of Vienna. This story, minute in details as it is, is entirely without foundation. After a further period of manœuvres, peace was at length concluded at Karlowitz on the 26th of January 1699.

Two years later he was again in active service in the War of the Spanish Succession (q.v.). At the beginning of the year 1701 he was sent into Italy once more to oppose his old antagonist Catinat. He achieved a rapid success, crossing the mountains from Tirol into Italy in spite of almost insurmountable difficulties (Journal d. militärwissensch. Verein, No. 5, 1907), forcing the French army, after sustaining several checks, to retire behind the Oglio, where a series of reverses equally unexpected and severe led to the recall of Catinat in disgrace. The incapable duke of Villeroi, who succeeded to the command of which Catinat had been deprived, ventured to attack Eugene at Chiari, and was repulsed with great loss. And this was only the forerunner of more signal reverses; for, in a short time, Villeroi was forced to abandon the whole of the Mantuan territory and to take refuge in Cremona, where he seems to have considered himself secure. By means of a stratagem, however, Eugene penetrated into the city during the night, at the head of 2000 men, and, though he found it impossible to hold the town, succeeded in carrying off Villeroi as a prisoner. But as the duke of Vendôme, a much abler general, replaced the captive, the incursion, daring though it was, proved anything but advantageous to the Austrians. The generalship of his new opponent, and the fact that the French army had been largely reinforced, while reinforcements had not been sent from Vienna, forced Prince Eugene to confine himself to a war of observation. The campaign was terminated by the sanguinary battle of Luzzara, fought on the 1st of August 1702, in which each party claimed the victory. Both armies having gone into winter quarters, Eugene returned to Vienna, where he was appointed president of the council of war. He then set out for Hungary in order to combat the insurgents in that country; but his means proving insufficient, he effected nothing of importance. The collapse of the revolt, however, soon freed the prince for the more important campaign in Bavaria, where, in 1704, he made his first campaign along with Marlborough. Similarity of tastes, views and talents soon established between these two great men a friendship which is rarely to be found amongst military chiefs, and contributed in the fullest measure to the success which the allies obtained. The first and perhaps the most important of these successes was that of Höchstädt or Blenheim (q.v.) on the 3rd of August 1704, where the English and imperial troops triumphed over one of the finest armies that France had ever sent into Germany.

But since Prince Eugene had quitted Italy, Vendôme, who commanded the French army in that country, had obtained various successes against the duke of Savoy, who had once more joined Austria. The emperor deemed the crisis so serious that he recalled Eugene and sent him to Italy to the assistance of his ally. Vendôme at first opposed great obstacles to the plan which the prince had formed for carrying succours into Piedmont; but after a variety of marches and counter-marches, in which both commanders displayed signal ability, the two armies met at Cassano (August 16, 1705), where a deadly engagement ensued, and Prince Eugene received two severe wounds which forced him to quit the field. This accident decided the fate of the battle and for the time suspended the prince's march towards Piedmont. Vendôme, however, was recalled, and La Feuillade (who succeeded him) was incapable of long arresting the progress of such a commander as Eugene. After once more passing several rivers in presence of the French army, and executing one of the most skilful and daring marches he had ever performed, the latter appeared before the entrenched camp at Turin, which place the French were now besieging with an army eighty thousand strong. Prince Eugene had only thirty thousand men; but his antagonist the duke of Orleans, though full of zeal and courage, wanted experience, and Marshal Marsin, his adlatus, held powers from Louis XIV. which could not fail to produce dissensions in the French headquarters. With equal courage and address, Eugene profited by the misunderstandings between the French generals; and on the 7th of September 1706 he attacked the French army in its entrenchments and gained a victory which decided the fate of Italy. In the heat of the battle Eugene received a wound, and was thrown from his horse. His recompense for this important service was the government of the Milanese, of which he took possession with great pomp on the 16th of April 1707. He was also made lieutenant-general to the emperor Joseph I.

The attempt which he made against Toulon in the course of the same year failed completely, because the invasion of the kingdom of Naples retarded the march of the troops which were to have been employed in it, and this delay afforded Marshal de Tessé time to make good dispositions. Obliged to renounce his project, therefore, the prince went to Vienna, where he was received with great enthusiasm both by the people and by the court. "I am very well satisfied with you," said the emperor, "excepting on one point only, which is, that you expose yourself too much." This monarch immediately despatched Eugene to Holland, and to the different courts of Germany, in order to forward the necessary preparations for the campaign of the following year, 1708 (see Spanish Succession, War of the).

Early in the spring of 1708 the prince proceeded to Flanders, in order to assume the command of the German army which his diplomatic ability had been mainly instrumental in assembling, and to unite his forces with those of Marlborough. The campaign was opened by the victory of Oudenarde (q.v.), to which the perfect union of Marlborough and Eugene on the one hand, and the misunderstanding between Vendôme and the duke of Burgundy on the other, seem to have equally contributed. The French immediately abandoned the Low Countries, and, remaining in observation, made no attempt whatever to prevent Eugene's army, covered by that of Marlborough, making the siege of Lille. The French governor, Boufflers, made a glorious defence, and Eugene paid a flattering tribute to his valour in inviting him to prepare the articles of capitulation himself, with the words "I subscribe to everything beforehand, well persuaded that you will not insert anything unworthy of yourself or of me." After this important conquest, Eugene and Marlborough proceeded to the Hague, where they were received in the most flattering manner by the public, by the states-general, and above all, by their esteemed friend the pensionary Heinsius. Negotiations were then opened for peace, but proved fruitless. In 1709 France put forth a supreme effort, and placed Marshal Villars, her best living general, in command. The events of this year were very different to those of previous campaigns, and the bloody battle of Malplaquet (q.v.), though a victory for Marlborough and Eugene, led to little result, and this at the cost of enormous losses. The Dutch army, it is said, never recovered from the slaughter of Malplaquet; indeed, the success was so dearly bought that the allies found themselves soon afterwards out of all condition to undertake anything. Their army accordingly went into winter quarters, and Prince Eugene returned to Vienna, whence the emperor almost immediately despatched him to Berlin. From the king of Prussia the prince obtained everything which he had been instructed to require; and having thus fulfilled his mission, he returned into Flanders, where, excepting the capture of Douai, Bethune and Aire, the campaign of 1710 presented nothing remarkable. On the death of the emperor Joseph I. in April 1711, Prince Eugene, in concert with the empress, exerted his utmost endeavours to secure the crown to the archduke, who afterwards ascended the imperial throne under the name of Charles VI. In the same year the changes which had occurred in the policy, or rather the caprice, of Queen Anne, brought about an approximation between England and France, and put an end to the influence which Marlborough had hitherto possessed. When this political revolution became known, Prince Eugene immediately repaired to London, charged with a mission from the emperor to re-establish the credit of his illustrious companion in arms, as well as to re-attach England to the coalition. The mission having proved unsuccessful, the emperor found himself under the necessity of making the campaign of 1712 with the aid of the Dutch alone. The defection of the English, however, did not induce Prince Eugene to abandon his favourite plan of invading France. He resolved, at whatever cost, to penetrate into Champagne; and in order to support his operations by the possession of some important places, he began by making himself master of Quesnoy. But the Dutch, having been surprised and beaten in the lines of Denain, where Prince Eugene had placed them at too great a distance to receive timely support in case of an attack, he was obliged to raise the siege of Landrecies, and to abandon the project which he had so long cherished. This was the last campaign in which Austria acted in conjunction with her allies. Abandoned first by England and then by Holland, the emperor, notwithstanding these desertions, still wished to maintain the war in Germany; but Eugene was unable to relieve either Landau or Freiburg, which were successively obliged to capitulate; and seeing the Empire thus laid open to the armies of France, and even the Austrian hereditary states themselves exposed to invasion, the prince counselled his master to make peace. Sensible of the prudence of this advice, the emperor immediately entrusted Eugene with full powers to negotiate a treaty of peace, which was concluded at Rastadt on the 6th of March 1714. On his return to Vienna, Prince Eugene was employed for a time in political matters, and at this time he exchanged the government of the Milanese for that of the Austrian Netherlands.

It was not long, however, before he was again called on to assume the command of the army in the field. In the spring of 1716 the emperor, having concluded an offensive alliance with Venice against Turkey, appointed Eugene to command the army of Hungary; and at Peterwardein he gained (5th of August 1716) a signal victory over a Turkish army of more than twice his own strength. In recognition of this service to Christendom the pope sent to the victorious general the consecrated hat and sword which the court of Rome was accustomed to bestow upon those who had triumphed over the infidels. Eugene won another victory in this campaign at Temesvár. But the ensuing campaign, that of 1717, was still more remarkable on account of the battle of Belgrade. After having besieged the city for a month Eugene found himself in a most critical, if not hopeless situation. He had to deal not only with the garrison of 30,000 men, but with a relieving army of 200,000, and his own force was only about 40,000 strong. In these circumstances the only possible deliverance was by a bold and decided stroke. Accordingly on the morning of the 16th of August 1717 Prince Eugene ordered a general attack, which resulted in the total defeat of the enemy with an enormous loss, and in the capitulation of the city six days afterwards. The prince was wounded in the heat of the action, this being the thirteenth time that he had been hit upon the field of battle. On his return to Vienna he received, among other testimonies of gratitude, a sword valued at 80,000 florins from the emperor. The popular song "Prinz Eugen, der edle Ritter," commemorates the victory of Belgrade. In the following year, 1718, after some fruitless negotiations with a view to the conclusion of peace, he again took the field; but the treaty of Passarowitz (July 21, 1718) put an end to hostilities at the moment when the prince had well-founded hopes of obtaining still more important successes than those of the last campaign, and even of reaching Constantinople, and dictating a peace on the shores of the Bosporus.

As the government of the Netherlands, up to 1724 held by Eugene, had now for some reason been bestowed on a sister of the emperor, the prince was appointed vicar-general of Italy, with a pension of 300,000 florins. Though still retaining his official position and much of his influence at court, his personal relations with the emperor were not so cordial as before, and he suffered from the intrigues of the Spanish or anti-German party. The most remarkable of these political intrigues was the conspiracy of Tedeschi and Nimptsch against the prince in 1719. On discovering this the prince went to the emperor and threatened to lay down all his offices if the conspirators were not punished, and after some resistance he achieved his purpose. During the years of peace between the treaty of Passarowitz and the War of the Polish Succession, Eugene occupied himself with the arts and with literature, to which he had hitherto been able to devote little of his time. This new interest led him to correspond with many of the most eminent men in Europe. But the contest which arose out of the succession of Augustus II. to the throne of Poland having afforded Austria a pretext for attacking France, war was resolved on, contrary to the advice of Eugene (1734). In spite of this, however, he was appointed to command the army destined to act upon the Rhine, which from the commencement had very superior forces opposed to it; and if it could not prevent the capture of Philipsburg after a long siege, it at least prevented the enemy from entering Bavaria. Prince Eugene, having now attained his seventy-first year, no longer possessed the vigour and activity necessary for a general in the field, and he welcomed the peace which was concluded on the 3rd of October 1735. On his return to Vienna his health declined more and more, and he died in that capital on the 21st of April 1736, leaving an immense inheritance to his niece, the princess Victoria of Savoy.

Of a character cold and severe, Prince Eugene had almost no other passion than that of glory. He died unmarried, and seemed so little susceptible to female influence that he was styled a Mars without a Venus. That he was one of the great captains of history is universally admitted. He was strangely unlike the commanders of his time in many respects, though as a matter of course he was, when he saw fit to follow the accepted rules, equal to any in careful and methodical strategy. The special characteristics of his generalship were imagination, fiery energy, and a tactical resolution which was rare indeed in the 18th century. Despising the lives of his soldiers as much as he exposed his own, it was always by persevering efforts and great sacrifices that he obtained victory. His almost invariable success raised the reputation of the Austrian army to a point which it never reached either before or since his day. War was with him a passion. Always on the march, in camps, or on the field of battle during more than fifty years, and under the reigns of three emperors, he had scarcely passed two years together without fighting. Yet his political activity was not inconsiderable, and his advice was always sound and well-considered; while in his government of the Netherlands, which he exercised through the marquis de Prié, he set himself resolutely to oppose the many wild schemes, such as Law's Mississippi project, in which the times were so fertile. His interest in literature and art has been alluded to above. His palace in Vienna, and the Belvedere near that city, his library, and his collection of paintings, were renowned. Prince Eugene was a man of the middle size, but, upon the whole, well made; the cast of his visage was somewhat long, his mouth moderate and almost always open; his eyes were black and animated, and his complexion such as became a warrior.

See A. v. Arneth, Prinz Eugen (3 vols., Vienna, 1858; 2nd ed., 1864); H. v. Sybel, Prinz Eugen von Savoyen (Munich, 1868); Austrian official history, Feldzuge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen (Vienna, 1876); Malleson, Prince Eugene (London, 1888); Heller, Militärische Korrespondenz des Prinzen Eugens (Vienna, 1848); Keym, Prinz Eugen (Freiburg, 1899); Osterr. militärische Zeitschrift ("Streffleur"); Ridler's Osterr. Archiv für Geschichte (1831-1833); Archivio storico Italico, vol. 17; Mitteil. des Instituts für österr. Geschichtsforschung, vol. 13.

The political memoirs attributed to Prince Eugene (ed. Sartori, Tübingen, 1812) are spurious; see Böhm, Die Sammlung der hinterlassenen politischen Schriften des Prinzen Eugens (Freiburg, 1900).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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