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The King's Honor and the King's Cardinal

The King's Honor and the King's Cardinal: The War of the Polish Succession

John L. Sutton
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 256
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    The King's Honor and the King's Cardinal
    Book Description:

    Early in 1733 Augustus II, elector of Saxony and king of Poland, died in Warsaw from complications of a gangrenous foot. The elective throne of Poland thus fell vacant, and the states of Europe began cautious maneuvers designed to secure for each some national advantage in the choice of a successor. Before the year was out, diplomacy had given way to military force. Yet the Age of Reason fostered a relationship between diplomacy and warfare that limited the violence of military action.

    The War of Polish Succession might have produced widespread carnage. It was a major struggle among the great powers of Europe with actions in Poland, the Rhineland, and Italy. Many illustrious commanders took part -- Marshal Villars and Prince Eugene, Maurice de Saxe and Count Daun. Behind them stood the powerful figures of Cardinal Fleury, anxious to uphold the honor of King Louis even as he guarded against escalation of the war, and Emperor Charles VI, obsessed with his desire to keep the Holy Roman Empire in Hapsburg hands. After three years of wary military action the war ended as it had begun, in a series of secret diplomatic maneuvers. No nation was annihilated, no prince unthroned, and once again Europe's precarious balance of power had been restored.

    John L. Sutton's engrossing account, the first in any major European language to bring together the evidence from the great diplomatic and military archives of Europe, reveals the very essence of eighteenth-century warfare, with its grand campaigns as formal as minuets, its sieges as gentlemanly as court receptions. On another level, the plight of the mercenaries who did much of the fighting yet had no stake in the conflict beyond day-to-day survival is portrayed just as vividly in this clear-eyed examination of a dynastic war and its setting.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6470-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. CHAPTER ONE A Problem of Succession
    (pp. 1-9)

    On a day in the last week of August 1733, six horsemen left the great castle of Chambord in the Loire Valley of France and took the road to Brittany. Five of the men were obviously an escort for the sixth, whom they treated with great respect and addressed as “Your Majesty.” The escorting riders understood the sensitivity and importance of their mission, for they had been told that they were to accompany Stanislas Leszczynski, the father-in-law of King Louis XV, from his estate at Chambord to a rendezvous with the French fleet which would take him to Poland. Stanislas...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Commitment to War
    (pp. 10-26)

    The interest of France in the Polish throne was both dynastic and strategic; in addition it reflected a somewhat curious emotional preoccupation for France during a period of more than a hundred years. At the end of the Jagellon dynasty in the sixteenth century the kingship of Poland became elective, and its first elected king was a Frenchman, Henry of Valois, younger brother of King Charles IX of France, acclaimed by the Polish nobility and gentry in a mass electoral meeting in 1573. Henry stayed in Poland only a few uncertain months before he fled back to France to succeed...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The Habsburg Position
    (pp. 27-42)

    The fact that Augustus II, as king of Poland, held a throne from which he had deposed a ruler who subsequently became the father-in-law of the king of France did not automatically mean that his relations with France were strained. Nor did the fact that Augustus, in his role as elector of Saxony, was an integral part of the Holy Roman Empire mean that his relations with his emperor were particularly close. The Saxon prince, in his capital at Dresden, was one of the stronger members of the Empire, and he had maintained as much independence from the Habsburg court...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Road to Danzig
    (pp. 43-62)

    The diplomatic and military preparations of the French and Austrian governments had made the Polish election a matter affecting the balance of power in Europe. But it was, after all, in Warsaw and Saint Petersburg that the definitive steps were taken which set the war in motion.

    Augustus II, Augustus the Strong, of the Saxon house of Wettin, had come to Warsaw for the convening of the Polish Diet. But the king had a gangrenous foot, and during the last days of January 1733 his Saxon court awaited his death. There was talk and rumor in the dying king’s antechambers....

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Military Operations North of the Alps in 1733
    (pp. 63-87)

    It was a little late in the season to turn things over to the military and ask for notable results, as the French government was doing in October 1733. True, preparations had been made, but eighteenth century armies normally went into the field in late spring and were preparing for winter quarters when autumn came. But as the summer waned, the French were frustrated by two undeniable facts: first, they had no allies—the treaties with Spain and Sardinia were not yet signed—and second, until the entry of Russian troops into Poland in October, no overt hostile act had...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The War in Italy to May 1734
    (pp. 88-111)

    The war in Italy would prove disappointing to all concerned, and the available evidence suggests that each party merited at least a good part of the frustration all shared. The mobilization of the resources of the allies—France, Spain, and Sardinia—in coalition warfare was limited by conflicting objectives. On the imperial side lack of resources, indecision, and uncooperative German princes plagued the emperor’s efforts.

    The Po Valley was a cockpit in which French armies had fought for several centuries. The French strategy, given a weak Austrian army in northern Italy, was compellingly simple. Villars said it all in a...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN The Siege of Danzig
    (pp. 112-134)

    The war in Italy and in the Rhineland was led by elderly generals who proceeded about their business much as they had done in the battles that had made them famous twenty or thirty years before. It was unlikely that any striking tactical or strategic surprises would occur. Above the aging military commanders on the French side was the even more venerable and cautious figure of Cardinal Fleury, playing his diplomatic cards with great finesse; while above the Austrian commanders was the frustrated emperor, calling for assistance to German princes who did not wish to hear. The overeager, but eventually...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT The War in the Rhineland in 1734
    (pp. 135-161)

    Military activity north of the Alps in 1734, apart from the matter of Danzig and a few small encounters, would be restricted to three French initiatives: a siege of Trarbach on the Moselle River, an attack on the Ettlingen Lines near present-day Karlsruhe, and a siege of the great Rhine fortress of Philippsburg. It was a fairly modest effort considering the strong French forces available, but the efforts of eager subordinate commanders to extend the conflict would be set against the strong will of the senior commander, Marshal Berwick, and that of the old cardinal at Versailles.

    During the winter...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Military Climax and Denouement
    (pp. 162-190)

    The War of the Polish Succession reached a climax of ferocity in Italy in mid-1734 and then dwindled away in all theaters, both north and south of the Alps, until an armistice was signed in late 1735. Perhaps the most intriguing question is how the restraints which had so formalized the war up to mid-1734 could have failed and allowed two pitched battles to occur which were of doubtful value to either side.

    When Marshal Villars left his command in May, the acceleration in activity had already begun with the crossing of the Po by the Austrian army. The emperor...

  13. CHAPTER TEN The Negotiations
    (pp. 191-210)

    The ritual of military operations must have seemed an end in itself to many participants in wars of the eighteenth century—certainly to those officers who, like La Motte, were lifelong professionals. They were used to long campaigns; they were not impatient; they felt no particular rancor toward their opponents. Valor they knew well and it was seldom lacking. The lists of high-ranking casualties after the battles is proof enough. But they saw no reason for heroic efforts against impossible odds, such as the attack on Danzig, nor could they see the need for head-on clashes and senseless massacres such...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 211-244)
    (pp. 245-245)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 246-250)