Last third. Painting by contemporary Spanish artist A. Ferrer-Dalmau
Louis XIII was ill. Around his lodge in Saint-Germain's castle, the suburban residence of the kings, the doctors fussed, the courtiers were in meditations, the servants quietly ran through. Whispered to each other the name of Vincent de Paul. Nearby, a five-year heir to the throne played with his buddies. It was time the carefree childhood of the future Sun King melted away like a wax candle in the hands of Dinah’s father, the confessor of the king. Soon the Dauphin was to become a nominal, but a ruler. The dying monarch then fell into oblivion, then remained in a sick mind. At one of those moments, he saw Prince Condé, a representative of the younger branch of the Bourbons, standing by the bed. The king quietly told him about what he had seen, in which the son of Condé, the duke of Enghien, had won a great victory. The hero of this amazing dream, which gave rise to rumors about the king's prophetic gift, was not around, as he led an army marching to Flanders. On its way lay the town of Rocroix. 14 May 1643. Life left the king of France, five days did not live to see the battle to him.
The Thirty Years' War was the first truly pan-European war, which surpassed all previous conflicts by an order of magnitude. Most of the states of then-Europe were drawn into it, and in their scope, destruction and consequences, it left far behind all previous conflicts, which now seemed to be just local feudal clashes involving the 2 – 3 parties. Events 1618 – 1648 had such a serious impact on the consciousness of the then society that the memory of them persisted for a very long time. To the simple inhabitants of central Europe, and especially Germany, the war brought such innumerable disasters that stretched for many years that many quite seriously considered themselves witnesses of the end of the world.
The armies of both warring parties did not bother with routine logistical problems and resolved the issue of providing everything necessary at the expense of the general ruin of the local population. The philistine used to live in poverty from the wars and conflicts that his liegemaster and ruler conducted for some well-known interests of him, paid taxes and taxes, suffered from standing podgulyavshih warriors. Now all the adversities are concentrated in one big and, most importantly, incessant stream. Taxation in the regions covered by the fighting has been simplified to the removal of all valuable, edible, movable, and then almost any property, not excluding life. The soldiers of the Protestant principalities, the Swedes, the Imperials, or simply the gangs of mercenaries who came to their aid, despite the differences in languages, flags and religions, had surprisingly similar considerations regarding the improvement of their clothing allowance and food ration.
Sometimes, in the intervals between battles and maneuvers of armies, some people appeared who called themselves power and enthusiastically began to seize what thrifty peasants managed to hide and bury from spontaneous expropriators. Gentlemen, and not always patiently explained to new-old subjects, that all this is happening for their own good and tranquility. And so it went on year after year. Crop failures, hunger, diseases and epidemics superimposed on one layer of black reality on another, turning into a continuous test.
Starting as the next resolution of the contradictions between Catholics and Protestants, the war quickly lost its religious component. The Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs fought with a whole galaxy of Protestant states for the unshakableness of the dogmas of Catholicism and their greatness. And then France entered the game - Catholics diligently killed Catholics, and this had nothing to do with “eradicating heresy” by Luther or Calvin.
Sunset golden sun
The Spanish Empire was one of the most powerful states in Europe. With the efforts of famous and obscure seafarers, conquistadors and adventurers, her possessions spread over four continents, and the peripheral monarchy suddenly found itself in the big leagues. Throughout the 16th century, and from the beginning of the 17th century, the walking invincible tertions, like the ancient Roman legions, asserted the will of the owners of the Escorial in Italy and Flanders. Bearded brave men in crumpled armor, desperately blaspheming and praying, cut their way with Toledo blades through the tropical jungles of the West Indies to fame and fortune. The streams of gold and other expensive trophies were soothingly deep. They flooded the royal court first, and then the palaces of nobles, monasteries and trading houses. For a period of time, Spain could afford literally everything — incapeso contributed to the implementation of the most demanding and sophisticated whims. Stopped and fell into disrepair what could be called an industry. There was enough money to buy the best from abroad. From guns to luxury items. The Spaniards began to behave with their neighbors arrogant and defiant, considering themselves to be the dominant force in Europe. The sun did not set over the empire, the Pope was supportive, and it seemed that the star of Spain would never fade.
But, as Mr. Paganel aptly noted, it is not the country of gold that is prospering, but the country of iron. The colossal influx of gold and silver began to rapidly stimulate inflation and rising prices. Fed up on trade with the Spaniards, the British rightly decided that it was more profitable to get gold from the Spaniards by forcible withdrawal. Simply put, piracy. Insolent islanders made this ancient craft one of the tools to replenish the state treasury. Then Admiral Drake and Atlantic storms turned the Invincible Armada into a pile of floating debris. The sun began to fade. The dead subjects of Montezuma and Ataupalpas were avenged. Gold, which is always small, but suddenly became too much, destroyed the Spanish economy. The Spanish Netherlands rebelled, English corsairs raged, and in Spain itself it suddenly became clear that it was completely dependent on importing an endless list of various things and materials, since their own industries were not developed or degraded.
The disappointment and discontent that began during the reign of Philip II grew into a strong grumble under Philip III. Under Philip IV, the country was already covered by open discontent. The yard lived in a different reality, spending enormous sums on itself. The king often spent time in prayers, not forgetting, however, to arrange balls, masquerades, bullfights and other very useful activities in the breaks in the fight against boredom. The peasants were no longer able to pull out ever-increasing taxes. Inflation to the 30 years of the XVII century became so threatening that in some parts of the country they switched to barter exchange. Maritime trade is overwhelming. Catalonia was in revolt, and neighboring Portugal, which wanted to gain independence and dissolve the Iberian Union, was rapidly converging with hostile France. Ironically, most goods were smuggled into Dutch ships during the same period. Formally, Spain and the Netherlands were enemies, but business, as you know, is indifferent.
Spain fought a lot and often in order to somehow maintain its rapidly declining prestige. The costs of this method of “maintaining the rating” destroyed the agonizing economy even more and faster. With the entry into the Thirty Years' War of France (in 1635), the land road, along which everything necessary for the Spanish army was transferred to Flanders, was interrupted. The only way to supply was by sea - through the port of Dunkirk. The troops located here were in a difficult situation: on the one hand, it was extremely important for Madrid to maintain its own positions in Flanders, on the other hand, it did not have enough money and soldiers for this. An attempt to deliver reinforcements and supplies led to the battle of the Downs raid on October 31, 1639, in which the Dutch defeated the Spanish the fleet. Flanders became a theater of operations almost isolated from Spain, where Commander-in-Chief Cardinal Infant Ferdinand of Austria acted at his own risk and peril, skillfully restraining the Dutch. The courtyard in Madrid was so poorly guided in matters of strategy that it began to bombard the Cardinal Infanta with strange dispatches demanding that some troops from the Netherlands be withdrawn for action against Portugal. That is, the commander had to lose part of his already limited strength. Unable to withstand the overfatigue, or perhaps the impenetrable stupidity of Madrid, in the fall of 1641, the Cardinal Infant died. Such an unfavorable atmosphere reigned in Flanders at the beginning of the French offensive.
France for a long time watched a fire raging in Europe, calculating the time and place when it would be possible to draw a sword. If Spain, a proud and powerful neighbor, has steadily rolled to decline, then the Kingdom of Lilies, on the contrary, gained momentum. The period of stormy religious wars ended in 1598 with the publication of the Edict of Nantes and the unification of the country under the scepter of Henry IV. The first king of the Bourbon dynasty was very flexible in state administration and this differed favorably from the last Valois, the neurotic sons of Catherine de Medici. He managed to consolidate French society after the Huguenot wars, smoothing out the most acute angles. His policy was aimed at strengthening the royal power, economic and military growth of France. Henry IV at the time of the beginning of his reign inherited more than 300 million livres of public debt. However, he and his talented finance minister, Duke Sully, chose a different path from their Spanish neighbors. The closer was the abyss into which Spain was rolling, the more money was spent on all kinds of court joys. Henry IV, by contrast, sought to reduce costs. Soon, debt fell to 100 millions and continued to decline. These processes should be noted in order to better understand the state of France at the time of the beginning and the culmination of the Thirty Years War.
After the regency of Maria de Medici, the young Louis XIII replaced the king who was killed by the monk Ravallak. The writer of courtly songs and the excellent dancer, the new monarch did not possess the qualities of a state manager, but he had enough wisdom to entrust the management of France to a decent, talented and reliable person. Cardinal Richelieu became the First Minister of Louis XIII and remained so until his death. Being a man of a sharp mind, cruel and ambitious, Richelieu, however, devoted his whole life to serving the king and France. While the young king spent time in the fencing halls, hunting and storming of the next favorites, the cardinal cemented and strengthened his power, cutting off intrigues and conspiracies in the bud. He sent into exile the queen mother and the younger brother of the king, who exerted a "bad influence" on the monarch. Five dukes and four graphs were arrested by his people, convicted and executed for attempting to sow unrest and conspiracies. It was thanks to Richelieu in 1628 that, after a long siege, the English-supported Huguenot fortress La Rochelle was taken. That was the end of the attempt to unleash a new religious war.
His foreign policy was also balanced and prudent. Considering the main enemy of France of the Habsburgs, Richelieu made numerous efforts to weaken them in every possible way. Nevertheless, the country was in no hurry to fall into the Thirty Years War. The first half of this conflict as a whole took place under the Hapsburg margin, therefore, formally remaining neutral, in Richelieu 1630 lent money to Gustav Adolf for the invasion of Germany. After the death of the Swedish king in 1632, the cardinal promoted, including financially, the creation of a new Swedish-German alliance against the emperor. The crushing defeat of the Swedes from the Imperials under Nördlingen in 1634 forced France to take more active steps, and in May 1635 she entered the war against the Hapsburgs. The declaration of the war was arranged in a half-forgotten medieval style: the heralds dressed in ancient clothes with the coats of arms of France and Navarre left Paris and handed Philip IV an act of the beginning of hostilities. The fighting takes place in Northern Italy, the Rhineland and Flanders.
The French army was sufficiently prepared for the tests. Richelieu did a lot for this. He preferred not to rampantly increase the number of troops, but their high-quality technical equipment and support. Under him, the promotion of talented commanders was encouraged, despite their social status. Discipline was greatly strengthened by rigorous methods. Richelieu also fought to reduce the number of unauthorized people accompanying the army on campaigns. During the fighting, the army was not replenished by enemy deserters, and prisoners of war exchanged. Thus, its homogeneous national composition was preserved, unlike, for example, the troops of the Austrian Habsburgs. She was ready for a rematch for the numerous defeats received in battles with a powerful rival, the thirds of the Spanish crown.
The first years of participation of France in the war were marked by the traditional successes of the Spaniards. In 1636, their troops, together with the Imperials, were able to cross Picardy and endanger Paris. With great difficulty, the French managed to stabilize the situation. Spanish reinforcements were not delivered to Flanders irregularly, and after the battle at Downes this became an even more difficult operation. The fighting acquired a positional character, where success was accompanied by the French.
Cardinal Infante Ferdinand of Austria, King's younger brother, who died in 1641, was replaced by the energetic and active Francisco de Melo, the Portuguese marquis of Tor de Laguna. After the start of the rebellion in Portugal with the aim of liberation from the union with Spain, the Marquis remained loyal to Madrid and soon received the post of governor of the Spanish Netherlands and commander-in-chief of the troops in Flanders. In winter, 1641 – 1642. in different ways the Spaniards managed to strengthen their local grouping, which allowed de Melo in 1642 to proceed to action. The culmination of the success of the Spaniards was the defeat of the French army of Marshal de Gramont under Gonnekurt 26 in May.
In addition, France suffered another misfortune: Cardinal Richelieu, who had served his country so long, 28 in November 1642 fell ill, and 4 died in December. His successor was Cardinal Giulio Mazarini, an Italian who has phenomenal abilities to intrigue and political combinations. In narrow circles he had the nickname "Brother Palace". Soon the health of the king also deteriorated. France was in a crisis situation, the internal opposition, crushed by Richelieu, cheered up, anticipating the imminent changes. The advisers of de Melo persuaded him not to touch France, concentrating on solving the Dutch issues and letting her boil over in her own problems, but the governor reasoned otherwise. In his opinion, the shock caused by the death of Richelieu, and the possible demise of Louis XIII himself, creates the most opportune moment for delivering a decisive blow to France, the goal of which would be to sign a world advantageous to the Habsburgs. Soon Spanish troops began moving south.
On the field under Rocroi
Richelieu ahead of time foresaw another Spanish offensive deep into France. Shaken by distemper and rebellion, more and more plunging into the marsh of economic chaos, Spain needed a break and a ban on such a dangerous enemy as France. At his insistence, the young duke of Enghien, son of Prince de Conde, was appointed army commander. This child, quick-tempered and even unbalanced in childhood, by the 22 years stabilized his character, but was notable for sharpness and impulsiveness. The seriously ill King and successor to Richelieu Mazarin did not dispute this decision. It was assumed that Conde's inexperience would be offset by the presence of military advisers with him. In this role was an experienced Marshal l'Hôpital, who had the reputation of a competent and cautious military man. But in matters of planning, the young duke listened more to the nobles Gussion and Ciro, who were suitable for his age and temperament, who, incidentally, had combat experience acquired by the troops of Gustav Adolf.
De Melo took action with his characteristic energy. He decided to start the campaign with the capture of the fortified city of Rocroi, protected by a small (about 1000 people) garrison. Different sources give different numbers of the Spanish army. You can more or less confidently say about 25 – 28 thousand people. The troops of de Melo were well trained, well supplied, their fighting spirit was at the height. The French were their usual opponent, over whom they had won more than once. The composition of the army of the governor included, in addition to the Spaniards proper, Walloons and Italians. In addition, under the control of De Melo was the imperial corps of General Beck, consisting mainly of Germans. The realistic assessment of the Spanish troops who launched the invasion suggests that they had 18 thousand infantry, 5 thousand cavalry, and 5 thousand Beck's Imperials. There were 18 guns. Rocroix was taken to the ring environment 12 May. 16 May began construction of siege fortifications. Johann Beck's corps was sent ahead of time to occupy the Chateau-Renault castle to improve the communications line and did not take part in the upcoming battle. On the morning of May 18, the Spanish outposts reported to de Melo about the approach of the French army.
The Duke of Enghien received the news of the death of Louis XIII on the evening of 16 in May, when his army was on the march west of the River Meuse, heading for Rocroy. He decided not yet to inform the troops about this sad event, so as not to undermine the morale. On the morning of May 17 in Ryumini, the commander gathered his officers to the military council to discuss the battle disposition - the cavalry patrols had already announced the discovery of de Melo's army. The opinions of those present at the council were divided. Marshal l'Hôpital rightly pointed out the terrain which was not convenient for attack. The land in front of the Spanish positions was full of shrubs, plowed fields and marshes. He offered to limit positional exchanges, and then carry out a workaround to threaten the communications of the Spaniards. Gussion and Shiro, the younger colleagues of the duke, insisted on a decisive battle. The death of the king and the upcoming regency caused concern to society, and therefore a decisive victory was simply necessary.
In the dispute between wisdom and youth, this time the victory went to the last. The Duke of Enghien decided to give battle. His army consisted of 15 thousand infantry, 7 thousand cavalry and 14 guns. The Duke’s plan was to advance along a narrow forest defile, leaving the wagon train behind. If the Spaniards, noticing the French, left the position, then they should go around them from the flank and get out to Rocroy from the rear. In case, if de Melo remains in place, then he will be forced to fight in front of the city. The duke informed the crowd about the death of the king and called for demonstrating loyalty to the new overlord. The disposition was approved by everyone except l'Hôpital, who remained unconvinced.
Francisco de Melo
The next day, May 18, the French successfully implemented the first part of their plan. Their army almost freely entered the open plain, meeting on the way only a small barrier of horse Croats and Spaniards, who retreated when the enemy approached. De Melo also wanted to fight no less than their opponents, believing that a new, even larger defeat of lilies would seriously aggravate the position of France. Both armies lined up against each other at a distance of no more than 900 meters. The Spaniards left flank consisted of German cavalry under the command of Count Isenburg. Duke Alburkerke led the Walloon cavalry on the left. The center consisted of infantry - there were the best troops of de Melo. These were the third-party 8: Spanish 5, Italian 2 and one Burgundian. For the most part, especially the Spanish, they consisted of experienced veterans who remembered the martial traditions of don Ambrogio Spinola. The second and third line of infantrymen behind the thirds were battalion orders, each lined up in 10 ranks of 50 people. All 18 guns larger than the French, caliber were in front. The center was led by the old warrior Walloon General Fontaine. He was ill, but determined to participate in the upcoming battle.
The French army settled down similarly to the Spanish: cavalry on the flanks, infantry in the center. The right flank, which rested against the forest, was commanded by the Duke of Enghien himself, left, located in a valley and adjacent to the swamp, headed l'Hôpital. The infantry was lined up battalion in two echelons. There was also a mixed reserve consisting of cavalry and infantry. The French, paying tribute to the magnificent Spanish infantry, placed great hopes on their superior cavalry, which quantitatively, and qualitatively, surpassed the enemy. By six in the evening 18, the French had completed the deployment. Although de Melo was invigorated, he sent a messenger to Beck with the order to immediately go to Rocroy. The German, who received the order closer to the night and knowing the hot temper of his commander, postponed his speech until the morning, believing that he was exaggerating the seriousness of his position. One way or another, the Bek imperials did not take part in the battle. The “Pear factor” worked. So, through the 172 of the year in Belgium, an even more famous battle will take place, where an incorrect or rather too correct interpretation of a previously issued order led to the defeat of the French army.
The battle of Rocroix could begin on the same day, but one of the commanders of the cavalry, Centernerre, as hot as the Duke of Enghien, suddenly decided to bypass the flank of the Spaniards without an order and go to Rocroy. The French cavalry had to make a move in front of the Spaniards, and the case could have ended very badly for those who were eager for glory if the duke had not returned the cavalry to its original positions, arranging a fiery suggestion to the generator of this idea. The night has come. Taking advantage of the darkness, the duke of Alburkerque, worrying about his left flank, pushed a thousand musketeers into the forest in front of his positions, setting an ambush for enemy cavalry. But luck favored not the soldiers of the Empire. At about 1am in the morning, the French commander was informed about the defector from the Melo army. He reported two fundamentally important things: about the musketeers in the forest and the fact that Beck and his Imperials are not on the battlefield.
“Only death will be able to force us to surrender!”, Or unsuccessful negotiations
The Duke of Enghien decided to attack before the arrival of reinforcements to the enemy. At four in the morning, the French artillery opened fire, although the darkness still prevented accurate shooting. Before the arrival of Beck, De Melo decided to take up a defensive battle, hoping for reinforcements. In the morning of 5, the battle began with a French attack on both flank. The ambush that Alburkerque so relied on was quickly destroyed, and the forest was already occupied by French musketeers. Gusion with 7 squadrons of cavalry went around the left Spanish flank and hit him. Alburkerque successfully counterattacked the French, turning towards the attackers and substituting for the frontal attack of the French commander himself. The attack was supported by dense fire from the forest, and the fighting order of Alburkerque came into complete frustration.
On the opposite side of the field, the situation was reversed. The French carried out a gallop attack, their ranks mixed up, and a poorly organized crowd reached Isenburg and his Germans. The Germans went to meet in perfect order, trot. The attackers were stopped and fled after the fierce battle. The attack leader, General La Ferte, was wounded and captured. Isenburg, developing success, divided his cavalry: he directed the smaller part against enemy transport, and threw the larger part into attack against the French infantry.
The situation in the center was also unstable. Hardened tercs, like huge armored turtles, began to crowd their adversary. Soon the French lost most of their guns. To 6 of the morning it seemed that the battle was lost by the Duke of Enghien. However, the young commander had his own opinion on this matter. As it often happened and still will be stories, the scales of military happiness are sometimes lowered to the wrong direction, where weights are bigger. Flank Alburkerque was completely upset, and the Duke of Enghien, quickly rebuilding his still lively squadrons, struck the rear of the Spanish center, where the Walloons and the Germans were located. The onslaught of the French cavalry was swift, and the opposing battalions, in which there were too few pikemen and musketeers prevailed, were swept away and scattered.
Isenburg, enthusiastically cramping the French infantry, was attacked by a timely-arrived reserve, which was soon joined by cavalry that had come to its senses after the first unsuccessful attack. The Germans had a strong resistance (in contrast to the cavalry of Alburkirk, they were better-quality troops), but they were forced to start a withdrawal. The Duke of Enghien relentlessly destroyed the second and third Spanish infantry trains, and soon her best part, the Spanish thirdasia, found itself in a tactical environment. General Fontaine did not dare to order a retreat, because he did not have accurate information about the situation on the flanks. In addition, he believed that Beck should soon come to the place of the battle.
This was remembered by the French commander, who quickly put the battered infantry in order and, as soon as the first opportunity presented itself, threw it into an attack on the Spanish thirdas. The soldiers of the Empire once again confirmed their reputation as the best infantry. Letting the enemy in close range, the Spaniards gave a murderous salvo, and then the attackers were met by a wall of rush. The French cavalry rushes to the new attack - the riders are met by a bristling wall. The place of the dead was occupied by living ones, and the ranks closed closer together. Tertii melted, but were still indestructible. General Fontaine was killed while repelling the first attack, but his soldiers continued to fight. While such dramatic events unfolded near Rocroi, Gussion with a detachment of cavalry easily captured the entire Spanish wagon train, army treasury and many other trophies. De Melo himself managed to leave the battlefield together with other horsemen who were retreating in complete disarray.
Three times the French rushed to the Spanish third and three times were forced to retreat. By half past nine in the morning Duke Enghiensky was preparing to attack for the fourth time with the help of artillery tightened here. From the side of the Spaniards, who left no more than 8 thousand by that time, they received a signal to start negotiations. Their officers considered their position to be already hopeless - the ammunition ended, there were many wounded. The French commander, who was not at all tempted by the prospect of fighting to the last man, was ready to enter into negotiations. Accompanied by officers, he rode up the hill where the Spaniards held their positions, but then shots were fired from their ranks. Maybe some "captain Alatriste" thought that the enemy is coming again? Infuriated by such a circumstance, the French rushed to the attack, and the massacre began, which they managed to stop by the 10 clock. No more than a quarter of the Spaniards survived.
The battle of Rocroix is over. The Spanish army lost, according to various estimates, 5 thousand killed and the same number of prisoners. Many soldiers fled. More than a hundred flags were lost, all artillery (18 field guns and 10 siege weapons) and the entire train. There are data that estimate the loss of the army of de Melo in 8 thousand killed and 7 thousand prisoners. The French lost from 2 to 4 thousand killed. Rocroix has been released. For the first time hitherto invincible Spanish infantry suffered such a serious defeat. The Peace of Westphalia 1648 ended the long Thirty Years War, but did not reconcile Spain and France, the fighting between them continued until 1659 and ended with the defeat of Madrid and the royal wedding. The end of the war was the famous battle in the dunes of 14 on June 1658, when Marshal Turenne defeated the Spanish troops. By evil irony of fate and political choice, he was confronted by the victor in Rocroy - the Great Conde - the former Duke of Enghien, a Frende ally of Turenne, who ran to the Spaniards. Spain is fading faster, France is magnified. Ahead of her was the brilliant and war-rich era of Louis XIV.