1709, Malplaquet and negotiations


The United Kingdom

The fall of 1708 can be said to be the time when Queen Anne's friendship for Sarah had turned into hatred. Anne's friends were now Abigail Masham, Harley and the Tories. But the new parliament was dominated by the Whigs.

The Whigs then started an attack on Admiral Churchill, and about the same time Prince George of Denmark died vacating Admiral Churchill's post. George of Denmark was succeeded by Pembroke. A full Whig government was now formed and Marlborough's power broken.

This Whig parliament was bend on pursuing the war with all possible means, and now English support was bigger than ever before. Also many of the Whig merchants trading in the Mediterranean were bent on not only getting Spain for Charles III, but also securing that Italy would not get in Philip's hands.

The United Provinces

After taking Lille the UP were in an even better position to press their claims for a barrier treaty and in December 1708 they had started direct negotiations with the Whigs to get it. The also increased their forces with 6,000 men.

The empire

After their victory at Trencin the Austrians now had a good chance to end the uprising militarily. At the same time Josef took measures to win the hearts and minds of the Hungarians. He specifically forbade the military to prosecute Protestants and started to return protestant belongings.

Ingrao concludes: 'In these last years there was not the slightest need to negotiate anymore with RákóczyRákóczy and his regime. It was needed to win the support of the masses to make a durable peace' Thus renewed offers for negotiations were rejected.


Louis wanted to get back Lille, and extraordinary measures were taken to get an army of 150,000 men in the fields of Flanders. Louis also made a good choice by letting Villars take command. France was however hit by an extraordinary harsh winter, killing livestock and grain seedlings and leading to starvation. To top it credit broke down.


Felipe now felt quite sure of the adhesion of the populace and the lesser nobility, but did not trust the Grandes. In order to reform the administration of the Indies the two vice-roys were recalled and new ones with a higher salary sent. This time not chosen from among the Grandes. The fact that the pope, menaced by imperial troops, now recognized Charles III led Felipe V to expel the papal ambassador.

When it became clear that Louis XIV was willing to abandon him in order to get peace, something unexpected happened. For the first time all the Grandes as well as the population began to fully support Felipe's government. Among the changes that were now made to the government was that the marquis of Bedmar was named war minister, and the duke of Medina-Celi was named foreign minister. Amelot wished to retire from the Despacho and to depart like the French troops would (this took place somewhere around May). Amelot was replaced by Blécourt, but about 25 French battalions stayed in Spain commanded by the Maréchal de Bezons. For the peace-talks Felipe nominated the duke of Alba, with instructions not to accede to his removal from the crown.

This year saw an unpleasant incident when in April Regnault, a secretary of the Duc d'Orleans was caught engaged in a conspiracy against the French ambassador. He and one of the duke's officers named Flotte were arrested and their papers searched revealing a conspiracy against Felipe by the Duc d'Orleans. The affair made a lot of noise but did not lead to any further consequences.

Peace attempts

Start of serious negotiations

After the conquest of the city of Lille Marlborough had via Berwick proposed that Versailles would ask for a truce and then send propositions to the Hague. But Louis appraised the military situation as quite good for France (expecting to hold the Schelde line) and thus it came to nothing.

With Philip V sending an official, secret negotiations were transformed into public ones. In March 1709, with the situation in France disastrous Louis then sent Rouillé to meet the Dutch at Moerdijk. The English insisted on the protestant succession, the removal of the pretender and the demolition of the fortifications of Dunkirk. The Dutch suggested that Philip would only get the two Sicilies, and the French acceded to this. This affair came to nothing because the English insisted on a previous Anglo-Dutch agreement, and the Dutch gave in by sending Rouillé home.

In May the French tried again with Torcy arriving in the Hague. However, the Dutch only wanted to make peace together with the English. After Marlborough arrived a formal conference was organized on May 20th and the French agreed to give up the whole Spanish monarchy, and New Foundland to the British, and Strassbourg to the empire.

Now on May 21st news came in that the Spanish had beaten the allies without French help. This prompted the allies to seek guaranties that Philip would leave Spain, formulating that all parties to the peace would invade Spain. These preliminaries were signed and Torcy took them to Versailles, where they were rejected. Publicly Louis stated the allies could not force him to go to war with his grandson, and a wave of enthusiasm for Louis swept the country with even the nobility offering to make a financial sacrifice.

Continuing negotiations after Malplaquet

Though official negotiations had broken down by the French refusal to accept the preliminaries, the correspondence of Petkum on the subject went on after the battle of Malplaquet. The main problem now was how to transfer Spain from Philip's to Charles III's control.

Though the French were prepared to deliver some French cities as a guarantee, they were not prepared (and/or able) to deliver Spanish cities, and they also insisted on an immediate cease-fire. Because the enemies of Louis had such experience of the value of his words it is off course not that strange that they insisted on guarantees.

The end of the campaign season of course lead to kind of a cease-fire. In November Heinsius, Eugen and Marlborough then sent Petkum to Versailles again, this time with some concessions in the matter of the guarantees. Now Louis said he wanted to discuss the contents of the preliminaries again. This convinced the allies that Louis was not serious about peace, and they started to prepare to continue the war in 1710.


Situation of the front in June 1709

In Flanders the allies had about 120,000 men in the field consisting of 152 battalions and 245 squadrons concentrated near Gent. The French had men consisting of battalions and squadrons concentrated near Bergen under Villars.

The opening of the Flanders campaign of 1709

The French army was commanded by Villars and positioned behind strong lines. The allies therefore had the choice between attacking these lines or besieging either Ypres or Tournai. On June 24th it was decided to take Tournai.

The Flanders campaign of 1709: Tournai (Doornik)

The allied army made a feint march to the southwest and then suddenly turned to besiege Tournai. The siege started in the end of June and was characterized by mining operations. On 28 July the city itself was handed over and 4,000 French retreated into the citadel, and after very bloody fighting surrendered on 3 September. This opened part of the Scheld for the allied supplies.

The Flanders campaign of 1709: Malplaquet

Immediately after its fall the allies went on, marching in the direction of Mons, but this time Villars followed them. The allies then took the small fortress of St. Ghislain and agreed to attack. This led to the battle of Malplaquet on 11 September 1709 against a well-dug in French army. With Villars making no mistakes and his replacement leading a well organized retreat the victorious allies lost about 24,000 men and the French between 12,000 and 15,000 men. (Or depending on the source 18,000 allied to 11,000 French.)

The Flanders campaign of 1709 Mons (Bergen)

The allies were now at liberty to besiege Mons. Boufflers was in command of the French army because Villars had been wounded at Malplaquet. Trenches to Mons were opened September 25th falling October 20th. Nothing more was done this campaign.

The Hungarian campaign of 1709

With Pálffy commanding north of the Danube, the Hungarian campaign was opened in the southwest by Heister who conquered the right bank of the Danube. In September he joined forces with the army of General Pálffy and marched in the direction of the Tisza.

The Italian campaign of 1709

There was a conspiracy of some Italian states against Austria and the pope was involved. The Austrians at finding this out occupied the Papal States, levied a contribution and forced the pope to recognize Charles as king of Spain.

The Spanish campaign of 1709

In April? 1709 Charles III's last stronghold in Valencia, the citadel of Alicante had capitulated after a 5 month siege. The Bourbon marquis de Bay defeated the Portuguese at La Gudina (just north of the border). For the rest not much had been done this year when Starhemberg suddenly took Balaguer imprisoning 3 battalions Bezons now retreated from Spain and sent some of his troops to Noailles who was still near the border. With this reinforcement Noailles then entered Cataluna from the north. The 300 cavalry and 600 infantry strong garrison of Figueras retreated before him, and was killed or taken by his cavalry. Noailles' goal was to take Gerona and thus press for an end to the war in Spain before the next campaign. He was able to raid the Catalonian cavalry camp under the walls of Gerona, but without any support from France he was obliged to retreat across the border in the end of October.