James Fitzjames duke of Berwick

1 Berwick´s background and early career

1.1 Bastard of Arabella Churchill

Berwick was a bastard of James Duke of York (later King James II) and Arabella Churchill (1648-1730, sister of John Churchill duke of Marlborough). Arabella began her relation with James shortly after becoming a lady in waiting to his wife Anne Hyde around 1665. After giving birth to Henrietta FitzJames in 1667, she again became pregnant in 1669 or 1670. The pregnancy was kind of an embarassement at court and James was not wanting in bad publicity. Therefore Arabella was sent to France, officially to take a cure at the Springs of Bourbon. While at Moulins she delivered of James FitzJames the future Duke of Berwick on 21 August 1670.

The story of how this happened was not that clear for a long time, but it was published in one of the first editions of his memoirs1. Even while this first edition of his memoirs was not written by himself, and his true memoirs published much later do not contain it, I suppose it might be true. For Berwick there was little reason to write down the rather embarrassing circumstances of his birth far away from court2.

1.2 Sent to France

At age 7 Berwick was sent to France in order to raise him in the catholic religion. There he and his younger brother were entrusted to the care of Père Gough and went to the college of Juilly just northeast of Paris. At the death of Père Gough they were sent to the College du Plessis, which was part of Univerity of Paris. Later that year they visited the court in England and met their father and uncle. On their return the advice of the Jesuite Père Peters brought them to the College Royal de la Flèche.

After his father had become king in February 1685, Berwick was sent to Paris in 1686. During the winter Fitz-James did his 'exercises' at the academy. It probably meant the military training many noble youngsters received at a riding school

1.3 In Hungary

In the spring of 1686 Fitz-James went to hungary. Here he was in the siege of Budapest, which lasted from 18 June till 2 September 1686. During an assault in July he was wounded3. The siege was brought to an end with a successful general assault. At the time this meant the besiegers had the right to slaughter and plunder everything in the city. They made use of this right to a large extent and spared only little of the civilian population. What was different in this conflict was that both parties thought themselves entitled to enslave conquered civilians. James Fitz James did not hesitate to profit from this thought. At the end of January 1687 his train arrived in Brussel. It not only had a bear, an eagle and 19 Armenian horses with it, but also a Turkish captain and two Turkish maidens4.

After the campaign James returned to England. On 1 November 1686 he was appointed as colonel of the infantry regiment that later became the 8th Foot. On 19 March 1687 he was created Duke of Berwick5. From his side James gave 6 beautiful horses to the king, doubtlessly from those he got in Hungary6.

In the spring of 1687 Berwick returned to Hungary. There he served as Colonel Commandant of an Austrian Cavalry regiment Taff in the great victory of Mohacs. After the campaign Berwick got an Austrian grade that was about equivalent to Maréchal de Camp. On his return Berwick spent some time in Brussel with governor Castanaga. In England he was made governor of Porstmouth and Southamption county. During the winter Berwick was made colonel of the Royal regiment of (horse) guards on 4 February 1688 in stead of the Count of Oxford7.

2 Berwick in Stuart service

2.1 During the invasion of England

These appointments probably had everything to do with the rising tension with the United Provinces. In 1688 Berwick stayed in England. On the arrival of the Prince of Orange in November he was in Porstmouth. In the Salisbury affair Berwick played a role in returning the four regiments that Lord Cornbury had tried to bring over to that prince. Apart from this Berwick tried to hold on to the city of Portsmouth, but failed due to the fact that he had no food stores whatsoever. After surrendering Portsmouth he went to the king and hastened on to France to announce the king's arrival there.

2.2 Ireland

After realizing that most of Ireland stayed loyal to him James II went to Ireland and took Berwick with him, arriving in Kinsale on 17 March 1689. One of his first actions was to participate in the blockade of Londonderry as a major-general. During this siege Berwick would get wounded. Because he did not like the affair of Londonderry Berwick asked to take command of a detachment against Enniskillen in July. Shortly afterwards he was made Lieutenant General. Still in July Berwick was ordered back to Londonderry to reinforce the siege. When this siege had been lifted Berwick returned to Dublin and next faced Schomberg for a while.

In 1690 Berwick started at Belturbet, where he faced brigadier Woolseley. The enemy came up with 3,000 foot and 300 horse, Berwick had 1,500 foot and 200 horse. According to Berwick he had already beaten the enemy when a panic seized his troops and they fled the battlefield. The result was about 500 lost for the Jacobites, and 250 for the Williamites8.

Later that year Berwick commanded the right wing of the cavalry in the 11 July battle of the Boyne. Here his cavalry fought, but the battle was lost. Later that year Berwick successfully defended Limerick.

3 Berwick in French service

3.1 failed invasion attempt

In January 1691 Berwick was ordered back to France. Here he accompanied Louis XIV as volunteer to the siege of Mons. He next participated in the battle of Leuze. After Ireland had been lost by the capitulation of Limerick the Irish troops had been transported to Brest, and reformed into 18 infantry battalions, 2 dragoon battalions and 2 Guard companies of which Berwick got one. In 1692 these marched to La Hogue in order to prepare for an invasion of England. Berwick had the chagrin to see the French fleet return to La Hogue after it had been beaten and saw the vessels burning in the Bay of La Hogue. For him there was nothing more to do then marching to Flanders in June.

3.2 Rest of the Nine Years War

In Flanders Berwick was present at the battle of Steenkerken in August 1692. In 1693 Berwick was appointed as a French Lieutenant General. He fought in that capacity in the battle of Neerwinden of July 1693. While fighting in the village he was cut of and taken prisoner by brigadier Churchill. He was however soon exchanged for the Duke of Ormond. Berwick's last action of this campaign was commanding a large detachment that was sent to Mons. In the 1694 campaign Berwick also served in Flanders but nothing special happened. In the 1695 campaign Berwick served under Villeroy. While not enjoying any success in lifting the siege of Namur Berwick saw the bombardment of Brussel. In 1696 Berwick went to London in disguise in an attempt to organize an uprising and another invasion attempt. The whole affair came to nothing and Berwick went back to Calais. In 1697 Berwick fought the last campaign of this war that ended with the peace of Rijswijk and its recognition of William III as king of England.

4 Berwick in the War of the Spanish Succession

4.1 Flanders

In the beginning of the Spanish Succession War Berwick was sent to Rome where it was hoped he could command a papal army against the Austrians. However, the affair came to nothing and so Berwick went to Flanders where he participated in the preparations for war. In 1702 Berwick was in Boufflers' army that lost Keyserswerth and the lower Meuse. Berwick himself got command of some detachments, but also did not achieve anything noteworthy. In 1703 Berwick served under Villeroy and was present when the armies of Vileroy and Ouwerkerk faced each other at Maastricht. At the end of this campaign Berwick had himself naturalized as a Frenchman.

4.2 Spain and Cévennes

In 1704 Berwick entered high command by getting appointed as commander of 18 battalions and 19 Squadrons that were sent as an expeditionary force to Spain. With these he successfully invaded part of Portugal but saw himself forced to retreat at the end of the campaign. In 1705 Berwick commanded in the Cévennes where he had some Huguenots burned alive. In October 1705 he was ordered to besiege Nice, of which the fortress capitulated on 4 January 1706. In February Berwick became Marshal of France and was ordered to Spain. Here he again commanded on the Portuguese border while Felipe besieged Barcelona. The campaign did not go well for Berwick because Madrid was lost to the Alliance troops. A general uprising would however enable the Bourbon troops to regain Madrid and prompted the alliance to retreat to Valencia with heavy losses.

4.3 Almanza

In 1707 Berwick fought the decisive victory of Almanza. This battle kind of decided the war in Spain, and was therefore of tremenduous importance. Apart from spreading his fame it made Berwick duke of Lerida and Grandee of Spain.

4.4 Oudenaarde and Lille

In 1708 Berwick was ordered back to France, and destined to command under max Emanuel on the Rhine. On learning that Eugen marched to Flanders Berwick took a considerable detachment and went to Flanders by the Ardennes. After the defeat of Oudenaarde and the subsequent retreat to the north it fell on Berwick to organize the defense of the French borders. During the siege of Lille Berwick did not succeed in taking command and played only a minor role.

In 1709 the Duke of Berwick was destined for the defense of the frontiers with Italy from whence he came back to Flanders on 18 October 1709. In the winter of 1709 he was made Duke of Warthi (renamed to Fitz-James) and pair of France, the title and possessions to be inherited by the children of his second marriage. In 1710 Berwick was to command the Flanders army till Villars had been cured from his wounds of Malplaguet. He did so for a while and next moved to Chambéry to take up his post of commander of the south east frontier. This was the position were Berwick stayed till the armistice that preceded the peace of Utrecht. In the last act of the war Berwick was in Spain taking Barcelona.

5 Personal life

In 1695 Berwick married the daughter of the Irish count of Clanricard. From this marriage he had a son to whom he later ceded the Duchy of Liria in Spain. In April 1700 he married Miss Bulkeley. Their children would inherit Berwick's French possessions.

6 Berwick as a general

Berwick became one of France's greatest commanders and enjoys a great reputation. If one wants to determine the quality of his generalship one should however come up with facts. It is easy to ascertain that Berwick did not suffer any big defeats apart from losing Madrid in 1706 while strongly outnumbered. So this at least makes Berwick a capable general. One could then ask if Berwick was a great general. He was responsible for the decisive victory of Almanza that crippled Charles's cause in Spain. At Almanza he however enjoyed a very strong numerical superiority, and I suppose that many other generals would have been able to win this battle. For claiming that Berwick was a great general one should point to him winning at least one large engagement fought on equal terms. Failing to do so means one cannot claim him to be the equal of Eugen and Marlborough. I would therefore say that Berwick was a very capable general, but did not prove himself to be a great general.

7 Career

  • 1686: Enters the imperial service
  • 1686: Colonel of the later 8th Foot
  • 1687: Duke of Berwick
  • 1687: Colonel Commandant of a cavalry regiment in Austrian Service
  • 1687: Major general in Austrian Service
  • 1687: English colonel of the Horse Guards
  • 1690: Lieutenant General
  • 1690: September Supreme commander of James army in Ireland
  • 1693: Lieutenant general in French service
  • 1695: Captain General of the Jacobite army (for what it's worth)
  • 1695: Goes to London undercover to arrange an uprising but fails
  • 1703: Naturalized as a Frenchman
  • 1703: Dec appointed commander of an army into Spain
  • 1704: Captain General of Spain
  • 1704: November knight of the Golden Fleece
  • 1706: February Maréchal de France
  • 1707: Grande (pair) of Spain
  • 1709: Duke of Fitz-James and Pair of France
  • 1720: Member of the Regency Council

8 Service record

  • 1686: Fighting in Hungary
  • 1687: Again in Hungary
  • 1687: Present at Mohacs
  • 1689: Flees to France in January
  • 1689: March arrives in Ireland
  • 1690: Commanding at Newry and Dundalk
  • 1690: July battle of the Boyne Commanding the cavalry of the right wing
  • 1690: August Defending Limerick
  • 1691: February leaves for France
  • 1691: present at siege of Mons
  • 1691: present at battle of Leuze
  • 1692: August present at battle of Steenkerken
  • 1693: Taken prisoner at Neerwinden, exchanged for the duke of Ormonde
  • 1695: Present at the bombardment of Brussel
  • 1702: Commanding part of Boufflers forces that marched to Nijmegen
  • 1704: February Arrives in Madrid commanding an army of 18 Battalions and 19 Sqadrons to support Philip
  • 1705: Commander of Languedoc to quell the uprising of the Cevennes
  • 1706: March in Madrid again does not succeed in preventing Galway from entering Madrid
  • 1706: August retakes Madrid
  • 1706: 18 Nov retakes Carthagena
  • 1707: 25 April achieves a decisive victory at Almansa, leading to the occupation of Valencia and Arragon
  • 1707: 6 May Takes city of Valencia
  • 1707: 11 Nov takes Lerida
  • 1709-1712 Commanding in the Dauphiné against Savoy and the empire
  • 1714: September takes Barcelona
  • 1719: June-Oct commanding the French he takes Fontarabia, St Sebastian and Urgel from Spain
  • 1733: Commanding on the Rhine against Austria
  • 1734: Killed by artillery in the battle of Philipsbourg

9 Notes

1) The false Mémoires de Maréchal de Berwik published in 1737 has the story of Berwick's birth in Moulins.
2) The true Mémoires du Maréchal de Berwik published in the Nouvelle Collection des mémoires pour servir etc.
3) The Histoire et description ancienne et moderne published in 1688, p 159 has 'Milord Fitz-James' wounded in the siege of Budapest.
4) The Relatio Historica published in 16, p 86 has 'Gegen Ausgang Januarii kame zu Brussel des König von England natürlichen Sohns Fitz James equipage aus Ungarn an bestunde in 19 armenianischen schönen Pferden nebst 2 Türkischen Jungfrauen und einem Capitain von selbiger Nation. Samt einem Bären und einem Adler, Welche ein Hoffmeister und einige Laquenen führeten und erst nach Londen mit fortreysen sollten.
5) The Mercure Historique et politique under May 1687 has Le Roi d'Angleterre a fait son fils naturel Duc de Berwick, Comte de Tinmouth, & Baron de Bosworth...
6) The Mercurii Relation under April 1687 has Der Herzog von Berwick hat den König 6 sehr schöne Pferde verehret.
7) In his memoirs Berwick has that he became colonel of the 8th foot in 1687 and of the Guard regiment in 1688, but the English Army list and commission registers clearly state the infantry commission to 1 Nov. 1686 and him named Fitz-James at the time.
8) The battle of Belturbet taken straight from Berwick's memoirs without any countercheck.