Louis d'Aubusson duc de la Feuillade

30 March 1673-1725

La Feuillade's background and early career

La Feuillade was born on 30 March 1673 to François d'Aubusson comte de la Feuillade and Charlotte de Gouffier, who would make him Duke of Roannès. When aged 15 La Feuillade joined the army to participate in the 1688 siege of Philipsbourg. In 1689 he founded the La Feuillade cavalry regiment and fought with it in the 1690 battle of Fleurus. In 1691 his father, marshal de la Feuillade, died and La Feuillade became count de la Feuillade and replaced his father as governor of the Dauphiné. On 8 May 1692 La Feuillade entered into his first marriage with Charlotte-Thérèse Phélypeaux, daughter the marquis de Chateauneuf, undersecretary of state.

La Feuillade was present at the siege of Mons in 1691. In 1692 he signaled himself in the battle of Steenkirk and the siege of Namur. The next year saw him at the battle of Neerwinden and the siege of Charleroi. The three years that followed were spent on the Rhine and afterwards he was again sent to Flanders. In 1696? La Feuillade robbed his uncle the bishop of Metz of 30,000 crowns in gold and many jewels. The action did not please Louis XIV who almost fired him. Though it seems La Feuillade performed quite well in this war he did not make it to the ranks of the senior officers and his regiment was disbanded at the peace.

La Feuillade in the war

La Feuillade revived his fortunes by marrying Marie-Thérèse Chamillart, daughter of the finance minister on 24 November 1701. In January 1702 he became a brigadier and in February 1703 Maréchal de Camp. He was also commander of French forces in the Dauphiné, where he was governor. To me it seems quite possible that the outbreak of the war with Savoy thus brought him into high command1.

In the original plan to bring down Savoy La Feuillade was to conquer Nice and Oneglia. At first this came to nothing because the Savoyan army succeeded in lifting the siege of Montmelian in April 1704. La Feuillade was then ordered to take over command there from Tessé who had fallen ill. La Feuillade thus entered Savoy and succeeded in stopping the Savoyan army from retaking Chambéry. He succeeded in bringing Savoy under control again and at the end of May he left 8 battalions and a dragoon regiment to secure it and blockade Montmelian.

La Feuillade next marched to Susa with 20 battalions and 4 dragoon regiments. He started to besiege Susa on 31 May 1704. Susa was garrisoned with 1,500 men and La Feuillade hoped to conquer it by the end of June. La Feuillade was probably lucky when the garrison capitulated on terms on 12 June, even before there was an open breach. After this success La Feuillade occupied the Val d'Aosta and bribed himself into possession of the fortress of Bard on 7 October 17042. Thus La Feuillade had established his communications with Vendome. He then left some battalions to guard his conquests and returned to Savoy proper in order to initiate the siege of Montmelian. This place would only be conquered on 17 December 1705, but La Feuillade would not command it the whole time. La Feuillade probably got his appointment as Lieutenant General on account of his achievements in 1704.

In March 1705 La Feuillade crossed the Var in order to start the major siege of Nice and its subordinate fortresses. The town of Villafranca was taken quickly on March 6, but the citadel resisted. On 15 March he opened the trenches against Nice. The citadel of Villafranca and other fortresses capitulated early in April, and on 13 April the city of Nice capitulated, with the citadel still resisting. On 19 April a cease-fire for six months was signed, and La Feuillade left Nice without having taken the citadel.

La Feuillade returned to Piedmonte and Susa in order to help Vendome with some of his troops. By a surpising turn of events Vendome was then recalled to the east to command against Eugen, and so La Feuillade became supreme commander of a large army. His first objective was to achieve the reduction of Chivasso. La Feuillade achieved this objective at the end of June 1705.

La Feuillade's first siege of Turin

From Louis XIV and Vendome La Feuillade then got orders to besiege Turin. The forces he had with him were however far from adequate. The first siege of Turin therefore saw a very slow start, and on 18 September La Feuillade simply quit the siege, only to start it again after orders from Vendome. Versailles then decided the affair with final orders to lift the siege, which was done on 13 October. The enemy then took Asti in November, and La Feuillade wanted to retake it by a short siege. On 6 December he therefore started the siege of Asti, but had to endure a violent sortie by Starhemberg that made 350 casualties. After only six days La Feuillade therefore decided to abandon this siege too.

La Feuillade's siege of Turin

I will not describe this here as it's covered very well in the Turin chapters

La Feuillade after Turin

After his failed siege of Turin and his dismissal La Feuillade sold his infantry regiment in 1708. In 1716 he was received as pair of France. In September 1719 he gave up his post as governor of the Dauphiné. On 2 February 1724 he was made marshal of France. In 1725 he died at Marly4

Generalship of La Feuillade

It's easy to say that La Feuillade was incapable of command, but the above achievements seem to contradict it. There is an anonymous account of his capacities written in 1728 that primarily says that La Feuillade had a lot of talent for a military career, but that he lacked the practice and experience. Furthermore it says that he was very ambitious but was pushed into command to early3.

Because I have a very good modern conclusion about La Feuillade's capabilities at hand I will content myself with citing it: Afterwards all responsibility for the failure was heaped upon him, but it wasn't his fault that not enough troops were assigned to him to execute Vauban's plan, who wanted to attack Turin from the hills with no less than 55,000 men. Furthermore, even had he wanted to, he could not have refused to besiege Turin. It wasn't only on account of ignorance or youthful arrogance that he tried to take Turin against the rules by directly attacking the citadel. He had even almost succeeded when Eugen arrived. He knew that the city was about to fall and in a council of war held on 1 September he was more than ever determined to continue a siege that he thought to be drawing to a glorious conclusion.5

Career

  • 1702: January Brigadier
  • 1703: February Maréchal de Camp
  • 1704: Lieutenant General
  • 1706: sacked
  • 1716: Pair de France
  • 1724: Appointed as Maréchal de France

Service record

  • 1690: Present at the battle of Fleurus;
  • 1691: Present at the siege of Mons;
  • 1692: Present at the battle of Steenkirk;
  • 1693: Present at the battle of Neerwinden;
  • 1696: Present in the Rhine campaign;
  • 1703: Commander in the Provence with orders to take the Savoy harbors;
  • 1704: June, takes Susa;
  • 1705: Takes the city of Nice and Villafranca;
  • 1705: Attempts a first siege of Turin but abandons it
  • 1706: Handles the siege of Turin quite badly;
  • 1706: Badly beaten by Eugen and sacked;

Notes

1) I still have to research this theory.
2) I still have to investigate whether Bard was bought by Vendome or La Feuillade
3) In: Memoires de la derniere guerre d'italie par monsieur D***: le Duc de la Feuillade avoit des qualitez excellentes pour la guerre, beaucoup d'esprit & un veritable valeur; l'experience & la pratique lui manquoient; s'il été quelques années en second sous un bon maitte, il en auroit sans doute profité, par l'ambition qui le devoroit; mais la précipitation qu'on a euë de lui donner le maniement des grandes affaires pour l'élever, est précisement ce qui la fait échouer de reputation.
4) For La Fauillade's actions in Italy see Fea, for a biography see: Louis de la Roque, Cataloque Historique de Généreaux Français. Both were used for this page.
5) Conclusion in '1706 Le Aquile e i Gigli, Una Storia mai Scritta by Jean Cerino Badone, G.C. Boeri, F. Campagnolo, E. Garoglio': In seguito tutte le responsabilità del fallimento furono scaricate su di lui, ma non era sua la colpa se non gli erano state date abbastanza truppe per attuare il piano proposto il Vauban, ossia di attaccare Torino dalla collina con non meno di 55.000 uomini. Inoltre, anche se avesse voluto, non poteva certo rinunciare all'assedio. Non fu solo per insipienza o giovanile arroganza che tentò di prendere Torino contro le regole, cioè attaccando direttamente la Cittadella. D'altronde c'era quasi riuscito, quando giunse il Principe Eugenio. Sapeva che la città stava per cadere, e il 1 settembre al consiglio di guerra era quanto mai deciso a ottenere la continuazione di un assedio che, secondo lui, ormai si avviava ad una vittoriosa conclusione.