Camille d'Hostun comte de Tallard, duc d'Hostun

14 February 1652 - 29 March 1728

Tallard's background

Tallard was born on 14 February 1652 1 to Roger d'Hostun, Marquis de la Baune and Catherine de Bonne daughter and heiress to Alexandre de Bonne d'Auriac Vicomte de Tallard. He entered the military at a young age and at age 16 he became colonel of the Cravattes cavalry regiment in 1668. In 1672 he took part in the Guerre de Hollande. I know little of his actions, but in 1674 Turenne chose him to command part of his army in the battle of Mühlhausen in December 1674. This was repeated in the battle of Türckheim in 1675.

Tallard during the Nine Years War

In the Nine Years War Tallard commanded a lot of detachments and smaller armies. In the winter of 1690 he succeeded in crossing the frozen Rhine and putting some German territories under contribution2.

Tallard as a negotiator for the Partition Treaties

In 1697 the crisis over the Spanish Succession became imminent by the poor health of Charles II. Tallard was then appointed as ambassador extraordinary to London with full powers. In this capacity he was responsible for concluding the first treaty which settles the succession on the electoral prince of Bavaria. After this prince died Tallard made a second treaty. For his efforts he was rewarded with the governorship of the County Foix.

Tallard during the War of the Spanish Succession

Actually Tallard started out quite well in the Spanish Succession War. Under Boufflers he was tasked with disturbing the siege of Kaiserswerth and he very well succeeded in this by bombarding the besiegers from the other side of the Rhine in May 1702. This forced the Dutch to start the siege all over again. However, the ineffective actions by Boufflers did not succeed in preventing the final surrender of the place. Tallard did succeed in taking the castle of Grevenburg or Trarbach in November 1702.

In 1703 Tallard became Maréchal de France. His first task in this capacity was to lift the siege of Grevenburg (Trarbach) and he succeeded in this against the Prince of Hessen. In September he captured Breisach after a short siege and this enabled him to start another project. This was the second siege of Landau which he conducted much better than the alliance had in the first.

The second siege of Landau prompted the alliance to gather an army to lift the siege and this then marched to the scene in November 1703. Tallard did however react very quickly and succeeded in surprising it in the battle on the Speyerbach. The battle of Speyerbach was not a major battle, but Tallard did succeed in inflicting losses which were proportionate with a major battle. The strategic results were minimal, but the battle did give Tallard Landau.

Tallard at Blenheim

In May 1704 Tallard delivered recruits and money to Max Emanuel near Villingen, without getting caught by Louis of Baden, which did count as skillful maneuvering. When the alliance plans against Bavaria next became clear Tallard was on the scene and thus eligible to command a 'rescue' mission to Bavaria. There was no doubt on the French side to entrust Tallard with this mission. Judging by the fact that Tallard had won a clear Victory on the Speyerbach and that other battles like Ekeren and Friedlingen were quite less clear it is very understandable that he was chosen.

Tallard himself however heavily doubted the mission that he was now forced to undertake. He saw quite clearly the danger of exposing so many French troops in an exposed position without having regular communications to Bavaria. For him the operation to save Max Emanuel consisted of establishing communications first, and then trying to cut of those of Marlborough. How he marched on Villingen and failed to take it is described elsewhere. The operation then came down to the scenario he feared most, that of operating out of communication with France.

After his capture at Blenheim Tallard was held prisoner in England for seven years. He was however appointed as governor of Franche-Comté later in 1704. After his return to France he was made a duke in 1712 and Pair de France in 1715. He was also named for the Council of Regency. When Louis XIV started his reign in 1726 he appointed Tallard as minister of state. In 1723 he became a member of the Academy of Science and in 1724 its president.

Tallard's personal life

In 1667 Tallard married Marie-Catherine de Grollée de Dorgeoise de la Tivoliere. By her he had two sons and a daughter. His eldest son was killed in the battle of Blenheim. The other became Duke of Tallard and was colonel of the regiment Tallard in 1714. His daughter was Marquise de Sassenage.

Tallard as a general

Most famous generals are famous for huge victories. Tallard is one of the few that are famous for being defeated. His one great loss at Blenheim is of course not the whole story of his career. Apart from his defeat at Blenheim Tallard did enjoy a lot of success in sieges and maneuvers. His dynamic actions in sieges and especially in the battle on the Speyerbach have later on been criticized. This criticism boils down to his ineffectiveness in controlling his army in that battle, but this did not lead to trouble.

While thus having done a satisfactory job up to Blenheim his actions at Blenheim itself can only be described as showing incompetence to lead a large army in battle. His army slipped out of his control, and while having enough time to rectify the situation he did not do so. The conclusion must be that while Tallard was perhaps well suited to lead a siege or command a small corps, he was not capable enough to lead an army in the field. This may have had to do with his extreme (physical) short-sightedness.

Career

  • 1668: Colonel of the Cravattes cavalry regiment
  • 1693: Lt-general
  • 1697: Is France's negotiator for the partition treaties of the Spanish inheritance, in the capacity of Ambassador extraordinary up to 1701
  • 1699?: Governor of Foix
  • 1701: Evicted from England after Louis recognized the son of James II as King of England
  • 1703: Maréchal de France
  • 1704: Taken prisoner at Höchstädt/Blenheim, held in London up to 1712
  • 1704: Governor of Franche-Comté
  • 1712: Becomes Duke of Hostun
  • 1715: Pair de France
  • 1723: Member of the academy of sciences
  • 1724: President of the academy of sciences
  • 1726: Minister of State

Service record

  • 1672: Present in the campaign against the United Provinces
  • 1674: December, commanding part of Turenne's army in the battle of Mühlhausen
  • 1675: January, commanding part of Turenne's army in the battle of Türckheim
  • 1692: Unsuccessful attack at the castle of Rheinfels
  • 1702: May hinders the Dutch siege of Kaiserswerth
  • 1702: November takes the castle of Grevenburg (Trarbach)
  • 1703: September 7 takes Alt-Breisach
  • 1703: November 15 Victorious on the Speyerbach
  • 1703: November 17 takes Landau after a siege
  • 1704: July starts his march from the Rhine into Bavaria
  • 1704: 22 July Fails to take Villingen
  • 1704: August; his army is completely destroyed at Blenheim. There is (justly) heavy criticism of his handling of the battle

Sources

One of the oldest biographies of Tallard's life which I have seen was written by Fontenelle in his 'Eloge des Academiciens'. The work available on Gallica was printed in Holland in 1740.

Notes

1) Fontenelle says 1653
2) Fontenelle page 353