Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

XII.

than conduct. He rushed on with such headlong impetuo- BOOK sity, that, though it broke the first body of the enemy which stood in his way, it threw his own soldiers into the utmost

1557. confusion ; and as they were attacked in that situation by August 10. fresh troops which closed in upon them on every side, the greater part of them were cut in pieces, Dandelot, with about five hundred of the most adventurous and most fortunate, making good his entrance into the town.

MEANWHILE the Constable, in executing his part of the The battle

of St. Quinplan, advanced so near the camp of the besiegers, as ren

tin. dered it impossible to retreat with safety in the face of an enemy so much superior in number. The Duke of Savoy instantly perceived Montmorency's error, and prepared, with the presence of mind and abilities of a great general, to avail himself of it. He drew up his army in order of battle, with the greatest expedition, and watching the moment when the French began to file off towards La Fere, he detached all his cavalry, under the command of the Count of Egmont, to fall on their rear, while he himself, at the head of his infantry, advanced to support him. The French retired at first in perfect order, and with a good countenance; but when they saw Egmont draw near with his formidable body of cavalry, the shock of which they were conscious that they could not withstand, the prospect of imminent danger, added to distrust of their general, whose imprudence every soldier now perceived, struck them with general consternation. They began insensibly to quicken their pace, and those in the rear pressed so violently on such as were before them, that in a short time their march resembled a flight rather than a retreat. Egmont, observing their confusion, charged them with the greatest fury, and in a moment all their men at arms, the pride and strength of the French troops in that age, gave way and filed with precipitation. The infantry, however, whom the Constable by his presence Total deand authority, kept to their colours, still continued to re- feat of the treat in good order, until the enemy brought some pieces of cannon to bear upon their centre, which threw them into such confusion, that the Flemish cavalry, renewing their attack, broke in, and the rout became universal. About four

VOL. III.

French.

2 s

BO O K thousand of the French fell in the field, and among these the XII.

Duke of Anguien, a Prince of the blood, together with six

hundred gentlemen. The Constable, as soon as he per1557.

ceived the fortune of the day to be irretrievable, rushed into the thickest of the enemy, with a resolution not to survive the calamity which his ill-conduct had brought upon his country; but having received a dangerous wound, and be ing wasted with the loss of blood, he was surrounded by some Flemish officers, to whom he was known, who protected him from the violence of the soldiers, and obliged him to surrender. Besides the Constable, the Dukes of Montpensier and Longueville, the Marechal St. Andrè, many officers of distinction, three hundred gentlemen, and near four thousand private soldiers, were taken prisoners. All the colours belonging to the infantry, all the ammunition, and all the cannon, two pieces excepted, fell into the enemy's hands. The victorious army did not lose abovefourscore men k.

The first effects of it.

This battle, no less fatal to France than the ancient victories of Crecy and Agincourt, gained by the English on the same frontier, bore a near resemblance to those disastrous events, in the suddenness of the rout; in the ill-cone duct of the commander in chief; in the number of persons of note slain or taken ; and in the small loss sustained by

It filled France with equal consternation. Many inhabitants of Paris, with the same precipitancy and trepidation as if the enemy had been already at their gates, quitted the city, and retired into the interior provinces. The king, by his presence and exhortations, endeavoured to console and to animate such as remained, and applying himself with the greatest diligence to repair the ruinous fortifications of the city, prepared to defend it against the attack which he instantly expected. But happily for France, Philip's caution, together with the intrepid firmness of the Ad. miral de Coligny, not only saved the capital from the danger to which it was exposed, but gained the nation a short interval, during which the people recovered from the terror

the enemy:

Thuan, 650. Hærei Annal. Brabant. ii, 692. Herrera, 291.

XII.

and dejection occasioned by a blow no less severe than un- BOOK expected, and Henry had leisure to take measures for the public security, with the spirit which became the sovereign

1557. of a powerful and martial people.

army.

Philip, immediately after the battle, visited the camp at Philip re: St. Quintin, where he was received with all the exultation pairs to his of military triumph; and such were his transports of joy on account of an event which threw so much lustre on the beginning of his reign, that they softened his severe and haughty temper into an unusual flow of courtesy. When the Duke of Savoy approached, and was kneeling to kiss his hands, he caught him in his arms, and embracing him with warmth, “ It becomes me,” says he,“ rather to kiss your hands, which have gained me such a glorious and almost bloodless victory."

rations

the war.

As soon as the rejoicings and congratulations on Philip's His delibearrival were over, a council of war was held, in order to

concerning determine how they might improve their victory to the best the proseadvantage. The Duke of Savoy, seconded by several of cution of the ablest officers formed under Charles V. insisted that they should immediately relinquish the siege of St. Quintin, the reduction of which was now an object below their attention, and adyance directly towards Paris; that as there were neither troops to oppose, nor any town of strength to retard their march, they might reach that capital while under the full impression of the astonishment and terror occasioned by the rout of the army, and take possession of it without resistance. But Philip, less adventurous or more prudent than his generals, preferred a moderate but certain advantage, to an enterprise of greater splendour, but of more doubt

He represented to the council the infinite resources of a kingdom so powerful as France; the great number as well as martial spirit of its nobles; their attachment to their sovereign ; the manifold advantages with which they could carry on war in their own territories; and the unavoidable destruction which must be the consequence of their penetrating too rashly into the enemy's country, before they had secured such a communication with their own

ful success,

1557.

BO O K as might render a retreat safe, if, upon any disastrous event, XII.

that measure should become necessary. On all these accounts, he advised the continuance of the siege, and his generals acquiesced the more readily in his opinion, as they made no doubt of being masters of the town in a few days, a loss of time of so little consequence in the execution of their plan, that they might easily repair it by their subse. quent activity!

St. Quintin The weakness of the fortifications, and the small number defended by Admiral of the garrison, which could no longer hope either for reinColigny; forcement or relief, seemed to authorize this calculation of

Philip's generals. But, in making it; they did not attend sufficiently to the character of Admiral de Coligny, who commanded in the town. A courage undismayed, and tranquil amidst the greatest dangers, an invention fruitful in resources, a genius which roused and seemed to acquire new force upon every disaster, a talent of governing the minds of men, together with a capacity of maintaining his ascendant over them even under circumstances the most adverse and distressful, were qualities which Coligny possessed in a degree superior to any general of that age. These qualities were peculiarly adapted to the station in which he was now placed ; and as he knew the infinite importance to his country of every hour which he could gain at this juncture, he exerted himself to the utmost in contriving how to protract

the siege, and to detain the enemy from attempting any enwhich is terprise more dangerous to France. Such were the persetaken by

verance and skill with which he conducted the defence, and such the fortitude as well as patience with which he animated the garrison, that though the Spaniards, the Flemings, and the English, carried on the attack with all the ardour

which national emulation inspires, he held out the town August 27. seventeen days. He was taken prisoner, at last, on the

breach, overpowered by the superior number of the enemy.

assault.

Henry's HENRY availed himself with the utmost activity, of the

interval which the Admiral's well-timed obstinacy had af. fence of his kingdom.

measures for the de

i Belcar. Commentar. de Reb. Gallie. 901.

1

forded him. He appointed officers to collect the scattered BOOK remains of the Constable's army; he issued orders for levy.

XII. ing soldiers in every part of the kingdom; he commanded

1557. the ban and arriere ban of the frontier provinces instantly to take the field, and to join the Duke of Nevers at Laon in Picardy; he recalled the greater part of the veteran troops which served under the Marechal Brissac in Piedmont; he sent courier after courier to the Duke of Guise, requiring him, together with all his army, to return instantly for the defence of their country; he dispatched one envoy to the Grand Signior, to solicit the assistance of his fleet, and the loan of a sum of money; he sent another into Scotland, to incite the Scots to invade the north of England, that, by drawing Mary's attention to that quarter, he might prevent her from reinforcing her troops which served under Philip. These efforts of the King were warmly seconded by the zeal of his subjects. The city of Paris granted him a free gift of three hundred thousand livres. The other great towns imitated the liberality of the capital, and contributed in proportion. Several noblemen of distinction engaged at their own expense, to garrison and defend the towns which lay most exposed to the enemy. Nor was the general concern for the public confined to corporate bodies alone, or to those in the higher sphere of life, but diffusing itself among persons of every rank, each individual seemed disposed to act with as much vigour as if the honour of the King, and the safety of the state, had depended solely on his single efforts m.

[ocr errors]

Philip, who was no stranger either to the prudent measures The victotaken by the French monarch for the security of his domi- ry of St. nions, or to the spirit with which his subjects prepared to

Quintin

productive defend themselves, perceived, when it was too late, that he of few be

neficial had lost an opportunity which could never be recalled, and

consequenthat it was now vain to think of penetrating into the heart of ces. France. He abandoned, therefore, without much reluctance, a scheme which was too bold and hazardous to be perfectly agreeable to his cautious temper; and employed

m Mem. de. Ribier, ii. 701. 703.

« VorigeDoorgaan »