Eugene was a French aristocrat born in the 17th century.
After being snubbed by the French King for his ugly face and frail body, he rose through the ranks of the Austrian military and bought the Arrogant French King and his army to its knees.
The Ice Giants by Kevin MacLeod
Invitation To The Castle Ball by Doug Maxwell
via Youtube Free Audio Library
Imperial Forces by Aaron Kenny
via Youtube Free Audio Library
It's the late 17th century. Eugene, a young boy from a disgraced but noble family,
enters the palace of Versailles in France. Though confident in himself, Eugene is nervous.
It's hard not to be. The full splendor of the palace is breathtaking. Gold leaf coats everything
in sight, and flawless Italian paintings cover every inch of wall. The air is thick with perfume,
music, and chatter. The attendant hurriedly pushes Eugene through the crowd,
and through a heavy wooden door. Breathing heavily, Eugene enters the throne room,
and in its center sits King Louis XIV, with an unmistakable look of boredom spread across his face.
Courtiers buzz around him and his secretary talks into his ear while he sips wine absentmindedly.
Eugene nervously steps forward and bows deeply.
He had spent months preparing for the speech and didn't want to mess it up.
Ah, the witch's son, I presume. The word stung, but he had been prepared for that.
Rise, boy. So you wish to be an officer in my army, do you?
A smirk slowly replaced the look of boredom on his face as the king continued. A true
night of the old, eh? With a nose that long, and with teeth like a scullery maid. You.
The attendant snickered, and Eugene's face went bright red.
With a face as ugly as that, and the puny girlish body you supported on,
I cannot think of a worse choice of career for you. No, I believe you will do well in a monastery.
See to it, he said to his secretary, who nodded and began riding on a scrap of parchment.
And with tears in his eyes, Eugene glared furiously at the king,
turned and stormed out, shaking with rage and humiliation.
I'll have the monks save a spot for you, then. The king yelled after him.
Breming with rage and embarrassment, the young boy swore to never enter France again
without arms in his hand. Twenty-two years later, at the head of fifty-two thousand men,
Prince Eugene returns to fulfill his promise. This is the story of Eugene of Savoy,
Saviour of the Habsburgs.
Eugene was born in 1663, in Paris, the youngest of five children.
Eugene's mother, Olympia Mancini, had quite an interesting story.
She had spent her life in the circles of the French elite in the court of the king.
Olympia was ambitious, a schemer and somewhat of a vixen,
never being afraid to use her body to get what she wanted.
In her youth, she was one of King Louis's lovers,
and she had hopes of becoming his wife, and was unhappy about being passed over for another woman.
After this happened, her scheming got the better of her,
and she was involved in a plot known as the Affair of the Poisons,
a public scandal involving French high society employing spells, poisons, and curses
to eliminate rival lovers or political opponents.
This was probably not so out of the ordinary for her, as her father was a known necromancer.
Hmm, never thought that would be a sentence, I would say.
Because of her noble birth, she escaped being burnt at the stake, but was instead exiled from France.
It was into this world that Eugene would grow up in.
King Louis had Eugene picked for a life in the church. He decided this would be best due to
the deficiencies he noticed in the young boy. Eugene slumped a bit, he was gangly, thin,
and not exactly dashing. With buck teeth and a long nose, he was winning no beauty contests.
All of this combined with his mother's fall from grace meant he stood out at the royal court for
all the wrong reasons. But his boldness stood out more so. From a young age, he was confident
in his own abilities and had his mind set on a military career. And in his teens, he petitioned
King Louis to be allowed to command a small regiment of his army. And after the rejection,
according to Eugene himself, he vowed never to enter France again without arms.
So, undeterred from a military career, Eugene headed abroad.
While the Europe Eugene lived in was starting to resemble the Europe we have today,
there were some noticeable differences. France was the primary power in the west.
Leopold I was the Holy Roman Emperor and held nominal power over most of the German city-states.
But the Ottoman Empire had pushed through the Balkans, with modern-day Romania, Serbia,
Bulgaria, Albania, and half of Hungary all under control of Sultan Mehmet IV.
I'll be posting a map of this on our Instagram page.
Eugene decided Austria was the best place to start. One of his brothers had recently died
in the service of Leopold I, so his court was an obvious choice. He fitted in well at the court.
His fluency in Italian helped him bond with Leopold, who hated speaking French.
Also helping smooth the transition with Eugene's bloodline,
the two of them sharing some Habsburg lineage.
Eugene took advantage of his anonymity at the courtroom, observing how court politics
work in Austria compared to France, and floating around between different social circles.
It's here he gains his disdain for court flattery. In his memoirs later,
Eugene wrote that they,
"...fool the monarch, who like to be told that all goes well, all is excellent, or all is improving."
This distrust of flattery would go on to serve Eugene well. Later on in his life, there were
many occasions that he would not take news or updates at face value, instead requesting
more detail, a useful trait to possess in the military.
As someone wanting to gain military experience, there was no better place to be.
Austria was in a long war with the Ottomans, who were currently knocking at the door of
Leopold's capital, Vienna. A huge Ottoman army had been besieging the city for months.
Eugene was taken under the mentorship of the brilliant Charles V, Duke of Lorraine,
and Louis of Baden. Over the course of the siege, he learns the art of war from these men,
and picks up the importance of leading men on the front lines, a characteristic that
becomes key to his later success in battle. When the siege ends, Eugene is present at
one of the most famous moments in European history, the breaking of the siege at Vienna.
After the battle, he receives praise for his conduct, and despite only commanding a single
regiment, displayed readiness, level-headedness, and a willingness to be flexible and seize
opportunities as they presented themselves. Louis of Baden wrote to Emperor Leopold stating,
quote, this young man will, with time, occupy the place of those from whom the world regards
as great leaders of armies. And after this recommendation, at only 22 years old, Eugene
was promoted to major general. With the Ottoman siege broken, Leopold has Eugene sent all
around Eastern Europe, where he participates in many small-scale battles against the Ottomans,
and helps to reverse territorial gains made by them, particularly in Hungary, which fell to the
Sultan about 150 years back. With every success, his fame grows more. Acting as an envoy for
Leopold, he secures an alliance with his cousin, Amadeus, a lord from the Duchy of Savoy. In his
memoirs, Eugene amusingly recounts how he was careful to stroke the ego of his cousin, heaping
flattering titles on the man. By the way, Savoy is a small region of southern France, bordering
Italy and Switzerland, to help you picture where he is at the moment. After securing his cousin's
troops, he plays a role in a key conflict known as the Nine Years' War with France. In his memoirs,
again, Eugene speaks about his willingness to be in the fray with his men. And during this
conflict, at least one horse is shot out from under him. This, combined with the
musket-shot wound to the knee he had in earlier engagements,
leads him to the end of the war. In his memoirs, Eugene speaks about his willingness to be in the
fray with his men. In his memoirs, Eugene speaks about his willingness to be in the fray with his
men. And during this conflict, at least one horse is shot out from under him. This, combined with a
musket-shot wound to the knee he had in earlier engagements, leads us to think he was not afraid
of getting his hands dirty. Midway through this war, his cousin, Amadeus, switches loyalty again
back to France. Eugene says of him, quote,
But unfortunately, we don't have that letter.
Though his bravery and strategic foresight were noticed by all, Eugene never outgrew
his confidence and bravado that had so offended King Louis a decade ago. As his fame grew,
he made his fair share of enemies around Leopold's court. Count Carafa was Eugene's military superior,
and the two hated each other. Both wrote scathing letters to Emperor Leopold about the other's
conduct. The dislikes seemed to stem from the age-old, young-versus-old mentality, the Count
seeing Eugene as a disrespectful upstart who was too headstrong, and Eugene seeing the Count as
old and out of touch. Eugene even threatened to resign if Carafa was not removed from command.
Leopold took the middle ground, sympathizing with each of them but stopping short of any
decisive action. Eugene was a rising star, and after the conclusion of the Nine Years War,
was given full command of the newly formed Holy League, a religious order sanctioned by the Pope
to push back the tide of Islam into Europe. His command started off with a bold gamble.
Simply put, there was not enough money to fund an army so big, so he took out a series of loans.
The plan was to pay back these loans with the plunder he secured.
Risky as it was, it would be on this campaign that Louis of Baden's earlier prophecy of him
becoming a great leader would come to pass. With around 35,000 fighting men, Eugene tailed
the Ottoman forces, trying to coax them into a battlefield of his choice. However, the Ottoman
forces deliberately avoided this with plans to besiege the Hungarian city of Szeged.
They started the siege, but when it became clear the city would not surrender quickly,
it was abandoned. Winter was approaching fast, and the army needed to retreat to the relative
safety of Cimioșoara, modern-day Romania. But in between the two cities, there was a major
obstacle. The Tisă River. River crossings were dicey at the best of times, and Eugene knew it.
He and his army arrived at the Tisă with perfect timing. The Ottomans had secured one bridge,
and had just commenced working on others to speed up the crossing. It was now or never
shock cavalry. The Ottomans did their best to hold onto their landing point,
but the single bridgehead they had secured completely bottlenecked any sizable
reinforcements coming over. With Eugene and his army in front and the river at their backs,
the Ottoman troops broke rank and tried to stampede back, desperately heading back to the
bridge they'd secured. But Eugene had anticipated this, and he had sent his left flank around in
front of the bridge to cut off the retreat. It was over quickly. The Ottoman troops who hadn't
crossed were unable to do anything but watch their comrades cut to pieces, as the Holy League envelope
them. By the end of the fight, Eugene had lost around 500 men, while the Ottomans had lost between
8 and 30 thousand men, the royal treasury, 87 cannons, and the state seal. I'll be uploading
a diagram of troop movements on our Instagram if you'd like to have a look. Eugene's decisive
victory would be the last major engagement of what is now called the Great Turkish War.
It also marks the end of the high watermark of Ottoman rule. The Treaty of Karlowitz would be
the first treaty in hundreds of years to see Ottoman's returning land they had conquered in
Europe. Meanwhile, back in Vienna, Leopold was understandably thrilled at the result,
and contrary to the advice of his ministers, particularly Count Karafa, Eugene is promoted
to Field Marshal, the highest rank in imperial service. He was 29 years old.
On our Instagram, we've got a picture of Eugene right after this victory.
The same slender body he was previously mocked for now looked right at home on the back of a
spotted warhorse. I want to pause here for a moment, because I'm aware we've been jumping
from war to war without talking much about Eugene himself. In his memoirs, Eugene certainly
embellishes his achievements. I mean, who wouldn't? But even with these existing, it's hard to get a
read of who the man really was. What we can say is, first of all, it was likely a homosexual,
or possibly bisexual, and never married. Though these two facts seem to make sense
together in the 21st century, at the time this was a bit strange, as usually someone of his
stature in society would take a wife, even just for the sake of appearances. Some contemporaries
also refer to him being a bit of a deviant, specifically him lusting after young underage
page boys. Curiously enough, he doesn't mention this in his biography. He does, however, give us
lots of information about his torrid love affairs with multiple women, and he seemed to think of
himself as a bit of a player. In his own words, he makes it very clear that he was just there
for a good time, saying that he would never succumb to the quote, fever of fools that they
called love. Apart from commentary on his sexual proclivities, he seemed to enjoy the companionship
of fellow commanders, particularly those he admired from a military perspective.
He also had a small family, which he was close to. In his memoirs, he made special mention of
how much he enjoyed their company. He was also a patron of the arts, which we'll touch on later.
As a commander, he was a strict disciplinarian, but not cruel. Punishments were used when words
failed. He expected bravery as troops, but the same kind of bravery he would show.
To Eugene, the key to victory was a strong relationship with allied commanders,
and he worked hard to get to know those who he worked closely with.
His most brilliant victories, as you'll see, take place when a mutual respect exists between him
and another. But so far, everything I've said could be applied to any commander in history,
right? So why then did Napoleon call Eugene of Savoy one of the top seven generals of all time?
Adaptiveness. In the heat of war, plans go out the window. If you're rigid and you stick to a script,
you will never be able to seize opportunities. In all his most brilliant victories, Eugene
seemed to have an almost supernatural ability to sniff out and exploit an enemy's weakness.
If I was to summarize his strengths, it would be his boldness and the ability to
trust his own judgment, which was almost always right.
Just after the turn of the century, another war was looming, and Eugene, at 38 years old,
was the obvious choice of commander. Over in Spain, Charles II, another Habsburg, was
not doing well. You've got to feel sorry for this guy. This was the product of incest built on
incest. Honestly, this guy is the ugliest bastard I have ever laid my eyes upon. And a French
ambassador at the time concurred, saying, the Catholic king is so ugly as to cause fear he
looks ill. And he wasn't wrong. Charles had a humongous bottom lip, an incredibly large chin,
and a hooked nose that almost reached his lip. But maybe he was a great king who was just very
ugly. No, he wasn't. He was senile despite being in his 30s, club-footed, epileptic,
unable to bear children. In fact, it was utterly amazing that he made it to his 30s at all.
He was constantly in such poor health that court physicians believed he had been hexed
and tried all sorts of wacky cures on him. None worked. You can't cure incest. If you
ever watch Game of Thrones and see the Targaryens thinking it's not so bad, think again.
Aware that he was dying, Charles II, or likely his advisors, left the Empire in its entirety
to Philip V, grandson of Louis XIV of France. It's an interesting side note that this was
only possible as Spanish law allowed the crown to be passed to a woman. If this situation occurred
in France or Austria, there would be no claim. If Charles' will was to be followed, it would
mean France and Spain would be united, shattering the balance of power which is already tilted
heavily in favor of France. And, understandably, the European powers found this unacceptable.
Soon, whispers of a grand alliance set against France began to circulate across Europe.
Leopold wasted no time and sent Eugene to snap up French territories in northern Italy.
Reliable as usual, Eugene gained two quick victories in succession,
capturing the French commander along the way, who ironically was replaced by a much more capable
commander. Over in Paris, Eugene's old friend, King Louis, was noticeably worried and wrote
to the new commander,
I have warned you that you are dealing with an enterprising young prince. He does not
tie himself down to the rules of war. The lesson here, I guess, is be careful who you
call weak in high school. Eugene's victories help him swing the fence-sitters, and slowly
but surely, the grand alliance begins to take shape. England, Holland and Austria unite
under one banner in order to stop what they imagine will be the French subjugation of
all of Europe. And who better to lead these combined forces than Eugene?
Immediately, he begins drilling the troops. Despite being from different nationalities,
he expected the same level of loyalty and training from every man.
When Dutch and English troops grumble to him that they are awaiting payment from past campaigns,
he gets it sorted. When he sees a trend of men being promoted on status instead of merit,
he reverses the promotions and sets his own in place. Within a few months, the men are
working as a single cohesive fighting force, with Eugene ensuring each army is led by a
competent commander who enjoys a good relationship with him.
Even so, Austria's borders are being threatened on multiple sides. For all the discipline
he had imposed in his men that could only be in one place at once. Across the English
Channel, another was eyeing off Eugene's predicament. John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough.
And no, the name is no coincidence, this man was direct descendant of Britain's wartime
Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. John Churchill was England's equivalent of
Eugene of Savoy, a talented commander who had risen through the ranks. The two men had
not met yet, but were in mutual envy of the other's skill. Churchill realised the precarious
situation the Austrians were in, and England foresaw the consequences if Austria was to
drop out of the war. And so, England invested more money and more manpower into the war,
and Marlborough and Eugene finally met face to face. Very quickly, the two became close
personal friends, and combined their skills to become an unstoppable duo on the battlefield.
It's a somewhat rare occasion when two famous generals can play nicely together, but in
his own words, Eugene described the pair as twin constellations in glory. Reinforced by
a good number of troops and a commander whose talent rivalled his own, Eugene knew that
the Grand Alliance was now ready to roll. The Battle of Blenheim, which it was to become
later known as, took place on August 1704. It was orchestrated by Eugene and Churchill,
and was intended to catch the French off-guard, and it did so. The plan was for Eugene on
the right flank to keep the bulk of the French army occupied, while Churchill's contingent
would break through the middle line where it was weaker. Eugene and his men in the thick
of battle were fighting a numerically superior elite force, but they held the line, just.
Three times over the course of the day, the French managed to break the Austrian lines,
and three times, Eugene rallied his troops and shored them up again. Churchill had similar
problems. The French troops he was squaring off against were some of the most veteran
units in all of Europe. At one point, he caught one of his officers trying to slink away from
the battlefield. Blocking his path, he told him dryly, Sir, you are under a mistake. The
enemy lies that way. You can see where Winston got his wit from, right?
In the late afternoon, around 5pm, the breakthrough finally happened. While Eugene's men doggedly
held on, Churchill and his exhausted cavalry summoned up all the strength they had left
and gave it their all, punching right through the French centre, routing their cavalry.
Even as their support melted away, the iron discipline of French infantry did not give in.
In desperation, and now completely unsupported, they formed a defensive square. But the Austrian
artillery made quick work of them. An account from the battle claimed that they died where
they stood, rather than break ranks. As the battle turned, it was every man for himself
as the now re-energised Austrian cavalry cut down many men in the rout, thousands drowning
in the waters of the Danube river. This remains an incredibly famous battle, and there are
countless stunning pieces of artwork painted about it. I also only provided a quick summary
of it. You can find a detailed breakdown of this on YouTube, which, along with some of
my favourite scenes, I'll be posting on our socials. This stunning victory brought
Eugene and Churchill onto world stage, and, with the fitting bromance they had going on,
both claimed the success was due to the other. The battle of Blenheim shattered the French
aura of invincibility, and from here onwards, when the rank and file troops faced off against
the French, they would know they were only human.
Despite the result, there's no chance that dear old King Louis would be giving up his
claim to Spain based on the outcome of a single battle. All involved knew there was more to
come. Not long after the victory, Eugene's sovereign and long-time supporter, Emperor
Leopold I dies at 64 years of age, becoming the longest-ruling Habsburg monarch. His son
and heir, Joseph I, becomes the new Holy Roman Emperor. As we'll go on to the next
scene, out of the three emperors that Eugene serves over the course of his life, he accomplishes
the most under Joseph. The new emperor seemed to have put more trust in Eugene's instincts,
and less in the court-flatterers Eugene so despised.
Eugene was initially reluctant to leave the Hungarian theatre of war, which was still
an open rebellion, but after the insistence of Joseph, he relents and moves south to organize
the chaotic Grand Alliance for the Republic of Hungary.
The city of Turin in Northern Italy was to be his first priority. It was currently under
siege from the French and in dire need of support. He initially planned to start the
march immediately, but he found the troops under him exhausted, sick, and in dire need
of training. There would be no point in marching this lot into Italy to have them devoured
by the French. With his usual decisiveness, he worked tirelessly to raise the morale of
his men, and as soon as he could, he was able to take the lead.
As soon as he determined them to be ready, he started the march to Turin.
This was no easy feat, 321 kilometers in 20 days across mountains, rivers, and swamps.
Aware of the relief force heading to the city, the French bear down on Turin with everything
they've got, but the city still holds out. Finally, Eugene and his 15,000 strong relief
force arrive. Eugene's cousin Amadeus, who once again had switched sides, was there to
support him with a sizeable contingent. After the last assault, the French were tired,
outnumbered, and sick. Morale was low, and Eugene and his cousin made short work of the
siege camp. After Turin, Eugene quickly occupied the surrounding countryside, much to the delight
of the local Italians. Here's a quote from Eugene.
The Duke of Parma objected wholly to the entrance of my troops into his country. I laughed at
his protestations, and those of the Pope, whose feudatory he said he was. Hmm.
With the French retreating north, Eugene had closed out yet another theater of war in favor
of the Austrians. I'll be putting a picture up of Eugene's flaky cousin on our Instagram page.
The clothing at this time was so decadent and outrageous, it's worth a look.
In between his time on the front, Eugene begins to sponsor many local artists in Vienna,
becoming somewhat of a patron of the arts. He builds the beautiful Belvedere Palace,
the opulence of this mimicking that of the Palace of Versailles.
We've got a picture of this on our Instagram page if you want to check it out.
In addition to this, he works to get his hands on as many rare and old books as he can.
And by the end of his life, the collection is huge. It still exists today as well,
it's known as the Eugenia. But you're not listening to this to hear about nice buildings
and books are you? Back to the war. Proving his success to put out fires in every theater of war,
Eugene heads north to the Spanish controlled Netherlands and links up once again with
Churchill. Even though this time he arrived without an army, him just being there had a
profound effect on the morale of the troops, whose spirits were low due to the multiple
French attacks on them. The Battle of Aldonada was another resounding success for Churchill and
Eugene. The open communication between their two armies enabled them to undertake complex maneuvering
of troops. And in the thick of battle, the two shared a reserve of manpower, and when the other
said they needed men to bolster their lines, they trusted the other's judgment and supplied the men,
no matter how dire their own situation was. This was completely contradictory to the French
commanders, who disliked each other strongly, one being an experienced veteran and the other being
a relation to the king who had no experience in warfare. After their victory, Eugene and
Churchill campaign throughout the Netherlands and retake many key holdings. But not without
consequence. Eugene receives the nastiest wound of his career when he is shot with a musket ball
just above the eye. He initially thought the wound was fatal and it almost rendered him blind, though
he managed to recover. As soon as he did though, he was back talking and drinking with the troops.
There was not much that would kill morale faster than the death of a commander. Not long after this
close call, he has another one, where one day he receives a letter at camp. Upon opening it,
it appears just a blank sheet of parchment, except it was greasy. Thinking nothing of it,
he threw it aside, where a dog picked it up and began playing with it. 24 hours later,
the dog dropped dead. While no one was ever fingered for the poison attempt,
it was just as likely to be the French as it was to be his political enemies back at the capital.
France was now well and truly on the defensive, and had lost the best men of their armies.
Due to this, as well as famine, they were forced into conscripting townsfolk to form a militia.
The Holy Roman Empire was not far off this either, and Eugene took it upon himself to
pressure Austria's allies to provide more men that he believed they were holding back.
Bold as ever, Eugene invited the Duke of Orange for a dinner party.
With all the pomp and of imperial event, he served up the nobleman horse meat on a plate,
bluntly telling him that if Austria loses the war, this is all he'll be eating.
Things were going bad to worse, and after a particularly bloody battle,
which was a victory but a very costly one, Queen Anne of England questions whether Britain's
involvement was worth the cost. And soon after this, Eugene's twin constellation in glory,
John Churchill, was recalled to England. The Dutch auxiliaries soon follow him.
Eugene followed Churchill back to England and tried to drum up more support for the war,
but by the time he arrived, Churchill had already been dismissed from his role,
and the Queen was not budging. England would pursue peace treaty terms with or without Austria.
While he was in England, Eugene learned that Emperor Joseph I had died unexpectedly from
smallpox, and had been succeeded by his brother, Charles VI, who was more similar to Leopold than
Joseph, making his decisions based on facts rather than Eugene's instincts.
Eugene returned home and tried to counsel him to seek a peace treaty with France,
insisting that Austria cannot fight them alone. And after a bit of back and forth,
he agrees, and sends Eugene with a strict list of terms in order for an agreement to be reached.
Eugene headed off to France, and upon his arrival, was delighted to see that Duke Villars,
a friend from his youth, was acting as a representative from King Louis. In his memoirs,
Eugene says that out of mutual respect for each other, they agreed to avoid the runaround of
high and low-balling each other. The treaty was agreed very quickly, and with the technical
details all hammered out, the two old friends went and saw an opera together.
The treaty favoured the Austrians, who received many Spanish territories in Italy.
There was a bit of sulking from the emperor, who missed out on a few possessions in Spain,
but overall the war had been a success. The territories that they gained swelled the size
of the Holy Roman Empire to their largest extent in history, and France lost their opportunity to
monopolise Europe. I'll be putting a painting on our Instagram page of Eugene, Villars,
and a few others hammering out wars to be called the Treaty of Baden.
Over in the east, the Treaty of Karlowitz had been a sting to Ottoman morale. An empire that
had been built on conquest was not about to be stopped with a single minor setback.
Eugene and his new monarch were acutely aware of this. And so, with ink still wet on the last
peace treaty, Eugene heads back east to deal with the Turks. This war was to be Eugene's
crowning achievement of his career. As the uncontested leader of an 80,000 strong army,
Eugene was free from the usual hamstrings of court politics he was used to. With his usual boldness,
he began the construction of a fort which was quickly besieged by the Turks. The legend goes
that the Austrian forces interpreted a sign of snowfall in the middle of summer as divine
intervention and subsequently morale was boosted. The start of the battle looked dire for the
Austrians as Ottoman janissaries pushed back the imperial forces further and further.
But as usual, Eugene turned the situation to his advantage,
deploying his reserves to encircle the Ottoman troops from behind as they overextended themselves,
personally leading the deployment. The Ottomans were unable to break the encirclement and were
cut down en masse, the Grand Vizier himself dying in the carnage. The Ottoman forces limped back to
Constantinople at one third of its original size. And once they arrived home, the Ottoman general
was executed by the sultan for allowing such a disaster to take place. With the army routed,
Eugene proceeded onto the war goal, taking the city of Belgrade. He set up a siege but was soon
aware of the massive army of around 175,000 Turks coming to relieve the city. Aware morale in the
camp was low due to dysentery and the strength of the incoming army, he decided on a surprise attack
of the relief force. Under a foggy sky, he left the siege to be manned by only a skeleton crew
and attacked the relief force, completely blindsiding them and routing the humongous army.
This was Eugene's proudest moment of his career, although he himself is honest in the fact that a
lot of it was dumb luck. He knew he needed a win. The siege was far behind schedule as he waited on
artillery and sappers to arrive, so he had the choice of sitting tight and being killed by the
relief army, or dysentery, or gambling it all on a surprise attack. And it worked.
Although the Ottomans didn't know it, the Treaty of Karlowitz, and now the Treaty of Pasrowitz,
would be the first two nails in the coffin that would start a 200 year decline of their empire,
before it was finally dissolved after World War I. All started by one man who didn't want to be a
monk. After taking some time to himself to work on his book collection and building projects,
Eugene is called up for service again. Emperor Charles had always been sulky that he missed
out on snagging a few Spanish territories in the peace treaty, but now with the brand new
king of Spain, Philip, demanding parts of Spanish Italy that now belonged to Austria, well this was
just too much for the ego of Charles, who began mustering forces. For the first time in our story,
the French were the good guys, and tried to arbitrate peace, claiming Europe didn't need
another long war, but the wheels were already in motion. From the start, it was clear Eugene was
not 100% into this war, either worn out, getting old, at this point he was in his late 50s,
or not believing in the cause. He conducted the affairs of the war from Vienna, and the Austrian
army performed poorly without him on the field. Meanwhile the French, who were allied to Austria,
performed well and almost all of the success of the conflict is due to them.
It was not Eugene's proudest moment, and for the first time since his youth,
he found his influence at court reduced. However, decades of serving as the head of
military tends to make you a few friends, and Eugene showed that his talents extended past
the edges of the battlefield. There was always a new conflict on the horizon, and Charles began
to rely on Eugene's spy network for information relating to troop movements, courtroom politics,
marriages, and general gossip. This was not all idle chitchat either, through Eugene's diplomacy,
the emperor managed to secure a guarantee that his lineage would pass onto his daughter
in the event that he didn't have a son. As mentioned earlier, this was not explicitly
allowed under Austrian law. It would have been an incredibly tough deal to broker,
and is a testament to Eugene. Eugene continued to act as a diplomat, even into his late 60s,
but with each year he was getting less and less active. In 1733, the Polish war of succession
broke out, and Eugene was trotted out of semi-retirement. This was Eugene's final war,
and sadly, he was well past his prime. From the onset, he was burdened by poor quality troops,
and he lacked the funds to pay them. But more pressing, Eugene was suffering from mid-stage
dementia. At this point, he was in his mid-70s, and he was having trouble remembering the short
term. The ravages of age spared no man. The war would drag on for around 2.5 years,
with Eugene's mental capacity dragging on with it. In a bittersweet kind of moment,
a young Prussian general later to be known as Frederick the Great would be sent to learn from
Eugene in this campaign, very much in the same way Eugene had learned from the Duke of Savoy
all those years ago. The Prussian was startled by what he saw though, reporting that Eugene's
physical condition was quite shocking, stating his body was there but the soul had gone,
yet he was thankful for the theoretical lessons Eugene taught him. Eugene and other allies would
take a defensive attitude through the war, and this would eventually pay off with a somewhat
favourable peace treaty. After the treaty was signed, Eugene would be called back to Vienna,
and upon resigning command for the last time in his 50 years of service to the Holy Roman Empire,
he would say, quote, It would be difficult for me to express what I felt when taking leave of
my army. One must be an old soldier to know what it is to bid an eternal farewell to such brave
fellows who I had so often led to a path of death. With tears in my eyes, I resigned the command to
the Duke of Württemberg. With the passing of his torch complete, Eugene would spend his final
years amusing himself at his mansions, playing cards and mentoring young noblemen in the art
of warfare. He would also complete his memoirs, which I have drawn upon through this episode.
With thoughts of his upcoming mortality at hand, he seemed to regret that he was not as pious as
he could have been, saying that he found the sounds of the kettle drum that led men into
battle just as pleasing as the bells of a church. He would pass away in his sleep at the age of 72.
Eugene has been called the Miracle of the House of Austria, by himself, in his own biography.
But even so, I feel he earned that title. Though Austria was a major European power,
the lands which it ruled were divided. The Holy Roman Empire was a group of many different people,
different beliefs, traditions, all with varying degrees of loyalty and autonomy.
It was a fine balance of discipline and diplomacy that could unite people like this into a force
that could supersede that of France. The fact that it was his poor treatment by the King of France
that turned him into such a formidable opponent is such a delicious irony. And the same thought
probably kept King Louis up at night. Disregarding his ability to sense the weakness
of an enemy, the morale boost Eugene of Savoy brought to his troops was a recurring theme.
He was not a commander who sat back, he was continually in the fray with his men.
And I don't think this was just for them, he personally seemed to enjoy the rush of combat.
One of the numerous quotes from him says about this,
I mounted the breach, a janissary cleft my helmet with a blow from his sabre,
nothing could be more glorious or more bloody. Today, Prince Eugene still guards the territory
of Austria. Though there are no more Holy Roman Emperors, no more Orthodox,
no more Orthodox Emperors, no more Ottomans to the east or Francheans to the west,
his large equestrian statue stands proudly in central Vienna, surrounded by stunning works
of architecture that he helped to fund, or helped to defend. Perhaps a few times, a tourist may,
while dawdling through the park, take a closer look at the faded plaque below the statue.
If they did, it would read, To the wise Councillor of three emperors,
to the glorious conqueror of Austria's enemies.
“Hell was a more beautiful sight to behold.”
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