Monday, October 26, 2009


Although this blog mainly deals with the eighteenth century it is pertinent following the last journal entry to talk about Olympe's famous ancestor, Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne; often simply known as, Turenne. A man well-respected both in his own time, as well as the eighteenth century, he was refered to in the writings of La Chalotais and Turgot, and admired by Napoleon.

Henri was born on September 11th 1611, the second son of Henri Duc de Bouillon, Prince of Sedan. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of William the Silent, Prince of Orange. From an early age he admired the great generals of antiquity, like Alexander the Great, but was crippled by physical disability as well as a speech impediment. Educated as a Huegenot, he utilized great personal discipline to overcome his physical ailment, but was never able to shake his speech impediment. His father died in 1623, but being a younger son this didn't have much discernible effect, and he went to war as a bodyguard to his uncle the Prince of Orange.

When Frederick of Orange died his brother Marice succeeded him, and in 1626 gave Turenne a captaincy. In 1630 after garnering some acclaim for his siege technique he shifted his focus from the Netherlands to France, in part at his mother's behest. Cardinal Richelieu gave him the rank of colonel of an infantry regiment, which he soon proved he deserved by his great courage in 1634 earning the rank of Marechal de Camp.

By 1642 he had gained a reputation as one of the most valiant and able commanders in France, and had achieved the rank of Lieutenant General; but the implication of his brother, the Duc de Bouillon, in the conspiracy of Cinq-Mars dampened his prospects of promotions somewhat, as did his staunch Huegenot background, and refusal to marry into either the family of Cardinal Richelieu or Mazarin. Nevertheless on December 19th 1643 he was entrusted with the rank of Marshal of France. It must have been a proud moment for the boy who had once dreamed of the glories of Caesar and Alexander.

When Mazarin died in 1661 Louis XIV appointed Turenne as Marshal General, and even offered to revive the office of connetable of France, but only if the marshal would become a Roman Catholic. Turenne refused. He had, however, finally submitted to matrimony in 1652 to Charlotte de Caumont. Both he and his wife always struggled with the divisions of the Christian church. She died in 1662 having never found resolution, but in 1668 Henri finally converted to Catholicism, submitting to pressure by his nephew the Abbe de Bouillon.

In 1672 Henri's past and present collided, when Louis XIV's Dutch Wars brought Turenne into conflict with the Prince of Orange. The fighting was bitter, and the Dutch went so far as to flood the country around Amsterdam to prevent the French from holding it. In response Turenne allowed his troops to sack the countryside everywhere they persued the enemy. Historians and contemporaries have sometimes criticized this heavy-handedness on his part, but it is hard to go into the many factors that played into his military decisions. The reader is welcome to decide based on further research.

At the battle of Salsbach on July 27th, 1675 Henri de Turenne was hit by one of the first shots fired, and died. Mourned in France and beyond, he was remembered with love by his troops who felt a kinship with him unlike many superior officers. His fellow officers for years to come would praise his prowess and brilliance. He was undoubtedly the most famous member of the De la Tour d'Auvergne family, and one that Olympe could rightly be proud of.

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