1704 - Blenheim - Turning Point for Europe

#1
On my podcast recently
I've been talking about the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blenheim"]Battle of Blenheim 1704[/ame] and the latest show speculates on the aftermath of the battle and the possible shape of Europe if the twin crowns (France and Spain) and Bavaria had triumphed over the Anglo/Dutch/German etc alliance.
France had grown extremely powerful under the leadership of Louis XIV and were backing Bavaria in this year in the hopes of an invasion of Austria and the defeat of the Austrian Habsburgs. If they had won this then I reckon Max Emmanuel would have become the new Holy Roman Emperor but would have been dependent upon the resources and manpower of France. I think England would have pulled out of the war and the Dutch Republic would have been crushed by the French.
This would have made Louis the undisputed master of Europe. It would have strengthened the power of the French monarchy, made France richer as they took over the states in Northern Italy and therefore made it unlikely the French monarchy would be so easily toppled about 80 years later in a revolution. I think France could have much more effectively fought the trade wars with Britain and I'm certain France (with Spain as partner) would have become the dominant power in the Americas.
I think it unlikely that Britain would have had an empire of any significance as France would have been able to marshall so much more in the way of resources and possibly build a navy to challenge the dominance of the British fleet.
I wonder, under this scenario whether Prussia could have grown as strong as it did?
If so then would the two world wars have happened in the 20th century?
Would the Americas become a French colony and would they have been able to gain Independence from France?
Or would France become overstretched trying to defend such a vast empire and find herself overwhelmed in Eastern Europe by the incursions of the Ottoman empire?
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
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#4
Britain would only have pulled out had Marlborough been killed. He was the lynchpin of the Alliance and while Sarah was well in with Queen Anne, a major policy shift would be unlikely.
 
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#5
Britain would only have pulled out had Marlborough been killed. He was the lynchpin of the Alliance and while Sarah was well in with Queen Anne, a major policy shift would be unlikely.
I'm not so sure.
Certainly the cockpit circle were extremely influential at the time and Anne was committed to the aims of William of Orange but the power of the monarch was limited and if Parliament didn't vote the money for the armies then it would be impossible to continue.
The war was very expensive indeed and the allies were bankrolled almost entirely by England and the Dutch Republic. I'm not sure even the stubborn Queen Ann could have continued English involvement in the face of a massive defeat. Churchill himself would have been discredited and his many enemies would have dragged him down as they did only a few years later.
Anne's policy would have remained the same but the Tories (or country party) would have gained a great deal of power after a major defeat and I'm certain they would have insisted upon a scaling down of operations (maybe to purely naval operations) and then withdrawal when it was shown that purely naval operations were of little consequence.
 
#6
Have you seen the TV account of the battle by Diana's brother I've forgotten his 1st name Spencer.
Very good.
I didn't know there was a tv version of the book.
It'll be interesting to see if that crops up again sometime.
The book is quite a fun read at times but I think there are several others that I would be more likely to recommend. For coverage of the battles I think James Falkner gives a more balanced account.
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
#7
I'm not so sure.
Certainly the cockpit circle were extremely influential at the time and Anne was committed to the aims of William of Orange but the power of the monarch was limited and if Parliament didn't vote the money for the armies then it would be impossible to continue.
The war was very expensive indeed and the allies were bankrolled almost entirely by England and the Dutch Republic. I'm not sure even the stubborn Queen Ann could have continued English involvement in the face of a massive defeat. Churchill himself would have been discredited and his many enemies would have dragged him down as they did only a few years later.
Anne's policy would have remained the same but the Tories (or country party) would have gained a great deal of power after a major defeat and I'm certain they would have insisted upon a scaling down of operations (maybe to purely naval operations) and then withdrawal when it was shown that purely naval operations were of little consequence.
It wasn't that expensive in 1704. After Vigo, the British Government was awash with cash, and if Marlborough survived the defeat and had been militarily discredited, he nevertheless would have retained huge diplomatic influence as Anne's 'favourite'. Who's to say he wouldn't have persuaded Charles XII of Sweden to replace Austria in the alliance? Charles XII hated Louis XIV and wouldn't need much prompting to get involved, especialy as there was a period of 'peace' around this time in the Great Northern War.

The scale of the defeat at benhiem and Marlborough's survival are the two key issues here.
 
#8
It wasn't that expensive in 1704. After Vigo, the British Government was awash with cash, and if Marlborough survived the defeat and had been militarily discredited, he nevertheless would have retained huge diplomatic influence as Anne's 'favourite'. Who's to say he wouldn't have persuaded Charles XII of Sweden to replace Austria in the alliance? Charles XII hated Louis XIV and wouldn't need much prompting to get involved, especialy as there was a period of 'peace' around this time in the Great Northern War.

The scale of the defeat at benhiem and Marlborough's survival are the two key issues here.
Damn good point about Charles XII.
I hadn't considered him and maybe there would be a possibility of receiving aid from there with the lull in the Great Northern War. Would he be worried about a resumption of hostilitiies? Would he be worried about essential troops being deployed elsewhere?
I don't agree about Marlborough's influence being as powerful as you imply.
Although he was Anne's favourite he was as yet unproven in a major battle. It was Blenheim which made his reputation as a war leader.
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
#9
I don't agree about Marlborough's influence being as powerful as you imply.
Although he was Anne's favourite he was as yet unproven in a major battle. It was Blenheim which made his reputation as a war leader.
Marlborough was almost fireproof at this time. His closest ally Godolphin, was in an unassailable political position, Sarah was Anne's 'best friend' and he had already made his reputation as a diplomat throughout Europe. This is why the circumstances/scale of any defeat at Blenhiem is a key factor. If the defeat could be attributed to the 'fortune of war' as opposed to any incompetence on his part, any 'discredit' would be minor. He'd basically get another go to prove himself as a military commander elsewhere. Remember he'd already been successful in the Netherlands and winning major battles were not the yardstick by which commanders were rated in the early 18th century. Of course had he been killed there, all bets are off.
 

Belisarius

Forum Staff
Jun 2006
10,359
U.K.
#10
Oh, there's also Turkey to consider. Eugene would never have fought for Louis or any of Louis' placemen. No Habsburg Austria? What would The Ottomans do?
 
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