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Webmatters : Arras - Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne
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Arras

Turenne

Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne 1611 – 1675

If you visit the area of the citadel you will notice that it carries the title: Quartier Turenne.

The France of Louis XIII (as in The Three Musketeers) at the turn of the 17th Century was not as we know her today. There were still a number of principalities, and all of the Nord and much of the Pas-de-Calais was in fact held by the Spanish as the Spanish Netherlands.

On the subject of the Musketeers, D’Artagnan (1611-1673) became (an unpopular) governor of Lille after its capture by the French in 1667.

Turenne was the grandson of William I, Prince of Orange who led the Dutch protestant revolt against Spain.

Orange is in fact in the south of France but was at one time part of the Holy Roman Empire through the Burgundian connection. It would eventually become part of France when Frederick I of Prussia, having inherited the territory, ceded the land but not the title (Kaiser Wilhelm II also considered himself to be the Prince of Orange).

Overcoming his physical infirmities and displaying great mental abilities Turenne was given the rank of captain in the army of his uncle: Henry of Nassau, at the age of 15. He showed much promise fighting in the Dutch War of Independence (against the Spanish) and decided in 1630 to offer his services to France. Cardinal Richelieu recognised his talent and gave him the rank of colonel.

Despite Turenne’s protestant faith, which caused some aggravations at the royal court, Richelieu continued to show his trust, and Turenne took part in the campaign which brought Roussillon into France. In 1643 Turenne was promoted to Maréchal de France by Louis XIV.

In 1660 he would be further raised in rank to: Maréchal général, which meant that he outranked all other Marshals. Only seven people have ever carried this title.

 

The Thirty Years War 1618-1648

Within the guard house of the citadel there is a plaque placed by Louis XIV in honour of his father who had fought here in 1640.

At the beginning of the Thirty Years War France remained aside but when she eventually intervened in 1635 she suffered a number of defeats at the hands of the Hapsburgs (Who ruled both Spain and the Holy Roman Empire). However the tide turned in 1636 and Cardinal Richelieu was in a position to counter attack in 1639 taking the town of Hesdin right on the border that year.

The French moved on towards Arras and besieged it in 1640. One of the young French soldiers was a poet by the name of Cyrano de Bergerac.

On the other side of the wall the Spanish commander in the garrison was the Irish patriot Owen Roe O’Neil who had fled Ulster with his family during the Flight of the Earls (His grandfather was Earl of Tyrone).

Whilst the town was heavily fortified the citadel which you may have already seen was a later addition by Louis XIV.

The siege was a bitter affair and at one point the French found themselves besieged in turn by an encircling Spanish Army. Things became desperate until a small force managed to break through with supplies. Seeing the French re-supplied and his own position becoming ever more difficult O’Neill tried a sortie during which de Bergerac was injured. The sortie failed and the following day O’Neill surrendered.

 

The Fronde 1648-1653

The word is French for a catapult or sling and became synonymous with three rebellions by French nobles against the king. The reason for the word Fronde being that catapults were used to put in the windows of Cardinal Mazarin (Cardinal Richelieu’s successor) who was believed to be behind all the woes of the kingdom.

At first Turenne sided with the nobles who were not sold on the idea initially put forward by Louis XIII and then Louis XIV about their being an absolute monarch. However he later reconciled with the young Louis XIV and commanded his armies from there on.

His opponent in the 3rd Fronde War was one of the royal princes: Louis II, Duc d’Enghien known as the Condé who had enlisted aid from the Spanish.

In 1654 Turenne and the Royal Army defeated Condé and the Spanish at Arras as the latter, believing France to be badly weakened by its civil war, attempted to regain Artois. The victory represented the first of its kind for the young Louis XIV.

A footnote to this mini war was the fact that the Royal Army under Turenne eventually won out at the Battle of the Dunes near Dunkirk with the aid of men sent by Oliver Cromwell. Dunkirk remained an English town until eventually sold back to the French by Charles II (for £320,000).

Part of the Spanish forces consisted of English royalists led by James Duke of York (The future James II) who came to an agreement with the Commonwealth soldiers that they wouldn’t fight each other.

Throughout the following years Turenne led the armies of Louis XIV up until the battle of Sasbach in Alsace on 27 July 1657 when he was killed within the opening minutes.

Respected by friend and foe alike his body was removed under orders of Napoleon to the Invalides where it remains today.