Marlborough wins Battle of Blenheim
The 13th of August 1704 AD
The War of the Spanish Succession had until 1704 been one largely centring on Flanders, with John Churchill , Duke of Marlborough , struggling to persuade his Dutch allies to meet the French in open combat. In 1704, however, the Franco-Bavarian strategy changed, and it seemed very probable that they would knock the Austrians out of the war with a combined move against Vienna. Churchill rallied his forces and marched across the Low Countries and Germany, trying to provoke a battle with the Bavarians by laying waste much of the land he crossed there.
Eventually a battle did become inevitable, though the French and Bavarians had managed to avoid one until they had combined their armies. This unity was superficial, however, and their forces acted almost independently still in battle, led by Marshal Tallard and the Elector of Bavaria, while Marlborough undoubtedly had overall control of his and his allies combined strength.
In spite of the Franco-Bavarian numerical superiority (an estimated 65,000 against roughly 56,000 Allies, with artillery strength also in their favour) Marlborough won a great victory, partly helped by his enemies’ errors: the Allies were able to near the Franco-Bavarian lines unopposed; Tallard and the Elector concentrated many of their forces in the village of Blenheim and other hamlets nearby, where they were pinned down by far fewer of Marlborough’s men; at one point a substantial force caught unsupported and out in the open was wiped out by the Allies; French cavalry was routed, with some 3,000 thought to have drowned when driven into the Danube; and ingloriously Tallard was captured, to be kept in prison in Nottingham until 1711.
The French and Bavarians lost more than 35,000 in the battle, the Allies 12,000. For his victory Marlborough was given Blenheim Palace in Woodstock by Queen Anne , the only non-royal residence in Britain allowed still to be dubbed a palace. The War dragged on, but France had suddenly found itself not the only European Superpower, as Louis XIV had supposed.
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