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100% able army. A few days must liave put the duke of SaXII.
– voy in possession of the town, if the admiral de Coligny,
who thought it concerned his honour to attempt saving a place of such importance to his country, and which lay within his jurisdiction as governor of Picardy, bad not taken the gallant resolution of throwing himself into it, with such a body of men as he could collect on a sudden. This resolution he executed with great intrepidity, and, if the nature of the enterprise be considered, with no contemptible success; for though one half of his small body of troops was cut off, he, with the other, broke through the enemy, and entered the town. The unexpected arrival of an officer of such high rank and reputation, and who had exposed himself to such danger in order to join them, inspired the desponding garrison with courage. Every thing that the admiral's great skill and experience in the art of war could suggest for annoying the enemy, or defending the town, was attempted ; and the citizens, as well as the garrison, seconding his zeal with equal ardour, seemed to be determined that they would hold out to the last, and sacrifice themselves in order to save their country'.
The duke of Savoy, whom the English under the earl The French en. of Pembroke joined about this time, pushed on the siege relieve the
with the greatest vigour. An army so numerous, and so well supplied with every thing requisite, carried on its approaches with great advantage against a garrison which was still so feeble that it durst seldom venture to disturb or retard the enemy's operations by sallies. The admiral, sensible of the approaching danger, and unable to avert it, acquainted his uncle the constable Montmorency, who had the command of the French army, with his situation, and pointed out to him a method by which he might throw relief into the town. The constable, solicitous to save a town, the loss of which would open a passage for the enemy into the heart of France, and eager to extricate his nephew out of that perilous situation in which
1 Thuan. lib. xiz, 647.
zeal for the public had engaged him, resolved, though BOOK
XII. aware of the danger, to attempt what he desired. With this view, he marched from La Fere towards St Quintin 1557. at the head of his army, which was not by one half so numerous as that of the enemy; and having given tle com. mand of a body of chosen men to Coligny's brother Dandelot, who was colonel-general of the French infantry, he ordered him to force his way into the town by that avenue which the admiral had represented as most practicable, while he himself, with the main army, would give the alarm to the enemy's camp on the opposite side, and endeavour to draw all their attention towards that quarter. Dandelot executed his orders with greater intrepidity than conduct. He rushed on with such headlong impetuosity, aususe 10. that, though it broke the first body of the enemy which stood in his way, it threw his own soldiers into the utmost confusion; and as they were attacked in that situation by fresh troops, which closed in upon them on every side, the greater part of them were cut in pieces, Dandelot, with about five hundred of the most adventurous and most fortunate, making good his entrance into the town.
Meanwhile the constable, in executing his part of the The battle plan, advanced so near the camp of the besiegers, as ren- of Se. Quindered it impossible to retreat with safety in the face of an enemy so much superior in number. The duke of Savoy instantly perceived Montmorency's error, and prepared, with the presence of mind and abilities of a great general, to avail himself of it. He drew up his army in order of battle, with the greatest expedition, and watching the moment when the French began to file off towards La Fere, he detached all his cavalry, under the command of the count of Egmont, to fall on their rear, while he him. self, at the head of his infantry, advanced to support him. The French retired at first in perfect order, and with a good countenance; but when they saw Egmont draw near, with his formidable body of cavalry, the shock of which they were conscious that they could not withstand, the prospect of imminent danger, added to distrust of
feat of a
BOCK their general, whose imprudence every soldier now per
..ceived, struck them with general consternation. They began insensibly to quicken their pace, and those in the rear pressed so violently on such as were before them, that in a short time their march resembled a flight rather than a retreat. Egmont, observing their confusion, charged them with the greatest fury, and in a moment all their men at arms, the pride and strength of the French
troops in that age, gave way and fled with precipitaTotal de tion. The infantry, however, whom the constable, by French.
de his presence and authority, kept to their colours, still con
tinued to retreat in good order, until the enemy brought some pieces of cannon to bear upon their centre, which threw them into such confusion, that the Flemish cavalry, renewing their attack, brokein, and the rout became universal. About four thousand of the French fell in the field, and among these the duke of Anguien, a prince of the blood, together with six hundred gentlemen. The constable, as soon as he perceived the fortune of the day to be irretrievable, rushed into the thickest of the enemy, with a resolution not to survive the calamity which his ill conduct had brought upon his country ; but having received a dangerous wound, and being wasted with the loss of blood, he was surrounded by some Flemish officers, to whom he was known, who protected him from the violence of the soldiers, and obliged him to surrender. Besides the constable, the dukes of Montpensier and Lodgueville, the marechal St Andre, many officers of distinction, three hundred gentlemen, and near four thousand private soldiers, were taken prisoners. All the colours belonging to the infantry, all the ammunition, and all the cannon, two pieces excepted, fell into the enemy's hands. The victorious army did not lose above fourscore
men k. The first This battle, no less fatal to France than the ancient of victories of Cressy and Agincourt, gained by the English on the same frontier, bore a near resemblance to those dlo
*Thuan. 650. Hærei Annal. Brabant. ii, 692. Herrera, 291.
astrous events, in the suddenness of the rout; in the ill BOOK conduct of the commander in chief ; in the number of persons of note slain or taken ; and in the small loss sus. tained by the enemy. It filled France with equal consternation. Many inhabitants of Paris, with the same precipitancy and trepidation as if the enemy had been already at their gates, quitted the city, and retired into the interior provinces. The king, by his presence and exhortations, endeavoured to console and to animate such as remained; and applying himself with the greatest dili. gence to repair the ruinous fortifications of the city, prepared to defend it against the attack which he instantly expected. But, happily for France, Philip's caution, together with the intrepid firmness of the admiral de Coligny, not only saved the capital from the danger to which it was exposed, but gained the nation a short interval, during which the people recovered from the terror and dejection occasioned by a blow no less severe than unexpected, and Henry had leisure to take measures for the public security, with the spirit which became the sovereign of a powerful and martial people.
Philip, immediately after the battle, visited the camp Philip at St Quintin, where he was received with all the exult-pairs to his ation of military triumph; and such were his transports of joy, on account of an event which threw so much lustre on the beginning of his reign, that they softened his severe and haughty temper into an unusual flow of courtesy. When the duke of Savoy approached, and was kneeling to kiss his hands, he caught him in his arms, and embracing him with warmth, it becomes me,' says he, rather to kiss your hands, which have gained me such a glorious and almost bloodless victory.'
As soon asthe rejoicings and congratulations on Philip's His deliarrival were over, a council of war was held, in order to beracions
concerning determine how they might improve their victory to the the prose best advantage. The duke of Savoy, seconded by several of the ablest officers formed under Charles V., insisted that they should immediately relinquish the siege
BOOK of St Quintin, the reduction of which was now an oiy
ject below their attention, and advance directly towards Paris ; that as there were neither troops to oppose, nor any town of strength to retard their march, they might reach that capital while under the full impression of the astonishment and terror occasioned by the rout of the army, and take possession of it without resistance. But Philip, less adventurous or more prudent than his generals, preferred a moderate but certain advantage, to an enterprise of greater splendour, but of more doubtful success. He represented to the council the infinite resources of a kingdom so powerful as France ; the great number, as well as martial spirit, of its nobles ; their attachment to their sovereign ; the manifold advantages with wbich they could carry on war in their own territories, and the unavoidable destruction which must be the consequence of their penetrating too rashly into the enemy's country, before they had secured such a communication with their own as might render a retreat safe, if, upon any disastrous event, that measure should become necessary. On all these accounts, he advised the continuance of the siege; and his generals acquiesced the more readily in his opinion, as they made no doubt of being masters of the town in a few days, a loss of time of so little consequence in the execution of their plan, that they might easily repair
it by their subsequent activity'. St. Quini in The weakness of the fortifications, and the snall numdefended , ber of the garrison, which could no longer hope either hy Adniral Coligny; for reinforcement or relief, seemed to authorize this calcu
lation of Philip's generals. But, in making it, they did not attend sufficiently to the character of Admiral de Coligny, who commanded in the town. A courage undismayed, and tranquil amidst the greatest dangers, an invention fruitful in resources, a genius which roused and seemed to acquire new force upon every disaster, a talent of governing the minds of men, together witli a capacity of maintaining his ascendant over them, even under cir
"Belcar. Commentar. de Reb. Gillie. 901.