Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzjames, James

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FITZJAMES, JAMES, Duke of Berwick (1670–1734), marshal of France, was natural son of James, duke of York, afterwards James II, by Arabella Churchill [q. v.], daughter of Sir Winston Churchill, and elder sister of the great Duke of Marlborough. He was born at Moulins in the Bourbonnais, on 21 Aug. 1670, and his father gave him the name of James Fitzjames. His handsome face curiously combined many of the characteristics of his grandfather, Charles I, and his uncle, Marlborough. He was educated in France, first under the care of the jesuit Father Gough, at the Collège de Juilly, then at the Collège du Plessis, and finally at the jesuit college of La Flèche. His father always showed affection for him, and on his accession to the throne in 1685 he sent young Fitzjames to the camp of Charles, duke of Lorraine, who was then besieging Buda. Fitzjames soon showed his courage, and was distinguished by his sobriety in camp as much as by his desperate valour in the final assault on Buda. At the conclusion of the campaign, he paid a visit to England. He was made in 1686 colonel of the 8th foot and lord-lieutenant of Hampshire; and on 19 March 1687 was created Duke of Berwick, Earl of Teignmouth, and Baron Bosworth in the peerage of England. He then returned to Hungary, and served another campaign under the Duke of Lorraine, during which he was present at the great battle of Mohacz. He was summoned to England by James, who at once made him governor of Portsmouth, and on 4 Feb. 1688 appointed him colonel of the royal horse guards, the Blues, in the place of Aubrey de Vere, earl of Oxford. He became K.G. 28 Sept. 1688, and on 20 Nov. colonel of 3rd troop of horse guards. Finding it impossible to hold Portsmouth, Berwick fled to France to join his father. He proposed that James should return with French troops. He accompanied the French army under Saint-Ruth to Ireland, and vigorously raised troops among the Irish Roman catholics. He served at the siege of Derry, and commanded a detached force against the men of Enniskillen. He was present at the battle of the Boyne. On the departure of Tyrconnel he was appointed commander-in-chief of the king's forces in Ireland, but on Sarsfield's surrender of Limerick he returned to France.

In 1691 Berwick joined the French army in the Netherlands as a volunteer, and served under Marshal Luxembourg at the siege of Mons, and in 1692 in the victory won over the English and Dutch under William III at Steenkirk. In 1693 Berwick was appointed a lieutenant-general in the French army, and in his first campaign with this rank he was taken prisoner by the English at the battle of Neerwinden. He was soon released, and in 1695 he married, against his father's wish, the beautiful Lady Honora Sarsfield, daughter of the Earl of Clanricarde, and widow of Patrick Sarsfield, hero of Limerick. She died in 1698, and in 1700 he married Anne, daughter of the Hon. Henry Bulkeley.

Berwick served the campaign of 1702 in Flanders under Marshal Boufflers, and in the following year became a naturalised Frenchman, in order to be eligible for the rank of marshal of France. In 1704 he was sent to Spain in command of a powerful French army, to support Philip V, and in an admirable campaign he prevented the far stronger forces of the allied English and Portuguese from invading Spain from the west. For his services he was made a knight of the order of the Golden Fleece by the king of Spain, but complaint was made of his pursuing defensive tactics, and at the close of the year he was recalled and made governor of the Cevennes. He had then to fight against the protestant mountaineers, known as the ‘Camisards,’ who were in open rebellion, and, after partially subduing them, he swiftly crossed the Sardinian frontier and took Nice, for which exploit he was made a marshal of France in 1706. In the following year Berwick made his great campaign against the Anglo-Portuguese army, which had in 1706 for a short time occupied Madrid. Philip V of Spain begged Louis XIV to send him Marshal Berwick, and the newly made marshal entered Spain at the head of a small and well-equipped French army. He at once marched to the Portuguese frontier, and after a most scientific campaign he drew the allied army under Henri de Ruvigny, Lord Galway, and the Marquis Das Minas into an unfavourable position, and then utterly defeated it in the important battle of Almanza, the only battle recorded in which an English general at the head of a French army defeated an English army commanded by a Frenchman. Berwick was made governor of the Limousin by the king of France, and the king of Spain arranged a marriage between Berwick's only son by his first marriage and Donna Catherina de Veraguas, the richest heiress in Spain, and created the boy Duke of Liria and a grandee of the first class. In 1709 the marshal was recalled from Spain to defend the south-eastern frontier of France against the Austrians and Sardinians under Prince Eugène. This he did in a series of defensive campaigns, unmarked by a single important battle, which have always been considered as models in the art of war.

After the peace of Utrecht Berwick was long unemployed. He refused to co-operate in the attempt of his legitimate brother, the ‘Old Pretender,’ to regain the throne of England in 1715, and preferred French politics to English. He kept clear of party intrigues, and his advice on military questions was received with the highest respect. He cordially supported the English alliance maintained by the Regent Orleans and Fleury, in spite of his family relationship to the exiled Stuart family.

In 1733 the war of the Polish succession broke out, and Berwick was placed in command of the most important French army, which was destined to invade Germany from Strasbourg, and act against Berwick's old adversary, Prince Eugène. He took command of his army, and in October 1733 occupied Kehl, and then went into winter quarters. In March 1734 he again joined his army at Strasbourg; on 1 May he crossed the Rhine, and carried the lines at Ettlingen, and on 13 May he invested Philipsbourg. The siege was carried on in the most scientific manner, and the third parallel had just been opened, when on 12 June the marshal started on his rounds with his eldest son by his second marriage, the Duc de Fitzjames. He had not proceeded far when his head was carried off by a cannon-ball. The news of this catastrophe aroused the greatest sorrow in France, and the marshal's body was brought to France to be interred in the church of the Hôpital des Invalides at Paris. Berwick was a cautious general of the type of Turenne and Moreau, whose genius shone in sieges and defensive operations. He served in twenty-nine campaigns, in fifteen of which he commanded in chief, and in six battles, of which he only commanded in one, the famous victory of Almanza. Montesquieu, in the éloge prefixed to the marshal's memoirs, says of him: ‘He was brought up to uphold a sinking cause, and to utilise in adversity every latent resource. Indeed, I have often heard him say that all his life he had earnestly desired the duty of defending a first-class fortress.’ Berwick left descendants both in France and Spain, who held the highest ranks in both those countries, in Spain as Dukes of Liria and in France as Ducs de Fitzjames.

[The Duke's Mémoires were first published by his grandson in 1777; they only go down to 1705, and are generally published with the prefatory éloge by Montesquieu, into whose hands they were placed to be prepared for the press, and with a continuation to 1734 by the Abbé Hook, who published an English translation in 1779. They have been many times reprinted, notably in Michaud and Poujoulat's great collection of French memoirs. All French histories of the period and all French biographical dictionaries contain information about Berwick and his campaigns, and in English reference may be made to James II and the Duke of Berwick, published 1876, and The Duke of Berwick, published 1883, by C. Townshend Wilson.]

H. M. S.