Marshal Schomberg, 161.5-1690, "The Ablest Soldier of His Age ": International Soldiering and the Formation of State Armies in Seventeenth-Century Europe.
The military career of Frederick Herman von Schomberg is remarkable for its long duration, many successes, and international scope. Schomberg began his apprenticeship in the profession of arms during the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) and ended his career in one of the early campaigns of the Nine Years' War (168897). Always hungry for employment, he moved with impressive ease among the armies of the Dutch Republic, Sweden, France, England, Portugal, and Brandenburg. Surprisingly, scholars have given little attention to the fascinating life of this international soldier. Prior to the appearance of Matthew Glozier's book, the only biography of Schomberg was Johann Friedrich August Kazner's two-volume Leben K von Schomberg oder Schoenberg (1789). Appropriately, Glozier has based his study of Schomberg on a wide range of sources in six languages. Marshal Schomberg, 1615-1690 is also an accessible book that should do much to rescue its subject's life and career from undeserved neglect.
For Glozier, Schomberg's commitment to Protestantism and willingness to simultaneously serve Catholic masters together formed the "great paradox" of his life (p. vii). It is fitting therefore, that Glozier gives considerable attention to this man's Protestant family background and itinerant early life. Frederick Herman's father was the principal advisor to one of Europe's leading Protestant princes, Frederick V of the Palatinate, while his mother was an English Protestant. Both parents died shortly after his birth in 1615, and when the ultraCatholic emperor Ferdinand II seized the Palatinate in 1622, he was forced to flee his homeland and wander the Protestant states of Europe. In 1633 Schomberg began his career as a volunteer in the army of Frederick William, Prince of Orange. He subsequently fought in the Swedish army commanded by Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar (1634), led German units in the pay of the French king, Louis XIII (1635-39), again served the princes of Orange (1639-50), and then fought under Louis XIV (1650-1659). Yet, it was his success in Portugal that won him a reputation as one of Europe's greatest commanders. This German adventurer was the de facto commander of the Portuguese forces that defeated the Spanish at Montes Claros (June 1665) and compelled Spain to recognize Portuguese independence.
The "great paradox" of Schomberg's life became more pronounced after he settled in France in 1668. Schomberg quickly established French roots by purchasing a large estate in the Ile-de-France, and by marrying a French Protestant, Susane d'Aumale-Haucourt. He also spent most of the 1670s and early 1680s fighting for Louis XIV, who elevated this Huguenot warrior to duke and peer of France in about 1674, and marshal of France in 1675. In 1685, however, Louis famously revoked the Edict of Nantes, forcing his Huguenot subjects to convert to Catholicism or leave the kingdom. Schomberg chose his faith over his king. After brief stints in Portugal, the Netherlands, and Brandenburg, he returned to the service of the House of Orange. Most significantly, in 1688 the aged Schomberg was the second-in-command of William III's bold invasion of England, which resulted in the Glorious Revolution. Schomberg later accompanied William to Ireland, where James II Stuart continued to head resistance to the new English dynasty. Frederick Herman was killed at the battle of the Boyne (July 1690), a victory for William that proved essential to cementing his hold on the English throne.
Despite having produced a fine narrative of Schomberg's life, Glozier signally fails to deliver on his claim that "[t]his study is not a biography in the traditional sense." The weakness of most biographies, he contends, is that they "raise up their subjects or vilify them" (p. viii). It is, therefore, disappointing to find that Glozier falls into this very trap. His narrative is excessively determined by his resolve to emphasize Schomberg's success and magnify his significance. For instance, Schomberg's army in Roussillon experienced a crushing defeat, and was further weakened by widespread desertion during the summer of 1574; but Glozier attributes no measure of this army's difficulties to Schomberg himself (p. 91). More tellingly, Glozier quotes Daniel Defoe's estimation of Schomberg as the "ablest soldier of his age" at least five times (pp. vii, 2, 148, 160, 178). Defoe's phrase even appears in both the opening sentence of the last chapter and the opening sentence of the conclusion.
Glozier's claire to have produced something more than a biography is particularly misleading in light of his book's subtitle, "International Soldiering and the Formation of State Armies in Seventeenth-Century Europe." The reader expects Glozier to use Schomberg's career as the focal point of a more ambitious argument about the nature of warfare or the structure of armies during the seventeenth century. Yet Glozier makes no such argument. Indeed, the extensive scholarship of military specialists such as Michael Roberts, Geoffrey Parker, John Lynn, and David Parrott does hOt even appear in his bibliography.
These criticisms notwithstanding, Glozier's biography effectively weaves together the captivating story of Schomberg's life and broader political events from the Thirty Years' War to the Glorious Revolution. This book also includes a detailed chronology, a Schomberg family pedigree, a more complete family genealogy, and three relevant documents: Schomberg's petition to Louis XIV on behalf of the Huguenots (1685), Luzancy's panegyric to Schomberg (1690), and a fictional dialogue between the spirits of Schomberg and the duke of Lorraine (1691). Most importantly, Marshal Schomberg, 1615-1690 has succeeded in shedding light on a figure whose dazzling international career deserves much more attention than it has hitherto received.
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|Publication:||Canadian Journal of History|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2007|
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