Fact of the day: 23rd May

On this day in 1706 at the Battle of Ramillies: John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, defeats a French army under Marshal François de Neufville, duc de Villeroi.

The Battle of Ramillies fought on 23 May 1706, was a major engagement of the War of the Spanish Succession. For the Grand Alliance – Austria, England, and the Dutch Republic – the battle had followed an indecisive campaign against the Bourbon armies of King Louis XIV of France in 1705.

Although the Allies had captured Barcelona that year, they had been forced to abandon their campaign on the Moselle, had stalled in the Spanish Netherlands, and suffered defeat in northern Italy.

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Yet despite his opponents’ setbacks Louis XIV was desirous of peace – but he wanted it on reasonable terms. For this end, and in order to maintain their momentum, the French and their allies would swing over to the offensive in 1706.

In less than four hours Marlborough’s Dutch, English, and Danish forces overwhelmed Villeroi’s and Max Emanuel’s Franco-Spanish-Bavarian army.

The Duke’s subtle moves and changes in emphasis during the battle – something his opponents failed to realise until it was too late – caught the French in a tactical vice.

The battle proved decisive. With their foe broken and routed, the Allies were able to fully exploit their victory.

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