Richard Holmes: Marlborough England's Fragile Genius

Read online Marlborough England's Fragile Genius AUTHOR Richard Holmes –

As the larger picture of the war and alliance as well as British politics is not conveyed as powerfully Holmes is best at the blow by blow account of the battles Modern readers will not be mystified by Marlborough s tactics However the larger strategic and political considerations of the War of the Spanish Succession take a back seat in the narrative an nfortunate aspect of the book as the war comes to firmly establish Britain s role in European wars and ensuring a balance of power on the ContinentHolmes succeeds in showing Marlborough as a military genius other writers perhaps the Duke s famous forebear Winston Churchill are reuired to elevate the Duke beyond mere battlefield victories into a founding father of modern British power and military might A thorough assessment beautifully balanced between the military political I felt I should have enjoyed this book much than I did Holmes recognises Marlborough s significance as a field commander and political figure but delineates the former in such crushing detail that it s almost impossible for the lay reader to follow what s going on while the latter and potentially interesting strand is skimped The book tells you as much as you could possibly want about the great battles of Blenheim Ramillies Oudenarde and Malplacuet but is frustratingly shadowy on Marlborough the man A solid easily readable account and as you would expect comprehensive on the military side Because of the subject Holmes was reuired to obviously include much of the politics of the day My only criticism is the title IMO it should readFlawed instead of Fragile This book ends with the comment of Marlborough s opponent Bolingbroke that the late duke had been such a great man that Bolingbroke preferred to forget his flaws That seems to sum p Holmes attitude as well While his biography of John Churchill does mention the criticisms of his enemies this is a deeply sympathetic work In this it may be a bit nfair to the duke s contemporariesIt is a very enjoyable book The War of the Spanish Succession and its campaigns are now in a distant and murky past The Ascent of Man unfamiliar to the modern reader and not easy to find order or sense in Holmes manages to create a narrative that provides a good framework for Marlborough s campaigns and battles His description of Marlborough s victories is as clear and concise as can be expected from an experienced military historianBut the personality of Marlborough remains enigmatic despite the manyotes from his voluminous correspondence It is hard to say whether this is a failing of the biographer or The Grand Sophy unavoidable because the great commander always kept in mind that his letters might fall in the wrong hand Evidently Marlborough was not very inclined to explain. Flers was rewarded by Louis XIV for only losing moderatelyA coalition manager long before the phrase was invented he commanded a huge polyglot army with centrifugal political tendencies and bending it to his will by sheer force of personalityHe was also a politician on the domestic stage intimate with two monarchs James II andeen Anne and the prop of successive cabinets He had extraordinary strength and durability His family connections wove him into the fabric of Europe his sister Arabella was James II’s mistress and their son James Duke of Berwick was one of Louis XIV’s most successful commanders Although the Marlboroughs lost their only son Jack to smallpox both their daughters married Whig grandees and their descendants include Sir Wins.

A thorough and clearly well researched biography of Britain s greatest general which also sets his life very well in its wider context A fun fast paced read it is not Given there is very little choice among modern biographies of Marlborough it is the one to read if you want to nderstand his importance in European history A good and readable account of the life and military career of John Churchill the first Duke of Marlborough Not surprisingly for a military historian Holmes is better at describing military actions military life and the institutional political and administrative contexts for these than he is at presenting the personal aspects of his subject s life You won t come away from this book with a terribly strong sense of who Marlborough was as a man although Holmes doesn t ignore such issues either but you will nderstand a good deal about the politics and the military of the period and why Marlborough has been considered perhaps the greatest commander in English history only Wellington rivals him in importance In addition to being a superb general Marlborough was a good diplomat and a skilled courtier shaped permanently by his experience of the instability of the Civil War and determined to make Europe and England and his family as stable and safe as he could make them I would have liked about the public response to him the wild adulation after his early victories contrasted with the vicious politically motivated mudslinging of the later years of his command Add this to Winston Churchill s long biography of his ancestor and a couple of the specialised military studies of Marlborough for a fuller O viziune a sentimentelor understanding of who he was and how he helped shape English and European history I felt this book meandering andnfocused It s not an easy read for me For citizens of the 21st Century the landscape of military titans likely stretches back only so far as the First World War with perhaps a faint wisp of the glory achieved by Napoleon and Wellington in the 19th Century Marlborough lodged at the hinge period between the 17th and 18th Century may be lost to many readers particularly Americans However the Duke of Marlborough s exploits as a military commander alliance builder tactician and progenitor of Britain s place among the great European and world powers are rivaled by few if any of the common names of battlefield victorsRichard Holmes delivers a solid but ngainly portrait of Marlborough While the Duke s military campaigns are relayed in fine detail the larger themes are lost amidst the intimate focus on specific battles After putting down the book this reader has a good sense as to how Marlborough achieved victory at Blenheim Ramillies Oudenarde and Malplauet but the victories ring hollow. Best selling military historian Richard Holmes delivers an expertly written and exhilarating account of the life of John Churchill Duke of Marlborough Britain's finest soldier who rose from genteel poverty to lead his country to glory cementing its position as a major player on the European stage and saviour of the Holy Roman EmpireJohn Churchill is by any reasonable analysis Britain’s greatest ever soldier He mastered strategy tactics and logistics His big four battles – Blenheim which saved the Holy Roman Empire Ramilies Oudenarde and Malplauet – were events at the very centre of the European stage He captured Lille France’s second city overran Bavaria and beat a succession of French marshals so badly that one the suat and energetic Bof.

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Or defend his own actions and it is to Holmes credit that he showns restraint in trying to fill the gaps When I was in high school I had a framed postcard from Blenheim on my bedroom wall It was a painting of the Duke of Marlborough looking bad ass to my admittedly somewhat peculiar sensibilities in breastplate and periwig My teenage admiration was solely for his rocking personal style I knew next to nothing about him other than that he was Winston Churchill s great great something and that he d been rewarded with a huge house for kicking some dastardly Continental butt I ve been meaning to fill in this gap in my knowledge of British history for a long time To be honest I was a little nclear about the whole William and Maryueen Anne period period As far as I knew everyone relieved to have the Glorious Revolution behind them sat down with a clay pipe and a cup of coffee and got on with the the Enlightenment As it turns out the turn of the eighteenth century was a fairly pivotal time both geopolitically and in terms of the development of key British institutions like the standing army and the prime minister ship This biography is periodically charming but somewhat pedestrian The title is a little puzzling to me even after finishing the book I m guessing Churchill was fragile because he suffered from crippling migraines I liked Holmes Redcoat although it too displayed a want of reuisite editing Holmes marshals a lot of evidence to support each of his points He needs to be a little selective And the blow by blow battle accounts are definitely for the specialist Tighter summaries of the battles with analysis and less detail would have been appropriate for a book marketed as this one is for the general reader I enjoyed the gossipy bits the most The politics of the bedroom played as important a role in Marlborough s meteoric rise as strategic success on the battlefield As a young swain Churchill was the lover of Barbara Villiers erstwhile mistress of Charles II and sexual force of nature and his entree into the retinue of James II was facilitated by that monarch s intimacy with Churchill s sister Arabella Marlborough s captain generalcy had everything to do with the probably platonic but exceptionally close relationship between his wife Sarah and Como agua para chocolate ueen AnneHolmes is at his best presenting campaigns and conflicts from the common trooper s point o view My favorite human interest side story in Marlborough had to do with Mrs Christian Davies who searching for her husband Richard enlisted and served for years in Marlborough s campaigns as a dragoon She was discovered only after suffering a gunshot wound Oh and there s the pleasure of abiuitous real life Captain Blackader popping p throughout the narrative. Ton Churchill and Earl SpencerYet John Churchill was also deeply controversial He accepted a pension from one of Charles II’s mistresses for services vigorously rendered He owed his rise and his peerage to James II yet determined to be on the winning side he deserted him in his hour of need in 1688 He maintained regular correspondence with the Jacobites while serving William and Mary and with the French while fighting Louis XIV He made money on a prodigious scale but was notoriously tight fisted long regretting an annuity given to a secretary whose ick wittedness saved him from capture But in the age when commissions were bought and sold and commanders often owed their position to the hue of their blood he never lost his soldiers’ confidence.

See this thread for informationRichard Holmes was Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science He was educated at Cambridge Northern Illinois and Reading Universities and carried out his doctoral research on the French army of the Second Empire For many years he taught military history at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst A celebrated military historian Richard Holmes is the author of the best selling and widely acclaimed Tommy and Redcoat The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket His dozen other books include Dusty Warriors Sahib The Western Front The Little Field Marshal Sir John French The Road to Sedan Firing Line The Second World War in Photographs and Fatal Avenue A Traveller’s History of Northern France and Flanders also published by PimlicoHe was general editor of The Oxford Companion to Military History and has presented eight BBC TV series including ‘War Walks’ ‘The Western Front’ and ‘Battlefields’ and is famous for his hugely successful series ‘Wellington The Iron Duke’ and ‘Rebels and Redcoats’