The battle of Malplaquet was the Duke of Marlborough’s last major battlefield victory of the War of the Spanish Succession, but it was won at such cost that it helped turn British opinion against the war, and is generally considered to have been of more benefit to the defeated French than to the victorious Allies.
The two armies were very different in character – the French army was battered and bruised, but was at least a single unified force. Marlborough’s army was more confident and better supplied, but also multinational, with elements from an impressive array of countries, each with their own commanders and motives.
We get a good account of the campaign that led up to the battle, which helps explain why Marlborough felt he had to attack such a strongly positioned French army – part of his army was besieging Mons, and any attempt to carry out a large scale outflanking move would have forced him to abandon the siege.
The battle itself is rather unusual. In part this was because of the nature of the battlefield, which had large forests on both flanks, and part because Marlborough actually decided to attack on those flanks, so until quite late on little happened in the centre. This was also a battle in which artillery played a bigger role than was usual in this period.
This is a good account of a classic Pyrrhic victor, in which Marlborough’s army suffered twice the casualties of the French and although it ended up in possession of the battlefield was too badly battered to pursue.
Origins of the Campaign
The Opening Moves
The Battle of Maplaquet
Author: Simon MacDowall