The battle of Dettingham is most famous in Britain for being the last occasion on which a British monarch (George II) commanded troops in person. However George II wasn’t entirely in command of the army, and he was officially present as Elector of Hanover rather than King of England.
We start with a brief background of the War of the Austrian Succession, starting at the start of the century with the death of Charles II of Spain in 1701 and tracing the disputed successes to Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, perhaps going back further than is normally the case. We then get the normal series of biographies and descriptions of the armies, in this case including a brief examination of the different methods of fighting on the British and French sides. I do think that the Opposing Plans and Campaign chapters are the wrong way round – the details of the two sides plans would have made more sense if we had more idea of what had happened in the campaign to that point. Instead the Opposing Plans section begins with mention of the results of a council of war that we haven’t yet read about!
When we reach that campaign section it soon becomes clear that the French had a much clearer idea of what they were doing than the Allies of the Pragmatic Army. The French commander Marshal Noailles carried out a careful reconnaissance of the campaign area, and put in place what should have been a battle winning plan. In contrast the Pragmatic Army rather blundered into the French with no real plan, and no clear lines of authority.
The main focus of the account of the battle is how Noaille’s carefully constructed plan unravelled, mainly due to the actions of his nephew the Duc de Gramont, who ignored his orders to stay on the defensive, and instead advanced to attack the Pragmatic Army, crossing a key stream that thus no longer became an obstacle for the allies, and soon preventing a French artillery battery on the opposite bank of the River Main from firing into the flank of the allied force. Gramont continued to make mistakes throughout the battle, eventually allowing the Pragmatic Army to escape from the trap. However as the author points out, both sides were able to claim victory, as the Pragmatic Army was also forced to abandon its plans and retreat into safer territory.
Origins of the Campaign – The imperial election of 1742
Opposing Commanders – The Pragmatic Army, The French
Author: Michael McNally