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3

THE CHOISEUL ERA



The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, as we have seen, merely allowed the combatants to mark time and catch their breath. The battle for global supremacy between England and France would have to find a decisive resolution, and everyone knew it. The opening of formal hostilities in the Seven Years’ War saw fresh French schemes for the invasion of the British Isles. Once again the trigger was the New World. Louis XV realised that French Canada was slowly being throttled to death by the stranglehold the Royal Navy had on the Atlantic sealanes. Once again the only effective means of striking back seemed to be an invasion of England. In July 1756 50,000 French troops were brought together in encampments at La Hogue, St Malo, Dunkirk, Calais, Dieppe, Le Havre, Granville and St Valéry. The whole south coast of England was at risk. 

The French now planned to unite the Brest and Rochefort fleets to convoy the army, while making diversionary feints in Scotland and Ireland. A commando force would be sent ahead of the main army to secure a beachhead, and preferably a port. Then the main force could land in safety. As a finishing touch France assembled an assault group of 4,000 men at Toulon to capture the British base of Port Mahon in Minorca. The attack on Minorca was supposed to be the most subtle part of the overall strategy. If the British sent naval reinforcements to the Mediterranean, their strength in the Channel would be diminished. If they kept their fleet at home, they could end by losing their key naval base in the Mediterranean. The aim of the Toulon force, like that of Saxe’s Netherlands army in 1746, was to divert English attention from the invasion attempt.

Just as had happened ten years before, the diversion succeeded and the French scooped the minor prize. The British delayed too long in answering the threat to Port Mahon. Minorca was captured. This was the episode that led to the execution of Admiral Byng 'pour encourager les autres’. But the cross-Channel invasion itself could not take place because English strength in the Channel was not diluted. As a final twist to the tale of major and minor operations, it was the commander of the army of invasion in 1745-46, the due de Richelieu, who led the successful French assault on Minorca.

For the first three years of the Seven Years’ War Britain and its new ally Prussia did unexpectedly well against the combined weight of their European foes. There was no commanding voice in the French Council of State. The Foreign Minister Cardinal Bernis was ineffectual and remained adamant that there would be no further attempts at invasion of the British Isles. But at last, in December 1758, Pitt, ‘the great commoner’, found an opponent worthy of his steel. The great French aristocrat the duc de Choiseul replaced the disgraced Bernis and immediately initiated a vigorous foreign policy. He saw clearly enough that the stalemate in Germany and especially the terrible French losses in Africa, India and North America could be made good only if Britain was defeated in its island heartland. To all who doubted the wisdom of his bold policy he made a point of emphasising that the French in Canada could not hold out until the end of 1759 unless drastic action were taken. In this he proved a true prophet.

1759 was for England a year of prolonged tension, when threats and rumours of invasion persisted month after month. The sustained suspense of the year found its way into later literature-Thackeray’s Barry Lyndon is a good example-just as the protracted crisis of 1805 found an echo in Hardy’s The Dynasts. Choiseul’s plans for an invasion of England, governed from the beginning by the desperate situation in the New World, marked a return to Armada thinking in more ways than one. To begin with, the scale of operations was vaster than in any previous French invasion attempt. To a great extent this was a result of Choiseul’s decision to ignore the Jacobites. It is true that Choiseul arranged a meeting in Paris in February 1759 with an inebriate Charles Edward Stuart, and that he assured the prince that all Louis XV’s preparations would be ‘for and with the Prince and nothing done without him’. Most of this was fustian. In so far as Choiseul considered Charles Edward in 1759, he planned to use him to consolidate the French position in Scotland after a footing had been secured there. His principal concern was not the restoration of the Stuarts but the negotiation of a peace with the defeated English that would restore all French possessions lost since 1756.

The consequence of this new bearing in French invasion policy was that far greater numbers had to be committed. Whereas 10,000 men under Saxe in 1743-44, and 15,000 under Richelieu in 1745-46 were considered adequate for the job – since it was thought they would have a multiplier effect and large numbers of closet Jacobites would rise to greet them – in 1759 Choiseul had to assemble large enough numbers to achieve his objectives unaided. Forty-eight thousand troops were therefore earmarked for the Channel crossing alone. In all 100,000 veterans were to be withdrawn from Germany.

As 1759 wore on, Choiseul worked away unceasingly to bring his great enterprise to perfection. He advanced a military and diplomatic assault on Britain in echelon. On the military side, the most ingenious invasion scheme yet concocted was broached. There were to be three main strike forces plus a diversionary expedition. At Le Havre a fleet of 337 flat- bottomed boats was assembled, each one to house 600 troops. Twelve specially constructed Swedish cargo boats or prames would be loaded with cannon and mortars so as to form a floating battery. The invasion flotilla, under the command of the prince de Soubise, would sail at night in the winter of 1759 in a square formation, the prames defending the sides of the square. Landing on the south coast, this force would deliver the coup de grâce in a deadly process begun two months before.

For in the autumn an expedition under the due d’Aiguillon, escorted by Admiral Conflans’s Brest fleet, would already have cleared for Scotland. Twenty thousand strong, it would land at Glasgow, capture that city and march across Scotland to take Edinburgh. Conflans meanwhile would sail around Scotland into the North Sea and back to the continent eastabout. At Ostend he would pick up yet another force of 40,000 men under General Chevert and land them at Maldon in Essex. Meanwhile the privateer captain Francois Thurot would create a further diversion by landing 800 troops in five frigates in Northern Ireland. The landing of Soubise’s vast host on the south coast, even as Chevert marched on London from Maldon, would have the effect of a thunderbolt. The demoralised English would be certain to surrender.

There was a slight whiff of ‘too clever by half’ about this plan, and its very ingenuity tempted the French into further refinements. Choiseul, having argued that the Brest fleet was not needed to cover Soubise’s surprise crossing from Le Havre, went further a month or so later. He suggested it need only accompany d’Aiguillon as far as the Bristol Channel, when it would put about and sail to the French West Indies to combat English naval depredations there. Once again France’s self-destructive urge towards dissipation of resources and the inability to concentrate on a single objective can be detected. The proposed Conflans voyage to the New World would have been the equivalent of the Brest fleet's ill-starred attempt to relieve Louisbourg in 1746, at the precise moment when all French resources should have been concentrated on Charles Edward Stuart in Scotland.

At this point the French commanders began to remonstrate. D’Aiguillon protested that he felt confident about the Scottish expedition only if Conflans was with him all the way and then proceeded to pick up Chevert at Ostend. Then Soubise weighed in. He too, he claimed, needed some of the ships from the Brest squadron to escort his flat-bottoms. With the prames alone for defence he felt dangerously exposed. In response to this Choiseul took two fateful decisions. Since the Brest fleet could not be everywhere, the Toulon fleet was to be summoned from the Mediterranean to convoy Soubise. Conflans, meanwhile, would definitely not go to the West Indies, but would convoy d’Aiguillon as originally agreed. When d’Aiguillon’s troops had been assembled in Quiberon Bay on the Atlantic coast of Brittany, Conflans would sail the hundred miles south-east from Brest to pick them up. These two decisions were to destroy Louis XV's navy as a credible fighting force.

Meanwhile Choiseul tried to tighten the diplomatic net. On the one hand he bent all his energies to bringing Spain into the war. On the other, he tried to construct a Baltic alliance, bringing together the old enemies Sweden and Russia. The Baltic Alliance could achieve two things: it would neutralise Prussia, and it might even lead to a Russo-Swedish army of invasion landing on Scotland’s east coast.

Choiseul’s grandiose diplomatic plans foundered as completely as the military ones were to do later. Ricardo Wall, Spanish Foreign Minister, was determined to keep Spain out of the war, whatever the losses she had sustained in the Indies from the Royal Navy. Sweden drew back from an outright break with the Protestant powers, with whom she had vital trading links. Russia was unwilling to cooperate with the Swedes. Although Pitt feared Choiseul’s schemes for a grand alliance more than French invasion preparations, Choiseul was forced back into a purely military solution, engineered by France alone.

But 1759, Pitt’s annus mirabilis, was to see Choiseul’s enterprise of England as severely devastated as Phillip II’s 170 years before. The French admiral La Clue weighed anchor with the Toulon fleet in August and passed safely through the Straits of Gibraltar, only to be caught by Admiral Boscawen off the Portuguese coast. The crushing defeat of La Clue at Lagos was one of a series of British victories coming fast on top of each other that had the London bellringers weary. Minden, Lagos, Quebec – and there was worse to come for the French. But one thing was already clear. Soubise’s crossing of the Channel could take place now only if he was to cleave to the original strategy and rely on the prames. The Le Havre enterprise was not abandoned after Lagos. Instead Choiseul and Soubise went on amassing flat-bottoms, hoping Micawber-like that something would turn up.

What did come to pass was a disaster even more complete than that at Lagos. Choiseul’s Promethean 1759 project resembled the Spanish Armada in other respects than its size and scale. It was also bedevilled by the single fatal defect that had defeated the Armada even before Gravelines: the geographical separation of army and navy. Choiseul and Minister of War Belle-Isle had agreed that one of the reasons Richelieu's 1745 project had gone awry was rivalry between army and navy. To avoid inter-service squabbling in the crucial months of preparation, Conflans had been stationed at Brest with the fleet, and d’Aiguillon at Quiberon one hundred miles away. The fatal flaw in this division of forces was shown up when Admiral Edward Hawke moved in with his fleet for a close blockade of Brest. If d’Aiguillon’s army had been ready to embark at Brest, all the French would have needed to do was await the first westerly gale. This would have forced Hawke off station and allowed them to clear for Scotland. By sailing at once on a change of wind to the east, Conflans could have reached the Irish sea before Hawke’s squadron began its pursuit.

By October Conflans, chafing under Hawke’s blockade, had written to the Royal Council, proposing to issue out to sea and engage Hawke’s fleet. Assuming he was successful, he would then proceed south to pick up d’Aiguillon’s forces and set a course for the Irish Sea. In mid-October Louis XV gave his assent to the plan. It still had not occurred to anyone to question the wisdom of assembling a fleet in one port and an army in another.

Immediately after receiving Louis XV’s reply, Conflans had a chance of reaching Quiberon when contrary winds blew Hawke off station. To his consternation Conflans found that the long immobility in the port had brought sickness to many of his sailors and that his ships were in need of repair. The chance was lost. News of this contretemps reached Louis XV and threw him into a rage. He ordered Conflans to put to sea at the earliest possible moment and engage Hawke at all costs.

Now the weather took a hand. From 6 to 9 November a gale of unusual ferocity blew, building up in intensity over the three-day period. Hawke battled with ninety-mile-an-hour winds and fifty-foot waves. He was in danger of being swept away up-Channel. No sooner was he driven off station, than reinforcements from the French West Indies reached Brest in the form of seven ships of the line under Admiral Bompart.

Now at last, with the weather easing, Conflans was able to get under way. Assured that the gale had placed the British fleet out of reach, he got his ships out into the Bay of Biscay. At this stage Hawke was two hundred miles to his rear, while only 130 miles lay between Conflans and Quiberon. It seemed certain that the French would achieve the embarkation of d’Aiguillon’s army. Yet, in a superb display of seamanship and aided greatly by the winds, Hawke overhauled the enemy. By 19 November the gales had forced Conflans far to the west. The two fleets were equidistant from Belle-Isle, approaching it on converging courses, the British from the west, the French from the south-west.

On the 20th the two fleets came in sight of each other. Seeing Hawke’s superior numbers, and mindful of the ultimate point of his mission, Conflans decided to run for cover in Quiberon Bay. He should have been safe enough. It was against all rules of prudence and ordinary seamanship for the Royal Navy to give chase in a forty-knot wind and an alarming swell. In addition, there was no room in Quiberon Bay for two large fleets to manoeuvre. Not knowing the shoals, the British could easily run themselves onto the rocks.

Nevertheless Hawke hoisted the chase. Around noon on 20 November his vanguard caught up with the French rear as it rounded the Cardinals – the group of rocks marking the western entrance to Quiberon Bay. At half-past two on a winter’s afternoon, lashed by gales, the two fleets secured for action. So high were the waves that it was dangerous to open the lower gun-ports, lest the sea smash in through the opening. Fortune indeed favoured the brave this day. No sooner had the first shots been exchanged than the wind veered round from west-south-west to west-north-west, throwing the French into confusion but letting the British into the bay.

The crux of the battle came in the hour between 4 and 5 p.m. First the French flagship surrendered, devastated by gunfire. Then another French man o’war tried to use its main batteries in the ferocious wind and swell, was swamped and sank in minutes. At around 4.40 p.m. the French ship Superbe received two broadsides from HMS Royal George and sank within seconds with the loss of all hands. Both the ships that had disappeared into the deep had crews composed of Bretons, many of them conscripted peasants who had never seen the sea before. Out of nearly thirteen hundred crewmen on the two ships only twenty-two survived.

Night now descended, and both victors and vanquished spent a dreadful night in the gale. In the morning Hawke continued his task of destruction. When the battle was over seven French ships of the line had been destroyed or captured. Although some French warships did escape, the French navy was finished as a credible fighting force.

Quiberon was one of the truly decisive sea battles in naval history. The French Marine never recovered during the reign of Louis XV. For the rest of the Seven Years’ War France was helpless against the Royal Navy, both in the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic. All idea of invasion of Britain had to be laid aside. The three armies of Soubise, d’Aiguillon and Chevert were dispersed to Germany. Any lingering hope of Stuart restoration was destroyed forever. As the comte de Germiny, the twentieth-century French naval historian, summed up Quiberon’s impact on France: ‘It brought on us a bewilderment and a sense of helplessness which can only be compared with the huge disappointment experienced later by Napoleon I on account of the disaster at Trafalgar.’

If the French mistakes in 1759 seemed to echo those of the Armada, there were shades of 1719 present also. For, once again, while the major invading forces were routed, the tiny diversionary force got through. In mid-October 1759, a month before Quiberon, Thurot’s Irish expedition cleared from Dunkirk in six vessels carrying eleven hundred troops (instead of the original fifteen hundred) under the command of Brigadier Flobert. The fatal circumspection Choiseul and Belle-Isle had exercised over inter-service collaboration seemed fully justified by the sad example of this expedition. Although Thurot had been made commander-in-chief of the combined operation, Flobert thwarted him at every turn, being guilty of acts of insubordination both great and small.

Evading the Royal Navy in the North Sea proved no easy task. Thurot put in at Gothenburg in late October and waited for more than a fortnight for the hue and cry in English waters to die down. Then he devised a plan to carry his fleet northabout to Ireland. In case of separation through storms or enemy action, his ships were to rendezvous at Bergen. Anyone failing to fetch Bergen should proceed to the second rendezvous in the Faroe Islands.

The preparations were wise. Sailing from Gothenburg on 14 November, the fleet was scattered by storms. Two of the ships failed to make the first rendezvous. Then heavy seas prevented them getting to the Faroes before late December. A council of war decided in favour of returning to France, but Thurot overruled the decision and sailed for Ireland at the beginning of January 1760.

This imperious action played into the hands of Flobert, who now had the majority of officers on his side. When Thurot ordered him to land and attack the city of Derry (Londonderry), Flobert refused. Faced with the prospect of wholesale mutiny, Thurot capitulated and agreed to return to Dunkirk. But when the winds veered, he ordered his frigates to make for France through the Irish Sea, intending to trick Flobert and make landfall in Northern Ireland. Alerted to Thurot’s game, Flobert agreed to put in to Carrickfergus, but only to take on water and provisions. Thurot then demanded an amphibious assault on both Belfast and Carrickfergus. Flobert compromised and agreed to attack Carrickfergus alone. The town and castle were taken after some hard fighting, but the French victory was costly: they lost nineteen men killed and another thirty wounded. These losses added weight to Flobert’s refusal to proceed to the capture of Belfast.

The news of the French landing was received with panic in nearby Belfast and with incredulity in Dublin. The defeat of both the Atlantic and Mediterranean fleets meant that after Quiberon all precautions in Ireland had been relaxed. The authorities quickly recovered and sent troops north. Pausing only to spike the cannon in Carrickfergus castle, Thurot quickly re-embarked his men. But contrary winds and high seas forced the four frigates to heave to. In the meantime three English warships closed on them. When the warships were sighted Thurot signalled to engage, but the dispirited mariners in the other French ships ignored his call to rally and pursued their course. Thurot cleared for action in his flagship, yet there could be only one end to such an unequal combat. After a ferocious battle at close quarters Thurot himself was killed. His underlings struck the colours. French casualties were upwards of three hundred; the other frigates had surrendered too.

So ended what the discomfited Jacobites referred to sneeringly as 'Thurot's invasion of Ireland'. Yet with a good military commander, instead of the defeatist Flobert, Thurot might have achieved great things. Forty years later General Humbert was to show what even very small numbers of French troops could achieve on Irish soil.

Despite Thurot's heroism, the Irish adventure of 1759-60 remained a mere sideshow. Quiberon, the Royal Navy’s greatest triumph to date, ushered in the golden age of British sea power, from the Seven Years’ War to the victories of Nelson. The Admiralty now seemed to have found the magic formula that made the British Isles proof against invasion. First there had to be a close blockade of the major French ports like Brest, with the Royal Navy always dogging its opposite number. Next, there had to be a flotilla of small frigates and cruisers to oppose the invader’s transports, in case attempts were made at an unescorted dash across the Channel, of the kind Soubise had been exhorted to attempt with the prames. Finally, an efficient intelligence system had to be kept in being, so that enemy intentions could be known precisely. Choiseul had long since concluded that invasion schemes could not be kept secret, but he still hoped to baffle the opposition as to their nature. Yet the British secret service scored some great triumphs in 1759, intercepting not just Choiseul’s diplomatic dispatches to Sweden, which revealed the scope of his grand design, but also some of his precise instructions to military commanders in the field, containing details of feints and diversions.

The French for their part had to try to crack the nut of the seemingly impregnable British defences, always bearing in mind that the principal object of their planning had to be a landing in England itself. All other projects were to be designed merely to puzzle the enemy, to divert his attention, or to make him divide his forces. The ultimate aim was always to achieve numerical superiority in the Channel, so that the Royal Navy was unable to prevent the passage of an invading army or to hamper its disembarkation on English soil.

The final lesson of 1759 was that the sea battles themselves were becoming more deadly. For the first time they began to have direct as well as indirect consequences. Warships were being sunk by accurate broadsides from narrow range at the very height of a battle. At all levels in the naval duel the risks were higher.

But precisely because the stakes were so high, French invasion schemes increased in intensity. So far was Choiseul from accepting Quiberon as the last word that, once Spain had entered the war on France’s side in 1762, he began again to mount an invasion project. This time the key was to be colonial diversion, more plausible now with the help of Spain. While Spain moved to invade Portugal and besiege Gibraltar, hoping to take out both the Rock and the chief supply port of the Mediterranean fleet at Lisbon, the French fleet would be sent to the West Indies, ostensibly for a major campaign of reconquest. In this way Admiral Saunders would be kept occupied in the Mediterranean and Rodney in the Caribbean. Further British naval forces were already occupied in the close blockade of Rochefort, the port to which the French survivors of Quiberon had fled. To add icing to his strategic cake, Choiseul proposed to enter into peace negotiations with the newly formed Bute government in London.

While the enemy was thus distracted, Choiseul would attempt to achieve domination of the Channel for five weeks. He would assemble his new fleet of twenty-eight ships at Ferrol in Spain. Ferrol was chosen because the British were likely to think that any preparations there were aimed at Gibraltar. The freshly constructed French squadron would then clear from Ferrol and head for the Channel.

Meanwhile Choiseul hoped for complete surprise in the Channel as a result of making ready only a handful of transports at Dunkirk and Calais. At the last moment 50,000 troops assembled openly as a would-be reserve for the Westphalian army between the Meuse and the lower Rhine would make a forced march for the coast. An advance force embarking in the few available transports would secure a beachhead in England. Once the card of total surprise had been played, more transports could be used openly to ferry successive waves of reinforcements over the Channel at great speed. While all this was being achieved, the new French fleet would bar the eastern Channel to all comers.

Once again Choiseul’s secrets leaked out. This time the debacle was attributable to the efficiency of the British secret service. Hawke was designated commander-in-chief of all naval defences. Knowing the French plan in detail, he concentrated both in the Channel and outside Ferrol. The close investment of Ferrol effectively sealed the fate of Choiseul’s 1762 project.

The Treaty of Paris brought the Seven Years’ War to an end but did not blunt the keen edge of Choiseul’s desire for revenge. And now at last he received the assistance of a minister of his own calibre. Charles-Frangois, comte de Broglie, was the younger brother of the Marechal due de Broglie. Even more significantly, he had been Louis XV’s agent in the secret foreign policy the king carried on behind the backs of his own ministers – le secret du roi. Convinced that invasion plans hitherto had suffered from amateurishness, de Broglie sifted patiently through all available data on the Channel and the south coast of England before submitting a comprehensive invasion project to the king in 1765. France, he assumed, could count on Spanish cooperation. Therefore de Broglie proposed a main attack and no less than six diversionary operations. The subsidiary projects would be divided between the Bourbon allies. Spain’s job would be to attack Jamaica, besiege Gibraltar and land forces in Ireland. France would attack in India, lay siege to Minorca and land troops in Scotland. While the Royal Navy spent its strength in dealing with these threats, a French army of men in four divisions would be landed at Rye, Winchelsea, Hastings and Pevensey. From there the army would march on London.

The professionalism of the scheme showed itself in the avoidance of divided resources. The mistakes of 1745 and 1759 would not be repeated. The sole dissipation of resources would occur at the six peripheral points. De Broglie intended to avoid the excessive caution of his predecessors. Arguing that offence was the best defence, he had no thought of keeping French troops garrisoned at home to ward off a possible English counterattack. His strategy was free from the timidity, wishful thinking and daydreaming that had bedevilled earlier French projects. Its only weakness was the assumption that a major sea battle with the English could be avoided. In this alone it fell short of 1759 thinking. But the weakness was itself also explained by 1759. The shadow of Quiberon still hung over France, both objectively and psychologically. Not only was the French navy in no condition to give battle to the British, but Hawke’s victory had traumatised the French admirals. They no longer had the necessary confidence in the possibility of victory in a set-piece engagement.

In the late 1760s Choiseul tinkered with de Broglie’s ideas, at once strengthening and weakening the original conception. He strengthened the scheme by recognising that a naval battle was the indispensable preliminary to any credible invasion project. With Spain as an ally, that no longer seemed quite the chimerical prospect it once had. But Choiseul weakened de Broglie’s ideas by insisting on keeping back naval and military manpower to guard French and Spanish ports and supply lines in case of counterattack.

The most salient feature of the synoptic version of the invasion of England that Choiseul evolved in the years 1768-70 was the emergence of Portsmouth as the key French target. If ever the French could get ashore in England – and according to Choiseul landfall was best made on the West Sussex coast between Littlehampton and Chichester – the invading army should immediately divide. One section would advance towards London as far as Guildford and Dorking. The other would proceed to Portsea Island and attack the entrenchments of the ‘Portsea Lines’. The fleet would meanwhile land marines at Gosport. Squeezed between these two forces, Portsmouth would capitulate after a short siege. The Isle of Wight would next be secured and all surplus troops dispatched to join the first army at Guildford and Dorking. Advancing on London, this army would secure the crossings of the Thames to the south-west of the city (at Putney, Kew, Kingston and Hampton Court) and then establish itself on the heights of Hampstead and Highgate.

In Choiseul's original 1768-70 plan, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight had an equal priority with London as French objectives. The idea was that they could be used as bargaining counters in the subsequent peace negotiations. For the purpose of French invasions under the ancien régime had now changed. The goal was no longer the restoration of the Stuarts but the reacquisition of the French colonial empire. Canada for Portsmouth, India for London, these were the stakes Choiseul envisaged. But as time went on, the notion took hold in Versailles that the seizure of Portsmouth could be turned into something permanent. What if Portsmouth could become in French hands what Calais had been to the English in the Hundred Years’ War? This seemed a tall order, but England had already proved it could be done by defending Gibraltar against Spanish incursions. If Portsmouth proved too difficult, the Isle of Wight could he held permanently, just as the English held the Channel Islands.

In emphasising the vehemence of Choiseul’s anti-English crusade, it is important not to present him anachronistically as a precursor of twentieth-century total war. Wars in the eighteenth century were fought for limited objectives. Choiseul’s aims in the invasion of England were to wipe out the results of the first four years of the Seven Years’ War, to secure France’s colonial empire and to regain lost territories. He did not wish to leave a permanent army of occupation in England, and still less to attempt a revolutionary overthrow of the social and economic system of the Glorious Revolution. He was at best always ambivalent about the restoration of the Stuarts, which he saw as a possible but by no means necessary pendant to the conclusion of a satisfactory peace that would give France all she wanted. Like other ministers after him, Choiseul saw that it would be a mistake to crush England utterly. Such an achievement would merely take France back to the days of Louis XIV, when she was an object of universal fear and jealousy. If the French became too powerful, the effect would simply be to raise up a European coalition against them. It served French interests well to have England as a continuing bugbear on the continent.

When the peace-loving Louis XVI succeeded to the throne in 177-4, all thought of invasion seemed to have been laid aside. Then suddenly the French were provided with their best-ever chance of undoing the humiliation of the Peace of Paris. Once again the precipitant towards an invasion of the British Isles lay in America.

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