The battle of Malplaquet - Quévy
12,000 dead, 35,000 victims in a single day.
For most of us 11 September brings to mind the collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and its 2,977 victims. It should be noted that in history, September 11 was already a date synonymous with tragedy and thousands of deaths. It was 300 years before the New York terror attacks, the cameras weren’t there for filming and the stakes were quite different. But just as in 2001, 11 September 1709 had a before and an after. The history of Europe would be changed.
Stop Louis XIV!The boundaries that currently define Belgium’s profile have of course not always been the same. They have continued to move through the centuries and were laid down after many conflicts. Among the biggest wars, the War of the Spanish Succession wreaked havoc in the area. When Charles II of Habsburg, King of Spain, died childless, his crown was returned to his grandnephew Philippe of France, who is none other than the grandson of Louis XIV. The European powers of the North hence took a very dim view of Louis XIV’s lust for land who, allying with Spain, consolidated his dominating power over Europe a little further. Feeling threatened, they rallied against the Sun King and tried to halt his cravings for conquest.
Posted in the woods
So we’re in 1709 with the coalition forces led by the valiant British general Marlborough (Malbrouck in French) and Prince Eugene of Savoy, at the mercy of the Austrians who are preparing to attack Mons. Galvanized by their victory at Audenarde, Lille and Tournai, they intend to inflict a new defeat on the French.
On this sunny 11 September morning, they know the French army behind them and want to fight it in the plain of Quévy where their cavalry could be deployed easily...
However, French war leader Villars has set up his troops in the gap of Malplaquet between two woods, and events won’t be taking place as they’d imagined.
A debacle without victors
106,000 men must fight the 79,000 French soldiers facing them but the gap is too narrow for them to involve everyone. The battle gets bogged down. It’s a farcical sight and the losses are huge. The fighting lasting more than 8 hours. At 3pm, the French eventually retreat. They are losing the battle but the allies are far from victory. The losses are such (more than 20,000 victims) that they give up pursuing the French. To this day we don’t even know who won this battle!
The Malbrouck circuit
Long etched in our memories, the battle of Malplaquet now features in a marked circuit: the Malbrouck circuit. From Pace de Blarégnies, head towards Aulnois and then towards the French border over the famous places of that terrible day. Between woods and countryside, the landscapes now seem calmer. The memorials and information signs allow you to understand what played out here three centuries ago. The fate of Europe. A few years later, in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht finally put an end to the War of the Spanish Succession.