The Sun King's aftermath:
With the corpse of our beloved Louis XIV resting peacefully in fresh earth, Europe, led by Austria, followed the roads of war once more. Claiming the throne of France despite the will of the Sun King and rightful power of Louis XV, Leopold I pushed France into a conflict that would not see an end for at least a decade.
With Great Britain and the United Provinces now threatening all northern France and trade routes, the timid Louis XV decided to deal with manageable threats in hope that time would transform this conflict into a simple disagreement. Savoy and Wuttenberg would be the pawns used to show the strength of France and it's king!
The Savoy's war
General Claude de Villars was dispatched from Paris with a resonable force to deal with Savoy, one way or another. Obviously the subtle ways of late Louis XIV did not send the proper message and it had been decided that Savoy was too great a risk, and a cost, to play mind games.
General de Villars, eager to mark his name into the papers of France's new king, boldly moved his troops into Nice to face the Savoyards.
Superior training and tactic prevailed and it was on this day that the legend of General de Villars began, as he led the charge into the barricaded lines.
With "affordable" losses on his side and total defeat of the Savoyards, General de Villars decided to push forward into Turin without delay. Despite Louis XV orders to offer no surrender as this campaign was meant to show the strenght of the Kingdom, it was offered, and refused. In 6 months, the battle for Brudges was over and after bloody ubran fightings, Savoy lay battered and conquered in front of General de Villars.
The southern border was safe once again, France, via nice, had now a way into Mediterranean trades, which would prove very useful in the years to come.
The Huron war
With France being under direct threat on the mainland and the Americas trade routes cut off by the United Provinces and Great Britain, the regions of Quebec and Upper Canada were left to themselves to handle the discreet but powerful danger of the Huron tribes.
Short on modern supplies and with no news of reinforcements from France, the Governor of Quebec turned to the friendly Iroquoix for council and help. For more than a year many skirmish battles were fought mainly by the natives to give time for Montreal and Quebec to train a proper army. The skills for ambush of the Iroquoix, as well as their culture, never ceased to amaze the Governor and during these years, a true respect developped.
In 1712, Quebec's army was ready and on the move. Most skirmishers were recalled to join the force and the first real battles against the massive invading Huron forces were fought. By combining modern technology and Iroquoix's ways of war, the Huron were pushed back after a very long and bloody battle far north west of Quebec.
The victory cries were short however as, the same year, another force of Huron revealed itself from it's hiding right on the doorstep of Montreal! The city would be under siege in a matter of weeks and there was no way the main force, led by the young Philippe de Vaudreil, the very son of the Governor of Quebec, could reach it in time.
Militia was trained in a hurry both in Quebec and Montreal, hoping that it would be enough to keep the Huron's at bay.
Here, Philippe de Vaudreil was left with an impossible choice: To come back and pray for a timely rescue of Montreal, or to push forward into Huron territory to deal with the threat once and for all, praying that Upper Canada would prevail. After much consideration and, according to some, under advisement from an Iroquoix chief, the latter was chosen and he pushed his armies to their limit to Fort Sault St. Marie.
God must have been on the French's side in this far away land, for not only Montreal was able, after a very bloody battle, to push back the invading forces in 1712, but de Vaudreil managed to siege and take the Fort the very next year, leaving only a very remote Huron stronghold far to the north west.
By 1714, the Huron were no longer a threat. Despite not being needed anymore, the Governor welcomed the Iroquoix with wide arms and went to meet the tribe leaders on many occasion in the two following years. Philippe de Vaudreil was named temporary Governor of the newly conquered territory though his father became increasingly worried as more and more he went on "wild trips" with the natives, sometimes for weeks...
Another type of war, Europe, the northern front
As France received good news from their remote colonies of Upper Canada and Quebec and the victories of de Villars against Savoy were still clamored, the situation for the Kingdom was dire: another type of war was being fought and France was losing!
With thousands of men garrisoned on the eastern border, thousands more still in Savoy to secure the land and arrange treaties with Geneoa, France was close to bankrupcy due to it's only trading port, Le Havre, being under constant blocade from Great Britain and the United Provinces. No match for a naval conflict against these nations, the country was in a dire situation. Despite high taxes however, the people of France understood the severity of the moment and decided to give King Louis XV a chance.
The plan to remedy the situation was threefold:
- First bring money in.
Use Nice, the newly captured trade port from Savoy, to secure trades far from the reach of the Great Britain and United Provinces ships. Here, the Ottoman Empire was the best candidate and despite their many differences, a treaty was agreed on, with rumours mentioning vast amount of money to Ottoman officials. Another deal was made with the far and emerging Maratha Condederacy.
- Second, a display of strength.
Deal with the threat that was Wuttenberg as fast as possible, in continuation with the idea that France needed to show strength without engaging directly with the greater powers but that obviously Savoy was not enough. To that end, the famous General de Villars was recalled from Savoy to lead the eastern armies.
Faithful to his reputation, de Villars engaged into battle with Wuttenberg and in 2 years, brought it to it's knees. His use of the newly trained Grenadier forces in the campaign of Wuttenberg would be studied for decades in the acadamies of France.
With this threat dealt with, his new orders were to push forward into Bavaria with his elite troops and by 1718, de Villars entered Munich triumphant with minimal losses against incredible odds. By that time, de Villars was legendary in France and was worshipped by his men. His Grenadiers shock troops were feared across all Europe.
- Third, balance of power.
This was the end goal of all the campaigns of France: re-establish a balance of power in Europe with France at it's center. Doing so would re-open the trade routes and by this, allow France to secure it's treasury and strengthen all it's positions.
By 1716, Great Britain and France met on equal terms to discuss a cease-fire. As Louis XV thought, the English had very little love toward the United Provinces and their rapid growth since the capture of Hanover was starting to worry them. The cease-fire allowed Le Havre to become once again a major trading port and for almost a year afterwards, Paris was under near constant celebration.
By 1717, France needed a new ally in the East to use as leverage against the coming economic (and land) war with the United Provinces. Here, only one stood above the rest: Prussia.
Fighting against incredible odds since early 1700, Prussia was now an Empire and had crushed Austria almost entirely with the help of Poland. Now faced with the Ottoman Empire to the south and the threatening protestants of the Provinces to the West, Prussia was all too eager to sign an Alliance with France, whose recent conquest proved strong enough to be respected by Friedrich the 1st.
Worried about his empire being overstretched and wanting to strengthen this young alliance, King Louis XV, in 1718, boldly offered the newly conquered Bavaria to Prussia. This left General de Villars a bit angered since he had lost good men in the battles but he withdrew nonetheless into Wuttenberg with his armies, ordered to strengthen the frontiers with the United Provinces.
1717-1720: The silent years
By 1718, France was now seemingly at peace and new alliances made the French Empire a major player in Europe.
The war with the United Provinces was a silent one, with no troops involved directly. This war had some casualities however, including the famous French agent Urbain Despréaux, who was discovered near Cologne and disappeared in 1714. His skills in information gathering were cruely missed since.
Other than that, it was back to business as usual in a newly configured Europe. Great Britain was showing a vastly increased interest in the new world, which was a growing worry since Louis XV had high hopes for Upper Canada and Quebec, seen as beacons of the French power over sea.
The geopolitical landscape by the year 1720 was a dangerous one and with the current alliances, one wrong move would put all Europe into war once again...
As Louis XV thought about the future, one thing became clear: Seas had to be controlled.
With his country almost brought down when the trade routes had been cut off, he now clearly saw that the only way to secure France on the long run was to use the shipyard of Brest and Marseille to build a fleet that would commend the respect and fear that France needed. Once done, the Kingdom would be able to deal on equal footing with the foolish Protestants rebels of the United Provinces while keeping Great Britain at bay.