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Louis XIV’s Marshal (1611-1675)

A keen student of the art of war, Turenne was appointed Marshal General of the camps and armies of the King in 1660. First in the service of Louis XIII and then of Louis XIV, in the course of his military campaigns he became the best commander of troops of his period. He distinguished himself particularly in his campaigns against the old enemy of the kingdom, Spain. When he died on the battlefield in 1675, Turenne was buried with all the honours due to his rank and fame.

Known as the “greatest army commander before Napoléon”, Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne, was born on 11 september 1611, the son of a marshal, who destined him for the army. He was taught the art of war from his earliest boyhood. In 1629, he served as a volunteer in Holland in the army of the Etats Généraux (Third Estate), under the orders of his uncle Frédéric-Henri, the Prince of Orange. But his regular stays at the Court aroused the benevolent interest of Cardinal Richelieu, minister of Louis XIII, and he finally chose to pursue his career in France. His noble rank and his great qualities enabled him to climb the military ladder very rapidly to the highest posts.

On the death of Richelieu in 1642, Turenne became a friend of his successor, Cardinal Mazarin, then in the service of the Regent and the very young Louis XIV. In 1648, he obtained from Ferdinand III the signature of the Treaty of Westphalia which put an end to the Thirty Years War. This was yet another victory for the Vicomte. However, during the troubled period of the Fronde rebellion, he decided that his reward was too modest and went over to the side of the insurgents. But in 1651 he rallied to the Regent and defeated the Prince de Condé. In 1659 he drew up the Treaty of the Pyrenees which marked the end of the Franco-Spanish war. The following year he became Marshal General of the camps and armies of the King, Colonel General of the light cavalry, Governor of Limousin and Minister of State.

Before being killed in 1675 by a cannon ball, he gave a military training to Louis XIV and restructured the army. The King had him buried in the basilica of Saint-Denis. In the following century, Napoleon moved his remains to the Invalides necropolis.

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