Turenne was transferred to the Rhineland to fend off German allies of the Dutch, skillfully fighting Brandenburgers and allied German and Imperial princes over the winter of 1672-1673. In a series of clever surprise maneuvers, he crossed Westphalia to desolate Brandenburg, forcing Friedrich-Wilhelm temporarily out of the war.
Less than a week after the Capture of Gibraltar, Admiral George Rooke received intelligence that a French fleet under the command of Toulouse and d’Estrées was approaching Gibraltar. Leaving half his marines to defend the newly won prize, Rooke immediately set off with his combined Anglo-Dutch fleet to engage the French.
An action during the British fleet’s blockade of the French port of Toulon between 1810 and 1814, depicted by Thomas Luny.
Having beaten the Russians and the Austrians, Napoleon would have liked to resume the invasion of England he had planned for 1805. Yet Napoleon’s expansion of the French army after 1804 had been at the expense of the French navy, which in 1805 could muster just ninety-six battleships to Britain’s 136. As would be the case until 1945, Great Britain took pains to maintain a bigger navy than any European adversary. In 1805 the Royal Navy counted 1,000 ships and 142,000 sailors, making the Napoleonic Wars that proverbial contest between the (British) `whale’ and the (French) `elephant’. The Grande Armée indisputably ruled Europe, but the Royal Navy ruled the waves, and was able to impose a crippling embargo on French trade, supplies and movements (Kennedy 1976: 123-47). Furthermore, in terms of naval training, the British were far ahead of the French, who had purged most of their naval officers during the Revolution. Between 1789 and 1792, the French navy had lost twenty-two of twenty-seven admirals and 128 of 170 captains; most had sensibly chosen exile over death when threatened by their sans-culotte crews (Blanning 1996: 196-9; Griffith 1998: 131-2; R. Harding 1999: 273-7). With attrition like this in the skilled cadres, it was no wonder that the French failed to win a single major sea battle with the British in all of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
With matters in such a state, the end came quickly. Though Napoleon continued to fight and manoeuvre relentlessly, he could achieve little. On 9 March Bentinck had landed at Livorno from where, having issued a call for a national revolt against the French that met with no response whatsoever, he marched on Genoa. On 12 March Bordeaux had proclaimed Louis XVIII, its authorities having first made sure that they would be immediately relieved by the Anglo-Portuguese army. As in 1870 and 1940, refugees were streaming west, adding to the confusion. Among those who fled Paris as the enemy closed in was the wife of Marshal Oudinot:
Napoleon and his staff are returning from Soissons after the battle of Laon.
The war, then, continued. Back in France Napoleon proceeded to try to rebuild his fortunes. Already a fiction, the French kingdom of Spain was now abandoned: Joseph Bonaparte had already been brusquely sacked in the wake of Vitoria, and, deciding that the moment was ripe to cut his losses, Napoleon now sent a message to Madrid offering to release the imprisoned Ferdinand VII on the understanding that he would make peace with France and expel the Anglo-Portuguese. When these terms were firmly rejected, he decided to release Ferdinand anyway, but while chaos ensued – the result was a military coup that restored absolutism – it was much too late to make any difference. What was left of France’s Peninsular army was therefore going to have to keep fighting in the south-west.