Saving James Stuart
By smacdowall, May 23 2016 12:12PM
On the afternoon of 12 May 1658 a convoy led by le Marquis de la Salle is approaching the village of Audruicq, ostensibly on its way to Dunkerque. In the middle of the column is a rather splendid coach which contains James, Duke of York, who was taken prisoner at the Battle of Ardes.
Cardinal Mazarin’s dragoons, forming the advance guard of the French column, come under fire from the village. They dismount and deploy out into a skirmish line while de la Salle brings up his cavalry on his right to clear the village. de la Salle’s cavalry ride down the English musketeers who have no pikemen with them. Supported by fire from Mazarin’s dismounted dragoons, the French cavalry carry on into the village, driving off the Spanish dragoons who had been defending it.
Meanwhile the French rearguard (off table) reports having sighted an unidentified body of foot coming up from behind, about a kilometre away. This ‘unidentified body of foot’ is 8 companies of English Commonwealth troops led by Major General Lockhart and accompanied by the redoubtable puritan preacher Rev. Samuel Fairclought. The English want to get their hands on James Stuart for fair trial and execution but Lockhart has to tread a fine line as he must not break Cromwell’s alliance with the French. As he approaches the French rearguard his men drive off some irregular cavalry ‘in outlandish dress’. Neither Lockhart nor de la Salle know that these are Scots cavalry serving King Charles II in exile.
Colonel Thomas Blague, commander of the British Royalist force, is holding Audruicq with a company of Spanish dragoons, several companies of English musketeers and two battalions of Scottish foot. His lifeguards, supported by some French horse provided by Prince Condé, are waiting off to the south ready to close in while his Scottish and Croat irregulars are shadowing the French convoy.
James and his current mistress step out of the coach to see what is going on while the French gunners heave a light gun into position as enemy cavalry approach from the south. To the north, a company of French musketeers deploys to defend the Royal prisoner.
One of the Scottish battalions emerges out of the rough ground to the north to rescue James but the escorting French musketeers make a stand. They are cut to pieces by the Scots and the survivors surrender. However they buy enough time for the convoy to move on spiriting James beyond the reach of his would-be Scottish rescuers.
By this time de la Salle has cleared Audruicq. As the tail end of the convoy reaches the outskirts the supply wagons are attacked by Croat light cavalry in Prince Condé’s pay who are more interested in looting the wagons than in helping their paymaster.
Coming up from the south to support the British Royalists, Condé’s Horse charge the Gendarmes Écossais who form the rearguard of de la Salle’s column. The two lines of cavalry pass through each other and in the process the commander of the Gendarmes, Louis-Étienne Texier, Chevalier d’Hautefeuille, is captured. The Gendarmes however ride through Condé’s Horse to clash with Colonel Blague’s lifeguards, capturing the British Royalist leader in the process.
A brief parlay ensues. The Gendarmes Écossais are not unsympathetic to Col Blague’s plan to rescue James. After all the Duke of York had been their commander until 2 years ago. They agree to release Blague and give him cautious support, careful not to do anything which might cause too much trouble with Cardinal Mazarin should things go wrong.
Back in command of the Royalist Lifeguards, Colonel Blague leads them in a last ditch attempt to intercept the coach and free James. He is, however, driven off by de la Salle’s cavalry.
Meanwhile the English Commonwealth troops have arrived in the rear of de la Salle’s position. Encouraged by Rev. Fairclought they deploy to engage the Blague’s Royalist Scots. The Scots hold their ground and as the two British forces fight amongst each other, de la Salle leads the convoy off to the south and safety.
So it seems as if James remains a prisoner of the French. However, as we need him back for the Battle of the Dunes we decided that he managed to escape after all. As de la Salle was celebrating his victory that evening he was distracted by the charms of Madamoiselle X who had been travelling in the Duke of York's entourage. In the morning neither James and M'moiselle X could be found. De la Salle was nursing a bit of a hang over and working out what he would say the Cardinal Mazarin. Perhaps he might be better off taking service with the English King Charles!