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Happy Treaty of Ryswick Day! The Nine Year’s War is Over! The War of Spanish Succession will soon begin!

September 20, 2014

Louis xiv

Today is the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697.  Yay!   Hip hip something.  The Nine Years War is over.  Everybody take a short breather before The War of Spanish Succession Starts (which is basically kind of like the same war).  So here is Louis XIV, the world’s most powerful human.

I must I must I must put a proper pitch together for my Matthew Prior book.  I published an article on Prior and Diplomacy for Digital Defoe last year.

And I’ve a chapter on Prior and Cowper in this volume as well.

If I don’t write a book on Prior I don’t know who will.  I anybody knows anybody who really is writing a book on Prior, then do please let me know so that I can get scared enough to speed up my writing.

Prior was a peacemaker.  Not just someone who calms down ruffled feathers, soothes nerves and buys everyone another round after the pints have been spilt.  Prior made great big peaces, the kind of peaces that guarantee years at a time with no European pitched battles, the kind of peaces that save (by any conservative estimate) thousands of human lives.  He was just an assistant to the making of the Peace of Ryswick, whereas he was one of the sharpest and most decisive negotiators of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).

Ancien Regime rulers defined themselves overwhelmingly in military terms.  It was in military terms that they measured themselves against both their European rivals and their own ancestors.  The Stuarts, the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs… the Houses of Orange and Hanover – measured their own self worth in terms of spilt blood.  It took clever people (like Prior) to persuade any of them to stop, even for a few years at a stretch.  Louis XIV was ruler of the most cultivated nation on earth and his ministers were some of the most gifted individuals on earth – and most of them would rather Louis had reined in his military hubris.  William of Orange practically lived on horseback.   He rarely gave a thought to his subjects’ good governance and devoted pretty much his entire adult life to plans to defeat the armies of Louis XIV.

The Nine Years’ War is the sort of war that makes eyes glaze over whenever it is mentioned.  Which is rarely enough.  It’s a war full of hard to pronounce place names and over-hyphenated royal titles – with a cast of characters in stupendous wigs which obscure the features making it hard enough to tell the chief players apart.

But it’s also a war in which real people died in their hundreds and thousands.  Ordinary people dragged away from the plough to kill other ordinary people dragged away from their ploughs – all to satisfy a definition of dynasty glory.  Children across Europe growing up fatherless and confused, crops trampled, villages pillaged… endless waste and hunger and cold.

And then there’s Matthew Prior, son of a Dorsetshire joiner, quick-witted, personable and briefly the finest English poet of his age – helping to make it all stop for just a short time.


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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    The Nine Year’s War is over! Rejoice! And thank Matthew Prior.

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