Prince Eugen of Savoy
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Top customer reviews
Particular strong points of the book are that it is well-written, quite witty here & there, and that it covers things from the Habsburg perspective which is interesting as most english-language books about this period tend to be a bit too anglo-centric. I also liked that the author is sometimes very opiniated, e.g. about the less than glorious way the British government withdrew from the War of Spanish Succession.
On the other hand, it would have been nice if the book would have included more detail on the battles that Eugene fought. Whereas some battles are treated in at least some detail, most others are only sort of mentioned in passing (sometimes merely mentioning the outcome of a battle) and that is too bad since Eugene's life really was about warfare, and the reason for his enduring fame was his battle-winning skill. The book is quite compact and could have easily been expanded a bit, with more extensive descriptions of his main battles, without becoming overweight.
Overall, high marks.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Setting out to find out what more I could about Eugen, I found Henderson's biography, and little else. As one reviewer has already pointed out, Henderson focuses broadly on Eugen's whole life and does not give perceptive analysis concerning Eugen's military exploits. Hopefully someday a military historian will write a book on Eugen's generalship, or such an existing work will be translated into English.
Eugen's early years near the court of Louis XIV, his rejection by the Sun King in wanting to join his army, and subsequent service with the Hapsburgs is the stuff of a great historical novel. One of the great what-ifs of that era must be what if Louis would have said yes to Eugen.
In the employ of the Hapsburgs, Eugen worked on interior lines of sorts against the Ottoman's expansion on one side, and Louis XIV's ambitions on the other. His status as a great independent commander was secured by the rout of the Turks at Zenta in 1697. Later, with Marlborough, he helped frustrate Louis' designs at the battles of Blenheim, Oudenarde and Malplaquet.
Not just a great general, Eugen also had intense interests in architecture, art and books. He built Belvedere, the baroque palace in Vienna, and possessed thousands of works of art and books. It is a pity that at his death he was intestate, and never having married, his estate went to a niece he barely knew and who had little affection for her uncle. Even if Eugen wasn't into the ladies, as some have suggested, he should have bitten the bullet and produced an heir, as most like-minded aristocrats were wont to do.
As a social aside, any person looking to emulate a man with integrity, loyalty, who is personally brave and honest, will be hard pressed to find one better than Eugene.
Henderson's book is much more readable than most traditional biographies, and it is even a page-turner at times. He provides good coverage of Eugen's character, and gives significant attention to his interests in architecture, art, and bibliophilia. As you might expect from a book written in the 1960s, Henderson dances around Eugen's apparent homosexuality but provides enough facts for your own evaluation.
The book's major weakness is that it lacks any explanation of Eugen's military successes. Since Henderson is not a military professional, he shied away from any analysis, and the battles mostly rest on Eugen's "brilliance" and "courage." Since Eugen's rise was predicated on his military abilities, this is an unfortunate (and glaring) omission.
Nonetheless, if you're interested in the period or the place (Austria-Hungary), this is a very useful biography of an important figure who is all too often forgotten today.
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