[and the controversial role of the King’s mistress in the disaster]


By Adolf Shickelgruber, broadsheet vendor,

Formerly in Baden – Baden at the sign of the Sun

(but shortly relocating to Lorraine)


The night’s excess


His Majesty had settled down comfortably at Villers near the siege lines at Metz, with a stockpile of Krug and his reputed mistress Helga installed at HQ disguised in the rather fetching but unconvincing uniform of an adjutant.


On the evening of the 15th, the King was dragged away from the port bottle, to be told to his great annoyance that not only had his supply line been severed but there was also a sudden threat of encirclement by the Duke’s relief columns advancing from two, and potentially from four, sides.


A hasty plan was necessary, with no time to consult his subordinates Rottweiler or Von Dribbling. Luckily, and as is well known to the people, Helga excels in cunning schemes. The pair retired to the Royal bedchamber and eventually came up with what seemed a reasonable plan, Helga arguing as follows:


v      We need to decide the campaign by a trial of strength before we run out of supplies

v      The main enemy forces are separated and each is inferior to ours. We operate on interior lines. We are able therefore to attack each army in turn.

v      Mercy appears strung out along the road, while perhaps half of Contades’s force is already present and the rest not too far behind. We should therefore attack Contades first, while conducting a holding operation in the south.

v      However it would also be useful to occupy Noiseville and cut enemy communications on the important highway just beyond it. This will first involve seizing the high ground west of Servigny.

v      The Bois de Failly and Bois de Monsieur are central to the attack on Contades and permit the opportunity, for whichever side dominates them, of surprise hidden movement.

v      In particular, if the woods can be cleared, the SanryVremy road through the wood permits a rapid hidden march onto the enemy flank at Vremy.

v      Our Jaegers are well positioned to clear the woods, while the Grenadiers can make the flank march from the north and can hit hard when they arrive.

v      The flank march will need to be screened by the Ansbach cavalry, already in position at Sanry.


The King had never known Helga’s Machiavellian plans to fail, and with a smug feeling of satisfaction, and a toast in egg nog to the morning’s success, fell soundly asleep, snoring, and rather to Helga’s frustration.

A cold dawn breaks


The King woke to alarming reports. Far from being strung out on the road, Mercy had already arrived in force along the Vallieres brook. His plucky but untrained reservists were advancing in force up the steep ridge towards the St JulienVillers road, driving Von Dribbling’s holding force before them.  


Fortunately orders had been given the previous night for the Coburg division to march into the St Julien position at the west of the line, while proximity to the Villers HQ meant that there were other reserves to hand, including the Palffy division, the Kings Life Guard of heavy cavalry, and four batteries of heavy guns. With a measure of overreaction, King Rufus ordered all these into the line.


The sudden appearance of these reserves on the ridgeline halted the enemy. When our heavy batteries, unopposed by enemy guns, began to pound the enemy right, King Rufus regained his previous night’s optimism. The enemy commenced an orderly withdrawal. Von Dribbling, then present in conference at HQ, was hard put to it to prevent His Majesty mounting up and leading his Life Guard of heavy cavalry personally in a charge to exploit this retreat. Indeed, in the humble opinion of this writer, perhaps the young general was here overcautious. The untrained enemy reservists might have found it difficult to form square against cavalry, and even if they had achieved this, the square would then have been pounded by four heavy batteries, with no enemy guns to counter them. The author ventures to surmise that a strategic part of the enemy line must have disintegrated under this pressure, with Noisseville behind being occupied effortlessly in consequence. One imagines King Rufus looking back that evening at this overcautious moment, considering it the lost opportunity which proved the turning point of the battle.


From there on things went literally downhill. Von Dribbling persuaded the King that he should retain the Palffy division on his front, and with them commenced a cautious but steady advance southwards. Unfortunately this had the effect only of closing the gap between the Kings army and the enemy reinforcements streaming up from the south.


By now the King had posted his heavy guns on a strategic hill west of Servigny and dominating the centre ground. With their aid Noisseville was taken, but not quite the highway beyond, vital to enemy communication. To take Noisseville, it proved necessary also to divert one of Rottweilers brigades from Poixe to Noisseville, this weakening the central area of the front, plus a brigade of Uhlans from the rear, this weakening the reserve.


Rottweiler’s front in the north had earlier given cause for alarm when enemy light infantry pushed our Jaegers out of both woods, the King overreacting once more by sending the entire Leibdivision from the central reserve to prevent any further advance into the rear.


By this time our heavy batteries had turned their attention to the enemy troops of the centre east of Servigny. The enemy was reported withdrawing to avoid their attentions. The King wrongly concluded that there was little to fear from the enemy in this neighbourhood, and that a push through the centre might secure that vital highway beyond Noisseville, cutting communications between the two enemy armies.


Rottweiler had moved to Pouilly in the north, and having stabilised the line in this area, and evicted enemy infantry flanking our line at  Sanry, reported that he was now able at last to implement the original flank march plan. The King ordered that this be the precursor to a general assault in the centre. Unfortunately, and despite a specific warning from Rottweiler, he omitted to recover any troops from Von Dribbling and place them as a central reserve, to support this assault and cover if anything should go wrong [which it surely did].


At this point fate and the fair sex intervened to catastrophic effect. The time for the King’s lunch had arrived, and the faithful Helga distracted His Majesty from the battle to serve him up a very large plate of his favourite Plumduff, thinking this a sure way to his heart that night. The duff was accompanied by two bottles of fine Noisseville which had been plundered from that town’s vineyards by the Uhlans and sent to His Majesty with their compliments.


Most regrettably, the King came down immediately with dyspepsia and retired for a nap, leaving command of the army to Von Dribbling since he had previously seemed to do so well on the right wing.


Once the staff had been able to rouse the King and his lady from their bed several hours later, the King was reluctantly acquainted with the disaster which had overtaken his army, the details of which are by now only too familiar to us his citizens.


We are fortunate to be able to print almost verbatim [having redacted a little for decency] the dispatch sent to his subordinate generals shortly afterwards:


“Donner und Blitzen und Scheisse  *****!$£?!!!!


Can I not take a nap for a single moment without young Von Dribbling throwing away my well earned victory???


His Barony is hereby revoked and confiscated and conferred instead upon Rottweiler for holding up my left wing so gallantly [Bellacroix will in any case now be crawling with the damnable Duke’s people]


I shall be gathering further reports before deciding whether heads must roll……