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Soldiers of Fortune
Introductary


THE sword has always been the resource of the adventurous or impecunious, and the roll of celebrated soldiers of fortune is so long that the choice may be much a matter of fancy or predilection. But there were epochs when the trade was exceptionally flourishing, there were times when men were typical or when circumstances forced them to the front, as there were illustrious careers sensationally dramatic. So there is justification for a selection not altogether arbitrary. One naturally begins with the medieval Condottieri and as naturally ends with the Indian Adventurers, their modern representatives. The war which for thirty years desolated Europe saw the developments of a science then in its infancy, with a revolution in the methods of campaigning. Our countrymen, and especially the Scots, had a special interest in that war from the numbers who flocked to the standards of the Lion of the North, the Catholic League, or the Empire. Of the many Scottish soldiers of fortune, Marshal Keith of the next century was by far the greatest. All are familiar with him as one of Frederick's most trusted lieutenants, but less is known of his concern in the Jacobite intrigues, and as little of the vicissitudes of his life in Russian camps and courts, where, after rising to the highest rank, his Scottish caution saved him from the scaffold or Siberia. Eugene, born with the very genius of war, was rejected by the country of his adoption in an evil hour for France. Soldier and statesman, diplomatist and man of letters, from the Meuse to the Danube, from the Alps to the Apennines, he commanded under greater difficulties and in a greater diversity of campaigning than his friend and colleague Marlborough, and the career of the Edler Ritter of the camp songs was a romance from be-ginning to end. Romantic as it was, it was surpassed by that of Maurice of Saxe, born, like Eugene, almost on the steps of a throne, and scarcely embarrassed by the bar sinister. Distinguished by supreme talents and degraded by his follies, no ambitious hero ever missed more magnificent opportunities, when a choice of marriages might have made him Emperor of all the Russias. He had to console himself with the baton of a Marshal of France, where he died with the reputation of the first soldier of the age, crowned with laurels and overwhelmed with the honours ordinarily paid to royalty alone.


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