Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lally - The Reason the French Lost??

Today is the 250th anniversary of the fall of Pondicherry to the British. It marked the end of the Seven Years War against the French on the Sub-Continent. In command of the French forces in India, and present at Pondicherry, was Thomas Arthur, comte de Lally, baron de Tollendal.

Lally at Pondicherry - looking none too pleased...

Lally  was born in January 1702  at Romans-sur-Isere, Dauphine, the son of Sir Gerald Lally, an Irish Jacobite from County Galway, and a French noble woman, from whom he inherited his titles. He fought against Austria in 1734, the Pragmatic army in  1743 and in 1745 he commanded the Regiment de Lally at Fontenoy. He was promoted to Brigadier following the latter battle.

In the same year he accompanied Charles Edward to Scotland as aide-de-camp. Following the battle of Falkirk in 1746 he returned to France and served with Marshal Saxe in the Low Countries, before being made marechal de camp in 1748.

Lally's Coat of Arms

In 1756 Lally was appointed to command the French forces in India. He arrived at Pondicherry in April 1758.

Regt. Lally - Crusader Miniatures painted by Peter
 Although I seldom take notice of Wikipaedia  : ) , it does contain a nice summary of Lally’s time in India;

He was a man of courage and a capable general; but his pride and ferocity made him disliked by his officers and hated by his soldiers, while he regarded the natives as slaves, despised their assistance, and trampled on their traditions of caste. In consequence everything went wrong with him.

How true! Lally attacked Tanjore and was repulsed. He was repulsed from Madras when the  British fleet arrived. At Wandewash he was defeated by Sir Eyre Coote (another Irishman). Then there was the siege of Pondicherry…

Although a prisoner of war, he returned under parole to France to defend accusations of treason. He was imprisoned for nearly two years before the trial began then quickly sentenced to death. He died on 6 May 1766. He seems to have had few friends and was still viewed as a foreigner, despite having a French mother and being born in France.

Interestingly, very few modern books published in India on the subject of the French make any reference to Lally, or when they do, only fleetingly. It appears that he is still not well thought of today.

1 comment:

  1. Not a battle I'm familiar with, though there's always something reassuring about reading about the French getting whipped.