On February 20, 1703, tragedy struck the duke of Marlborough and his wife when their only surviving son and heir died of smallpox at age seventeen. After just five days of mourning, however, Marlborough had to resume his annual military campaign. He reached the Dutch coast on March 6/17, 1703 and immediately worked to get a Dutch fleet out of port to reinforce the English in the Mediterranean and persuade the Dutch to let him bypass the siege of the German city of Bonn. Bonn surrendered to Marlborough, who then joined the covering army at Maestricht on May 7/18, 1703 while the allies signed the treaties with Portugal which committed them to place Charles of Austria on the imperial throne of Spain. Marlborough's military deployments were limited by political restrictions in both England and the Netherlands. Unable to persuade the states to overrule the Dutch generals and authorize him to attack the French lines in Brabant, Marlborough proposed “The Great Design” that became the centerpiece of his 1703 campaign.
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