Claude Lonis Hector De Villars, duke, a French soldier, born in Moulins, May 8, 1653, died in Turin, June 17, 1734. He was the son of the marquis Pierre de Villars, was a page at the court, where his fine bearing made him a favorite of Louis XIV., and became one of the most brilliant courtiers. He served from 1672 in many memorable campaigns, and was sent as ambassador to Vienna in 1686, and again in 1698. As commander on the Rhine in the war of the Spanish succession, he gained in 1702 a victory over the imperialists under Louis of Baden at Friedlingen, and the soldiers proclaimed him marshal on the battle field, in which rank he was confirmed by the king. In 1703 he was also successful at Hõchstadt. In 1704 he operated against the Oamisards in the Cévennes, and then checked the progress of Marlborough after his victory at Blenheim. In 1707 he defeated the imperialists near Strasburg, and in 1708 compelled the retreat of the duke of Savoy from French territory. In 1709 he succeeded Vendôme as commander of the army of Flanders. He was disabled by a wound at Malplaquet (Sept. 11), the bloodiest action of the war, in which the allied forces under Marlborough and Prince Eugene overwhelmed the French; but as they also suffered a heavy loss, Villars was rewarded by a peerage, and provided with apartments in the palace at Versailles, where the king himself watched over his recovery.
This was barely effected when Villars rejoined the army; and in 1712 he achieved a great victory at Denain over the allies commanded by the earl of Albemarle, which greatly contributed to the peace of Utrecht in 1713. After continuing the war against Prince Eugene with great success, he took a prominent part in the treaty of Rastadt, March 6, 1714, which finally ended the Spanish war of succession. After the death of Louis XIV. in 1715 he opposed an alliance with England, and was one of the most judicious members of the council of regency. Under Louis XV. he received in 1733, in the war for the Polish succession, the rank of marshal general of the camps and armies of France, previously conferred only on Turenne, and ended his career with the conquest of the duchies of Milan and Mantua, retiring on account of his disagreement with the king of Sardinia, in whose capital he died soon afterward. - The abbe de la Pause de Margon prepared Mémoires de Villars (3 vols., Hague, 1734-'58), of which, according to Voltaire, only the first volume was based on a genuine autobiography. Louis Pierre Anquetil's Memoires (4 vols., Paris, 1784) was published at the instance of the government, and comprises official military correspondence and the marshal's diaries.
The memoirs in Petitot's collection (1828) and in Michaud's (1839) are based on the two preceding works.