Grand Alliance (League of Augsburg)

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Allegory of the Grand Alliance and their victory over the French at Schellenberg in 1704.

The Grand Alliance was a European coalition, consisting (at various times) of Austria, Bavaria, Brandenburg, the Dutch Republic, England, Ireland, the Palatinate of the Rhine, Portugal, Savoy, Saxony, Scotland, Spain and Sweden. The organization, which was founded in 1686 as the League of Augsburg, was known as the "Grand Alliance" after England and Scotland joined the League (in 1689). It was originally formed in an attempt to halt Louis XIV of France's expansionist policies.[1]


The League was officially formed by Emperor Leopold I, acting upon the advice of William III of Orange. The primary reason for its creation was to defend the Electorate of the Palatinate from France. This organization fought the War of the Grand Alliance (also known as the Nine Years' War) against France from 1688 to 1697.

The Alliance was formed twice. First, it fought the Nine Years' War against France. Later, after the Treaty of Den Haag was signed on September 7, 1701, it went into a second phase as the Alliance of the War of Spanish Succession. In this war, Bavaria and the Bourbon faction in Spain defected to the French side. The War ended following the Tory political victory in 1710 in Britain which led to the Peace of Utrecht — the peace with France which granted Spain's crown to the French candidate but divided Spain's external territories. In Spain the war continued until it was decided by the Siege of Barcelona, on September 11, 1714.

Historian J.R. Jones states that King William III of England was given:

supreme command within the alliance throughout the Nine Years war. His experience and knowledge of European affairs made him the indispensable director of Allied diplomatic and military strategy, and he derived additional authority from his enhanced status as king of England – even the Emperor Leopold...recognized his leadership. William's English subjects played subordinate or even minor roles in diplomatic and military affairs, having a major share only in the direction of the war at sea. Parliament and the nation had to provide money, men and ships, and William had found it expedient to explain his intentions...but this did not mean that Parliament or even ministers assisted in the formulation of policy.[2]

The Grand Alliance gained cultural and political credibility as an example of a possible European union. It was supported by most of the German territories, Britain and the Netherlands and by many French intellectuals who were disenchanted with the absolutist rule of Louis XIV. The eviction of the Huguenots in 1685 and the union of Catholicism and the French crown at home contributed to its formation.


The end of the Grand Alliance was primarily due to a growing dissatisfaction, amongst the British populace, with having to finance the wars abroad. The Balance of Power doctrine eventually resulted, however, from the wars Britain proved to be able to begin and to end on its own terms. The Grand Alliance (and wars fought by the Alliance) also contributed to a new sense of how wars would be fought in the future.

After the War of the Spanish Succession, and arguably the War of the Austrian Succession, the old formulated system of alliance began to crumble. The rise of Prussia, and the increase in power of Britain, upset the balance of power. France begin to create her own grand alliance with Spain, Russia, and Austria. As proven in the Seven Years' War and the later American Revolutionary War, Europe started to see Britain as a far greater threat than France. This arguably ended the "old system" of the Grand Alliance.

The death toll of the most important battles and sieges was high, yet none of the three wars fought from 1689 to 1721 led to a repeat of the atrocities of the Thirty Years' War fought in the early seventeenth century. Instead, the generals of the Grand Alliance became heroes of a Europe "civilized even when at war" – an ideal which would last, with some exceptions, to the early days of the First World War.


In cultural terms French fashions propagated by journals, newspapers and books published in the free Netherlands became the platform of the political movement which would attack France's politics rather than the nation and its people. French fashions could under this pretext be propagated all over Europe without the usual fear that one was favouring the culture of the enemy – one would favour the culture of a civilized nation, not the culture of the political opponent Louis XIV who fought a war against Europe and against the cultural elite of his own country.[need quotation to verify]

Between 1689 and 1721 – the end of the Great Northern War which had begun in 1700 – the notion of a "European" fashion evolved, reflected by a mass of title pages in which Europe appeared as the central word.[need quotation to verify]


  1. ^ "League of Augsburg". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  2. ^ J.R. Jones, Britain and the World, 1649-1815 (1980) p. 157.


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