War of the Spanish Succession

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War of the Spanish Succession
Painting of two men on horses
Philip of Anjou is recognised as Philip V of Spain on 16 November 1700
Date 9 July 1701 – 7 September 1714 (1701-07-09 – 1714-09-07)
(13 years, 1 month, 4 weeks and 1 day)
Location Low Countries, Italy, Spain and Portugal [b]

Treaties of Utrecht, Rastatt, and Baden:


The Grand Alliance

Associated allies

Bourbon France and Spain

Commanders and leaders

Kingdom of France duc de Villars
Kingdom of France Duke of Berwick
Kingdom of France duc de Vendôme
Kingdom of France duc de Boufflers
Kingdom of France Villeroi
Spain Marquis of Villadarias
Spain Marquis de Bay

Bavaria Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria
Casualties and losses
Holy Roman Empire 100,000[1]
Kingdom of Great Britain Dutch Republic 250,000[1]
Kingdom of Prussia 100,000[1]
Kingdom of Portugal Duchy of Savoy 50,000[1]
Kingdom of France 500,000–600,000[1]
Spain Bavaria 100,000+[1]
235,000–400,000 killed in action[1]

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was a European conflict of the early 18th century, triggered by the death of the childless Charles II of Spain in November 1700. His closest heirs were members of the Austrian Habsburg and French Bourbon families; acquisition of an undivided Spanish Empire or Monarchy [c] by either threatened the European balance of power.

Charles left his throne to Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV; he was proclaimed King of Spain on 16 November 1700 and recognised by England and the Dutch Republic among others. Disputes over ensuring the permanent separation of the Spanish and French crowns, division of territories and commercial rights led to war in 1701 between the Bourbons in France and Spain and the Grand Alliance. Their candidate for the Spanish throne was Archduke Charles, younger son of Habsburg Emperor Leopold.[d]

By 1710, fighting was deadlocked; Allied victories in Italy and the Low Countries had driven the French back to their borders but they could not achieve a decisive breakthrough while Philip was secure in Spain. When Archduke Charles succeeded his brother Joseph I as Emperor in 1711, Britain effectively withdrew, forcing its Allies to make peace and leading to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, followed in 1714 with Rastatt and Baden.

Philip renounced the French throne and was confirmed as King of Spain, retaining Peninsular Spain and Spanish possessions outside Europe with their European territories divided between Austria, Britain and Savoy. Longer term impacts included Britain's emergence as the leading European maritime and commercial power, the decline of the Dutch Republic as a major European power, the creation of a centralised Spanish state and the acceleration of the break-up of the Holy Roman Empire.


Charles II, 1665-1700; last Habsburg King of Spain

The rivalry between the Habsburgs of Austria and Spain and Bourbon France was the dominant theme of European politics in the 17th and early 18th centuries.[2] In 1665, Charles II became the last male Habsburg King of Spain; the unfortunate product of repeated consanguineous marriages among the Spanish Habsburgs,[3] he was "short, lame, epileptic, senile and completely bald before 35, always on the verge of death but repeatedly baffling Christendom by continuing to live."[4]

While no longer the dominant global power, the Spanish Monarchy held territories in Italy, the Spanish Netherlands, the Philippines and the Americas. Despite relative economic and political decline, it proved remarkably resilient and remained largely intact.[5] Who would succeed Charles had been debated for decades.[e]

It was also the last of the wars fought by France under Louis XIV to establish defensible borders and French supremacy in Europe, the most recent being the 1689-97 Nine Years' War. During that conflict, France had been opposed by the Grand Alliance, a coalition including England, the Dutch Republic and Austria and found it could not achieve its objectives without support. The 1697 Treaty of Ryswick was the result of mutual exhaustion but also Louis' need for allies in anticipation of a contest over the succession. Since Ryswick left this question unresolved, Emperor Leopold initially refused to sign; he reluctantly did so in October 1697 but like many others viewed it as simply a pause in hostilities.[6]

The Partition Treaties

Louis XIV 1638-1715 (seated); his son Louis, Grand Dauphin 1661–1711 (left), grandson Louis of Burgundy 1682-1712 (right) and great-grandson Louis XV 1710-1774.

Since the Crown of Spain could be inherited through the female line, Charles' sisters Maria Theresa (1638-83) and Margaret Theresa (1651-1673) passed their rights to the children of their marriages with Louis XIV and Emperor Leopold.

Leopold's intransigence at Ryswick created an alliance of convenience between Louis and William III, who as Stadtholder and King also bridged the diverging interests of England and the Dutch Republic.[7] The two co-operated in an attempt to resolve the Succession through diplomacy, leading to the Partition Treaties of 1698 and 1700.[8]

Leopold and Margaret had one child, Maria Antonia (1669-1692) who married Maximillian Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria in 1685. The 1698 Treaty of the Hague made their son Joseph Ferdinand heir to the bulk of the Spanish Monarchy with its European territories divided between France and Austria. This compromise was undone when he died of smallpox in February 1699 and an alternative was required.

Archduke Charles (1685-1740) aged 10

Maria Antonia transferred her claim on the Spanish throne to Leopold's sons from his third marriage, Joseph and Archduke Charles.[9] Her right to do so was doubtful but allowed Louis and William to craft the 1700 Treaty of London; this made Archduke Charles heir, with Spanish possessions in Europe split between France, Savoy and Austria.[10]

Neither Austria or Spain signed; Leopold would not agree the territorial concessions and Spain refused to be partitioned to suit the needs of foreign powers.[11] Charles drew up a will stipulating an undivided and independent Spanish Monarchy; influenced by his pro-Austrian second wife Maria Anna of Neuburg, the original version named Archduke Charles as heir but later altered in favour of Louis' grandson Philip, Duke of Anjou. The Spanish felt this would be acceptable since the Grand Dauphin and his older brother stood between Philip and the French crown. If Philip refused, it would be offered to his younger brother, the duc de Berry, then Archduke Charles.[12]

When Charles died on 1 November 1700, some counsellors advised Louis to reject the offer and enforce the Treaty of London. This handed the throne to Archduke Charles but Leopold had previously refused to sign and would almost certainly do so again. France could then call on England and the Dutch Republic to enforce the Treaty, isolating Austria and giving Philip the throne without fighting. However, the majority argued war with Leopold was inevitable, making it better to already hold Spain while England and the Dutch Republic would prefer peace and any solution that kept the French and Spanish crowns separate. On 16 November 1700 Philip became Philip V of Spain; with most of his objectives achieved by diplomacy, Louis then embarked on a series of actions that in combination led to war.[13]

Prelude to war

Europe in 1700, at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession

The Tory majority in the English Parliament would not fight a war for the Spanish throne while many also objected to the Partition Treaty of 1700, even impeaching those who negotiated it.[f][14] William was obliged to accept Philip but a foreign diplomat observed Tory opposition was only true 'so long as English commerce does not suffer.'[15] Louis either failed to appreciate this or decided to ignore it and his actions gradually built support for war.[16]

Antwerp and the frozen Scheldt estuary; French moves against this vital area threatened both England and the Dutch Republic.

In early 1701, Louis registered Philip's claim to the French throne with the Paris Parlement, raising the possibility of union with Spain, contrary to Charles' will. In February, the Spanish-controlled Duchies of Milan and Mantua in Northern Italy announced their support for Philip and accepted French troops. Combined with efforts to build an alliance between France and Imperial German states in Swabia and Franconia, these were challenges Leopold could not ignore.[17]

At the same time, Dutch garrisons holding 'Barrier' fortresses in the Spanish Netherlands were replaced by the French, helped by the Spanish Viceroy and French ally Max Emanuel of Bavaria.[18] This forced the States General to recognise Philip but threatened Dutch monopoly over the Scheldt granted by the 1648 Peace of Münster and English mercantile interests, since control of Antwerp and Ostend would allow France to blockade the Channel at will.

The combination resulted in Leopold, the Dutch Republic and England signing the Treaty of The Hague on 7 September 1701 that renewed the 1689 Grand Alliance. Its provisions included securing the Dutch Barrier in the Spanish Netherlands, the Protestant succession in England and Scotland and an independent Spain but made no reference to placing Archduke Charles on the Spanish throne.[19]

When the Stuart exile James II died on 16 September, Louis reneged on his previous commitment to accept the result of the 1688 Glorious Revolution and proclaimed James Francis Edward King of England and Scotland. This made war inevitable and after William's death on 19 March 1702, Queen Anne and his Dutch successors confirmed the continuation of his policies. The Grand Alliance declared war on France on 15 May 1702, with the Imperial Diet following on 30 September.[20]

Key Strategic Drivers

France's central position required the Grand Alliance to attack on multiple fronts and divide its substantial military resources.

Economic; This was a struggle over commercial interests, not only dynastic politics; for example, the French Ambassador to Madrid, Amelot de Gournay, was a former commissaire in the French Council of Commerce, his focus being as much commercial as diplomatic.[21] Contemporaries viewed Dutch and English support for the Habsburg cause as primarily driven by a desire for access to the Spanish American markets.[22]

Mercantilism is essential to the interpretation of strategy in this period; while modern economics generally assumes a constantly growing market, mercantilism viewed it as static. Increasing your own market share implied taking it from someone else, the government's role being to restrict foreign competition.[23]

Military; the armies engaged in the Nine Years War often exceeded 100,000 men and proved too large for the pre-industrial economies of its participants.[24] Those of 1701-1714 averaged around 35,000 - 50,000 but a dependence on water-borne transport accentuated the importance of rivers like the Rhine in Germany or the Adda in Northern Italy. Reliance on the local countryside for resupply limited operations in poor areas like Northern Spain; these factors confined campaigns to the same general areas.[g]

War aims; Major Parties

Mercantilism in action; an Anglo-Dutch squadron destroys the Spanish treasure fleet, Vigo Bay October 1702

Britain (England and Scotland pre-1707) Alignment on reducing the power of France and securing the Protestant succession masked differences on how to achieve them. In general, the Tories favoured a mercantilist strategy of using the Royal Navy to attack French and Spanish trade while protecting and expanding their own; land commitments were viewed as expensive and primarily of benefit to others.[25] The Whigs argued France could not be defeated by seapower alone, making a Continental strategy essential. Britain's financial strength made it the only member of the Alliance able to operate on all fronts against France.[26]

Dutch Republic The Dutch provided much of the manpower for the campaigns in the Low Countries; while Marlborough was accepted as the Allied commander, in the early years strategy in that theatre was subject to their approval. Dutch priorities were to re-stablish and strengthen the Barrier fortresses, retain control of the Scheldt estuary and gain access to trade in the Spanish Empire.

Francis Rákóczi; leader of the 1703-1711 Hungarian revolt that was a major distraction for Austria

Austria and the Holy Roman Empire Austrian and Imperial interests were not always the same. For much of the war, the Austrian Habsburgs focused on securing their southern borders in Northern Italy and suppressing Rákóczi's War of Independence in Hungary. Austria traditionally relied on England and the Dutch Republic for naval support while putting Archduke Charles on the Spanish throne was not an explicit objective. The crucial campaign in Spain was reliant on the Maritime Powers and also a higher priority for them.[h]

By formalising religious divisions within the Empire, the 1648 Peace of Westphalia weakened its integrity and by 1700, the larger German states were pursuing their own policies. Bavaria allied itself with France while as King of Poland, Augustus of Saxony was fully occupied by the Great Northern War. To gain Frederick of Prussia's support, Leopold recognised him as King, with Prussia made an equal member of the Grand Alliance.[i] Elector George of Hanover was more reliable, given his position as heir to the British throne but the suspicion remained the interests of Hanover came first.[27] The role played by many of the minor German states and neutrals like Denmark was primarily in hiring out their troops to members of the Grand Alliance.

Victor Amadeus of Savoy (1666-1732)

France Under Louis XIV, France was the most powerful unitary state in Europe with revenue-generating capacities that far exceeded its rivals. Its geographical position provided enormous tactical flexibility, unlike Austria it had its own navy and as the campaigns of 1708-10 proved, even under severe pressure it could defend its borders. The Nine Years War had shown France could not impose its objectives without support but the alliance with Spain and Bavaria made a successful outcome far more likely. Apart from denying an undivided Spanish Monarchy to others, Louis' objectives were to secure his borders with Germany, weaken Austria and increase French commercial strength by access to the Americas trade.

Spain Their key objective was as far as possible to preserve an undivided and independent Monarchy. During the 17th century, a series of wars with France drained military and financial resources, with the economy subject to long periods of low productivity and depression.[28] Spain was divided into the Crowns of Castile and Aragon, [j] each with different political cultures; apart from Naples, the bulk of the Crown of Aragon supported Archduke Charles.[29] The combination of weak central control, war and a depressed economy meant government finances were in perpetual crisis and limited their options.

Military Campaigns 1701-1708


Northern Italy; Milan and Savoy were the primary areas of conflict

The war was fought over the Spanish-ruled Duchies of Milan and Mantua in Northern Italy considered essential to the security of Austria's southern borders. In 1701, French garrisons occupied Milan and Mantua and Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy, allied with France, his daughter Maria Luisa marrying Philip V.[30] In May 1701, an Imperial army under Prince Eugene of Savoy moved into Northern Italy; by February 1702, victories at Carpi, Chiari and Cremona forced the French behind the Adda river.[31]

The Prussians break the French line at Turin, September 1706.
Prince Eugene (1663–1736); a highly talented commander and architect of Imperial victory in Italy

Vendôme, one of the best French generals, took command and was substantially reinforced; Prince Eugene managed a draw at the Battle of Luzzara but the French recovered most of the territory lost the year before.[32] In October 1703, Victor Amadeus declared war on France; by May 1706, the French held most of Savoy except Turin while victories at Cassano and Calcinato forced the Imperialists into the Trentino valley [33]

However, in July 1706 Vendôme and any available forces were sent to reinforce France's northern frontier after the defeat at Ramillies. Reinforced by German auxiliaries, Prince Eugene marched on Turin and the siege was broken by the Battle of Turin on 7 September. Despite a minor French victory at Castiglione, the war in Italy was over; the Convention of Milan in March 1707 confirmed Austria's control of Milan and Mantua, with French troops given free passage back to France for redeployment elsewhere.[34]

An attack by forces from Italy on the French base of Toulon was planned for 1707 but was postponed when 10,000 Imperial troops were diverted in June to seize the Spanish Bourbon Kingdom of Naples.[k] The delays contributed to the failure of the siege of Toulon; by the end of 1707, fighting in Italy ceased apart from attempts by Victor Amadeus to recover his trans-Alpine territories of Nice and Savoy.[l][35]

Low Countries, Rhine and Danube

Blenheim, August 1704; Marlborough's first major victory knocked Bavaria out of the war.
Holy Roman Empire; main actions occurred along the Moselle, Rhine and Upper Danube.

The first objective for the Grand Alliance in this theatre was to secure the Dutch frontiers, threatened by the alliance between France, Bavaria and Joseph Clemens, ruler of Liège and Cologne. During 1702, the Barrier fortresses were retaken along with Kaiserswerth, Venlo, Roermond and Liège.[36] The 1703 campaign was marred by Allied conflicts over strategy; they failed to take Antwerp, while the Dutch defeat at Ekeren in June led to bitter recriminations.[37]

On the Upper Rhine, Imperial forces under Louis of Baden remained on the defensive, although they took Landau in 1702. Over the course of 1703, French victories at Friedlingen, Höchstädt and Speyerbach with the capture of Kehl, Breisach and Landau directly threatened Vienna.

The Low Countries; note location of Prince-Bishopric of Liège (in pink). Red lines show the Pré carré, a double line of fortresses guarding the French border.

In 1704, Franco-Bavarian forces continued their advance with the Austrians struggling to suppress Rákóczi's revolt in Hungary.[38] To relieve the pressure, Marlborough marched up the Rhine, joined forces with Louis of Baden and Prince Eugene and crossed the Danube on 2 July. Allied victory at Blenheim on 13 August forced Bavaria out of the war and the Treaty of Ilbersheim placed it under Austrian rule.[m][39]

Ramillies, May 1706; defeat forced France onto the defensive for the rest of the war

Allied efforts to exploit their victory in 1705 foundered on poor co-ordination, tactical disputes and command rivalries, while Leopold's ruthless rule in Bavaria caused a brief but vicious peasant revolt.[40] In May 1706 an Allied force under Marlborough shattered a French army at the Battle of Ramillies; as French numbers had been maximised by stripping garrisons from the Spanish Netherlands, the entire province fell to the Allies in under two weeks.[41]

This eliminated French offensive capabilities for the rest of the war but despite taking key strongpoints like Lille, the Allies were unable to make a decisive breach in the French frontiers. An internal revolt in early 1708 led to the temporary loss of parts of the Spanish Netherlands; this was restored by victory at Oudenarde in July but the overall position remained largely unchanged from 1706.[42]

Spain and Portugal

Peninsular Spain, showing Crowns of Castile and Aragon.

Victory in Spain was vital for Archduke Charles to win the throne but the Austrian Habsburgs viewed Northern Italy and the Hungarian revolt as higher priorities. Anglo-Dutch involvement in this theatre was driven by the mercantilist strategy of securing trade in the Mediterranean and gaining commercial access to the Spanish Empire. This made it more important to the Dutch and English than Austria and dependent on their support, a conflict that was never really solved.

Spain itself was a union of the Crowns of Castile and Aragon, [n], with Aragon then divided into the Kingdoms of Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and Naples. A mixture of anti-Castilian and anti-French sentiment meant they generally supported Archduke Charles (Naples excepted) but a tradition of political autonomy meant diverging objectives between the Allies were reflected by their Spanish supporters.

Anglo-Dutch strategy required a naval base in the area; the attack on Cádiz in September 1702 ended in failure but victory at Vigo Bay in October persuaded Peter II of Portugal to abandon the Bourbons and join the Grand Alliance in May 1703.[43] This gave the Allies access to Lisbon and in March 1704, the newly crowned Charles III of Spain arrived in Portugal to begin a land campaign.

Almansa, April 1707; Bourbon victory was a serious setback for the Allies in Spain.

In May 1704, a Bourbon army won a series of minor victories along the Spain/Portugal border, offset by the Allied capture of Gibraltar, a vital strategic possession. Attempts to retake it were defeated at the naval Battle of Málaga in August, with a land siege being abandoned in April 1705.[44]

In June 1705, the 'Pact of Genoa' between Catalan representatives and England opened a second front in the north-east; the loss of Barcelona and Valencia meant Toulon was the only major port available to the Bourbons in the Western Mediterranean.[45] Philip's army tried to retake Barcelona in May 1706 but were repulsed, his absence allowing an Allied force from Portugal to enter Madrid and Zaragossa. The Allies could not be resupplied so far from their bases and had to withdraw; by November 1706, the Bourbons controlled Castile, Murcia and parts of Valencia.

An Allied attempt to regain the initiative in 1707 ended with defeat at Almansa in April while an attack on Toulon in August also failed; by December 1707, Archduke Charles retained only Catalonia. The British capture of Menorca in 1708 combined with Gibraltar gave them control of the Western Mediterranean. By the end of 1708, British objectives had largely been achieved, Portugal and the Dutch Republic were financially exhausted while Austria refused to commit significant resources. As a result, Allied objectives in Spain were unclear.

No Peace without Spain; 1709-1713

By the end of 1708, the war had reached stalemate; the French had withdrawn from Northern Italy, with Austria gaining the Spanish possessions of Milan and Naples. In the Low Countries, Ramillies and Oudenarde gave the Maritime Powers control of the Spanish Netherlands and secured the borders of the Dutch Republic; in the Mediterranean, Britain's Royal Navy had achieved naval supremacy and permanent bases in Gibraltar and Menorca.

However, France's frontiers remained largely intact while the Grand Alliance had been unable to make any lasting progress in Spain, where Philip proved to be far more popular with the Spanish than the Austrian candidate Archduke Charles. Many of the objectives originally set out by the Grand Alliance in 1701 had been achieved but the victories of 1706 made them overconfident, resulting in the continuation of a war most participants wanted to end but could not.


Malplaquet 1709: ostensibly an Allied victory, the losses shocked Europe and increased the desire for peace.

France opened informal discussions with the Dutch in 1705, viewing them as the most likely to favour a quick end to the war. Defeat at Ramillies increased this possibility by removing a direct military threat to the Dutch Republic and highlighting differences within the Alliance on the future of the Spanish Netherlands.[46] Ultimately, these made little progress since the Allies had agreed to negotiate jointly, not separately and they were unable to reach internal agreement on the terms.

Villaviciosa, December 1710 confirmed Bourbon supremacy in Spain

The winter of 1708 in Europe was one of the coldest on record, with widespread crop failures and famine exacerbated in France and Spain by a British naval blockade of grain imports. The French re-opened talks and in May 1709, the Allies presented the terms known as the Preliminaries of Hague; they included the demand Philip cede his throne to Archduke Charles without compensation and France assist in his removal by force if this was not done within two months.[47] This assumed Philip would abdicate on request and the Spanish accept Archduke Charles while seriously under-estimating France's ability to resist.[48] Louis was willing to abandon Spain but not make war on his own grandson; when it became public, the demand was considered so offensive that it strengthened French resolve to fight on.[49]

Marlborough now launched an offensive in Northern France which led to the Battle of Malplaquet on 11 September 1709 between an Allied army of 86,000 and a French of 75,000. Victory cost the Allies over 20,000 casualties, demonstrated the fighting ability of the French army remained intact and increased war-weariness both in Britain and the Dutch Republic, who suffered heavy losses.[50] This was compounded by the Bourbon recapture of Alicante in April and the defeat of an Anglo-Portuguese force at La Gudina in May.

Lack of progress accentuated the reality that the Allies no longer shared clear objectives, highlighted by Dutch exclusion from an agreement between Britain and Archduke Charles for trading rights in Spanish America. The British government compensated with the 1709 First Barrier Treaty; this gave the Dutch effective control of the Spanish Netherlands but was seen as detrimental to British commerce and increased domestic opposition.[51]

The Whigs had won the 1708 British General Election by arguing military victory was the quickest road to peace but failure in France was followed by the same in Spain. In 1710, victories at Almenar and Saragossa enabled Archduke Charles to re-enter Madrid but he was again forced to retreat; by December, the Allies controlled only Catalonia after defeats at Brihuega and Villaviciosa. Whig policy had clearly failed and aided by the Sacheverell riots, the pro-peace Tories won a landslide victory in the 1710 Election.[o]


Queen Anne (1665-1714); her declining health increasingly dominated British domestic politics and attitudes to the war
Jonathan Swift; Tory satirist and creator of the first sustained campaign in moulding British public opinion.

Negotiations resumed in March 1710 at Geertruidenberg but broke down due to the continued insistence France expel Philip by force if he refused to abdicate. The new British government confirmed its commitment to the war to prevent a credit crisis and reassure its Allies; despite the capture of Bouchain in September, decisive victory in Northern France continued to elude the Allies while an expedition against Quebec in French North America ended in disaster.[52]

The British political situation was simplified when Emperor Joseph died in April 1711 and Archduke Charles elected Emperor in October. The purpose of continuing the war was unclear, since union of Spain with Austria was as unwelcome as one with France and as the Tory propagandist Jonathan Swift pointed out, the 1701 Treaty made no reference to removing Philip.[p] Even the Whigs had grown frustrated by the Habsburg tendency to put their interests first eg the 1707 Convention of Milan or the diversion of resources to capturing Naples in 1707.

The British secretly negotiated peace terms directly with France leading to the signing of the Preliminary Articles of London on 8 October 1711.[q] These included French acceptance of the Act of Settlement and a guarantee the French and Spanish crowns would remain separate, while France undertook to ensure Spain ceded Gibraltar and Menorca and award the Asiento to Britain for 30 years.[53] Together with a commitment to the Dutch Barrier, these would form the basis of the Treaty of Utrecht.

Despite their annoyance at being excluded from the Anglo-French negotiations, the Dutch were financially exhausted by the enormous cost of the war and could not continue without British support. Charles VI rejected the idea of a peace conference; once the Dutch agreed to support it, he reluctantly agreed rather than be isolated but Habsburg opposition to the Treaty continued.[54]

The Peace of Utrecht

Denain, July 1712; defeat ended Austrian and Dutch hopes of a breakthrough in Northern France

Within weeks of the conference opening, events threatened the basis of the peace agreed between Britain and France. First, the French presented proposals awarding the Spanish Netherlands to Max Emmanuel of Bavaria and a minimal Barrier, leaving the Dutch with little to show for their huge investment of money and men. Second, a series of deaths left Louis XIV's two year old great-grandson, the future Louis XV as heir, making Phillip next in line and his immediate renunciation imperative.[55]

The Dutch and Austrians fought on, hoping to improve their negotiating position but the British government issued 'Restraining Orders' to Marlborough's replacement, the Duke of Ormonde, instructing him not to participate in offensive operations against the French.[56] These caused fury then and later with prominent Whigs urging the Hanoverian envoy in London to support military intervention by the future George I similar to that of 1688.[r] [57]

Prince Eugene captured Le Quesnoy in June, then besieged Landrecies but after his defeat at Denain on 24 July, the French recaptured Le Quesnoy and many towns lost in previous years, including Marchines, Douai and Bouchain.[58] The Dutch had finally reached the end of their willingness and ability to continue the war.

The Treaty of Utrecht; Abraham Allard, 18th century

On 6 June, Phillip had announced his renunciation of the French throne; the British Tory government now offered the Dutch a revised Barrier Treaty, replacing that of 1709 which they rejected as overly generous. It was a significant improvement on the 1697 Barrier but ultimately subject to Austrian approval and the final terms were less beneficial.[59] French demands that Austria agree not to extend their rule in Italy to Mantua and Mirandola led Charles to withdraw from the conference; he was supported by George, Elector of Hanover who feared French support for the Stuart heir James Francis. This meant neither Austria or the Empire signed the Treaty of Utrecht of 11 April 1713 between France and the other Allies; Spain made peace with the Dutch in June, then Savoy and Britain on 13 July 1713.

Fighting continued on the Rhine but Austria was financially exhausted and when the French captured Landau and Freiburg in November 1713, Charles agreed terms. The Treaty of Rastatt on 7 March 1714 confirmed Austria's gains in Italy, restored Breisach, Kehl and Freiburg, ended French support for the Hungarian revolt and agreed terms for the Dutch Barrier fortresses. France acquired Strasbourg and Alsace while Charles agreed to reinstate the Wittelsbach Electors of Bavaria and Cologne, Max Emmanuel and Joseph Clemens.[60] On 7 September, the Holy Roman Empire joined the agreement by the Treaty of Baden; although Catalonia and Majorca were not finally subdued by the Bourbons until June 1715, the war was over.


British naval power; the Royal Navy destroys a Spanish fleet off Sicily, Cape Passaro, August 1718.

The Peace of Utrecht established the principle that to preserve the balance of power, the thrones of Spain and France would remain separate, regardless of dynastic rules of inheritance. This makes it a significant milestone both in the development of the nation state and the concept of collective security.[61]

Britain is often portrayed as the main beneficiary of the war, with Utrecht marking the beginning of its rise to commercial domination of Europe.[62] It ended the war as the largest naval power in the world while the Netherlands, France and Spain were economically exhausted and their fleets severely reduced. France accepted the Protestant succession, ensuring a smooth inheritance by George I in August 1714 and ended support for the Stuarts by the terms of 1716 Anglo-French Treaty.[63] Possession of Gibraltar and Menorca gave British control of the Western Mediterranean and it gained commercial access to Spanish America; resentment over this would lead to the 1739 Anglo-Spanish War.

Spain retained its independence, the majority of its Empire and Phillip was confirmed as King; in return, they ceded the Spanish Netherlands and most of their Italian possessions to Austria, Sicily to Savoy and Gibraltar and Menorca to Britain. Under the Bourbons, it became far more centralised, the Nueva Planta decrees of 1707 abolishing regional political structures and transferring their powers to Madrid.[s][64] Reforms strengthened state finances and Spain recovered remarkably quickly; while British naval power prevented the capture of Naples and Sicily in 1718, it successfully did so in 1734 with Menorca regained in 1782.

War of the Spanish Succession is located in Belgium
The Barrier fortresses as agreed in 1715

Despite failure in Spain, Austria secured its position in Italy and Hungary and acquired the bulk of the Spanish Netherlands. However, victory in the Austro-Turkish War of 1716–18 continued the trend of shifting Habsburg focus away from Germany and into South-East Europe. Their hold over the Empire continued to weaken, while Bavaria, Hanover, Prussia and Saxony pursued their own policies; in 1742, Charles of Bavaria became the first non-Habsburg Emperor in over 300 years. Finances were an enduring weakness of the devolved Habsburg state while the maritime possessions of Spanish Netherlands and the Kingdom of Naples increased potential for conflict in an area where Austria traditionally relied on others for support. Due to Dutch exhaustion, after 1714 this effectively meant Britain; only the Royal Navy prevented Spain recapturing Sicily in 1718 and the Kingdom of Naples was lost for good in 1734. The most damaging impact was Charles' obsession with ensuring his daughter's succession via the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713.[65] This consumed energy and money while leading to involvement in peripheral conflicts like the 1733-1735 War of the Polish Succession where most of the fighting actually took place on Austrian territory.

The huge effort made by the Dutch Republic meant it ended the war in 1713 effectively bankrupt while the protection of the 1715 Barrier Treaty that had cost so much proved largely illusory.[66] In 1740, the fortresses were quickly overrun and Britain's promise of military support against any aggressor proved far more effective than the Barrier itself.[67] The debts incurred and the damage suffered by the Dutch merchant navy permanently affected their commercial and political strength and the Netherlands was superceded by Britain.[68]

Louis XIV died on 1 September 1715, with his five-year-old great-grandson reigning as Louis XV until 1774; on his deathbed, he is alleged to have admitted 'I have loved war too well.'[69] True or not, while the final settlement was far more favourable than the Allied offer of 1709, it is hard to see what Louis gained that had not already been achieved through diplomacy by February 1701. France remained strong but could not maintain its former dominance, particularly in relation to Britain; concern over this relative decline in military and economic terms was an underlying cause of the War of the Austrian Succession.[70]

Wider implications include the beginning of the rise of Prussia and Savoy while many of the participants were involved in the 1700-1721 the Great Northern War, with Russia becoming a European power for the first time as a result. Finally, while colonial conflicts were relatively minor and largely confined to the North American theatre or the so-called Queen Anne's War, they were to become a key element in future wars.

See also


  1. ^ The 1707 Acts of Union united England and Scotland
  2. ^ Subsidiary conflicts in North America and elsewhere were the continuation of ongoing struggles for colonial territories unrelated to the issues in Europe.
  3. ^ 'Monarchy' was the term generally used by the Spanish instead of 'Empire.'
  4. ^ The Habsburgs were rulers of Austria and Hungary in their own right; Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was technically an elected position but had been held by the Habsburgs since 1438.
  5. ^ One provision of the 1670 Treaty of Dover stipulated that Charles II of England would support Louis' claim to the Spanish throne.
  6. ^ Specifically, they opposed the award of Sicily and Naples to France.
  7. ^ Similar to the North African campaigns of 1940-42 where the British and German/Italians fought along the same coastal strip.
  8. ^ Maritime Powers is the term often used for the combination of England and the Dutch Republic.
  9. ^ The perceived tendency of the Austrian Habsburgs to agree concessions and then avoid implementation bred mistrust among their allies.
  10. ^ The Crown of Aragon was divided into the Kingdoms of Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Majorca, Naples, Sicily, Malta and Sardinia.
  11. ^ Without significant naval forces of its own, Austria could not take Sicily and the Kingdom was recaptured by Spain in 1734.
  12. ^ These became part of France in 1860.
  13. ^ Max Emmanuel remained a French general, fighting in many of the battles of 1705-08.
  14. ^ Similar to England and Scotland.
  15. ^ By this stage, British financial power was essential for the Allies to continue the war, hence the importance of British domestic politics.
  16. ^ The most famous being his pamphlet titled The Conduct of the Allies.
  17. ^ Also known as the Mesnager Convention.
  18. ^ George I regarded those involved with deep suspicion and hostility; Ormonde, the alleged architect of the Orders Bolingbroke and others were effectively driven into exile and became prominent Jacobites.
  19. ^ Aragon and Valencia were brought into the system in 1712, Catalonia and Majorca following in 1767.


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  4. ^ Durant, Ariel, Durant, Will (1963). Age of Louis XIV (Story of Civilization). TBS Publishing. ISBN 0207942277. 
  5. ^ Storrs, Christopher (2006). The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy 1665-1700. OUP Oxford. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0199246378. 
  6. ^ Meerts, Paul Willem (2014). Diplomatic negotiation: Essence and Evolution. http://hdl.handle.net/1887/29596: Leiden University dissertation. p. 168. 
  7. ^ Frey, Linda; Frey, Marsha, eds. (1995). The Treaties of the War of the Spanish Succession: An Historical and Critical Dictionary. Greenwood. p. 389. ISBN 0313278849. 
  8. ^ McKay, Derek, Scott, HM (1983). The Rise of the Great Powers 1648 - 1815 (The Modern European State System). Routledge. pp. 54–55. ISBN 0582485541. 
  9. ^ Ingrao, Charles (2000). The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815 (2010 ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 105. ISBN 0521785057. 
  10. ^ McKay, Derek, Scott, HM (1983). The Rise of the Great Powers 1648 - 1815 (The Modern European State System). Routledge. p. 55. ISBN 0582485541. 
  11. ^ Kamen, Henry (2001). Philip V of Spain: The King Who Reigned Twice. Yale University Press. p. 3. ISBN 0300180543. 
  12. ^ Clark: From the Nine Years' War to the War of the Spanish Succession, 396–7; Wolf: Louis XIV, 503–4
  13. ^ Falkner, James (2015). The War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714 (Kindle ed.). Pen and Sword. p. 508-568. ISBN 9781473872905. 
  14. ^ Gregg, Edward (1980). Queen Anne (Revised) (The English Monarchs Series) (2001 ed.). Yale University Press. p. 126. ISBN 0300090242. 
  15. ^ Somerset, Anne (2012). Queen Anne; the Politics of Passion. Harper. p. 166. ISBN 0007203764. 
  16. ^ Falkner, James (2015). The War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714 (Kindle ed.). Pen and Sword. p. 96. ISBN 9781473872905. 
  17. ^ Thompson, RT (1973). Lothar Franz von Schönborn and the Diplomacy of the Electorate of Mainz:. Springer. pp. 158–160. ISBN 9024713463. 
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  29. ^ Jon Cowans (2003). Modern Spain: A Documentary History. U. of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 26–27. ISBN 0-8122-1846-9. 
  30. ^ Dhondt, Frederik, De Ruysscher, Capelle, K et al. (eds.) (2015). Historical Exempla in Legal Doctrine: Vattel and Réal de Curban on the War of the Spanish Succession. in Legal history, moving in new directions: Maklu. pp. 16–17. ISBN 9789046607589. 
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  38. ^ Ingrao: In Quest, 123; McKay: Eugene, 73
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