War of the Spanish Succession

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Spanish Succession, War of the,

1701–14, last of the general European wars caused by the efforts of King Louis XIVLouis XIV,
1638–1715, king of France (1643–1715), son and successor of King Louis XIII. Early Reign

After his father's death his mother, Anne of Austria, was regent for Louis, but the real power was wielded by Anne's adviser, Cardinal Mazarin.
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 to extend French power. The conflict in America corresponding to the period of the War of the Spanish Succession was known as Queen Anne's War (see French and Indian WarsFrench and Indian Wars,
1689–1763, the name given by American historians to the North American colonial wars between Great Britain and France in the late 17th and the 18th cent.
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The precarious health of the childless King Charles IICharles II,
1661–1700, king of Spain, Naples, and Sicily (1665–1700), son and successor of Philip IV. The last of the Spanish Hapsburgs, he was physically crippled and mentally retarded.
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 of Spain left the succession open to the claims of three principal pretenders—Louis XIV, in behalf of his eldest son, a grandson of King Philip IV of Spain through Philip's daughter, Marie Thérèse, to whom Louis XIV had been married; the electoral prince of Bavaria, Joseph Ferdinand, a great-grandson of Philip IV; and Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, who had married a younger daughter of Philip IV, but claimed the succession in behalf of his son by a second marriage, Archduke Charles (later Holy Roman Emperor Charles VICharles VI,
1685–1740, Holy Roman emperor (1711–40), king of Bohemia (1711–40) and, as Charles III, king of Hungary (1712–40); brother and successor of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I. Charles was the last Holy Roman emperor of the direct Hapsburg line.
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). England and Holland were opposed to the union of French and Spanish dominions, which would have made France the leading world power and diverted Spanish trade from England and Holland to France. On the other hand, England, Holland, and France were all opposed to Archduke Charles, because his accession would reunite the Spanish and Austrian branches of the Hapsburg family.

Louis XIV, exhausted by the War of the Grand Alliance, sought a peaceful solution to the succession controversy and reached an agreement (1698) with King William IIIWilliam III,
1650–1702, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1689–1702); son of William II, prince of Orange, stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, and of Mary, oldest daughter of King Charles I of England.
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 of England. This First Partition Treaty designated Joseph Ferdinand as the principal heir; in compensation, the French dauphin was to receive territory including Naples and Sicily, and Milan was to fall to Archduke Charles. Spain opposed the partition of its empire, and Charles II responded by naming Joseph Ferdinand sole heir to the entire Spanish Empire.

The unexpected death (1699) of Joseph Ferdinand rendered the Anglo-French treaty inoperative and led to the Second Partition Treaty (1700), agreed upon by France, England, and the Netherlands; under its terms, France was to receive Naples, Sicily, and Milan, while the rest of the Spanish dominions were to go to Archduke Charles. The treaty was acceptable to Louis XIV but was rejected by Leopold, who insisted upon gaining the entire inheritance for his son. While the diplomats were still seeking a peaceful solution, Spanish grandees, desiring to preserve territorial unity, persuaded the dying Charles II to name as his sole heir the grandson of Louis XIV—Philip, duke of Anjou, who became Philip VPhilip V,
1683–1746, king of Spain (1700–1746), first Bourbon on the Spanish throne. A grandson of Louis XIV of France, he was titular duke of Anjou before Charles II of Spain designated him as his successor.
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 of Spain. Louis XIV, deciding to abide by Charles's will, broke the partition treaty.

England and Holland, although willing to recognize Philip as king of Spain, were antagonized by France's growing commercial competition. The French commercial threat, the reservation of Philip's right of succession to the French crown (Dec., 1700), and the French occupation of border fortresses between the Dutch and the Spanish Netherlands (Feb., 1701) led to an anti-French alliance among England, Leopold, and the Dutch.

The Course of the War

Hostilities between the French and the imperial forces began in Italy, where the imperial general, Prince Eugene of SavoyEugene of Savoy,
1663–1736, prince of the house of Savoy, general in the service of the Holy Roman Empire. Born in Paris, he was the son of Eugène, comte de Soissons of the line of Savoy-Carignano, and Olympe Mancini, niece of Cardinal Mazarin.
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, defeated Nicolas CatinatCatinat, Nicolas
, 1637–1712, marshal of France. The son of a magistrate, he won promotion by merit rather than by wealth or descent. In the War of the Grand Alliance he commanded against Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, whom he defeated in N Italy at Staffarda (1690) and
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 and the duke of VilleroiVilleroi, François de Neufville, duc de
, 1644–1730, marshal of France and favorite of King Louis XIV. In the War of the Grand Alliance, he succeeded (1695) Marshal Luxembourg as commander in Flanders, where he was unsuccessful against King William III of England.
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. The general war began in 1702, with England, Holland, and most of the German states opposing France, Spain, Bavaria, Portugal, and Savoy. The duke of MarlboroughMarlborough, John Churchill, 1st duke of
, 1650–1722, English general and statesman, one of the greatest military commanders of history.
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, though ill-supported by the Dutch, captured a number of places in the Low Countries (1702–3), while Eugene held his own against Villeroi and his successor, Louis Joseph, duc de VendômeVendôme, Louis Joseph, duc de
, 1654–1712, marshal of France; grandson of César de Vendôme and son of Laura Mancini. He fought in the War of the Grand Alliance.
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. The duke of VillarsVillars, Claude Louis Hector, duc de
, 1653–1734, marshal of France, the last of the great generals of Louis XIV. He fought in the Dutch War (1672–78) and in 1687 went to Bavaria, where he helped strengthen the new French alliance with the elector of Bavaria; he
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, however, defeated Louis of Baden at Friedlingen (1702).

The successes of the French in Alsace enabled them to menace Vienna (1703), but the opportunity was lost by dissension among their chiefs. In 1704, Marlborough succeeded in moving his troops from the Netherlands into Bavaria, where he joined Eugene and won the great victory of Blenheim over the French under the count of Tallard(see Blenheim, battle ofBlenheim, battle of,
major engagement of the War of the Spanish Succession (see Spanish Succession, War of the), fought on Aug. 13, 1704, at the village of Blenheim (Blindheim), near Höchstädt, Bavaria.
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), and the French lost Bavaria. Meanwhile, Portugal and Savoy had changed sides (1703), and in 1704 the English captured Gibraltar.

In 1705, Marlborough in the Netherlands and Eugene in Italy had modest successes, although Vendôme defeated Eugene at Cassano. The year 1706 was marked by Eugene's victory at Turin, which resulted in French evacuation of N Italy, and by Marlborough's triumph at Ramillies (see Ramillies, battle ofRamillies, battle of
, fought May 23, 1706, near the village of Ramillies-Offus, Walloon Brabant prov., Belgium, 12 mi (19 km) S of Tienen, in the War of the Spanish Succession.
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), which compelled the French to retreat in the Low Countries. In the same year, Louis XIV proposed peace to the Dutch, but English interference forced the continuance of the war.

In 1707, Marlborough made little progress in the north and Eugene's expedition into Provence resulted in the loss of 10,000 men; but in the following year Marlborough and Eugene won another great victory at Oudenarde, took Lille, and drove the French within their borders. Peace negotiations failed, and the allies won (1709) another success, though a costly one, at Malplaquet (see Malplaquet, battle ofMalplaquet, battle of
, a major engagement in the War of the Spanish Succession (see Spanish Succession, War of the). On Sept. 11, 1709, the combined forces of England and the Holy Roman emperor, led by the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy met the French army under
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Meanwhile the indecisive allied campaigns in Spain (1708–10) did little to weaken Philip V. The death (1711) of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph IJoseph I,
1678–1711, Holy Roman emperor (1705–11), king of Hungary (1687–1711) and of Bohemia (1705–11), son and successor of Leopold I. Joseph became Holy Roman emperor in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession and died before it ended.
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, who had succeeded Leopold, and the accession of Charles VI led to the withdrawal of the English, who were as much opposed to the union of Spain and Austria as to that of Spain and France.

Negotiations for Peace

Preliminary negotiations between England and France were pressed forward and a peace conference was opened (1712), followed shortly afterward by an Anglo-French armistice. In 1713, France, England, and Holland signed the Peace of Utrecht. Charles VI continued the war, although Eugene had been defeated (1712) at Denain and had been forced to retreat in the Spanish Netherlands. Seriously weakened by the defection of his allies, the emperor finally consented in 1714 to the treaties of Rastatt and of Baden, which complemented the general settlement (see Utrecht, Peace ofUtrecht, Peace of,
series of treaties that concluded the War of the Spanish Succession. It put an end to French expansion and signaled the rise of the British Empire. By the treaty between England and France (Apr.
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). With this settlement, the principle of a balance of powerbalance of power,
system of international relations in which nations seek to maintain an approximate equilibrium of power among many rivals, thus preventing the preponderance of any one state.
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 took precedence over dynastic or national rights in the negotiation of European affairs.


See F. Taylor, The Wars of Marlborough, 1702–1709 (1921); J. B. Wolf, The Emergence of the Great Powers, 1685–1715 (1951).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Spanish Succession, War of the


a war from 1701 to 1714, caused by France’s long struggle against the Hapsburgs for hegemony in Europe and by the emergence in the European political arena of the young capitalist states of England and the Netherlands.

The pretext for the war was that the Hapsburg Spanish king, Charles II, was without a male heir. Monarchs who had offspring from marriages with Spanish princesses emerged as the principal pretenders to the Spanish throne (and the vast Spanish possessions in Europe and America): the Bourbon French king, Louis XIV, who was counting on obtaining the Spanish crown for his grandson Philip of Anjou; and the Hapsburg emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Leopold I, who nominated his son, the archduke Charles, for the Spanish throne. Epgland and the Netherlands, seeking both to profit from Spain’s incipient decline and to prevent the strengthening of the Holly Roman Empire and France, insisted on a division of Spanish possessions.

Under the pressure of French diplomacy, Charles II bequeathed the Spanish throne to Philip of Anjou, who ascended the throne and became Philip V in 1700 after the death of Charles. England and the Netherlands accepted this on condition that Spain would be independent of France and that any union whatsoever between them would be barred. But Louis XIV, by declaring Philip to be his heir (in February 1701), revealed his intention to unify Spain and France under one crown; Spain was in fact being governed by him. England and the Netherlands unsuccessfully sought trade privileges in the Spanish colonies. In The Hague, on Sept. 7, 1701, England and the Netherlands formed an alliance with the Holy Roman Emperor against France (the Grand Alliance) and in May 1702 declared war on France (hostilities between Imperial and French troops had begun already in 1701 in Italy). Later the anti-French coalition was joined by Brandenburg and most of the other German principalities, Denmark, and Portugal and then by a former ally of France, Savoy. France found itself in almost total isolation; the forces of France’s permanent and powerful ally, Sweden, were diverted indefinitely by the Northern War of 1700–21.

Hostilities proceeded simultaneously in the Spanish Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and western Germany and on the seas. The Anglo-Dutch troops were commanded by the Duke of Marlborough, and the Imperial troops were headed by Eugene of Savoy. French troops (headed by Marshals C.-L. Villars, N. Catinat, and L. Vendôme) suffered a series of defeats: at Blenheim (Höchstädt; 1704), Ramillies (1706), Turin (1706), and Oudenarde (1708). The English fleet captured Gibraltar in 1704 and the island of Minorca in 1708. Archduke Charles, with the support of the English fleet, landed in Spain, proclaimed himself king of Spain, and seized Catalonia and Aragon. After the defeat of French troops at Malplaquet (1709), France’s position seemed hopeless. But a change in the international situation produced substantial changes in the position of various members of the anti-French coalition. In England, the Whigs, who had strongly advocated continuing the war against France, were replaced (after news of Russia’s victory over Sweden near Poltava, 1709) by the Tories, who were advocates of a rapprochement with France and whose objective was an active struggle against Russia. The accession of the Hapsburg Charles VI to the Imperial throne in 1711, which opened up the possibility that the Austrian and Spanish possessions would be unified under the Hapsburgs, contributed to the abandonment of the Holy Roman Empire by its allies. The allies’ failures in Spain and Villars’ victory over the troops of Eugene of Savoy at Denain (1712) created the preconditions for a peace with France. Negotiations between the allies (excluding the Empire) and France, which began in 1712 in Utrecht, ended with the signing of a peace treaty in the following year. The war between France and the Holy Roman Empire continued until 1714, when a treaty was concluded in Rastatt between Louis XIV on one side and the emperor and the German princes who supported him on the other (the Rastatt Peace of 1714).

As a result of the War of the Spanish Succession, Spain and its colonies were left to the Bourbon Philip V on condition that his heirs renounce their rights to the French throne. The Austrian Hapsburgs received Spanish possessions in the Netherlands (Belgium) and in Italy (including the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples). England achieved the most significant successes: the possessions it received were of great importance for strengthening its maritime and colonial power — Gibraltar and the island of Minorca in the Mediterranean Sea, territory in North America, and the monopolistic right of trade in African Negro slaves in Spanish colonies in America (asiento).


Istoriia diplomatii, 2nd ed., vol. 1. Moscow, 1959.
Nikiforov, L. A. Russko-angliiskie otnosheniia pri Petre I. [Moscow] 1950.
Gurevich, Ia. G. Proiskhozhdenie voiny za Ispanskoe nasledstvo i kommercheskie interesy Anglii. St. Petersburg, 1884.
Legrelle, A. La Diplomatic française et la succession d’Espagne, 2nd ed., vols. 1–6. Paris, 1895–99.


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