** war and social upheaval: War of the Spanish Succession

War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14)

Figure 1.--Britain's Royal Navy seized Gibraltar (1704) during the wars of the Spanish Succession. It helped establsh Britain's ability to project naval power into the Mediterranean. Britain formally secured possession of Gibraltar under the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). Here British boys in 1953 learn the story of the Gibraltar Gun at the Tower of London. The press caption read, "Yeoman and Yeo-boys: One of the Yeomen at London Tower tells young visitors the story about the Gibraltar Gun (right, rear), The youngsrers, dressed as Yeomen of the Guard, complete with spears Beef-eater hats, came down to soak up 'atmosphere' in preparationfor a coronation carnival."

The War of the Spanish Succession was the first war of the 18th century in Western Europe. It resultes from Louis XIV's desire to gain control over Spain. It was fought in Europe from 1702-14. The War was primarily fought on land and was the first major engagement of English forces on the European continent beyond French coastal areas. It was the last of the wars launched by Louis XIV in his drive to expand French power and territory. Two great military leaders emerged, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugène who secured major victories over the French. The War eventually statemated and the nglish withdrew. The Treaty of Utrech (1713) left the crown in Bourbon hands, but with the stipulation that the French and Spanish crowns never be unified. England gained important territories including Gibralter and areas of Canada.

Charles II

Charles II was the last Hapsburg king of Spain. He was also known as El Hechizado (the Bewitched) His portraits are not flattering. He is best remembered today for his physical disabilities, allegedly the result of royal inbreeding. He had the Hapsburg chin, probably the most notable example. Charles had no heirs and began negotiations over his successor well before his death. It became a major issue, largely beccause Frnch King Louis XIV dcioded to use it i exoanbd French power. Charles was unable to avoid causung a major European War when he died.


European monarchs married wuthin a small number if ruling families. Thus the claimants to a throne were usually not natiuonals of the country involved. This often included royals from countries which were at siome times histile. There were at Several non-Spanish European royal families had claims to the throne. Three major candidates emerged: France (Philip Louis XIV's son), Austria (Archduke Charles later Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI son of Emperor Leopold I), Bavaria (Elector Joseph Ferdinand).

First Partition

Protestant England and Holland were concerned that if either Catholic Hapsburgs or the Bourbons, two powerful Cathiolic dynasties, gained control over Spain and its colonies, that their security would be endangered. England was especially concerned about increasing French domination of Europe. They promoted the candidacy of Bavarian Joseph Ferdinand. Agreement was reached in 1698 for a complicated First Partition Treaty. Joseph Ferdinand would be made king of Spain, but some Spanish territories would be transferred to Austria and France. Joseph Ferdinand's untimely death before Charles essentially undid the difficult neotiations that had led to near greement on a treaty.

Duke of Anjou

Faced with the death of Joseph Ferdinand, Charles II who humself was dying in 1700 chose the Duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV. The Duke could not accept without Louis' permission. The King gave it and the Duke was crowned Philip V after Charles' death. This meant a defacto French Bourbon acendabcy.

Louis XIV

Louis who had launched a series of costly wars to help agrandize France, saw one more opportunity late in his life and gave his approval, knowing that war would ensue. Louis had already taken commercial action against the English when he prohibited of English imports. He also supported the claim to the English throne put forward by James, the "Old Pretender," the leader of the Jacobites and son of the James II who had been deposed in the Glorious Revolution by William and Mary.

Two Rival Coalitions

England helped form a Grand Alliance to oppose Louis XIV one more time. After Philip V was crowned, England, Holland, Austria, and most of the German states (primarily Hanover and Prussia) agreed to form a coalition to go to war against France. One German state, Bavaria deciced to support France as did Spain now under Philip V. Portugal and Savoy also sided with France, but changed sides in 1703. They would gight a major Eurioean war over a decade abnd a half.

Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722)

The First Duke of Marlbourough was one of the greatest commanders in British military history. He was a great strategist and a shrewd diplomat who led English and allied armies in important victories over the French, most notably at Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706), and Oudenaarde (1708). He played a key role in thwarting the designs of Louis XIV. Wellington and Montgomery are better known today, but it was Marlbourough who managed to prevail even though the weight of superior numbers and resources were not in his favor. His critics charge that he had an inordinate love of wealth and power and had inconstant political loyalties. One of his descents, Winston Churchill, also played a prominent role in European history. The Duke of Orange who had opposed Louis XIV's efforts to seize Holland became William III along with his Stuart Wife Mary II after the Glorious Revolution which sent English King James II packing. Mary died (1694). William died in 1702. The exiled Catholic Engllish King James II had another protestant daughter, Anne, who became queen. She had a close association with Sara Churchill, one of her ladies in waiting, and selected John Churchill, Earl of Marlborough, to command the English and Dutch armies. Marlbourgh opened operations in the Low Countries and fighting brokeout throughout Europe by 1703. He gained brilliant victiories, but he and Saa fell out iof favor with the Queen.

Prince Eugène (1663-1736)

Marlborough was not the only great commander of the War. The Austrian Imperian forces were commanded by Prince François Eugène of Savoy. The Prince was a general in the service of the Austrian Hapsburgs who were also the Holy Roman emperors. Like Marlboough, Prince Eugène, is widely seen as one of the great European military figures. He had played a major role with Marlborough at Blenheim (1704). He was later involved in campaigns against the Turks and in the War of the Polish Succession. Surprisingly Prince Eugène was born in Paris raised in the French Court. His mother was a niece of Cardinal Mazarin. He was a weak child small in build. Louis XIV because of this and the fact he was realted to Cardinl Nazarin had insisted he enter the Church and not the military. Louis had twice exiled his father apparently because of court inrigues rather than any actual wrong doings. As a result, the Eugène camn to hate King Louis. After his faher's death, Eugène left France. He swore that he would never return except with sword in hand. Eugène and his brother went to Vienna, and Eugène joined the Imperial Army. He fought as a young man in the Turkish siege of Vienna. He rose rapidly in the Imperial Army. His reputation was made at Zenta in 1697 where he dessively defeated a Turkish army.

Military Campaigns

Marlbourgh oversaw perhaps the most brilliant series of military engagements in British history, and not along the coast and in Britain. This was another war agaiunstg Louis XIV's great armies. Louis sought to force the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold, out of the war by seizing his capital, Vienna. He thus could have denanded a advantageous peace settlement. The dangers to Vienna were considerable--the greatest since Sulliman's siege (17th century). Marlbourgh gained his victories deep in the heart of Central Europe and often against supperior forces. No other British commander haa comparable record. Marlborough conducted ten victorious campaigns, carrying out over over 30 major seiges, and amazingly never lost a single battle. After Marlbourogh's initial success in the Low Countries, the Grand Coalition faced a major crisis. The French supported by the Bavarians attacked the Austrians and were moving toward Vienna. Only English support could save Austria which was a principal member of the coalition. Fighting in the Low Countries was one thing, there the English Army was never far from a Channel or North Sea port where the Royal Navy could deliever supplies and reinforcements. An English army had never before ventured deep into the hear of Europe and would never do so again until Wold War II. Louis XIV of France sought to knock the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold, out of the war by seizing Vienna, the Habsburg capital, and gain a favourable peace settlement. The dangers to Vienna were considerable. To aid the Autrians, Marlborough, demonstrated his mastery of military tactics and strategy. He marched his army 250 miles across Germany to engage the and defeat the main body of the French Army at Blenheim (1704). There he secured the greatest battle victory in British Army history. He destroyed two thirds of the French Army and capturing its commander, Marshall Tallard. The overwhelming Allied victory led by Marlbourgh ensured the safety of Vienna from the large Franco-Bavarian army, thus preventing the collapse of the reconstituted Grand Alliance. Even after the French defeat at Blenheim, however, the war continued. Fifhting occurred in the Low Countries, Italy, and Spain. Neither side could decisively defeat the other and a stalemate resulted. Marlborough and Prince Eugène succedded in a serious of important victories after Blenheim, including Gibraltar (1704), Ramillies (1706), Oudenarde (1708), and Malplaquet (1709).

England Withdraws

The fighting in Spain were indecisive, but England did obtain Gibralter. The War was an enormous expense and became increasingly unpopular in England. It became amajor issue between the Whigs and the Torries. The Whigs representing the mercantile class supported the War. The Torries representing the landowers who were taxed to pay for the War opposed it. The Quuen supported the War until Marlborough's wife Sarah fell out of favor. Marlborough was accused of corruption by th Torries who came into power in 1710 and removed from command when the Queen did not come to his defense. The English in 1711 withdrew from the War. One concern was Charles VI becoming emperor and he appeared to represent as much of a threat as the Bourbons.

Treaty of Utrecht (1713)

The Treaty of Utrech is on of the major efforts of Europen states to reconstruct the international system after a major war. Britain withdrew from the war making it impossible for its allies to continue to fight the French alone. England, Holland, and France signed the Peace of Utrecht in 1713. Emperor Charles continued the war until 1714. The Treaty negotiated by the Torry Government which had opposed the War. The Whigs accused the Torries of abandining the Allies and accepting terms against Britains best interests. The French to never unite the French and Spanish crowns. France ceeded territory in North America (Hudson's Bay, Arcadia, and Newfoundland). This was the first step in England's eventual seizure of Canada. Spain was especially affected by the War. Spain ceeded Gibraltar and Minorca. England still holds Gibtalter to this day. England also obtained trading privileges with Spain and a monopoly of the slave trade with the Spanish Empire. Spain retained its American colonies, but had to suceed the Spanish Netherlands, Sardinia, Milan, and Naples to Austria and Sicily to Savoy. Philip V retained the Spanish crown, but with the understanding that the Bourbons would never combine the two crowns. The War also had domestic repercussions in Spain. Several regions of Spain sided with Archduke Charles (later Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI). After te War, Philip deprived Catalonia, Aragón, and Valencia of the autonomous privileges that they had enjoyed.


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Created: July 19, 2003
Last updated: 1:13 PM 8/8/2018