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War of the Spanish Succession

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Date: 1701 to 1714
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War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714)

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was fought between the major European powers, including a divided Spain, over who had the right to succeed Charles II as King of Spain. The main theatre of war was continental Europe but the war was fought in various dominions such as the Americas, under the guise of Queen Anne's War.


Charles II, the Hapsburg king of Spain, had been mentally and physically infirm from a very young age and, by the 1690's, it was clear he could not produce an heir. Charles is childless and has no cousins in the immediate Spanish Habsburg line. Spain was a significant Empire, including not only Spain, but also dominions in Italy, the Low Countries (Netherlands), the Philippines and the Americas and a managed succession was deemed optimal.

The chief claimants were Louis XIV of France and Austrian Emperor Leopold I. Both could make roughly equal claim on behalf of their descendants. However in 1692, a daughter of Leopold I and his Spanish Hapsburg wife, married the Elector of Bavaria and gave birth to a son, Joseph Ferdinand. Of the house of Wittelsbach who may have been able to balance power in Europe.

In 1698 William III of England and Louis XIV, not normally allies, join forces. Both were determined to stop the reconstruction of the Habsburg Empire held by Charles V. They sign a partition treaty accepting the right of the young Joseph Ferdinand to all Spain's possessions except Italy - which is to be shared, Milan will go to the Austrians, the rest of Spanish Italy to the French. Charles II, outraged at this distribution of his property without his consent, responds with a will naming Joseph Ferdinand as heir to the entire estate. However in 1699 Joseph Ferdinand dies. As a result, William and Louis come up with the partition treaty of 1699 which, while generous to the Habsburgs, gives Italy and Lorraine to France. As a consequence Charles II changes his will again and he leaves everything to a Bourbon prince - Philip, the second grandson of Louis XIV. A month later Charles II dies (1 Nov 1700). With this Louis XIV forgets the partition treaty and accepts his grandson's good fortune - treating him now as Philip V of Spain. Europe goes to War.


In 1701 the war starts with Louis XIV of France and Leopold I of Austria. Each is fighting on behalf of a grandson or son who is not next in line of succession to the French or Austrian throne. Each of the candidates has been identified in the Spanish king's will, which states that if his crown is not accepted by one of the younger grandsons of Louis XIV it shall go to the younger son of Leopold I (the archduke Charles). It doesn't take long before other European powers take sides; generally against France, because of the aggressive, non-reconciliatory position, taken by Louis XIV. Bavaria will join the side of France in 1702 and Portugal and Savoy, reluctant entries on the side of France, change sides in 1703. England and Scotland fight as independent Kingdoms until the Union of the Crowns in 1708 with the Scottish Army partly provisioned by the Dutch and partly by the English Parliaments.

The war, with new technology, changed the face of warfare to that date. It was fought between standing professional armies who could sustain themselves and manoeuvre in the field effectively; the first time since the days of the Roman Empire.

The war was characterised by commanders such as John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy and set model examples for the Napoleonic Era. In, effectively, five years Marlborough would wage ten distinct successful campaigns, besiege thirty major towns, and never lose a battle or a skirmish. After his initial success at Liege in 1702 and Bonn in 1703, the French and Bavarian army threatened Vienna with 70,000 troops. Marlborough marched his army, of nearly 50,000 troops, 250 miles across Germany and confronted the French army at Blenheim in 1704, destroying two thirds of it and capturing Marshall Tallard, its commander.

Thereafter, however, the war dragged on but by 1710 the situation was largely stalemated. The cost of maintaining regular troops in the field was having a detrimental effect to all nations. It was estimated that the annual cost of maintaining Marlborough's army was approximately £1,000,000 a year and the total cost to Britain, already struggling with the incorporation of Scotland following the Union of the Crowns, was close to £9,000,000 per year. The Army of Scotland was, in the main, paid for by the Dutch as part of the agreement of alliance at the start of the war to offset costs.

Outcome of the War

In 1711 Britain started to withdraw troops and in 1712 had effectively withdrawn from Europe. England, Holland, and France signed the Peace of Utrecht, negotiated by the Tory government, which was approved by parliament in 1713. By the terms of the treaty France agreed never to unite the crowns of France and Spain, while Britain acquired Hudson's Bay, Arcadia, and Newfoundland from the French, Gibraltar and Minorca from Spain, new trading privileges with Spain, and a monopoly of the slave trade with the Spanish Empire.

Charles continued the war until 1714. Although Philip remained on the Spanish throne, the principle of balance of power had been established in European dynastic affairs. One of the major outcomes was that Britain was now a super-power, ruling both land and sea.

include a story here, find one here (Wikipedia:List_of_wars_1700–1799)


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