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War of the Spanish Succession

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1701 – 1714

War of the Spanish Succession Epic World History War of the Spanish Succession

Treaties of Utrecht, Rastatt, and Baden:

Spain, Holy Roman Empire, Crown of Aragon, Dutch Republic, Habsburg Monarchy

Siege of Barcelona, War of the Austrian Succession, Seven Years' War, Nine Years' War, Thirty Years' War

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The War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1715) was a major European conflict of the early 18th century, triggered by the death in 1700 of the last Habsburg King of Spain, the infirm and childless Charles II. Charles II had ruled over a vast global empire, and the question of who would succeed him had long troubled the governments of Europe. Attempts to solve the problem by peacefully partitioning the empire between the eligible candidates from the royal houses of France (Bourbon), Austria (Habsburg), and Bavaria (Wittelsbach) ultimately failed, and on his deathbed Charles II fixed the entire Spanish inheritance on his grandnephew Philip, Duke of Anjou, the second-eldest grandson of King Louis XIV of France. With Philip ruling in Spain, Louis XIV would secure great advantages for his dynasty, but some statesmen regarded a dominant House of Bourbon as a threat to European stability, jeopardising the balance of power.


War of the Spanish Succession Map of the War of the Spanish Succession Marlborough 1702

Louis XIV had good reasons for accepting his grandson on the Spanish thrones, but he subsequently made a series of controversial moves: he sent troops to secure the Spanish Netherlands (the buffer zone between France and the Dutch Republic); he sought to dominate the Spanish American trade at the expense of English and Dutch merchants; and he refused to remove Philip from the French line of succession, thereby reopening the possibility of France and Spain uniting under a single powerful monarch at a future date. To counter Louis XIV's growing dominance, England, the Dutch Republic, and Austria – together with their allies in the Holy Roman Empire – re-formed the 1680s Grand Alliance (1701) and supported Emperor Leopold I's claim to the whole Spanish inheritance for his second son, Archduke Charles. By backing the Habsburg candidate (known to his supporters as King Charles III of Spain), each member of the coalition sought to reduce the power of France, ensure their own territorial and dynastic security, and restore and improve the trade opportunities they had enjoyed under Charles II.

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The English, the Dutch and the Austrians formally declared war in May 1702. By 1708, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy had secured victory in the Spanish Netherlands and in Italy, and had defeated Louis XIV's ally Bavaria. France faced invasion and ruin, but Allied unity broke first. With the Grand Alliance defeated in Spain and with its casualties mounting and aims diverging, the Tories came to power in Great Britain in 1710 and resolved to end the war. French and British ministers prepared the groundwork for a peace conference, and in 1712 Britain ceased combat operations. The Dutch, Austrians, and German states fought on to strengthen their own negotiating position, but defeated by Marshal Villars, they had to accept Anglo-French mediation. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and the Treaty of Rastatt (1714) partitioned the Spanish empire between the major and minor powers. The Austrians received most of Spain's former European realms, while the Duke of Anjou retained peninsular Spain and Spanish America, where, after renouncing his claim to the French succession, he reigned as King Philip V until 1746. The European balance of power was assured.

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In the late 1690s the declining health of King Charles II of Spain brought to a head the problem of his succession, a problem which had underlain much of European diplomacy for several decades. By the late 17th century Spain was no longer a hegemonic power in Europe, but the Spanish Empire – essentially a vast confederation that covered the globe, which Spaniards usually referred to as a "Monarchy" – remained resilient. Besides Spain, Charles II's other European realms comprised the Balearic Islands, the Spanish Netherlands, Milan, Sicily, Naples, Sardinia, Finale and the State of Presidi on the Tuscan coast; overseas realms included the Philippines, the Spanish West Indies, Florida, and much of North and South America and several North African cities. The empire was in decline, but remained the largest of the European overseas empires, and was still active and influential on the European and global stage.

Charles II had become king following the death of his father, Philip IV, in 1665, but he was physically weak and incapable of having children; he was the last male Spanish Habsburg and he had survived longer than anyone had expected. When the Treaty of Ryswick (Rijswijk) brought an end to the Nine Years' War (1688–97), European statesmen turned their attention to solve the problem of the Spanish Succession before the death of Charles II should actually take place. Ultimately, the main rivals for the Spanish inheritance were the heirs and descendants of the Bourbon King Louis XIV of France, and the Austrian Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, both of whom were sons-in-law to Philip IV of Spain and grandsons of Philip III, and both firmly believed in their claims. However, the inheritance was so vast that its transference would dramatically increase either French or Austrian power which, due to the implied threat of European hegemony, was of the utmost importance to Europe as a whole.

Causes of the war

Unlike the French crown, the Spanish crowns could all be inherited by, or through, a female in default of a male line. The next in line after Charles II, therefore, were his two sisters: Maria Theresa, the elder, and Margaret Theresa, the younger. Maria Theresa had married Louis XIV in 1660 and by him she had a son, Louis, Dauphin of France. If it had been a matter of hereditary rights the Dauphin would have been heir presumptive to the Spanish Monarchy, but she had renounced her claim of succession in return for the payment of a dowry of half a million gold crowns. The testament of her father, Philip IV, reiterated this waiver and bequeathed the reversion of the whole of the Spanish dominions to his younger daughter, Margaret Theresa. However the French, using in part the excuse that the dowry promised Maria Theresa was never paid, insisted that her renunciation was invalid. Nor was it clear whether a princess could waive the rights of her unborn children.

Leopold I married Margaret Theresa in 1666. At her death in 1673 she left one living heir, Maria Antonia, who in 1685 married Max Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria. Shortly before her death in 1692, she gave birth to a son, Joseph Ferdinand. When she married, Maria Antonia had formally agreed to waive her rights to the Spanish thrones in favour of Leopold I's sons from his third marriage: the elder Archduke Joseph (b. 1678), who would succeed Leopold I as Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of the Austrian Habsburg lands, and the younger Archduke Charles (b. 1685), who Leopold I promoted as the candidate for the Spanish succession. However, the waiver imposed upon Maria Antonia was questionable and not recognised in Spain where, instead, the Council of State welcomed the prospect of Joseph Ferdinand – a great-grandson of Philip IV – inheriting the entire empire. The Bavarian claim also attracted support from the Maritime Powers (England and the Dutch Republic) who, despite guarantees to Leopold I for the Spanish succession in alliance treaties of 1689, recognised that the House of Wittelsbach offered no threat to the balance of power in Europe.

If he chose, Louis XIV could attempt to assert his will on Spain by force of arms, but the Nine Years' War had been an immense drain on France's resources. Moreover, Leopold I's war with the Ottoman Turks in the Balkans was nearing a successful conclusion, and the Emperor would soon be in a position to transfer his energies west and bolster his claim to the full Spanish inheritance. To seek a satisfactory solution and gain support, Louis XIV turned to his long-standing rival William of Orange, who was both Dutch Stadtholder and King of England (as William III). England and the Dutch Republic had their own commercial, strategic and political interests within the Spanish empire, and they were eager to return to peaceful commerce. However, the Maritime Powers were in a weakened state and both had reduced their forces at the conclusion of the Nine Years' War. Louis XIV and William III, therefore, sought to solve the problem of the Spanish inheritance through negotiation, based on the principle of partition (at first without prior reference to the Spanish or Austrian courts), to take effect after the death of Charles II.

Partition treaties

The First Partition Treaty, signed by the Duke of Tallard and the Earl of Portland on 26 September 1698 and ratified on 11 October, allocated Naples and Sicily, the Tuscan ports, Finale, and the Basque province of Guipuzcoa, to the Dauphin of France; Leopold I's second son, Archduke Charles, would receive the Duchy of Milan and its dependencies. However, the bulk of the empire – most of peninsular Spain, the Spanish Netherlands, Sardinia, and the overseas territories – would transfer to the Bavarian prince, Joseph Ferdinand. Under Joseph the Spanish Monarchy would remain independent from either French or Austrian control, but his premature death in February 1699 necessitated the drawing up of a Second Partition Treaty, the preliminary of which was signed between William III and Tallard on 11 June, then later ratified by the States General on 25 March 1700.

The Spanish Empire was now divided between the three surviving candidates. By this new treaty Archduke Charles would receive most of Spain, the Spanish Netherlands, Sardinia, and the overseas empire. The Dauphin would acquire Gipuzkoa, as well as the rest of Spain's Italian possessions, on the understanding that Milan would be exchanged for the Duchy of Lorraine, which in turn would be incorporated into France. For Leopold I, however, control of Spain and its colonial empire was less important than Italy, in particular Milan which he regarded as essential for the security of Austria's south-western flank. Although Leopold I and his ministers were willing to accept some sort of partition, they would not agree to a deal that shut the Austrians out of Italy. Leopold I, therefore, opposed the Second Partition Treaty. This was due in part to an adherence to Habsburg dynasticism, but by opposing the division of the Spanish Monarchy the Emperor also hoped to create a favourable impression in Madrid where the idea of partition had been received with consternation.

Uppermost in the minds of the Spanish ministers was the need to preserve their empire intact and put it in hands powerful enough to guarantee that integrity. The preservation of the whole empire for the next generation of Spaniards was the driving motive in the last months of Charles II's life, but the grandees, led by Cardinal Portocarrero, knew that militarily their country was at the mercy of neighbouring France and that Austria, lacking a navy, could not hope to validate its claims. Consequently, Charles II, pressed on his sick-bed by his ministers, signed his final will on 3 October 1700, annulling the renunciations imposed on Maria Theresa and fixing the entire inheritance on the younger grandson of Louis XIV, Philip, Duke of Anjou. As Philip was not immediately in line for the French throne (the Dauphin and the Duke of Burgundy stood between him and the crown), the Spanish government hoped that this arrangement would be acceptable to European states who feared the unification of the French and Spanish thrones under a single monarch. If Philip should die or refuse, the offer was to extend to his younger brother, the Duke of Berry; if they both refused, the undivided inheritance would be offered to Archduke Charles.

King Charles II of Spain finally died on 1 November 1700. Louis XIV now faced a dilemma which he himself recognised as intractable. If he forbade the Duke of Anjou to accept the Spanish thrones and instead adhered to the Second Partition Treaty — which Leopold I had refused to sign and the Spanish had refused to recognise — Archduke Charles would almost certainly be acknowledged as the King of Spain and all its dominions, as stipulated in Charles II's last will. The Austrian Habsburgs would accrue enormous power while France would gain nothing, and war with both Spain and Austria would be inevitable. Accepting the will of Charles II would also mean war with Leopold I, but in this case France would be allied with Spain defending rights recognised in the Spanish Monarchy. In any event the French king surmised that the Maritime Powers — anxious themselves for peace — would be either neutral or only half-heartedly involved, so long as the French and Spanish crowns were not united. With this reasoning, Louis XIV decided to accept Charles II's last testament, and sent his grandson to Madrid to reign there as King Philip V of Spain.


The news that Louis XIV had accepted Charles II's will and that the Second Partition Treaty was dead was a personal blow to William III, who had concluded that Philip V would be nothing more than a French puppet. However, in England many argued that the acceptance of Charles II's will was preferable to a treaty that would have seen France extend its territory, including the addition of Naples and Sicily which under French control would pose a threat to England's Levantine trade. After the exertions of the Nine Years' War the Tory-dominated House of Commons was keen to prevent further conflict and restore normal commercial activity. Yet to William III France's growing strength made war inevitable, and together with Anthonie Heinsius, Grand Pensionary of Holland and de facto executive head of the Dutch state, he made preparations to gain support. To this end, William III was aided by Louis XIV's own actions which fatally compromised the position of advantage the French king held.

Louis XIV's first act was an official recognition of Philip V's place in the French line of succession by proclaiming the doctrine of the divine right of kings. This gave rise to the spectre of France and Spain uniting under a single monarch, a direct contradiction of Charles II's will. Next, in early February 1701 Louis XIV moved to secure the Bourbon succession in the Spanish Netherlands and sent French troops to take over the Dutch-held 'Barrier' fortresses which William III had secured at the Peace of Ryswick. The Spanish Netherlands were of vital strategic interest to the Dutch as they acted as a buffer zone between France and the Republic. But the French incursion was also detrimental to Dutch commercial interests in the region as there was now no prospect of keeping the Scheldt trade restrictions in place – restrictions that up till now had ensured the Republic's position as the primary inlet and outlet for European trade. England also had its own interests in the Spanish Netherlands, and ministers recognised the potential danger posed by an enemy established to the east of the Strait of Dover who, taking advantage of favourable wind and tide, could threaten the British Isles. The French move was designed in part to pressure the States General into recognising Philip as King of Spain – which they soon did – but from William III's perspective, losing the hard-won securities overturned the work of the last twenty years.

Louis XIV further alienated the Maritime Powers by pressing the Spanish to grant special privileges to French traders within their empire, thereby squeezing out English and Dutch merchants. To many, Louis XIV was once again acting like the arbiter of Europe, and support for a war policy gained momentum. Although the French king's ambitions and motives were not known for certain, English ministers worked on the assumption that Louis XIV would seek to expand his territory and direct and dominate Spanish affairs. With the threat of a single power dominating Europe and overseas trade, London now undertook to support William III's efforts 'in conjunction with the Emperor and the States General, for the Preservation of the Liberties of Europe, the Property and Peace of England, and for reducing the Exorbitant Power of France.'

Leopold I moves on Milan

From the start Leopold I had rejected the final will of Charles II: he was determined to keep the Spanish domains in Italy, above all the Duchy of Milan which was seen as the southern key to Austria's security. Before the opening of hostilities French troops had already been accepted in Milan when its viceroy declared for Philip V; as did the neighbouring Duchy of Mantua by a secret convention of February 1701. The Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and the Duchy of Parma (under Papal protection), remained neutral. Farther south the Kingdom of Naples acknowledged Philip V as King of Spain, as did Pope Clement XI who, due to the pro-French leanings of his cardinals, generally followed a policy of benevolent neutrality towards France. Only in the Duchies of Modena and Guastalla – once French troops were expelled at the beginning of the campaign – did the Emperor find support for his cause.

The most significant ruler in northern Italy was Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy, who had a claim to the Spanish thrones through his great-grandmother, daughter of Philip II of Spain. Like the Emperor, the Duke had designs on the neighbouring Duchy of Milan, and he flirted with both Louis XIV and Leopold I to secure his own ambitions. However, the Duke of Anjou's accession to the Spanish thrones and the subsequent dominance of the Bourbons had initially proved to be most persuasive argument, and on 6 April 1701 Victor Amadeus reluctantly renewed his alliance with France. French troops bound for Milan were now permitted to march through Savoyard territory. In return, the Duke was to receive subsidies and the title of supreme commander of the Savoyard and Bourbon armies in Italy (in practice it was only a nominal title), though he was offered no territorial promises. The alliance was sealed with Philip V's marriage to Amadeus' 13-year-old daughter, Maria Luisa.

The French presence in Italy threatened Austria's security. Although Leopold I's recent victory over the Ottoman Turks had left his eastern frontiers secure for now, he had been outmanoeuvred diplomatically. In May 1701, therefore, before declaring war, Leopold I sent Prince Eugene of Savoy across the Alps to secure the Duchy of Milan by force. By early June the bulk of Eugene's 30,000 troops had crossed the mountains and into neutral Venice, and on 9 July he defeated a detachment from Marshal Catinat's army at the Battle of Carpi; this was followed with another victory on 1 September when he defeated Catinat's successor, Marshal Villeroi, at the Battle of Chiari. Eugene occupied most of pro-French Mantua territories, yet despite his success he received scant support from Vienna. The collapse of government credit led Leopold I to deplete his army, forcing Eugene into unconventional tactics. On 1 February 1702 he attacked the French headquarters at Cremona. The attack ultimately failed, but Villeroi was captured (later released), compelling the French to pull back behind the Adda. The Bourbons still held the Duchy of Milan, yet the Austrians had demonstrated they could and would fight to protect their interests, furnishing the arguments needed to build an alliance with England and the Dutch Republic.

Grand Alliance reassembles

Talks had begun at The Hague in March 1701. Despite past antagonisms William III, now nearing death, entrusted the Earl of Marlborough as his political and military successor, appointing him Ambassador Extraordinary at The Hague and commander-in-chief of English and Scottish forces in the Low Countries. Heinsius represented the Dutch while Count Wratislaw, Imperial ambassador in London, negotiated on behalf of the Emperor. Talks with French ambassador, Count d'Avaux, centred around the fate of the Spanish Monarchy, the French troop incursions into the Spanish Netherlands and the Duchy of Milan, and the favourable trade privileges granted to French merchants at the expense of the Maritime Powers. These somewhat insincere talks proved unfruitful, and they collapsed in early August. Nevertheless, concurrent discussions to form an anti-French military alliance between England, the Dutch Republic, and Austria had made significant progress, resulting in the signing of the Second Treaty of Grand Alliance (or, Treaty of The Hague) on 7 September. The overall aims of the Alliance were kept vague: there was no mention of Archduke Charles ascending the Spanish thrones, but the Emperor was to receive an 'equitable and reasonable' satisfaction to the Spanish succession, and the idea that the French and Spanish kingdoms were to remain separate was central to the agreement.

Even after the formation of the Grand Aliance the French King continued to antagonise. On 16 September 1701, the Catholic James II of England (VII of Scotland) – exiled in Saint-Germain since the 'Glorious Revolution' – died. Despite his renunciation of the Jacobites at the Treaty of Ryswick, Louis XIV soon recognised James II's Catholic son, James Francis Edward Stuart, as King 'James III' of England. The French court insisted that granting James the title of King was a mere formality, but English ministers were incredulous and indignant. Louis XIV's declaration seemed a direct challenge to Parliament and the Act of Settlement, which on the death of Anne's only surviving son had fixed the English succession on the Electress Sophia of Hanover (a granddaughter of James VI/I) and her Protestant heirs. In consequence, securing the Protestant succession was soon recognised by the Grand Alliance as one of England's main war aims.

On 19 March 1702, William, King of England and Dutch Stadtholder, died. Anne ascended to the British throne and at once assured the Privy Council of her two main aims: the maintenance of the Protestant succession, and the reduction of the power of France. Anne's accession secured Marlborough's position: she made him Captain-General of her land forces (among other advancements), while Sarah, Marlborough's wife and Anne's long-standing friend, was granted the key positions of the royal household. The Queen also turned to her close adviser (and friend of the Marlboroughs), Sidney Godolphin, and appointed him Lord High Treasurer. In the Dutch Republic William's death brought forth the so-called Second Stadtholderless Period, and in most provinces the anti-Orangist, republican, peace-loving party gained the ascendency. Yet contrary to early French expectation the new regime largely endorsed the foreign policy of William. French domination of the Spanish Netherlands was universally regarded as a direct threat to the survival of the Republic and its trade, and Amsterdam's merchants feared that much of their existing interests with Spain and Spanish America would soon come under French control. Consequently, many leading statesmen of William's later years remained in office, including the experienced Heinsius whose personal relationship with Marlborough was fundamental to the success of the Grand Alliance in the early stages of the war.

With no diplomatic breakthrough made since the signing of the Second Treaty of Grand Alliance, England, the Dutch Republic, and Austria declared war on France on 15 May 1702. Although several estates of the Holy Roman Empire, most notably Bavaria, openly supported the French cause, a majority of estates backed the emperor. On 30 September 1702, the Imperial Diet voted for an imperial war (Reichskrieg) against France.

Leadership, strategy and contending forces

To England, Spain itself was not the central issue, but the potential growth of French power and its capacity to dominate Europe was seen as the primary danger to England's interests at home and abroad. The best way to achieve the country's goals was a source of heated debate. In general terms, the Tories eschewed continental warfare in favour of a 'blue water policy' whereby the Royal Navy waged war against French and Spanish trade at sea while at the same time protecting and expanding England's commerce. The Tories regarded a major land commitment on the continent as too expensive, and would primarily benefit Allied rather than English interests. In contrast, the Court Whigs and the financiers in London who would profit most from the land campaign, supported the continental strategy, arguing that the navy alone could never defeat Louis XIV. The debate over the use of English resources would persist throughout the war, but the country's financial strength helped it to develop a number of strategies, most important of which was the ability to attack France across multiple fronts. However, defeating Louis XIV was beyond any single Allied member, and therefore any strategy necessitated the close commercial and political co-operation between England and the Dutch Republic to put together an effective army in the field and to sustain a close relationship with a number of European allies, principally from Germany whose princes would provide essential troops for hire.

Many of the small German states (including Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, the Palatinate, Münster, Baden) fought to regain some of the Holy Roman Empire's former territories in Alsace and Lorraine, and thereby secure a strong Reichsbarriere on the Empire's western frontier. However, many of the more influential German rulers had other strategic and dynastic priorities, and preferred to enlist many of their troops in the Anglo-Dutch army in exchange for annual subsidies. George Louis, Elector of Hanover, was eager to strengthen his position in England as Queen Anne's heir, while Frederick Augustus of Saxony – as King of Poland – had his own interests in the Great Northern War against Charles XII of Sweden. The Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia – whose backing Leopold I had secured by recognising him as Frederick I, King in Prussia, as well an equal member of the Grand Alliance – provided a corps of 12,000 men early in the war, but his participation could only be guaranteed by a steady stream of financial and territorial concessions. Frederick IV of Denmark also provided valuable troops in return for subsidies, though he never joined the war against France.

Recognising the rising political, economic, and naval strength in England, the Dutch accepted Marlborough as the Allied commander-in-chief in the Low Countries. However, his command necessarily had its limitations and was subject to the approval of Dutch generals and Field Deputies (civil and military representatives of the States General). The priority of the Dutch was to re-establish their Barrier fortresses; a goal which could be achieved through sieges rather than risky battles. On several occasions the Dutch vetoed Marlborough's attempts to engage his opponents in the field, but losing a battle in the Low Countries could have potentially fatal consequences to the security of the Republic, and Marlborough himself was a relatively inexperienced foreign general. It was the Dutch, moreover, who provided the main system of supply, as well as the majority of the troops, engineers, and guns in theatre, initially fielding an army of 60,000 men (including hired contingents from the German states), plus 42,000 for garrison duty. For their part, the English Parliament voted for a field army of 40,000 men to fight in the Low Countries in 1702. Of this figure some 18,500 were British subject troops, the remainder were mostly auxiliaries from Germany. At sea the English dominated having 127 ships of the line notionally available for service in 1700; the Dutch having 83. In contrast, Leopold I had more limited resources and no navy, and he relied heavily on the Maritime Powers for his war effort. The Emperor had initially committed to a field army of 90,000 men, yet in 1702 he was unable to deploy any more than 40,000 in Italy (which would be half that number by December) and 20,000 on the Rhine.

For Louis XIV, control of the Spanish Empire was a legitimate economic and strategic prize, and he was anxious to keep the riches of America out of the hands of the English and Dutch. For these ends the King exercised complete authority for forming French foreign policy and strategy, relying on a small but trusted group of advisers, notably the Marquis of Torcy, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. A series of councils regulated the decision making process, the most prominent of which was the Council of State. As the war progressed – and as Louis XIV aged – Torcy, along with others such as Voysin, Secretary of State for War from 1709, came to dominate discussion in council and elsewhere. In Madrid, French statesmen and generals exerted guiding influence over government and the army, and in the early years of the war Philip V was inclined to defer to his grandfather, who exercised control through the cabinet council (despacho). The principal member of the council was the French ambassador, the most notable of whom, Amelot, stayed in the capital from 1705–09. Resentful of this French dominance and authority many grandees, excluded from real power and swayed by family loyalties, would defect to the Austrian Habsburg cause during the course of the war.

At the beginning of the 18th century Louis XIV remained the most powerful monarch in Europe. Although in 1700 his fleet of 108 ships of the line could not match the combined strength of the Maritime Powers, his army was by far the largest, reaching a peak paper figure of 373,000 men (in real terms approximately 255,000, including foreign regiments). At the beginning of the war Spanish military resources were much more limited, and like other states their numbers had fallen drastically following the Peace of Ryswick. In 1703 the army in Peninsular Spain, for example, numbered just over 13,000 foot and 5,000 horse, and both were ill-equipped to fight. Likewise, Spain's navy was considerably smaller than the other powers, and Philip V had to rely on the French to help patrol his coastline and guard the American trade routes. Beyond Spain, Louis XIV had few other allies to rely on, however. The Duke of Savoy and King Peter II of Portugal would both break prior agreements and defect to the Grand Alliance in 1703, and nearly all the German states were against Louis XIV. Nevertheless, the King did have direct influence deep within the Holy Roman Empire through alliances with the House of Wittelsbach: Joseph Clemens, Elector of Cologne and Archbishop-Elector of Liège, and, more significantly, his brother Max Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria. After the Spanish throne had been lost with the death of his son, Joseph, Max Emanuel had sought compensation elsewhere. Initially, the Elector had pressed the Emperor into exchanging Bavaria for the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, but when this was rejected he turned to France for the realisation of his ambitions – the sovereign ownership of the Spanish Netherlands (of which he was the current governor) or the Imperial Crown itself.

Low Countries, Rhine and Danube

The first aim of the Anglo-Dutch army in the Low Countries was to take possession of the Meuse and Lower Rhine fortresses handed to the Bourbons by Joseph Clemens, and clear the French under Marshal Boufflers from threatening the Dutch border. This was largely achieved by the Allies in 1702, first by taking Kaiserswerth in June, then by prying the French out of several minor fortresses on the Muese: Venlo, Stevensweert, Roermond, and more importantly, Liège, which fell in late October. Marlborough (elevated to a dukedom in December) and the Dutch generals had removed the immediate French threat, and Joseph Clemens fled to France. However, in 1703 Allied progress was more mixed. Rheinberg and Bonn, fell at the beginning of the campaign, and Huy, Limbourg and Guelder were taken towards the end. Nevertheless, the 'Great Design' to secure Antwerp and thereby open the river lines into Flanders and Brabant, was left in ruins by Marshal Villeroi's initiative, poor Allied co-ordination, and by General Obdam's defeat at the Battle of Ekeren on 30 June.

Meanwhile, Prince Louis of Baden, the Imperial commander-in-chief, had stood guard on the Upper Rhine, and on 9 September 1702 he captured Landau, the key to Alsace. However, in the opening years of the war it was the French who gained the upper hand in southern Germany. On 14 October Claude de Villars narrowly defeated Baden in the Black Forest at the Battle of Friedlingen, thereby opening up communications between the French on the Rhine and the Bavarians on the Upper Danube. The Elector of Bavaria's support for the Bourbon cause was a grave concern to the Emperor, but for the French it created new opportunities: it undermined the Allied position in southern Germany, and it facilitated a potential strike towards Vienna or across the Alps into northern Italy. By the time Villars arrived on the Danube in May 1703, the Elector had taken several strong-points along the river, from Ulm to Regensburg. Although the Elector's campaign in the Tyrol was defeated by the sharpshooting mountain men in June–August, on the Danube he remained dominant, and on 20 September he and Villars defeated an Imperial detachment at the Battle of Höchstädt. The victory could not save the increasingly hostile relationship between the two generals, and Marshal Marsin replaced Villars in theatre. Nevertheless, the French maintained their momentum, not only on the Danube, but also back on the Rhine where Marshal Tallard took Breisach in September, defeated the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel at the Battle of Speyerbach on 15 November, then recaptured Landau.

In December 1703 the Elector of Bavaria seized Augsburg; in mid-January 1704 he took Passau on the Danube, adding further pressure on Leopold I in Vienna. The threat to the Emperor was exacerbated by Francis II Rákóczi's anti-Habsburg revolt in Hungary where, due to the devastation of the recent war with the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent imposition of high taxes and feudal burdens, the people had risen up to restore the old constitution. With Hungarian rebels approaching Vienna from the east and the French and Bavarians threatening from west, it was essential for the Allies to resolve the problem posed by Bavaria. To this end, Marlborough marched up the Rhine from the Low Countries in May; in June he united his forces with Baden north of the Danube, before securing a crossing on the river at Donauwörth on 2 July. Bavaria now lay open to attack, but Max Emanuel, knowing Tallard was bringing reinforcements from the Rhine, could be persuaded by neither pressure nor inducements to abandon his French alliance. On 13 August, therefore, Marlborough, now joined by Prince Eugene and commanding in total some 52,000 men, attacked the slightly larger Franco-Bavarian army on the Danube near Höchstädt an der Donau. What came to be known in England as the Battle of Blenheim, proved a decisive defeat for Bavaria. Tallard was taken prisoner while Marsin escaped back across the Rhine. Ulm and Ingolstadt soon fell, followed by Trier, Landau, and in December, Trarbach, in preparation for an Allied attack up the Moselle the following year. Max Emanuel returned to govern the Spanish Netherlands, and by the terms of the Treaty of Ilbersheim (7 November) his Bavarian lands were placed under Austrian rule. The threat to knock the Emperor out of the war had been averted.

The Blenheim campaign dominated the war in 1704. For Louis XIV, the defeat was a severe blow to his prestige, but there were some consolations that year, including Marshals Montrevel's and Villars' success against the Allied-backed Camisard revolt in the Cévennes (although a low-level guerilla war dragged on for several additional years). For Marlborough, the Blenheim campaign secured his reputation and was seen by many as a vindication of the continental strategy, but for England the pressing need now was for the Emperor to make peace in Hungary, and for the Allies to resume the attack against France on all fronts. However, Marlborough's attempt in 1705 to by-pass the Low Countries and invade Louis XIV's kingdom via the Moselle, proved a failure. With Villars entrenched at Sierck, and with the German princes failing to fully support the attack, the Duke was forced to return to the Meuse in mid-June. Little was achieved here, though, beyond forestalling a French offensive and forcing the Lines of Brabant at Elixheim, south of Zoutleeuw (Léau), on 17/18 July.

Poor Allied co-operation, tactical disputes and command rivalries, ensured the Allies made little progress in 1705 on either the Meuse or the Moselle; there was also a setback in occupied Bavaria where the Emperor's heavy taxation and forced recruitment led to a brief peasant revolt. Nevertheless, in 1706 the Allies would at last make the breakthrough in the Low Countries when, on 23 May, Marlborough defeated Villeroi and the Elector of Bavaria at the Battle of Ramillies north of Namur. Each side fielded some 60,000 men, but it was the English general, taking advantage of his opponent’s weak disposition, who won a decisive victory. A two-week pursuit of their shattered opponents quickly secured a number of ill-defended towns, including Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, and Antwerp; a second campaigning phase required the application of more substantial siegeworks, but the Allies eventually captured Ostend, Menen (thereby breaching the first line of Vauban's pré carré), Dendermonde, and Ath. The Spanish Netherlands was re-established as the buffer zone between France and the Dutch Republic, and the territory became an Anglo-Dutch condominium for the duration of the war, governed in the name of Charles III but in accordance with the directives from the Maritime Powers. For their part, the Franco-Bavarian army fell back to a new defensive line running between Ypres and Namur, via Lille, Tournai, Condé, Mons, and Charleroi.

Due to the defeat at Ramillies, Villars on the Rhine had been ordered to send troops north to Flanders to bolster French fortunes, thereby curtailing his own campaign in 1706. However, in 1707 Villars would at last make a significant breakthrough when, following Baden's death in January, he pushed back the new Imperial commander-in-chief, the Margrave of Bayreuth, and forced the Lines of Stollhofen without loss in May, thus enabling him to harvest vital resources in Baden and Württemberg. This victory was mirrored on other fronts that year, including in Spain and south-eastern France (see below). In the Spanish Netherlands, moreover, the Bourbons had some success when the Elector of Bavaria and Marshal Vendôme (Villeroi's replacement) parried all Marlborough's thrusts – a setback which Anne's Captain-General blamed partly on the fact that his field army had to cover the newly-held towns of Brabant.

In 1708 the Duke of Berwick moved from Spain to the Rhine to campaign with the Elector of Bavaria. The fighting in Germany proved sterile, however, and the two generals would end up supporting the main French effort in Flanders where Vendôme, under the nominal command of the Duke of Burgundy, planned to take the offensive. To create a diversion Louis XIV supported James Edward Stuart's descent on Scotland, a country where dissatisfaction over the recent political union with England made it ripe for rebellion. However, due poor navigation and indecision, the attempt in March proved a fiasco, and Claude de Forbin's invasion fleet returned to Dunkirk. Despite this setback, the campaign in Flanders began well for Louis XIV's generals. Taking advantage of popular discontent with the new Allied administration, Ghent and Bruges defected to the Bourbons in early July, thereby returning much of Spanish Flanders to French control. Marlborough had been caught off-balance, but it was now he, encouraged and assisted by Eugene newly arrived from the Moselle, who took the decisive action. After a forced march the Allied army, comprising some 80,000 men, engaged Vendôme's and Burgundy's slightly larger force on the river Scheldt and won another major victory at the Battle of Oudenarde on 11 July 1708. The success, aided by the dissension of the two French commanders, was followed by the Siege of Lille in August. Vendôme, Burgundy, and Berwick combined their forces to form a numerically superior field army, but they failed to attack Marlborough's covering force; attempts to disrupt supply routes were also thwarted, notably by Webb at the Battle of Wijnendale on 28 September. Consequently, Boufflers was compelled to surrender the town of Lille on 22 October, and eventually its citadel on 9 December. The siege had been costly for the Allies: it had tied down their army for several months, and it had been an orthodox sequel to the victory at Oudenarde. However, Marlborough and Eugene had recovered control of the Spanish Netherlands and had widened the breach of the first line of the pré carré, exposing northern France to attack. Ghent was retaken at the end of December and Bruges capitulated shortly after, thereby restoring the authority of the Anglo-Dutch condominium.


In 1702 the war in northern Italy was in its second year. After Austria's initial success Louis XIV sent Marshal Vendôme to command the Bourbon army, and with greatly superior numbers he began to dominate and pin back his opponent. Although Prince Eugene held the French at the Battle of Luzzara on 15 August, the Austrians had lost much of what they gained in the first campaign, and the Bourbons were still firmly in control of the Duchy of Milan. In June 1703 Eugene returned to Vienna to preside over the Court War Council (Hofkriegsrat) and set about reorganising the Imperial armies, leaving Guido Starhemberg to oppose Vendôme. Vendôme had been ordered to link with the Elector of Bavaria for the thrust into the Tyrol, but he made little progress towards this goal, due in part to rumours that Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, was about to defect to the Grand Alliance. Louis XIV had failed to satisfy Amadeus' claims on the Duchy of Milan, and the latter had taken umbrage at France's limited financial aid. Moreover, reasoned the Duke, if French power was established in Italy his territory would be surrounded by lands ruled from Versailles. Fearing that he would become little more than a French vassal, Amadeus secured himself behind the walls of his capital, Turin, and declared war on France on 24 October. Won over by a combination of subsidies and territorial concessions, he signed a formal treaty with the Emperor on 8 November.

With the Duke of Savoy's desertion Piedmont-Savoy became an important goal for the French, who now aimed to isolate Victor Amadeus and Starhemberg from the Austrians to the east and secure communications between France and Milan. By the beginning of 1704 Marshal Tessé had taken the Duchy of Savoy (except Montmélian), and La Feuillade captured Susa in June. Moving into Piedmont from the east Vendôme captured Vercelli in July, Ivrea in September, and invested Verrua in October. By the time Verrua fell in April 1705, La Feuillade had occupied the County of Nice, including Nice itself (though its citadel did not fall till January 1706), before threatening Turin. For the Allies, attention was also drawn towards Vienna, for in May 1705 Joseph I succeeded Leopold I as Holy Roman Emperor. Joseph I pursued his father's anti-Bourbon policy with great enthusiasm and he was initially keen to carry the war into Alsace and Lorraine, but after the Franco-Bavarian advance had been stemmed at Blenheim he began to reassess his priorities. Although the Emperor recognised the importance to the German princes of a strong Reichsbarriere, he could not place their interests above Habsburg dynastic objectives in other theatres. Replacing Spanish with Austrian rule in Italy – and thereby securing the Monarchy's south-west flank – became Joseph I's priority. For now, though, Philip V still controlled all of Spain's Italian realms, and Bourbon armies were once again making progress in the north of the peninsula.

On 16 August 1705, Vendôme defeated Eugene at the Battle of Cassano on the Adda. On 19 April 1706, the French commander defeated Count Reventlow at the Battle of Calcinato, and drove the Austrians back into the mountains around Lake Garda; shortly after, La Feuillade began the siege of Turin. The French victories had prevented the Austrians marching to aid Savoy, but as in the Spanish Netherlands the year would prove decisive for the Grand Alliance. By mid-May Eugene's army, newly reinforced with German auxiliaries (secured by Marlborough and financed by the Maritime Powers), had grown to 50,000 men. Thus strengthened, the Austrian commander was at last able to outflank French defences on the Adige, and in mid-July he descended south across the river Po. In response to the disaster at Ramillies, Vendôme was at this point ordered to the Low Countries; the Duke of Orléans and Marshal Marsin took command in his place, and though they shadowed the Allied army as it marched west up the Po valley, they declined to intercept it. Unchallenged, Eugene joined with Victor Amadeus and his small force in late August, and on 7 September they decisively defeated the Bourbon army at the Battle of Turin. With Marsin mortally wounded, Orléans retreated west, leaving the Count of Medavy isolated on the Adige far to the east. Although Medavy defeated an Imperial corps at the Battle of Castiglione on 8 September, he prudently distributed his army around the fortresses still under Bourbon control.

Eugene's victory had given him effective control of the whole Po valley. Although the Duchy of Savoy and the County of Nice remained in Bourbon hands, Victor Amadeus eventually took possession of most of the territories promised him in the 1703 treaty with the Emperor. However, the Allied victories in 1706 had failed to dampen the growing animosity within the Grand Alliance as English and Dutch ministers blamed Joseph I for refusing to end the war in Hungary. Rákóczi's uprising was diverting vital Austrian resources from the fight with Louis XIV, and there were also fears the Ottoman Turks would take advantage to renew hostilities against the Emperor. Conversely, the Maritime Powers' sympathetic stance towards the rebellion's leader and co-religionist remained a source of bitterness in Vienna. To compound their disagreements, Joseph I signed the Convention of Milan on 13 March 1707, by which terms Louis XIV surrendered northern Italy in exchange for the safe passage of Medavy's army back to France. For the Austrians, the agreement assured their full uncontested possession of the Duchy of Milan and the Duchy of Mantua, but it also enabled Joseph I to pursue his dynastic interests in southern Italy, and in May Count Daun, with about 10,000 men, moved south to the Kingdom of Naples. The city of Naples surrendered without resistance and Gaeta fell after a siege on 30 September. Austria was now the predominant power in Italy, and Charles III was proclaimed King of Naples.

By taking the Duchy of Milan and securing the Spanish realms in Italy, the Austrian Habsburgs had fulfilled their major war objective. Nevertheless, the Neapolitan campaign had been undertaken in the face of opposition from the Maritime Powers, who instead had favoured a diversionary attack on southern France. To assuage his allies Eugene, together with the Duke of Savoy, agreed to attack Toulon in July 1707, but the attempt proved ineffectual and Marshal Tessé thwarted all attacks. The Allies withdrew in August, though not before acquiring some advantage: the French squadron in the harbour had been permanently put out of action during the battle, leaving the Anglo-Dutch fleet uncontested in the Mediterranean. On the diplomatic front that year the Allies also had to contend with King Charles XII of Sweden, whose war against Russia and Saxony-Poland threatened to spill over into the War of the Spanish Succession. Charles XII had invaded Saxony in 1706, but the King had also threatened to interfere in Silesia on behalf of the Emperor's Protestant subjects, and there were fears that he might be inclined to assist the largely Protestant rebels in Hungary. However, once Joseph I had yielded enough concessions and signed the Treaty of Altranstädt on 31 August 1707, Charles XII turned his back on Germany in September, and headed east to Russia and to his eventual defeat at the Battle of Poltava.

The overwhelming strength of Joseph I in Italy had served to emphasise the ongoing tensions between Imperial and Papal suzerainty: in the Duchy of Parma (which the papacy had deemed a fief of the Holy See, but which Joseph I deemed a fief of the Empire), as well as in the Duchy of Milan, Pope Clement XI forbade the collection of Imperial taxes on the church. To gain leverage, the Austrians seized the disputed town of Comacchio in May 1708, before Daun overran large parts of the Papal States. The Pope raised an army of 25,000 men under Marsigli but he soon capitulated, and in return for Joseph I submitting the disputes over Parma and Comacchio to a cardinal's commission, Clement XI recognised Archduke Charles as King Charles III of Spain. In the mean time, fighting continued along the French-Savoy border as the Duke of Savoy sought his own 'Barrier' against future French incursion, and in July he launched a campaign towards Briançon, capturing Exilles and Fenestrelle. These raids were repeated in subsequent years of the war, but Austrian and Savoyard commanders could not overcome the difficulties in launching a full-scale attack over the Alps, and the Emperor showed little enthusiasm for liberating the Duke's occupied transalpine territories of Nice and Savoy.

Spain and Portugal

The despatch of an Anglo-Dutch expeditionary force to Spain in 1702 was a continuation of William III's policy, using the navy to open the Strait of Gibraltar, secure Allied naval power in the Mediterranean, and cut off Spain's transatlantic economy. The Austrians also clamoured for early naval support, claiming the sight of an Allied fleet in the Mediterranean would inspire the anti-Bourbon nobles in Naples, overawe the Francophile papacy, and encourage the Duke of Savoy to change sides. The need for a base between England and the Mediterranean was therefore essential, but the attack on Cádiz in September ended in failure and looting. However, the Allies recovered some prestige when they destroyed the Spanish treasure fleet and their French escorts anchored in Vigo Bay on 23 October. The attack did not yield as much silver as hoped, but it was to have wide implications. For King Peter II of Portugal, whose country's economy depended on oceanic trade with the Americas, the demonstration of Allied naval dominance in the Atlantic played a decisive part in persuading him to abandon his nominal alliance with France and Spain. Although most of his ministers preferred neutrality, Peter II signed with the Allies the Treaty of Defensive Alliance and the Treaty of Offensive Alliance on 16 May 1703.

The Portuguese alliance began a new era in political and commercial relations with England. However, of more immediate benefit to the Allies was the port of Lisbon which would provide all year round naval access to the Mediterranean, as well as support from the Portuguese army to fight for the Grand Alliance in Spain. As part of the agreement Peter II had demanded that Archduke Charles be sent in person to Portugal. In the King's estimation the presence of the Archduke would help facilitate an anti-Bourbon rising in Spain, but it would also guarantee that the Allies would not leave him in the lurch once he had forfeited his French alliance. To Queen Anne's ministers replacing the Duke of Anjou with Archduke Charles appeared a good way to break Spain's trade monopoly in its colonial empire, knowing that Habsburg control over Spanish America was in England's commercial interest; moreover, it satisfied the Grand Strategic concept of pressing Louis XIV across multiple fonts. However, the agreement also meant the Allies were now committed to a war to secure the whole Spanish inheritance for the Austrian Habsburgs. At first the Emperor had been hesitant as his immediate goals were in Italy not Spain. Nevertheless, it was the weight of English gold and diplomacy which prevailed, and on 12 September 1703 Archduke Charles was crowned Charles III of Spain in Vienna. He arrived in Lisbon, via London, in early March 1704.

The war now moved to the Iberian Peninsula in earnest. In May 1704 the Franco-Spanish army of approximately 26,000 men under the Duke of Berwick, accompanied by Philip V, advanced on Portugal and scored several minor victories against the disorganised Allies under the Marquis of Minas, the Duke of Schomberg, and the Dutch Baron Fagel, whose combined strength of 21,000 men fell far short of their treaty obligations. For their part, Allied successes that year were achieved and sustained by their navy, and in early August George Rooke and Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt captured Gibraltar. Two attempts were made to retake the place that year: the first by sea, leading to the indecisive Battle of Málaga on 24 August (the only full-dress naval engagement of the war); then by land when Tessé and Villadarias besieged the Rock before abandoning the attempt after six months in April 1705. Gibraltar remained in Allied hands, but attempts to garner support for Charles III amongst the populace of Spain largely failed.

On the whole the people of the Crown of Castile had rallied to support Philip V, but in the autonomous Crown of Aragon there had arisen centres of discontent. In the Principality of Catalonia, as in other parts of the peninsula, the people had differing opinions about supporting the Duke of Anjou or Archduke Charles, but there was a strong anti-French feeling rooted in recent experience, especially the attack on Barcelona in 1697. In early June 1705 a small number of Catalans – in return for men, weapons, and support for their own constitutional liberties, or fueros – committed themselves to support Charles and the Allied cause. This new allegiance encouraged the English to prepare an expeditionary force to Spain's Mediterranean provinces, thereby opening a two front war in the peninsula: Das Minas, the Huguenot Earl of Galway (Schomberg's replacement), and Baron Fagel attacking from Portugal; and the Earl of Peterborough and Charles III campaigning in the north-east. The arrival of the Allied fleet off the Mediterranean coast not only influenced disaffected Catalans, however. In the Kingdom of Valencia there was strong anti-French feeling based on trade rivalry, but there was also repercussions of a recent peasant rebellion against the Valencian nobility, which was never fully extinguished and which the Allies were able to exploit. In the Kingdom of Aragon there was also strong Francophobia, based largely on commercial rivalry and proximity, but Philip V's attempts to raise taxes for the war effort without the approval of the Cortes, to appoint a Castilian viceroy, and to move and quarter French and Castilian troops within the kingdom, were also causes of friction, which went against the spirit of their own fueros.

The internal divisions in the Crown of Aragon prepared the way for early Allied victories in the region in 1705, culminating with Peterborough taking Barcelona on 9 October, and Juan Bautista Basset y Ramos capturing the city of Valencia on 16 December. The defeats in the north-east provinces were a major set-back to the Bourbon cause; a problem exacerbated when Philip V and Tessé failed to retake Barcelona in May 1706. Moreover, the concentration of French forces in the north-east had enabled the Allies under Das Minas and Galway to make progress on the Portuguese front, where they quickly captured several towns. Berwick could not halt a mainly Portuguese-allied army advance led by Das Minas, and on 25 June, Portuguese, Dutch, and British forward elements entered Madrid; by the time they took Saragossa on the 29th, they controlled the four chief cities of Spain. But the gains were illusory. Although several nobles joined the Habsburg cause the majority of Castile remained loyal to Philip V, and the Allied army, far from its supply ports, could not maintain their position so deep within the country. When Charles III and Peterborough moved to join Das Minas and Galway they failed to take decisive action, and after Berwick received French reinforcements the Allies retreated to Valencia, allowing Philip V to re-enter Madrid in early October. Although the Allies captured the key Valencian town of Alicante, and Leake took the islands of Ibiza and Majorca in September, the Allied retreat from Castile brought forth the reversal of Philip V's fortunes in the peninsula, and softened the blows of Ramillies and Turin. By the time Cartagena fell to Franco-Spanish forces in November, the territories of Castile, Murcia, and the southern tip of Valencia had returned to Bourbon obedience.

In an attempt to regain the initiative in 1707, Galway and Das Minas led the main Allied army of 15,500 Portuguese, English, and Dutch troops into Murcia, prior to advancing once again on Madrid. Opposing them stood Berwick who, reinforced with troops released from the Italian front, now commanded 25,000 men. When Berwick advanced towards the Allies on 25 April Galway accepted the challenge. The result was the Battle of Almansa and complete defeat for the main Allied army. With the Allies in full retreat the Duke of Orléans, newly arrived from Italy to take command in Spain, now joined with Berwick to retake much of what had been lost in the earlier campaigns: Valencia city and Saragossa fell in May, d'Asfeld reduced Xátiva in June, and Lleida fell in November. Most of Aragon and Valencia returned to the obedience of Philip V, and the Allies were pushed back to Catalonia and beyond the line of the Segre and the Ebro. The Bourbons also made gains on the Portuguese front, notably the Marquis of Bay's recovery of Ciudad Rodrigo on 4 October. Young King John V had been on the throne in Portugal for less than a year following the death of Peter II, but his country was exhausted and in danger of defeat if the Allies could not make progress in the Crown of Aragon.

Following the Habsburg victory in Italy the Emperor could at last send Charles III assistance in early 1708. Joseph I's resources remained limited and he was still unwilling to assign a high priority to the war in Iberia. Nevertheless, the Austrians agreed to send reinforcements, as well as Guido Starhemberg to assume supreme Allied command in the peninsula. James Stanhope – the English envoy to Charles III – became the new British commander in Spain, and in September he and Admiral Leake captured Minorca and the key harbour, Mahón. This success followed hard on Leake's capture of Sardinia in the name of Charles III in August. However, Philip V's generals on the Spanish mainland continued their advance on Charles III in Barcelona. Orléans took Tortosa in mid-July, while on the Valencian coast d'Asfeld re-captured Dénia in mid-November, and Alicante (though not its citadel) in early December.

The Hague

From the start of the war the Dutch priority had been to secure their Barrier fortress system as stipulated – though unspecified – in the Grand Alliance treaty; they also had concerns on their eastern German border (from Cleves in the south to East Frisia in the north) where their once political and economical dominance had come under threat from the Prussians. In consequence, Spain had become largely irrelevant to the States General, and they had increasingly looked favourably on a deal with France based on partition of the Spanish inheritance between Archduke Charles and the Duke of Anjou. As early as 1705 Louis XIV had approached the Allies with peace feelers, attempting to split the Dutch from the Alliance and achieve a partition of Spain. The defeat at Ramillies in 1706, and the defeat at Oudenarde and loss of Lille in 1708, had further encouraged Louis XIV to abandon the principle of Spanish integrity. Yet for dynastic and strategic reasons Joseph I and his ministers in Vienna were unwilling to grant Philip V compensation in Italy, while Charles III in Barcelona, after years of struggle, sincerely believed in his rightful claims to the whole of Spain and its dependencies. The British supported the Habsburgs in opposing partition, in part to protect their Mediterranean trade: they were already pressing for the cessation of Minorca and the strategically important Port Mahón for themselves, and they were determined to prevent the Duke of Anjou acquiring Sicily and Naples, thereby limiting French maritime influence in the region. In desperation, therefore, Louis XIV sent the president of the Parlement of Paris, Pierre Rouillé, to meet with Dutch ministers in March 1709 at Moerdijk, confident that they at least were willing to accept some token partition. However, British and Austrian intransigence, and a whole raft of conditions from their allies, scuppered any chance of a compromise. The Dutch, unwilling to treat without British support, were compelled once again to put their faith in the strength of the Grand Alliance.

After the collapse of the talks with Rouillé on 21 April, the Allies prepared to resume hostilities, but for Louis XIV this represented an unacceptable risk. Not only was the Anglo-Dutch army fighting on French soil, the whole of France had recently suffered a severe winter, resulting in widespread crop failure and famine; a hardship exacerbated by a British naval blockade of grain imports. In early May Louis XIV sent his Foreign Minister, Torcy, to deal with the Allied negotiators at The Hague, principally Eugene, later assisted by Count Sinzendorf, for the Emperor; Marlborough and a Whig leader, Charles Townshend, representing Queen Anne; and Heinsius, Willem Buys, and Bruno van der Dussen, for the Dutch. Prussian, Savoyard, Portuguese, and German representatives were also present. The French had hoped to reduce the demands presented to Rouillé in April, but recognising Louis XIV's weakness the Allies adhered to particularly harsh conditions, and on 27 May they presented Torcy the forty articles of the Preliminaries of The Hague, the most important of which was the Anglo-Habsburg demand that required Philip V to hand over the entire Spanish Monarchy to Charles III without compensation. In return, the Allies offered a two-month truce. Within that time Louis XIV was to withdraw his troops from Spain and procure Philip V's renunciation of the Spanish throne. At largely Dutch insistence – though supported by the British – Louis XIV was to hand over three French and three Spanish 'cautionary' towns to guarantee his grandson's compliance. If Philip V refused to surrender his claims peacefully the French were to join with the Allies and forcibly drive the Bourbon claimant from the peninsula or face a renewal of the war in Flanders, though now without the towns they had surrendered. To Dutch ministers these stipulations ensured France could not reap the benefits of peace and recover its strength while the Grand Alliance continued fighting in Spain.

Louis XIV had been willing to accept the bulk of the demands, including relinquishing several fortresses to provide for the Dutch Barrier, ceding Strasbourg and many of his rights in Alsace to accommodate a Reichsbarriere on the Empire's western frontier, and recognising the Protestant succession in England, but he could not agree to the terms regarding Spain, and in early June the King publicly rejected the Preliminaries, calling on his subjects for new efforts of resistance. Nevertheless, with French forces under pressure on other fronts Louis XIV was willing to manoeuvre for peace at Philip V's expense, and after the Preliminaries had been rejected he withdrew much of his army from Spain to encourage his grandson's voluntary abdication. However, by now Louis XIV had far less influence over Philip V than the Allies realised, and surrendering Spain was not something which the Spanish King, now firmly established on his throne and enjoying the support of the majority of his subjects, would countenance.

Grand Alliance falters

Believing that Louis XIV was only stalling for time in order to recuperate his army, the ministry in London prepared to act vigorously on all fronts in 1709, hoping to draw the French back to the negotiating table. Central to both sides was the situation in Flanders. Here, Villars replaced Vendôme as commander of the French army and set about building a new defensive line from Aire to Douai (the Lines of Cambrin, or la Bassée, later extended) to block the line of advance from Lille to Paris. Due to the harshness of the previous winter and the scarcity of stores and provisions, Marlborough had initially recoiled from a full-scale invasion of France in preference to a conservative policy of siege warfare. The Allies invested Tournai in July (the citadel did not fall till 3 September), before moving to attack Mons. Given a free hand from Louis XIV to save the city Villars, commanding perhaps 75,000 men, entrenched his army centred around the tiny village of Malplaquet. Confident that one last set-piece battle would result in the final destruction of the main French army and force Louis XIV to accept peace on Allied terms, Marlborough and Eugene, leading some 86,000 men, accepted the challenge and attacked the French position on 11 September. The Battle of Malplaquet was nominally a victory for the Allies, but a stern French defence and faults in the execution of the battle-plan prevented the Allies from winning decisively, and they suffered major losses. Although Mons subsequently fell in October, Villars and his co-commander Boufflers, had kept the French army intact.

The Allies were now lodged in the northern French provinces depriving Louis XIV of vital resources, but Villars' resistance had provided a boost to French morale. There was also French success in Spain in 1709: Alicante's citadel fell in April, and on 7 May the Marquis of Bay defeated Fronteira and Galway at the Battle of La Gudina on the Portuguese border. However, Louis XIV's greatest advantage lay in his enemy's political disunity, exacerbated as it was by the appalling Allied losses at Malplaquet (particularly the Dutch) and the strategic indecisiveness of the battle. The Tories – whose Land Tax was funding the war – sought to make political gain by demonstrating that the Whigs and their friends at the Bank of England were benefiting from the ongoing conflict to the detriment of their compatriots. But there was also anger from the Dutch who, since April, had been pressing British ministers to accept their latest Barrier project. Talks had reached deadlock, but in August the Dutch had learnt of the secret territorial and commercial concessions the Habsburgs had yielded Britain; concessions at odds with the Treaty of Grand Alliance which had promised an equal division of the Spanish spoils. To appease their allies the Godolphin ministry now proposed its own concessions. By the Barrier Treaty of 29 October Townshend, without consulting Vienna, promised the Dutch an extensive Barrier fortress system, as well as commercial advantages in the Spanish Netherlands and an equal share of any advantages secured from Spain's empire; the Treaty also granted the Dutch Upper Guelders, to which the Prussians laid claim. In return, the States General offered concessions of their own, primarily to provide armed help in repelling any future foreign attempt to overthrow the Protestant succession in Great Britain. From the outset, however, Joseph I, Charles III, and the Tories who saw the Dutch primarily as commercial rivals, considered the agreement prejudicial to their own economic and strategic interests.

The Grand Alliance had failed to make the decisive breakthrough in 1709, but Louis XIV was far from confident: his finances were in a mess and the famine lingered. At Geertruidenberg from March through July 1710 the French envoys, Marshal d'Uxelles and the Abbé Polignac, sought to modify the harsh Hague Preliminaries. Against Joseph I's wishes – whose objective remained the entire Spanish inheritance – the Dutch had suggested Philip V could retain Sicily, and perhaps receive Sardinia as compensation for vacating Spain. Yet the Allies now went even beyond the demands specified at The Hague. Prompted by their distrust of Louis XIV and convinced of France's exhaustion, the Dutch insisted Louis XIV take sole responsibility, in men and money, for driving Philip V from Spain if he refused to leave voluntarily. This was flatly rejected. Louis XIV had already recalled much of his army from Spain to promote the peace process, and he was even willing to pay a large subsidy to assist the Allied campaign in the peninsula. But he would not send French troops to depose his grandson while his enemies watched from afar.

In Britain, the Whigs remained strongly in favour of the war, and Allied negotiators had been spurred on by Marlborough and Eugene passing the Lines of Cambrin, before taking the pré carré fortress of Douai on 25 June 1710. However, calls for peace were growing: the war was profitable for some, but the general populace had become overburdened, and dissatisfaction set in against Godolphin and his government. Due to their support for the continental strategy (and other measures such as supporting the political union of England and Scotland, which the High Tories opposed), Godolphin was beholden to the Whigs, particularly the Whig Junto who had long been demanding greater power in the Cabinet Council. The first major crisis had come in 1706 when Godolphin and the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough compelled the highly reluctant Queen to accept a member of the Junto, the Earl of Sunderland, as Secretary of State. The appointment further damaged the Queen's already barbed relationship with the Duchess, and it estranged Anne from Godolphin. Consequently, the Queen turned to the moderate Tory Robert Harley, Sunderland's fellow Secretary of State, who had long reviled the Junto and who now set himself up in opposition to the ministry. As early as 1707 Harley was voicing doubts about the hard-line Whig policy in Spain, and in opposing the Junto he had the Queen's sympathy, but with Godolphin and the victorious Marlborough presenting a united front it was Harley who lost the initial power struggle, and he was forced from office in February 1708. The subsequent General Election in May proved very favourable to the Whigs, who became champions of a belligerent war policy which they were determined to see through at any cost. However, by 1710 domestic party strife, war-weariness, and the disappointment of Malplaquet, all led to political upheaval in England, and Harley encouraged Anne, herself tired of the endless war and the hated Whig Junto, to change her ministry. In June Anne dismissed Sunderland. In August, shortly after the collapse of the Geertruidenberg talks, she dismissed Godolphin, who was followed in September by the rest of the Whig Junto. Following the General Election in October Harley led a new largely Tory ministry, alongside the Whig moderate, the Duke of Shrewsbury, and the highly partisan Henry St. John, who became the principal Secretary of State.

Harley came to power advocating peace – a just peace for Britain and all its allies. However, the other members of the Grand Alliance, as well as the Whig directors of the Bank of England, had viewed with apprehension Anne's new government, and interpreted the fall of the Whigs as signifying a shift in war policy. To avoid a credit crisis at home and to dispel Allied fears abroad – thereby forestalling Vienna and The Hague rushing to make their own separate arrangements – the Harley government at first returned to the war strategy undertaken by the previous administration to secure from a position of strength an advantageous settlement. Marlborough remained at the head of the Anglo-Dutch army in Northern France, and by the end of the 1710 campaign the Duke and Eugene had added to their earlier success by capturing Béthune, Saint-Venant, and in early November, Aire-sur-la-Lys, thereby penetrating the second line of the pré carré. Yet these sieges had been costly and time consuming, and there had been no decisive breakthrough; moreover, between Marlborough and Paris still lay several fortresses and a new defensive line.

Other fronts in 1710 produced little, but in Spain the dispute over who would rule in Madrid was finally settled. Due to Louis XIV withdrawing much of his army from Spain, Philip V took to the field bereft of French generals and troops. In contrast, Joseph I at last fully committed himself to the Iberian front, hoping to dispel Tory resentment of his reputed half-hearted prosecution of the war. Thus reinforced, Starhemberg and Stanhope defeated Villadarias and Philip V at the Battle of Almenar on 27 July 1710, followed by victory against de Bay (Villadarias' replacement) at the Battle of Saragossa on 20 August. The Allies had regained control of Aragon, and at the end of September Charles III entered Madrid, albeit to a hostile reception. With Barcelona, Madrid, and Saragossa in Allied hands Philip V's position looked precarious, but again they failed to secure the backing of the Spanish people; moreover, with the collapse of the Geertruidenberg talks Louis XIV could return to support his grandson. Vendôme passed through the Pyrenees and took control of the main Franco-Spanish army, while the Duke of Noailles attacked Catalonia from Roussillon. Facing this new threat and unwilling to winter in the hostile territories of Castile, Starhemberg retired eastward. Vendôme pursued, and on 8/9 December he captured Stanhope and the British rearguard at Brihuega. When Starhemberg turned the main army to offer assistance, Vendôme attacked him at Villaviciosa on the 10th. Although Starhemberg kept the field, the Allies were subsequently forced into a precipitous retreat back to Catalonia, reduced to the region between Tarragona, Igualada, and Barcelona, where they would largely remain till the end of the war.

Preliminary peace talks

The new Harley ministry in London sought the same goals for Great Britain as had the Godolphin ministry, that is, to ensure the country's safety, prevent outside interference in its internal affairs, and secure its trade abroad. But there was one big difference – their readiness to commit to peace. As early as August 1710 the Tories had initiated secret talks with the French, seeking mutual ground whereon Great Britain and France could dictate peace to the rest of Europe. Initially, Harley and Shrewsbury conducted these talks through the Jacobite Earl of Jersey, and through Torcy's London agent, François Gaultier, who between them sketched out the broad outline of a peace agreement. At first the Tories had offered no concrete concessions to the French, but when news of the Allied retreat from Madrid and the defeat at Brihuega reached London in December, Anne's ministers finally resolved to abandon Spain and the Indies to Philip V (provided the thrones of France and Spain remained separate) in return for exclusive territorial and trade advantages. To this end they were aided by the sudden death in April 1711 of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I. Joseph I's brother, Archduke Charles (Charles III of Spain), was his sole male heir, yet if Charles III was to succeed to the Austrian inheritance as well as that of Spain, the balance of power in Europe would once again be overthrown, this time in favour of the Austrian Habsburgs. For the Tories, the threat of a dominant Habsburg empire was no more desirable than a Bourbon one, but for now the need for the Grand Alliance remained: peace was necessary, yet in order to strengthen their negotiating position Queen Anne's ministers stood by the basic strategy of attacking Louis XIV across multiple fronts. In 1711 this was to include a revival of an earlier plan to seize the French stronghold of Quebec in North America.

Up till now the war in North America had been a relatively minor affair fought between English, Spanish, and French colonists who rallied their Indian allies to attack frontier settlements for trade and territorial advantage. The French were aware of the danger of their position between Rupert's Land in the north and the British colonies to the south, but the expansion of French settlements from Louisiana, along the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River in Canada, threatened to encircle the British settlers. For the most part the English in North America had been left to their own devices, but the growing power of France had persuaded the new Tory ministry to take direct action to secure the colonies and its commerce for Britain. Regular troops were taken from Flanders for the Quebec campaign, but the naval expedition against the French stronghold in August 1711 ended in disaster.

The campaign in North America did nothing to shake the common Whig belief that America was to be won by defeating France in Europe. However, the failure at Quebec was somewhat compensated by Marlborough's final victory in the field. Anne's Captain-General no longer had the influence he enjoyed under the Godolphin ministry: his wife's relationship with the Queen had ended acrimoniously and he was now under the influence of Harley, now the Earl of Oxford and Lord High Treasurer. Nevertheless, Marlborough still commanded the Anglo-Dutch forces in northern France, and in August he outmanoeuvred Villars and crossed the formidable Ne Plus Ultra lines, before capturing Bouchain on 12 September. The campaign was not decisive, however. Arras, Cambrai, Le Quesnoy, and Landrecies still stood between the Duke and Paris, and it would take at least one more campaign to secure their capitulation.

On 27 September Charles III reluctantly left Barcelona to take possession of the Austrian hereditary lands and the Imperial crown, leaving behind his wife Elizabeth as a pledge to the Spanish. In order to facilitate the Imperial election at Frankfurt – and keep the electors loyal to the Habsburgs – Eugene and the troops still in Austrian pay (no more than 16,000 men) had already moved from Flanders to the Rhine where the French were massing for a new offensive (or to at least disrupt the Imperial election). In the event Eugene's campaign proved uneventful and in October, shortly after his embarkation at Genoa, Archduke Charles was elected Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. Yet even before he had left Barcelona Charles knew the Allies were on the point of making peace and that Spain was no longer within the dynasty's grasp. Vendôme sought to hasten the Allied departure from Catalonia by moving on Tarragona and Barcelona; several small towns fell as a prelude, but Starhemberg fought back, and the Bourbons were unable to secure a military solution that year. Meanwhile, on the Spanish-Portuguese border Vila Verde had replaced Fronteira as commander of the Portuguese army, and the Earl of Portmore succeeded Galway as British commander. However, the campaign against de Bay proved uneventful as it became clear that the momentum was now with the peace negotiations.

Oxford (Harley) had refused to make a separate treaty between Britain and France, but ultimately he had excluded the Dutch from negotiating the preliminary articles of peace, which together with French ministers he would present to the States General as a done deal. After much cross-Channel diplomacy the final proposals were agreed. First, there were the vague public preliminaries made by Britain on behalf of itself and the Allies, namely: French recognition of Queen Anne and the Act of Settlement; a guarantee that the French and Spanish crowns would remain separate; a restoration of international commerce; protective 'barriers' for the Dutch Republic, Austria, and the Holy Roman Empire against future French aggression; and a secret agreement that France would cooperate in securing for the Duke of Savoy – Britain's close ally – those parts of Italy which the British deemed necessary to counter Habsburg domination. On top of these general concessions were the secret articles pertaining only to Britain, including negotiations for an Anglo-French commercial treaty, and the demolition of the privateer base of Dunkirk. There were also the advantages which Britain had previously hoped to gain by supporting the Habsburg cause in Spain and which were now to be granted by Philip V, including the cession of Gibraltar, Minorca, and the Asiento (slaving contract) for 30 years. The agreement was laid down as the Preliminary Articles of London, signed on 8 October 1711 (N.S.) by St. John and the Earl of Dartmouth for Great Britain, and Nicolas Mesnager for France.

For the British, there now remained the problem of convincing their allies to accept those Preliminary articles which had been made public as a basis for a future peace congress. However, the court in Vienna were dissatisfied with Britain's evident change in policy, and were suspicious that Anne's government had already consigned Spain and the Indies to the Bourbons. Consequently, Charles VI at first rejected the idea of a peace conference, but once the Dutch were pulled into line by Britain's threat to abandon them and force them to fight on alone, the Emperor reluctantly consented. George Louis, Elector of Hanover, also thought the Tories were betraying the Grand Alliance and their cause, and as heir to the British throne he was concerned that if the Bourbons were established in Spain they would actively support James Edward Stuart's claim to succeed Queen Anne. His ambition to raise his electorate to the status of a kingdom also necessitated his continuing support for the Emperor, and although he accepted the principle of a peace congress, the Elector refused to abandon Charles VI's claim to the Spanish succession. In Britain, there was also opposition in the House of Lords, notably from the influential Tory, the Earl of Nottingham, whose motion that 'no peace was safe or honourable to Great Britain or Europe if Spain and the West Indies were allotted to any branch of the House of Bourbon', was carried on 7 December (O.S.).

To rouse public feeling against the Whigs and their European allies the Tories had turned to propaganda, notably Jonathan Swift's The Conduct of the Allies. In his pamphlet (composed with ministerial assistance) Swift protested against Allied intransigence at The Hague and Geertruidenberg peace talks, and he reminded the public of the original Treaty of Grand Alliance where no mention was made of driving Philip V from Spain. Swift lamented that the early Allied victories had led to hubris and intransigence, and he rejected the preoccupation with the security of the Low Countries at the expense of a naval and colonial war. He also denigrated Marlborough, a leading member of the former administration and opponent of the new ministry's direction who, now that the Preliminaries had been unilaterally agreed with France, was no longer needed. To further discredit the Duke charges of financial corruption during the war were lodged against him in Parliament, leading to his dismissal at the end of 1711.

Tory propaganda was built in part on a foundation of anti-Dutch and anti-Habsburg xenophobia, but Britain was being drained of its resources, and many thought the country had borne too much of the burden pursuing their allies' interests while being denied any advantage for itself. Domestically, Oxford had the backing of the Queen, the war-weary public, the House of Commons; support from the House of Lords was secured by the expedient of the Queen creating 12 new Tory peers. Nevertheless, the Whigs and some Tory Lords refused to accept the possibility of Philip V remaining in Spain, and persisted in supporting the Habsburg bloc as a counterbalance to powerful France. To others, Charles VI's succession as Holy Roman Emperor and inheritor of the Habsburg lands meant supporting his claim to the Spanish succession had long ceased to be politically desirable. The danger of too much power accumulating to Austria had convinced many, including Daniel Defoe, the chief Whig propagandist, to re-think Grand Strategy.

Peace of Utrecht and the final campaigns

The congress at Utrecht convened on 29 January 1712. However, within weeks of the talks opening the Bourbons in France had suffered a series of royal deaths, and soon all that was standing between Philip V and the French crown was a sickly two-year-old boy, Louis. To safeguard against the unification of the French and Spanish thrones under one monarch – and therefore prevent a collapse of the negotiations – Philip V was pressed to choose between the two crowns. Louis XIV was receptive to Oxford's plan whereby Philip V, on choosing France, would immediately hand over Spain and Spanish America to the Duke of Savoy. In return, Philip would receive Savoy's lands, plus Montferrat and Sicily as a kingdom for himself; if and when the young Louis died, Philip would ascend the French throne, and the Italian territories (except Sicily which would go to the Habsburgs) would be absorbed into the kingdom of France. However, Philip V, comfortable in his adopted country and with no guarantee young Louis would die, rejected the plan, and renounced his claim to the French throne in favour of staying in Spain. His response did not promote the Duke of Savoy to the position which the Tories had hoped, and it would make a resolution with the Emperor more difficult. Nevertheless, the renunciation was seen in London as an acceptable basis on which to press for peace.

The congress at Utrecht had not been accompanied by an armistice, yet Oxford and St John were determined not to fight another costly and potentially damaging campaign in Flanders. Even before Philip V gave his answer to the 'Savoy plan', Queen Anne had issued Marlborough's successor, the Duke of Ormonde, his 'Restraining Orders' (21 May), forbidding him to use British troops against the French. In effect, Anne's ministers had abandoned their allies in the field and made a separate deal with France, but they were convinced they had reached the best agreement possible, not just for themselves, but also for the other members of the Grand Alliance who were asked to join the Anglo-French suspension of arms. However, the Dutch – who had received no guarantees for their strategic and commercial interests – were inclined to fight on; as was Prince Eugene who was determined to breach the remaining fortresses guarding northern France and compel Louis XIV into making substantial concessions. On 4 July 1712, Eugene took Le Quesnoy; on the 17th he invested Landrecies, the last pré carré fortress between himself and Paris. British troops had by now pulled back to Ghent and Bruges, and in conformity with the agreement with France they also occupied Dunkirk. Nevertheless, the majority of Ormonde's German and Danish auxiliaries went over to Eugene who, following the Treaty of Szatmár and end of Rákóczi's revolt, also received reinforcements from Hungary, giving the Austrian commander a numerical advantage. Yet Villars, encouraged by Britain's withdrawal, decided to take the initiative. Feinting against the besiegers at Landrecies the French commander struck out for Denain and defeated the Earl of Albemarle's Dutch garrison on 24 July. The victory was pivotal. The French subsequently seized the Allies' main supply magazine at Marchiennes on 30 July, before reversing their earlier losses at Douai, Le Quesnoy and, in early October, Bouchain. The pré carré had been restored.

On 19 August 1712, Britain, Savoy, France and Spain agreed to a general suspension of arms. The British now began to draw back their troops from Catalonia and reduce the regiments in Portugal. When Portugal agreed an armistice with France and Spain on 8 November, Starhemberg was deprived of all but his Catalan allies. By the end of the year Charles VI's German ministers were in agreement that Austria would have to make peace: the Emperor could not fight Louis XIV and Philip V without the Maritime Powers, but the Dutch, following the collapse of their public finances, could not carry on the war without Britain. To draw the States General into a general peace the Tories offered new terms regarding the Barrier in the Spanish Netherlands, supplanting the former Whig agreement which had since been repudiated by the British Parliament. The new treaty, signed on 29 January 1713, maintained the principle of the Barrier, but it now comprised fewer fortresses than the one promised by the Whigs, though better than the one the Dutch held at the beginning of the war. Trade interests in the region were to satisfy both Maritime Powers, but the agreement was still subject to Austrian approval.

Austria's inability to impose a military solution in Spain or Flanders had strengthened the French and British negotiating positions at Utrecht. Consequently, in March 1713, Count Sinzendorf, the Emperor's representative at the congress, signed a convention for the evacuation of Imperial troops from Catalonia: the Empress departed Barcelona on 19 March, followed in July by Starhemberg. Charles VI had been willing to make unpalatable concessions to end the war, but last minute demands by Louis XIV's diplomats at Utrecht – including the cession of Luxembourg to the Elector of Bavaria, the immediate formal recognition of Philip V as King of Spain, and a guarantee the Austrians would not extend their rule in northern Italy to Mantua and Mirandola – proved a step too far. As a result, Charles VI resolved to fight on, but for other key members of the Grand Alliance the war was over.

On 11 April 1713, Great Britain, Prussia, Savoy, Portugal, and after midnight, the Dutch Republic, signed the treaties at Utrecht to secure peace with France – a peace built around a framework pre-established by French and British diplomats, and on the principle of a European balance of power. The treaty secured Britain's main war aims: Louis XIV's acknowledgement of the Protestant succession as regulated by Parliament, and safeguards to ensure that the French and Spanish thrones remained separate. In North America, Louis XIV ceded to Britain the territories of Saint Kitts and Acadia, and recognised Britain's sovereignty over Rupert's Land and Newfoundland (less some rights for French coastal fishermen). In return, Louis XIV kept the major city of Lille on his northern border, but he ceded Furnes, Ypres, Menin, and Tournai to the Spanish Netherlands; he also agreed to the permanent demilitarisation of the naval base at Dunkirk. The Dutch received their restricted Barrier – with French amendments – in the Spanish Netherlands, and a share of the trade in the region with Britain; Prussia gained Upper Guelders, and international recognition of the disputed Orange succession lands of Moers, Lingen, and Neuchâtel; and Portugal won minor concessions in Brazil against encroachments on the Amazon from French Guiana. Nice and the Duchy of Savoy was restored to Victor Amadeus who, at British insistence, also acquired Sicily to act as a counter-weight to the Habsburg's political and commercial dominance in Italy. Louis XIV also ceded the district of Pragelato and the fortresses of Exilles and Fenestrelle to act as part of an alpine barrier; to compensate, Amadeus ceded the Barcelonnette valley to France. Above all, though, Louis XIV had secured for the House of Bourbon the throne of Spain, with his grandson, Philip V, recognised as the rightful king by all signatories.

Spain made peace with the Dutch in June, and with Savoy and Britain on 13 July 1713. To Britain, Spain ceded Gibraltar and Minorca, recognised the Protestant succession, and confirmed the March agreement to grant Britain the Asiento slaving contract for 30 years (besides other trade advantages for the newly formed South Sea Company); in return, Spain and the Spanish Indies were guaranteed to Philip V, who reaffirmed his renunciation of the French throne. The Spanish-Dutch treaty changed little, however: Dutch trade was put on 'most favoured nation' basis, but they had to abandon trade with the Spanish Indies. Spain and Portugal came to terms in February 1715. Spain ceded Colonia del Sacramento in South America, and confirmed the mutual restitutions already settled between France and Portugal, but there were to be no Portuguese gains in Extremadura or Galicia as promised by the Allies in 1703.

Emperor Charles VI and the Elector of Hanover were to fight a final campaign on the Rhine before they and the Holy Roman Empire would submit. The numerically superior French under Marshal Villars captured Landau in August 1713, and Freiburg in November. With Austrian finances exhausted and the German states reluctant to continue, Charles VI was compelled to enter into negotiations. Louis XIV too required peace, and on 26 November Eugene and Villars initiated talks, culminating in the Franco-Austrian Treaty of Rastatt on 7 March 1714. The treaty was largely built on what had already been agreed at Utrecht before the Emperor pulled out of the talks, but by fighting on for another year Charles VI had gained some advantages: he was not asked to renounce his claim to Spain formally, and he had forestalled the French attempt to limit his influence in Italy. Ultimately, therefore, the Emperor now controlled Milan, Naples, Mantua, the Tuscan ports (State of Presidi), Sardinia (which was promised to Bavaria at Utrecht), and most of the Spanish Netherlands (known henceforth as the Austrian Netherlands). Louis XIV yielded all French conquests on the east bank of the Rhine (Breisach, Kehl, Freiburg), and ended his support of Rákóczi's cause in Hungary. Strasbourg and Alsace remained French, however, and the Emperor ceded Landau to Louis XIV, and agreed to a full reinstatement of the Electors of Bavaria and Cologne. The Holy Roman Empire became part of this treaty at Baden on 7 September.

There remained the struggle in Catalonia. At no stage in the war had there been a unanimous or even majority support for Archduke Charles (Charles III) in the principality, but the existence of a rebel group inside the province, together with a superior Allied military and naval presence in Barcelona, forced many towns to decide – often reluctantly – for the Archduke's cause. Nevertheless, those who wished to continue fighting could point to the fact that the Kingdoms of Aragon and Valencia, as well as those in Castile, were subject to a regime that had forced them to change their laws and historic constitutions, and at no stage since his victory at Almansa and the subsequent abolition of the fueros in Aragon and Valencia in 1707, had Philip V shown any intention of respecting Catalonia's privileges. In consequence, Barcelona decided to resist, but there would be no Allied help. After the peace agreements between the major powers neither Austria nor Great Britain could return to a war footing. To compound the issue, Tory diplomatic efforts with Philip V to secure Catalan liberties were half-hearted, and Bolingbroke made no protest when, in early July 1714 – after a year of guerilla warfare in the region – Berwick returned to Catalonia to formally besiege Barcelona. Antoni de Villarroel put up a stout defence of the city, but with little hope of relief the Catalan capital surrendered on 11 September. Cardona soon followed. Majorca held out for nine months until its surrender in July 1715.


With Germany and Italy providing the buffer with France, the Austrian Habsburgs had maintained what was crucial to their security and interests. Together with the recent Balkan conquests, Charles VI now ruled an extensive Habsburg empire. Austria had confirmed its position as a major power, yet the Habsburg dynasty had fallen short of its full war aims: Spain had been lost to Philip V and Sicily lost to the Duke of Savoy. Although Sardinia was exchanged for Sicily in 1720 the island, together with the acquisitions of the Spanish Netherlands and Naples, extended the Monarchy's responsibilities beyond their traditional interests and commitments – an overextension which made the Habsburg territories more vulnerable at their periphery, particularly without the assistance of the Maritime Powers. In Germany, the Imperial army had been unable to recover the lost lands in Alsace and Lorraine, and the Holy Roman Empire itself made no gains, and even lost territory (Landau). This was largely due to the fact that Vienna's principal concern had been to establish a secure Danubian state, and the Emperor and his ministers had been unwilling to put German interests before those of Italy and Hungary. The Habsburgs would make further gains when Prince Eugene once again defeated the Ottomans in the Austro-Turkish War of 1716–18, but Vienna's influence within the Empire declined, not least because the rulers of Hanover, Saxony, and Prussia had territorial claims beyond Germany, and now had royal titles which they considered equal to the Emperor.

On 1 August 1714 (O.S.) Queen Anne of Great Britain died. Despite Jacobite machinations, the Act of Settlement ensured a smooth Protestant succession and the Elector of Hanover ascended the throne as George I of Great Britain and Ireland. The first warrant signed by George reinstated Marlborough as Captain-General of the army, and from London the Duke helped organise the defeat of the Jacobite rising of 1715. However, the new King and the Whigs in general never forgave those Tories accused of abandoning the Grand Alliance and the part they played in concluding the Peace of Utrecht. Rather than face impeachment Bolingbroke fled to France in April 1715 (N.S) to join the Pretender, as did Ormonde who followed in August. Oxford remained in England and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two years, never again to hold office. The Tory party, leaderless and riven by faction, did not survive intact, and their decline paved the way for the eventual rise of Robert Walpole and decades of Whig domination in early Georgian Britain – a country which emerged from the war as a world power, and one which had learnt to utilise its financial muscle to harness European allies for its own strategic interests.

The War of the Spanish Succession was the last in which the Dutch Republic fought as a major power; despite its talented merchants, bankers, and diplomats, the country of just three million people, burdened with debt, could not maintain its 17th-century pre-eminence. Exhausted after its supreme efforts, the Republic could no longer compete with Great Britain; the Dutch navy could not match the British fleet, which had now secured a foothold in the Mediterranean with the annexation of Gibraltar and Minorca. Nevertheless, the Dutch had achieved their principal war aim: the Austro-Dutch Antwerp treaty of 15 November 1715 assured the Dutch their coveted barrier fortress defence system in the Austrian Netherlands. The agreement also included the closure of the river Scheldt to maritime commerce, thereby restoring Dutch commercial and trade domination. The Dutch oligarchs would henceforth pursue a more defensive, and even neutralist, policy and by the mid-century the Netherlands was a much reduced force in European politics.

On 1 September 1715 Louis XIV died, bringing an end to his long reign that had made France the supreme power in Europe. Louis's five-year-old great-grandson and heir survived his precarious childhood and, including the eight-year regency of the Duke of Orléans, reigned in France as Louis XV until his death in 1774. Louis XIV had ended the war with some minor adjustments along France's eastern borders, but the final settlement had been far more favourable than what the Allies had offered in 1709/10: France had resisted the Allied demand of 'no peace without Spain', and Louis XIV could claim dynastic victory in Spain, thereby avoiding Habsburg encirclement. In North America France lost territory, and the French settlers were vastly outnumbered by the British in their colonies. Nevertheless, the French held on to Canada, Louisiana, Cape Breton Island, and Prince Edward Island, and thus control of the St Lawrence; thousands more remained in Acadia, and they still held the vast territory to the west between French Canada and Louisiana in the south. However, the war had stretched Louis XIV's finances beyond its limits, and France was left with a massive burden of debt. The kingdom remained inherently strong, but it could not maintain its former dominance and suffered a relative decline in military and economic terms.

On 14 February 1714 the Spanish queen, Marie Luisa, died; on 16 September Philip V married, by proxy, Elisabeth Farnese, niece of the Duke of Parma. Farnese' ejection of Madame des Ursins and Jean Orry from Spain, and her reliance on a new favourite, Giulio Alberoni, the envoy to the Duke of Parma, signalled the end of French dominance in Madrid, and brought forth a new direction of Spanish policy. Italian politics and culture became highly influential, but Philip V had lost his Italian territories, which together with the losses of Gibraltar and Minorca had deprived the king his power in the western Mediterranean. However, the territorial losses had enabled the King and his ministers to concentrate on internal reform and centralisation. For the provinces of the Crown of Aragon this meant the end to much of their political autonomy as they were united into a Castilian Spanish state ruled from Madrid. These steps were problematic and painful, particularly in Catalonia where, despite the survival of Catalan private law and the Catalan language, resentment would linger.

The Basques - Kingdom of Navarre and the Basque Provinces ("Biscay") - had supported the king against the Habsburg pretender, and initially retained their home rule (fueros). However, the centralising drive of the Spanish Crown did not spare them. In 1718, following Philip V's attempt to suppress home rule by bringing customs to the coast and the Pyrenees, Basques in Gipuzkoa and the seigneury of Biscay rose up in arms across coastal areas. Philip V sent over troops and the uprising (matxinada) was quelled in blood. Despite his military success, eventually Philip V backed down on his decision, brought customs back to the Ebro river (1719). The Basques managed to keep their traditional institutions and laws.

Nevertheless, Spain eventually grew in strength under Philip V's and Farnese's leadership, and the country would return to the forefront of European politics. With neither Charles VI nor Philip V willing to accept the Spanish partition, and with no treaty existing between Spain and Austria, the two powers would soon clash in order to gain control of Italy, starting with a brief war in 1718. However, the War of the Spanish Succession brought to an end a long period of major conflict in western Europe: the partition of the Spanish Monarchy had secured the balance of power, and the conditions imposed at Utrecht helped to regulate the relations between the major European powers over the coming century.


War of the Spanish Succession Wikipedia