- Explain William’s stake in the War of the Spanish Succession and the goals of the Grand Alliance
- As William III’s life drew towards its conclusion, he, like many other European rulers, was concerned with the question of succession to the throne of Spain. He sought to prevent the Spanish inheritance from going to the descendants of either Louis XIV or Leopold I, as he feared this would upset the European balance of power.
- Fearing the growing strength of the Holy Roman Empire, Louis XIV turned to William. The two signed two treaties partitioning Spain, but Charles II of Spain’s decision to choose Louis’s grandson as his successor made Louis ignore his treaty with England.
- While the Tory-dominated House of Commons was keen to prevent further conflict, to William III, France’s growing strength made war inevitable. From his perspective, losing the hard-won securities overturned the work of the last twenty years.
- As tensions mounted, Britain and the Dutch Republic grew enraged by Louis’s actions and decisions. With the Holy Roman Emperor and the petty German states, they formed another Grand Alliance. Securing the Protestant succession and curbing Louis’s ambitions was recognized by the Grand Alliance as one of England’s main war aims.
- Before the War of the Spanish Succession was even declared, William died. His successor, Anne, continued William’s policies to assure the Protestant succession in England and curb the French hegemony.
- The War of the Spanish Succession resulted in the partition of the Spanish Monarchy, which secured the balance of power and helped to regulate the relations between the major European powers over the coming century.
Treaty of Utrecht
A series of individual peace treaties, rather than a single document, signed by the belligerents in the War of the Spanish Succession in the Dutch city of Utrecht in 1713. The treaties between several European states, including Spain, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Savoy, and the Dutch Republic, helped to end the war.
Treaty of Rastatt
A peace treaty between France and Austria, concluded in March 1714 in the Baden city of Rastatt, that put an end to the state of war between them following the War of the Spanish Succession. The treaty followed the earlier Treaty of Utrecht of April 1713, which ended hostilities between France and Spain on the one hand, and Britain and the Dutch Republic on the other hand. A third treaty at Baden was required to end the hostilities between France and the Holy Roman Empire.
Treaty of London
A 1700 treaty, known also as the Second Partition Treaty, attempting to restore the Pragmatic Sanction following the death of Duke Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria. The Pragmatic Sanction had undermined the First Partition Treaty (the Treaty of Hague). Under the new Treaty, Archduke Charles (later Charles VI), the second son of the Emperor Leopold I, was to become king of Spain when Charles II died, and acquire her oversees colonies.
A European coalition, consisting (at various times) of Austria, Bavaria, Brandenburg, the Dutch Republic, England, the Holy Roman Empire, Ireland, the Palatinate of the Rhine, Portugal, Savoy, Saxony, Scotland, Spain, and Sweden. The organization was founded in 1686 as the League of Augsburg in an attempt to halt Louis XIV of France’s expansionist policies. After the Treaty of Hague was signed in 1701, it went into a second phase as the Alliance of the War of Spanish Succession.
Treaty of Hague
A 1698 treaty, known also as the First Partition Treaty, between England and France. The accord attempted to resolve who would inherit the Spanish throne, proposing that Duke Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria be the heir. Moreover, the agreement proposed that Louis, le Grand Dauphin, would get Naples, Sicily, and Tuscany, and Archduke Charles, the younger son of Emperor Leopold I, would get the Spanish Netherlands. Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, would take Milan, which in turn ceded Lorraine and Bar to the Dauphin.
William III of England and the Spanish Succession
William III (1650–1702) was sovereign Prince of Orange from birth, Dutch Stadtholder (de facto hereditary head of state) from 1672, and King of England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1689 until his death. As his life drew towards its conclusion, William, like many other European rulers, was concerned with the question of succession to the throne of Spain, which brought with it vast territories in Italy, the Low Countries, and the New World. The king of Spain, Charles II, had no prospect of having children, and among his closest relatives were Louis XIV and Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. William sought to prevent the Spanish inheritance from going to either monarch, as he feared it would upset the balance of power.
Fearing the growing strength of the Holy Roman Empire, Louis XIV turned to William, his long-standing Protestant rival. 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. Louis and William 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.
William and Louis agreed to the First Partition Treaty (Treaty of Hague), which provided for the division of the Spanish Empire: Duke Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria would obtain Spain, while France and the Holy Roman Emperor would divide the remaining territories between them. However, when Joseph Ferdinand died of smallpox, the issue re-opened. In 1700, the two rulers agreed to the Second Partition Treaty (Treaty of London), under which the territories in Italy would pass to a son of the king of France and the other Spanish territories would be inherited by a son of the Holy Roman Emperor. This arrangement infuriated both the Spanish, who still sought to prevent the dissolution of their empire, and the Holy Roman Emperor, to whom the Italian territories were much more useful than the other lands. Unexpectedly, Charles II willed all Spanish territories to Philip, a grandson of Louis XIV. The French conveniently ignored the Second Partition Treaty and claimed the entire Spanish inheritance.
William III’s Stand
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. However, 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. England also had its own interests in the Spanish Netherlands, and ministers recognized the potential danger posed by an enemy established to the east of the Strait of Dover who, taking advantage of favorable wind and tide, could threaten the British Isles. From William III’s perspective, losing the hard-won securities overturned the work of the last twenty years.
Although the French king’s ambitions and motives were not fully known, 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 to reduce the power of France. As tensions mounted, Britain and the Dutch Republic grew enraged by Louis’s actions and decisions. With the Holy Roman Emperor and the petty German states, they formed another Grand Alliance. This
European coalition, consisting at various times of various European states, was originally founded in 1686 as the League of Augsburg. It was formed in an attempt to halt Louis XIV’s expansionist policies.
In 1701, it went into a second phase.
Even after the formation of the Grand Alliance, the French king continued to antagonize his European rivals. Around the same time as the Alliance was formed, the Catholic James II of England (VII of Scotland)—exiled in Saint-Germain since the Glorious Revolution—died, and Louis XIV recognized James II’s Catholic son, James, as King James III of England. The French court insisted that granting James the title of King was a mere formality, but William and English ministers were indignant. Securing the Protestant succession was soon recognized by the Grand Alliance as one of England’s main war aims.
The War of the Spanish Succession
However, before the War of the Spanish Succession was even declared, William died. Anne, Mary II’s younger sister and William’s sister-in-law through his marriage to Mary, 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. By the same token, Anne continued William’s policies, and many leading statesmen of William’s later years remained in office, which turned out fundamental to the success of the Grand Alliance in the early stages of the war.
The Austrians, the Dutch, and English allies 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, but the unity of the allies broke first. With the Grand Alliance defeated in Spain and its casualties and costs 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 were soon compelled to accept Anglo-French mediation. By the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and the Treaty of Rastatt (1714), the Spanish empire was partitioned between the major and minor powers. The Austrians received most of Spain’s former European realms, but 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. The European balance of power was assured.