22.1.7: Territorial Losses
Louis XV’s controversial decision following the War of the Austrian Succession and his loss in the Seven Years’ War weakened the international position of France and lost most of its colonial holdings.
Describe the land lost under Louis XV
- Louis XV inherited a country with a reputation of a military, political, colonial, and cultural power. By the end of his reign, however, the international opinion of France changed dramatically, largely because of Louis’s controversial foreign policy.
- Louis XV entered the War of the Austrian Succession in 1741 on the side of Prussia in hopes of pursuing its own anti-Austrian foreign policy goals. In Germany, the French were forced back to the Rhine and their Bavarian allies were decisively defeated. In the Netherlands, France experienced much military success. By 1748, France occupied the entire Austrian Netherlands (modern-day Belgium) as well as some parts of the northern Netherlands, then the wealthiest area of Europe.
- Despite his victory, Louis XV, who wanted to appear as an arbiter and not as a conqueror, agreed to restore all his conquests back to the defeated enemies with chivalry at the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748. The attitude was internationally hailed, but at home the king became unpopular.
- In what is known as diplomatic revolution, the king overruled his ministers and signed the Treaty of Versailles with Austria in 1756. The new Franco-Austrian alliance would last intermittently for the next thirty-five years. In 1756, Frederick the Great invaded Saxony without a declaration of war, initiating the Seven Years’ War, and Britain declared war on France.
- The French military successes of the War of the Austrian Succession were not repeated in the Seven Years’ War, except for a few temporary victories.
- The Treaty of Paris forced France to cede Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tobago to Britain. France also ceded the eastern half of French Louisiana to Britain. In addition, while France regained its trading posts in India, it recognized British clients as the rulers of key Indian native states and pledged not to send troops to Bengal.
- French and Indian War
- A 1754–1763 conflict that comprised the North American theater of the worldwide Seven Years’ War of 1756-1763. The war pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, with both sides supported by military units from their parent countries of Great Britain and France as well as by American Indian allies.
- Treaty of Paris of 1763
- A 1763 treaty signed by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France, and Spain with Portugal in agreement, after Great Britain’s victory over France and Spain during the Seven Years’ War. The signing of the treaty formally ended the Seven Years’ War and marked the beginning of an era of British dominance outside Europe. Great Britain and France each returned much of the territory they had captured during the war, but Great Britain gained much of France’s possession in North America. Additionally, Great Britain agreed to protect Roman Catholicism in the New World. The treaty did not involve Prussia and Austria as they signed a separate agreement, the Treaty of Hubertusburg.
- War of the Austrian Succession
- A war (1740–1748) that involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa’s succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg. The war included King George’s War in North America, the War of Jenkins’ Ear, the First Carnatic War in India, the Jacobite rising of 1745 in Scotland, and the First and Second Silesian Wars. It began under the pretext that Maria Theresa was ineligible to succeed to the Habsburg thrones of her father, Charles VI.
- Seven Years’ War
- A world war fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved every European great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire, spanning five continents and affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by Great Britain on one side and France on the other.
- Treaty of Aix-la-Chape
- A 1748 treaty, sometimes called the Treaty of Aachen, that ended the War of the Austrian Succession following a congress assembled at the Free Imperial City of Aachen. The treaty was signed by Great Britain, France, and the Dutch Republic. Two implementation treaties were signed at Nice in 1748 and 1749 by Austria, Spain, Sardinia, Modena, and Genoa.
- diplomatic revolution
- The reversal of longstanding alliances in Europe between the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War. Austria went from an ally of Britain to an ally of France. Prussia became an ally of Britain. It was part of efforts to preserve or upset the European balance of power.
The reign of Louis XIV left the French state financially troubled but politically triumphant. Louis’s political and military victories as well as numerous cultural achievements helped raise France to a preeminent position in Europe. Europe came to admire France for its military and cultural successes, power, and sophistication. Europeans generally began to emulate French manners, values, and goods, and French became the universal language of the European elite. Louis XIV’s successor and great-grandson, Louis XV, inherited a country with a reputation of a military, political, colonial, and cultural power. By the end of his reign, however, the international opinion of France changed dramatically, largely because of Louis’s controversial foreign policy.
The War of the Austrian Succession
In 1740, the death of Emperor Charles VI and his succession by his daughter Maria Theresa started the War of the Austrian Succession. Sensing the vulnerability of Maria Theresa’s position, King Frederick the Great of Prussia invaded the Austrian province of Silesia in hopes of annexing it permanently. The elderly Cardinal Fleury had little energy left to oppose the war, which was strongly supported by the anti-Austrian party at court. Renewing the cycle of conflicts typical of Louis XIV’s reign, the king entered the war in 1741 on the side of Prussia in hopes of pursuing its own anti-Austrian foreign policy goals. The war would last seven years and Fleury did not live to see its end. After Fleury’s death in 1743, the king followed his predecessor’s example of ruling without a first minister. In Germany, the French were forced back to the Rhine and their Bavarian allies were decisively defeated. At one point Austria even considered launching an offensive against Alsace, before being compelled to retreat due to a Prussian offensive. In north Italy, the war stalled and did not produce significant results.
These fronts were of lesser importance than the front in the Netherlands. Here, France experienced much military success despite the king’s loss of his trusted advisor. Against an army composed of British, Dutch, and Austrian forces, the French were able to savor a series of major victories at the Battles of Fontenoy (1745), Rocoux (1746), and Lauffeld (1747). In 1746, French forces besieged and occupied Brussels, which Louis entered in triumph. By 1748, France occupied the entire Austrian Netherlands (modern-day Belgium) as well as some parts of the northern Netherlands, then the wealthiest area of Europe.
Despite his victories, Louis XV, who wanted to appear as an arbiter and not as a conqueror, agreed to restore all his conquests back to the defeated enemies with chivalry at the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, arguing that he was “king of France, not a shopkeeper.” He thought it better to cultivate the existing borders of France rather than trying to expand them. The attitude was internationally hailed and he became known as the “arbiter of Europe.” At home, however, this decision, largely misunderstood by his generals and by the French people, made the king unpopular. The news that the king had restored the Southern Netherlands to Austria was met with disbelief and bitterness. Louis’s popularity was also threatened by public exposure of his marital infidelities, which likely could have been kept concealed had France not entered the War of the Austrian Succession (when taking personal command of his armies, the king brought along one of his mistresses). The military successes of the War of the Austrian Succession inclined the French public to overlook Louis’s adulteries, but after 1748, in the wake of the anger over the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, pamphlets against the king’s mistresses became increasingly widely published and read.
In the aftermath of the War of Austrian Succession in France, there was a general resentment at what was seen as a foolish throwing away of advantages (particularly in the Austrian Netherlands, which had largely been conquered by the brilliant strategy of Marshal Saxe), and the phrases Bête comme la paix (“Stupid as the peace”) and La guerre pour le roi de Prusse (“The war for the king of Prussia”) became popular in Paris.
Seven Years’ War
By 1755, a new European conflict was brewing. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle turned out to be only a short-lived truce in the conflict between Austria and Prussia over the province of Silesia, while France and Britain were in conflict over colonial possessions. Indeed, the French and British were fighting without a declaration of war in the French and Indian War of 1754-1763. In 1755, the British seized 300 French merchant ships in violation of international law. A few months later, Great Britain and Prussia, enemies in the War of the Austrian Succession, signed a 1756 treaty of “neutrality.”
Frederick the Great had abandoned his French ally during the War of Austrian Succession by signing a separate peace treaty with Austria in 1745. At the same time, French officials realized that the Habsburg Empire of Maria Theresa of Austria was no longer the formidable challenge it had been when they controlled Spain and much of the rest of Europe. The new dangerous power looming on the horizon was Prussia. In what is known as diplomatic revolution, the king overruled his ministers and signed the Treaty of Versailles with Austria in 1756, putting an end to more than 200 years of conflict with the Habsburgs. The new Franco-Austrian alliance would last intermittently for the next thirty-five years. In 1756, Frederick the Great invaded Saxony without a declaration of war, initiating the Seven Years’ War, and Britain declared war on France.
The French military successes of the War of the Austrian Succession were not repeated in the Seven Years’ War, except for a few temporary victories. A French invasion of Hanover in 1757 resulted in a counter-attack that saw them driven out of the electorate. Plans for an invasion of Britain in 1759 were never carried out due to catastrophic naval defeats. French forces suffered disaster after disaster against the British in North America, the Caribbean, India, and Africa.
In the aftermath of the lost Seven Years’ War, France lost most of its colonial holdings in North America and some, although not all, of its colonies in the Caribbean.
Treaty of Paris
During the war, Great Britain conquered the French colonies of Canada, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tobago, the French trading posts in India, the slave-trading station at Gorée, the Sénégal River and its settlements, and the Spanish colonies of Manila in the Philippines and Havana in Cuba. France captured Minorca and British trading posts in Sumatra while Spain captured the border fortress of Almeida in Portugal and Colonia del Sacramento in South America.
In the Treaty of Paris of 1763, which ended the Seven Years’ War, most of these territories were restored to their original owners, although Britain made considerable gains. France and Spain restored all their conquests to Britain and Portugal. Britain restored Manila and Havana to Spain, and Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Gorée, and the Indian trading posts to France. In return, France ceded Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tobago to Britain. France also ceded the eastern half of French Louisiana to Britain. In addition, while France regained its trading posts in India, it recognized British clients as the rulers of key Indian native states and pledged not to send troops to Bengal. The Treaty is sometimes noted as the point at which France gave Louisiana to Spain. The transfer, however, occurred with the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1762) but was not publicly announced until 1764. The Treaty of Paris was to give Britain the east side of the Mississippi. New Orleans on the east side remained in French hands (albeit temporarily). The Mississippi River corridor in what is modern day Louisiana was to be reunited following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819.
Although Louis XV failed to expand the French frontier, the large acquisition of Lorraine through diplomacy in 1766 contributed to his legacy. Furthermore, after a short period of Corsican sovereignty, France conquered the island but it was not incorporated into the French state until 1789.
- Territorial Losses
“French and Indian War.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_and_Indian_War. Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0.
“War of the Austrian Succession.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Austrian_Succession. Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0.
“Treaty of Paris (1763).” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Paris_(1763). Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0.
“Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748).” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Aix-la-Chapelle_(1748). Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0.
“Diplomatic Revolution.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomatic_Revolution. Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0.
“North_America_1748 1.PNG.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_and_Indian_War#/media/File:North_America_1748.PNG. Wikipedia Public domain.
“1024px-Europe_1748-1766_en 1.png.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Aix-la-Chapelle_(1748)#/media/File:Europe_1748-1766_en.png. Wikipedia Public domain.