War of the Austrian Succession

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Participant in the War of the Austrian Succession. Blue : Austria, Great Britain, United Netherlands and allies. Green : Prussia, Spain, France and allies

The Austrian War of Succession (1740–1748) broke out when, after the death of Emperor Charles VI. (and thus the extinction of the House of Habsburg in the male line) his daughter Maria Theresa ascended the Austrian Archduke's throne and several European princes raised their own claims to the Habsburg hereditary lands and the Roman-German Empire . The conflict includes a. the first two Silesian Wars and grew into a global war.


Maria Theresa had married Franz Stephan of Lorraine . At the death of her father Charles VI. the following relatives claimed the inheritance:

Frederick II of Prussia made use of these claims by demanding the Province of Silesia in order to recognize the Pragmatic Sanction . He entered Silesia on December 16, 1740. The First Silesian War triggered the War of the Austrian Succession .

Bayern and Spain joined in 1741 in the Treaty of Nymphenburg an alliance, which later also Prussia, Saxony, France , Sweden , Naples , the Palatinate and the Electorate of Cologne joined. Allied with Austria were Great Britain and the Netherlands , France's traditional opponents.

Other binational confrontations such as the War of Jenkins' Ear between Great Britain and Spain, the second Jacobite uprising in Scotland and the Russo-Swedish War also fell within the framework of the War of the Austrian Succession . Parts of the war were fought in North America and India by the colonial powers France and Great Britain . These sub-conflicts are known as King George's War in North America and First Carnatic War in India.

The War of Succession ended on October 18, 1748 with a peace treaty in Aachen . This peace largely restored the pre-war state, but awarded Silesia to Prussia and recognized Maria Theresa's inheritance to the throne.

Background: The Pragmatic Sanction

Benjamin from Block 001.jpg
Leopold von Habsburg ,
Emperor until 1705 as Leopold I.
Two sons
Jožef I. (1705-1711) .jpg
Joseph von Habsburg (* 1678; † 1711),
emperor from 1705 to 1711 as Joseph I.
No son
Charles VI 1716.jpg
Karl von Habsburg (* 1685; † 1740),
emperor from 1711 to 1740 as Karl VI.
No son
Maria Josepha of Saxony-Lithuania-Poland-Austria.jpg
Maria Josepha (1699–1757),
daughter of Joseph
Maria Amalia of Austriakaiserin.jpg
Maria Amalia (1701–1756),
daughter of Joseph
Andreas Moeller - Archduchess Maria Theresia - Kunsthistorisches Museum.jpg
Maria Theresia (1717–1780),
daughter of Karl
Meléndez, Miguel Jacinto - Philip V, king of Spain, in suit of hunt - Google Art Project.jpg
Philip of Anjou ,
King of Spain
King Augustus III of Poland.jpg
Friedrich August
of Saxony
Portrait of Charles VII, Holy Roman Emperor (1697-1745) .jpg
Karl Albrecht
of Bavaria
Martin van Meytens 006.jpg
Franz Stephan
of Lorraine
Antoine Pesne - Frederick the Great as Crown Prince (1739) .jpg
Friedrich II.
King in Prussia

During the War of the Spanish Succession , which was triggered by the extinction of the Spanish Habsburg line, Emperor Leopold I , the head of the Austrian Habsburg line, decided to determine the succession. On September 12, 1703 he concluded the Pactum mutuae successionis with his two sons Joseph and Karl , a secret treaty on succession. The pact stipulated that female family members could only inherit when all male lines had died out, and also stipulated the succession among the Habsburgs living at the time.

Leopold died in 1705 and his older son succeeded him as Emperor Joseph I. When he died in 1711, he left two unmarried daughters and was named Charles VI by his younger brother. inherited. On April 19, 1713, the latter laid down a new succession regulation with the Pragmatic Sanction . Furthermore, this provided for the indivisibility of the Habsburg hereditary lands .

The Succession Pact and the Pragmatic Sanction agreed that female succession was only permitted after all male lines had died out. While the Succession Pact left the female succession open, the Pragmatic Sanction stipulated that in this case the daughter of the last male occupant of the throne should succeed. On the (then possible and later actually occurred) situation that Charles VI. would die even without a male heir, this meant that Karl's daughter Maria Theresa (and not one of Joseph's daughters, referring to his primogeniture ) would succeed.

Formally, the Succession Pact and the Pragmatic Sanction differed in that the former was only a house law and was kept secret, while the Pragmatic Sanction was made public and submitted to the Diets of the Habsburg Hereditary Lands and the Hungarian Reichstag, through whose adoption (1720–1723) it was incorporated Rank of a state law was raised.

In view of possible claims of the daughters of Joseph and their husbands, Charles VI tried. the recognition of the regulation by the other European powers. In the years 1725 to 1730 he achieved the recognition of most foreign powers, such as Brandenburg-Prussia (1726/28) and Great Britain. However, this was only a partial success, because after the death of the emperor on October 20, 1740, a different situation emerged:

Karl Albrecht , Elector of Bavaria , and Friedrich August , Elector of Saxony , disputed the validity of the Pragmatic Sanction - but not the Succession Pact - and thus Maria Theresa's right of inheritance and raised claims to the Habsburg right on behalf of their wives, the daughters of Joseph I Hereditary lands.

Frederick II of Brandenburg-Prussia , whose father had recognized the pragmatic sanction and thus both the succession regulation and the indivisibility of the Habsburg territories in 1728, invoked a claim (abandoned in 1686) to parts of Silesia and consequently demanded the cession of Silesia to Prussia.

Course of war


On December 11th, Friedrich II. Maria Theresa set an ultimatum in which he demanded Silesia as a price for its recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction and its support for the election of her husband Franz von Lorraine as emperor. Without waiting for an answer, the Prussian army invaded Silesia on December 16 and occupied it without much resistance. Friedrich benefited from the fact that under his father, the "soldier king" Friedrich Wilhelm I , the Prussian army had been expanded into one of the most modern in Europe. In addition, in contrast to the Austrian army, it was a standing army . It could be used immediately and not after long mobilization. The Austrians, those after the war against the Turksonly a few troops were available, withdrew to Bohemia and Moravia, and the Prussians were able to occupy Wroclaw undisturbed and winter in Silesia. Only the fortresses Glogau , Brieg and Neisse were still held by Austrian garrisons.


On March 9, 1741, the Glogau fortress was conquered by Prussian troops under Leopold II of Anhalt-Dessau in a night raid . Meanwhile, an Austrian army under Count Neipperg began to operate against the Prussian lines and relieve the besieged towns of Neisse and Brieg. On April 10, the Battle of Mollwitz took place , in which the Prussians were victorious. As a result, the Austrians remained defensive because they did not want to risk their only field army lightly.

After Great Britain , Russia , Saxony and the Netherlands had already joined forces with Maria Theresa to form an anti-Prussian coalition in Dresden on February 16, Prussia now allied itself with France in the person of Marshal Belle-Isle . In the summer, Bavaria and Spain also joined this alliance. France hoped to weaken its archenemy Austria, and Spain sought lost possessions in Italy.

Great Britain now declared its neutrality, since it was not interested in a conflict with the two Bourbon powers France and Spain and, in addition, Electoral Hanover was threatened by Prussia. In September 1741 Saxony switched to the anti-Austrian alliance. The reason was an agreement between Saxony and Karl Albrecht of Bavaria; Saxony assured Karl Albrecht support in the election of the emperor.

This agreement with Saxony and the intervention of the French prompted Friedrich on October 9 to conclude a secret armistice negotiated with British help, the so-called Klein-Schnellendorf Secret Convention , with Maria Theresa. After a demonstrative siege, he received the fortress Neisse and Lower Silesia. The Prussian army captured Olomouc on December 26th and then moved into winter quarters.

Karl Albrecht and his Bavarian troops occupied Passau and the Oberhaus fortress there in July and , with the help of Saxon and French troops, advanced to Upper Austria in September, without threatening Vienna. Although Neipperg rushed up with his army from Silesia, the allies were able to take Prague on November 26th, where Karl Albrecht was crowned king on December 9th by the Bohemian estates.


On January 24, 1742, Karl Albrecht was elected Emperor Charles VII in Frankfurt and was also crowned on February 12 by his brother Clemens August , the Archbishop of Cologne . For almost 300 years he was the first emperor who did not come from the Habsburg family.

In the meantime the Austrians had gathered troops from Italy and Hungary and started a counterattack. Ludwig Andreas Count Khevenhüller first conquered Linz back and marched into Munich on the day of Karl Albrecht's coronation . Karl Albrecht then asked Friedrich II for help. This conquered Brno and advanced on Vienna. When Austrian troops threatened his lines of retreat, he returned to Bohemia, where he defeated the army of Prince Charles of Lorraine in the battle of Chotusitz . In order to secure his conquests, Frederick II concluded the Preliminary Peace of Breslau with Maria Theresa on June 11, 1742 , and that of July 28, 1742Peace of Berlin followed. Prussia received Silesia and the County of Glatz , while Maria Theresa was able to throw the freed troops against the Bavarian-French army.

The French Marshal de Broglie , who operated on the Vltava , was then pushed back by the Austrians. In August they besieged Prague without result. The French under Marshal Belle-Isle tried to maintain the city, but had to withdraw to Eger in December under difficult conditions.

A new theater of war opened up in Italy. Spain tried to expand its territory from Naples at the expense of Austria . But an Austro-Sardinian army took the initiative, captured Modena and Mirandola, and cleared central Italy after Naples, threatened by a British fleet, had declared itself neutral. In September another Spanish army advanced through France against Nice, but had to retreat to Savoy before the onset of winter.

Although a French-Bavarian army had retaken Bavaria by autumn of that year, the Austrians were able to maintain Bohemia and Moravia. Great Britain and the Netherlands had entered the war on the side of Maria Theresa since May 13, to prevent France and Spain from gaining strength on the continent; and, finally, Prussia was initially eliminated as an opponent of Austria.


The royal Hungarian flag of the Habsburg troops. The imperial eagle could no longer be used in 1743.

In the spring there were two theaters of war in Germany. In Kur-Hannover , a British-Hanoverian army gathered under King George II and advanced to the Main . France sent her her own army from Alsace under Marshal Noailles , which, however , was defeated in the Battle of Dettingen on June 27th. In southern Germany, the Bavarians and their Hessian allies lost a battle near Simbach am Inn on May 9th and had to evacuate almost all of Bavaria. Both the French and the Bavarians retreated behind the Rhine, where they went to winter quarters. The Pragmatic ArmyAfter a brief advance across the Rhine, King George camped in Westphalia and the Netherlands, while the Austrian troops, now known as the Royal Hungarian Army , lay in Bavaria and on the Rhine.

In Italy, the Spaniards advanced again against Modena, but suffered a defeat in the Battle of Camposanto on February 8th. The Spanish army in southern France also tried again to advance in Piedmont, but had to withdraw to Savoy as in the previous year.


In the spring an 80,000-strong French army under Moritz von Sachsen advanced against Brussels and the British-Dutch army. They conquered Menin , Ypres , Furnes and Knock , but then had to send the majority of their troops against Charles of Lorraine's Austrian army, which had crossed the Rhine in Alsace. There was no battle, because Charles of Lorraine hurried back to Bohemia in August after it became known that Prussian troops under Frederick II had again intervened in the war. It seemed favorable, however, that Saxony had secretly fought on Austria's side in May.

Frederick II feared that Maria Theresa would gain strength and believed that Austria would try to take over Silesia again after defeating France. So he renewed his alliance with France and attacked Bohemia in August. In September Prague was besieged and taken. When Frederick II advanced further, Austrian hussars cut off supplies. Pressed on all sides by the Austrian reserve troops, the Saxon army and finally also by the army of Charles of Lorraine, Frederick II had to retreat to Silesia.

With this relief, however, the Bavarians and the French managed to recapture Bavaria. A French army under the personal command of Louis XV. occupied the Upper Austrian capital Freiburg im Breisgau after a six-week siege , while another attacked the Austrian Swabia. In November a third army gathered on the Moselle .

In Italy, a Franco-Spanish army invaded Piedmont and defeated the Sardinian army on the Stura . Then she took Villafranca , Oneglia and Nice . In autumn, however, the army had to return to Piedmont. In central Italy, the Austrians pushed the Spaniards back from Naples. But when it gave up its neutrality again, the Austrian army had to retreat to Tuscany .


On January 8, 1745, Great Britain, Austria, the Netherlands and Saxony-Poland concluded the Warsaw Quadruple Alliance, which was directed against Prussia. Twelve days later, on January 20, 1745, Emperor Charles VII died, making it necessary to elect a new emperor. His son Maximilian III. von Bayern closed after further military defeats, e.g. B. in the battle of Pfaffenhofen , the peace of Füssen with Maria Theresa, in which he recognized the Austrian supremacy in the empire and promised to support Maria Theresa's husband Franz in the election of the emperor. Prussia was thus largely isolated.

Friedrich II planned to behave defensively in the following campaign. He stayed in Silesia, where he decisively defeated an Austro-Saxon army on June 4th in the Battle of Hohenfriedberg . He achieved another success on November 30th in the Battle of Thrush . Silesia was thus defended and the fighting was concentrated on Saxony, where the main Austro-Saxon forces gathered. After Leopold von Anhalt-Dessau was able to decisively beat the Austrians and Saxons in the Battle of Kesselsdorf on December 15, Dresden fell into Prussian hands. On December 25th, the Peace of Dresden was held therebetween Prussia, Austria and Saxony, which was preceded by a Prussian peace treaty with Great Britain-Hanover on August 16.

After the departure of Bavaria and the evacuation of both the electorate and Freiburg, France's attention turned to Flanders . A French army under Moritz Graf von Sachsen besieged Tournai there . On May 11th, the Battle of Fontenoy broke out , in which the Pragmatic Army under the Duke of Cumberland , which had advanced to relieve the fortress, was defeated. As a result, Ghent, Bruges and Tournai surrendered. Nieuport , Dendermonde , Ath and Ostend also fell by the end of the yearin French hands. With French support, a small expeditionary force landed in Scotland to take action against Great Britain. This became known as the Second Jacobite Revolt .

In central Italy, the Austrian army had to retreat behind the Tanaro after the lost battle at Rimini . The Spanish-French and Spanish-Neapolitan armies were able to unite at Genoa and jointly conquer Tortona , Piacenza , Parma and Pavia . The Austro-Sardinian army suffered another defeat in the battle of Bassignana . By the end of the year the allies had occupied Piedmont and almost all of Lombardy .


Since Great Britain, beset by the Jacobite uprising, had to withdraw troops from the continent, the French army of the Marshal of Saxony was able to take Brussels , Mechelen , Antwerp , Charleroi and Mons relatively unhindered . During the siege of Namur , Moritz von Sachsen defeated the Austrian relief army in the battle of Huy . He took the fortress and defeated the Austrians again in the battle of Roucoux . At the end of the year, the Austrian Netherlands and Luxembourg were in French possession.

In Italy, however, an offensive by the Austro-Sardinian army was successful. In the battles of Guastalla, Piacenza and Rottofreno, the Austrians were victorious and made themselves masters of Lombardy, Piedmont and Savoy. The Spaniards withdrew to Genoa and returned to Spain. With the help of the British fleet, the Austrians successfully advanced into Provence and besieged Antibes .

During the First Carnatic War , the French managed to conquer Madras on September 4, 1746 under Admiral Bertrand François Mahé de La Bourdonnais . Madras was at that time the capital of the British Madras Presidency , which covered most of southern India.


After conquering the Austrian Netherlands, the French advanced on Holland. In the Battle of Lauffeldt , the Marshal of Saxony was able to defeat the Austro-British-Dutch troops on July 2nd. After three months of siege, Bergen op Zoom and Dutch Flanders also fell into the hands of the marshal.

The Austrians and Sardinians had to withdraw from Provence in January due to a lack of provisions. They were now going to siege Genoa. A French army under Marshal Belle-Isle advanced to relieve the city, whereupon the Austrians withdrew to Lombardy. Belle-Isle initially pursued them, but then went to winter quarters in Nice herself.

On November 30, Austria signed a treaty with Russia which provided that 37,000 Russian soldiers would advance to the Rhine in support of Maria Theresa in the following year.


The French besieged Maastricht while the army of the British, Dutch and Austrians did nothing to terrorize the city. The allies waited for the arrival of the Russian troops to then take joint action against the Marshal of Saxony. On May 7, Maastricht surrendered and a general armistice was agreed. There was no further fighting in Italy either. The danger of Russian intervention accelerated the peace negotiations and so the war ended on October 18 with the Peace of Aachen .

Effects of the war

The Peace of Aachen confirmed the Pragmatic Sanction and the British succession for Hanover. Prussia was once again awarded Silesia and the County of Glatz. Austria lost one of its richest provinces, while Prussia rose to become a major European power. The colonial powers agreed to return their conquests. France's goal of significantly weakening its archenemy Austria had thus failed. The sons of the Spanish queen received duchies in Italy, and Austria was also able to compensate for the loss of Silesia with some territorial gains.

In Austria, after the experiences of the war, important state and army reforms were introduced, which improved the quality of the Austrian army and prepared for the following Seven Years' War (1756–1763).


  • The Austrian War of Succession 1740–1748: according to the field acts and other authentic sources / edited in d. war history department of the K. u. K. War Archives, 9 volumes. Vienna 1896–1914. Digital copies: Volume 1 , Volume 2 , Volume 3 , Volume 4 , Volume 5 , Volume 6 , Volume 7 , Volume 8 , Volume 9
  • The wars of Frederick the Great . 13 volumes. Edited by Vom Großer Generalstabe, Vienna 1890–1914
  • Reed Browning: The War of Austrian Succession . New York 1993, ISBN 0-312-12561-5
  • Matthew S. Anderson: The War of the Austrian Succession, 1740-1748 . London 1995
  • Christopher Duffy : Frederick the Great . Augsburg 1994, ISBN 3-89350-558-X
  • Olaf Groehler : The wars of Friedrich II. Berlin 1980
  • Bernhard von Poten (Ed.): Handbook of the entire military sciences . 9 volumes. Leipzig 1877-1880

Web links

Commons : War of the Austrian Succession  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Andreas Kraus (Ed.): The old Bavaria. Handbook of Bavarian History. Volume 2, Beck, Munich 1988, ISBN 3406323200 , p. 530.