War of the Spanish Succession

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The War of Spanish Succession was a cabinet war between 1701 and 1714 that was fought over the legacy of the last Spanish Habsburg , King Charles II of Spain . Charles II died childless on November 1, 1700. Shortly before that, he had appointed a French candidate as heir, Philip V , who finally established the Bourbon dynasty , which is still in office today (albeit with interruptions). However, other powers of the time did not want to accept this line of succession for a long time, because Philip was the grandson of the French king Louis XIV. They feared a concentration of power to their own disadvantage.

One of these powers was Austria, more precisely Emperor Leopold I as head of the Austrian Habsburgs. He was Holy Roman Emperor and originally supported his own candidate. England and the Netherlands were also against Philip's succession to the throne. They were the originators of the Hague Grand Alliance with the Emperor and the Empire. France and Spain's allies were temporarily Electoral Cologne , Savoy and the Electorate of Bavaria .

In connection with this, there were revolts under Francis II Rákóczi in Royal Hungary and Transylvania . These began as early as 1700 when the nobleman Franz II Rákóczi contacted Louis XIV of France and asked for support in an anti-Habsburg rebellion.

The Queen Anne's War in North America between 1702 and 1713 - named after Queen Anne of Great Britain - also became part of the War of the Spanish Succession. It was the second of the four " French and Indian Wars " in which France and the Kingdom of Great Britain fought for supremacy in North America.


Charles II of Spain
Europe in 1701. The border of the Holy Roman Empire is shown in dashed lines. The Spanish possessions outside the Iberian Peninsula included the Spanish Netherlands, the Duchy of Milan and the kingdoms of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia

Future succession to the throne in Spain

In the second half of the 17th century, the future Spanish succession became the subject of general attention in European diplomacy . King Charles II was childless. After his death, the Spanish line of the House of Habsburg would have expired. Three possible aspirants to the throne came into question: Philipp von Anjou , Archduke Karl and Elector Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria .

For Philip of Anjou , his grandfather, the French King Louis XIV, campaigned. Philip's great-grandmother, the Spanish Infanta Anna of Austria , was a daughter of the former Spanish King Philip III. (died 1621, grandfather of Charles II). Philipp also had Maria Teresa of Spain (died 1683) as a grandmother. She came from the House of Habsburg and had been the wife of King Louis XIV of France since 1660. She was the eldest daughter of Philip IV (died 1665, father of Charles II), and her male descendants (including Philip) had legitimate claims to the spanish crown.

The opponents of Philip of Anjou feared a preponderance of France through the union of the enormous resources of Spain and France. They rejected this inheritance claim on the grounds that Maria Teresa of Spain had renounced her inheritance when she married Louis XIV. King Louis XIV had this renunciation of inheritance declared invalid: In the marriage contract (1659) it was agreed that Spain would pay 500,000 gold ecu for the renunciation of inheritance  . This payment was never made.

Archduke Karl was the second son of the Roman-German Emperor Leopold I , head of the Austrian Habsburgs. Leopold had determined that the first son (Joseph I) should inherit him in Austria and also be elected Roman-German Emperor. The second son Karl should take over the Spanish inheritance of the Habsburgs. Several arguments were put forward in favor of Charles:

  • In general, the House of Habsburg is a branch of the Spanish monarchy.
  • Karl's father Leopold was also a grandson of Philip III. of Spain, like Louis XIV of France.
  • Karl's father Leopold was also Margarita Teresa's husband . She was the younger daughter of the former Spanish King Philip IV and, unlike her half-sister Maria Teresa, had not renounced her inheritance when she married.

But even in the event that Archduke Charles the Heir in Spain, opponents feared an excessive concentration of power. All Habsburg lands would come together again in one house, as in the time of Charles V. In addition, the older brother Joseph I could have died, so that both the Austrian and the Spanish inheritance would have been in Charles' hands. (It was not foreseeable that Joseph would actually die surprisingly early in 1711.)

In addition to France and Austria, England was an important power of the time (already in personal union with Scotland, really united from 1707). King Wilhelm III. von Orange was also governor of the seven united provinces (northern Netherlands); this was a militarily and politically influential position. England and the Netherlands wanted to prevent Spain and its colonies from falling to France or Austria. That is why they urged the sick King Karl II to appoint a third candidate as heir: Prince Elector Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria . He was the son of Elector Maximilian II. Emanuel of Bavaria and his first wife, Maria Antonia . She was not only the daughter of Emperor Leopold I, but also of his first wife, the Infanta Margarita Teresa of Spain . This made Joseph Ferdinand the great-grandson of Philip IV of Spain.

In addition, England and the Netherlands devised an extensive partition plan for the Spanish possessions in the southern Netherlands and Italy. In this way France and Austria should be compensated. However, Joseph Ferdinand died on February 6, 1699 (one year before King Charles II).

After this sudden death, Wilhelm III. and the French King Louis XIV signed a new partition treaty on March 25, 1700. Thereafter, Archduke Charles was to receive the Spanish crown. Philip of Anjou, Ludwig's grandson, would have Naples , Sicily , Guipuzcoa and Milan . This was tempting for France, as it had been striving for hegemony in Italy since the Italian Wars of the 16th century. However, Emperor Leopold I rejected the partition contract. That is why Louis XIV did not feel bound to him either.

Envoys for the two remaining candidates worked at the court in Madrid . Finally, Charles II decided to make a will (October 2, 1700) in which he appointed Philip of Anjou as heir of the entire Spanish monarchy. Charles II died soon after, on November 1st.

Louis XIV declares his grandson Philip of Anjou as the new King of Spain in Versailles

Start of war in Northern Italy

Louis XIV was reluctant to accept the will, realizing that both accepting and rejecting the will would inevitably lead to war. Still, the French king saw no better alternative and allowed his grandson Philip to ascend the Spanish throne. The acceptance of the will was officially announced on November 16, 1700. On November 24, 1700 Philip of Anjou was proclaimed King Philip V of Spain in Versailles and (in absentia) on the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. On February 18, 1701 Philip made his solemn entry into Madrid, in May 1701 the estates of Castile paid homage to him and in January and April 1702 the estates of Aragon and Catalonia followed . Even the governor of the Spanish Netherlands, Max Emanuel von Bayern, had Philip's accession to power publicly celebrated on November 20, 1700. The sea powers England and the Netherlands under William of Orange and the council pensioner Heinsius showed themselves not averse to accepting the fait accompli in view of the express promise of Louis XIV that France and Spain would not be united with one another . In January and February 1701, Philip V was recognized as King of Spain by England and the Netherlands, respectively.

At the imperial court in Vienna, on the other hand, it was decided not to recognize the will in full. The negotiations with the French ambassador de Villars were not broken off, but the diplomat Johann Wenzel Wratislaw was sent to London to win William of Orange for a renewed Grand Alliance. Prince Eugene of Savoy was appointed Commander-in-Chief and armaments efforts were stepped up. The imperial efforts initially aimed at gaining the duchy of Milan . According to the Viennese interpretation, this fell back to the Reich as a Reichsmannlehen after the death of Karl. An attempt by the imperial commissioner Count Castelbarco to take possession of the duchy for Leopold I failed on December 11, 1700 due to resistance from the Spanish governor de Vaudémont and the Senate of Milan. Philip V recognized the imperial feudal sovereignty and formally requested enfeoffment with the northern Italian Spanish possessions, but this was rejected on March 17, 1701 by the imperial court council . On May 11, 1701, an imperial edict declared the reversal of all northern Italian fiefdoms. In February 1701 Louis XIV sent troops to Northern Italy and in the spring an army under the command of Prince Eugene crossed the Alps towards Milan. With that the war in Northern Italy had de facto broken out.

Formation of the Hague Alliance and entry of the sea powers into the war

On February 1, 1701, Louis XIV solemnly confirmed Philip V's inheritance claims and his male descendants to the French throne by the Paris Parliament. In doing so, he broke the important promise that Spain and France should not be united under one crown and at the same time violated the will of Charles II. At this point, Philip V was third in the French line of succession. On the night of February 5 to 6, 1701, French troops occupied eight barrier fortresses in the Spanish Netherlands in a surprising operation. The action was justified with the lack of recognition of Philip V by the Netherlands. In the course of 1701 the new Spanish government transferred several important trade privileges in Spain and the Spanish colonies (including the trade in African slaves) to French companies - to the detriment of the sea powers. In sum, in the summer of 1701, this led to the failure of the settlement negotiations that had been conducted in The Hague between France and the Netherlands since March. On September 7, 1701, a Great Alliance Treaty was concluded between the Emperor, the Netherlands and England. The English side was further concerned that after the death of the exiled Catholic Stuart king Jacob II in September 1701 , Louis XIV recognized his son James Francis Edward Stuart ( the old pretender ) as the legitimate king of England while in England at the same time the last living son of Queen Anna died, with which the Protestant line of the House of Stuart died out in the male line.

Situation in the Holy Roman Empire

After the many wars in the previous decades ( Dutch War 1672–1679, War of the Palatinate Succession , Great Turkish War 1683–1699) in which the empire had participated, there was a certain war weariness and initially little motivation to enter a war, which was predominantly dynastic War of the House of Habsburg was perceived. French politicians tried to use this for their own purposes and the French ambassador to the Reichstag in Regensburg , Louis Rousseau de Chamoy, never tired of emphasizing Louis XIV's love of peace. However, due to the constant French wars of conquest, a certain imperial patriotism and a mistrust and need for security towards France had developed, which played into the hands of imperial politics.

The greatest success of French diplomacy was the win of Duke Max Emmanuel of Bavaria and his brother, Archbishop Joseph Clemens of Cologne, as allies. The archbishop concluded a defensive alliance with France in February 1701 and the duke in March 1701. Another ally of France was Duke Anton-Ulrich von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel , who politically felt himself to be returned to the electorate by the earlier elevation of the younger Guelph line , the House of Hanover . The fourth French partisan in the empire was Duke Friedrich II of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg , who was won over primarily with French subsidy promises .

Imperial policy in the empire also sought allies at an early stage. On November 15, 1700 was with the Elector Friedrich III. Brandenburg concluded the so-called Prussian contract in which the emperor undertook to recognize the elevation of the Duchy of Prussia as a kingdom intended by Friedrich . In return, Friedrich undertook to provide 8,000 troops annually in return for subsidy payments of 100,000 Reichstalers, who could also be deployed outside the Reich, and to waive previous claims. Significantly under the influence of the Archbishop of Mainz and Bishop of Bamberg, Lothar Franz von Schönborn - by virtue of the office of Arch Chancellor of the Reich - they joined forces on 6/20. March 1702 in Nördlingen the Swabian , Franconian , Kurrheinische , Oberrheinisch and Niederrheinisch-Westfälische districts with the Austrian Empire , i.e. in fact the emperor, to form an association which on March 24, 1702 declared its affiliation to the Hague Alliance. Only the Bavarian Reichskreis stayed away. On October 5, 1702, after deliberations in the Regensburg Reichstag and on the basis of a legal opinion, the Reich officially declared war on France.


The main acts of war took place simultaneously in the south of the Holy Roman Empire , in Flanders and Brabant , in northern Italy and Spain . The War of the Spanish Succession was also one of the first confrontations with effects on the colonial territories of the respective powers. In particular, the war in North America, there also known as Queen Anne's War , was waged in the form of a proxy war by the respective Indian auxiliary troops in England and France. A truly coordinated global dispute was only achieved with the War of the Austrian Succession from 1740 to 1748 and the Seven Years' War from 1756 to 1763.


Philip V of Anjou in court costume
Jacob van Schuppen: Prince Eugene of Savoy, oil on canvas, 1718. The picture is on permanent loan from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam in the Belvedere in Vienna.

Philip V moved into Madrid as the new Spanish king in February 1701 and was thus also sovereign for the Duchy of Milan . Several Italian princes, such as Viktor Amadeus II of Savoy and Carlo IV Gonzaga , Duke of Mantua , allied themselves with the Bourbons; French troops occupied almost all of northern Italy as far as Lake Garda . The imperial general Prince Eugene of Savoy started the war without a declaration of war. Eugene defeated the French Marshal Catinat on July 9th in the Battle of Carpi and on September 1st the incompetent Marshal Villeroi , who had replaced Catinat, in the Battle of Chiari . On the night of November 12th and 13th, the French returned via the Oglio. On November 19, the Imperial troops began the persecution. Eugene wanted to advance to the area of ​​Mantua, where he wanted to take winter quarters for his troops. On December 1st, he began to storm Caneto, which led to the surrender after three days. Eugen's goal of taking Milan , he did not achieve because of difficulties with supplies.


Italy - Prince Eugene opened the fighting of the year as early as the winter of 1702, which was very unusual for this era. On February 1, he attacked the French winter quarters in Cremona , where he was able to take Marshal Villeroi prisoner. The more energetic French Marshal Vendôme took his place . He succeeded in pushing back Prince Eugene's army with a superior force of 50,000 French against 35,000 imperial men. In the battle of Luzzara on August 15, the imperial forces tried to regain the initiative, but the battle ended in a draw and at the beginning of October both armies moved into winter quarters.

Spanish Netherlands / Republic of the Seven United Provinces ("States General") - In the States General, the anti-Bourbon alliance under the English general John Churchill gathered an army of approx. 110,000 men. With this force, Marlborough pushed back the French forces under Marshal Boufflers and took some fortresses on the Meuse . Before that, Elector Maximilian II Emmanuel of Bavaria , who had been governor of the Spanish Netherlands for several years, opened all the fortresses to the French army and then went to his electorate.

Germany - In the empire, the imperial first took action against the princes who had sided with Louis XIV. These were the Electorate of Cologne and Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel . All of these principalities were occupied. I.a. Between April 18 and June 15, there was a siege of the Electorate of Cologne, Kaiserswerth , in the course of which the city was almost completely destroyed. With the attack on Ulm on September 9th, the well-armed Elector Maximilian II Emanuel, who was also in league with France, opened the war in southern Germany in the hope of winning a royal crown recognized by the European powers ( Bavarian Diversion in the War of the Spanish Succession, 1700 -1714). For the imperial it was now a matter of preventing the unification of the French with the Bavarians. To this end, the Upper Rhine as a result of a county association an army under Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden-Baden established that the French army of Marshal Villars contrary presented. The margrave conquered Landau in the Palatinate on September 9th . On October 14th, the armies met in the undecided Battle of Friedlingen or the Battle of the Käferholz . After this, the French army retreated behind the Rhine, which prevented a union with the Bavarians for the time being. Further north, however, Marshal Tallard again occupied the entire Duchy of Lorraine and the city of Trier . Maximilian of Bavaria initially retained his neutrality and negotiated with the emperor.

Iberian Peninsula - The English and Dutch fleets tried unsuccessfully to capture Cadiz from the Spanish. Then Admiral Rooke operated against the Spanish silver fleet from South America. In the battle of Vigo Bay on September 23, he defeated the Spanish fleet, captured the coastal forts and captured some of the silver.


Marshal Claude Louis Hector de Villars

Spanish Netherlands / States General - There was disagreement among the allies over the conduct of the war, which made operations this year seem rather sluggish. The Duke of Marlborough captured the Electoral Cologne fortress of Bonn , the fortress of Huy and Limburg in the Diocese of Liège , while a Dutch army secured the border against the French. On June 30, they suffered a loss-making defeat against the French troops of Marshal Boufflers in the Battle of Eckern . This French victory was not significant.

Germany - Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria openly sided with the Bourbons. The Austrian intentions were to defeat Bavaria before it received French aid. Bayern were able to throw back two advances in the spring. At the same time, Marshal Villar's French army crossed the Rhine again - a first attempt in February had failed - and attacked the Margrave of Baden in the Bühl-Stollhofen line . Although these attacks were unsuccessful, Marshal Villars marched, regardless of his connections to the rear, to Bavaria, where he united with Elector Max Emanuel at the end of May. Both generals were now waiting for reinforcements from France, while the Austrians also concentrated their forces. On March 4, 1703 the first Bavarian field battle in the War of the Spanish Succession broke out near Mallerstetten on the Kurbayerische Defensionlinie.

With 12,000 soldiers, the Elector of Bavaria attempted an advance into Tyrol to meet the French under Vendôme. Then they wanted to march on Vienna together. The resistance of the local rural population, the so-called " Bavarian hype ", thwarted this plan. At the same time, Marshal Villars was able to defeat an Austrian corps in the First Battle of Höchstädt on September 20 . The Margrave of Baden withdrew with his army to the Black Forest. Marshal Villars could not come to an agreement with the Elector of Bavaria on strategic issues and asked for his release. He was replaced by Marshal Marsin . Meanwhile, another French army of around 14,000 men operated on the Rhine under Marshal Tallard . This captured Breisach on September 7th and, after the victorious battle of the Speyerbach on November 15th, Landau in the Palatinate .

Italy - Prince Eugene of Savoy had been recalled from Italy to coordinate overall operations as President of the Court War Council . He was replaced by General Feldzeugmeister Guido von Starhemberg . This should try to withstand the superior strength of the Bourbons in Italy. This was favored by the fact that the Duke of Savoy went over to the side of the emperor, whereby the war focused on his duchy. The French Marshal Vendôme tried to achieve a union with the Bavarians via Tyrol, but this advance could be prevented by Starhemberg. However, this managed to unite with the troops of the Duke of Savoy.

Hungary - In Hungary there was an uprising under Franz II Rákóczi , which was also joined by many Hungarian officers from the Habsburg army. This uprising against Habsburg rule soon expanded to such an extent that Prince Eugene of Savoy had to make preparations for military operations in Hungary in Pressburg .

Iberian Peninsula - On May 16, King Dom Pedro II of Portugal declared himself on the side of the Habsburgs and promised to send 20,000 soldiers and 200 warships.

France - During the year, the Protestant uprising in the Cevennes , a mountain region south of the Loire , took on the form of civil war.


Spanish Netherlands / States General - Hendrik van Nassau-Ouwerkerk commanded the allied forces of around 40,000 men against the superior French army without being able to step out of the defensive. Marlborough marched with the other troops to southern Germany, because the allies had come to believe that the French-Bavarian forces posed the greatest threat there. Some of the French troops, under the command of Marshal Villeroi, followed the allied army south to maintain the balance of forces.

Germany - Both parties gathered their strengths in southern Germany. The Duke of Marlborough united at the end of June near Ulm with the Margrave of Baden and shortly afterwards with the Austrian army under Prince Eugene of Savoy. With Tallard's army, the French also brought in further forces across the Black Forest, while Villeroi's troops covered the connections across the Rhine. On July 15, 1704, Villingen was massively besieged without being able to take the city. After a first battle on Schellenberg , the decisive Second Battle of Höchstädt took place on August 13 , in which the allies were victorious.

The French-Bavarian troops had to evacuate all of Bavaria and the theater of war was moved to the Rhine. The Elector of Bavaria initially fled to Brussels, where, as Governor-General, he maintained a court with his brother, the Elector of Cologne, who had also fled. The armies of the allies parted again. Marlborough conquered Trier, while Ludwig von Baden besieged the fortress Landau , which surrendered on November 26th. Prince Eugene of Savoy covered these operations in Alsace against the army of Marshal Villeroi.

Italy - In Italy, the Duke of Savoy continued to come under heavy pressure from the French armies under Marshal Vendôme and General Feuillade . These went to the siege of Turin and pushed the Austrian corps to Mantua. This corps, which in the meantime was commanded by Philipp Ludwig von Leiningen , came under additional pressure when another French army under the son of Marshal von Vendôme approached from Naples in Bourbon . The Austrians therefore evacuated almost all of Italy and withdrew to Tyrol.

Hungary - After the victory at Höchstädt, troops could be relocated to Hungary. Under General Sigbert Heister , they succeeded in defeating the Hungarian troops in the battle of Tyrnau on December 26th . A small contingent of Austrian troops also claimed Transylvania .

Henri de Massue de Ruvigny, Earl of Galway

Iberian Peninsula - Spain emerged as a new theater of war during the year. On March 9, an Anglo-Dutch corps landed in Lisbon under Meinhard von Schomberg (Schomberg was later replaced by General Henri de Massue de Ruvigny, 1st Earl of Galway ). Archduke Karl was also part of this army as a Habsburg contender for the Spanish throne. At the same time, a French army under Marshal Berwick , Philip V of Spain came to the rescue (Berwick was replaced by Marshal Tessé in the course of the year ). However, there were no major battles on the Portuguese-Spanish border. During these operations, the allies benefited from the fact that some Spanish provinces, particularly Catalonia , opposed the Bourbon government. They feared that centralization could be expected from the crown at the expense of regional freedoms. As a result, the Imperial and British had an important bridgehead right from the start of operations on the Iberian Peninsula .

Campaigns during the war; Arrows characterize the military advances, red line Habsburgs, blue lines Bourbons

The English fleet under Admiral George Rooke also succeeded on August 4 with a landing force under George of Hesse-Darmstadt , the Capture of Gibraltar . This could also be defended against a Spanish counter-offensive. The approaching French fleet under the command of the son of Louis XIV with Madame de Montespan , Admiral de Toulouse was defeated in the battle of Vélez-Málaga on August 24th by Admiral Rooke.


Jean Baptiste Martin: The Battle of Cassano ( Army History Museum )

Spanish Netherlands / States General - A Franco-Bavarian army under the Elector of Bavaria and Marshal Villeroi advanced successfully into the Netherlands while Marlborough attempted to invade France via Lorraine . Under pressure from the French army, he was recalled to the States General. There he broke the Franco-Bavarian lines at Tirlemont , but was stopped at the Dyle .

Germany - After the death of Emperor Leopold I on May 5, 1705, his son Joseph I vigorously continued the fight. He obtained the declaration of eighth against the two Wittelsbach electors. The occupation of Kurbayern was enforced with sometimes brutal measures. The focus of imperial diplomacy in the following years was the incorporation of the spa Bavarians into the union of the Habsburg hereditary lands , which led to an uprising of the Bavarian population , which was bloodily suppressed during the Sendlinger Murder Christmas .

On the Rhine, the opposing armies initially faced one another inactive. Only in late summer did the armies maneuver again on both banks of the Rhine. By the end of the year Ludwig von Baden occupied the Moder line and conquered Hagenau and Drusenheim .

Italy - The troops of Viktor Amadeus of Savoy and Guido of Starhembergs were still besieged in Turin. Prince Eugene of Savoy took command of General von Leiningen's corps, which he had reinforced, and invaded Italy again to relieve Turin. On August 16, however, he was repulsed by Marshal Vendôme in the Battle of Cassano . The prince asserted himself for Brescia and returned to Vienna at the end of the year. General von Reventlow took command .

Hungary - In Hungary, Count Ludwig von Herbeville took command of the Austrian troops, but neither in the Battle of Waag on August 11, nor in the Battle of Sibo on November 11, he was able to prevail against the Hungarians. Only in Transylvania was it possible to stabilize the Austrian government.

Iberian Peninsula - In Spain, the allies made further progress. They besieged Barcelona by land and sea , which surrendered on October 7th. The entire province of Catalonia fell to the Habsburgs at once .
In Portugal the commanding generals argued over the conduct of the war. They conquered Valencia de Alcántara and Alburquerque , but after a defeat in the Battle of Talavera they had to give up the siege of Badajoz .


The Duke of Marlborough at the Battle of Ramillies, engraving from 1890
Jean Baptiste Martin: The Battle of Calcinato in the Army History Museum

Spanish Netherlands / States General - In the spring, both warring parties decided to launch an offensive. In May, the Duke of Marlborough succeeded in convincing the Elector of Bavaria and Marshal Villeroi to advance before they were reinforced by troops from the Rhine. On May 23, 1706 he won a decisive victory in the battle of Ramillies . Taking advantage of this success, he occupied or conquered Leuven , Mechelen , Brussels , Menin , Ostend and Bruges and left Charles III everywhere. proclaim as king.

Germany - On the Rhine, Ludwig von Baden had to retreat behind the Rhine. All conquests of the previous year fell back to Marshal Villars. Only when Villars had to send 12,000 men to the Netherlands did the operations come to a standstill. Ludwig von Baden fell seriously ill and died in January 1707. He handed over the command to General Hans Karl I. von Thüngen . This in turn took the initiative, crossed the Rhine and pushed the French troops back behind the Lauter .

Italy - In the spring of April 19, the Austrian army was defeated by Marshal Vendôme in the Battle of Calcinato and had to retreat into the Trento area while General Feuillade besieged Turin. Prince Eugene of Savoy gathered a new army and invaded Italy for the third time in this war. He marched quickly to Turin and there defeated the French army in the battle of Turin on September 7th . After this severe defeat, Louis XIV undertook in the general capitulation of March 13, 1707 to give up Italy.

Hungary - This was initially calm, as the war opponents were in negotiations. Furthermore, General Feldzeugmeister Guido von Starhemberg took over command at the end of the year.

Iberian Peninsula - The Spanish troops tried to regain Valencia and Catalonia, but all attempts were turned down by the English general Charles Mordaunt , defeating the Spanish at the Battle of Fuentes . After he had created free space in this way, he worked together with the English fleet under Admiral John Leake to break off the siege of Barcelona by the French troops.

The Anglo-Portuguese army advanced as far as Madrid , but after the Portuguese had withdrawn, the English had to retreat under the Earl of Galway .

Diplomacy - After the advance of the Swedish king into the Electorate of Saxony, the allies were justified in worrying that the Great Northern War , which was taking place at the same time , might unite with the fighting in Central Europe. Both warring sides tried to win the King of Sweden as an ally. For this purpose the emperor was even prepared to make concessions to the Protestant Christians in the Silesian hereditary lands. So he gave permission to build the so-called grace churches . Charles XII. however, had no interest in interfering in the clashes and pulled again against Russia.


Spanish Netherlands / States General - Marshal Vendôme assumed command of the French troops in this theater of war. He dodged a battle against the Duke of Marlborough, so that it came only to maneuvers. The campaign ended without any land gain for either side.

Germany - Marshal Villars took the initiative and surprisingly crossed the Rhine near Neuburg on 23 May in the rear of the Allied positions. The Imperial Army under Margrave Christian Ernst of Brandenburg-Bayreuth then gave up the Bühl-Stollhofen line largely without a fight and withdrew unnecessarily far to Aalen and Ellwangen . This surrendered Baden and large parts of Württemberg; Schorndorf was handed over on June 15, the French advanced to Schwäbisch Gmünd at the end of June . Villar's cavalry used this as much as possible to plunder and raise contributions as far as Ulm and Franconia: the loot in Franconia and Swabia was estimated at 9 million guilders, the damage caused was far greater. Christian Ernst took action against Villars again in July and crossed the Rhine with reinforcements at Philippsburg and Rheinhausen in the middle of the month . In September, Elector Georg Ludwig von Hanover took command of the Imperial Army and pushed Villars completely back behind the Rhine.

Italy - The allies advanced into France with 35,000 men in the spring. The Duke of Savoy was in command of the army, but Prince Eugene of Savoy was also present. They besieged Toulon , but after a few initial successes, difficulties with supplies led to the siege being broken off. The army withdrew to Piedmont .

On the other hand, an 11,000-strong imperial corps under Field Marshal Count Daun succeeded in conquering the Kingdom of Naples, which was ruled by the Bourbons.

Hungary - In Hungary the fighting flared up again, with Generalfeldzeugmeister Starhemberg succeeding in asserting himself.

Iberian Peninsula - The energetic demeanor of the Queen of Spain, who, according to the unanimous opinion, completely ruled the king - although Louis XIV ruled Spain through letters to his grandson - and her first lady-in-waiting, Madame des Ursins (née Marie-Anne de La Trémoille , Daughter of the Duke of Noirmoutier), who in turn influenced the Queen, prevented the total collapse of Bourbon power. Madame des Ursins, as a confidante of Madame de Maintenon, was also indirectly involved in the reorganization of the Spanish central power. After Marshal Berwick's victory over the Anglo-Portuguese army at Almanza on April 25, 1707, the southern provinces also fell into Philip's hands, after he had been able to recapture Madrid.

Diplomacy - Due to the increasing economic exhaustion of France, Louis XIV offered the naval powers the renunciation of Spain for the first time and limited his demands to the Italian lands for his grandson. The sea powers agreed with the emperor that they should not only insist on acquiring the entire Spanish monarchy for the House of Austria , but also use the situation to permanently break France's hegemony.


Spanish Netherlands / States General - This year the Allies intended to focus their efforts on reclaiming the Spanish Netherlands. For this purpose, Prince Eugene of Savoy should join the troops of the Duke of Marlborough with the "Moselle Army". But before this army was there, the French went on the offensive. To stop their advance, the Duke of Marlborough opposed them at the Battle of Oudenaarde on July 11th. Although the French were defeated, the arrival of French reinforcements the following day prevented the Allies from taking advantage of this victory. Prince Eugene of Savoy began the siege of Lille while the Duke of Marlborough covered this operation. On October 22nd, 1708, the fortress of Lille was taken. Repeated attempts by Marshals Vendôme and Berwick to strike the allies separately did not succeed. Finally the French troops went to the winter quarters behind the border fortresses.

Germany - Elector Georg von Hannover continued to command the Imperial Army on the Rhine . However, he had instructions to remain defensive and in any case did not have the troops necessary to advance. On the other hand, Elector Max Emanuel von Bayern had replaced Marshal Villars, but he too remained cautious, so that there were no major battles.

Italy - Pope Clement XI. surprisingly declared himself in favor of the Bourbon side and against the emperor. However, he changed his position quickly when imperial troops of Naples and Piedmont from the Comacchiokrieg in the Papal States marched.

Hungary - The imperial general Sigbert Heister won a victory over the Kuruzen in the battle of Trenčín on August 4th , but this success did not end the uprising either.

Iberian Peninsula - After the French defeat in Italy, a large number of imperial troops could be relocated to Spain from there. 16,000 men under General Feldzeugmeister von Starhemberg strengthened Archduke Karl's army considerably, but nevertheless there were no major battles. Marshal Berwick had also been recalled with some troops to make up for the losses in the Netherlands.

At sea, the allied fleet defeated the French off Menorca and captured the main fortress of Mahon, which has one of the largest natural port facilities in the Mediterranean. In addition, Cagliari , the capital of Sardinia , was captured.

Diplomacy - After a lightning strike had brought a small division of Dutch horsemen to the gates of Versailles , Louis XIV was ready to negotiate a peace based on the complete renunciation of Spain. Even when the allies demanded the return of Alsace with Strasbourg , the free county, the Lorraine bishoprics , the French ambassador to the Hague, Torcy, was still ready to negotiate. It was only when he was asked to help drive his grandson out of Spain with French troops himself that Ludwig firmly rejected.


Battle of Malplaquet 1709, woodcut by R. Canton Woodville

Spanish Netherlands / States General - This year's campaign began very late after the peace negotiations failed. Both sides increased their strength. On September 11th, the armies met at the battle of Malplaquet . The losses were substantial on both sides without either party gaining any significant advantage.

Germany - The allies crossed the Rhine with two armies. While the Imperial Army initially operated successfully, the imperial corps was forced to retreat in the battle near Rumersheim on August 21 . The Imperial Army then had to withdraw.

Italy - Field Marshal Daun advanced across the Alps with an Imperial Savoy army and invaded the Dauphiné . He won the battle at Conflans on July 28 against Marshal Berwick, but then he found no way to take action against his good positions. That is why he retired to Piedmont in the autumn.

Hungary - General Heister conquered all of Lower Hungary without leading to a major battle.

Iberian Peninsula - There were maneuvers in Spain, but not major skirmishes. No war party could gain advantages for itself. However, the French had withdrawn most of their troops as they were needed on the other fronts, while British troops were even reinforced that year.


Spanish Netherlands / States General - At the end of April, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy set out from Tournay to break through Marshal Villars' French lines. The marshal avoided a battle because the lack of reserves made it more important to maintain the army. The allies captured Douai and Béthune in June , Saint-Venant in September and Aire in November . In this way, the fortress belt that secured the interior of France was broken through piece by piece.

Germany - Operations on the Rhine had come to an almost complete standstill. Both weak armies stood inactive against each other.

Italy - Field Marshal Daun attempted a renewed incursion into the Dauphiné with 50,000 men. But Marshal Berwick and his weak troops defended the exits of the mountain passes so tenaciously that the Imperialists soon had to withdraw.

Hungarians - The Hungarians had also bet that the war against France would prompt the Emperor to enter into negotiations with them soon. The failures of France therefore also led to less support for Rákóczi. He therefore first lost Neuhäusel and then almost the entire country to the imperial army under General Heister.

Iberian Peninsula - In Spain, General Feldzeugmeister Starhemberg's troops had been increased to 24,000 men. In addition there were the British troops under Lord Stanhope. It was possible to defeat the Spanish troops under the Marques de Villadarias on July 27 at Almenara and again on August 20 at Saragossa . So Karl of Austria was able to move into Madrid on September 28th.

Philip V and Marshal Vendôme after the Battle of Villaviciosa in 1710

A French auxiliary army advanced under Marshal Vendôme while the Portuguese army withdrew. As a result, the allies had to evacuate Madrid on November 11th. On the retreat to Catalonia they were hard pressed by Marshal Vendôme's troops. On December 9th, the British rearguard surrendered under Lord Stanhope and on December 10th there was a tie at Villaviciosa . The Imperial withstood the French attack, but withdrew further the next day.

Diplomacy - Two important diplomatic events marked the year 1710. On the one hand, the peace negotiations in the Congress of Gertruydenburg were resumed, but were initially unsuccessful. More importantly, however, the Whig government in Great Britain was ousted by the Tories , who sought to bring about peace as quickly as possible.


Spanish Netherlands / States General - The Allies opened their operations in June. Prince Eugene of Savoy marched with some troops into the Rhine Palatinate, from where he covered Frankfurt am Main , where the Imperial German electoral convention met to elect Charles of Austria as the new German king.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Marlborough pushed Marshal Villars from Cambrai and captured Bouchain .

Germany - The French concentrated 50,000 men on the Rhine under Marshal Harcourt. Although he crossed the Rhine, he avoided a battle against Prince Eugene of Savoy and finally withdrew behind the Rhine again.

Italy - The Allies invaded the Dauphiné for the third time. They were able to push Marshal Berwick back as far as Barraux , although the latter put up delaying resistance. When reinforcements from the French Rhine Army finally arrived, the Duke of Savoy ordered the retreat of the allied army.

Hungary - The Peace of Sathmar was reached in Hungary on May 1, 1711 , which ended the war in this arena. In fact, the Hungarians again submitted to the emperor.

Iberian Peninsula - In Spain, Marshal Vendôme attempted to retake Catalonia, but was repeatedly pushed back by General Feldzeugmeister Starhemberg. There were no major battles.

North America - British regular troops and militiamen from the New England colonies attempted to capture the city of Quebec in New France during the Québec expedition . After crossing the Atlantic and stopping for several weeks in Boston to requisition supplies, several dozen ships transported over 13,500 men to the region of the St. Lawrence River . Inadequate knowledge of the waters and thick fog led to a disaster on August 22, when eight ships capsized. 890 soldiers and sailors died. The expedition was then canceled without result.

Diplomacy - In Britain, the new Tory government was eager to make peace as quickly as possible. The Queen's powerful favorite and lady-in-waiting , Sarah Churchill, was also overthrown. Her husband, the Duke, thus lost his most important support at the British court. But the most important event took place on April 17, 1711: Emperor Joseph I died completely unexpectedly without leaving a male heir. Since now his brother, the pretender for Spain, as Charles VI. Became emperor, the naval powers feared again that the Austrian House of Habsburg might become too powerful through the union with Spain. Therefore, the British began secret negotiations with Louis XIV. On October 8, the Preliminaries in London were signed and, despite all efforts to counteract the Emperor, the negotiations opened on January 29, 1712, which led to the Peace of Utrecht .


Villars in the decisive victory of Denain in 1712

Spanish Netherlands / States General - The Duke of Marlborough has been replaced by the Duke of Ormonde . He only had to observe the order during the ongoing negotiations. As a result, Prince Eugene of Savoy could only dispose of part of the allied army. When France and Great Britain signed an armistice, however, he was at least able to get the soldiers to transfer to imperial service. He first conquered Le Quesnoy and then went to the siege of Landrecies . Otherwise he was too weak for further offensive operations, because he had to defend the already conquered areas with the few troops. On July 24th, Marshal Villars achieved a great victory over an army of the allies under Prince Eugene in the Battle of Denain . After this heavy defeat, the Dutch refused to agree to a field battle and Villars managed to retake the fortresses of Marchiennes , Douai , Le Quesnoy and Bouchain .

Germany - The German Imperial Army rallied on the Rhine and crossed the Rhine under the Duke of Württemberg to attack the French camp on the Lauter on August 16 . The attack failed and the Imperial Army withdrew again across the Rhine.

Italy - In Italy, both warring parties remained on the defensive as the Emperor withdrew his troops and the Duke of Savoy was also in negotiations with France.

Iberian Peninsula - The situation did not change in Spain either. Marshal Vendôme died in the summer and was replaced by General Tilly. In November Portugal signed an armistice with Spain and France.


Due to the peace treaties in the Peace of Utrecht , there was only one theater of war on the Rhine this year. There, Prince Eugene of Savoy took command of the imperial troops and the imperial army, but was supposed to behave defensively. Marshal Villars took Landau on August 20th, set fire to the Palatinate and Baden, and captured Freiburg im Breisgau on November 16th . However, he did not advance further, as peace negotiations were opened on November 26th at Rastatt .


Johann Rudolf Huber: The Signing of the Peace of Baden, 1714

On March 7, 1714, the peace between France and the emperor at Rastatt was concluded. In Spain, the struggles to enforce the new Bourbon central power continued in various parts of the country. Barcelona in Catalonia was not captured until September 11, 1714 . September 11th is still a national holiday in Catalonia today . In order to also accept the German Empire into peace, a congress took place in Baden in Aargau, where the Rastatt Peace was translated into the legal language Latin and supplemented as the Peace of Baden on September 7, 1714.


Europe in 1713 after the peace treaties of Rastatt and Utrecht with the essential territorial changes:
Habsburg profits (Spanish Netherlands, Duchy of Milan, kingdoms of Naples and Sardinia) profits from Savoy-Piedmont (Kingdom of Sicily, exchanged for Sardinia in 1720) British profits (Menorca, Gibraltar) Prussian profits (parts of Obergeldern)

The great power position of France in Europe remained within the framework of the increasingly emerging balance of power, it retained a politically and especially militarily very strong position. At the same time, the first attempts towards a reconciliation with the Habsburgs began, which were still being considered by Louis XIV. For France, one of the most important foreign policy goals had been achieved, the final smashing of the Habsburg encirclement that had been on the French agenda since the 16th century.

The public finances of France, which were heavily burdened after the War of the Spanish Succession, should not come back to normal in the long term, despite many efforts. With the appointment of Scottish economist John Law as general controller of finances, the recovery was only temporary. Nevertheless, France remained the largest and most prosperous economy in Europe due to its mercantilist politics , its high population and the constantly growing expansion of the sugar cane plantations in Martinique and Haiti . Until the 1730s, there was even a real economic boom.

Britain was the big winner of the battle. For one, Queen Anne managed to permanently unite the crowns of England and Scotland. On the other hand, the Act of Settlement prevented the dynastic succession of the childless queen from developing into another conflict. Economically, it had succeeded in consolidating its own maritime power, especially at the expense of the States General. The gradual dominance in world trade could be expanded through favorable deals with Spain ( Asiento de negros ) and Portugal ( Methuen Treaty ). The gain of Gibraltar (1704) cannot be overestimated in its strategic importance for the next wars, as can the gain of Menorca and some areas in North America.

The ore house of Austria won the economically valuable provinces of the formerly Spanish, now Austrian Netherlands and in Italy in particular the Kingdom of Naples including Sicily and Milan. It was also able to bring Mantua under its control, a goal at which it failed in the Mantuan War of Succession from 1628 to 1631. However, plans to permanently annex occupied Bavaria or to keep it by means of exchange failed. The plans to acquire spa Bavarians - militarily in the War of the Bavarian Succession or in exchange channels - should be pursued more or less intensively until the end of the Ancien Régime .

At the end of the war, Spain received a dynasty with the Bourbons , which is at the head of the state to this day, but lost its Italian territories around Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, among others, the Spanish Netherlands, Menorca and Gibraltar. In Spain itself, Philip V, against the resistance of the provinces, implemented the model of a centralized state based on the French model, as a result of which the self-government of some parts of the country, such as Catalonia or the Basque Country , ended. The Spanish policy of the following years, in particular carried out by Cardinal Giulio Alberoni and the king's second wife, Elisabeth Farnese , who had the apparently all-powerful Madame des Ursins removed from the court immediately after the marriage, was thus aimed at regaining the territories in Italy for the Spanish Fixed monarchy. The resulting Alberoni trade , which culminated in the war of the Quadruple Alliance from 1718 to 1720, was initially unsuccessful. Only in the war of succession to the Polish throne from 1733 to 1738 was Spain able to Win back Naples and Sicily in the short term. And yet, the Spanish public finances were exhausted. Another bankruptcy followed.

There were only minor changes to the Holy Roman Empire itself. The outlawed electors of Cologne and Bavaria were reinstated in their old rights. Until the very end, Max Emanuel had tried to achieve the dream of a royal crown. At one point in the negotiations, serious thought was given to lending him the crown of the Kingdom of Sardinia in exchange for Bavaria. The Crown of Sardinia finally went to the House of Savoy via a number of detours .

Prussia entered the active war against Sweden in the Third Northern War , which took place at the same time, and secured possession of the city almost immediately after the peace agreement, which had brought it only marginal profits, but increased military prestige by conquering the fortress of Geldern, which was considered to be invincible Szczecin . Shortly after the war, France tried again to forge close diplomatic relations with King Friedrich Wilhelm I , in order to create a counterweight to the House of Habsburg as a replacement for the declining great power Sweden in northern Europe. These efforts had little success, but they already paved the way for the Franco-Prussian alliance in 1741.

Louis XIV and Anne Stuart bring peace to Europe, copper engraving, France 1713

The States General, whose demands for a permanent right of occupation in the Barrière fortresses , which had been repeatedly raised for decades , were indeed fulfilled, were nevertheless among the losers in the conflict: the loss of importance of Amsterdam as the leading trading metropolis in Europe in favor of London, which began around 1680, had accelerated, and the internal weakness the governor system in particular became more and more evident. The real value of the occupations, whose maintenance cost the state a lot of money and whose rights there were endless arguments with the Austrian Habsburgs, was to be shown in the War of the Austrian Succession , when the French took the fortresses one after another without any resistance and mostly razed them.

The House of Savoy was one of the great and in the long run most successful beneficiaries of the European upheavals. The duke not only succeeded in attaining the rank of king of Sicily, and later of Sardinia. He also managed to finally eliminate the decades-long threat to the existence of the state from France. The foreign policy of the next few decades was directed towards the one goal of finally gaining control over Milan.

None of the powers Great Britain, France, Austria and, since 1721, Russia, too, were to achieve hegemony over Europe in the years that followed, up to the revolution of 1789. Until the spectacular Renversement des alliances , the reversal of the alliances in 1755/56, the antagonism between France and Austria was one of the fundamental constants of the European system. The emerging rise of Prussia supplemented the alliances, but did not permanently question them. The previous great powers of the States General and Sweden left the concert of powers immediately.

The War of the Spanish Succession ended overall in a stalemate without a major winner. Ultimately, it was an argument in a long series of military conflicts in which the system of a European balance of power gradually emerged. Balancing this balance was always the top priority of Wilhelm III's policy, and the peace treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt established approaches for a permanent balance of power for the first time .

See also

  • André Falquet - witnessed an episode of the war in Bavaria in 1703, later ennobled by Habsburg


  • The Diary of the Peace of Baden 1714 by Caspar Joseph Dorer. With introduction and commentary edited by Barbara Schmid. (= Contributions to Aargau history 18). Publisher here + now, Baden 2014, ISBN 978-3-03919-327-1 .
  • Louis de Rouvroy Duc de Saint-Simon : The memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon. (= Library Ullstein. Ullstein-Buch. 26214–26217). Edited and translated by Sigrid von Massenbach. 4 volumes, unabridged edition. Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-548-26218-X . (Original title: Mémoires. )
  • Memoires du Duc de Villars , Pair de France, Marechal-General des armées de sa Majeste . 3 volumes. Pierre Gosse, La Haye 1734.


The War of the Spanish Succession in Literature

The historic "Jack Steel Series" by British author Iain Gale takes place at the time of the War of the Spanish Succession.

  • Man of Honor. HarperCollins 2007; German translation Steels Ehre. Jack Steel and the Battle of Höchstädt 1704. Bastei Lübbe 2012.
  • Rules of War. HarperCollins 2008; German translation Steels Duell. Bastei Lübbe 2013. Spanish Netherlands 1706: Battle of Ramillies and others.
  • Brothers in Arms. HarperCollins 2009; German translation Steel's decision. Bastei Lübbe 2014. Course of the battle 1708, Battle of Oudenaarde and others.

Web links

Commons : War of the Spanish Succession  - Images, Videos and Audio Files Collection

Individual references and comments

  1. The Duchy of Savoy was part of the Bourbon Alliance until November 8, 1703, but then changed sides and joined the Hague Grand Alliance and thus the Habsburgs.
  2. ^ A b c Mathias Schnettger: The War of the Spanish Succession . CH Beck-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-406-66173-0 , chap. II.I The Last Testament of Charles II and II.II The Formation of the Great Hague Alliance, p. 26-30 .
  3. ^ A b c Mathias Schnettger: The War of the Spanish Succession . CH Beck-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-406-66173-0 , chap. III.3 The Old Empire and the War of the Spanish Succession, p. 40-45 .
  4. ^ Karl Staudinger: The Royal Bavarian 2nd Infantry Regiment "Crown Prince": 1682 to 1882 . Oldenbourg, 1887. p. 638.
  5. Eugene (Prince of Savoy) . In: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon . 4th edition. Volume 5, Verlag des Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1885–1892, p. 901.
  6. Universal encyclopedia of the present and the past . 1835, Volume 24, p. 447 ( books.google.de )