The War of the Spanish Succession

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries the Holy Roman Empire and France were concerned about the delicate balance of power in Spain. King Charles II of Spain was without an heir, and both Louis XIV of France and Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire had set forth their preferred candidates for the throne. Some had tried to suggest the division of the Spanish territories between these two countries and Bavaria, but to no effect. On his deathbed, Charles II left his entire kingdom to the French candidate, Phillip. Louis XIV then took aggressive steps that greatly worried the surrounding territories. He refused to sever Philip’s ties to the French throne, thereby opening up the possibility of a single monarch of both France and Spain. He also tried to dominate trade with the Spanish colonies that had been previously controlled by England and the Dutch. The Holy Roman Empire, Austria, England, and the Dutch responded by resurrecting a pro-Leopold coalition in 1701 called the League of Augsburg. War was officially declared between the League and France in 1702. The war was not a decisive victory for either side. Treaties in 1713 and 1714 allowed Phillip to keep the crown of Spain in the Iberian peninsula, but none of the outlying territories. Milan, Naples, Sicily, and Belgium went to Austria, while England got Gibraltar, Minorca, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Hudson’s bay. The Dutch were exhausted by this conflict, and never again rose to the prominence they had once enjoyed. England came out on top, coming onto the world stage as a major power. France was extremely depleted, and this contributed to the infamous events to come in the 18th century.


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