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Europe in the years after the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748

The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748, sometimes called the Treaty of Aachen, ended the War of the Austrian Succession following a congress assembled on 24 April 1748 at the Free Imperial City of Aachen—called Aix-la-Chapelle in French and then also in English—in the west of the Holy Roman Empire. The resulting treaty was signed on 18 October 1748 by Great Britain, France, and the Dutch Republic. Two follow-up implementation treaties were signed at Nice on 4 December 1748 and 21 January 1749 by Austria, Spain, Sardinia, Modena, and Genoa.[1]


Great Britain and France dictated the proposed terms of the treaty, which had previously been agreed at the Congress of Breda, and other nations accepted them. These were:

  1. Austria recognised Frederick II of Prussia's conquest of Silesia, as well as renouncing parts of its Italian territories to Spain.
  2. France withdrew from the Netherlands in order to have some of its colonies returned.[2] France regained Cape Breton Island, lost during the war, while it returned the captured city of Madras in India to Great Britain and gave up the Barrier towns to the Dutch.[3] France withdrew from the Austrian Netherlands.
  3. Maria Theresa ceded the Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla in present-day Italy to Spain.[4]
  4. The Duchy of Modena and the Republic of Genoa, conquered by Austria, were restored.[5]
  5. The Asiento contract, which had been guaranteed to Great Britain in 1713 through the Treaty of Utrecht, was renewed.[6] Spain later raised objections to the Asiento clauses, and the Treaty of Madrid, signed on 5 October 1750, stipulated that Great Britain surrendered her claims under those clauses in return for a sum of £100,000.


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For the most part, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and the War of Austrian Succession concluded status quo ante bellum. In the commercial struggle between Britain and France in the West Indies, Africa, and India, nothing was settled; the treaty was thus no basis for a lasting peace.

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 it came to be popular in Paris to use 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"). By the same token, British colonists in New England and merchants back in Great Britain resented the return of Louisbourg to the French after they had captured the stronghold in a 46-day siege. This resentment was an early seed of the later American Revolution. In fact, Britain had exchanged Louisbourg so that France would withdraw from the Netherlands. Madras, captured by French Admiral La Bourdonnais in 1746, was returned to Britain likewise.

It was described thus by Lord Macaulay:

The peace concluded between England and France in 1748 was, as regards Europe, nothing but a truce, it was not even a truce in other quarters of the globe."[7]

In Britain itself, George II and his ministers were seen as having conducted the war and the peace to the best advantage of Brunswick-Lüneburg (of which George was Elector) rather than Britain, and so the main British celebrations of the peace were only held six months later, with a fireworks display in Green Park for which Handel wrote his Music for the Royal Fireworks. This celebration was deliberately held near the royal residence of Buckingham House so as to present the king in a better light, as a British king and as the prime mover in a peace that was successful for Britain. (The display proved less successful than the music - the enormous wood building from which the fireworks were to be launched caught fire due to the fall of the bas relief of George II). George and Britain did gain from the treaty in one respect: that one clause of it had finally compelled the French to recognise the Hanoverian succession to the British throne and expel the Jacobites from France.

In contrast to French and British unhappiness with the treaty, Italy gained stability for the first time in the 18th century. The new territorial settlement and the accession of the pacific Ferdinand VI of Spain allowed the Aix settlement to last until the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792.

See also


  1. France also signed the first implementation treaty but not the second one.
  2. p. 549 Kishlansky
  3. Britannica
  4. Britannica
  5. Laven, p. ??
  6. Sosin, p. ??
  7. Guizot, M. A popular history of France, from the earliest times. Vol IV, University of Michigan, 2005, ISBN 142557093, p.166.


External links

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