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The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was fought between European powers, including a divided Spain, over who had the right to succeed Charles II as King of Spain.[1] The war was fought mostly in Europe but included Queen Anne's War in North America. It was marked by the leadership of notable generals including the Duc de Villars, the Jacobite Duke of Berwick, and the successful partnership of the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy. Several battles are considered classics in military history, notably the Grand Alliance victories at Blenheim (1704) and Ramillies (1706), which drove the French forces from Germany and the Netherlands, and the Franco-Bourbon Spanish victory at Almansa (1707), which in turn broke the Grand Alliance hold over Spain. The war concluded with the Peace of Utrecht (1713), in which the warring states recognised the French candidate as King Philip V of Spain in exchange for territorial and economic concessions.[2] In the years preceding the war, Spain's military was neglected during the long reign of its last Habsburg king, Charles II, so that by 1700 Spain had effectively slipped from the ranks of the great powers.[3] However, Spain still possessed by far the largest empire in the world, with possessions in Europe and the Far East, vast territories in the Americas, and strongholds in North Africa and elsewhere. When Charles II designated Philip of Anjou, a grandson of Louis XIV, as his successor, the Grand Alliance intervened to prevent a dynastic unification of Spain with France, then the dominant military power on the continent, fearing that such a union would drastically alter the balance of power.

Because of this, France entered the war diplomatically isolated. Having the support only of its traditional ally, the Electorate of Bavaria (itself knocked out of the war in 1704), and those Spanish loyal to Philip, France faced a Grand Alliance composed of the Holy Roman Empire, Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, Portugal and the Duchy of Savoy, all determined to preserve the Spanish throne for their Habsburg candidate, Archduke Charles.[4]

Spain itself became divided over which pretender should ascend the Spanish throne and suffered a long series of sieges and skirmishes, until a Franco-Bourbon Spanish victory at Villaviciosa (1710) decisively ended Habsburg hopes. In Flanders, the war went badly for France. In a series of intricate manoeuvres and campaigns, French generals were repeatedly defeated by Marlborough and Eugene. Following a French defeat at Oudenard (1708), Lille, the last of France's major northern fortifications, fell to a protracted siege, opening a corridor towards Paris. These dire reverses prompted Louis XIV to sue for peace, but the Grand Alliance imposed humiliating terms and he decided to press the war to its end.

At the same time, a series of events led to the Grand Alliance faltering. At the Battle of Malplaquet (1709) the Alliance invasion of France was blunted by French forces under the Duc de Villars. Following the pyrrhic victory, Marlborough was recalled to London, which, combined with a new parliament pressing for peace, dramatically reduced the effectiveness of the British forces. Negotiations between France and Britain started in secret. In 1711, Archduke Charles' elder brother Joseph died and the Archduke became Emperor Charles VI. Other members of the Alliance were thus presented with the dilemma of a possible Austro-Spanish power bloc in place of a Franco-Spanish one. Meanwhile, continued skirmishing, sieges, and battles allowed the French to re-capture much ground, especially after Villars' decisive victory at Denain (1712). Unable to resist French advances without British support, first the Dutch, then the Austrians, formally sued for peace.

The war was concluded by the treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714). The negotiated settlements recognised the Bourbon pretender Philip V as King of Spain but required him to be removed from the French line of succession, averting a personal union of the two kingdoms. The Austrians gained most of the Spanish territories in Italy and the Netherlands and the British were granted the right to slave trading in Spain's American colonies for thirty years, as well as gaining Gibraltar and Minorca. France's hegemony over continental Europe was ended and the idea of a balance of power became a part of the European order.[5] Philip revived Spanish territorial claims; taking advantage of the power vacuum caused by Louis XIV's death in 1715, Philip announced he would claim the French crown if the infant Louis XV died and attempted to reclaim Spanish territory in Italy, precipitating the War of the Quadruple Alliance in 1717.


Carlos II "El Hechizado": Charles II "The Bewitched", the last Habsburg King of Spain. His death precipitated the War of the Spanish Succession as France and Austria vied for the Spanish inheritance

Charles III of Spain, second son of Emperor Leopold I and claimant to the Spanish throne. The Habsburg emperor's intransigence, claiming the entire Spanish inheritance for his House, was a key factor that precipitated the war.

As Charles II of Spain had been mentally and physically infirm from a very young age, it was clear he could not produce an heir.[6] Thus, the issue of the inheritance of the Spanish kingdoms — which included not only Spain, but also dominions in Italy, the Low Countries, the Philippines and the Americas — became contentious. In the absence of a direct heir, candidates had to be sought among the descendants of the king's sisters, each with roughly similar claims but very different political implications: a recipe for certain conflict. Two dynasties claimed the Spanish throne: the French Bourbons and the Austrian Habsburgs, both closely related to Charles and to his father, Philip IV. Louis XIV of France claimed the crowns of Spain for his grandson Philip, and Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, claimed them for his son Charles.[1]

The heir general to Charles II was Louis, Le Grand Dauphin, the son of his elder half-sister, Maria Theresa, and Louis XIV of France.[7] Louis XIV and Charles II of Spain were also first cousins once removed, Louis's grandmother, Anne of Austria, being sister of Charles's father, Philip IV of Spain. However, the Dauphin, as heir apparent to the French throne, was a problematic choice: he would have unified the French and the Spanish crowns and controlled a vast empire that would have threatened the European balance of power. Furthermore, both Anne and Maria Theresa had renounced their rights to the Spanish succession upon their marriages, although in the latter case the renunciation was widely seen as invalid, since it had been predicated upon Spain's payment of the Infanta's dowry, which was never paid. An alternative candidate was the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, of the Austrian Habsburg dynasty.[8] Like Louis XIV, Leopold was a first cousin of the King of Spain and a nephew of Philip IV in the maternal line, his mother having been a younger sister of Philip IV (Maria Anna of Spain); moreover, Philip IV had stipulated the succession should pass to the Austrian Habsburg line in his will. However, Leopold also posed formidable problems as a candidate, for his succession would have reunited the elements of the powerful Spanish-Austrian Habsburg Empire of the sixteenth century. It was in part to pre-empt French objections to this outcome that in 1668, only three years after Charles II had ascended, the then-childless Leopold had agreed to partition Spanish territories between the Bourbons and the Habsburgs, even though Philip IV's will would have entitled him to the entire inheritance. This position changed in 1689 when Leopold secured William III of England's support to claim the undivided Spanish Empire in return for Leopold's aid against France in the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–1697).

Meanwhile, a new candidate for the Spanish throne had been born in 1692. The Electoral Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria was Leopold I's grandson in the female line, and, therefore, belonged to the Wittelsbach dynasty rather than the Habsburgs. His mother, Maria Antonia, had been Leopold's daughter by his first marriage, to Philip IV of Spain's younger daughter Margaret Theresa. As Joseph Ferdinand was neither a Bourbon nor a Habsburg, the likelihood of Spain merging with either France or Austria remained low. The Bavarian prince would have been the lawful heir to the Spanish throne under Philip IV's will, and remained a far less threatening candidate than those directly in the Bourbon or Habsburg lines, despite the willingness of both Leopold I and Louis XIV to defer their claims onto a junior branch of their Houses: Leopold to his younger son, the Archduke Charles, and Louis to the Dauphin's younger son, Philip, the Duke of Anjou. Accordingly, Joseph Ferdinand became the preferred choice of England and the Netherlands to prevent the domination of Europe by either the Bourbons or Habsburgs.[9]

As the War of the Grand Alliance came to a close in 1697, the issue of the Spanish succession was becoming critical. England and France, exhausted by the conflict, signed the Treaty of The Hague (1698), also known as the First Partition Treaty, in which they agreed to recognise Joseph Ferdinand as heir to the Spanish throne but divided the Spanish territories in Italy and the Low Countries between the French and Austrian dynasties.[9] However, they did not consult the Spanish. When the Partition Treaty became known in 1698, the Spanish vehemently objected to the planned dismemberment of their empire; although Charles II agreed to name the Bavarian Prince his heir, he assigned to him the whole Spanish Empire rather than merely the parts England and France had chosen.

The issue was further confused following the death of Joseph Ferdinand of smallpox in 1699 at the age of six, reopening the issue of the Spanish succession.[9] England and France soon ratified the Second Partition Treaty, assigning the Spanish throne to the Archduke Charles. The Italian territories would go to France, while the Archduke would receive the remainder of the Spanish empire.[9] The Austrians, who were not party to the treaty, were displeased, for in the first case they openly vied for the whole of Spain and its possessions, and in the second it was the Italian territories that interested them most, being richer, closer to Austria, and more governable. In Spain, distaste for the treaty was even greater; the courtiers were unified in opposing partition, but were divided on whether the throne should go to a Habsburg or a Bourbon. Pro-French statesmen, however, were in the majority, and in October 1700, Charles II agreed to bequeath all of his territory to the Dauphin's second son, the Duke of Anjou. Charles took steps to prevent the potential union of France and Spain; should Anjou have by chance inherited the French throne, Spain would have gone to his younger brother, the Duc de Berri, and thereafter Archduke Charles was to have been next in the line of succession.


King Louis XIV (1638–1715), by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701)

When Charles II of Spain died, his will left everything to Louis XIV's grandson, Phillip of Anjou. While the French court recognised this as a paper victory for the Bourbons, Louis XIV's advisors argued that it was safer to accept the terms of the Second Partition Treaty than to risk war by claiming the whole Spanish inheritance. However, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French foreign minister, successfully argued that whether France accepted all or a part of the Spanish Empire, it would still have to fight Austria.[7] Austria had not been a signatory to the Second Partition Treaty and did not accept the nature of the partition described by that treaty, the Treaty of London.

Furthermore, the terms of Charles' will stipulated that Anjou was to be offered the choice of the whole Spanish Empire or nothing;[7] if he refused, the entire inheritance was to go to Anjou's younger brother, Charles, Duke of Berry, or to Archduke Charles of Austria if the Duke of Berry refused. Knowing that the Maritime Powers (England and the United Provinces) would not side with France in a fight to impose the partition treaty on the unwilling Austrians and Spanish, Louis determined to accept his grandson's inheritance.

Charles II died on 1 November 1700,[10] and on 24 November, Louis XIV proclaimed Anjou the King of Spain. The new King was declared ruler of the entire Spanish empire, contrary to the provisions of the Second Partition Treaty. Despite the violation of the agreement with England, William III lacked the support of the ruling elites in England or the United Provinces to declare war against France, and reluctantly recognised Philip as king in April 1701. Spain proclaimed as king Philip V of Castile (8 May 1701) and Philip IV of Aragón and Catalonia (Philip could not arrive in Valencia because the war started).[11]

Louis, however, took too aggressive a path in his attempt to secure French hegemony in Europe. He cut off England and the Netherlands from Spanish trade, thereby seriously threatening the commercial interests of those two countries. Louis also insisted on sending French troops into the Spanish Netherlands to take over some Dutch-held barrier forts. Louis alleged that he would occupy these forts only until the new Spanish king gathered sufficient forces to occupy them himself.[12] Additionally, Louis declared that Philip of Anjou (now Philip V of Spain) would also retain his rights to the French throne upon Louis' death. This had the effect of merging the throne of France and the throne of Spain under one person – the very thing that the rest of Europe feared.[12] All of these aggressive actions on the part of Louis XIV enabled William III to secure the support of his subjects and parliament for a war on France and also allowed William III to negotiate the Treaty of Den Haag (1701) with the United Provinces and Austria.[1] This agreement, reached on 7 September 1701, recognised Philip V as King of Spain, but allotted Austria that which it desired most: the Spanish territories in Italy. As a condition, Austria also accepted the Spanish Netherlands, thus protecting that crucial region from French control. England and the United Provinces, meanwhile, were to retain their commercial rights in Spain.

King Philip V of Spain, by Joseph Vivien (1657–1734)

A few days after the signing of the Treaty of Den Haag, William III's predecessor as King of England, James II, died in Paris. James II had been deposed by William in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Ever since 1688, the former king of England, James II, had been living in Paris under the protection of Louis XIV. Although Louis had treated William as King of England since the Treaty of Ryswick, he now recognised James II's son, the Catholic James Francis Edward Stuart (the "Old Pretender"), as the rightful monarch of England.[12] Louis's action further alienated the English public even further and gave William even more grounds for war.

Armed conflict began slowly enough, as Austrian forces under Prince Eugene of Savoy invaded the Duchy of Milan in July 1701.[13] Austrian threats to Milan, one of the Spanish territories in Italy, prompted a French intervention. The Parliament in England as well as the public at large were divided over whether England should go to war with France. The Tory Party tended to support peace[14] and the Whig Party supported aggressive action to contain French expansion on the continent. Although the Whigs had a narrow majority in the House of Commons, the Whigs desperately needed support for the war from the Tories to avoid a huge opposition from the public at large. Accordingly, upon her succession to the throne of England in 1702, Queen Anne's first government was largely a Tory government.[14] Two of the Tories creating this coalition government were Sidney Godolphin and John Churchill (now the Duke of Marlborough). Indeed, Godolphin and Marlborough would lead this Tory–Whig allegiance to the continuation of the war against France. They served together for six years[15] as a foundation of all national politics into the first part of Queen Anne's reign. Despite being a Tory, Marlborough supported the war and as one of the advisers to King William III and, later the leading counsellor and a diplomat for Queen Anne, Marlborough sought to engage support for a war against France.[14]

Thus, England, the United Provinces, and most of the German states (notably Prussia[16] and Hanover), sided with Austria in the war. The Wittelsbach Electors of Bavaria and Cologne supported France and Spain. Portugal, while initially allied with the French, switched sides very early on with the Methuen Treaty.[17] In Spain, the cortes of Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia (regions of the Crown of Aragon) declared themselves in favour of the Austrian Archduke. King William III died on 8 March 1702. His successor in England, Queen Anne, declared war on France on 15 May 1702.[18] War would have come to England even if William had lived, but because it actually began during Queen Anne's reign, the War of Spanish Succession is called "Queen Anne's War" in North America. Queen Anne vigorously prosecuted the war, under the guidance of her ministers, Godolphin and Marlborough.

Early fighting: 1701–1703

The Duc de Villars leads his cavalry to victory at the Battle of Friedlingen, illustration by Richard Caton Woodville.

King John V of Portugal; by Pierre Antoine Quillard.

In 1702, Eugene fought in Italy, where the French were led by the Duc de Villeroi, whom Eugene captured at the Battle of Cremona on 1 February 1702.[19] Villeroi was now replaced by the Duc de Vendôme,[19] who, despite the drawn Battle of Luzzara on 15 August 1702,[20] and a considerable numerical superiority over the Imperial (Holy Roman Empire) army under the command of Prince Eugene, had proved, nevertheless, unable to drive Eugene from Italy.[21]

In the meantime, Marlborough sailed for the continent and landed at the port of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the capital of the Dutch United Provinces, on 16 May 1702.[22] He was, eventually, given the position of Commander-in-Chief of all English, Dutch and German forces in the Low Countries.[23] During the 1702 campaign season, Marlborough captured several important fortresses, most notably Liège on 13 October 1702.[24] On the Rhine, an Imperial army under Louis of Baden captured Landau on 9 September 1702.[19] The threat to Alsace was relieved by the entrance of the Elector of Bavaria into the war on the French side. Max Emanuel II, the Elector of Bavaria, captured Ulm from the Holy Roman Empire on 8 September 1702.[9] Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden was forced to withdraw across the Rhine, where he was defeated by a French army under Claude-Louis-Hector de Villars at Friedlingen on 14 October 1702.[19] The Spanish general Francisco Castillo Fajardo defeated a combined Anglo-Dutch invasion led by the English Admiral Sir George Rooke, who had intended to seize Cadiz.[25] During his return to England, Rooke won an important naval battle, the Battle of Vigo Bay, which resulted in the complete destruction of the Spanish treasure fleet but marginal financial gain as most the treasure had already been unloaded ashore.[25]

The next year, Marlborough captured Bonn on 15 May 1703[26] and drove the Elector of Cologne into exile. Marlborough failed in his efforts to capture Antwerp.[27] On the other hand, the French were successful in Germany. A combined Franco-Bavarian army under Villars and Max Emanuel of Bavaria defeated Imperial armies under Louis of Baden and Hermann Styrum at the first battle of Höchstädt on 20 September 1703.[28] Marshall Villiers wanted to follow up the tremendous victory at Höchstädt by following the retreating Count Styrum all the way back to Vienna. However, the timidity of Max Emanuel prevented a march on Vienna. Villars, in turn, protested in the strongest possible terms and in the end resigned his command.[28]

French victories in southern Germany continued after Villars' resignation. Even with a new Bavarian army under Camille de Tallard, the allies were victorious over the French and the Bavarians in the Electorate of the Palatinate. French leaders continued to entertain grand designs of a large combined French and Bavarian army of nearly 70,000 troops for a march on Vienna, to capture the Austrian capital in June of the next year – 1704.[29] However, in the present year of 1703, Maximillian Emmanuel, the Elector of Bavaria, had other plans. He took his Bavarian troops south to invade Tyrol and established himself in Innsbruck.[30] Meanwhile, the Italian campaign of the French army under the command of Duc de Vendome had little significance. After some fighting around Bonanella and Bersello during February, March and April 1703, in support of France's ally Savoy, Vendome had split his forces and marched part of his army north in mid-May 1703 to link up with Max Emanuel, the Elector of Bavaria in Tyrol.[31]

By the end of 1703, however, France had suffered setbacks which caused both Portugal (in a treaty signed on 16 May 1704[17]) and Savoy (in a treaty signed on 8 November 1704[32]) to defect from the French and join the Grand Alliance against France.[33] Meanwhile, the English, who had previously held the view that Philip could remain on the throne of Spain, now decided that their commercial interests would be more secure under the Archduke Charles.[34]

Middle phase: 1704–1709

The Duke of Marlborough was the commander of the English, Dutch and German forces.

Prince Eugene of Savoy by Jacob van Schuppen. He fought alongside Marlborough at Blenheim, Oudenarde and Malplaquet.

Marlborough and Eugene

In 1704, the French plan was to use Villeroi's army in the Netherlands to contain Marlborough, while Tallard and the Franco-Bavarian army under Max Emanuel and Ferdinand de Marsin, Villars's replacement[35] would make another attempt to march on Vienna.[36] England and the other members of the Grand Alliance recognised that the French and Bavarian army moving toward Vienna from the west and the Hungarian rebellion in the east were creating real problems for the Holy Roman Empire.[37] They recognised that the Holy Roman Empire may have been forced to drop out of the war; however, keeping the Holy Roman Empire in the war was vital to the Grand Alliance. Appeals from the Imperial ambassador in London in the autumn of 1703 convinced Queen Anne of England and Marlborough that the campaign season of 1704 should be devoted to a primary effort on the Moselle River.[37] However, Marlborough became more convinced that a march across Germany and down the Danube River Valley was the only way to help the Holy Roman Empire and to stop the French and Bavarian progress toward Vienna.[37] Such a march across Germany might also force Bavaria out of the war.[37] Accordingly, in April 1704, Marlborough presented a plan for a march down the Danube to link up with Imperial troops in southern Germany[32]

Marlborough[38] divided his forces into two parts. While leaving one part of his army composed of about 23,000 troops under the command of Field Marshall Overkirk around Maastricht, Marlborough, ignoring the wishes of the Dutch, who would have preferred to keep their troops in the Low Countries,[38] led the other 20,000 of his English and Dutch troops southward to Germany on 16 May 1704.[39] Prince Eugene, meanwhile, moved northward from Italy with the Austrian army under his command. The objective of these manœuvres was to prevent the Franco-Bavarian army from advancing on Vienna. Toward this end in early June 1704 Marlborough set out from his camp at Ladenburg, Germany, on the Neckar River near the juncture with the Rhine River, on a march cross country to the Danube River with his army.[40] This was Marlborough's famous "March to the Danube." Heretofore, the advance of Marlborough's army had been a closely guarded secret.[41] However, on 7 June 1704, the news broke in Versailles that Marborough had not only crossed the Rhine but also the Main River at Mainz, the dispatch created a sensation.[42] As Marlborough marched his army gained strength as contigents of Hanoverian, Prussian and Hessian troops joined his army.[43] Even the Dutch recovered their courage and now supported Marlborough with troops. Thus, Marlborough's army grew to 40,000 men by the time he reached Launsheim in Germany. He headed for the fortress at Ulm, approaching from the west and north. At Ulm there were 10,000 troops were gathering for the French and Bavarian march on Vienna.[43] Meanwhile, approaching Ulm from the south was another Alliance army of 50,000 men: the army under the command of Prince Louis, Margrave of Baden.[44] Thus, Marlborough approached the French staging area near Ulm. The French and Bavarian troops were gathering for their march on Vienna. In mid-May 1703, Marshall Tallard had brought some 10,000 troops to the Ulm area. Also, French Marshal Ferdinand Marsin had an army in the area around Ulm. However, the presence of Prince Eugene of Savoy, who was now on the Rhine with an army of 28,000 men, had effectively pinned down both French Marshals Tallard and Villaroi and prevented them from joining Marsin.[43] During the march, Marlborough had tried his best to keep the French guessing about the true objectives of the march.[43] By and large this strategy worked and placed the French on the defensive. Marlborough crossed the Neckar River at the town of Mundelsheim on 10 June 1704. At that point, the armies of Marlborough and Margrave of Baden were linked up with the army of Prince Eugene, also on 10 June 1704. The next day they marched off toward the south and the Danube River.

Whereas, the French army under the command of Marshall Tallard which had been preparing for a march toward Vienna, they now found themselves in a very uncomfortable position with only about 35,000 men to face a force of nearly 100,000 men of the Alliance. They fled eastward and southward for safety and encamped themselves around Dillingen. Indeed, Marshall Marsin, established his headquarters in the town of Dillingen and watched Marlborough's next move. Marlborough's southward march looked as though he might be headed toward Ulm. French Marshall Marsin assumed that Marlborough was intent on crossing the Danube at Ulm and began preparing for battle at Ulm. However, not having artillery on this march, Marborough lacked the means necessary to reduce the modern walls of the fort at Ulm.[43] Consequently, Marborough, the Margrave and Eugene all turned east and skirted past the fort at Ulm and also bypassed the town of Lauingen on 22 June 1704 and marched down the north bank of the Danube River approaching the town of Donauwörth.

Marsin, now, believed that Marlborough's immediate objective was the next Danube crossing at the town of Donauwörth.[45] Accordingly, Marsin detached 12,000 men from his main force at Dillingen and sent them down the south bank of the Danube to block Marlborough's path. He instructed Count d'Arco, who was placed in command of these troops, to go to the town of Donauwörth and shore up the towns medieval walls and defences and to take the Schellenberg Heights above the town. Early in the morning, on 30 June 1704, Count d'Arco and his troops and labourers arrived at the heights of Schellenberg and immediately began work on the defence fortification of the Schellenberg heights. No one expected an attack by Marlborough until at least 3 July 1704. By that time, d'Arco's troops would be well entrenched on the heights above the town.[45]

The fort in the town of Donauwörth had been built by the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus during the Thirty Years War (1618–1648).[46] Marborough felt the old medieval walls of the fort could be stormed with the weapons he had with him. Then Marlborough would have an easy crossing of the Danube, especially with the Schellenberg Heights also in his hands. These heights strategically overlooked the entire town of Donauwörth and were important for the control of the town.

On the evening of 1–2 July 1704, Marborough arrived at Armerdingen about 15 miles west of Donauwörth. Instead of besieging the town of Donauwörth, Marlborough became aware that defensive entrenchment of the Schellenberg Heights was still underway. Accordingly, the Alliance had a good opportunity to take the heights from the French if they attacked immediately before the defences of the heights were complete. Marlborough and Prince Eugene convinced the cautious Margrave of Baden that they should immediately attack the encampment of soldiers and labourers entrenching themselves on the Schellenberg Heights.[47] Accordingly they surprised Count d'Arco's army on the Schellenberg Heights at 6:pm in the Battle of Schellenberg By 8:30 pm that same evening Count d'Arco's forces had been routed off the heights.[47]

The forces under Marlborough and Eugene now faced the French under Tallard at the Battle of Blenheim. The battle was a resounding success for Marlborough and Eugene, and had the effect of knocking Bavaria out of the war. In that year, England achieved another important success as it captured Gibraltar in Spain, with the help of Dutch forces under the command of Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, on behalf of the Archduke Charles.

Following the Battle of Blenheim, Marlborough and Eugene separated again, with the former going to the Low Countries, and the latter to Italy. In 1705, little progress was made by either the Two Crowns or the Alliance in any theatre. Marlborough's attempted invasion of France down the Moselle came to nought, and although he managed to wrong-foot Villeroi and break through the Lines of Brabant, he was unable to bring the French commander to battle. Villars and Louis of Baden manoeuvred indecisively on the Rhine, and the story was much the same for Vendôme and Eugene in Italy. The stalemate was broken in 1706, as Marlborough drove the French out of most of the Spanish Netherlands, decisively defeating troops under Villeroi in the Battle of Ramillies in May and following up with the conquest of Antwerp and Dunkirk. Prince Eugene also met with success; in September, following the departure of Vendôme to shore up the shattered army in the Netherlands, he and the Duke of Savoy inflicted a heavy loss on the French under Orleans and Marsin at the Battle of Turin, driving them out of Italy by the end of the year.

The Battle of Ramillies between the French and the English, 23 May 1706.

Now that France had been expelled from Germany, the Low Countries and Italy, Spain became the centre of activity in the next few years. In 1706, King John V of Portugal's grand general, the Marquis of Minas, led an invasion of Spain from Portugal, managing to capture Madrid. By the end of the year, however, Madrid was recovered by an army led by King Philip V and the Duke of Berwick (the illegitimate son of James II of England, serving in the French army). The Earl of Galway led another attempt on Madrid in 1707, but Berwick roundly defeated him at the Battle of Almansa on 25 April. In another attempt on Madrid, his army was severely defeated by the Marquis de Bay at the Battle of La Gudina, being forced to withdraw its troops from Spain. Thereafter, the war in Spain settled into indecisive skirmishing from which it would not subsequently emerge.

The Franco-Spanish army led by the Duke of Berwick defeated decisively the Alliance forces of Portugal, Great Britain, and the Dutch Republic at the Battle of Almansa.

In 1707, England was united with the Kingdom of Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. Great Britain therefore replaced England as a party to the war. The same year, the War briefly intersected with the Great Northern War, which was being fought simultaneously in Northern Europe. A Swedish army under Charles XII arrived in Saxony, where he had just finished chastising the Elector Augustus II and forced him to renounce his claims to the Polish throne. Both the French and the Allies sent envoys to Charles's camp, and the French hoped to encourage him to turn his troops against the Emperor Joseph I, who Charles felt had slighted him by his support for Augustus. However, Charles, who liked to see himself as a champion of Protestant Europe, greatly disliked Louis XIV for his treatment of the Huguenots, and was generally uninterested in the western war. He turned his attention instead to Russia, ending the possibility of Swedish intervention.

King Philip V of Spain making Duke of Berwick a Cavalier of the Golden Fleece after the Battle of Almansa, by Jean Dominique Auguste Ingres. Oil On Canvas. Collection of the Duke of Alba and Berwick, in Madrid, Spain.

Later in 1707, Prince Eugene led an Alliance invasion of southern France from Italy, but was stalled by the French army. Marlborough, in the meantime, remained in the Low Countries, where he was caught up in capturing an endless succession of fortresses. In 1708, Marlborough's army clashed with the French, who were beset by leadership problems: their commanders, the Duke of Burgundy (Louis XIV's grandson) and the duc de Vendôme were frequently at variance, the former often making unwise military decisions. Burgundy's insistence that the French army not attack led Marlborough once again to unite his army with Eugene's, allowing the Alliance army to crush the French at the Battle of Oudenarde, and then proceeded to capture Lille. In Italy, Austria sacked cities such as Forlì (1708).

France on the brink

The disasters of Oudenarde and Lille led France to the brink of ruin. Louis XIV was forced to negotiate; he sent his foreign minister, the Marquis de Torcy, to meet the allied commanders at The Hague. Louis agreed to surrender Spain and all its territories to the Allies, requesting only that he be allowed to keep Naples (in Italy). He was, moreover, prepared to furnish money to help expel Philip V from Spain. The Alliance, however, imposed more humiliating conditions; they demanded that Louis use the French army to dethrone his own grandson. Rejecting the offer, Louis chose to continue fighting until the bitter end. He appealed to the people of France. They rallied with new soldiers, money and enthusiasm, giving new life to the French cause.[48]

In 1709, the Alliance attempted three invasions of France, but two were so minor as to be merely diversionary. A more serious attempt was launched when Marlborough and Eugene advanced toward Paris. They clashed with the French under the Duc de Villars at the Battle of Malplaquet, the bloodiest battle of the war. Although the French retreated at the end of the battle, the Alliance had lost over twenty thousand men, compared with only ten thousand for their opponents. Villars himself remarked, "If it pleases God to give your majesty's enemies another such victory, they are ruined." The Alliance captured Mons but, having suffered such great losses, were unable to follow up their victories. The battle marked a turning point in the war; despite winning, the Alliance were unable to proceed with the invasion, having suffered such tremendous casualties.

Final phase: 1710–1714

Marshal Villars (1653–1734) rescued the French fortunes in the War of the Spanish Succession. Villars was King Louis' most successful commander in the war.

Marshal Villars leads the French charge at the Battle of Denain. Oil on canvas, 1839.

In 1710, the Grand Alliance launched a final campaign in Spain, but failed to make any progress. An army under James Stanhope reached Madrid together with the Archduke Charles, but it was forced to capitulate at Brihuega when a relief army came from France. The Alliance, in the meantime, began to weaken. In Great Britain[49] Marlborough's powerful political influence was lost: the source of much of his influence, the friendship between his wife and Queen Anne came to an end, with Queen Anne dismissing the Duchess of Marlborough from her offices and banishing her from the court. Moreover, the Whig ministry that had lent its support to the war fell, and the new Tory government that replaced it sought peace.

In 1711, the Archduke Charles became Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, following the sudden death of Joseph, his elder brother. At that point, a decisive victory for Austria, uniting the Holy Roman Empire with the Spanish crown, would have upset the balance of power just as much as a victory for France.

Marlborough achieved a strategic victory over Villars, breaking the French Lines of Ne Plus Ultra and capturing Bouchain, but was recalled to Great Britain at the end of the year, and was replaced by the Duke of Ormonde. The British, led by Secretary of State Henry St John, began to correspond secretly with the Marquis de Torcy, excluding the Dutch and Austrians from their negotiations. The Duke of Ormonde refused to commit British troops to battle, so the French under Villars were able to recover much lost ground in 1712, such as at the Battle of Denain. Villars then continued his offensive with success. At the same time, the French troops were winning in Spain, and took Barcelona from the city's defending forces under the command of Antoni de Villarroel.

Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, Savoy, and Portugal ceased fighting France and Spain when the Treaty of Utrecht was concluded in 1713. Barcelona, which had supported the Archduke's claim to the throne of Spain and the allies in 1705, finally surrendered to the Bourbon army on 11 September 1714 following a long siege, ending the presence of the allies in Spain. The event is still remembered in that region as the National Day of Catalonia because of the loosing of the Catalan constitutions in the Nueva Planta decrees.

Hostilities between France and Austria continued until 1714, when the Treaties of Rastatt and Baden were ratified, marking the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. Spain was slower in ratifying treaties of peace; it did not formally end its conflict with Austria until 1720, after it had been defeated by all the powers in the War of the Quadruple Alliance.

West Indies and South America

The war on the high seas and in the West Indies was a largely economic war. The treasure fleets of Spain and Portugal were targeted by their opponents, and colonial outposts were subjected to raids that were often executed by either privateering fleets outfitted for profit by merchants and nobles, or they included a combination of public and private financing of their efforts. These fleets would target poorly defended settlements, and either pillage them for their valuables, or demand ransom, which was often paid in goods and slaves, sometimes to the benefit of the victor's own plantations. The only permanent change of control occurred on St. Kitts, which held both French and English plantations.

In some colonies, defensive preparations in anticipation of the conflict had begun as early as 1699, given knowledge of Charles II's poor health.[50] Christopher Codrington, the British governor of the Leeward Islands, immediately organised a campaign to push the French off St. Kitts on learning in July 1702 of the war declarations.[51] He followed up this minor success (the French governor surrendered in the face of overwhelming force) with a failed attempt to capture Guadeloupe in 1703, although he did significant economic damage before retreating.[52] The French retaliated in 1706 with a raid on St. Kitts; one attempt to do the same on Nevis failed, but a later one succeeded, led by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville. D'Iberville, who died later that year of a tropical disease while planning an attack on Charles Town in the Carolinas, was accused of enriching his own plantations with slaves taken in the raid at the expense of the other investors in his expedition.

French, English, and Spanish fleets were all active in the West Indies. In the fall of 1701 both France and England sent fleets there; the French fleet of Château-Renault was, at 28 ships of the line, larger than any previous European fleet seen in the Caribbean.[53] He and Admiral John Benbow, commander of the smaller British fleet, avoided one another, and Château-Renault eventually escorted home the Spanish treasure fleet from Vera Cruz that met its end at Vigo Bay.[54] Benbow remained on station, and in August 1702 engaged Jean du Casse in an extended action off the coast of South America in which he suffered a mortal wound.[55]

Jean-François Duclerc, a French privateer, targeted Rio de Janeiro and its lucrative gold shipments in 1710. However, his raid failed, and he was imprisoned and later killed in Rio. The French responded to the indignity with a second, successful raid in 1711.[56]

In 1712, French Admiral Jacques Cassard embarked on an expedition that raided British-held Montserrat and a series of Dutch colonial outposts, including St. Eustatius, Curaçao, and Suriname.

North America

In North America, the war was mainly conducted by the colonists of England against those of France and Spain, with each side drawing on the support of allied native tribes, and also receiving some support in the form of naval expeditions. In the south-east, the English Province of Carolina mounted an expedition against St. Augustine in Spanish Florida that failed, and conducted numerous raids against Spanish-allied natives, decimating their population. The French and Spanish responded with an equally unsuccessful expedition against Charles Town, the Carolina capital.

Acadia and the frontier between French Canada and the English Province of Massachusetts Bay were also hotly contested. The French and their native allies repeatedly raided small outlying communities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but avoided conflict in New York for fear of angering the Iroquois, with whom they had negotiated a peace in 1701. Massachusetts militia made repeated attempts to capture the Capital Port Royal, Acadia, but it required a major naval expedition authorised by Queen Anne to achieve the Conquest of Acadia in 1710. Queen Anne also authorised a major expedition against Quebec City in 1711; this expedition, led by Admiral Hovenden Walker, was a complete disaster. More than 800 men died when a number of its ships foundered on rocks at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River.

In the far north, the English on several occasions sent fleets to raid French settlements and destroy fishing stages on Newfoundland, but suffered the loss of St. John's in 1708/9[57] after the French made an overland march from Plaisance.


Under the Peace of Utrecht, Philip was recognised as King Philip V of Spain, but renounced his place in the French line of succession, thereby precluding the union of the French and Spanish crowns (although there was some sense in France that this renunciation was illegal). He retained the Spanish overseas empire, but ceded the Southern Netherlands, Naples, Milan, and Sardinia to Austria; Sicily and parts of the Milanese to Savoy; and Gibraltar and Minorca to Great Britain. Moreover, he granted the British the exclusive right to non-Spanish slave trading in Spanish America for thirty years, the so-called asiento.

With regard to the political organisation of their kingdoms, Philip issued the Nueva Planta decrees, following the centralising approach of the Bourbons in France, ending the political autonomy of the kingdoms which had made up the Crown of Aragon; territories in Spain that had supported the Archduke Charles and up to then had kept their institutions in a framework of loose dynastic union, separate from the rest of the Spanish realm. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Navarre and the Basque Provinces, having supported the king against the Habsburg pretender, did not lose their autonomy and retained their traditional differentiated institutions and laws (fueros).

No important changes were made to French territory in Europe. Grandiose imperial desires to turn back the French expansion to the Rhine which had occurred since the middle decades of the seventeenth century were not realised, nor was the French border pushed back in the Low Countries. France agreed to stop supporting the Stuart pretenders to the British throne, instead recognising Anne as the legitimate queen. The Dutch were permitted to retain various forts in the Spanish Netherlands, and were permitted to annexe a part of Spanish Guelders.

In North America, France also gave up various colonial possessions, recognising British sovereignty over Rupert's Land and Newfoundland, and ceding Acadia and its half of Saint Kitts. The Acadian cession contained ambiguous language concerning boundaries, setting the stage for future conflicts. Since Utrecht also neglected to account for Native American claims to the same areas, the tribes of northeastern North America (Abenaki and Mi'kmaq) did not immediately make peace; some tribes signed the 1713 Treaty of Portsmouth, but disputes between colonists and the northeastern tribes continued for decades afterward, notably flaring in Father Rale's War (1722–1725).

With the Peace of Utrecht, the wars to prevent French hegemony that had dominated the latter part of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century were over for the time being. However, France had broken the threat of encirclement by Habsburg powers and France and Spain, both under Bourbon monarchs, remained allies during the following years. Due to the lack of necessity for privateers after the peace of Utrecht, large numbers of unemployed privateers turned to piracy – thus launching a new phase of the Golden Age of Piracy.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Smith, p. 231.
  2. Smith, pp. 235–236.
  3. Smith, pp. 198, 200–201, 205.
  4. Smith, pp. 203, 230–244.
  5. Wolf, p. 92.
  6. Smith, p. 202.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Lynn, p. 268.
  8. Frey; Frey (1983)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Lynn, p. 267.
  10. Peterson
  11. Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia. "Felipe V vino a España a comienzos de 1701 y fue reconocido y jurado como rey por las Cortes de Castilla, por las de Aragón y por las de Cataluña".
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Lynn, p. 269.
  13. Lynn, pp. 170–171.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Churchill, p. 529.
  15. Churchill, p. 536.
  16. Koch, p. 75.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Livermore, p. 203.
  18. Churchill, p. 555.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Lynn, p. 276.
  20. Churchill, pp. 603–636.
  21. Lynn, pp. 276–277.
  22. Churchill, p. 577.
  23. Churchill, p. 579.
  24. Lynn, p. 275.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Lynn, p. 277.
  26. Lynn, p. 280.
  27. Churchill, pp. 660–672.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Lynn, p. 284.
  29. Churchill, p. 687.
  30. Churchill, pp. 687–688.
  31. Lynn, p. 285.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Lynn, p. 287.
  33. Churchill, p. 635.
  34. Churchill, p. 646.
  35. Churchill, p. 690.
  36. Churchill, p. 746.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 Lynn, p. 286.
  38. 38.0 38.1 Churchill, p. 728.
  39. Churchill, pp. 749–750.
  40. Churchill, pp. 762–763.
  41. Churchill, p. 759.
  42. Churchill, p. 763.
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 43.4 Lynn, p. 288.
  44. Churchill, p. 764.
  45. 45.0 45.1 Churchill, p. 792.
  46. Churchill, p. 795.
  47. 47.0 47.1 Lynn, p. 289.
  48. Rowlands, pp. 265–282.
  49. Note that the unification of Great Britain had occurred in 1707 due to the union between Scotland and England.
  50. Crouse, p. 246.
  51. Crouse, p. 253.
  52. Crouse, pp. 273–290.
  53. Crouse, p. 256.
  54. Crouse, p. 257.
  55. Crouse, pp. 262–264.
  56. Boxer, pp. 91–96.
  57. The battle occurred in January 1709 (New Style), which is January 1708 in the Old Style.


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Further reading

  • Francis, David (1975). The First Peninsular War 1702–1713. London & Tonbridge: Ernest Benn. pp. 440. ISBN 0-510-00205-6. 

External links

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