The War of Spanish Succession was a conflict that threatened to tip the balance of power in Europe. Who was the war between?
The War of Spanish Succession was primarily between the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, and King Louis XIV of France. Many other countries joined the conflict, including Great Britain, Portugal, and the Dutch Republic, as well as German states such as Bavaria.
For more on the War of Spanish Succession and its resolution, read on.
Charles II became the King of Spain in 1665. Charles suffered from numerous health issues. The issue of his succession was at the forefront of his people’s minds from the time he took the throne.
He married twice, but neither marriage produced an heir. He later chose Philip of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV of France, and Maria Theresa, the eldest daughter of Philip IV of Spain.
The inheritance was a concern for all of Europe. Spain was no longer considered one of the continent’s leading powers in its own right, but it had a strong presence overseas. Other leaders were concerned that Philip’s inheritance of the Spanish throne would essentially unify France and Spain, potentially creating a nation stronger than its rivals.
The English and Dutch, seeking to avoid such an outcome, voiced their support of Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria. Joseph was the grandson of Leopold I, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Margaret Theresa, the younger sister of Maria Theresa.
Without the knowledge of Charles II, Louis IV of France and William III of England secretly partitioned the Spanish empire. Spain, the Spanish Netherlands, and the Indies would pass to Joseph Ferdinand. Milan would pass to Archduke Charles, the son of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. Regions of Spanish Italy and the Basque country would go Louis De France, Le Grand Dauphin.
When Charles II discovered the existence of this treaty, he strongly opposed it, refusing to see the Spanish empire dismantled. In 1698, he wrote a will that named Joseph Ferdinand as the heir to all of his territory but, less than a year later, Ferdinand died.
England and France again partitioned Spanish territory but the Holy Roman Emperor rejected the proposals, wanting his son, Archduke Charles, to inherit everything.
Charles II decided to instead leave Spain to Philip, the grandson of Louis XIV. Charles died on November 1, 1700, with the issue of his inheritance still not resolved in a satisfactory manner.
The death of Charles placed Louis XIV in a difficult position. He could accept Charles’ will and allow his grandson to inherit the Spanish throne, but that choice could provoke a war with the Holy Roman Emperor and his allies.
The alternative was dividing Spanish territory according to the Second Partition Treaty, which might also cause war as each group fought to ensure they received the land they had been promised.
Louis chose to take the risk of siding with his grandson, who became King Philip V of Spain. He also stated that Philip had the right to stay in the French line of succession, meaning it was possible that he might become King of France in addition to Spain.
Louis, feeling that he now essentially controlled two of Europe’s largest nations, provoked England by acknowledging the son of James II of England, who had been exiled. He said that James’ son was rightfully King James III of England.
With a great deal of territory at stake, numerous countries and states became involved in the conflict. Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, parts of Spain, Prussia, Savoy, and Portugal fought alongside the Holy Roman Empire. Bourbon Spain, Bavaria, Savoy, Cologne, and Liège supported France and Philip V.
Both sides enjoyed military victories but neither group was able to make meaningful progress. In 1705, Leopold I died and was succeeded by Joseph I, the older brother of Archduke Charles.
In 1711, Joseph also died and Charles, who had not been considered a likely heir to the Holy Roman Empire, suddenly inherited it and became Emperor Charles VI.
Britain held a general election in 1710 and the new government initiated peace talks, looking to bring an end to the ten-year-long conflict.
As a result, Philip V was confirmed as King of Spain but only if he was removed from the French line of succession. Some Spanish territories were redistributed, and France agreed to withdraw its support for the exiled House of Stuart in England.