At the turn of the 18th century, Europe was on the verge of two major wars: on in the East and one in the West. The death of Charles II of Spain in 1700 opened up the succession of the Spanish throne to three potential rulers: Philip, Duke of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV of France, the Archduke Charles, son of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Joseph Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias, and son of the Elector of Bavaria. France wanted to impose Philip on the Spanish throne, who had the most direct claim as he was the great-grandson of two of Philip III's children, but also to allow Louis the security of having a potential ally on his Western border and thus a greater standing among the European powers. Leopold wished to see a Habsburg placed on the throne, albeit from the Eastern branch, to secure the legacy of the Habsburgs in Europe, which Leopold worried was in decline. The British and their allies backed Joseph Ferdinand, hoping that the placing of a Bavarian prince on the throne would be a good alternative as it wouldn't enhance the power of a prevailing European monarchy. Trouble resulted in 1699, when the Prince of Asturias was stricken with a severe illness, but luckily still survived, providing the three sides with equal weight.
To add to the troubles in the British Parliament, Edward Montagu died in 1700, leaving his office of Lord Protector open to a new successor. The Tories, who had been given a fifth seat in the committee which would propose the next Lord Protector to the Parliament, selected a friend of Sidney Godolphin, John Churchill, who was elected to the office of Lord Protector in 1700. Churchill had served with distinction in the War of the Grand Alliance, as well as during the War of Devolution, and more importantly Churchill's popularity among London society would hopefully bring increased legitimacy to the Tory cause. Churchill was known among the British government not just for his tact and courage on the battlefield, but also for his ability as a diplomat, having served in the courts of The Hague, Paris, Copenhagen, and Stockholm at one time or another. Churchill was also the first Lord Protector to be born after the overthrow of the monarchy, ad thus his dedication to the British government was obvious, which Godolphin hoped would throw off the idea that some of the Tories were just closet monarchists. Luckily, it would turn out, with a storm rising in the European diplomatic scene, Churchill was the perfect person to for the time period when he was to serve as Lord Protector.
The first of the conflicts that Churchill wished to focus his efforts on was actually the one in Eastern Europe, where Britain's ally Sweden was being rallied against by Peter I of Russia, who had forged a pragmatic alliance of Denmark-Norway, Saxony, Hanover, and potentially even Brandenburg-Prussia. Churchill took a keen interest in this rising conflict, and managed to secure the exclusion of Brandenburg-Prussia from the alliance against Sweden by promising to help Brandenburg in its machinations toward Swedish Pomerania. Churchill also managed a similar deal with Poland-Lithuania, making sure that in the event of any war, which Churchill still hoped avoid, would only really be a war between Sweden and the growing power of Russia. However, despite Churchill's best wishes and efforts, Sweden and Russia still went to war in 1700, which Churchill was worried would be a risky move for Sweden that endangered its role as a great power in Northern Europe. The arrogant and strong-willed Swedish King Charles XII, however, proved more apt at leading his country's military than Churchill originally thought when he destroyed the Russian Army at the Battle of Narva in 1700. Sweden made significant advances against Denmark-Norway in the West as well, but despite Churchill's insistence Charles refused to come to the negotiating table.
The Great Northern War continued on for the next seven years as Sweden and Russia continued to do battle, a battle in 1706 managed to destroy a combined Saxon-Russian army, and thus knocked Saxony out of the war. Churchill had given Sweden an a flotilla of British ships to assist in their naval campaign against both the Danish and Russians, hoping to gain a greater say in the final treaty. Russia, on the other hand, had more to gain by continuing the fight, but Peter saw his resources continuing to dwindle as 1707 dragged on, and so Russia again asked to go to the negotiating table with Sweden, hoping to return any gains Russia had made in order to secure Peter's new city, St. Petersburg, as a port on the Baltic Sea. Charles was hesitant, hoping to invade Russia to secure a decisive defeat of the Russian Empire, but Churchill managed to convince Charles now of the importance of keeping Sweden from over-extending itself.
Churchill used Britain's naval intervention as a bargaining chip to bring the Swedish to negotiate, and in 1708 the Treaty of Stockholm was signed that secured Russia its new port at St. Petersburg as well as some minor territory around the city to secure it, while Sweden agreed to cede part of Swedish Pomerania to Prussia, both in exchange for a monetary compensation to Sweden. Denmark-Norway was relatively uninvolved in the war outside of the naval theater and thus only agreed to a simple peace agreement. Churchill had secured the peace he needed in the East to allow him to focus on the West, but had made an enemy for Britain in the Russian Empire.
The three sides in the growing conflict over the Spanish throne were now clearly defined: France supported the placement of Philip, backed by the Crown of Castille and Spain's Italian holdings, while Leopold and his son Charles was backed by the Austrian monarchy of the Habsburgs and the Crown of Aragon, and the Duke of Asturias backed by the British and Dutch. Churchill had hoped to secure the support of placing Joseph Ferdinand on the throne from the Austrians, which they reasoned was better than risking a war with France and thus the placing of Philip on the throne, as Charles would still likely be the Holy Roman Emperor, so it's not like he would be a loser in the long-run. However, Leopold had just won a series of wars against the Ottomans and so he was very confident of his position and thus unwilling to support any candidate for the Spanish throne besides Charles. Philip, Duke of Anjou, was obviously not going to fight his own claim, especially with the backing of his grandfather, Louis. Thus three sides were drawn among the major powers of Europe as each hoped to stake a claim against each other. France and Britain had actually signed a treaty to partition the Spanish Empire in 1698 under Montagu, but Louis refused to accept the treaty and Charles II named Philip as his successor in his will, opposing the treaty which would divide the Spanish Empire. Thus with the Austrians indignant for Churchill's attempts for peace and with Louis wishing to secure his borders, the stage was set for a three-sided war in Europe.
Upon the opening of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701, the Whig ministry was dominated by a trio of men, which later become known as the Whig Junto of John Somers, who served on and off with Thomas Wharton as a Whig Speaker of the House, along with Charles Montagu, who served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Edward Russell, who served as the First Lord of the Admiralty under both Montagu, and for a brief period under Churchill as well. The Junto held power largely from 1701, when they were elected into power by the House of Commons, and, at the latest, 1711, when the Tories were brought back into power by election. Meanwhile, in this time period, a twenty-five year-old Whig politician, Robert Walpole, was elected to Parliament in this time period in the House of Commons, later becoming important after the fall of the Whig Junto. The Junto proved itself capable in running the British economy during the War of the
Spanish Succession, but the Tories protested the high cost of using a land-based strategy under the absent Lord Protector Churchill instead of allowing a naval blockade of France and Spain to force them into submission. Churchill's fellow Tories had tried to pressure him into this arrangement, but Churchill's own need for battle and sense as a general led him to defy his fellow Tories and lead an Allied army throughout Europe, which would soon cement his legacy as one of Britain's great Lord Protectors.
While the British and Dutch were leading a war in the West against France and Spain, one of Britain's most trusted allies, Sweden, was busy fighting a war against the Tsardom of Russia in the East. Churchill had left his trusted Foreign Minister, Daniel Finch, in charge of examining and working out the situation in the area after the end of the Great Northern War in 1707. Finch secured the entry of the Swedes into the War of the Spanish Succession later in 1707, which helped to tilt the war in the West further into the Allies favor, as well as leading the Foreign Ministry in giving Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, support in building up its position, hoping that a government similar to that of the British would provide for better relations between the two countries that wasn't dependent on the personal position of any particular monarch. Nonetheless, it would still be some years before Sweden would attain its first constitution, but Finch's efforts helped push them towards that path. Finch also attended to the court of Tsar Peter I of Russia, whose power was growing but had been stymied by their defeat by Sweden, thus putting them in a position that Finch considered manageable, as he had been worried of the possibility of a rising power in eastern Europe that threatened Sweden.
As the War of the Spanish Succession neared its end, the Whig Junto soon found its position unenviable. Charles Montagu was accused by members of his own party of corruption involved with laundering funds from the Bank of England, the English subset of the National Bank of the British Republic. Then in 1707 and 1708, the French Navy defeated the British Navy in two major battles at Beachy Head and Lizard Point, and then the Scilly naval disaster, which cast doubts on the position of Russell and his competence as First Lord of the Admiralty. As the elections of 1711 approached, Thomas Wharton was voted out as Speaker of the House in a vote of no-confidence after he failed in an attempt to cover up a pair of extramarital affairs in 1709, replaced by his fellow Whig Junto member, John Somers. Somers alone was left unaffected largely by the reversal of fortunes for the Whigs, but in 1711 with the war coming to a close and the Tories attacking the Junto members for their failures and trespasses, a referendum election against the Whigs successfully painted them as corrupt and the Whigs were swept out of power and the Tories back in under Speaker Robert Harley. Harley had been a member of the Whigs, but the seeming excesses of the Whig Junto led Harley to switch parties in 1708, early enough to defend his position without much scandal and to rise quickly in the next three years in time to become Speaker.
Harley's election in 1711 had created a Tory coalition of country Anglicans and Protestants who opposed the apparent economic and social excesses of the Whigs from 1701-1711, along with their usual Catholics, had proved a winning one and Harley soon led the Parliament in signing the Treaty of Utrecht in 1712, hoping to focus on the transition back to peacetime. Harley's first act as the Speaker of the House of Commons was the creation of a joint-stock company called the South Sea Company, which would manage the trade in Spanish colonies, and hopefully even British colonies in South America, that Harley hoped to secure for the company from the Treaty of Utrecht, then still being negotiated. Instead of gaining any major access, Finch had managed to secure the asiento right to sell slaves in select parts of the Spanish New World, but Britain's only colonies attained in the New World were in North America, which was outside of the Company's jurisdiction. Harley, in the meantime, appointed John Blunt, who had successfully managed some state lotteries that helped to raise funds for Britain's war debt. The result of the Company's dealings was a series of great losses in 1712 that proved to Blunt that the company would be generally unprofitable, but did not let those back at home on to such losses. Instead Blunt and his friends convinced London's wealthy that the company was making great profits in the slave trade and stock sales for the company rose steadily, and then more so toward 1720. This would eventually set the stage for a major collapse.
Meanwhile, in 1711 with the Whig Junto out of power, there was an opening for positions of power in the Whig wing of Parliament. Robert Walpole, now thirty-five years of age, had now risen up to the higher ranks of the Whigs, proposed that the Whigs try to combine the interests of the growing urban middle-class with lower taxes, growing trade, tolerance toward Irish Catholics, and, most importantly at the time, lasting peace among the great powers of Europe. Walpole was also lucky to come at a time when the Whigs were becoming increasingly influenced by a senior Whig statesman, John Locke. Locke had learned and taught at Oxford University until the 1670's, authored a constitution for the Province of Carolina in 1670 after the rise of the Republic, and throughout the 1680's and 1690's had published a number of essays including A
Letter Concerning Toleration, Two Treatises on Government, and various other works on education and learning. The first two works, both published in 1689, had put forth a new form of political philosophy called "Liberalism" that advocated for a more sweeping style of religious toleration to secure every person's basic religious rights, as well as ideas such as "consent of the governed" and expansion of private property. Locke also wished to see the power of the British Parliament expand by becoming more universal and removing some aspects of land requirements for voting. While the Forfeiture Act of 1662 had provided for protection from debtor's prison, Locke had wished to see private property rights better protect, and among his many ideas Walpole encouraged the Whigs to take these ideas up to promote their future.
The vast majority of the 1710's would prove to be uneventful for the Tory ministry of Harley, as he led his government in what were perceived as much-needed civil reforms and a raising of protectionist tariffs to help the countryside landowners and producers that gave the Tories power and to pay Britain's war debt. In 1713, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who had been an eventual ally of the British and Dutch in the War of the Spanish Succession after 1704, issued the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 upon his failure to produce a male heir where his daughter Maria Theresa would be given his Habsburg titles upon his death, while Charles, the son of Elector Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria, would inherit receive favorable position for the title of Holy Roman Emperor as compensation for the Bavarians being excluded from the Spanish throne. Britain and her allies agreed to these terms, along with numerous other European powers including France, Prussia, and Spain, who would later break said terms. Then in 1718, Spain under Philip V attempted an invasion of Sardinia, and successfully took the island from the Holy Roman Empire. Despite wishes to avoid a war with the Spanish, Churchill saw a chance to contain potential Spanish power in southern Europe, and joined in an alliance, including France, that defeated the Spanish Navy at sea and on land. The war only lasted a year-and-a-half, but it did not help Britain's growing war debt, which would later be exasperated by the South Sea Bubble.
By 1720 the South Sea Company, despite having next-to-no practicality in its goal to monopolize British trade in South America, had failed to turn a profit, forcing Harley and the Exchequer to channel funds into the company to keep it afloat. The company's leader, John Blunt, continued to inflate the company's stock, defrauding investors by claiming that the money flowing in from the government was actually the company's burgeoning profits. In 1720 this lead to the company's stock to peak despite the company creating almost 12 million pounds in new debt for the British government. Finally, in late 1720, the bubble burst and came tumbling down, bringing a number of prominent British businessmen and politicians with it, some having staked their fortunes on said company. This humiliated Harley's government, which claimed that the South Sea Company was the savoir of Britain's debt, which Harley's and Churchill's participation in the War of the Quadruple Alliance had inflated. Thus in 1721, when Robert Walpole was to lead the Whigs in Parliament, he led them in a major victory that reclaimed Parliament for the Whigs, and his first act as Speaker of the House was to investigate the South Sea Company and recommend several major Tory politicians that had profited from and promulgated the company's inflated stock to the House of Peers for trial.
After successfully prosecuting the culprits in the South Sea Bubble, Walpole led Parliament in using the estates of those who led the South Sea Bubble to compensate the other, and especially the middle-class, victims. Then Walpole used the opportunity to expand the Bank of England by acquiring a number of the Company's remaining profitable or even properties and holdings, with some being transferred to the British East India Company. Walpole then led the Whigs in promoting the Lockean ideas of expanding property rights and personal liberty by lowering, albeit somewhat moderately, property requirements for voting and expanding the country's judicial system to include laws that protected property rights for middle-class property owners. Walpole also led his Parliament to lower taxes, foster trade within the British Empire, particularly focusing on trade with the British colonies in North America, and providing greater tolerance for Irish Catholics in government, but in exchange Walpole raised taxes on the Irish landed class. This increased Whig support among the Irish peerage, but made Ireland's merchant class angry with both Walpole and the Irish land owners. The Lockean ideas became the new platform for the Whigs, and their popularity among the merchant and middle-class help keep the Whigs in power for quite some time.
With Britain's domestic affairs in order, Walpole looked to gain a major victory for what he saw as Britain's future: that of a purely parliamentary republic. Walpole didn't like the position of Lord Protector, and believed that the Speaker of the House of Commons should be the premier office of power in government with an office for military matters and diplomacy under it. Walpole was given a chance to put this belief into practice in 1722 when John Churchill, Lord Protector, had a stroke and soon afterwards died at the age of 72 in London. Walpole orchestrated the state funeral in a grand style suitable to the beloved Churchill, and then soon began the search for a new Lord Protector, taking control of the appointment council himself in the fifth place, usually chosen by the previous Lord Protector, now to be held by the Speaker, which Walpole passed with the support of his ruling class of Whigs. Walpole appointed Richard Temple, an ardent Whig who had served with Churchill in the War of the Grand Alliance, the War of the Spanish Succession, and later in his own major command in the War of the Quadruple Alliance between 1718 and 1720. Walpole also particularly chose Temple because he assumed that he could be easily controlled by Walpole and his ministers, meanwhile Walpole began to consolidate a series of positions together in his office as Speaker and in 1723 passed a bill that made him the first Prime Minister of the United Republic, a new position that he deemed more worth of his expanded position and to which the Whigs agreed.
Now Prime Minister Walpole consolidated his position further by trying to expand his power into the Foreign Ministry of the Republic by creating the positions of Secretary of State for the Northern Department and Southern Department with the former dealing with relations with Protestant northern Europe and the latter with Catholic and Muslim southern Europe. Walpole originally told Temple that these positions were just made to help assist in the running of the Foreign Ministry, but Temple would soon prove more independent than Walpole had believed. Temple, who had served as a major-general under Churchill in the German and Netherlands campaigns of the War of the Spanish Succession, shared Churchill's admiration of the Prussian Army they had fought at Blenheim and wished to pursue better relations with the Kingdom of Prussia. Walpole directly opposed any such move as he disliked the autocratic nature of the Prussian King Frederick William I. Temple, on the other hand, liked the efficient and organized professional army of Prussia, changing course from that of the previous Tory ministry that advocated naval power. Temple thought that naval power was important, but that land power needed to be held in equal weight, and so began a fight to expand the British Army's budget.
Walpole did not like the idea of expanding the army and thus the power of the Lord Protector, and especially did not like the idea of said office making overtures to the Prussians, who Walpole also disdained. This conflict soon categorized much of Walpole and Temple's time in office, and in 1725 when Walpole sent the Secretary of State for the Northern Department to Berlin without Temple's express permission, Temple ordered that the Royal Navy capture the Secretary and bring him back to Britain. This brought the two into direct conflict, especially as this was around the time that Temple created a unit for the direct protection of the Lord Protector, modeled on Prussia's Potsdam Giants, which further alarmed Walpole who worried about Temple trying to overstep his authority in a dictatorial manner. Walpole tried to pursue a path to limit the power of Lord Protector by seeking to limit the term of office from a life term to one that was ten or fifteen years in length, largely pursuing this option between 1724-1727. However, an act from the 1670's required that the Lord Protector had to agree to any limit on their term of office, and in this contentious period between Temple and Walpole, Temple was surely not going to do something that would clearly seek to weaken his position. Despite this conflict, the two were agreed that they'd like to avoid engaging Britain in another war with the Spanish and French and this was largely sought in this time period.
The Walpole-Temple conflict over relations with Prussia was one that would persist throughout their time in office, but for the time Temple brought the Secretary of State for the Northern Department back to London but had not way to actually prosecute him without Walpole's support and so rather decided to try and outmaneuver Walpole. Temple came forward in 1726 to propose a series of laws to streamline and reform the offices under the position of the Lord Protector, dividing the office clearly up into three departments: the Administration of the Army, the Administration of the Navy, and the Administration of State. The last office would deal with both diplomacy and the Lord Protector's position over the colonial military, and Temple presented this personally to the House of Commons as a way to clearly define the offices under Temple's position, but Walpole was wary of the bill because he thought that by clearly defining the Administration of State, Temple would try and remove his influence with his Secretaries of States. This was correct but Walpole was unable to stop the bill from passing, and thus Temple was able to subsume the entire Foreign Ministry under his office once again and removed both of the Secretaries under Walpole from office in 1727. Walpole was furious but could do little, instead renewing his intentions to limit the time in office for Lord Protector, wishing to keep Temple from serving more than ten years and making the law apply immediately.
As the 1720's drew on, meanwhile, the main result of the Walpole-Temple dispute was the increased power of Parliament, which was a long-term win for Walpole and the Whigs, especially the more radical members of the Whigs who preferred a more republican form of government to the current system. Eventually the lesser members of the Whig government tried to settle the problem by passing their own bill, similar to Temple's that clearly defined his office in 1726, to clearly define Walpole's in 1727 with offices based in the PM's financial powers that Walpole followed up on by creating a prominent Cabinet of Whigs and Tories, wishing to set a model for future Prime Ministers. Thus in the late 1720's, the conflict between Prime Minister and Lord Protector would reach a detente, although the position of both men on Prussia had not changed and would not despite the issue not being solved through five years of conflict. In the end, however, it would be seen by historians that Walpole had won their conflict as he used the denouement of the conflict to consolidate his position within the Whigs and thus to ensure the premier standing of the Prime Minister in the future of the British government. Meanwhile, in the early 1730's with Frederick William's introduction of the Canton system and with reports of the draconian nature of the Prussian Army, Temple was discouraged from further attempts to move his army in a similar direction, except in organization and efficiency.
At the opening of the 1730's, Temple had seen the French continue to grow as a land power in Europe, and France's new King Louis XV, now serving as sole ruler of France, and had already gone about removing any major political opposition. On top of that, Louis had made it clear that he would continue France on his grandfather's path of an aggressive foreign policy, seeing Louis' expansion of Bourbon monarchy into Spain as having secured France's western border. In 1731, the British signed an alliance with the Austrian throne, which included the three major powers in the area opposed to French expansion: Austria, Bavaria, and Prussia, although this did officially include a separate alliance with Prussia itself, leaving Walpole open to it. Meanwhile in late 1720's with the ascension of Georg August of Hanover to Elector of Hanover in 1727, Temple made overtures to Hanover to put aside the animosity that was common between Britain and Georg's father due to his stifled claim to the British throne. Temple secured this detente by helping Hanover gain the provinces of Verden and Bremen, which Georg's father had wanted to have access to military action against Britain, but Georg August, who did not have the stomach for a war, preferred it for economic purposes. Thus another potential claimant to the British throne was calmed by diplomacy.
On the other hand, James Francis Edward Stuart, aka "The Old Pretender" was still interested in raising an army to attack Britain after the fall of his father in a Royalist invasion in the War of the Grand Alliance. This had been quelled in 1715 when James failed to secure any support in the aftermath of the War of the Spanish Succession, when both Britain and France were intent on securing the ambitions of the upstart King Philip V of Spain and thus led to the War of the Quadruple Alliance. James then made a trip to the Electorate of Hanover to try and court Georg Ludwig to form an alliance that would allow them to attack Britain, but the two sides had rival claims and thus Georg would not cede his claim to the House of Stuart, and James returned to Paris, again denied his throne. Back in the 1730's, the focus of Britain's monarchies turned to Poland-Lithuania, and the secession war that was erupting between Stanislaw I and Augustus III, the former supported by France and Spain, the other by Russia, Prussia, and the Habsburgs. Temple managed to make it so that no member of the Triple Alliance entered the war, as he did not want to risk what he felt was a lasting peace not only for Britain, but also the economic peace that was concurrent among her allies. In the end Augustus III took the Polish throne, but Sweden was displeased with the influence that this gave to the Russian Empress Anna and her successors in Poland-Lithuania. Nonetheless Sweden and the British did nothing.
Instrumental in keeping the Swedes out of war with Russia was the Swedish Riksdag, which kept funding from getting to King Charles XII and thus practiced one of the country's first examples of what would grow into a constitutional monarchy. This movement was hastened by the Civil Code of 1734, which reformed the Swedish judicial system toward a more egalitarian system, like that of the British judicial system. At this time period the Presidency of Charles' Privy Council was dominated by Arvid Horn, who led the Caps faction in the Riksdag in moving toward a more parliamentary system in the style of Britain and the Dutch, while also making polite overtures toward a detente with the Russian Empire, which was largely accepted by the Russian Empress Anna, who wished to increase Russia's presence among the European powers and
accepted that the Swedes, and thus the British, were one way to do so. In this time period around the Polish War of Succession, the Swedish Riksdag was divided between a two-party system like the Whigs and Tories, but in this case the Hats and Caps. The Hats supported a hardline national stance, particularly against Russia, and a conservative form of government that disliked the republican turn the government took under Horn. The Caps, on the other hand, were more republican and agrarian, as well as Anglophilic and open to relations with Russia. Horn's prosperous ministry guaranteed that the country would turn toward his view of government, which was backed by a growing agrarian and land-owning class over the old aristocracy.
While Britain and Sweden were solidifying their influence in the North of Europe, Louis XV moved to secure his stance with the Spanish in the lead-up to the War of the Polish Succession by creating the Pacte de Famille between himself and Philip V, Louis' uncle. Although they hadn't won against the overwhelming powers of eastern Europe in Poland, they had brought Lorraine under French rule and the return of Naples and Sicily for Charles, Philip's son and the future Charles III of Spain. But Louis and Philip not only shared a familial view, but a conception of what the events in northern Europe now meant. Britain and the Dutch were forming strong republics while the Swedes were moving toward a constitutional monarchy. They had antagonized both the Prussians and the Austrian Habsburgs during the Wars of the Spanish and Polish Succession. Bavaria and Hanover, which Louis XIV had hoped to extend support to prior to the War of the Spanish Succession, were now firmly neutral in any potential Anglo-Franco-Spanish conflict. Louis' minister of foreign affairs German Louis Chauvelin advocated a more active foreign policy for France in the aftermath of the War of the Polish Succession, backed by the combined might of the French and Spanish thrones. This led Chauvelin to help mediate a treaty between Russia and the Ottomans in 1739, and along with his superior, Minister Fleury, wished to maintain peace with Robert Walpole. Chauvelin and Minister Fleury knew that war with Britain was inevitable, and wished to build France a more suitable situation from which to fight the Triple Alliance in a war to come, and the focus of these efforts were put on Italy.
Although Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia had been an ally with the French and Spanish in defeating the Austrians in northern Italy during the War of the Polish Succession, he was wary of an alliance with them as he was aware of the potential damage this could do to his kingdom if they came to dominate Italy. Thus Charles Emmanuel managed to play the two major powers off of Britain as well to keep his Kingdom's independence, but had little to do to keep the Spanish from soon dominating southern Italy once more with Charles III's ascension as King of Sicily and Naples in 1735. Charles' ascension made the Bourbon the masters of southern Europe, and provided them with a dominance of the western Mediterranean that Fleury had wished for. Fleury was one of the first politicians in his day who saw that a strong Italian state could potentially act as the necessary counterweight that the French needed against Austria, but for the time it was far beyond anything that any major ruler, Italian or otherwise, was willing to fight for. But nonetheless, Charles was very much supportive of the idea of a united Italy, which he claimed would act as "a loaded musket aimed at the Austrian underbelly."
Back in Britain during the late 1730's, the Walpole-Temple government was becoming more concerned with events in the New World than in the Old World. In 1738 a British smuggler and captain named Robert Jenkins was captured when his ship, the Rebecca, was seized by the Spanish and his ear cut off, which the Spanish captain said he would do to Temple if they could. Then in 1739 the Spanish rescinded the asiento agreement with the British that had followed the War of the Spanish Succession, and soon afterwards Walpole and Temple could not avoid growing public resentment toward Spain and declared war. The War of Jenkins' Ear was, however, only between the British and the Spanish as the French decided to focus more on events developing in Central Europe. In this time period the War of Jenkins' Ear saw the British fail in attempting to seize a number of Spanish territories in the New World. But soon, like France, both nations turned their attention to the Holy Roman Empire when Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, died and left no male heirs. All of Europe's major powers had agreed to the Pragmatic Sanction in 1713, which gave Charles' role as Holy Roman Emperor to Charles Albert, the son of Maximilian II Emanuel of Bavaria and as Archduke of Austria and various other Habsburg holdings by his daughter Maria Theresa. Despite agreeing to the terms of the Pragmatic Sanction, France and Spain saw a chance to engage the Austrians and Bavarians in an advantageous war while the Prussian King Frederick II saw a chance to seize Silesia from Austria, claiming it had been promised to his ancestors. Britain, who was allied with the Austrians in opposing Franco-Spanish power, brought her allies into the war and thus began the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740.
With the running of the war on the continent largely going to Richard Temple, Robert Walpole was largely left to manage the finances and funding for the war effort. Walpole kept the money flowing into the Navy, hoping to keep the French and any Royalist invasion off of British soil, hoping to avoid the controversy and casualties of the Royalist invasion of Ireland from the War of the Grand Alliance. Walpole was also focusing on the War of Jenkins' Ear in the New World and the handling of the colonies in tandem with the conflict. In 1740 the Whigs led the Parliament to pass a law that provided British nationality to all of the Huguenots and Jews who had immigrated to Britain and her colonies in the aftermath of the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685. Then in 1741, news of the Battle of Cartagena de Indias in the Spanish colony of New Granada reached the Parliament and Temple and Walpole agreed to raise Thomas Wentworth to commander of colonial forces in the Americas, where he oversaw the defense of Georgia in the war, as well as the coordination of British naval power in the Caribbean while largely leaving command in the North to the Colony of Massachusetts.Then in 1742 a new scandal was brought up by the Tories in the House of Commons that threatened to bring down the Premiership of Robert Walpole.
The Tories announced that they had evidence that Walpole had personally intervened to hand a by-election in the seat of Chippenham to a Whig MP, which the Tories said was representative of corruption in the rest of Walpole's ministry. Walpole called on the Parliament to stay any potential move against his seat of power until the war had been won, but the Tories called for a vote of no confidence in March 1742, which Walpole barely survived. But pressure was continuing to mount against Walpole and it was likely that his ministry, although safe for now, would not be in the long term. Opposition continued to grow against Walpole and finally reached a breaking point in 1745 when the French landed a force of Royalist soldiers under Charles Stuart in Scotland and soon began to rally some of the clans in the area. Walpole, who claimed that the British Navy would be able to fend off any major French naval action in the North Sea, was again humiliated. Richard Temple decided to recall William Augustus from the continent to lead the forces in crushing the Jacobite forces. Augustus launched a brutal campaign against the Scottish clans that rallied to the Royalist cause and defeated the Jacobite forces finally in April 1746 at the Battle of Culloden. But things were not going well for Walpole in London, and despite the suppression of the Jacobites in 1746, a new vote of no confidence was now successful and Walpole was removed from office and then died in March of 1747.
With the war in Scotland over and Walpole out of office, Temple sent Augustus back to the Netherlands to lead the Allied forces against the French, where he soon defeated them decisively at Lauffield and turned the war back into Allied favor. Augustus was thus able to return to England in 1748 as a war hero, and despite his controversial campaign in Scotland he found more wide-ranging support in Parliament than expected to replace Richard Temple. But Augustus was now facing one of the first truly contested elections for Lord Protector, and now Walpole's supporters in the Whigs decided that they would like to hold an open election in the House of Commons for the next Lord Protector to follow Richard Temple. Edward Hawke, a British Navy office who had fought in a Battle at Toulon in 1744 and then a more decisive naval Battle of Cape Finisterre in October 1747 where he led the captured a squadron of six French ships-of-the-line in the Bay of Biscay, the greatest British naval victory of the war. Augustus and Hawke both began to try and rally forces in Parliament but Temple was still alive and kicking, and with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle coming to a final draft he used the opening in Walpole's position to seek better relations with Frederick II of Prussia. Walpole was soon succeeded by Henry Pelham, who left Temple to control foreign affairs by himself unlike Walpole.
Soon after opening up better relations with the Kingdom of Prussia in late 1748, Temple's health began to decline and died on September 14, 1749. William Augustus and Edward Hawke would have both been a very young Lord Protector, Augustus was twenty-eight at the time of Temple's death and Hawke was forty-four but had the popular support of the British Navy behind him and some wanted a more naval-based military policy to fit the British Empire's growing territories. William Augustus was supported largely by the English and Irish members of Parliament and opposed by the Scottish, with Hawke being supported by the Scottish and naval bulwarks. This proved particularly decisive for the Scottish Whigs, who couldn't rally behind Augustus for his conduct of the Jacobite invasion, but who did rally behind the idea of holding an open House of Commons election for Temple's successor. By now the House of Commons totaled 558 MPs, but most were from England and so although the Scottish MPs held great sway, particularly among the Whigs, their disdain for Augustus wasn't enough to keep him out of office with overwhelming English support. This was the first election of Lord Protector in Parliamentarian history, and the pattern stuck. Augustus then placed Hawke in a prominent position in the British Navy, placing him in line for First Lord of the Admiralty in the future.
The early 1750's saw a series of major changes in Britain, Pelham oversaw the expansion in population and territory of various holdings in the New World, particularly in North America. Pelham opened up the Ohio Valley for British colonists, in direct opposition to the French colonists in the area, and providing hospitals and fire services to the rest of the British colonies on the East Coast. Pelham also oversaw Britain's adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752, taking effect in September of 1752. Meanwhile, event in the Ohio Valley soon came to the forefront of British politics as the French and British colonists began to confront each other in the area in 1754. Virginia's Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie ordered a young British military officer named George Washington lead a militia force to dissuade the French from occupying Ohio Country. In May 1754, the British militia confronted a group of French and Native American soldiers who were trying to hinder the construction of a British fort in the Ohio Valley at Jumonville Glen, which resulted in a confrontation in which 35 French soldiers were killed, including Joseph Coulen de Villiers. This was followed in July 1754 with the Battle of Fort Necessity, and thus began what would come to be known as the French and Indian War in North America. Augustus hoped to keep the conflict localized to the colonies and away from the metropoles, but this decision would not last long.
William Augustus had long believed that expanding British power across the world was growing increasingly popular and with Edward Hawke soon running the British Navy in all but name, Augustus had seen the British Navy's power, which had grown greatly relative to France's, in the last fifty years, as the key to British world power and continued its expansion in preparation for another coming war. Augustus' position was concurred upon with by the new leading member of the Whigs, William Pitt, who believed in the necessity of expanding British territory at the cost of the French to benefit British trading power and helped provide the funds as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the early 1750's. Pitt and Augustus both saw the potential in expanding the colonial conflict in the New World as a way to seize French colonial holdings and slowly grew willing to allow that to include a land war in Europe, based on naval power and naval-based army movement. The French, meanwhile, continued to focus on land power, and thus allowed their Navy to falter relative to the growing British Navy. Pitt and Augustus also agreed on the failure of the Austrian Habsburgs in defending their own territory and their failure in decisively defeating the French on land. The Pitt-Augustus regime was cognizant of the power of the British Army, but believed heavily that a superior land power in Europe was necessary to secure Britain's position on the continent. And so the British government turned away from the Austrians and toward the Kingdom of Prussia, just as Robert Walpole had disallowed Richard Temple from doing years before.
The Diplomatic Revolution of 1756 would become the foundation of European alliances that would last for almost 200 years, as the British signed an alliance with the Prussian government and the Austrians pivoted toward the French government under Louis XV. Meanwhile the Russian Empire had continued to grow in power and soon cemented its alliance with Austria, and by extension France, to oppose the dominance of Sweden in the Baltic region. The Italian peninsula was now the home of two growing powers, the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Kingdoms of Sicily and Naples, with Charles III growing increasingly supportive of a united kingdom in southern Italy to form a united Italian power. Sardinia, on the other hand, was now surrounded by enemies in France, Austria, and Sicily and Naples, and was only supportive of a more united Italy if that Italy took the form of two divided kingdoms, one in the North and one in the South with the Papal States in between to act as a neutral barrier state. Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia had begun to build up his kingdom's army and thus by 1756 the nations of Europe were once again on-edge and soon the Seven Years' War was begun. Upon the introduction of the news of clashes in North America, Frederick II of Prussia began to prepare the Prussian Army for an invasion of Austrian-allied Saxony, with his goal of taking Moravia and then attacking Vienna.
See: Seven Years' War