Prior to the War of the Spanish Succession the British and their allies had fought several successive wars against the French and the growing power of Louis XIV in Europe. The two countries had fought most violently and immediately just six years prior to the War of the Spanish Succession in the War of the Grand Alliance, in which Britain and her allies defeated the French and managed to fend them off from the Spanish Netherlands and much of the Rhineland. Since then, Britain has been led by Lord Protector John Churchill, who was intent on pursuing a policy of naval expansion and confrontation with the French king, albeit with limited support among his Tory party for an actual land war with France. Despite Churchill's best intentions, however, there had been a series of events in Europe that would ratchet up tensions between the two great powers, and Louis was growing increasingly worried about the growing debt of his country and constantly having to fight wars on two sides: with the British and Dutch in the East and with the Spanish in the West.
There were a number of growing tensions among the great and growing powers of Europe. In the East, Sweden and Russia would fight a seven-year war called the Great Northern War in which the upstart Russian Empire was defeated in several major battles by the Swedes and the British Navy, confirming Sweden under Charles XII as the primary power over the Baltic. This ran directly against the growing power of Brandenburg-Prussia under Duke Frederick I, who wished to increase his power among Europe's rulers by increasing the size and strength of his army and gained Swedish Pomerania from the Swedes by-way of British intervention to keep them out of the Great Northern War. The Habsburg Monarchy had recently become more secure in its position as the dominant power of Central Europe, which would later come in direct conflict with Prussia, but for now the two were at peace and Austria had just triumphed in the Great Turkish War, which emboldened Emperor Leopold. The Dutch under the late William III of Orange, meanwhile, were looking to secure a more defensible border against the French, fearing that the Spanish Netherlands would be a poor shield against further French advances. And on top of all of these ambitions, the Duchy of Savoy under Victor Amadeus II, who wished to capture territory for Savoy outside of the mainland that would give him claim to the title of King by the laws of the Holy Roman Empire.
Louis was gifted a potential turn of fortunes in 1700 when Charles II of Spain was in failing health and the powers of Europe scrambled to find him an adequate replacement. Unlike the French throne, the Spanish throne was allowed to pass through females of the royal family, and thus there were three major claimants to the throne: Philip, Duke of Anjou, Louis' grandson and the direct descendant of two of Philip III of Spain's children, the Archduke Charles, son of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Joseph Ferdinand, the son of Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria. Joseph Ferdinand was the main hope of the British alliance in northern Europe, as a successor from Bavaria would provide little trouble to the balance of power in Europe, which could lean towards either France or Austria if a king other than Joseph Ferdinand came to power. Thus the stage was set for a tripartite war between the major powers of Europe: Britain, France, and the Habsburg Monarchy. When Charles II died in 1700, he left Philip, Duke of Anjou, as his successor in his will, which Louis then used to officially force his grandson's claim to the throne. Worried what this might mean if Philip combined both the French and Spanish throne, the British and the Dutch declared war in favor of the claim for Joseph Ferdinand. Soon afterward, the Habsburg Monarchy announced its intention to enforce its own claim by invading Bavaria and soon much of Europe was engulfed in conflict.
War of Three Kings (1701-1704)
The Anglo-Dutch Alliance Combats the French
The opening few years of the War of the Spanish Succession soon became known as the "War of the Three Kings" as the three sides fought concurrent battles to claim the throne of Spain for their respective claimant. In 1701, John Churchill himself, following the example of his predecessor Edward Montagu in personally leading Britain to war, decided to take the lead of his army that would ally with the Dutch in expelling the French, who had flooded into the Spanish Netherlands upon the ascendance of Philip to the Spanish throne the previous year. Churchill's plan was to lead his forces and that of the Dutch in an allied campaign to expel the French from the Netherlands once and for all, and from there to march into the Holy Roman Empire and thus to link up with the army of Bavaria. Churchill and the Dutch were largely successful to this end and were able to fend off the French army from threatening the Dutch Republic. As the war in 1701 dragged on and soon gave way to 1702, the Allied army had defeated the French commander Boufflers, notable for his participation in the War of the Quadruple Alliance, and secured the Dutch border from further French attack.
Throughout the Spring and Summer of 1702, Churchill handed the French a number of defeats, including the capture of Antwerp in July 1702, and from there William IV, having succeeded his father as Stadtholder of the Netherlands, was leading a Dutch army of 17,000 to capture the coastal cities and most importantly the city of Bruges. While this was happening, the French made an advance to attack the Dutch city of Maastricht in August 1702, and soon afterwards Churchill met them outside the city and delivered Boufflers a decisive defeat, forcing Boufflers to retreat to cover his rear. In the rear of the French line, Boufflers and his army engineers had been building a series of fortresses that stretched from Ghent in the West to the Meuse River in the East, and further behind those lines were more fortresses being built to defend the French border from any advances by the Allies. The Dutch captured Bruges in October of 1702 with a combined attack by land and a landing by sea, soon after which they proceeded to march toward Boufflers fortresses around Ghent. Meanwhile, Churchill and his army marched to Elixheim, a major city along the French line known as the "Pre Carre." The Allies successfully attacked Elixheim in November of 1702, but found the remainder of the French salient in the Spanish Netherlands more difficult to best.
The remainder of 1702 was spent by Churchill in a failed attempt to breach the French defenses while Churchill personally led the British in taking the fortress city of Liege in December of 1702, which had been occupied by the French and taken from the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach. After the fall of Liege, and thus the rest of the Meuse River to Allied ships, Churchill moved to remove Limburg, the last major barrier to Allied access to the Holy Roman Empire and the Rhineland, from his path. There Churchill found a diminished French garrison as the French had been more focused on preventing an invasion by the Habsburg forces to the South through Luxembourg and in Alsace. Thus in 1703, Churchill was able to begin the build-up of an army for an Allied mission to assist the Bavarians from their invasion by the Austrian Habsburgs. Meanwhile, the Allied forces continued to engage the French along their series of fortresses, making minor breakthroughs along the French line but failing to deliver a decisive blow. Thus as Churchill prepared to lead the army to break the invasion of Bavaria, he left his command in the Spanish Netherlands to Henri de Massue, a French Huguenot emigre who had made a name for himself in the British Army during the War of the Grand Alliance.
War in the Holy Roman Empire
With the beginning of the war in 1701, the Austrians immediately sought out two potential allies in northern Germany to help bring the Bavarians to heel. The first of such allies was Prussia, whose Duke Frederick had grown the Prussian Army up to 40,000 men despite the Duchy's relatively small size, and the other was the Electorate of Hanover, whose Elector Georg Ludwig had become an enemy of the British Republic as the Republic denied Georg his potential throne in Great Britain. In exchange for their service Frederick asked to be raised to King of Prussia, and George Ludwig for access to Bremen or Mecklenburg and thus the North Sea to press his access to the British Isles. Thus the Austrians were able to raise an army of 65,000 soldiers to fight the Bavarians, whose meager army was unable to stop the assault of the Holy Roman Empire. The Margrave of Baden was selected to lead the Holy Roman Army on its way to Bavaria from the North, but in building up the army between 1701 and the Spring of 1702, he had allowed the Bavarians to build a series of defenses that would prepare them for the enemy advance. However, the Austrian crown had demanded that Baden split up his army and lead an army of 60,000 to attack Alsace on the French border while Guido Starhemberg was appointed to lead a force to begin invading Bavaria along the Danube River.
The two sides met first at Augsburb in July 1702, where the Bavarians were defeated but their orderly retreat allowed them to maintain formation and retreat to guard Munich from a direct enemy attack. In September of 1702 as Baden approached the Rhine River, he was confronted by the French at the Battle of Freiburg, where he was defeated in his first major engagement of the war. The enemy advance to Bavaria was then aimed once more at the Danube River, where they again defeated the Bavarians, but with the majority of the Bavarian Army again intact. The two sides finally met in a major battle at Regensburg, where Starhemberg's poor use of the Prussian infantry led to devastating losses for the Prussians despite the success of the Imperial Army, resulting in a Pyrrhic victory for the Imperial force. Meanwhile the Austrians seized at Passau to cut the Bavarian access to the Danube and Inn Rivers, but were repulsed by the Bavarians. Starhemberg knew that he had to take Munich before the British could arrive and stop his advance, so after his limited success at Regensburg, he personally moved to take Passau and did so in August of 1703. Only in April of 1704 could the Imperial Army move toward Munich and that is what they did.
In May of 1704, the two sides met outside of Munich and Maximilian II Emanuel personally led the Bavarians in defending their city. The Bavarians achieved a relatively minor victory, but this allowed him force the Imperial Army away from Munich in time for Churchill and his Allied army to arrive and drive Starhemberg from the area around Munich in July. The Allies then began to march toward Augsburg in the West to break the Imperial Army apart and this they did, with the two sides finally confronting each other at Blenheim in August of 1704. The Battle of Blenheim proved to be on the most decisive battles of the war, particularly for this front, and the fall of Blenheim to the Allies in 1704 allowed the Allies to capture 8,000 Imperial soldiers, denying them of their main force in Bavaria. By this point the Imperial forces backing Archduke Charles' claim to the Spanish throne were in full retreat not just in Bavaria, but also along the Imperial-French border, where the army under Baden had been defeated by the French at Stollhofen and Breisach throughout 1703 and 1704, and were now in full retreat. Thus Churchill was able to send a treaty to the Austrian court, by which they would agree to end their claim for Charles and back Joseph Ferdinand's claim to the Spanish throne, in exchange for favorable terms in the Habsburg lands of Italy, among other terms. Emperor Leopold agreed and in November a treaty was signed in Ibersheim that turned the Holy Roman Empire against France.
While the war in Bavaria was won, the fight between France and the Habsburgs in Italy was coming to an end as well. Prince Eugene of Savoy had been fighting the French throughout 1701 at Carpi and Chiari, after the French Army had overrun the Duchy of Savoy, and forced Victor Amadeus II into a passive resistance of the French. A series of battles throughout 1702 and 1703 had proved indecisive, but with the Ibersheim Treaty in November 1704 the Austrians could now turn the bulk of their forces to fighting the French with some Bavarian and Prussian assistance in Italy. In response to this, Victor Amadeus II decided to rally his forces and rebel against the French, who quickly moved to besiege the Savoyard capital of Turin when the Allies approached in 1706, with the Allies under Eugene of Savoy breaking the siege in September 1706 and freeing up Savoyard forces to join the Allies. The French failed in counterattacking at Nice on the Mediterranean and sought to take the French port of Toulon. The port of Toulon served as the major source of conflict in the area for the remainder of the war, despite never falling to the Allies throughout the remaining four-and-a-half years of the war.
War of Philip and Joseph
The War in the Netherlands Continues
While Churchill found great success in the Holy Roman Empire, de Massue prepared to cross the Meuse River to attack the city of Namur, which was across the River but along the Pre Carre line of fortresses. Eventually, after several months of preparation, in April of 1704 the British and Dutch crossed the Meuse River and seized the city in a large battle across the river, forcing the French there to retreat to the city of Ramillies. In May of 1704, de Massue marched an army of 60,000 men, combined with the Dutch who had recently taken the city of Nieuport, and defeated both Boufflers and the Duc de Villeroi at Ramillies, whose force numbered 45,000, and thus forcing a breach in the French Pre Carre, setting the stage for another series of great victories for the Allies throughout the central Spanish Netherlands in the Summer and Autumn of 1704. After this defeat at Ramillies, the French were defeated by the Allies at Ghent and throughout 1705 and 1706, the Allied forces under de Massue and later Churchill upon his return to the front. By the beginning of 1707, the French had been defeated across much of the Spanish Netherlands and were pushed back to the Franco-Dutch border. The French then managed to make a counterattack at Malplaquet in Spring 1707 and thus stave off an immediate threat to France itself.
While these advances were happening in the West, the Allies managed to subdue the Electorate of Hanover, who had refused the Treaty of Ibserheim, still wishing to attain a seat on the North Sea. Then in 1707 as the Great Northern War was ending, Charles XII of Sweden made good on his alliance with the British and Dutch and entered Sweden in the war, albeit with little to gain in territory. After the defeat of the French along their border throughout 1707, the two sides finally confronted each other on French soil in April of 1708 at Malplaquet, and from there Churchill led the Allies toward the French city of Lille, whose capture they had hoped would end the war. The French were dealt a major defeat at Tournal and Ypres, but when the Allies confronted the French at Lille, they found the city was well-prepared for an Allied offensive. The Siege of Lille began in August 1708 and lasted for four months until December when the city finally fell to the Allies. After the fall of Lille, the two sides were constantly fighting smaller battles around northern France until the Allies captured Arras in 1711, at which point the two sides had already been brought to the negotiating table and from there the war was over.
War in the Iberian
Prior to the Treaty of Ibersheim, the war in the Iberian Peninsula had merely been around the peninsula as the British and the Dutch Navies engaged the French and the Spanish fleets at Cadiz and Vigo Bay in 1702. In August 1704 as the war in the Holy Roman Empire was drawing to a close for the Allies, a British force under George Rooke besieged and then captured the Spanish port of Gibraltar, which the Spanish tried and failed to besiege throughout September of 1704 and May if 1705. In September of 1705 the Allies now landed at Barcelona in hopes of capturing a Mediterranean port that would also provide the Allies with a place from which to garner the forces of the Habsburgs in the Crown of Aragon. The Crown of Aragon was divided and poorly-run, which thus allowed the Allies to make serious advances throughout Catalonia in 1705 and much of 1706. In September of 1706 the Allies managed two major advances in the war as the Allies captured Saragossa and the Spanish failed to take back Barcelona, spending vital troops needed for the fight against the Allies. But then in November of 1706 the Spanish managed to retake the city of Tortosa and thus turn the tide of the war in Spain.
Throughout the Winter and early Spring of 1707 the two sides did battle before Philip and his army defeated the Allies in April of 1707 at Alamansa, and thus from there Philip began to mop up the Allied army throughout Aragon. In 1708 the British captured Minorca, hoping to strike fear into the Spanish forces, but by now most of Spain had pledged allegiance to Philip V, and throughout much of 1708 and 1709 the Allies were forced back into Catalonia and the perimeter around Barcelona. In August of 1710 the Allies defeated the Spanish attempt to retake Saragossa, but this was soon followed by a Franco-Spanish victory at the Battle of Villaviciosa, after which the Allies were forced to retreat back to Barcelona, and both sides agreed to sit down to the negotiating table. Throughout the closing months of the war between December 1710 and September 1711, when the Treaty of Utrecht was signed, the Allies and the French traded blows along the Franco-Imperial border that managed to give the Allies some more bargaining room, which along with their advances into Northern France had given them plenty of chips with which to fight for a favorable piece since France had now been largely defeated except in Spain itself.
Dudley's War opened in 1702 with a naval raid on the French islands of Newfoundland and St. Pierre in Canada, followed by a series of skirmishes along the colonial borders much like what happened in the War of the Grand Alliance with Phips' War. The British made numerous attempts to advance beyond the border into the St. Laurence River Valley toward the French city of Quebec, but these were largely repulsed. The British under Dudley then moved their focus to Acadia and eastern Canada, similarly to no avail, as the French had prepared their forces in Canada for a stiffer defense after their failures in the previous war. While this war was raging to the North, the British and Spain fought a proxy land war with Indian tribes in Florida which also resulted in small gains, but the North American front soon turned to a stalemate as the Allied governments focused on their own. Then Dudley was given the iniative by the British government in 1705 when the victory at Blenheim opened up 400 British soldiers for Dudley's use to invade French Canada, along with 1,000 Native American soldiers.
In 1705 with a large, new army, Dudley marched North into toward Acadia and throughout the Summer of 1705 the area fell to Dudley's army, after which they took aim at Newfoundland. The city of St. John's was attacked in September of 1705 and from there the army marched North to secure the whole of the Hudson Bay for the British. Dudley had hoped to march his army on Quebec, but instead decided to march his army back to New England after news of a French Raid on Deerfield came and instead Dudley and his army seized Port Royal in 1706 and then marched back defend New England from French advances throughout 1707. The war was then fought largely across the whole of the border along the French and British colonies before the war was ended by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1707. Again the British realized that to successfully force the French from their North American holdings, that an even larger force would be necessary and thus Dudley made it his mission to raise such forces across New England, and thus to draw British support to a general increase in arms along the colonies.
Treaty of Utrecht
The Treaty of Utrecht was signed in September of 1711 after negotiations by the various sides finally reached a position in which a comfortable series of terms could be agreed to by both sides. The British and Dutch aim to keep Philip off of the Spanish throne seemed unlikely, and so they simply aimed to make the Netherlands more secure in their defenses along the Franco-Dutch border. The Bavarians, despite heavy losses in their defense against the Imperial Army in the early stages of the war, had not managed to put Joseph Ferdinand on the Spanish throne and thus sought a meaningful alternative for their terms. The Austrian Habsburgs were similar to the British and Dutch in that they did not want the Spanish Habsburgs to have control over the Habsburgs' Italian holdings that could threaten the Austrians. The final terms of the treaty were thus:
- The British would be ceded Minorca, Gibraltar, Newfoundland, Acadia, and the Hudson Bay by the Spanish and French thrones
- The Netherlands would be ceded most of the Spanish Netherlands and the French would not make any attempts to stop the Dutch from building up their defenses along said border
- The Spanish would cede the Austrian Habsburgs the Kingdom of Naples, the Duchy of Milan, and the Kingdom of Sardinia, and then in a years time the territory of Luxembourg
- The Bavarians would be given minor territorial gains around their borders to secure their holdings, and Maximilian II Emanuel's son Charles would be married to Maria Amalia of Austria, thus securing him a potential place on the Holy Roman throne in the event that Charles VI, now Holy Roman Emperor, continued to fail in having male heirs
- The Duchy of Savoy would be ceded Sicily and Victor Amadeus II would be made King and Savoy promoted to a Kingdom
- Prussia would also be given various local holdings in exchange for her service to the Imperial crown, mainly from Hanover
- All of the signatory powers would recognize Philip as Philip V of Spain, while Philip and his successors would be removed from the French line of succession and a personal union of the two thrones banned
By this time in Britain, John Churchill had been receiving much disdain from his fellow Tories for continuing an expensive land war against the French and Spanish instead of a naval one as they had wished for. However, the end of the war had secured Churchill's success as Lord Protector for the remainder of his term as he had increased British holdings in North America and secured a serious defeat to the French by denying them a united monarchy with Spain. In the resulting treaty every part had been gifted some territory, except for the French, but Louis now also had achieved his goal by no longer having to worry about the Spanish fighting him on his Western border. The Balance of Power in Europe was secured for another generation but with the stage set for again further conflict later down the line.