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War in 18th Century Europe to 1763

Coalitions and Wars to 1721 | Prussia's 'Soldier King' | Charles VI and the War of Polish Succession | Frederick the Great and the War of Austrian Succession | The Seven Years' War in Europe and North America

Central and Eastern Europe, 1740
Central and Eastern Europe, 1740
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Coalitions and Wars to 1721

Of no small concern among the major European powers in the early 1700s was their power relative to each other, and in 1702 Britain was alarmed at the prospect of the grandson of the King of France, Louis XIV, inheriting the Spanish throne. Britain, the Dutch Republic, Austria and Brandenburg-Prussia united against France in what was called the War of Spanish Succession, a war from 1702 to 1713 that ended in exhaustion and a temporary settlement signed at Utrecht in the Dutch Republic.

The family of Louis XIV – the Bourbons – gained from the settlement by recognition of his grandson Philip V as king of Spain. But, to the pleasure of the British and their allies, the king of Spain lost territory: the Kingdom of Naples, the Duchy of Milan, and Sardinia. These lands, like the Spanish throne itself, had belonged to the Habsburg family, who had intermarried with the Bourbons. And now the Treaty of Utrecht left these lands with the Habsburgs, who were ruling from Vienna. To the Habsburgs also went what had been called the Spanish Netherlands (around Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels). The treaty also took Sicily from Spain and gave it to Vittorio (Victor) Amadeus of the House of Savoy, which won international recognition as royalty. The treaty took the island of Gibraltar from Spain and gave it to the British. And the treaty also gave to the British territory in the Americas that had belonged to the French: Hudson Bay territory, Newfoundland and that part of Acadia.

In 1711 a Habsburg prince in Spain, Charles, inherited Habsburg lands and also had become ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. He was now Charles VI. And, with the Spanish throne having passed to a Bourbon, he moved to Vienna. He looked forward to the Habsburgs returning to power in Spain and all Habsburg lands remaining united under one king. From Austria and a Holy Roman Emperor, Charles ruled what had been the Spanish Netherlands, Bohemia (including Prague), Silesia, the Duchy of Milan, the Kingdom of Naples, Sardinia and, thanks to an expansion against the Ottoman Turks late in the previous century, he was also king of Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Transylvania.

After the settlement at Utrecht, the French monarchy viewed Charles VI as its primary rival on the European continent. And, as a counter to France, Charles maintained his family's tie to the British, which included loans and financial debt, while the British and French enjoyed a respite from their traditional hostilities. Both nations had been exhausted by war and were in need of recuperation, and in 1715 both nations had new kings: Louis XV under a regent, and George I in Britain.

But the British remained at odds with Spain, that other Bourbon power. The Spanish were stopping and boarding British ships suspected of trading with their territory in the Americas, the Spanish interrogating British crews and looking for goods such as indigo and cocoa and for Spanish money.

In the years just after the Treaty of Utrecht, conflict was also taking place between the Ottoman Empire and the merchant sea power of Venice. Austria joined the war against the Ottomans. Pope Clement XI tried to help the fight against the Ottomans by paying for the equipping of a Spanish fleet. Instead of using the fleet to fight the Ottomans, Spain used it to win back Sardinia and Sicily.

With financial support from Pope Clement XI and France guaranteeing Austrian possessions in Italy, Austria, under Charles VI, felt ready to intervene and renewed his alliance with Venice, followed by the Ottomans declaring war on Austria. A year later, in mid-1717, the Austrians defeated the Ottomans near Belgrade. In mid-1718, Austria settled with the Ottomans, Charles VI gaining northern Bosnia, Banat, Belgrade, much of Serbia and a part of Walachia (Wallachia). Also in 1718, the British, Dutch and Austria teamed up against Spain's move. So too did the French – Bourbon against Bourbon, the French trying to expand against Spanish territory along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In 1719, Austria sent troops against the Spanish in Sicily. And Britain declared war on Spain and sank the Spanish navy.

Spain felt overwhelmed militarily and sued for peace. With the Treaty of London the major powers solidified the peace they made at Utrecht. Europe's ruling families tried settling their differences. Philip V of Spain finally recognized the loss of the Spanish Netherlands, now ruled by Charles VI. And Charles VI of the Habsburg family gave up interest in returning his family's rule to Spain. He recognized Philip's rule there, while Charles was recognized as ruler over Sicily.

Also in the years between 1718 and 1721, those ruling families that had been involved in the Great Northern War settled their differences. Denmark, Saxony, Brandenburg-Prussia and Russia made a peace of sorts with Sweden. Europe was at peace, for a while.


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