Coalitions and Wars to 1721 | Frederick William of Brandenburg-Prussia | 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
Of no small concern among the major European powers in the early 1700s was their power relative to each other, and in 1702 Great Britain was alarmed at the prospect of the grandson of the King of France, Louis XIV, inheriting the Spanish throne. Great Britain, the United Netherlands, 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 United Netherlands.
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 – which had intermarried with the Bourbons – and now the Treaty of Utrecht left these lands with the Habsburgs, who were ruling from Vienna, in Austria. 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 to Vittorio (Victor) Amadeus of the House of Savoy – which won international recognition as royalty. (The Hohenzollern family, which ruled Brandenburg-Prussia, was also given international recognition as royalty.) The treaty took the island of Gibraltar from Spain and gave it to the British. And the treaty also gave the British territory in the Americas that had belonged to the French: Hudson Bay territory, Newfoundland and that part of Acadia that the British called Nova Scotia.
Meanwhile, in 1711, a Habsburg prince in Spain, Charles, had inherited Habsburg lands and also had become ruler of the Holy Roman Empire -- by now little more than a titular position. Prince Charles was now Charles VI. With the Spanish throne passing to a Bourbon, he moved to Vienna, but he looked forward to the Habsburgs returning to power in Spain and all Habsburg lands remaining united under one king.
From Austria, Charles ruled more territory than any other monarch in Europe. He 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 viewed Austria as their nation's 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 that other Bourbon power: Spain. 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 taking place also between the Ottoman Empire and Venice. Austria joined the war against the Ottomans, and, to help the Christians against the Ottomans, Pope Clement XI equipped a Spanish fleet. Spain, instead, used the fleet to win back Sardinia and Sicily. The Austrians defeated the Ottomans near Belgrade. In mid-1718, Austria settled with the Ottomans and gained 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. Philip V of Spain finally recognized the loss of the Spanish Netherlands to the Habsburgs of Austria. Charles VI recognized the succession of Philip to what he had thought should be his rule in Spain. Charles was recognized as ruler over Sicily, and Vittorio (Victor) Amadeus of the House of Savoy, who had ruled Sicily, was instead given rule over Sardinia.
Also in the years between 1718 and 1721, those powers 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 awhile.
Copyright © 2000-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.