Week 21: Wednesday, July 29, 2015
War of the Spanish Succession
Subjects for tonight:
1. The general crisis of the Seventeenth Century that leads us towards the year 1700.
2. The economic crisis (Hobsbawm) and the crisis of court and country (Hugh Trevor-Roper).
3. The international crisis that leads to 1700 and the War of the Spanish Succession.
4. The idea of Balance of Power (Bernardo Rucellai, Florence, 1475).
When Charles II died in 1700, the line of the Spanish Habsburgs died with him. He had named as his successor a grand-nephew, Philip, Duke of Anjou (a grandson of the reigning French king Louis XIV, and of Charles’ half-sister, Maria Theresa of Spainâ€”Louis XIV himself was an heir to the Spanish throne through his mother, daughter of Philip III of Spain). As alternate successor he had named his blood cousin Charles. The spectre of the multi-continental empire of Spain passing under the effective control of Louis XIV provoked a massive coalition of powers to oppose the Duke of Anjou’s succession. The actions of Louis heightened the fears of, among others, the English, the Dutch and the Austrians. In February 1701, the French King caused the Parlement of Paris (a court) to register a decree that should Louis, Grand Dauphin (King Louis’s eldest son) himself have no heir, the Duke of Anjou would surrender the Spanish throne for that of the French, ensuring dynastic continuity in Europe’s greatest land power. However, a second act of the French King “justified a hostile interpretation”: pursuant to a treaty with Spain, Louis occupied several towns in the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium and Nord-Pas-de-Calais). This was the spark that ignited the powder keg created by the unresolved issues of the War of the League of Augsburg (1688â€“97) and the acceptance of the Spanish inheritance by Louis XIV for his grandson. Almost immediately the War of the Spanish Succession (1701â€“1714) began. After thirteen years of bloody, global warfare, fought on four continents and three oceans, the Duc d’Anjou, as Philip V, was confirmed as King of Spain on substantially the same terms that the powers of Europe had agreed to before the war. Thus the Treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt ended the war and “achieved little more than…diplomacy might have peacefully achieved in 1701.” A proviso of the peace perpetually forbade the union of the Spanish and French thrones. The House of Bourbon, founded by Philip V, has intermittently occupied the Spanish throne ever since, and sits today on the throne of Spain in the person of Juan Carlos I of Spain (1975â€“present).
Mark Williams, Chapter Seven: “The French Century”
The Story of Spain: The Dramatic History of Europe’s Most Fascinating Country