Huis ter Nieuwburg, location for the negotiations
|Context||End of the 1689-1697 Nine Years War|
|Signed||20 September 1697|
The Peace of Ryswick (or Rijswijk) was a series of treaties signed in the Dutch city of Rijswijk between 20 September and 30 October 1697, ending the Nine Years' War (1689-97) between France and the Grand Alliance, which included England, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Dutch Republic.[b]
The Nine Years' War had been financially crippling for its participants, primarily because armies increased in size from an average of 25,000 in 1648 to over 100,000 by 1697.[c] This was unsustainable for pre-industrial economies; military spending in this period absorbed 80% of English government revenues, with one in seven adult males serving in the army or navy, with similar figures for other combatants.
All sides were eager to end the war but finding a way of doing so proved difficult. Louis XIV sought to divide the Grand Alliance by persuading individual members to agree to a separate peace, a tactic that had previously proved very successful. In 1693, French diplomats initiated informal talks with the Duchy of Savoy and the Dutch Republic.
In August 1696, Savoy left the Alliance and signed the Treaty of Turin with France while the Convention of Vigevano of 7 October declared a general truce in Italy.[d] Louis now agreed to restore Luxembourg to Spain and recognise William III as King of England, clearing the way to finalise terms. Formal negotiations were held in the Huis ter Nieuwburg at Ryswick, mediated by Swedish diplomat and soldier Niels Baron of Lilliënrot.
By 1696, it was clear that Charles II of Spain would die childless while his health was in terminal decline. Although no longer the dominant global power, the Spanish Empire remained powerful and largely intact, with territories in Italy, the Spanish Netherlands, the Philippines and large areas of the Americas. The nearest claimants were from the Austrian House of Habsburg and the French House of Bourbon, making the question of Charles' successor hugely significant.
Emperor Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire wanted this issue addressed in the Peace; without it, he would only agree to a ceasefire and he persuaded the Spanish to support him.[e] In response, William and Louis appointed the Earl of Portland and Marshal Louis-François de Boufflers as their personal representatives; they met privately outside Brussels in June 1697 and quickly finalised terms, at which point Spain also agreed. However, with the issue of Charles' successor unresolved, all sides accepted the likelihood of another war and began preparing for it.
One of the most important issues was control of the French-occupied Spanish Duchy of Luxemburg, then considerably larger than it is today and essential to Dutch border security. Others were Strasbourg, strategic key to French possessions in Alsace-Lorraine and French recognition of William III as monarch of England and Scotland, rather than James II.
During negotiations, the enormous financial costs of the war and military stalemate in Europe meant an increased focus on commercial issues and the colonial periphery. In early 1697, a French fleet arrived in the Caribbean, threatening the annual Spanish treasure fleet and British possessions like Jamaica. In North America, or King William's War, Britain took Nova Scotia but under Count Frontenac, the French repulsed attacks on Quebec, captured York Factory and caused substantial damage to the New England economy.
The final agreement restored the position to that of the 1679 Treaty of Nijmegen; France kept Strasbourg but returned Freiburg, Breisach, Philippsburg and the Duchy of Lorraine to the Holy Roman Empire. The French evacuated Catalonia, the Duchy of Luxembourg, Mons and Kortrijk in the Spanish Netherlands, while the Dutch placed garrisons in Namur and Ypres. Louis recognised William as King, withdrew support from James and abandoned claims to the Electorate of Cologne and the Electoral Palatinate. In North America, British and French positions were returned to pre-war boundaries, while Spain ceded Tortuga and Saint-Domingue to France, while the Dutch handed back Pondichéry in India.
The Peace consisted of a number of separate agreements; on 20 September 1697, France signed Treaties of Peace with Spain and England, a Ceasefire with the Holy Roman Empire and on 21 September a Treaty of Peace and Commerce with the Dutch Republic. It also confirmed the provisions of the Treaty of Turin, although technically these were not part of the Peace.
At this point, Charles II of Spain fell seriously ill, making Leopold reluctant to sign; one frustrated negotiator stated that 'it would be a shorter way to knock him on the head downright, rather than all Europe be kept in suspense.' On 9 October, the Dutch signed an additional Article agreeing to leave the Alliance if Leopold did not also sign a Peace Treaty before 1 November; Charles now rallied once more and he reluctantly did so on 30 October.
The Nine Years' War had shown France needed allies and Louis adopted a dual-track approach of a diplomatic offensive to seek support while keeping the French Army on a war footing.[f] Louis was concerned by the increase in Habsburg power and confidence following victories over the Ottomans at Vienna in 1683 and Zenta in September 1697; however, the growing independence of German states like Bavaria also provided opportunities.
For Britain, France's acceptance of the 1688 Glorious Revolution marked a turning point in its rise as a global power. English mercantile interests had largely focused on the Levant trade but now began to challenge Spanish and Portuguese dominance of the Americas. However, the Tory majority in Parliament was determined to reduce costs and by 1699, the English military had been cut to less than 7,000 men. This seriously undermined William's ability to negotiate on equal terms with France and despite his intense mistrust, he co-operated with Louis in an attempt to agree a diplomatic solution to the Succession. The Partition Treaties of The Hague (1698) and London (1700) ultimately failed to prevent the outbreak of war in 1702 but this was arguably the result of Louis' miscalculations.
The Dutch Republic ended the Nine Years' War with huge debts, forcing them to reduce expenditure on the navy and further weakening their economy. This and the huge additional investment required to win the 1701-1714 War of the Spanish Succession would bring the Dutch Golden Age to an end.