The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) was a European conflict of the early 18th century, triggered by the death of the childless Charles II of Spain in November 1700. His closest heirs were members of the Austrian Habsburg and French Bourbon families; acquisition of an undivided Spanish Empire by either threatened the European balance of power and thus involved the other leading powers. Related conflicts include Rákóczi's War of Independence in Hungary, the Camisard revolt in Southern France, Queen Anne's War in North America, and minor struggles in Colonial India. The 1700-1721 Great Northern War is viewed as connected but separate.
Charles bequeathed an undivided Monarchy of Spain[b] to Louis XIV's grandson Philip, who was proclaimed King of Spain on 16 November 1700. Disputes over territorial and commercial rights led to war in 1701 between the Bourbons of France and Spain and the Grand Alliance, whose candidate was Archduke Charles, younger son of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor.[c]
By the end of 1706, the French had been forced back to their borders but the Allies could not break their lines, while lack of popular support in Spain meant they could not hold territory outside Catalonia. When his brother Emperor Joseph I died in 1711, Charles succeeded as Emperor; since the war was fought to prevent union of Spain with either Austria or France, the new British government now sought to end. Dependence on British subsidies forced their allies to agree the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, then the 1714 treaties of Rastatt and Baden.
Philip was recognised as king of Spain, but renounced his right to the French throne, for himself and his descendants; Spain retained the bulk of its possessions outside Europe, but lost territories in Italy and the Netherlands to Austria and Savoy. The Dutch regained their Barrier, France acknowledged the Protestant succession in Britain and ended support for the Jacobites. Longer term, the war marked Britain's rise as the leading European maritime and commercial power, and the decline of the Dutch Republic as a first-rank power. It also led to the creation of a centralised Spanish state, the weakening of Habsburg control over the Holy Roman Empire, and the rise of Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony.
In 1665 Charles II became the King of Spain; suffering from ill-health all his life, his death was anticipated almost from birth. It soon became apparent that the Spanish Habsburg line would die with him. As a result, his succession was hotly debated for decades. In 1670, England agreed to support the rights of Louis XIV to the Spanish throne in the Treaty of Dover, while the terms of the 1688 Grand Alliance committed England and the Dutch Republic to back Leopold.
In 1700, the Spanish Empire included possessions in Italy, the Spanish Netherlands, the Philippines and the Americas and though no longer the dominant great power, it remained largely intact. Its acquisition by either the Austrian Habsburgs or French Bourbons would change the balance of power in Europe, and so its inheritance led to a war that involved most of the European powers. The 1700-1721 Great Northern War is considered a connected conflict, since it impacted the involvement of states such as Sweden, Saxony, Denmark-Norway and Russia.
During the 1688-1697 Nine Years' War, armies grew from an average of 25,000 in 1648 to over 100,000 by 1697, a level unsustainable for pre-industrial economies. The 1690s also marked the lowest point of the Little Ice Age, a period of colder and wetter weather that drastically reduced crop yields across Europe. It is estimated the Great Famine of 1695-1697 killed 15-25% of the population in present-day Scotland, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway and Sweden, plus another two million in France and Northern Italy.
The 1697 Treaty of Ryswick was the result of mutual exhaustion and an acceptance by Louis France could not achieve its objectives without allies. Since it left the Succession unresolved, Leopold signed with extreme reluctance in October 1697 and with Charles' health now clearly failing, it was seen only as a pause in hostilities.
Potential heirs to Charles II of Spain
Unlike France or Austria, the Crown of Spain could be inherited through the female line. This allowed Charles' sisters Maria Theresa (1638-1683) and Margaret Theresa (1651-1673) to pass their rights as rulers onto the children of their respective marriages with Louis XIV and Emperor Leopold.
Despite being opponents in the recent Nine Years' War, Louis XIV and William III of England now attempted to resolve the Succession by diplomacy. In 1685, Maria Antonia (1669-1692), daughter of Leopold and Margaret, married Maximillian Emanuel of Bavaria and they had a son, Joseph Ferdinand. The 1698 Treaty of the Hague or First Partition Treaty between France, Britain [d] and the Dutch Republic made the six year old heir to the bulk of the Spanish Monarchy and divided its European territories between France and Austria.
The Spanish refused to accept the division of their Empire and on 14 November 1698, Charles published his Will, making Joseph Ferdinand heir to an independent and undivided Spanish monarchy. His death in February 1699 required a new solution, which was provided by his mother Maria Antonia, who in 1685 had transferred her claim to the Spanish throne to Leopold's sons, Joseph and Archduke Charles.
Her right to do so was doubtful but it was used to devise the 1700 Treaty of London; this made Archduke Charles the new heir, with Spanish possessions in Europe split between France, Savoy and Austria. Leopold objected to concessions in Italy, while Spain again refused to divide their empire; neither ratified the Treaty, making it largely pointless. By early October, Charles II was clearly near death; the final version of his will left the throne to Louis' grandson Philip, Duke of Anjou. If Philip refused, his younger brother, the duc de Berry was next, followed by Archduke Charles.
Charles died on 1 November 1700 and Louis received the offer on 9 November, giving him the choice of accepting or following the Treaty of London. The latter meant giving the Spanish throne to Archduke Charles, but if Leopold continued to refuse to agree terms, Louis could demand Britain and the Dutch join him in enforcing the Treaty. However, his diplomats advised Austria would fight regardless, while Britain and the Dutch would not go to war to enforce a settlement whose purpose was to avoid war. On 16 November, Philip of Anjou was proclaimed Philip V of Spain.
With most of his objectives achieved by diplomacy, Louis now made a series of moves that combined to make war inevitable. The Tory majority in the English Parliament objected to the Partition Treaties, chiefly the French acquisition of Sicily, an important link in the lucrative Levant trade. However, a foreign diplomat observed their refusal to become involved in a European war was true 'only so long as English commerce does not suffer.' Louis either failed to appreciate this or decided to ignore it and his actions gradually eroded Tory opposition.
In early 1701, Louis registered Philip's claim to the French throne with the Paris Parlement, raising the possibility of union with Spain, contrary to Charles' will. In February, the Spanish-controlled Duchies of Milan and Mantua in Northern Italy announced their support for Philip and accepted French troops. Combined with efforts to build an alliance between France and Imperial German states in Swabia and Franconia, these were challenges Leopold could not ignore.
Helped by the Viceroy, Max Emanuel of Bavaria, French troops replaced Dutch garrisons in the 'Barrier' fortresses in the Spanish Netherlands, granted at Ryswick. It also threatened the monopoly over the Scheldt granted by the 1648 Peace of Münster, while French control of Antwerp and Ostend would allow them to blockade the English Channel at will. Combined with other French actions that threatened English trade, this produced a clear majority for war and in May 1701, Parliament urged William to negotiate an anti-French alliance.
On 7 September, Leopold, the Dutch Republic and Britain[e] signed the Treaty of The Hague renewing the 1689 Grand Alliance. Its provisions included securing the Dutch Barrier in the Spanish Netherlands, the Protestant succession in England and Scotland and an independent Spain but made no reference to placing Archduke Charles on the Spanish throne.
When the exiled James II of England died on 16 September 1701, Louis reneged on his recognition of the Protestant William III as king of England and Scotland and supported the claim his son, James Francis Edward Stuart. War became inevitable and when William himself died in March 1702, his successor Queen Anne confirmed her support for the Treaty of the Hague. The Dutch did the same and on 15 May the Grand Alliance declared war on France, followed by the Imperial Diet on 30 September.
The importance of trade and economic interests to the participants is often under estimated; contemporaries viewed Dutch and English support for the Habsburg cause as primarily driven by a desire for access to the Spanish American markets. Modern economists generally assume a constantly growing market, but the then dominant theory of Mercantilism viewed it as relatively static. Increasing your share implied taking it from someone else, the government's role being to restrict foreign competition by attacking merchant ships and colonies.
That expanded the war to North America, India and other parts of Asia, with tariffs used as a policy weapon. From 1690 to 1704, English import duties on foreign goods increased by 400%, and the 1651-1663 Navigation Acts were a major factor in the Anglo-Dutch Wars. On 6 September 1700, France banned the import of English manufactured goods like cloth and imposed prohibitive duties on a wide range of others.
Armies of the Nine Years' War often exceeded 100,000 men, levels unsustainable for pre-industrial economies; those of 1701-1714 averaged around 35,000 to 50,000. Dependence on water-borne transport for supplying these numbers meant campaigns were focused on rivers like the Rhine or Adda, which limited operations in poor areas like Northern Spain. Better logistics, unified command and simpler internal lines of communication gave Bourbon armies an advantage over their opponents.
Alignment on reducing the power of France and securing the Protestant succession for the British throne masked differences on how to achieve them. In general, the Tories favoured a mercantilist strategy of using the Royal Navy to attack French and Spanish trade while protecting and expanding their own; land commitments were viewed as expensive and primarily of benefit to others. The Whigs argued France could not be defeated by seapower alone, making a Continental strategy essential, while Britain's financial strength made it the only member of the Alliance able to operate on all fronts against France.
While Marlborough was Allied commander in the Low Countries, the Dutch provided much of the manpower and in the early years of the war, making strategy in that theatre subject to their approval. Their priorities were to re-establish and strengthen the Barrier fortresses, retain control of the Scheldt estuary and gain access to trade in the Spanish Empire.
Despite being the dominant power within the Holy Roman Empire, Austrian and Imperial interests did not always coincide. The Habsburgs wanted to put Archduke Charles on the throne of an undivided Spanish Monarchy, while their Allies were fighting to prevent either the Bourbons or the Habsburgs from doing so. This divergence and Austria's financial collapse in 1703 meant the campaign in Spain was reliant on Anglo-Dutch naval support and after 1706, English funding. Particularly during the reign of Joseph I, the priority for the Habsburgs was to secure their southern borders from French interventions in northern Italy and suppress Rákóczi's War of Independence in Hungary.
Many of the minor German states remained neutral, limiting their involvement to the supply of mercenaries, while the larger ones pursued their own policies. His claim to the Polish crown meant Augustus of Saxony focused on the Great Northern War, while Bavaria was allied with France. To ensure his support, Leopold was forced to recognise Frederick of Prussia as King and make Prussia an equal member of the Grand Alliance. As heir to the British throne, George, Elector Hanover was more reliable but the suspicion remained the interests of Hanover came first.
Under Louis XIV, France was the most powerful state in Europe with revenue-generating capacities that far exceeded its rivals. Its geographical position provided enormous tactical flexibility; unlike Austria it had its own navy, and as the campaigns of 1708-1710 proved, even under severe pressure it could defend its borders. The Nine Years' War had shown France could not impose its objectives without support but the alliance with Spain and Bavaria made a successful outcome far more likely. Apart from denying an undivided Spanish Monarchy to others, Louis' objectives were to secure his borders with Germany, weaken Austria and increase French commercial strength by access to the Americas trade.
Their key objective was as far as possible to preserve an undivided and independent Monarchy. During the 17th century, a series of wars with France drained military and financial resources, with the economy subject to long periods of low productivity and depression. The Spanish monarchy was a personal union of the Crowns of Castile and Aragon, [f] each with very different political cultures. Weak central control, war and a depressed economy meant government finances were in perpetual crisis.
During the Nine Years' War, Savoy joined the Grand Alliance in 1690 before agreeing a separate peace with France in 1696. The Duchy was strategically important as it provided access to the southern borders of Austria and France. Philip's accession as King of Spain in 1701 placed Savoy between the Spanish-ruled Duchy of Milan and France, while the Savoyard County of Nice and County of Savoy were in Transalpine France and very difficult to defend.
Victor Amadeus II allied with France in 1701 but his long-term goal was the acquisition of Milan; neither France, Austria or Spain would relinquish this voluntarily, leaving Britain as the only power that could. After the Royal Navy established control over the Western Mediterranean in 1703, Savoy changed sides.
The war in Italy primarily involved the Spanish-ruled Duchies of Milan and Mantua, considered essential to the security of Austria's southern borders. In 1701, French troops occupied both cities and Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy, allied with France, his daughter Maria Luisa marrying Philip V. In May 1701, an Imperial army under Prince Eugene of Savoy moved into Northern Italy; by February 1702, victories at Carpi, Chiari and Cremona forced the French behind the Adda river.
Vendôme, one of the best French generals, took command and was substantially reinforced; Prince Eugene managed a draw at the Battle of Luzzara but the French recovered most of the territory lost the year before. In October 1703, Victor Amadeus declared war on France; by May 1706, the French held most of Savoy except Turin while victories at Cassano and Calcinato forced the Imperialists into the Trentino valley.
However, in July 1706 Vendôme and any available forces were sent to reinforce France's northern frontier after the defeat at Ramillies. Reinforced by German auxiliaries, Prince Eugene marched on Turin and the siege was broken by the Battle of Turin on 7 September. Despite a minor French victory at Castiglione, the war in Italy was over; the Convention of Milan in March 1707 confirmed Austria's control of Milan and Mantua, with French troops given free passage back to France for redeployment elsewhere.
An attack by forces from Italy on the French base of Toulon was planned for 1707 but was postponed when 10,000 Imperial troops were diverted in June to seize the Spanish Bourbon Kingdom of Naples. These delays contributed to the failure to take Toulon; by the end of 1707, fighting in Italy ceased apart from attempts by Victor Amadeus to recover his trans-Alpine territories of Nice and Savoy.
The first objective for the Grand Alliance in this theatre was to secure the Dutch frontiers, threatened by the alliance between France, Bavaria and Joseph Clemens of Bavaria, ruler of Liège and Cologne. During 1702, the Barrier fortresses were retaken along with Kaiserswerth, Venlo, Roermond and Liège. The 1703 campaign was marred by Allied conflicts over strategy; they failed to take Antwerp, while the Dutch defeat at Ekeren in June led to bitter recriminations.
On the Upper Rhine, Imperial forces under Louis of Baden remained on the defensive, although they took Landau in 1702. Over the course of 1703, French victories at Friedlingen, Höchstädt and Speyerbach with the capture of Kehl, Breisach and Landau directly threatened Vienna.
In 1704, Franco-Bavarian forces continued their advance with the Austrians struggling to suppress Rákóczi's revolt in Hungary. To relieve the pressure, Marlborough marched up the Rhine, joined forces with Louis of Baden and Prince Eugene and crossed the Danube on 2 July. Allied victory at Blenheim on 13 August forced Bavaria out of the war and the Treaty of Ilbersheim placed it under Austrian rule.
Allied efforts to exploit their victory in 1705 foundered on poor co-ordination, tactical disputes and command rivalries, while Leopold's ruthless rule in Bavaria caused a brief but vicious peasant revolt. In May 1706, an Allied force under Marlborough shattered a French army at the Battle of Ramillies and the Spanish Netherlands fell to the Allies in under two weeks. France assumed a defensive posture for the rest of the war; despite the loss of strongpoints like Lille, they prevented the Allies making a decisive breach in their frontiers. By 1712, the overall position remained largely unchanged from 1706.
Victory in Spain was vital if Archduke Charles were to win the throne but the Habsburgs viewed Northern Italy and suppressing the Hungarian revolt as higher priorities. Anglo-Dutch involvement was driven by the mercantilist strategy of securing trade in the Mediterranean and gaining commercial access to the Spanish Empire. This made Spain more important to the Dutch and English than Austria and dependent on their support, a conflict that was never really solved.
Spain was a union between the Crowns of Castile and Aragon, [g] with Aragon then divided into the Principality of Catalonia plus the Kingdoms of Aragon, Valencia, Majorca, Sicily, Naples and Sardinia. Majorca, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia declared for Philip in 1701; a mixture of anti-Castilian and anti-French sentiment meant Catalonia, most of Aragon and Valencia supported Archduke Charles but this simplifies a very complex reality.
Anglo-Dutch strategy required a naval base in the area; although an attack on Cádiz in September 1702 failed, their victory at Vigo Bay in October persuaded Peter II of Portugal to switch sides. In March 1704, Archduke Charles arrived in Lisbon to begin a land campaign, while the British capture of Gibraltar was a significant blow to Bourbon prestige. Attempts to retake it were defeated at Málaga in August, with a land siege being abandoned in April 1705.
In June 1705, the 'Pact of Genoa' between Catalan representatives and England opened a second front in the north-east; the loss of Barcelona and Valencia left Toulon as the only major port available to the Bourbons in the Western Mediterranean. Philip tried to retake Barcelona in May 1706 but was repulsed, his absence allowing an Allied force from Portugal to enter Madrid and Zaragossa.
However, the Allies withdrew due to lack of popular support and by November, Philip controlled Castile, Murcia and parts of Valencia. Allied efforts to regain the initiative in 1707 ended with defeat at Almansa in April and Toulon in August. The capture of Menorca in 1708 and their possession of Gibraltar gave the British control of the Western Mediterranean. This meant by the end of 1708, British objectives had largely been achieved, Portugal and the Dutch Republic were financially exhausted while Austria refused to commit significant resources to Spain.
The close links between war and trade meant conflict extended beyond Europe, particularly in North America, where it is known as Queen Anne's War, and the West Indies, which produced sugar, then hugely profitable. In addition, there were minor trade conflicts in South America, India and Asia; the financial strains of war particularly affected the Dutch East India Company, as it was a huge drain on scarce naval resources.
Related conflicts include Rákóczi's War of Independence in Hungary, which was funded by France and a serious concern for the Habsburgs throughout the war. In South-Eastern France, Britain funded the Huguenot 1704-1710 Camisard rebellion; one objective of the 1707 campaign in Northern Italy and Southern France was to support this revolt, one of a series that began in the 1620s.
By the end of 1708, the war had reached stalemate; the French had withdrawn from Northern Italy, with Austria gaining the Spanish possessions of Milan and Naples. In the Low Countries, Ramillies and Oudenarde gave the Maritime Powers control of the Spanish Netherlands and secured the borders of the Dutch Republic; in the Mediterranean, Britain's Royal Navy had achieved naval supremacy and permanent bases in Gibraltar and Menorca.
However, France's frontiers remained largely intact while the Grand Alliance had been unable to make any lasting progress in Spain, where Philip proved to be far more popular with the Spanish than the Austrian candidate Archduke Charles. Many of the objectives originally set out by the Grand Alliance in 1701 had been achieved but the victories of 1706 made them overconfident, resulting in the continuation of a war most participants wanted to end but could not.
France opened talks with the Dutch in 1705, viewing them as the most likely to favour a quick end to the war; Ramillies increased that by removing the direct military threat to the Dutch Republic and highlighting Allied differences on the Spanish Netherlands. Talks made little progress since the Allies agreed to negotiate jointly, not separately, and could not agree on terms. The severe winter of 1708 caused widespread crop failures and famine, exacerbated in France and Spain by a British naval blockade. The French reopened talks and in May 1709, and the Allies presented terms known as the Preliminaries of Hague: Philip was required to cede his throne to Archduke Charles without compensation and France assist in his removal by force if that was not done within two months.
That assumed Philip would abdicate on request and the Spanish accept Archduke Charles and seriously underestimated France's ability to resist. Louis was willing to abandon Spain but not to make war on his own grandson; when the proposal became public, the demand was considered so offensive that it strengthened French resolve to fight on. Marlborough now launched an offensive in Northern France which led to the Battle of Malplaquet on 11 September 1709 between an Allied army of 86,000 and a French of 75,000. Victory cost the Allies over 20,000 casualties, demonstrated the fighting ability of the French army remained intact and increased war-weariness both in Britain and the Dutch Republic, who suffered heavy losses. This was compounded by the Bourbon recapture of Alicante in April and the defeat of an Anglo-Portuguese force at the Battle of La Gudina in May.
The Allies no longer shared common objectives, as was highlighted by Dutch exclusion from an agreement between Britain and Archduke Charles for trading rights in Spanish America. The British government tried to compensate with the 1709 Barrier Treaty, giving the Dutch control of the Spanish Netherlands, but that was opposed domestically as being detrimental to British commerce. The Whigs had won the 1708 British general election by arguing military victory was the quickest road to peace, but failure in France was followed by the same in Spain. Archduke Charles re-entered Madrid in 1710 after victories in the Battle of Almenar and Battle of Saragossa but lack of supplies forced him to retreat; 3,500 British troops surrendered at the Battle of Brihuega on 8 December and while the Battle of Villaviciosa on 10 December was a tactical draw, it confirmed Bourbon control of Spain and the failure of Whig policy.
Negotiations resumed in March 1710 at Geertruidenberg but broke down over the insistence for France to expel Philip by force if he refused to abdicate. The pro-peace Tories won a landslide victory in the 1710 British general election, but they confirmed commitment to the war to prevent a credit crisis. Despite the capture of Bouchain in September, a decisive victory in Northern France continued to elude the Allies, and an expedition against Quebec in French North America ended in disaster.
When Emperor Joseph died in April 1711, Archduke Charles was elected Emperor; continuing the war now seemed pointless since union of Spain with Austria was as unwelcome as one with France. The British secretly negotiated peace terms directly with France, leading to the signing of the Preliminary Articles of London on 8 October 1711.[h] They included French acceptance of the Act of Settlement and a guarantee the French and Spanish crowns would remain separate; France undertook to ensure Spain ceded Gibraltar and Menorca and award the Asiento to Britain for 30 years.
Despite their annoyance at being excluded from the Anglo-French negotiations, the Dutch were financially exhausted by the enormous cost of the war and could not continue without British support. Charles VI rejected the idea of a peace conference; once the Dutch agreed to support it, he reluctantly agreed to avoid being isolated, but Habsburg opposition to the treaty continued.
Within weeks of the conference opening, events threatened the basis of the peace agreed between Britain and France. First, the French presented proposals awarding the Spanish Netherlands to Max Emmanuel of Bavaria and a minimal Barrier, leaving the Dutch with little to show for their huge investment of money and men. Second, a series of deaths left Louis XIV's two year old great-grandson, the future Louis XV as heir, making Philip next in line and his immediate renunciation imperative.
The Dutch and Austrians fought on, hoping to improve their negotiating position but the British government issued 'Restraining Orders' to Marlborough's replacement, the Duke of Ormonde, instructing him not to participate in offensive operations against the French. These caused fury then and later with prominent Whigs urging the Hanoverian envoy in London to support military intervention by the future George I.[i]
Prince Eugene captured Le Quesnoy in June and besieged Landrecies but was defeated at Denain on 24 July; the French went on to recapture Le Quesnoy and many towns lost in previous years, including Marchines, Douai and Bouchain. The Dutch had finally reached the end of their willingness and ability to continue the war.
On 6 June, Philip had announced his renunciation of the French throne; the British Tory government now offered the Dutch a revised Barrier Treaty, replacing that of 1709 which they rejected as overly generous. It was a significant improvement on the 1697 Barrier but ultimately subject to Austrian approval and the final terms were less beneficial.
Charles withdrew from the Conference when France insisted on an Austrian guarantee they would not seek to acquire Mantua or Mirandola; he was supported in this by George, Elector of Hanover, who wanted France to withdraw support for the Stuart heir James Francis. As a result, neither Austria or the Empire signed the Treaty of Utrecht of 11 April 1713 between France and the other Allies; Spain made peace with the Dutch in June, then Savoy and Britain on 13 July 1713.
Fighting continued on the Rhine, but Austria was financially exhausted, and after the loss of Landau and Freiburg in November 1713, Charles came to terms. The Treaty of Rastatt on 7 March 1714 confirmed Austrian gains in Italy, returned Breisach, Kehl and Freiburg, ended French support for the Hungarian revolt and agreed terms for the Dutch Barrier fortresses. Charles abandoned his claim to Strasbourg and Alsace and agreed to the restoration of the Wittelsbach Electors of Bavaria and Cologne, Max Emmanuel and Joseph Clemens. Article XIX of the treaty transferred sovereignty over the Spanish Netherlands to Austria. On 7 September, the Holy Roman Empire joined the agreement by the Treaty of Baden; although Catalonia and Majorca were not finally subdued by the Bourbons until June 1715, the war was over.
The Peace of Utrecht stipulated that "because of the great danger which threatened the liberty and safety of all Europe, from the too close conjunction of the kingdoms of Spain and France,... one and the same person should never become King of both kingdoms." Some historians view that as a key point in the evolution of the modern nation-state, and Randall Lesaffer argues it also marks a significant milestone in the concept of collective security.
Britain is usually seen as the main beneficiary, with Utrecht marking its rise to primacy as a European commercial power. It established naval superiority over its competitors, acquired the strategic Mediterranean ports of Gibraltar and Menorca and commercial access to Spanish America. France accepted the Protestant succession, ensuring a smooth inheritance by George I in August 1714, and ended support for the Stuarts under the 1716 Anglo-French Treaty. The war left the participants with unprecedented levels of government debt, but only Britain financed it.
Philip was confirmed as King of Spain, which retained its independence and the majority of its empire, but ceded the Spanish Netherlands and most of their Italian possessions. The 1707 Nueva Planta decrees transferred powers to Madrid and largely abolished regional political structures.[j] Those reforms enabled Spain to recover remarkably quickly.
Despite its failure in Spain, Austria secured its position in Italy and Hungary and acquired the bulk of the Spanish Netherlands. Even after reimbursing the Dutch for most of the expenses associated with their Barrier, the increased tax revenues helped fund a significant expansion of Austrian military forces. The acquisition of maritime territories in the Netherlands and Italy increased the potential for conflict in an area that Austria had traditionally relied on others, and Spain recaptured Sicily and Naples during the War of the Polish Succession in 1734.
Victory in the Austro-Turkish War of 1716-18 continued the trend of Habsburg focus shifting away from Germany and into Southeastern Europe. Their hold over their empire weakened, with Bavaria, Hanover, Prussia and Saxony increasingly acting as independent powers. In 1742, Charles of Bavaria became the first non-Habsburg Emperor in over 300 years.
Historian Robert A. Kann argues Austria's failure to benefit from all of its investment in the war was caused by Charles VI's stubbornness and dynastic pride. Ensuring his daughter's succession in preference to his niece by the 1713 Pragmatic Sanction drew Austria into peripheral conflicts like the 1733-1735 War of the Polish Succession, but most of the actual fighting took place on Austrian territory.
The Dutch Republic ended the war effectively bankrupt, and the 1715 Barrier Treaty, which had cost so much, proved largely illusory. The forts were quickly overrun in 1740, Britain's promise of military support against an aggressor proving to be far more effective. The damage suffered by the Dutch merchant navy permanently affected their commercial and political strength, and it was superseded by Britain as the pre-eminent European mercantile power.
Louis XIV died on 1 September 1715, his five-year-old great-grandson reigning as Louis XV until 1774; on his deathbed, he is alleged to have admitted, "I have loved war too well". True or not, while the final settlement was far more favourable than the Allied offer of 1709, it is hard to see what Louis gained that had not already been achieved through diplomacy by February 1701. France remained strong but could not maintain its former dominance, particularly in relation to Britain; concern over the relative decline in military and economic terms was an underlying cause of the War of the Austrian Succession.
Wider implications include the rise of Prussia and Savoy while many of the participants were involved in the 1700-1721 Great Northern War, with Russia becoming a European power for the first time as a result. Finally, while colonial conflicts were relatively minor and largely confined to the North American theatre, the so-called Queen Anne's War, they were to become a key element in future wars.