War of the Spanish Succession

War of the Spanish Succession
Philip of Anjou is proclaimed Philip V of Spain
Philip of Anjou is proclaimed Philip V of Spain on 16 November 1700 at Versailles
DateJuly 1701 to August 1714
LocationLow Countries, Italy, Spain and Portugal

The Grand Alliance

Associated allies

The Bourbon Alliance

Commanders and leaders
Casualties and losses
  • Kingdom of France 500,000–600,000[1]
  • Spain Bavaria 100,000+[1]
235,000–400,000 killed in action[1]

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 or Monarchy[c] by either threatened the European balance of power.

Charles left the undivided Spanish monarchy to Louis XIV's grandson Philip who was proclaimed King of Spain on 16 November 1700. Disputes over the separation of the Spanish and French crowns, division of territories 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 Habsburg Emperor Leopold.[d]

By 1710, fighting was deadlocked; Allied victories in Italy and the Low Countries had driven the French back to their borders but they could not achieve a decisive breakthrough while Philip was secure in Spain. When Archduke Charles unexpectedly succeeded as Emperor Charles VI in 1711, Britain effectively withdrew, forcing its Allies to make peace and leading to the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, followed in 1714 with Rastatt and Baden.

Philip was confirmed as King of Spain and, in exchange, renounced the French throne; Spain retained the bulk of its pre-war territories outside Europe, with their European territories divided between Austria, Britain and Savoy. Longer term impacts included Britain's emergence as the leading European maritime and commercial power, the decline of the Dutch Republic as a first-rank power, the creation of a centralised Spanish state and the acceleration of the break-up of the Holy Roman Empire.[2]


Charles II, 1665–1700; last Habsburg King of Spain

In 1665, Charles II became the last male Habsburg King of Spain; suffering from ill-health all his life, his death was anticipated almost from birth and his successor debated for decades.[e]

In 1700, the Spanish Empire included possessions in Italy, the Spanish Netherlands, the Philippines and the Americas; while no longer the dominant power, it proved remarkably resilient and remained largely intact.[3] Acquisition of an undivided Empire by the Habsburgs or Bourbons would change the balance of power and the conflict ultimately involved much of Europe.[f]

It was also the last of Louis XIV's wars to establish defensible borders and French supremacy in Europe, the most recent being the 1688–1697 Nine Years' War when France was unable to defeat the Grand Alliance. The 1697 Treaty of Ryswick was driven by mutual exhaustion and the recognition France needed allies for a war over the Succession. Emperor Leopold initially refused to sign the Treaty since it left this issue unresolved; he reluctantly did so in October 1697 but most viewed Ryswick as a pause in hostilities.[4]

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