The War of the Spanish Succession


The Battle of Vigo Bay in 1701

War of the Spanish Succession (1701 – 1714)
This major conflict raged for 13 years at the beginning of the century and contained two of the three largest battles fought anywhere in the world in the 18th Century – Oudenarde in 1708 and Malpauquet in 1709, both of which had about 160,000 combatants.

Great Britain was a major player, Winston Churchill’s ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, commanded the Allied armies at both Oudenarde and Malpauquet and many British troops took part. The Act of Union in 1707 occurred during the war and at the outset England and Scotland were listed as separate combatants. It was mostly fought in western Europe but had a North American theatre with small detachments of British and French regular troops with colonial militia and Native American allies; Iroquois in the case of the British and Wakaniki in the French case. This was a small-scale war in the wildernesses for control of key towns and forts, known also as Queen Anne’s war.
Conflict arose when Charles II, the last Hapsburg King of Spain died childless in 1700, having left his throne to his grandnephew Philip, Duc d’Anjou, the second eldest grandson of King Louis XIV of France. Other great powers were alarmed by the extension of French power into Spain and formed a Grand Alliance to press the claim of a Hapsburg candidate – Austrian Archduke Charles.

Spain divided along tribal lines, with Castille, including Madrid, supporting the Bourbon Anjou and Aragon (Catalonia) supporting the Hapsburg Charles. Two opposing alliances formed – France, Bavaria, Naples, Sicily and Mantua supported the Bourbon candidate whilst Austria, Britain, Dutch Republic, Prussia, Portugal, Savoy and Hanover supported the Hapsburg claimant, known as the Grand Alliance.

At the battle of Vigo Bay in 1701, a British / Dutch fleet captured a Spanish treasure convoy of 3 ships intact and captured or destroyed its entire French escort fleet of 15 ships of the line; in 1704 2,000 British and Dutch troops attacked and captured Gibraltar.
The Alliance was successful in defeating the Bourbons in continental Europe at the battles of Blenheim, Oudenarde, Malpauquet and Ramillies, albeit at a heavy cost, and overrunning the Spanish Netherlands (Belgium) before staging an invasion of Spain in 1710. The Hapsburg allies however began to falter; the Tories came to power in Britain in the same year with policy of ending the war. Britain ceased military operations in 1712, but the other allies fought on hoping for a greater share of the spoils to offset the huge cost of the war – the main reason that Britain withdrew. The Hapsburg invasion of Spain was defeated at the battle of Villaviciosa in 1710 and Philip confirmed as King. The treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714) allowed Philip to keep Spain and South America, but he lost most of his European territories to Austria and ceded Gibraltar to Britain.


Copyright ©2018 Savereo John

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