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War of the Spanish Succession

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War of the Spanish Succession
Philip V of Spain and the Duke of Vendôme commanded the Franco-Spanish charge at the Battle of Villaviciosa by Jean Alaux (1840).
Date 1701–1714
Location Europe, North America and the West Indies
  • Treaty of Utrecht (1713)
  • Treaty of Rastatt (1714)
  • Treaty of Baden (1714)
  • Philip is recognized as King of Spain, but renounces any claim to the throne of France.
  • Spain and Britain sign the Asiento.
  • Spain cedes the Spanish Netherlands, Kingdom of Naples, Duchy of Milan and Sardinia to the Habsburg Monarchy, Sicily to the Duchy of Savoy and Gibraltar and Minorca to Britain.
  • France is guaranteed all its former conquests but recognizes British sovereignty over Rupert's Land and Newfoundland and cedes Acadia and its half of Saint Kitts to Great Britain.
  • The Dutch Republic retains various forts in the Southern Netherlands and annexes a part of Spanish Guelders.
  • Spain cedes the Colony of Santíssimo Sacramento, in South America, to the Portuguese Empire
 Holy Roman Empire:
  • Austria
  •   Prussia
  • Hanover
  •   Kingdom of France
  • Spain Spain loyal to Philip
  • Bavaria Bavaria (until 1704)
Commanders and leaders
  • Holy Roman Empire Eugene of Savoy
  • Holy Roman Empire Margrave of Baden
  • Holy Roman Empire Count Starhemberg
  • Kingdom of Great Britain Duke of Marlborough
  • Kingdom of Great Britain Marquis de Ruvigny
  • Kingdom of Great Britain George Rooke
  • Dutch Republic Anthonie Heinsius
  • Dutch Republic Lord Overkirk
  • Dutch Republic Earl of Albemarle
  • Spain Archduke Charles
  • Portugal Marquis of Minas
  • Duchy of Savoy Victor Amadeus II
  • Kingdom of France Louis XIV
  • Kingdom of France Duke of Villars
  • Kingdom of FranceSpain Duke of Berwick
  • Kingdom of France Duke of Vendôme
  • Kingdom of France Duke of Boufflers
  • Kingdom of France Duke of Villeroi
  • Kingdom of France Comte de Tessé
  • Spain Philip V
  • Spain Marquis of Villadarias
  • Spain Marquis de Bay
  • Bavaria Spain Maximilian II Emanuel
  • 232,000 in 1702
  • Holy Roman Empire: 90,000
  • Dutch Republic: 102,000
  • Kingdom of England: 40,000
  • Kingdom of France: 255,000
  • Spain: 18,000 in 1702; over 100,000 in 1713

The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) was fought between two alliances of European powers, including a divided Spain, over who had the right to succeed Charles II as king of Spain.

Spain suffered a steep decline in the second half of the 17th century under the reign of its last Habsburg king Charles II, so that by 1700 its neglected forces were barely considered those of a first rate power. However, it still possessed an immense territorial domain, including Milan and southern Italy, the southern Netherlands, the Philippines, vast territories in the Americas, and various other smaller territories and islands, making it by far the largest European empire. For this reason, other European powers felt that the possible unification of Spain with France would drastically alter the European balance of power in favour of the French throne. The war was fought primarily by forces supporting the Bourbon candidate – the Spanish loyal to Philip V, France, and the Electorate of Bavaria, together known as the Two Crowns – against those supporting the Austrian candidate – the so-called Grand Alliance among the Spanish loyal to Archduke Charles, the Holy Roman Empire, Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, Portugal and the Duchy of Savoy.

The war was fought mostly in Europe but included Queen Anne's War in North America. It was marked by the military leadership of notable generals including the Duc de Villars, the Jacobite Duke of Berwick, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy. Several battles are considered classics in history, notably the Grand Alliance victories at Blenheim (1704) and Ramillies (1706), which drove the French forces from Germany and the Netherlands, or the French victory at Almansa (1707). Inconclusive fighting and skirmishing followed in Spain with little result, and the action turned to France. After considerable maneuvering and inconclusive action, the French were once again decisively defeated by Marlborough and Eugene at the Battle of Oudenarde (1708). This string of losses prompted Louis XIV to start negotiations, but the terms were humiliating and he decided to press the war to its end.

This led to the Grand Alliance Pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Malplaquet (1709) and a Two Crowns victory at the Battle of Villaviciosa (1710). Continued skirmishing, sieges, and battles, such as the decisive victory of Denain (1712), allowed the French to re-capture considerable ground, especially during 1712. At the same time, a series of events led to the Allied cause faltering. The recall of the Duke of Marlborough for political reasons, combined with a new parliament pressing for peace, dramatically reduced the effectiveness of the British forces. Peace negotiations between France and Britain started in secret. In 1711, Archduke Charles' elder brother Joseph died and the Archduke became Emperor Charles VI. Other members of the Allies were thus presented with the equally unsavoury possibility of a Spanish-German superpower in place of a Spanish-French one.

The war, over a decade long, was concluded by the treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714). As a result, Philip V remained King of Spain but was removed from the French line of succession, averting a union of the two kingdoms. The Austrians gained most of the Spanish territories in Italy and the Netherlands. France's hegemony over continental Europe was ended and the idea of a balance of power became a part of the international order. Philip quickly revived Spanish ambition; taking advantage of the power vacuum caused by Louis XIV's death in 1715, Philip announced he would claim the French crown if the infant Louis XV died and attempted to reclaim Spanish territory in Italy, precipitating the War of the Quadruple Alliance in 1717.


As Charles II of Spain had been mentally and physically infirm from a very young age, it was clear he could not produce an heir. Thus, the issue of the inheritance of the Spanish kingdoms — which included not only Spain, but also dominions in Italy, the Low Countries, the Philippines and the Americas — became contentious. In the absence of a direct heir, candidates had to be sought among the descendants of the king's sisters, each with roughly similar claims but very different political implications: a recipe for certain conflict. Two dynasties claimed the Spanish throne: the French Bourbons and the Austrian Habsburgs, both closely related to Charles and to his father, Philip IV.

Carlos II "El Hechizado": Charles II "The Bewitched", the last Habsburg King of Spain. His death precipitated the War of the Spanish Succession as France and Austria vied for the Spanish inheritance
Charles III of Spain, second son of Emperor Leopold I and claimant to the Spanish throne. The Habsburg emperor's intransigence, claiming the entire Spanish inheritance for his House, was a key factor that precipitated the war.

The heir general to Charles II was Louis, Le Grand Dauphin, the son of his elder half-sister, Maria Theresa, and Louis XIV of France. Louis and Charles were also first cousins once removed, Louis's grandmother, Anne of Austria, being sister of Charles's father, Philip IV of Spain. However, the Dauphin, as heir apparent to the French throne, was a problematic choice: he would have unified the French and the Spanish crowns and controlled a vast empire that would have threatened the European balance of power. Furthermore, both Anne and Maria Theresa had renounced their rights to the Spanish succession upon their marriages, although in the latter case the renunciation was widely seen as invalid, since it had been predicated upon Spain's payment of the Infanta's dowry, which was never paid. An alternative candidate was the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, of the Austrian Habsburg dynasty. Like Louis XIV, Leopold was a first cousin of the King of Spain and a nephew of Philip IV in the maternal line, his mother having been a younger sister of Philip IV ( Maria Anna of Spain); moreover, Philip IV had stipulated the succession should pass to the Austrian Habsburg line in his will. However, Leopold also posed formidable problems as a candidate, for his succession would have reunited the elements of the powerful Spanish-Austrian Habsburg Empire of the sixteenth century. It was in part to pre-empt French objections to this outcome that in 1668, only three years after Charles II had ascended, the then-childless Leopold had agreed to partition Spanish territories between the Bourbons and the Habsburgs, even though Philip IV's will would have entitled him to the entire inheritance. This position changed in 1689 when Leopold secured William III of England's support to claim the undivided Spanish Empire in return for Leopold's aid against France in the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–1697).

Meanwhile, a new candidate for the Spanish throne had been born in 1692. The Electoral Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria was Leopold I's grandson in the female line, and therefore belonged to the Wittelsbach dynasty rather than the Habsburgs. His mother, Maria Antonia, had been Leopold's daughter by his first marriage, to Philip IV of Spain's younger daughter Margaret Theresa. As Joseph Ferdinand was neither a Bourbon nor a Habsburg, the likelihood of Spain merging with either France or Austria remained low. The Bavarian prince would have been the lawful heir to the Spanish throne under Philip IV's will, and remained a far less threatening candidate than those directly in the Bourbon or Habsburg lines, despite the willingness of both Leopold I and Louis XIV to defer their claims onto a junior branch of their Houses: Leopold to his younger son, the Archduke Charles, and Louis to the Dauphin's younger son, Philip, the Duke of Anjou. Accordingly, Joseph Ferdinand became the preferred choice of England and the Netherlands to prevent the domination of Europe by either the Bourbons or Habsburgs.

As the War of the Grand Alliance came to a close in 1697, the issue of the Spanish succession was becoming critical. England and France, exhausted by the conflict, signed the Treaty of The Hague (1698), also known as the First Partition Treaty, in which they agreed to recognize Joseph Ferdinand as heir to the Spanish throne but divided the Spanish territories in Italy and the Low Countries between the French and Austrian dynasties. However, they did not consult the Spanish. When the Partition Treaty became known in 1698, the Spanish vehemently objected to the planned dismemberment of their empire; although Charles II agreed to name the Bavarian Prince his heir, he assigned to him the whole Spanish Empire rather than merely the parts England and France had chosen.

The issue was further confused following the death of Joseph Ferdinand of smallpox in 1699 at the age of six, reopening the issue of the Spanish succession. England and France soon ratified the Second Partition Treaty, assigning the Spanish throne to the Archduke Charles. The Italian territories would go to France, while the Archduke would receive the remainder of the Spanish empire. The Austrians, who were not party to the treaty, were displeased, for in the first case they openly vied for the whole of Spain and its possessions, and in the second it was the Italian territories that interested them most, being richer, closer to Austria, and more governable. In Spain, distaste for the treaty was even greater; the courtiers were unified in opposing partition, but were divided on whether the throne should go to a Habsburg or a Bourbon. Pro-French statesmen, however, were in the majority, and in October 1700, Charles II agreed to bequeath all of his territory to the Dauphin's second son, the Duke of Anjou. Charles took steps to prevent the potential union of France and Spain; should Anjou have by chance inherited the French throne, Spain would have gone to his younger brother, the Duc de Berri, and thereafter Archduke Charles was to have been next in the line of succession.


King Louis XIV (1638–1715), by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701)

When the French court first learned of the will, despite the paper victory for the Bourbons, Louis XIV's advisors argued that it was safer to accept the terms of the Second Partition Treaty than to risk war by claiming the whole Spanish inheritance. However, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French foreign minister, successfully argued that whether France accepted all or a part of the Spanish Empire, it would still have to fight Austria, which did not accept the nature of the partition described by the Treaty of London.

Furthermore, the terms of Charles' will stipulated that Anjou was to be offered the choice of the whole Spanish Empire or nothing; if he refused, the entire inheritance was to go to Anjou's younger brother Charles, Duke of Berry or to Archduke Charles of Austria if the Duke of Berry refused. Knowing that the Maritime Powers (England and the United Provinces) would not side with France in a fight to impose the partition treaty on the unwilling Austrians and Spanish, Louis determined to accept his grandson's inheritance.

Charles II died on 1 November 1700, and on 24 November, Louis XIV proclaimed Anjou as King of Spain. The new King was declared ruler of the entire Spanish empire, contrary to the provisions of the Second Partition Treaty. Despite the violation of the agreement with England, William III lacked the support of the ruling elites in England or the United Provinces to declare war against France, and reluctantly recognized Philip as king in April 1701. Spain proclaimed as king Philip V of Castile (8 May 1701) and Philip IV of Aragón and Catalonia (Philip can not arrive to Valencia because the war starts).

Louis, however, took too aggressive a path in his attempt to secure French hegemony in Europe. He cut off England and the Netherlands from Spanish trade, thereby seriously threatening the commercial interests of those two countries. This enabled William III to secure the support of his subjects and to negotiate the Treaty of Den Haag (1701) with the United Provinces and Austria. The agreement, reached on 7 September 1701, recognized Philip V as King of Spain, but allotted Austria that which it desired most: the Spanish territories in Italy. As a condition, Austria also accepted the Spanish Netherlands, thus protecting that crucial region from French control. England and the United Provinces, meanwhile, were to retain their commercial rights in Spain.

Philip of Spain -V of Castile and IV of Aragon-, by Joseph Vivien (1657–1734)

A few days after the signing of the treaty, William III's predecessor as King of England, James II, who had been deposed by William in 1688, died in France. England and the United Provinces had already begun raising armies, and now, although Louis had treated William as King of England since the Treaty of Ryswick, he now recognized James II's son, the Catholic James Francis Edward Stuart (the "Old Pretender"), as the rightful monarch. Louis's action alienated the English public even further and gave William grounds for war.

Armed conflict began slowly, as Austrian forces under Prince Eugene of Savoy invaded the Duchy of Milan, one of the Spanish territories in Italy, prompting French intervention. England, the United Provinces, and most of the German states (notably Prussia and Hanover), sided with Austria. The Wittelsbach Electors of Bavaria and Cologne supported France and Spain. Portugal, while initially allied with the French, switched sides very early on with the Methuen Treaty. In Spain, the cortes of Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia (regions of the Crown of Aragon) declared themselves in favour of the Austrian Archduke. Although King William III died in 1702, his successor in England, Queen Anne, continued the vigorous prosecution of the war, under the guidance of her ministers, Godolphin and Marlborough.

Early fighting: 1701–1703

The Duc de Villars leads his cavalry to victory at the Battle of Friedlingen, illustration by Richard Caton Woodville.
King John V of Portugal; by Pierre Antoine Quillard.

In 1702, Eugene fought in Italy, where the French were led by the Duc de Villeroi, whom Eugene captured at the Battle of Cremona on 1 February. Villeroi was now replaced by the Duc de Vendôme, who, despite the drawn Battle of Luzzara in August and a considerable numerical superiority, proved unable to drive Eugene from Italy.

In the meantime, Marlborough led combined English, Dutch and German forces in the Low Countries, where he captured several important fortresses, most notably Liège. On the Rhine, an Imperial army under Louis of Baden captured Landau in September, but the threat to Alsace was relieved by the entrance of the Elector of Bavaria into the war on the French side. Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden was forced to withdraw across the Rhine, where he was defeated by a French army under Claude-Louis-Hector de Villars at Friedlingen. The Spanish general Francisco Castillo Fajardo defeated a combined Anglo-Dutch invasion led by the English Admiral Sir George Rooke aimed at seizing Cadiz. In his return to England, Rooke won an important naval battle, the Battle of Vigo Bay, which resulted in the complete destruction of the Spanish treasure fleet but marginal financial gain as most the treasure had already been unloaded ashore.

Next year, although Marlborough captured Bonn and drove the Elector of Cologne into exile, he failed in his efforts to capture Antwerp, and the French were successful in Germany. A combined Franco-Bavarian army under Villars and Max Emanuel of Bavaria defeated Imperial armies under Louis of Baden and Hermann Styrum, but the Elector's timidity prevented a march on Vienna, which led to Villars's resignation. French victories in south Germany continued after Villars' resignation, however, with a new army under Camille de Tallard victorious in the Electorate of the Palatinate. French leaders entertained grand designs, intending to use a combined French and Bavarian army to capture the Austrian capital the next year. By the end of the year 1703, however, France had suffered setbacks for Portugal and Savoy had defected to the other side. Meanwhile, the English, who had previously held the view that Philip could remain on the throne of Spain, now decided that their commercial interests would be more secure under the Archduke Charles.

Middle phase: 1704–1709

The Duke of Marlborough was the commander of the English, Dutch and German forces.
Prince Eugene of Savoy by Jacob van Schuppen. He fought alongside Marlborough at Blenheim, Oudenarde and Malplaquet.

Marlborough and Eugene

In 1704, the French plan was to use Villeroi's army in the Netherlands to contain Marlborough, while Tallard and the Franco-Bavarian army under Max Emanuel and Ferdinand de Marsin, Villars's replacement, would march on Vienna.

Marlborough — ignoring the wishes of the Dutch, who preferred to keep their troops in the Low Countries — led the English and Dutch forces southward to Germany; Eugene, meanwhile, moved northward from Italy with the Austrian army. The objective of these manœuvres was to prevent the Franco-Bavarian army from advancing on Vienna. Having met, the forces under Marlborough and Eugene faced the French under Tallard at the Battle of Blenheim. The battle was a resounding success for Marlborough and Eugene, and had the effect of knocking Bavaria out of the war. In that year, England achieved another important success as it captured Gibraltar in Spain, with the help of Dutch forces under the command of Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, on behalf of the Archduke Charles.

Following the Battle of Blenheim, Marlborough and Eugene separated again, with the former going to the Low Countries, and the latter to Italy. In 1705, little progress was made by either France or the Allies in any theatre. Marlborough's attempted invasion of France down the Moselle came to nought, and although he managed to wrong-foot Villeroi and break through the Lines of Brabant, he was unable to bring the French commander to battle. Villars and Louis of Baden manoeuvred indecisively on the Rhine, and the story was much the same for Vendôme and Eugene in Italy. The stalemate was broken in 1706, as Marlborough drove the French out of most of the Spanish Netherlands, decisively defeating troops under Villeroi in the Battle of Ramillies in May and following up with the conquest of Antwerp and Dunkirk. Prince Eugene also met with success; in September, following the departure of Vendôme to shore up the shattered army in the Netherlands, he and the Duke of Savoy inflicted a heavy loss on the French under Orleans and Marsin at the Battle of Turin, driving them out of Italy by the end of the year.

The Battle of Ramillies between the French and the English, 23 May 1706.

Now that France had been expelled from Germany, the Low Countries and Italy, Spain became the centre of activity in the next few years. In 1706, King John V of Portugal's grand general, the Marquis of Minas, led an invasion of Spain from Portugal, managing to capture Madrid. By the end of the year, however, Madrid was recovered by an army led by King Philip V and the Duke of Berwick (the illegitimate son of James II of England, serving in the French army). The Earl of Galway led another attempt on Madrid in 1707, but Berwick roundly defeated him at the Battle of Almansa on 25 April. In another attempt on Madrid, his army was severely defeated by the Marquis de Bay at the Battle of La Gudina, being forced to withdraw its troops from Spain. Thereafter, the war in Spain settled into indecisive skirmishing from which it would not subsequently emerge.

The Franco-Spanish army led by the Duke of Berwick defeated decisively the allied forces of Portugal, Great Britain, and the Dutch Republic at the Battle of Almansa.

England becomes Great Britain

In 1707, England was united with the Kingdom of Scotland to form Great Britain, negotiations having started the previous year. Great Britain therefore replaced England as a party to the war. Also in 1707, the War briefly intersected with the Great Northern War, which was being fought simultaneously in Northern Europe. A Swedish army under Charles XII arrived in Saxony, where he had just finished chastising the Elector Augustus II and forced him to renounce his claims to the Polish throne. Both the French and the Allies sent envoys to Charles's camp, and the French hoped to encourage him to turn his troops against the Emperor Joseph I, who Charles felt had slighted him by his support for Augustus. However, Charles, who liked to see himself as a champion of Protestant Europe, greatly disliked Louis XIV for his treatment of the Huguenots, and was generally uninterested in the western war. He turned his attention instead to Russia, ending the possibility of Swedish intervention.

King Philip V of Spain making Duke of Berwick a Cavalier of the Golden Fleece after the Battle of Almansa, by Jean Dominique Auguste Ingres. Oil On Canvas. Collection of the Duke of Alba and Berwick, Madrid, Spain.

Later in 1707, Prince Eugene led an allied invasion of southern France from Italy, but was stalled by the French army. Marlborough, in the meantime, remained in the Low Countries, where he was caught up in capturing an endless succession of fortresses. In 1708, Marlborough's army clashed with the French, who were beset by leadership problems: their commanders, the Duke of Burgundy (Louis XIV's grandson) and the duc de Vendôme were frequently at variance, the former often making unwise military decisions. Burgundy's insistence that the French army not attack led Marlborough once again to unite his army with Eugene's, allowing the allied army to crush the French at the Battle of Oudenarde, and then proceeded to capture Lille. In Italy, Austria sacked cities such as Forlì (1708).

France on the brink

The disasters of Oudenarde and Lille led France to the brink of ruin. Louis XIV was forced to negotiate; he sent his foreign minister, the Marquis de Torcy, to meet the allied commanders at The Hague. Louis agreed to surrender Spain and all its territories to the Allies, requesting only that he be allowed to keep Naples (in Italy). He was, moreover, prepared to furnish money to help expel Philip V from Spain. The Allies, however, imposed more humiliating conditions; they demanded that Louis use the French army to dethrone his own grandson. Rejecting the offer, Louis chose to continue fighting until the bitter end. He appealed to the people of France. They rallied with new soldiers, money and enthusiasm, giving new life to the French cause.

In 1709, the Allies attempted three invasions of France, but two were so minor as to be merely diversionary. A more serious attempt was launched when Marlborough and Eugene advanced toward Paris. They clashed with the French under the Duc de Villars at the Battle of Malplaquet, the bloodiest battle of the war. Although the Allies defeated the French, they lost over twenty thousand men, compared with only ten thousand for their opponents. Villars himself remarked, "If it please God to give your majesty's enemies another such victory, they are ruined." The Allies captured Mons but, having suffered such great losses, were unable to follow up their victories. The battle marked a turning point in the war; despite winning, the Allies were unable to proceed with the invasion, having suffered such tremendous casualties.

Final phase: 1710–1714

Marshal Villars (1653–1734) rescued the French fortunes in the War of the Spanish Succession. Villars was King Louis' most successful commander in the war.
Marshal Villars leads the French charge at the Battle of Denain. Oil on canvas, 1839.

In 1710, the allies launched a final campaign in Spain, but failed to make any progress. An army under James Stanhope reached Madrid together with the Archduke Charles, but it was forced to capitulate at Brihuega when a relief army came from France. The alliance, in the meantime, began to weaken. In Great Britain Marlborough's powerful political influence was lost: the source of much of his influence, the friendship between his wife and Queen Anne came to an end, with Queen Anne dismissing the Duchess of Marlborough from her offices and banishing her from the court. Moreover, the Whig ministry that had lent its support to the war fell, and the new Tory government that replaced it sought peace.

In 1711, the Archduke Charles became Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI following the sudden death of Joseph, his elder brother. At that point, a decisive victory for Austria, uniting the Holy Roman Empire with the Spanish crown, would have upset the balance of power just as much as a victory for France.

Marlborough achieved a strategic victory over Villars, breaking the French Lines of Ne Plus Ultra and capturing Bouchain, but was recalled to Great Britain at the end of the year, and was replaced by the Duke of Ormonde. The British, led by Secretary of State Henry St John, began to correspond secretly with the Marquis de Torcy, excluding the Dutch and Austrians from their negotiations. The Duke of Ormonde refused to commit British troops to battle, so the French under Villars were able to recover much lost ground in 1712, such as at the Battle of Denain. Villars then continued his offensive with success. At the same time, the French troops were winning in Spain, and took Barcelona from the city's defending forces under the command of Antoni de Villarroel.

Great Britain, the Dutch Republic, Savoy, and Portugal ceased fighting France and Spain when the Treaty of Utrecht was concluded in 1713. Barcelona, which had supported the Archduke's claim to the throne of Spain and the allies in 1705, finally surrendered to the Bourbon army on 11 September 1714 following a long siege, ending the presence of the allies in Spain. This is remembered in that region as the National Day of Catalonia.

Hostilities between France and Austria continued until 1714, when the Treaties of Rastatt and Baden were ratified, marking the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. Spain was slower in ratifying treaties of peace; it did not formally end its conflict with Austria until 1720, after it had been defeated by all the powers in the War of the Quadruple Alliance.

West Indies and South America

The war on the high seas and in the West Indies was a largely economic war. The treasure fleets of Spain and Portugal were targeted by their opponents, and colonial outposts were subjected to raids that were often executed by either privateering fleets outfitted for profit by merchants and nobles, or they included a combination of public and private financing of their efforts. These fleets would target poorly defended settlements, and either pillage them for their valuables, or demand ransom, which was often paid in goods and slaves, sometimes to the benefit of the victor's own plantations. The only permanent change of control occurred on St. Kitts, which held both French and English plantations.

In some colonies, defensive preparations in anticipation of the conflict had begun as early as 1699, given knowledge of Charles II's poor health. Christopher Codrington, the British governor of the Leeward Islands, immediately organized a campaign to push the French off St. Kitts on learning in July 1702 of the war declarations. He followed up this minor success (the French governor surrendered in the face of overwhelming force) with a failed attempt to capture Guadeloupe in 1703, although he did significant economic damage before retreating. The French retaliated in 1706 with a raid on St. Kitts; one attempt to do the same on Nevis failed, but a later one succeeded, led by Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville. D'Iberville, who died later that year of a tropical disease while planning an attack on Charles Town in the Carolinas, was accused of enriching his own plantations with slaves taken in the raid at the expense of the other investors in his expedition.

French, English, and Spanish fleets were all active in the West Indies. In the fall of 1701 both France and England sent fleets there; the French fleet of Château-Renault was, at 28 ships of the line, larger than any previous European fleet seen in the Caribbean. He and Admiral John Benbow, commander of the smaller British fleet, avoided one another, and Château-Renault eventually escorted home the Spanish treasure fleet from Vera Cruz that met its end at Vigo Bay. Benbow remained on station, and in August 1702 engaged Jean du Casse in an extended action off the coast of South America in which he suffered a mortal wound.

Jean-François Duclerc, a French privateer, targeted Rio de Janeiro and its lucrative gold shipments in 1710. However, his raid failed, and he was imprisoned and later killed in Rio. The French responded to the indignity with a second, successful raid in 1711.

In 1712, French Admiral Jacques Cassard embarked on an expedition that raided British-held Montserrat and a series of Dutch colonial outposts, including St. Eustatius, Curaçao, and Suriname.

North America

In North America, the war was mainly conducted by the colonists of England against those of France and Spain, with each side drawing on the support of allied native tribes, and also receiving some support in the form of naval expeditions. In the southeast, the English Province of Carolina mounted an expedition against St. Augustine in Spanish Florida that failed, and conducted numerous raids against Spanish-allied natives, decimating their population. The French and Spanish responded with an equally unsuccessful expedition against Charles Town, the Carolina capital.

Acadia and the frontier between French Canada and the English Province of Massachusetts Bay were also hotly contested. The French and their native allies repeatedly raided small outlying communities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but avoided conflict in New York for fear of angering the Iroquois, with whom they had negotiated a peace in 1701. Massachusetts militia made repeated attempts to capture the Capital Port Royal, Acadia, but it required a major naval expedition authorized by Queen Anne to achieve the Conquest of Acadia in 1710. Queen Anne also authorized a major expedition against Quebec City in 1711; this expedition, led by Admiral Hovenden Walker, was a complete disaster. More than 800 men died when a number of its ships foundered on rocks at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River.

In the far north, the English on several occasions sent fleets to raid French settlements and destroy fishing stages on Newfoundland, but suffered the loss of St. John's in 1708/9 after the French made an overland march from Plaisance.


Under the Peace of Utrecht, Philip was recognized as King Philip V of Spain, but renounced his place in the French line of succession, thereby precluding the union of the French and Spanish crowns (although there was some sense in France that this renunciation was illegal). He retained the Spanish overseas empire, but ceded the Southern Netherlands, Naples, Milan, and Sardinia to Austria; Sicily and parts of the Milanese to Savoy; and Gibraltar and Minorca to Great Britain. Moreover, he granted the British the exclusive right to non-Spanish slave trading in Spanish America for thirty years, the so-called asiento.

With regard to the political organization of their kingdoms, Philip issued the Nueva Planta decrees, following the centralizing approach of the Bourbons in France, ending the political autonomy of the kingdoms which had made up the Crown of Aragon; territories in Spain that had supported the Archduke Charles and up to then had kept their institutions in a framework of loose dynastic union, separate from the rest of the Spanish realm. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Navarre and the Basque Provinces, having supported the king against the Habsburg pretender, did not lose their autonomy and retained their traditional differentiated institutions and laws ( fueros).

No important changes were made to French territory in Europe. Grandiose imperial desires to turn back the French expansion to the Rhine which had occurred since the middle decades of the seventeenth century were not realized, nor was the French border pushed back in the Low Countries. France agreed to stop supporting the Stuart pretenders to the British throne, instead recognizing Anne as the legitimate queen. The Dutch were permitted to retain various forts in the Spanish Netherlands, and were permitted to annex a part of Spanish Guelders.

In North America, France also gave up various colonial possessions, recognizing British sovereignty over Rupert's Land and Newfoundland, and ceding Acadia and its half of Saint Kitts. The Acadian cession contained ambiguous language concerning boundaries, setting the stage for future conflicts. Since Utrecht also neglected to account for Native American claims to the same areas, the tribes of northeastern North America ( Abenaki and Mi'kmaq) did not immediately make peace; some tribes signed the 1713 Treaty of Portsmouth, but disputes between colonists and the northeastern tribes continued for decades afterward, notably flaring in Father Rale's War (1722-1725).

With the Peace of Utrecht, the wars to prevent French hegemony that had dominated the latter part of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century were over for the time being. However, France had permanently broken the threat of encirclement by Habsburg powers and France and Spain, both under Bourbon monarchs, remained allies during the following years. Due to the lack of necessity for privateers after the peace of Utrecht, large numbers of unemployed privateers turned to piracy —thus launching a new phase of the Golden Age of Piracy.

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