2.9 The Spanish Succession
During the reign of Queen Anne of Spain, the most important event was the War of the Spanish Succession. This dominated the whole of her reign.
2.9a Main Reasons for the War of the Spanish Succession (1702- 1713)
Spain was a great country in the 16th century. In the 17th century she began to decline rapidly. Charles II was the last male representative of the Hapsburg family. He was the King of Spain. He was a weakling. Hence he could do nothing to check the downfall of his country. He had no child. Everyone knew that after his death "the Great Powers would wrangle over his dominions like a pack of wolves round the carcass of ox." Even before his death, plans were made by the Great Powers to control his dominions‘ which consisted of Spain, Milan, Naples and Spanish Netherlands. Practically all the powers had an interest in the Spanish problem. After the death of the present ruling Spanish monarch the problem of Spanish succession was bound to become very important.
2.9b The important issues
i. The issue of succession
The European powers that were directly connected with Spain included France, the House of the Hapsburg and the House of Bavaria. There were several Kings who laid their claims for the succession to the throne of Spain. France had a claim to the Spanish throne. The elder daughter of Charles II (the King of Spain), Maria herself was married to Louis XIV of France. Maria declared at the time of marriage that neither she nor her issue (offspring) would succeed the throne of France. But the French people were of the opinion that the Queen had no right to forego the claim to the throne.
The younger daughter of Charles II was married to Leopold I,
the Emperor of Austria. Her name was Margaret Theresa. Leopold I
was willing to give the rights to Spain to his son, Archduke Charles.
The daughter of Leopold I, Maria Antonia was married to Electoral
Prince of Bavaria. The Prince had one son (Joseph Ferdinand) who
had a claim for the Spanish throne. The King of Spain Charles II
had great affection for Joseph and hence, he passed on the whole
property to his father, the Electoral Prince of Bavaria.
ii. The partition treaties
Louis XIV of France was determined to see that Spain with all her possessions did not go to the Emperor of Austria. It was partly due to this anxiety on his part that he hurriedly ended the War of the League of Augsburg in 1697. Negotiations started between Louis XIV and William III. In 1698 AD the First Partition Treaty was made by which most of the Spanish possessions were to be given to the son of the Elector of Bavaria. Unfortunately, the son of the Elector died soon after the treaty and consequently, the whole matter had to be reopened.
The Second Partition Treaty was concluded in 1700 AD by which it was agreed that the Archduke Charles of Austria was to be the King of Spain with the Netherlands and Spanish America as his possessions. Philip of Anjou, the second son of the Dauphin, and the grandson of Louis XIV, was to get Naples, Sicily and Milan.
iii. Failure of these Treaties
The Spaniards were very angry as they were not consulted when these treaties (the first Partition Treaty and the Second Partition Treaty) were secretly concluded. So the dying Charles II made a will leaving the whole of his dominion to Philip of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV. Louis accepted the bequest on behalf of his grandson.
iv. Issue of Balance of Power
It was not only that the countries mentioned above were interested in Spain. It was a question of interest for all Europe. The question of the Spanish succession was inextricably connected with the balance of power in France. If either France or Austria had succeeded in capturing the Kingdom of Spain, it would have badly disturbed the balance of power in Europe.