Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Peace of Utrecht, 1713

King Louis XIV had outlived his good fortune by 1713.

His great generals and statesmen had passed away. The country was exhausted, famine was preying on the wretched peasantry, supplies could not be found, and one city after another, of those Louis had seized, was retaken. New victories at Oudenarde and Malplaquet were gained over the French armies; and, though Louis was as resolute and undaunted as ever, his affairs were in a desperate state, when he was saved by a sudden change of policy on the part of Queen Anne of England, who recalled her army and left her allies to continue the contest alone.

Eugene was not a match for France without Marlborough, and the Archduke Charles, having succeeded his brother the Emperor, gave up his pretensions to the crown of Spain, so that it became possible to conclude a general peace at Utrecht in 1713. By this time Louis was seventy-five years of age, and had suffered grievous family losses—first by the death of his only son, and then of his eldest grandson, a young man of much promise of excellence, who, with his wife died of malignant measles, probably from ignorant medical treatment, since their infant, whose illness was concealed by his nurses, was the only one of the family who survived.

The old king, in spite of sorrow and reverse, toiled with indomitable energy to the end of his reign, the longest on record, having lasted seventy-two years, when he died in 1715. He had raised the French crown to its greatest splendor, but had sacrificed the country to himself and his false notions of greatness.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Wars of the Palatinate and of Spanish Succession

This brutal act of tyranny was followed by a fresh attack on Germany. On the plea of a supposed inheritance of his sister-in-law, the Duchess of Orleans, Louis invaded the Palatinate on the Rhine, and carried on one of the most ferocious wars in history, while he was at the same time supporting the cause of his cousin, James II. of England, after he had fled and abdicated on the arrival of William of Orange. During this war, however, that generation of able men who had grown up with Louis began to pass away, and his success was not so uniform; while, Colbert being dead, taxation began to be more felt by the exhausted people, and peace was made at Ryswick in 1697.

The last of the four great wars of Louis's reign was far more unfortunate. Charles II. of Spain died childless, naming as his successor a French prince, Philip, Duke of Anjou, the second son of the only son of Charles's eldest sister, the queen of Louis XIV. But the Powers of Europe, at the Peace of Ryswick, had agreed that the crown of Spain should go to Charles of Austria, second son of the Emperor Leopold, who was the descendant of younger sisters of the royal Spanish line, but did not excite the fear and jealousy of Europe, as did a scion of the already overweening house of Bourbon.

This led to the War of the Spanish Succession, England and Holland supporting Charles, and fighting with Louis in Spain, Savoy, and the Low Countries. In Spain Louis was ultimately successful, and his grandson Philip V. retained the throne; but the troops which his ally, the Elector of Bavaria, introduced into Germany were totally overthrown at Blenheim by the English army under the Duke of Marlborough, and the Austrian under Prince Eugene, a son of a younger branch of the house of Savoy. Eugene had been bred up in France, but, having bitterly offended Louis by calling him a stage king for show and a chess king for use, had entered the Emperor's service, and was one of his chief enemies. He aided his cousin, Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy, in repulsing the French attacks in that quarter, gained a great victory at Turin, and advanced into Provence. Marlborough was likewise in full career of victory in the Low Countries, and gained there the battle of Ramillies.