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During the long reign of Philip IV a great change took place in the European position of Spain. This King renewed the warlike policy of Philip II, and Spanish troops again fought on the battlefields of the Continent. More than once during the Thirty Years’ War, the ambassador of the Catholic King exerted a decisive influence on the actions of the Court of Vienna. Thus, the whole career of Wallenstein can only be realized by keeping in remembrance his relations to the King of Spain, who supported him in the epoch of his greatest power and was one of the chief authors of his fall. The actual turning-point in the development of Spain was the war in which she contended against the combined strength of England and France. The French Marshal Turenne and the English Admirals Blake and Stayner put an end to the predominance of the Spanish Power by land and sea. The French monarchy under Louis XIV wrested from Spain her military ascendancy, while her maritime power, already weakened in her eighty years’ war against the United Provinces, was dealt still heavier blows by the navy of the Protector Oliver Cromwell.

About the same time Philip IV lost the sway over the neighbouring kingdom of Portugal acquired by his grandfather Philip II. The union of the two countries had always been highly unpopular with the Portuguese—the more so, since it had drawn on them the enmity of the Dutch. In the East and in the West, the Portuguese colonies had to sustain the attacks of their Dutch rivals, who succeeded in despoiling Portugal of the most valuable of her possessions in India and South America. It was thus only natural that the support of the people of Portugal was easily gained for the rights of John IV, of the House of Braganza, who in 1640 took possession of the Portuguese throne. From this time onward, Portugal never again submitted to the Spanish yoke. Philip, indeed, tried to maintain his inherited rule; but the defeat of his armies obliged him to renounce his claims. If to this is added the lowering of Spain’s prestige by the definite separation from her of the northern Netherlands, whose independence she had to acknowledge shortly before the Peace of Westphalia, as well as by the losses she suffered in the Treaty of the Pyrenees, it will be clear how much less formidable the power of Spain was when the melancholic King Philip IV shut his eyes, than it had been at his accession.

The new King was Charles II, the only son of Philip IV. At the time of his father’s death he was a weakly child of four years; and no one believed that he would grow up and one day take into his own hands the government of his vast dominions. The question of the Spanish Succession became urgent since the veiy day of Charles II’s accession, and remained so through the whole of his reign, which extended over not less than thirty-five years.

Spain was a great monarchy without a monarch, says Ranke, referring to the condition of Spain in 1665. This saying admirably characterizes the entire epoch of Charles II. In his name the government of the country was conducted in turn by the favorites of the Queen-Mother, who by the will of Philip IV was called to the regency, and by several Prime Ministers nominated, by the monarch himself. Nothing that might be called a personal policy of Charles II ever became manifest. Even when the great question of the Succession, which was of immediate interest to himself, had to be decided, he failed to act with any energy. The result was a continuous increase of the influence of the Grandees of Spain, who may be said to have, for the time of Charles’ reign, acquired a decisive voice in the conduct of the domestic as well as of the foreign policy of the kingdom.

“Every Grandee is a sort of Prince,” says a foreign observer. The government of Spain seemed to have changed from a monarchy into an aristocracy. The contrary might have been asserted of France. The superiority of the absolute monarchy established by Richelieu over the declining power of Spain had shown itself already in the long struggle terminated by the Treaty of the Pyrenees. However, the enmity between the two neighbors did not end with the conclusion of the Peace. Two years after Charles’ accession war broke out anew between them. Wholly unexpected by the Spanish Government, whom Louis XIV’s quite recent show of friendship had deceived, French troops in May, 1667, invaded the Spanish Netherlands; several fortresses were easily taken; and the whole country would have been subjected to a French conquest, if the help which Spain was unable to lend had not come from another quarter. The famous Triple Alliance between England, Holland, and Sweden obliged Louis to conclude the Treaty of Aachen, by which he had to give up his claims on the Netherlands and to restore Franche Comté, which had been already conquered by Condé. However, he was allowed to keep possession of twelve places in Flanders; and the position of Spain as towards France had after all been considerably weakened, for it was less by her own efforts than by those of the Triple Alliance that the march of the French armies had been stayed. 

The Spaniards were equally unsuccessful in the management of their political and military affairs during the ensuing War, in which Spain formed part of a coalition against France. Louis XIV, in his deep hatred of his Dutch enemies, had entered into a negotiation with Spain with the professed purpose of partitioning the Dutch Republic between them. For one moment only the Spanish statesmen seemed inclined to accept such a proposal. Soon enough they were brought to recognize that they were threatened with a greater danger by the growing ascendancy of the French monarchy than by the ancient subjects of their country. Spain therefore joined the enemies of Louis XIV. The War, the events of which are related elsewhere in this volume, ended with new losses for Spain. In the third War against Louis XIV in which Spain took part, the Spanish armies also fought with little success. If by the Peace of Ryswyk the French King had to restore nearly all the conquests made by him in the course of the War, it was by the strength of her allies, not by her own efforts, that this result was secured for Spain.

This extraordinary diminution of the weight which Spain could cast into the balance of Europe is of course attributable to the general decay of the country, of which the reasons are not far to seek.

“Loyalty and superstition,” writes Buckle, “were the leading principles which influenced the Spanish mind and governed the march of Spanish history.” “When there were able sovereigns,” he says again, “the country prospered; when there were weak Princes it declined.” Thus, the weakness and the mistakes of the Crown, together with the increasing power of the Church, account for the rapid decline of Spain in the seventeenth century. King Charles II, owing to his infirmity of body and mind, throughout his reign paid little attention to public affairs. It was accounted a great thing, and a rare occurrence, if he worked four or five hour? in a day, and people knew it must be a very extraordinary business which one morning in May, 1694, made him miss his dinner, served punctually at noon. The whole administration was lazy and indolent. William III had told Alexander Stanhope, before sending him in 1690 as envoy to Madrid, that he must arm himself with great patience, if he meant to submit to the slowness of movement awaiting him at that Court. “They manage,” writes Stanhope, “all their own affairs with the same phlegm, seldom resolving anything till the occasion be past.” “This country,” he says on another occasion, “ is in a most miserable condition. No head to govern, and every man in office does what he pleases, without fear of being called to account.” Very frequently the officers in high position were quite old men, who had done good service in former years. When Stanhope, one day, reminded the Secretary of State for the North, a man more than fourscore years old, of a piece of business that had previously been treated between them, the Spaniard did not remember to have ever heard of it.

The weakest point of the administration was the public finances. Every means had to be tried to fill the royal coffers. Year by year, the flotas came from Mexico and Peru laden with bullion; but, owing to the large assignments granted beforehand, little of it came into the King’s coffers. The bills sent abroad by the Government were often returned protested. In 1693, no branch of the public revenue could exhibit a credit of 100,000 crowns. In order to get money, the dignity of a Grandee of Spain was sometimes sold; so were, generally, the viceroyships and Governments in the Indies, as well as some of the high offices at home. The wages and salaries of all Ministers and officers were, in 1693, reduced by one-third of their amounts. The revenues were already anticipated for many years. Even the worst of all means for procuring money for the Government was applied; namely, a depreciation of the coinage. No wonder, if on so weak a basis it was not possible for Spain to maintain the high position which she had formerly held among the great Powers of the world. Her army, once the best in Europe, was now in a very miserable condition. The troops fighting in Catalonia in 1699 are described as “all starving and deserting as fast as they can.” The navy was no better. When Stanhope first came to Spain, it owned, he says, eighteen good men-of-war, which in 1693 were reduced to two or three.

While the Government and the people of Spain became poor, the Church continued to grow richer. Her deciding influence was felt through the whole life of Spanish society. The greatest power in the country was the Inquisition; it was greater than the King’s, and menaced the safety of all—not only the subjects of the King, but also foreign Protestants living in Spain. When Oliver Cromwell had demanded liberty from the Inquisition for the English merchants, war with Spain had ensued. Since that time the power of the Inquisition had risen still higher. In 1691, a Swiss Protestant whom Stanhope had taken into his service was carried away prisoner by orders of the Inquisition, and everybody told the English envoy that he could have no remedy. Three years later, he tried to intercede for some French Protestants without any success. ’The King himself told Stanhope that he never meddled in any proceedings relating to matters of religion, even if instituted against his own domestics. At Palma in Majorca three autos de fe took place in the course of one week in 1691, Jews and heretics being the victims. They were the richest men of the island, and of course their property was forfeited. The fanaticism of the people against all Protestants was boundless. “It is a hard matter,” writes Stanhope, “for a heretic to learn any truth among them, when they think the cause of their religion concerned.” In 1691 the body of Stanhope’s chaplain, after being buried with the utmost secrecy, was tom out of its grave and mutilated.

Since, in 1609, the Church in Spain had won her greatest triumph by the expulsion of the Moriscos, the industrious descendants of the Moors, the wealth of the Spanish nation had constantly been declining. The Moriscos had been the best agriculturists in Spain; they had been the principal cultivators of rice, cotton and sugar; in their hands lay the manufacture of silk and paper. The products of their energy were all but entirely destroyed, as were some other branches of manufacture that had flourished in the sixteenth century. Industry and commerce were reduced to the narrowest conceivable scale. Populous and wealthy cities became thinly peopled and poor. Madrid, in the course of the seventeenth century, lost half the total of its inhabitants. Still greater was the ruin of the ancient wealth and the reduction of the population at Seville and Toledo, at Segovia and Burgos. In several parts of Spain wide districts were totally deserted. James Stanhope, travelling from Madrid to the east coast, found Aranjuez, where the Court resided, as pleasant a place as any in Europe. But after quitting it he made no stay anywhere till he reached Alicante, “there being not one good town or good inn in all the road; and we went sometimes above forty English miles without meeting with so much as one house except a wretched venta.” Poverty and misery increased in Spain from year to year. The total ruin of the nation seemed the inevitable result of the system of administration under Charles II. The scarcity of corn more than once led to a famine. In 1699 the common people were reduced to the utmost extremity. The British Minister could only with difficulty procure the bread required for his table. His secretary saw five poor women suffocated by the pressure of the crowd before a bakehouse; and 20,000 beggars from the country flocked into the capital, in order to be saved from starvation. It was this want of bread that caused two dangerous risings in Madrid and Valladolid, the earlier of which was of the highest political importance, since it brought about the fall of the Minister Oropesa, and the rise of the French party at Court. The rabble assembled before the royal palace, and forced the ailing monarch to appear before them and promise the change of Government for which they clamoured. 


1665-97] The Spanish Succession question.


“The hinge on which the whole reign of Louis XIV was turning,” is the phrase applied by the French historian Mignet to the great question of the Spanish Succession. This question originated in the fact that the two mightiest dynasties on the Continent simultaneously laid claim to the inheritance of the Spanish kings of the House of Habsburg. Two daughters of Philip III had been married to Princes of the Houses of Bourbon and Austria; the elder becoming the wife of King Louis XIII of France, the younger of the Emperor Ferdinand III. The marriage contract signed in 1660 by the Ministers of France and Spain contained several articles, concerning the intended marriage between Louis XIV, King of France, and Maria Teresa, daughter of Philip IV, King of Spain.

The future Queen of France had to renounce all her hereditary rights on the dominions of her father; she and her descendants male and female were never to succeed in the kingdoms and other territories under the sceptre of his Catholic Majesty. She had to profess this for her own part by two formal acts of renunciation. It might still have been doubtful how far the rights of her descendants were in reality annulled by such a declaration; and the French Court at least was resolved not to acknowledge that the renunciation possessed such a force. The Spanish consort of Louis XIII had signed a similar renunciation, which nevertheless had not been considered in France as a matter of great consequence. However, this question seemed not to be very urgent at the time of Philip’s death in 1665. For he left a son, born to him four years before, by his second wife. This son was Charles II, the last scion of the Habsburg dynasty in Spain. He married twice, but had no children. Thus, after the renunciation of the eldest, it was the second surviving daughter of Philip IV, Margaret, in whose person would be embodied the rights to the Spanish throne after the death of Charles II. This was expressly stated in the testament of Philip IV. Margaret became in 1666 the wife of the Emperor Leopold I. Of her children only one daughter grew up, Maria Antonia, who married Maximilian Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria. It was the only son of this couple, the Electoral Prince Joseph Ferdinand, whose title to the succession to the Spanish throne, derived by him from his grand­mother, Margaret, and restricted by no act of renunciation, was the most valid and therefore seemed to have the best chance of being generally acknowledged. Maria Antonia, indeed, had likewise been induced by her father, the Emperor Leopold, to transfer her Spanish claims to himself and to his sons by another marriage; but the force of such a resignation was more than doubtful, and certainly it could not touch the rights of her own posterity. Thus, midway between the French and the Austrian pretensions, stood, superior to both, the claim of the Electoral Prince Joseph Ferdinand. This claim was likely to be neglected so long as the great military Powers of France and Austria were each of them inclined to lay its hand on the whole inheritance for a member of their respective dynasties; but it was not less likely to come to the front and meet with general acceptance, if at any time either of these two Powers despaired of entering into possession of the inheritance in defiance of the rival claimant.

However, there were not only the diverging claims of three European dynasties which had to be settled. What made the question of the Spanish Succession really difficult, was the interest which the Maritime Powers took in its solution. The English and the Dutch, who had been rivals in their commercial enterprises for a hundred years, who had at different times fought each other as open enemies since the days of Oliver Cromwell—these two nations nevertheless stood together in the common interest of their commercial policy. Both of them wished to exclude French competition from the trade they carried on with the Spanish monarchy. Thus they were both alarmed at the prospect of the change that would occur in the economic condition of Spain, when the rule over the monarchy of Philip II should pass from the weak tenure of her present King, to be placed in the hands of the mightiest Prince in Europe.

“The preservation of the commerce between the kingdoms of Great Britain and Spain was one of the chief motives that induced our two royal predecessors to enter into the late long, expensive war, and one of the principal benefits expected by our people from the conclusion of a peace after such a glorious and uninterrupted course of successes, and is of the greatest importance to the interest of our subjects, and to the riches of our dominions.” These words occur in the instructions given in 1716 to Paul Methuen, the first British Minister accredited at Madrid after the close of the War of the Spanish Succession. They were intended to express the purpose which England had followed throughout all the successive stages of the Spanish question, both in peace and in war. 

The commercial intercourse which England and Holland maintained with Spain and her dependencies was indeed highly important. Yet, for the reasons indicated above, the industry of Spain had never reached any very considerable height—not even, as some believe, in the sixteenth century, when her influence in European politics had attained to its highest point. It was therefore only natural that an enormous amount of foreign manufactures was imported into Spain. England, Holland and France were the principal nations trading in the many articles of European industry. Especially between England and Holland there was constant emulation as to their respective shares in the commerce with Spain and her colonies. During the whole of the seventeenth century, it had been doubtful which of the two Maritime Powers would derive the greater advantage from this trade. Before the English Civil War, the competition of the Dutch having ceased in consequence of their war with Spain, the English had become, as Roger Coke said, “proprietors of the trade with Spain and by consequence great sharers in the wealth of the West Indies.” But, when Oliver’s breach with Spain followed, the relation between the two nations seemed altogether inverted; the English trade to Spain stopped, while the Dutch, having made their peace, were the masters of the Spanish commerce. After the Restoration, however, the English Government succeeded in restoring the trade on the ancient basis. The old privileges were renewed; the English merchants were enabled to take up their old position in Spanish commerce, and held it in competition with the Dutch through the lifetime of Charles II of Spain.

Looking back to the time before the War of the Spanish Succession William Wood, in his Survey of Trade, states that the goods exported by the English to Spain were different kinds of cloths, stuffs, cotton and silk, fish and other commodities. The goods imported from Spain in return were wine, oil, wool, iron, and other articles, and the balance paid to England in bullion had been very great. A considerable number of British merchants at that time lived in Cadiz and other ports of Spain, which were the marts of the English manufactures for the Indies.

Besides this, a great carrying-trade was carried on by English ships between Spain and other countries. Even the intercourse between Spain and her colonies in the West was, under the names of Spanish firms, in a great measure carried on by English and Dutch merchants. If to this are added the numerous legal and illegal advantages gained by British and Dutch merchants, the large smuggling trade in progress between the West Indies and the American continent, the deficiencies of the Habsburg administration in Spain as compared with that of nations much further advanced in their economic development, it becomes evident why the British and Dutch merchants derived the greatest benefit from the colonial possessions of Spain. To the Crown not much was left besides the trouble of administration. The enormous amount of bullion brought over every year by the silver-fleets from the New World only reached the Spanish ports in order to fill the pockets of the foreign merchants.

Ever since the testament of Philip IV, confirmed by the Cortes of Spain, had been drawn up for settling the Succession to the throne, this great question had continued to occupy the minds of the Spanish people as well as the Cabinets of Europe. The weak physical constitution of Charles II seemed to presage a premature death. He was never healthy and often so ill that his life was despaired of. The well-known Habsburg type seemed in him exaggerated to a caricature. His lower jaw stood out so far that the two rows of teeth could hardly meet. His disease were so many that even at his Court there were some persons, and the doctors among them, who would repeat the saying common among the superstitious people, that his sufferings were caused by witchcraft. Whenever his health improved, the recovery was ascribed to a miracle. In his dangerous illness in 1696 the King was cured by the intervention of St Diego of Alcala, whose body had been brought to him in his greatest extremity. 

Every fit of illness that befell Charles II alarmed Europe. But still the Powers postponed during many years any decisive resolution on the point, the more so since the policy of Louis XIV set difficult problems enough to European diplomacy. Nothing had been settled, when the Congress was at work at Ryswyk to secure anew the peace of Europe. Indeed, the great question more than once threatened to confuse the labour of the diplomatists— especially in the autumn of 1696, when not only Charles II, but also his Queen, who had been believed of late to be with child, was dangerously ill. A few weeks later William III had to oppose the Imperial Court, which wished the Spanish Succession to be fixed by one of the articles of the Treaty to be concluded. Practically no serious negotiation had been opened on the Spanish question, and no decision had been taken in regard to it, when the peace instruments were signed at Ryswyk.

In any endeavour to describe the development of this question from the Treaty of Ryswyk onward to the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession, it is necessary to distinguish between the proceedings and events which took place at the Court of Madrid, and the political transactions among the European statesmen outside Spain. For neither could his Catholic Majesty alone make an arrangement sure to satisfy all and therefore to meet with a general assent, nor were the other Powers likely, even if they came to an unanimous conclusion, to obtain for it the approval of the Spanish nation. Castilian pride would never admit the possibility that the monarchy of Philip II could be dismembered, or give room to any doubt, except as to whether the sole heir of the monarchy of Charles II should be a Bourbon or a Habsburg or a Bavarian prince; and, further, held it indispensable that the choice should be determined within Spain itself. On the other hand, the political pretensions and commercial interests of the Powers concerned in the first or in the second line were so diverse that it seemed hardly possible to find a satisfactory solution without proceeding to a partition of the vast empire.

More than at any former period in the life of Charles II, the intrigues as to the Succession- began after the Peace of Ryswyk to perturb court life at Madrid, where each candidate had his own party— where at one day the French, at another the Austrian or Bavarian influence seemed to prevail. Next to these, the hereditary right of the Duke of Savoy, whose great-grandmother had been a daughter of Philip II, was also much discussed. Indeed, in addition to these European dynasties, the pretensions of certain noble personages in Spain were also occasionally brought up who could lay claim to at least one or another part of the great inheritance. Among these was even the bearer of the great name of Montezuma.

During the greater part of the following year, while the health of Charles II was in a very desperate state, the general inclination in Spain seemed to be in favour of a French Prince. The ambassador of Louis XIV made all imaginable endeavours, squandering great sums of money, to strengthen the French sympathies among the common people. His influence grew stronger every day. “The French ambassador,” wrote Stanhope, “dares all this Court, as a hawk does larks.” It might be expected that no opposition would be attempted, if after the death of the invalid monarch a Bourbon prince should come into the country as his, successor. And this single condition only had to be fulfilled, that the two neighbouring monarchies should remain distinct from each other.

The Austrian party at the Court of Madrid consisted at this time only of a few persons, among whom Queen Mary Anne, Charles’ second wife, was the most important. She was a Palatine princess and sister-in-law to the Emperor Leopold, whose ambassador, Count Harrach, was her regular adviser. For some months they struggled hard against the French influence, trying to obtain a recognition of the claims of the Archdukes in Spain. But the King’s growing weakness seemed to indicate an approaching crisis. Under these circumstances, when, as one authority tells us, the French gained and the Germans visibly lost ground every day, Queen Mary Anne was prudent enough to make her peace with the French party. Moreover, she had been disappointed of late by the conduct of the Court of Vienna towards herself. The Austrian ambassador had come so seldom to ask for an audience, and the letters of the Emperor had been so dry, that she believed he would not lend her his assistance. Her constant fear was lest, after the King’s death, she might be locked up in the convent of Toledo, the usual place of retirement for the royal widows in Spain, She did not believe in the assurances of Count Harrach, that, in case she would lend her aid in bringing one of the Archdukes into Spain, she would really govern and the new monarch would be dependent on her; moreover, she had lost all hope of ever seeing the succession settled on an Austrian prince. On the other hand, she had every reason to set her hopes on Louis XIV. The French ambassador, and still more his lady, to whom the Queen was much attached, made her the most far-reaching promises. She should continue in her position even after Charles’ death; indeed, the question was dis­cussed whether she might not become the Queen of a Bourbon King of Spain, as she had been the consort of a scion of the House of Habsburg. She was additionally confirmed in her French feeling by Louis XIV seeming in return inclined to make concessions concerning certain territorial questions disputed between him and the Queen of Spain’s brother, the Elector Palatine John William. In consequence, she was now as much in the French interest as she had before been in the German. Indeed, after these successes of the French policy, one might have expected that immediately after Charles II’s death a descendant of Louis XIV would have appeared in Spain and, amidst the applause of the Grandees as well as the common people, ascended the vacant throne.

At the same time, however, while his affairs in Spain wore so favorable an aspect, Louis XIV was labouring at a solution of the Spanish question in a wholly different sense. Since the first month of this year, 1698, negotiations were in progress between him and William III, with the purpose of partitioning the Spanish monarchy. From the language held by the Earl of Portland, the favorite Minister of the British monarch, Louis became convinced that a Bourbon Succession in Spain would meet with the opposition not only of Austria, but also of the Maritime Powers. A European war would be the inevitable consequence of any attempt to bring about this Succession. The French King, therefore, began to listen to proposals coming from the British statesmen, aiming at the succession of the young Electoral Prince of Bavaria.

“What!” exclaimed Marshal Tallard, who negotiated with William III by order of Louis XIV, “Spain, India, Italy, the Netherlands—all this to fall to a son of the Elector of Bavaria!” But soon afterwards the opposition of France to such a scheme was laid aside. It is not easy to say what were the real motives that induced the King of France to prefer the Bavarian candidature to the succession of one of his grandsons—or perhaps we should rather ask, was this really his preference? If the Electoral Prince became King of Spain, as it was proposed by the English, this would in itself be more advantageous to France than the succession of an Archduke, which to Louis was the most disagreeable of all possibilities. In such a solution France, moreover, would find her profit, since it was intended that some parts of the great inheritance should be detached from the main body to enlarge the Austrian as well as the French dominions. While, therefore, Louis’ dynasty was interested in the Bourbon Succession, France would gain through the Bavarian candidature. If to this is added the natural wish of the French monarch, when only a few months had passed since the Peace of Ryswyk, to preserve France from a new war, there were reasons enough to incline Louis to the plan of a Partition implied in the British proposal.

During six months, from spring to autumn, 1698, French policy seemed to be working at the same time for two different purposes. Harcourt, the ambassador in Spain, tried his utmost and spared no money to bring about the entry of a Bourbon King at the moment of the daily expected catastrophe. In France, England, and Holland, meanwhile, statesmen were endeavoring to find out another expedient by proclaiming the young Joseph Ferdinand heir of Charles II, though not without detaching some portions of the inheritance for the benefit of the other pretenders. One only of these schemes could be realized. Did Louis XIV deceive William III, intending merely to amuse him in order to be the better able to execute his plans in Spain? Or, as some think, were Harcourt’s endeavors meant only to make an impression on the Maritime Powers, to give them a high, opinion of the influence which France possessed in Spain, of her sympathies with the Spanish people, of the good prospects awaiting her candidate in Spain, , in case France should proceed to extremities? No doubt, all this is very probable; and not less probable is it that the splendid military reviews held near the French capital in summer, 1698, in the presence of Portland and Wassenaer, the two intimate friends of William III, the confidants of his policy in England and Holland, were intended to inform the world how rich and powerful France still was after the conclusion of the War; what large resources she possessed—while a great part of the British army had of late been disbanded; how valuable an ally and how formidable an enemy she would be in any future war; and how advisable, therefore, it was to make acceptable proposals to the King of France in the treaty to be negotiated.

But if we must allow that of the two different schemes of policy with which Louis XIV was occupied in 1698, only one could in the end be realized, it by no means follows that the King did not take both schemes seriously. He seems to have desired that either way should be left open to him, so that he might choose the one or the other, according to the course of events. If the death of Charles II had occurred in 1698 and the French preparations had been finished, Louis would assuredly not have hesitated to send a Bourbon prince as the new King to Spain, and to defy the Powers and their Partition Treaty. This is exactly what he did afterwards—in 1700.


1698] Illness of Charles II.—Harcourfs instructions


In 1698, indeed, the preparations of his ambassador in Spain had not reached the degree of perfection requisite for success, in case King Charles should die. Louis had therefore to observe the greatest caution. His intentions are clearly explained in a letter to Harcourt, written on September 15,1698, when the negotiation with William III was drawing near to its conclusion. With all goodwill on the side of the Spaniards, Louis finds things not yet ripe to build his entire policy on the future succession of one of his grandsons. For it is only the people that wish it—none of the Grandees, except Cardinal Porto-Carrero, whose timid nature, moreover, does not allow him to give any but general assurances. No force is ready in Spain to support the French claim. Nay, even if the troops of Louis XIV should succeed in entering Spain and in establishing his grandson on the throne, it would still be necessary to take by force the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, the Indies, Milan, the Netherlands, and the other territories belonging to the monarchy of Spain; for the other Powers would certainly form a league against France still stronger than the last. So King Louis proposes to conclude on special terms a treaty with the King of England. This treaty, however, is not to be published during the lifetime of the present King of Spain. If Charles should die, and if Porto-Carrero and other well-intentioned persons should then ask whether Louis would not send one of his grandsons to Spain, Harcourt was to make answer as follows. All the King of France had hitherto been able to do was to move his troops near the Spanish frontier—which was indeed the principal measure that must precede the send jg of the Bourbon prince in person— but now he, the ambassador, had to inform his master what facilities and what assistance his troops would find on their way through Spain; what places of safety would be delivered into their hands; what confidence might be placed in the several viceroys and governors; and that only in reply to such information could his master give him his orders, so that within a few days they might receive the answer desired by them.

This time, however, the sick King survived, and the expected catastrophe in Spain did not happen. This only added to the importance of the negotiations between Louis and William; they were protracted through many months, a considerable number of offers and demands being exchanged. All these labours at last terminated in the First Treaty of Partition, signed at the Hague on October 11,1698. By this Treaty neither France nor Austria, but the Electoral Prince, was declared though not the sole yet the principal heir of the Spanish monarchy. Spain proper, India and the Netherlands, which latter were already under the governorship of the Elector of Bavaria, were assigned to his son, Joseph Ferdinand. The Italian dependencies, however, were detached from Spain proper. The French Dauphin was to receive the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, the places belonging to Spain along the coast, Tuscany and the marquisate of Finale; together with the Spanish province of Guipuzcoa, contiguous to France. The duchy of Milan was to fall to Archduke Charles, the second son of Leopold. This agreement was, after the exchange of the ratifications, to be communicated to the Emperor and to the Elector of Bavaria in order to obtain their approbation.

The Treaty of the Hague did not long remain unknown to the Spaniards. Some time since, the Court of Madrid had been alarmed by the familiar intercourse of Tallard with King William, as well as with the foremost Dutch statesman, the Pensionary Heinsius. From Holland, where no political negotiation could be kept secret, news reached Madrid, through different channels, of an intended Partition of the Spanish monarchy. Vehement indignation arose among the Spanish people. “They will rather,” wrote Stanhope, “deliver themselves up to the French or the devil, so they may go all together, than be dismembered.”

Thus it was as an immediate consequence of the Partition Treaty—not, as Ranke says, independently of it—that the idea arose in Spain of securing a recognition of the rights of the Electoral Prince by the Government, not indeed in the sense of Louis and William, but as a means of transferring the dominions of the Crown of Spain undiminished from Charles II to his successor. Herein lay the fundamental distinction between the two schemes for settling the Spanish question. In a letter from Louis XIV to Harcourt, he clearly explains the difference. He considers that the Electoral Prince, when of age, will not object to the renunciations imposed on him by the Partition Treaty, if this treaty should be the sole source of his right; but that, were he appointed by a royal will, his title would be much stronger, and he might on some future day declare that, during his minority, the Powers had done him injustice, alienating from him part of his inheritance. Harcourt was therefore to do his utmost to prevent a will being made by Charles II.

In this attempt, however, he failed. On November 14, 1698, the Spanish monarch assembled his councillors round him in his palace. He said that he had called them together on account of. the most considerable matter that could concern the monarchy; that, since his last fits of illness, he had been advised to dispose of the Succession before his death; which, in consequence, he had done, and so would have them know his last will before God should call him. In the document, then read by his secretary, the King had appointed the Electoral Prince of Bavaria his successor to the Crown, confirming at the same time the testament of Philip IV. In case of a minority of the future King, Queen Mary Anne was to hold the regency together with a Junta of six persons. And, when the King should have become competent to take the government into his own hands, she was to have a fixed income of 800,000 dollars, and liberty to live in any town in Spain that she might prefer. The councillors, after hearing all this, retired without giving an opinion or even making a reply. 


1698-9] Charles’ will in favour of Joseph Ferdinand.


This will of Charles II was the counter-stroke of Spain against the policy of the Partition Treaty, an attempt to save the integrity of the monarchy, to deliver it from the danger of being dismembered which threatened it from the agreement between France and the Maritime Powers. Charles had ordered his councillors to keep the secret; but the solemn act performed in the royal palace could not fail to command general attention. A fortnight later, Harcourt was able to send exact details to France; within a few weeks the news had spread through Europe, and everywhere it caused the greatest excitement in the diplomatic world. Those who were ignorant of the contents of the Partition Treaty, as the Ministers of the Emperor still were at that time, were inclined to believe “that this great transaction could not have been accomplished without the previous knowledge and consent of France”—: the more so since the French Ministers seemed to be well satisfied with the news from Madrid. Others, familiar with the intentions of William and Louis, like Grand Pensionary Heinsius, declared that France would never consent to, the will, and that her ambassador in Spain would doubtless hand in a note of protest. Marshal Tallard went so far as to assert that, if this intelligence as to the will should prove true, he was sorry to say that a new war was imminent. In England the public looked with indifference, or even with satisfaction, on the supposed settlement of the great Spanish question, being delivered from the fear that a French prince might succeed in Spain, and glad not to be disturbed in their trade with that country and its colonies.

Who can say whether by the succession of the Electoral Prince, had it taken place in one form or another, a general war would really have been avoided? In Austria at least, there was little in­clination to submit either to the Partition Treaty or to the will of Charles II. But now an unexpected event happened. The young Joseph Ferdinand suddenly died (February 5, 1699). The cause of his death was officially said to have been small-pox; but reports were spread—and the Elector himself seemed to believe in them—to the effect that some sinister design had ended the life of his son.

The political situation was once more totally changed. How often the immediate decease of Charles II had been foretold! But now the ailing monarch survived, and his youthful heir was dead. A new arrangement had to be devised.

In London, in Paris, at the Hague, the unexpected news caused the greatest consternation. Pensionary Heinsius for some hours refused to see anybody. Next day, speaking to the Imperial ambassador, he said, “This reminds us how transitory worldly affairs are.” His fear was that France might now recommence her intrigues in Spain. The two monarchs of England and France hesitated openly to declare themselves, each of them being desirous of knowing what the other would do, before he gave his own opinion. “You will, in fact,” wrote Louis to Tallard, “wait for his answer before making any overture to him on my part.” Tallard answered that he was requested by William to send a courier to his master to know his opinion about this important event. “But,” Tallard’s letter concluded, “ either I am much mistaken or they will again enter into negotiations.” This proved indeed to be true. The first question was whether, after the death of the person in whose interest it was principally designed, the Treaty of Partition still practically existed. There was annexed to the Treaty a secret Article, which appointed the Elector of Bavaria, in case his son should die without children, the heir of Joseph Ferdinand in all the kingdoms and States assigned to that Prince. Could this secret Article remain in force although, contrary to its supposition, the Prince had died before the King of Spain, whose dominions he was to inherit? Or, in other words, could the Elector be considered as the heir, not only of his son’s property, but also of his rights of inheritance ? At first, the answer seemed not to be quite clear; but later, on the part both of the French and of the English, the conclusion was reached that the secret Article became inoperative. William read it over attentively, and convinced himself that new engagements must be entered upon.

Before we attempt to describe the ensuing negotiations and their result, the Second Treaty of Partition, it may be useful to recall William Ill’s difficulties in England, to which reference has been made in an earlier chapter, and the hindrance they proved to the freedom of his actions abroad. Now that the War was over, public opinion in England was expectant of a lasting peace, and the old aversion against a standing land-army, dating from the military rule of Oliver Cromwell, had been revived. On the other hand, the requirements of European politics, the necessity of maintaining the position England had won by the War, of opposing the dangers that threatened from Louis XIV and from the question of the Spanish Succession, of which the solution might be near at hand, were not yet generally felt in England. In December, 1697, his Ministers suffered a resolution to be passed in the Commons that all the land forces raised since 1680 should be disbanded; but William, by means of his Civil List, succeeded for the present in keeping more troops under arms than he was allowed by the said parliamentary resolution. Hence in the negotiation for the First Partition Treaty Louis had to observe a certain moderation in his demands. When, however, in December, 1698, a new Parliament had assembled, in which the Opposition was still stronger, the Commons resolved that the land forces should be reduced to 7000 men, and consist only of English-born subjects. This meant the dismissal of several thousands of Dutch troops whom the King had brought over with him from Holland and who were still in his pay.

William, both disappointed and affronted, thought at least for a moment of leaving the country, since it would be no longer in his power to secure for England the position in Europe which he had crossed the sea to assure to her. The draft of the speech in which he indicated his intention, not of abdicating, but of absenting himself till his presence should become necessary for England’s defence, still exists, though the speech was never delivered. William remained at his post.

His new move, made after some months, to the same purpose as before, by means of a message to the House asking for a retention of the Dutch troops, met with a flat refusal, in what he called a “very impertinent” address, to whose doctrinaire constitutionalism he had, however, to submit. But events told for him. As if to encourage Louis in his resistance against the demands of William, Marshal Tallard wrote to his master: “All that has passed this year in Parliament, and the discontent of several Lords, have so weakened the royal authority that there is hardly any more attention paid to it.”

The rebuffs which William met in England could not but diminish the weight of his power in the balance of Europe; and they must be remembered in order to understand the character of the negotiations as to the Spanish Succession reopened between England and France after the death of the Bavarian Prince. The pretensions now set up by Louis XIV went much beyond those which he had previously advanced; William, unable to risk a new war, was obliged to accept them. The principal heads of a new Partition Treaty were arranged, and together with Louis, William sought to win for them the assent of the Emperor, not without the fear that a separate agreement might be concluded between the Houses of Bourbon and Austria. Louis himself was to such a degree master of the situation that not only did he seem able to choose between William and Leopold, but, at the very time when these negotiations were going on, and after the Treaty was signed, his party in Spain was at work to secure the whole inheritance of Charles II, without any dismemberment, for his grandson.

It was seen above that the Treaty of October 11, 1698, was held to have become inoperative after the death of Joseph Ferdinand. Nevertheless, William had in mind the possibility of adhering, or rather of returning, to this Treaty, by taking up, in accordance with its secret Article, the claim of the Elector, Joseph Ferdinand’s father; The King of England and the States General as Tallard reported, were not averse from, making a new treaty; but, if this should not succeed, they desired the liberty of requiring the execution of the Treaty of the Hague. Thus, soon after the death of Joseph Ferdinand, the same persons who had accomplished the First Treaty of Partition are found again at work to find the basis for a new agreement. If Max Emanuel, in spite of the secret Article, could not take his son’s place, there were obstacles of a different kind to prevent the succession of other claimants whose names were again brought forward. The Duke of Savoy would never receive the support of England since he had deserted his allies in 1696, while France was equally disinclined to countenance the claim of Portugal, which she did not want to see once more united to Spain. In these circumstances, the Powers negotiating as to the Spanish Succession naturally confined themselves to the two principal candidates; or, to put it more plainly, they examined the problem how the whole of the Spanish inheritance might best be divided between the Houses of Bourbon and Austria.


Negotiations for the Second Partition Treaty. [1699


Such was the origin of the Second Treaty of Partition. Louis XIV made the earliest proposal, laying down his opinion in a letter full of political spirit, written to Tallard in February, 1699, a few days only after the death , of Joseph Ferdinand. “ The partition of the monarchy of Spain,” he began, “ divided by the Treaty of the Hague among my son and two other claimants, is naturally reduced to a division between two by the death of the Electoral Prince of Bavaria....The question has, therefore, to be settled how a partition can be made into two equal halves and in a manner to assure the public tranquillity.” He goes on to say that Europe would be alarmed to see his power rise above that of the House of Austria. But, on the other hand, he declares the power of the Emperor to have been so much augmented by the advantageous Peace lately concluded with the Porte at Carlowitz, that the general interest would, in case of a further increase of this power, require that France should be enabled to counterbalance it.

According to this principle, the meaning of Louis’ proposal was to distribute the dominions which by the First Partition Treaty had been assigned to Joseph Ferdinand. With seeming disinterestedness, he was ready to give Spain and the Indies to the Archduke, adding to the Dauphin’s portion, as it had been settled by the First Treaty of Partition, only the duchy of Milan. This acquisition would not, as he put it, cause any jealousy on the side of England or the States General, since it did not increase the power of France by sea; so that from this source there could not arise any disturbance of the trade of the Maritime Powers. Louis also dwelt on the geographic position of Milan, which, should Spain fall to the lot of the Archduke, might furnish a communication between the dominions of the two branches of the House of Austria so easy as to be prejudicial to the interests of the remainder of Europe,

But he foresaw how difficult it would be to obtain the consent of England for a French acquisition of Milan, and therefore suggested at once as an expedient that this duchy might be given to the Duke of Lorraine, whose territory would in exchange be transferred to France. A similar arrangement was indicated as to the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, with the possibility that the French dominions might be still further enlarged by the duchy of Savoy and the county of Nice. With regard, in fine, to the Catholic Netherlands, they were to fall neither to the Dauphin nor to the Archduke. The question was left open which of four possibilities might he preferred when the time came for a decision.

The foundations were herewith laid for a fresh agreement between the two Kings. It is manifest how the pretensions of France had increased since the conclusion of the First Treaty of Partition. Louis could dare so much, because he knew of William’s difficulties in his last parliamentary campaign. How could William refuse what Louis demanded, when he had no hope of carrying his Parliament along with him to a war against France?

The result of some months’ negotiations between William and Tallard was the project of a new Partition Treaty, which received the approval of the two Kings and was signed on June 11,1699. The States General, to be sure, had not yet given their assent, and much less the Emperor. If the two Kings could, during the lifetime of Charles II, have brought their project into the form of a definite treaty, signed by the four Great Powers of Europe, there would have been a chance—the best within reach—of avoiding a general war. For Spain alone was too weak to oppose the will of Europe; and even Louis XIV would hardly have ventured to violate a treaty bearing the signatures of England, Holland, and the Emperor, besides his own. According to this project, the Dauphin was to have as his share the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, the places along the coast of Tuscany, hitherto belonging to Spain, the marquisate of Finale, and the province of Guipuzcoa. To these acquisitions was to be added, in exchange for Milan, the duchy of Lorraine, or, if the reigning Duke Leopold Joseph Charles should be unwilling to give it up, another adjacent province, such as Navarre or Savoy or Luxemburg; so that in any case a considerable aggrandizement of France proper would have resulted from this treaty, Spain, however, with all the rest of the inheritance of Charles II, was to fall to Archduke Charles, younger son of the Emperor Leopold; and care was to be taken that the two branches of the House of Austria always remained separated.

This project was sent to Vienna; and it was hoped, since the Archduke was intended to be the principal heir of Charles II, that it would meet with the approval of the Emperor. “I am glad,” wrote William to Heinsius on July 6,1699, “Mr Hop has begun the negotiations at Vienna, and that no bad impression seems to have been made at the outset.” But hereupon we hear of complaints as to the delays at the Imperial Court, which William feared might lead to the consummation of the great work without the Emperor. Nevertheless, the Powers were already discussing the place where the further negotiations should be carried on; and it was uncertain whether this should be Vienna, which King William thought best, or the Hague, as preferred by Louis. As in other points, so in this, William was ready to yield; “but however,” he says, “if France will not have it otherwise, it must be so.”

Hop had in his negotiations at Vienna not at once communicated the project of the new Treaty of Partition. The Emperor at that time still adhered to the idea that the whole inheritance must come to his House. When he learned what had been agreed on between England and France, he seemed, indeed, not so very much disappointed, for he saw his share would be large. He did not, however, yet know the exact nature of the stipulations. Thus, in the conference held by his Ministers on August 81, 1699, it was resolved to remonstrate against the injustice of these propositions, and especially to observe that the Emperor could not afford Milan. In vain William hoped to come to an understanding with Vienna, offering some additional concessions to the Emperor in compensation for Milan. When the news reached the Austrian capital that the Court of Spain had solemnly protested against the Partition Treaty, and that the Marquez de Canales had communicated to the Lords Justices in London a paper so extraordinary both in its contents and in its language, that he was ordered to leave England within eighteen days, the effect on the Imperial Court was a growing antipathy to any partition policy. At the same time it was hoped, at Vienna, that a favourable impression would be created in Spain, if the Emperor seemed to stand firm against any dismemberment of the Spanish monarchy. Would not Charles II, in his indignation against the policy of William and Louis, be easily induced to make a will in favour of the Archduke as the only possible way of avoiding a Partition?

It was clear enough that the Treaty had to be concluded without the Emperor, if it was to be concluded at all. The negotiations with Holland were continued until March, 1700, when, on the 25th, the instrument had received the signatures of the plenipotentiaries of England, France, and the States General. Article VII stated that the Emperor should be invited to accede to the Treaty within three months, and, if, after this term had elapsed, he should refuse to enter into it, the three contracting Powers would join in nominating a Prince to whom the share now assigned to the Archduke would then be given. But still the Emperor refused to accede to the Partition Treaty, never ceasing to hope that his son would obtain the Spanish inheritance undiminished. He would have the whole of Spain, or he would have war.

As to all essential points, the Second Treaty of Partition in its definite form was in close accord with the project of the previous year. Spain, the transatlantic possessions and the Netherlands were assigned tp the second son of the Emperor Leopold, and were never to pass into the hands of the Austrian line of the Habsburgs. The Spanish possessions in Italy were to be transferred to the Dauphin, although Milan was to be exchanged for the duchy of Lorraine. The other possible methods of dealing with Milan, mentioned in the project, were this time treated in a secret Article, with the evident intention of its not being disclosed to the Austrians when the rest of the Treaty should be presented in Vienna. In this secret Article it was also provided that, beyond the three months allowed by Article VII for the accession of the Emperor to the Treaty, his assent should still be accepted within two months after the official announcement of Charles IPs death by the Most Christian King.


1700] Spanish and Imperial opposition.


In May, 1700, the Second Treaty of Partition was officially communicated to the Courts of Vienna and Madrid. Charles II, we are told, “flew into an extraordinary passion, and the Queen in her rage smashed to pieces everything in her room.” Some days of general excitement followed. The King came from Aranjuez into his capital, to show his people that he was still alive. In the Council of State a very tumultuous scene was enacted. Charles wrote letters full of sorrow and complaints to the Emperor, to the Pope, to the petty Princes in Italy, with the view of touching the hearts of them all, and of gathering them round him against the Powers which had made a treaty for the dismemberment of the monarchy handed down to him from his ancestors. Most naturally, the unhappy Prince turned his eyes especially towards Austria. Charles and Leopold seemed to be natural allies against the Partitioning Powers. Queen Mary Anne promised Count Harrach that she would persuade her husband rather to lose all than to suffer the monarchy to be dismembered and himself alienated from Austria, by assenting to the infamous project of France, England, and Holland. Indeed, some preparations were made to place the Austrians in possession of the Spanish dependencies either dining the lifetime of Charles II or immediately after his death. Strict orders were sent from Madrid to the several Governors and commanders to maintain a state of constant defence and to remain in contact with the Court of Vienna, so as to be able, if necessary, to obtain assistance from it. A considerable augmentation of the army was actually resolved on by the Emperor. On the other side, Louis XIV had for some time been gradually increasing the French troops near the Spanish frontier, so that he was able to march an army into Spain within a very short space of time.

If all this looked like the preparations for a war between Spain and Austria, on the one side, and the Powers which had concluded the Partition Treaty on the other—a war which might perhaps break out even before the death of the King of Spain—it was Louis XIV who averted this danger in a very skillful way. He promised the Courts of Vienna and Madrid to enter into no hostility against Spain, and to take no step in the matter of the Succession, so long as Charles II lived, on condition that the Emperor likewise desisted from sending any troops into Spain or Italy. This proposal was accepted in Vienna.

About this time, when the political situation seemed no longer to indicate the imminent outburst of an European war, affairs were hurried on to a speedy decision in Spain. Charles II had seldom been seen so strong and in such good spirits as he was in August, 1700. A few weeks later the disease that had never left him assumed a more serious character than it had ever shown before. The last hour of the King of Spain, who had so often looked death in the face, was clearly at hand. Some weeks of the greatest excitement followed—the last efforts being made on the side of each Government to secure the victory of its own policy; the Partitioning Powers seeking, in the twelfth hour, to bring the Emperor into their Treaty; Leopold still hesitating, with the hope of securing the whole; Louis XIV openly professing to adhere to the method of his treaty with William III, and at the same time watching with the greatest attention the strife of parties in Spain. It was at this critical period that, independently of all these endeavours, of all diplomatic labours and of all political intrigues, the die was cast as to the question of the Spanish Succession, and of peace and war in Europe; and the decision was made in Spain itself, by the last action of its dying monarch.

For the last time a German and a French party are to be found at the Court of Madrid, each at work on behalf of its candidate. The Council of Castile had addressed a supplication to the King, as being in d fragile state of health, to confer on his loyal subjects the benefit of nominating a successor to his Crown. Queen Mary Anne, supported by Count Harrach, tried hard to induce her husband to make a will in favour of the Archduke. For some days she seemed to have won her game; the instrument was ready; and northing was wanting but the signature of the monarch. Nay, it is possible that even the signature had been added, when the adverse party succeeded in bringing about the burning of the will. Hereupon Cardinal Porto-Carrero, the head of the French faction, won a deciding influence over the dying King. He represented the feelings of the whole clergy in Spain, all of whom wished to see a French prince ascend their throne. These feelings had been further strengthened, inasmuch as the Pope had, some weeks before, written a letter to Charles II to recommend the succession of the Duke of Anjou. The King’s confessors worked together with the Cardinal-Primate. Thus the power of the Church contributed towards bringing the Crown of Spain to the grandson of Louis XIV. The will of Charles II, bearing date October 2, 1700, was signed by the King on the following day. His sufferings were still prolonged for nearly a month. On the last of October, when the Nuncio had bestowed the Papal benediction on the moribund King, the Grandees Of Spain were introduced into the adjacent chamber. They were told by the King’s confessor—for his own voice was extinct—in the King’s name, to be obedient to his will, to pay respect to her Majesty, his consort, and to keep unity among themselves, for so he hoped to keep the monarchy undivided. Touched to their hearts and with tears in their eyes, the assembly listened to the last message of their unhappy King. On the following day, November 1, 1700, Charles II had breathed his last.

In presence of a large number of nobles, who had come to be present at their King’s death, the will was opened at once. Its purpose and contents were in accordance with the aims pursued by Spanish policy during the preceding forty years. It was the final attempt to hand over the monarchy of Philip II, with all its world-wide interests and possessions, undivided to the coming generation—the last protest against the policy of the Partition Treaties. The will prescribed that no part of the monarchy should be alienated from its main body, and that this should never be united with any other foreign State. One prince was to inherit the whole, and this was to be Duke Philip of Anjou, second son of the Dauphin of France. To make his right clear, it was declared that the renunciations of the two Infantas, married to princes of the House of Bourbon, had only been made in order to prevent the union of the two kingdoms, and that, so long as this danger was avoided, these renunciations could not detract from the natural right of inheritance. Failing the Duke of Anjou, his younger brother, the Duke of Berry, was named successor; Archduke Charles only in the third place; and, after him, the Duke of Savoy. Article XIII expressed a pious hope that the Duke of Anjou, the future King of Spain, might become the husband of an archduchess, and daughter of the Emperor, so that by this means the peace and tranquillity of Christendom might be secured. A Council of Regency, of which Cardinal Porto-Carrero was to be the most important member, was to carry on the government of Spain until the arrival of the new King.

When the will became known in Spain, the people’s joy was general, as the danger of a dismemberment seemed happily to be avoided. However, the great question was not yet decided. This decision had to be given in France, at the Court of Louis XIV. Nobody could say, which way this monarch would prefer—whether he would adhere to the Treaty with William III or accept the Crown of Spain for his grandson. Till the news of Charles’ death reached the French capital, no definite resolution had been taken. It would be unjust to say of Louis XIV that his intention had been from the beginning to throw over the Partition Treaty, so soon as a will favorable to his House should be in his hands. Even when he was sure of such a will, while King Charles was still alive, he ordered his ambassador in Holland to assure the Pensionary that it was his intention to adhere to his engagements, rather than accept any offers that might be made to him. In addition to this, he still continued his efforts to obtain the accession of the Court of Vienna to the Treaty of Partition. No doubt, if he could have succeeded in this endeavour, the situation would have been very different from what it proved to be immediately on the death of Charles. As it was, however stringent the engagements of Louis were towards England and Holland, the work of the Partition Treaty still remained incomplete.

It was this side of the question which had to be considered when the courier brought the news from Madrid that Charles had died (November 1, 1700), and that Philip of Anjou was, by the royal testament, appointed to be King of Spain. The Emperor, who had hitherto refused to accede to the Partition Treaty, would certainly be still less inclined to do so now. For, in case Louis declined the proffered Crown for his grandsons, which of course he would have to do, if he adhered to the Treaty, this same Crown would be offered at once to the son of the Emperor. The Spanish ambassador in Paris was instructed by the Junta, in case of a French refusal, to bid the courier, who had brought the will to Paris, continue his journey to Vienna without delay, in order to make the same offer there. The Archduke would certainly be acknowledged as King in all the Spanish dominions, in accordance with the provisions of the deceased King’s will. Louis would therefore have to face the alternative—either of allowing the power of the House of Austria, hostile to France as it was, to be immensely increased by the accession of an Archduke in Spain, and the monarchy of Charles V, against which his ancestors had struggled in so many bloody wars, to be renewed, without any advantage accruing to France, or of seeking to secure for himself the benefits stipulated by the Partition Treaty. This, indeed, meant a war against the united strength of Austria and Spain. It was at least doubtful, whether in such a war Louis would have had the assistance of England and Holland, who had joined him in the Partition Treaty for no other reason but because they wished to avoid a new war. Moreover, if Spain should call a French Prince to her throne, did this imply so great an injustice to France that she should declare war against Spain? “If wax was inevitable, it should be made to defend the justest cause; and certainly such was the cause of the will.” Thus wrote Torcy, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who took part in the memorable conferences held among the intimates of Louis XIV under the King’s own presidency. Moreover, another con­sideration may have had its effect on the mind of Louis. If the Spanish marriages of himself and his father had really been prompted by the idea of establishing a right on the part of their dynasty to the Spanish throne, should he now, when the hour of fulfillment had come, disdain to gather in the fruits of the policy consistently pursued by France during more than half a century?

Such were the motives that induced King Louis to accept the will and to break the Treaty. If this was contrary to right, yet there were reasons enough to serve as an excuse. And, certainly, it was not the worst violation of international justice which history has to record in the reign of the great King Louis.

The acceptance of the will was announced to the world with all the solemnity which the Roi Soleil liked to show on important occasions. He called his grandson into his cabinet to tell him what his new dignity was. The Spanish ambassador was sent for to pay homage to his new sovereign as the first of his subjects. Then the folding-doors were flung open that communicated with a large saloon, where the whole Court was assembled; The old monarch’s eyes, with a look full of majesty, scanned the numerous company before he began to speak. “Gentlemen,” he said, pointing to the Duke of Anjou, “you see here the King of Spain. His descent called him to this Crown; the deceased King so ordered it by his testament; the whole nation desired it, and earnestly entreated me to give my assent; such was the will of Heaven; I have fulfilled it with joy.” Then he turned to his grandson: “Be a good Spaniard; that is now your first duty; but remember that you are born a Frenchman, and maintain unity between the two nations; this is the way to make them happy and to preserve the peace of Europe.” After the shouts of joy from the company had ceased, Louis once more addressed his grand­son. “Let us now give thanks to God; may it please Your Majesty to attend Mass.” The two Kings then proceeded to church; Louis desiring his grandson to walk on his right and thus conceding to Philip the honor due to a foreign monarch.

“I never”, wrote William to Heinsius on November 16, 1700, on hearing that the will had been accepted by Louis XIV, “relied much on engagements with France; but I must confess, I did not think they would on this occasion have broken, in the face of the whole world, a solemn treaty before it was well accomplished.” Not less concerned was the Emperor Leopold by the news from Madrid and Paris. But soon he regarded the future with better hope, since the last step of Louis XIV must doubtless have the result of bringing back to him the Maritime Powers, his old allies against France. Such was indeed the actual course of events. Very soon negotiations were begun with the purpose of renew­ing the Grand Alliance of 1689. William and Heinsius were at once convinced of the necessity of war; and so was the Emperor; although some time, passed before the English and Dutch nations acquired the same perception. In all countries pamphlet-writers were at work to bring public opinion into accordance with the intentions of the Govern­ments. In Austria they showed that the renunciations of the two Infantas had not lost their validity and could not have been set aside by the will of Charles II; that this King, who had been an enemy to France through all his life, would never, while in the full possession of his mental powers, have made a will in favour of a French Prince. At the same time they had information that, when the dead King’s body was examined, his brain and heart had been found totally destroyed by disease, so that his signing the will a few weeks before his death could not have been an act done with freedom of will and mind. If therefore the testament was null and void, and the renunciations were in force, the right of the House of Habsburg was proved beyond all doubt. English writers upon the subject, among whom Daniel Defoe in his Two Great Questions considered was the most prominent, likewise denied the right of the Duke of Anjou, and dwelt more fully on the consequences which his succession would entail for England—especially the ruin of the commercial interests in the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the East and West Indies. They recommended the renewal of the alliance with the Emperor. Defoe became one of the principal advocates in England of a war against France; and when, on account of the above-mentioned pamphlet, he was reproached as being more Dutch than English in his feelings, he gave his answer in his grim satire The True-born Englishman, published in January, 1701, which gained him the confidence of William III.

Louis XIV himself did much to facilitate the task of William III and Heinsius, which consisted in bringing the nations of England and Holland to understand that their own interests were menaced by the Spanish kingship of Philip of Anjou. The famous words, “Il n’y a plus de Pyrenées”, generally ascribed to King Louis, were indeed not spoken by him, but by the Spanish ambassador in Paris, who by the phrase merely meant to indicate the close relations between the two countries, caused by the accession of a Bourbon King in Madrid, without contemplating the thought of a total union between France and Spain. It was of more consequence, that, in December, 1700, Louis thought fit, with solemn expressions, to reserve the eventual rights of the new King of Spain to the Crown of France. Very likely even this did not imply anything beyond the wish to avert the result that a Prince of his House should be placed under a disability as to the succession in France, in case other claimants should fail. And even then, according to the opinion of Louis, it did not follow that his grandson would rule over the united kingdoms of France and Spain. The question for him was only to secure a King to France in any and every emergency, whatever might one day become of Spain; for, after all, France was nearer to his heart and always the principal object of his care. If this be a just, as it certainly is a benevolent, interpretation of the French King’s actions, yet they were not very prudent, inasmuch as contemporaries alight easily see in them a proof of his intention to prepare the total union of France and Spain.

For six months it was still doubtful whether peace or war would ensue on the last steps of Louis XIV. William had to observe the utmost caution towards the Parliament, opened in February, 1701. He had to deal with a Tory majority, little inclined for a new war, and so little dissatisfied with the succession of Philip of Anjou, that they thought it much preferable to the policy of the Partition Treaties. And, since these treaties, as indeed their character seemed to require, had been kept secret from Parliament, nay, even from part of the Ministry, they were now criticized in a very unfriendly manner in both Houses. The Commons resolved to impeach before the Lords several of the King’s principal councillors, among whom were Portland and Somers, for the part they had taken in those treaties.

But the events and the rashness of Louis XIV were the best allies of William in his parliamentary campaign. In February, 1701, the fortresses in the southern Netherlands forming the Dutch Barrier against France had, in full peace and quite unexpectedly, been taken by French troops. The Dutch garrisons had, for the present, received orders to retire.


1701] English public feeling supports William.


In March negotiations were opened at the Hague with the French Minister d’Avaux. They showed very speedily that France was not willing to make any concessions. Instead of the. Treaties of Partition, the Peace of Ryswyk was to be the basis of any agreement between France and the Maritime Powers. No Dutch Barrier and no compensation for the Emperor would be granted.

In this condition of things William contrived in masterly fashion to draw advantages from his double position as English sovereign and as Stadholder General in Holland. He induced the States General, according to his wont, to be silent or to represent in writing the dangers which threatened both nations from Louis XIV. The consequence was that by degrees public feeling in England underwent a change. The English became aware that it was unwise to separate the policy of England from that of Holland; they began to see the dangers from the union of the French and Spanish navies; they heard that companies were being formed in France to turn to the best advantage the facilities of commerce with Spain; many pamphlets were written; and, as an expression of the widely prevalent feeling, the so-called “Kentish Petition” was delivered to the Commons, to implore them to have regard to the voice of the people, and to enable the King “powerfully to assist his allies before it is too late.” The Lords, among whom the Whigs predominated, showed themselves more eager than the Commons to support the King in his foreign policy. But, as the Tories began likewise to see the necessity of a war against France, the Lower House ceased to withstand the demands of the whole nation; and, when Parliament had been prorogued on June 24,1701, William could feel sure of every support for which he could wish in this quarter, in case of a breach with France.

From this time forward William had no longer to be afraid of any serious opposition to his policy from the two nations whose destinies were entrusted to him. In July, 1701, the negotiations with the Emperor were opened in form at the Hague. Leopold had, for several months past, been endeavouring to bring about a renewal of the Grand Alliance of 1689, by the secret Article of which the Maritime Powers had been bound to support the Emperor and his line in their claims on the Spanish inheritance. But he was ready to renounce part of it, if only the balance of Europe were not disturbed. He wished to secure for his House the Italian possessions of the Spanish Crown. For the Maritime Powers, indeed, it was of greater consequence not to allow Spain herself and her transatlantic territories to fall under the control of France. Neverthe­less, the negotiation was opened on a basis not greatly differing from the Emperor’s standpoint. William and Heinsius wished that only the restitution of the Belgic Provinces and Milan might be demanded from Louis, so that this moderation might display their peaceful intention and convince the world, should these demands be refused, that war was unavoidable. The Austrians were not satisfied with such an arrangement. Belgium, they said, would be valuable as a barrier against France only for the States General; for the Emperor it would be an embarrassing task to govern these Provinces. And as to Italy, the security of the House of Austria’s possessions would be endangered if it received only Milan, while Naples and Sicily were left to France. The Maritime Powers yielded to Leopold’s demands, chiefly through the influence of Marlborough, who acted as English plenipotentiary in these negotiations. They consented that Austria should obtain the whole of the Spanish possessions in Italy; while the Emperor had to assent to the insertion in the Treaty of an Article by which any conquests that the Maritime Powers might make in the West Indies should be assured to them.

Such was the basis on which the Treaty of the Hague, called the Grand Alliance, was signed on September 7, 1701. In the second Article the three Powers declared that nothing was more essential to the establishment of the general peace than that the Emperor should obtain satisfaction for his claims to the Spanish Succession, and that England and Holland should for their part acquire security for their dominions and for the navigation and commerce of their subjects. These two principles contain the essence of the whole transaction. The coming War would, on the side of the Maritime Powers, be carried on in furtherance of their commercial interests, on the side of the Emperor for his political aggrandizement. And, although to him were assigned only the Italian possessions of Spain, yet he had no intention of hereby giving up his pretensions to the whole Spanish Succession. When, therefore, the two words “inter alia” had by mistake been left out in the Latin translation of the French text, the Austrian ambassador, Count Wratislaw, did not rest till they were added again. Belgium was to become a barrier for the security of the States General against France. Nothing was said of Spain proper; but the silence as to the main portion of Charles II’s inheritance seemed practically to include the acknowledgment of Philip V, though the Emperor could not be expected to accord it in form. Indeed the doubtful tenour of the treaty left open the possibility of a demand being preferred at a later date by the House of Austria for a larger share than that originally contemplated. An interval of two months from the day of exchanging the ratifications was to be allowed for securing, if possible, the ends of the treaty by amicable means. But nobody any longer believed in such a possibility. On the other hand, it is worthwhile to notice the similarity which existed between the articles of the Grand Alliance, and those of the Treaty of Utrecht, which set a final period to a European War of twelve years. A partition of the Spanish inheritance, not unlike that at which William III had aimed, proved ultimately to be the most satisfactory solution of the problem.

No sooner had the Grand Alliance been concluded, than Louis XIV took a further step by which, more than by any other, he aroused the hostile feelings of the people in England. In September, 1701, when the growing weakness of James II seemed to indicate his approaching end, Louis appeared at the death-bed of the exiled King, to announce the formal declaration that his royal friend might die without anxiety about his son, the Prince of Wales, since he, the monarch of France, was willing to acknowledge him as King of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Louis kept his promise. When James had died, his young heir, called James III by his adherents, was treated and honored as King of England by the French monarch and his whole Court.

Notwithstanding all this, Louis had no intention of breaking the treaties or of provoking William III. Though since 1697 William had been acknowledged by French diplomacy as King of Great Britain, yet this acknowledgment had been given only implicitly, not expressly, by Article IV of the Treaty of Ryswyk between France and England, which provided that his Most Christian Majesty would not disturb the King of Great Britain in the free and full possession of his kingdoms. This form had been chosen in 1697, in order that it might be possible for King Louis to continue to give the title of King to James II for the future, as he had hitherto done. Now, in 1701, it was asserted on the French side that King Louis meant strictly to observe the said Article, and that the title of King of England, accorded to the son of James, would not secure to him any other support from France except what was needed for his mere subsistence—indeed, nothing beyond what had been granted to his father. There was, however, little probability that these arguments, artful as they were, would be understood in England. William himself was deeply mortified when he heard the news from St. Germain. Being at table with some other persons, he pulled his hat over his eyes, so as to disguise his emotion. In England the patriotic indignation rose to a height which it had seldom reached before. It was the year in which the Act of Settlement had declared the Protestant Succession a principle never to be abandoned. And now the King of France had ventured to demand that England should accept from his hand a Catholic sovereign, just as he had bestowed a King on Spain. In all parts of the kingdom meetings were held and resolutions passed to express the confidence of a loyal people in their King, and their willingness to assist him in his action. 

In these circumstances the negotiations with France prescribed by Article III of the Grand Alliance were not so much as begun. No one any longer believed that peace could be preserved in Europe. Towards the end of his life, in his last Parliament, King William met with every support he could desire. He opened the session, as Tindal says, with the best speech that he, or perhaps any other Prince, had ever made to his people. It was answered by addresses of the two Houses, full of fervour and resolution. The Commons, moreover, in a special address required the King to add an article to the Treaties of Alliance, to the effect that no peace should be concluded with France until reparation was made for the indignity offered to the nation by the French monarch in declaring the Pretender to be King of England,, Scotland, and Ireland; The forces of England, it was further resolved, were to be 40,000 soldiers and the same number was voted for the sea service. In the spring of 1702 everything was prepared to guarantee the success for the coming War, in which England would be the leading Power. King William, indeed, did not live to see his life’s work crowned by the humiliation of Louis XIV. But, when in March, 1702, he felt his last hour come, he said he had looked at death on all occasions without any terror; sometimes he would have been glad to have been delivered out of all his troubles; but he confessed that he now saw another scene, and could wish to live a little longer.