The Operation of the Balance of Power: The War of Austrian Succession
Pragmatic Sanction: Charles VI to ensure that the hereditary possessions of the Habsburg could
be inherited by a daughter
In 1740 the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire/ Austria Charles VI – last male
Habsburg died. Most people were okay with Maria Theresa getting to the thrown (most
but Bavaria accepted the pragmatic sanction0
Both Bavaria and Saxony had claims to the Habsburg Succession because of marriages to
the daughters of Emperor Joseph I, but these states weren’t dangerous without French
Maria went unchallenged, but she was very vulnerable; her army wasn’t the best, her
husband had little military talents, and most of her ministers were very old – belonged to
On 1740 December – the troops of the King of Prussia Maria’s Silesia and began the war
of the Austrian Succession
Frederick’s attack was a total surprise because Prussia had no natural claims to the
succession plus Prussia was never a traditional enemy.
Frederick died, and his son Frederick II succeed him- everyone thought he was a more
relaxed and peaceful king than his father
(some background info – during the Julich-Berg succession issue, Austria’s Charles VI
agreed to exclude Prussia from the goods) so this whole thing was a bit about getting
The accession of a young woman (Maria) in a time when Austria had financial and
military decline- Frederick saw the chance to capture Silesia
Plus getting Silesia meant that the Elector king of Saxony-Poland, Augustus III could not.
By going between Saxony and Poland and getting Silesia, Frederick could weaken both
and then possibly gain them for Prussia.
Frederick really thought that in a way he could easily get Silesia-maybe Britain and
France would Support Prussia and Maria would quickly yield away
After occupying it in December of 1740, he offered to buy it off of Maria, but she had
refused – pride played a part but also the validity of the pragmatic sanction
Maria expected other powers to be on her side; In Versailles Louis XV said that the King
of Prussia was a fool and Fleury called him a dishonest man. However, Fredericks victory
at Mollwitz in April 1741 encouraged others go forth and expand-Charles Albert of Bavaria captured Bohemia and Austria, while Phillip V of Spain demanded Tuscany and
Prama for Don Phillip.
Thus, Fleury was surrounded by bellicose aristocratic men who were led the ambitious
count Belle-Isle who wanted really badly to get rid of him and his cautious policies.
Fleury had to accept French policy returning back to the seventeenth century tradition of
territorial expansion at the expense of the Habsburg-there was no better opportunity than
Belle-Isle his view was to have territorial expansion- he acted as the French foreign minister-he
was supporting Charles Albert of Bavaria and urged for a coalition to break up Austria; the
southern Netherlands to France. Silesia to Prussia, Bohemia to Bavaria and the Italian lands to
Savoy and the Spanish Princes. Isle made alliance with Prussia and Bavaria believing he could
use them as prawns to gain land for France.
Autumn 1741- Spanish troops in Italy, French, Bavarian and Purssian troops in Maria’s
german and Bohemian States. The fiction was the France was not in war with Austria but
was merely acting as auxiliary of Charles Albert.
By the End of 1741 Isle ended up at Prague at the head of Franco-Bavarian Force, and
both Bohemia and upper Austria were occupied.
Charles Albert crowned himself Archduke of Austria at Linz and King of Bohemia at
Prague, and then elected Emperor Charles VII- the first non Habsburg for 300 years-
clearly French puppet
Mainly because of Maria’ stubbornness; what she did was throw herself to Hungary
where she gained enough support to make herself nobility becoming queen of Hungary.
With that power, she was able to raise a force of 20,000 which really helped her get
through crucial winter of 1741-42
Armistice was granted between Frederick and Maria through British mediation, she
needed to focus on French and Bohemian invasion that