The Foreign Policy of Louis XIV, to 1697

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7 Apr 2011
Week Beginning September 27th:
International Relations in Europe (1688-1725)”
Theme: The Foreign Policy of Louis XIV, to 1697
- Most changes in political structure of Europe b/w 1688-1721 arose in connection w/ five great wars: the Nine
Years War, the War of Spanish Succession, the Turkish wars of 1683-99 and 1714-18, and the Great Northern
- That these wars didnt merge into ONE European conflict suggests a tripartite division of Europe into West,
North and South-East; no hard and fast partitions between these regions
-> Number of these states belonged to two or more of these regions i.e. Hanover and Brandenburg to West and
North, Habsburg Monarchy and Venice to West and South-East, and Russia and Poland to North and South-East
- Common for countries of one region to get involved in the affairs of another; almost always to amend the balance
of forces; yet attempts to call in the forces of another region in order to upset the existing forces elsewhere, or break
a military deadlock nearer home, usually failed
- A tripartite division of Europe between 1688-1714 would be difficult to maintain
-> European capitals (including Constantinople) then came to form a single indivisible political structure
-The French influence, the consolidation of the Habsburg monarchy in central Europe, together with the emergence
of Britain and Russia, led to a more even distribution of power – or of weakness – on the Continent
-> Instead of one preponderant power, there were now five of the first rank;
1) Great Britain 2) France 3) Spain 4) Habsburg Monarchy 5) Russia
-> Savoy and Prussia were rising
- About 1714-15, in Great Britain, France, Spain, Habsburg State, Russia, Sweden, Tuscany and Parma, the
succession to the throne was either disputed or uncertain
- Great Britain now reigned supreme on the seas and had taken part in two great land wars; it was clear that Britain
was to stay in Europe;
***(WHY?? BASICALLY; Britain was starting to become really strong, especially on water in terms of naval,
and they couldnt be exerted fully as a power on the Continent without allies. Britains most effective diplomatic
weapon was that they could afford with their sea power, freedom of action in distant lands. Without conscious
design [meaning it just basically all fell into place on its own] this helped to combine all Europe into one political
- The new order was founded on the balance of power between the leading States; but this was no accident; avowed
purpose of the Utrecht settlement wasto confirm the peace and tranquility of the Christian world through a just
equilibrium of power” – basically, a kind of “equality” and “political equilibrium b/w the powers was to be the
foundation of public safety”
- To Louis XIV, “equality of power” between States seemed as dumb as equality of honour between them; on
occasion, he was ready to admit a kind of condominium (law)
-> To preserve peace by Spanish Partition treaties, Louis sought a close association with William III (if William
was in agreement with him, they “could together lay down the law to the rest of the world”
-> In 1715 he again entertained the idea of a condominium with the Emperor, to resist the maritime powers
(England+allies) who were interfering withthe true gods of the earth (LOUIS WAS SO LAME)
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- Anyways, William was more focused on “the liberty of Europe and thought that with Louis’ over-weening
ambition, his victory could bring on “the slavery of all Europe
-> William strove above all to preserve the independence of numerous European states and to contain France
-> In 1697, the commons thanked him for having restored to Englandthe honour…of holding the Balance of
-Application of the balance principle meant that the French and Spanish monarchies were to be kept forever
separate.; the House of Austria (excluded from Spain) was to rest content with acquiring most of the Spanish lands
in Italy and the southern Netherlands: while these would constitute a general barrier against any revival of French
expansionism, they would also continue the presence of the Habsburgs in Western Europe; Dutch were to be secure
behind their own Barrier in the Austrian Netherlands
-Russia displaced Sweden as the chief northern power, but her ascendency was never absolute and did not equal the
earlier Swedish predominance
-> Peter believed in the balance of power for both Western and Northern Europe; this facilitated between an
understanding between the Maritime powers and Russia
-Increased importance of Savoy reflected a larger trend that set in the 1680s – shift of the main game b/w the
Bourbons and the House of Austria from North to South, from Germany to Italy
-> One explanation lies in the problem of the Spanish monarchy, the chief preoccupation in Louis XIVs foreign
policy after 1685
-> Louis and the emperor were not interested in the Spanish lands at equal measure
-> No matter what line Louis followed, he knew that the dauphin and the Duke of Anjou would stand a better
chance of acceptance in Spain if Franco-Spanish differences were laid aside; task of wooing Spain was long and
hard; Louis came to believe that a lasting settlement could be reached if Spain would cede her Netherlands to
France in exchange for Roussillon
- Of all the powers arrayed against him in the Nine Years War, Louis wanted to fight Spain the least
-> Had made every effort to negotiate a treaty of neutrality with her
-> After all had failed, Louis declared war on Spain
- Peace of Ryswick in1697 ended the Nine Years War; it pitied France against the grand alliance of Spain, England,
the Holy Roman Empire and the United Provinces; William III was recognized as the King of England
- As early as 1689, William III spoke of sending naval squadron to the Mediterranean to protect Allied trade; plan
of invading France through Savoy appealed to him more and more
-> William saw the war as a whole and was fully armed for the negotiations leading to the Partition Treaties
-> His political disciples Marlborough and Heinsius never hesitated to give their utmost support to
Mediterranean ventures
-> It was this comprehensive vision that gave the Maritime Powers ascendency in the counsels of the Grand
Alliance and by far their most important ally was the emperor (he needed his military support)
-> Imperial troops because desirable for an invasion of France through Savoy
-> William counted on Leopold to restrain the Vatican when the Pope began to promote the movement for Italian
neutrality and other things favorable to France
- Acceptance of the testament of Carlos II severely stained French diplomacy; French diplomacy was hampered by
the prospect of Louis’ unmeasured success, later by the apparent imminence of his collapse
- The failure to establish effective balance in Italy after Utrecht, and the determination if Charles VI to vindicate his
Spanish title had its consequences
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