France: what went wrong
In the 1660s and ‘70s France had enormous advantages over its European neighbours: a large and growing population, a coherent national territory, a comparatively modern state apparatus with unparalleled opportunity to raise money, a powerful army, a strong king.
However the achievements began to wane. In the early 1680s and early 1690s the population stopped growing. At the same time the personal union of the Netherlands and England created a fiscally powerful opponent with capital resources greater than those of France.
The Nine Years’ War
The French sack of the Palatinate was so vicious that it galvanized the League of Augsburg into action. In February 1689 the Dutch declared war on France. In May a Grand Alliance was singed between the Republic, England, Spain, Sweden, Savoy and the Holy Roman Emperor. In the same month England and Scotland entered the war.
France was now isolated within Europe against seven major opponents and a number of lesser ones.
The Glorious Revolution was only bloodless in England. William failed to secure Scotland and Ireland with the same ease that he secured England.
In Scotland the ‘Claim of Right’ of April 1689 accepted William as king. In 1690 William recognized Presbyterianism (rather than Anglican) as the established Church in Scotland.
There was no longer a single established Church in the British Isles.
John Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, rode north to rally the Jacobite clans.
On 27 July 1689 several thousand Highlanders led by Viscount Dundee defeated William’s forces under General Mackay at Killiekrankie. But this was a Pyrrhic victory as Dundee was killed.
Because his army was tied down first in Ireland and then on the Continent, William was unable to subject the Highlands to the same military conquest as Ireland. Instead the government constructed Fort William, but lacked the troops to police it, and the Highlands remained unstable.
In the summer of 1691 the chiefs were given the opportunity to recognize William as king by taking an oath. The failure of Alasdair MacIan MacDonald to meet the deadline led to the punitive massacre of Glencoe on 13 February 1692. One historian has described this as ‘a minor act of state terrorism’ blown out of all proportion by William’s opponents. Whatever the moral judgment, the massacre had the desired effect. The Highlands quietened down.
Ireland presented a much graver threat. In the wake of James’s flight, his Deputy, Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell, mobilized Irish Catholics and by March 1689 controlled most of Ireland except Ulster. By April only Derry and Enniskillen stood out against the Jacobites.
With the encouragement and financial support of Louis XIV, James landed at Kinsale on 12 March with about 3,000 French reinforcements to assist Tyrconnell. In April he was forced to besiege Londonderry after being denied entry to the city when thirteen apprentice boys shut the gates in his face. The city was finally relieved (after 105 days) on 31 July 1690 when William’s ships broke through to relieve the city. The siege had more symbolic than military importance. At Enniskillen the Protestants were able to go on the offensive and on the day the siege of Derry was lifted the Williamites defeated the Jacobites at Enniskillen and Newtownbutler.
On 1 July (12 July NS) William met James at the Battle of the Boyne. Casualties were slight by the standards of contemporary warfare and the Jacobites retreated in good order. What made the defeat so decisive was James’s flight.
In 1691 the Jacobite stronghold of Limerick surrendered. On 3 October the Treaty of Limerick was signed. By its terms not only the French but some 12,000-15,000 Irish soldiers left for France.
About 25,000 were killed in the Williamite wars in Ireland.
Against his better judgment, William was forced by Parliament to agree to a series of penal laws discriminating against Catholics. These laws remained in force for much of the eighteenth century.
The Peace of Ryswick
The Nine Years’ War was a war of prolonged sieges fought mainly in the Spanish Netherlands. It was a war of attrition and ended with all parties in a state of exhaustion. It was ended by the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697. Louis recognised William as king of Great Britain (without fully abandoning James’s claims) and abandoned his conquests in the Netherlands and the Rhineland since 1688.
However he kept Strasbourg.
Two partition treaties of 1698 and 1700 tried to settle the issue by providing for the division of the Spanish Empire after Carlos’s death, but nobody bothered to consult the king.
In November 1700 Carlos II died. His will left the throne of Spain to the duc d’Anjou. On 16 November Louis presented his grandson (Philip V) to the Spanish ambassador. The ambassador:
‘Sire, how fortunate that we now have only one king’.He is also reputed to have said,
‘There are no more Pyrenees.’The War of the Spanish Succession
In September 1701 on the death of James II, Louis acknowledged his son, James Francis Edward, as James III, contrary to the provisions of the Treaty of Ryswick.
Blenheim. Bavaria was knocked out of the war. Further Allied victories followed.
In 1704 Admiral Rooke captured Gibraltar.
In 1706 Marlborough defeated Villeroi’s forces at Ramillies.
He then systematically freed the Spanish Netherlands from French occupation, capturing Dunkirk and Antwerp.
In July 1708 Marlborough foiled a French counter-offensive in the Spanish Netherlands at Oudenarde.
In 1709 Marlborough won another victory at Malplaquet. The cost in casualties was probably the highest for the entire eighteenth century. No exact figures are known, but it is estimated that c. 24,000 allies were killed and wounded, and c. 15,000 killed and wounded among the French.
The experience shook the allies and led to a great loss of confidence. Marlborough’s stock waned and his Tory opponents grew more confident.
The Treaties of Utrecht
The war was finally concluded by the Treaties of Utrecht (March and July 1713).
- Philip V became king of Spain.
- France recognised the Protestant succession to the British throne.
- Britain’s possession of Gibraltar and Minorca was confirmed, and she gained Newfoundland and St Kitts.
- The Spanish Netherlands was ceded to the Emperor and became the Austrian Netherlands.
- A series of barrier treaties secured the Dutch frontier.
- The Bank of England and the National Debt had been set up to finance the war.
- The nature of the British state had changed profoundly. Parliament was now a permanent part of the constitution.
- The Act of Settlement of 1701 vested the succession on the Protestant heirs of the Electress Sophia of Hanover.
- The Act of Union of 1707 united the English and Scottish parliaments and created a new nation - Great Britain.
Huguenot exiles poured out scurrilous pamphlets against Louis. In 1703 Louis’ troops massacred hundreds of Huguenot peasants in the Cévennes.
Archbishop Fénelon accused Louis of tyranny and declared that he was universally hated throughout France.
In 1714 on the death of Queen Anne, George, Elector of Hanover became King of Great Britain.
In 1711 Louis lost his son. In 1712 his grandson, his granddaughter-in-law and his great-grandson died of measles.
Louis died on 1 September 1715. He was succeeded by his five-year-old great-grandson, Louis XV. Philippe duc d’Orléans became Regent.
Louis left his country impoverished. France was still a great power but was now seriously challenged by Britain.