What was the result of the War of the Spanish Succession?

1 Answer
Feb 15, 2016

Besides the death of about 700,000 people, some borders were redrawn, and territories changed hands.


Europe from the 1600s onward was all about balance of power. If one country became too large or too strong, the rest of Europe descended upon that one nation. Around the time of the War of the Spanish Succession, France was usually the country getting strong, then beat up by the other powers.

This seemed to be the course in 1701. In the previous year, Charles the Hexed (so called because of his major deformations), king of Spain, died. The many centuries of inbreeding by European royals (i.e. cousins having children, uncles and nieces having children, etc) had reared its ugly head in Charles. He had a terribly wretched jaw, preventing him from speaking and eating well. His inability to produce children, however, is what we are interested in.

So it came to be, when Charles passed in 1700, he had no children (and for the best, as his child would have probably been even worse). In his will, he left his entire kingdom to King Louis XIV of France's grandson. When this child became king, he would control both France and Spain (which included New World territories and a good chunk of Italy). Already, upon the death of Charles, Louis proclaimed his grandson Philip V, king of Spain.

Not so fast, said the rest of Europe. War was quickly declared by England, the Netherlands, Portugal, Austria, and a few minor players, leaving France fighting on several fronts. The details of the war are interesting to me (maybe not for you), but I won't go into detail. You asked for results, and here they are:

  • Austria got all of Spain's European holdings, like Italy, except Spain itself.
  • Spain and its overseas colonies went to a branch of the ruling house of France (different from the actual rulers of France; confusing, yes, but it's European history)
  • France had to give up some of their overseas colonies to the British, and agree to dismantle a base they had been using to attack British oceanic trade.
  • France had to recognize Portugal's influence in the New World, specifically their territory on the Amazon River.

These are only some of the terms. As you can see, France, for the most part, got the bitter end of the deal. You can read more about the terms of peace here.