Extracts from CHAPTER 2 of the Cambridge Modern History [Full text]
By AHTHUR HASSALL, M.A., Student and Tutor of Christ Church, Oxford.
THE prominent position occupied in Europe by France under Louis XIV from the death of Mazarin in 1661 to the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 affected in a marked though varying degree the politics of the whole of Western Christendom. In examining the causes and results of the rise of France to this position, a distinction must be drawn between the earlier and the later portion of the period. Till 1688, Louis succeeded in many of his aims, and during these twenty-seven years he secured for France territorial acquisitions of enormous value. After 1688, he was opposed by a European Confederacy against which he barely managed to hold his own. Nevertheless, in 1697 France still stood forth not only as the nation most advanced in the arts of civilisation, but also as the most powerful of European States, and a danger to the balance of power among them.
The supremacy which France had thus attained in both arms and arts, and the partial success which had attended Louis' policy of territorial aggression were due to many causes, chief among which were the consistent internal policy of the two great Cardinal Ministers and the political condition of the chief European States. Richelieu and Mazarin had, after infinite labour, reduced the nobility to obedience and laid down the lines on which the development of France should proceed. At home, religious toleration, the reduction of provincial autonomy, and the subordination of the Parlement of Paris to the royal power; abroad, alliance with England and the United Provinces, and encouragement of the independence of the Princes of the Empire - such was the substance of the political legacy bequeathed by the two far-sighted Cardinals to the young King.
It remained for Louis to take advantage of the political weakness of the great European States and, following the policy of the Cardinals, so to strengthen the monarchy that no Power or combination of Powers could by whatever means weaken its foundations. In carrying out this scheme Louis was aided by a variety of circumstances. England under Charles II and James II made no effective resistance to French projects; while the Empire was as disunited as ever, and many of its members continued more jealous of the power of the Emperor than they were of that of France. Moreover, the sudden recovery of Turkey under the Köprülüs kept the east of Europe in a state of continual alarm; nor was it till the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699 that the perennial menace to the Habsburg dominions was sensibly lessened. But the most alarming fact that Europe had to face was the fall of Spain from the position she had held under Charles V and his successors till the Peace of the Pyrenees. The disappearance of Spain from among the great European nations aided in a marked degree the rise of France under Louis XIV.
At the time of Mazarin's death the political outlook for France was promising. Louis XIV's marriage with Maria Teresa, the Spanish Infanta, brought with it possibilities of which time could alone determine the value. By the Treaty of the Pyrenees, France had strengthened herself on her north-eastern frontier by the acquisition of Avesnes, on the side of the Pyrenees by finally securing Roussillon, between Sambre and Meuse by the cession of Philippeville and Marienbourg, and in Lorraine by that of Bar, Clermont, Stenay, Dun, and Jarmetz. The Duke of Neuburg, the ally of France, had obtained Jülich; French troops had acquired the right to march through Lorraine; the League of the Rhine still more or less looked towards France for guidance.
The aspirations of the French nation were, however, by no means satisfied. The frontier of the Rhine had not yet been secured, and the Spanish Netherlands had not been conquered. Much, therefore, remained to be done; and by Louis XIV and his most astute advisers the Peace of the Pyrenees was regarded as merely a truce.
Till the War of Devolution in 1667, Louis contented himself with making elaborate preparations, with secretly helping the Portuguese, with concluding alliances in 1663 with Denmark, and in 1664 with Brandenburg and Saxony, and with taking an active part in the same year in the internal conflicts of the Empire. With the opening of the War of Devolution France entered upon a period of conquest and expansion, and till 1688 success on the whole crowned her efforts. From 1688, however, to the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, Louis XIV found himself confronted by an almost united Europe, and for the first time since the days of Mazarin a definite check was inflicted on French arms and French diplomacy. Nevertheless, throughout these years France held the foremost place in Europe. Had Louis XIV contented himself with following the policy of Richelieu, France would have been spared many disasters. But both in his home and foreign policy he aimed at ideals which in certain respects resembled those pursued by the Emperor Charles V.
... [F]rom the death of Mazarin in 1661 to the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, Spain was unable to offer any effective resistance to the schemes of Louis XIV; the European balance was considerably affected by her disappearance as one of the great Powers.
The Empire as a whole cannot be said to have realised the danger which threatened it from the ambitious projects of France till the formation of the Grand Alliance in 1689. The Augsburg Alliance of July, 1686, though it united in it a considerable number of Estates, including both Spain and Sweden for their German possessions, was only an extension of the Luxemburg Alliance of June, 1682, which had been confined to the Emperor and the Franconian and Upper-Rhenish Circles. Moreover, the Emperor Leopold was not able to offer any effective opposition to Louis. Till 1672 he was outwitted by French diplomatists, and, after fighting against Louis from 1672 to 1679, was glad to make peace. The Hungarians, too, instigated in part by the diplomacy of the French "Defensor Hungariae,'" had risen against Leopold under Count Emeric Tökölyi (1677-82). Till 1689 the Estates of the Empire could not be relied upon to offer a united opposition to the French monarch. From the Peace of Nymegen in 1678 their suspicions of the real aims of the German policy of Louis began to assume a definite shape; but the long war between Austria and the Turks which broke out in 1682 and lasted till 1699 prevented Leopold from using the strength of the Empire against its most dangerous adversary.
During the period from 1661 to 1670, the weakness of the Empire, the decadence of Spain, and the embittered war between England and Holland, enabled Louis XIV to formulate and carry out an aggressive policy, deliberately calculated to extend the boundaries of France and to strengthen and consolidate her position in Europe. The only Power which showed similar aggressive tendencies was Turkey. Under Mohammad IV (1648-87) and the Köprülüs, the gradual decline of Turkey was checked; and, from 1656 to the siege of Vienna in 1683, the Ottoman Empire like the French kingdom enjoyed a period of success. The attacks of the Turks upon Transylvania (1661), upon Hungary (1663), upon Candia (1669), and upon Poland (1672-8), indeed, aided the projects of Louis XIV; for, by diverting eastwards the attention of the Poles and Austrians, they weakened the Emperor's power of resistance to the French aggressions.
In the west, too, the years from the death of Mazarin in 1661 to the invasion of the Low Countries by France in 1667 constitute a period in which events favoured Louis, and facilitated his preparations for taking his first step towards the establishment of his claims upon the succession to the Spanish monarchy. As the Spanish throne was not then vacant, Louis contented himself with asserting his claim to the immediate possession of the Spanish Netherlands. It was based upon the so-called jus devolutïonis - a local custom of Brabant and Hainault, by which, though a man might have married more than once, the children of his first marriage succeeded to his property. Since Maria Teresa, the consort of Louis XIV, was the only surviving child of Philip IV's first marriage, Louis claimed the whole of the Low Countries; though in the course of his negotiations with Spain in 1662 he had declared his willingness to be satisfied with instant possession of Hainault, Cambray, Luxemburg, and Franche Comté.
The negotiations with Spain were resultless; but Louis never ceased his efforts to carry out his object. Already in April, 1662, he had entered into friendly negotiations with the leading statesman of the United Provinces, John de Witt, Grand Pensionary of Holland, and had concluded a treaty guaranteeing all the Dutch possessions in Europe. He had hoped at the same time to arrive at some arrangement with regard to the Spanish Netherlands. The plan of equal partition between France and the United Provinces was eventually rejected by de Witt, who preferred that the Spanish Netherlands should be erected into an independent Catholic republic, or remain under Spain if the latter Power entered into a close alliance with the free Provinces. To Louis, who, like Mazarin, desired the annexation to France of the Spanish Low Countries, none of de Witt's suggestions were acceptable; and the death of Philip IV of Spain, on September 17, 1665, seemed a suitable opportunity for pressing the supposed claims of the King of France. But in March, 1665, war had broken out between England and Holland; and Louis was, by the treaty of April, 1662, bound to aid the Dutch. Though they were able to assert their supremacy at sea, the alliance of Charles II of England with the warlike Bishop of Münster resulted in his raising a large army and overrunning the province of Overyssel. De Witt, however, succeeded in persuading Louis XIV to carry out his treaty engagements, though the behaviour of the French troops nominally hostile to the Bishop of Münster tended to increase the dislike felt by the Dutch for their allies. In January, 1666, Louis, fearing that de Witt might conclude peace with Charles II, reluctantly declared war against England. The French alliance affected the fortunes of Holland in a variety of ways. It strengthened the hands of the Dutch, who, early in 1666, won a series of diplomatic successes. Denmark concluded an alliance with them; Sweden was induced not to unite with England. At the same time, some of the German Princes became fearful of the results of a too close dependence of the United Provinces upon France. In October, 1666, the United Provinces were enabled, through the influence of the Great Elector - who had in February, 1666, threatened the Bishop of Münster - to form a Quadruple Alliance with Brandenburg, the Brunswick-Lüneburg Princes, and Denmark.
England was thus left practically without an ally, and the Dutch were free from the necessity of placing too much reliance upon France. During 1666 the war between England and the United Provinces continued with varying results. In 1667 two important events took place. On March 31 Charles made the first of his secret treaties with Louis XIV, agreeing not to oppose a French invasion of the Spanish Netherlands, on the understanding that the French fleet withheld all assistance from the Dutch. But the calculations of Charles were upset in June, 1667, by the Dutch attack on the English ships in the Thames and Medway - which compelled Charles to agree to the Treaty of Breda on July 31, 1667. For the United Provinces peace was absolutely necessary, since on May 24 French troops had crossed the frontier of the Spanish Low Countries, and the War of Devolution had begun.
For this war Louis' preparations had been carefully made. By a treaty with Portugal, concluded in March, 1667, it was arranged that hostilities between that country and Spain should continue; by the treaty of 1662 with the United Provinces their hands were tied; and by the secret treaty of March 31, 1667, Charles II had bound himself not to enter into an alliance with the Emperor against Louis XIV during the year 1667. Secure of a free hand in the Spanish Low Countries, Louis ordered his troops to cross the frontier (May 24, 1667). The southern portion of the Spanish Low Countries was speedily overrun; and Lille, the most important of the Belgian cities, was taken (August 27).
This rapid success alarmed Europe, and signs of opposition to France at once appeared. Spain hastily recognised the independence of Portugal (February, 1668), and, freed from all necessity of continuing her attempts to reconquer that kingdom, endeavoured to secure the assistance of the Emperor Leopold in the Low Countries. Her efforts were in vain. Louis, by the able diplomacy of his ambassador Gravel, contrived to induce the Imperial Diet in October, 1667, to abstain from active assistance to the Spanish Low Countries (which technically formed part of the Circle of Burgundy, one of the ten Imperial Circles); but he was unable to succeed in bringing about by the same means the continuance of the League of the Rhine beyond its formal term (August, 1668); when, after much negotiation, it came to an end. Further, by means of his able agent de Gremonville, Louis not only persuaded the Emperor Leopold to withhold all assistance from Spain, but actually induced him to agree to a treaty, signed on January 19, 1668, for the eventual partition of the Spanish monarchy between himself and Louis, should King Charles II, as seemed probable, die without children.
So far, the success of the French King had been remarkable and unchecked. Having secured by various means the neutrality of Brandenburg, and that of Sweden, and having encouraged the war between England and Holland, Louis had met with no serious resistance in his subjugation of the Spanish Low Countries. By the beginning of 1668 Spain was isolated and the alliance, or at all events the quiescence, of the Emperor secured. But it was these extraordinary successes of Louis which brought about the formation of the coalition between England, the United Provinces, and Sweden, almost distinctively known as the Triple Alliance.
Some such coalition was justified, not only by the French invasion of the Spanish Netherlands, but by the French conquest of Franche Comté, which was effected in February, 1668. On January 23 England and the United Provinces concluded an alliance which in April was on certain conditions joined by Sweden. Louis had thus to face a formidable adverse combination. The importance of the Triple Alliance lies in the fact that it was the "first formal expression of European resistance to the aggressions of Louis" - the first attempt to check a Power which continued to dominate Europe till the Treaty of Ryswick. Spain and Portugal were now at peace (February, 1668), the influence of England being paramount in the latter kingdom; and Louis could no longer rely upon the abstention of Spain from active measures in the Low Countries. Moreover, by consenting to make peace, he would lose little, and would break up the coalition which was being formed against him. By his recent secret partition treaty with the Emperor Leopold, Louis was eventually to receive as his share the Low Countries and Franche Comté. Though his pride caused him to resent the necessity of yielding to the Triple Alliance, Louis in the end agreed to come to terms with England, Holland, and Sweden. On May 2, 1668, the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed. In this compact Louis strengthened his northeastern frontier by the acquisition of certain fortresses in the Netherlands with their districts. Franche Comté, Cambray, St Orner, and Aire were given up by the King of France; but by the secret partition treaty with Leopold it had been arranged that on the King of Spain's death all these were to be incorporated in the French dominions.
In face of the growing hostility of Europe Louis showed wisdom in agreeing to the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle and in adopting a waiting policy. Yet Europe was far from being united; Brandenburg and other German States were jealous of the Emperor; England and the United Provinces regarded each other with hostility; Sweden was ready to fall in with the highest bidder. Some twenty years had yet to pass before the chief European States, recognising the danger which threatened them from France, were found prepared to sink minor differences in a united effort to reduce the power of the aggressive French monarch. Louis XIV, however, bitterly resented the necessity which forced him to agree to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, and from the moment of its signature seems to have resolved to gain his ends in the Spanish Netherlands by means of a direct attack upon the United Provinces. This decision ran counter to the policy to which the French monarchy had adhered since the days of Francis I. For it was distinctly opposed to the principle of pursuing Catholic interests at home and Protestant abroad, which had enabled France to secure allies against the Emperor among the German Protestant Princes. Louis, however, was bent on the reduction of the Spanish Netherlands; and the surest means to that end seemed to be found in the overthrow of the Dutch Republic. The magnitude of this blunder became more and more apparent, as the reign of Louis XIV proceeded. " In Holland," writes Mignet, " the old political system of France suffered shipwreck."
In order to achieve the end which Louis proposed to himself, the overthrow of the new combination which had led to the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was necessary. The task was at once undertaken. "The years between 1668 and 1672," writes Camille Rousset, " were years of preparation; when Lionne was labouring with all his might to find allies, Colbert money, and Louvois soldiers for Louis." The task of breaking up the Triple Alliance itself, however, did not prove to be one of insuperable difficulty. For a short period after the formation °f this Alliance western Europe remained in a condition of uneasy peace, while the obnoxious compact was being rapidly undermined.
The three partners in it were ill-assorted, and without any real ground of agreement. Sweden had little to fear from Louis. Her interest required constant watchfulness as towards Denmark and northern Germany. With Denmark Sweden was in an almost unending feud; while by her successes in the Thirty Years War she had acquired possessions in northern Germany, which could not be regarded as definitively united to the Swedish monarchy. The rise of Brandenburg already threatened the stability of the arrangements made by the Treaty of Westphalia in the north-east of the Empire. Moreover, Sweden was a poor country, and her Government was ready to unite with any Power that offered regular subsidies, especially if combined with military assistance for the defence of Swedish Pomerania. From England and Holland no adequate help either in money or men could be looked for in the event of an attack upon Swedish Pomerania by any German Power. It was therefore not surprising that Sweden was easily detached from the Triple Alliance and made a treaty with Louis on May 6, 1672. Charles II of England had already by the Secret Treaty of Dover, signed on June 1, 1670, deserted the Triple Alliance and promised to join France in a war against the Dutch Republic.
The Triple Alliance was thus broken up, and, four years after its conclusion, Louis XIV was able to invade the United Provinces. Till 1688 constant attempts were made to form coalitions against France; but, owing to the policy of Charles II and James II of England, to the Franco-Swedish Alliance, to the necessity of defending Germany and Hungary against the Turks, to the divisions existing among the various German States and to their suspicions of the Emperor, no organised opposition was possible.
Unfortunately for the peace of the whole continent, the aggressions of Louis XIV in the west, which definitely began in 1672, coincided with the attempts of the Turks to dominate eastern Europe. In 1656 the appointment of Mohammad Köprülü as Grand Vizier marked the beginning of the sudden revival of the Ottoman power... His successor, Ahmad Köprülü, continued his policy of reform at home and aggressions abroad. With the help of Louis XIV, who sent a French force to his help, the Emperor Leopold defeated the Turks in the battle of St Gothard on August 1, 1664, and concluded the Truce of Vasvar on August 10. Vienna was saved; but the hold which the Turks had established over Hungary remained unshaken, and a compromise was arranged with regard to Transylvania. The outbreak of war between Turkey and Venice resulting in the capture of Crete (September, 1669) showed that the ambitious aggressive policy of the Ottoman power was as dangerous to the integrity and peace of eastern as that of Louis XIV was to that of western Europe. In 1669 the Polish Diet elected not the French candidate, the Count Palatine Philip William of Neuburg, but Michael Wisniowiecki, the national candidate, who was married to Eleonora Maria, the sister of the Emperor Leopold, and looked to him for support.
It was impossible to hope for a united resistance to the French King, so long as there was a possibility of a Turkish attack upon Vienna, an opportunity for which was afforded by the disturbed condition of Poland. In 1672 that country was invaded by Ahmad Köprülü; but the Turks were defeated by John Sobieski both before and after he had, in 1674, succeeded the weak Michael on the Polish throne. In June, 1674, Louis XIV made a treaty with the new King, who, in consideration for French subsidies, promised to support the malcontents in Hungary against the Emperor. The war between Poland and Turkey was brought to an end by the Treaty of Zurawna, concluded under French mediation on October 27, 1676. But, though by this treaty Ahmad Köprülü, who died three days after its conclusion, left his country in a position in eastern Europe not very unlike that occupied by France in western, his alliance with Poland was of little benefit to Louis XIV; and in 1683, when Vienna was besieged by the Turks, it was the King of Poland who bore away the glory of the rescue. While, however, John Sobieski was defending eastern Europe during the years 1674-77, the Emperor, even though aided by Spain, the Dutch, Brandenburg, and Denmark, proved unable to place any substantial check upon the ambitious policy of Louis XIV.
In 1670 Louis had been resolved to win eventually the Imperial Crown, to secure part of the Spanish possessions, and to conquer the United Provinces. On February 17 of that year he had concluded a treaty with Ferdinand Maria, Elector of Bavaria, whose daughter, Maria Anna, was to marry the Dauphin, providing that in the event of the Emperor's death every possible effort should be made to secure his own election to the Imperial throne. The Treaty of Dover of the same year, followed by the formal detachment of Sweden from the Triple Alliance (April 14, 1672), left the United Netherlands open to a French attack; while the secret partition treaty concluded with the Emperor in 1668, followed by a treaty of neutrality in 1671, left it in the power of Louis to renew his occupation of Franche Comté. Sweden had been gained by the payment of 400,000 crowns and the promise of an annual payment of 40,000 crowns. In return, Sweden undertook, in concert with Denmark, to close the Baltic to the Dutch fleet and to land a force in the north of Germany. Like the alliance with England, that with Sweden proved of great value to France during the ensuing war. On December 31, 1669, Louis had made a secret treaty with the Elector of Brandenburg, who, in return for subsidies, to which was afterwards added the promise of the province of Spanish Gelders, undertook to aid France in conquering the Spanish Netherlands, and to support the interests of France in all the affairs of the Empire. Behind the plan of conquering first the United Provinces and then the Spanish Netherlands lay, therefore, the design of securing for Louis a position of authority and power such as had been held by Charles the Great.
The Devolution War had thus not only disunited Europe, but had been followed by unexpected developments. In more or less intimate connexion with the rivalry of France and Spain, which, at the time of the death of Mazarin, was the most momentous fact in European politics, and remained such throughout Louis XIV's reign, arose other important questions. In 1668, Louis had, as has been seen, concluded with the Emperor a secret partition treaty, which was to come into force in the event of the death of Charles II of Spain. Would that treaty hinder the Emperor from opposing the schemes of Louis with regard to the United Netherlands, Flanders, the German lands on the Rhine, and Poland, or interfere with his intrigues in Hungary ?
Though the League of the Rhine was no longer in existence, Louis had, as has been seen, entered into separate treaties with several of the German Powers, such as Bavaria and Brandenburg. Would they remain loyal to their alliance with France, should Louis adopt an aggressive attitude towards the Empire? By the Treaty of Dover England had been detached from the Triple Alliance. But would the English people consent to support the action of the French King, when once they realised the import of his ambitious schemes, and would they allow the national interests of England to be subordinated to the designs of Charles II for the maintenance of his personal power ?
Thus, at the opening of the French war with the United Provinces in 1672, the European situation was extremely complicated. For a time each of the various States seemed to pursue its separate interests regardless of the welfare of Europe; and the diplomacy of the period was more than usually tangled. Yet the policy of Louis had never been clearer. For a successful attack on the Dutch it was necessary, after breaking up the Triple Alliance, to secure the alliance or neutrality of the Emperor and of as many German Princes as possible. The Treaty of Dover had placed at Louis' disposal the English fleet, which alone could render useless the Dutch navy; the treaty of April 14,1672, had secured the invaluable help of a Swedish army in northern Germany. Treaties with Munster, Cologne, Hanover in July, and with Osnabrück in October, 1671, provided for the unhindered passage of French troops; and on December 18, 1671, the Emperor Leopold, fearing that Louis might stir up the Hungarians to rebellion, and encourage the German Princes to combine against him, promised neutrality so long as Louis abstained from attacking Spain or the Empire.
Alone among the chief German Princes, the Great Elector, whose strong Protestant feeling contributed to his decision, declined Louis' proposals, and in February, 1671, concluded a treaty with the Dutch Republic, to become effectual in April, 1672, by which he promised armed assistance. Spain also, in December, 1671, signed a treaty with the States-General for mutual defence; and the Elector of Mainz, though he maintained friendly relations with France, also resolved to support the Dutch.
Early in 1672 a powerful French force was collected at Charleroi, and on May 5 it was joined by Louis XIV in person. The invasion of the United Provinces at once took place, while the forces of Luxemburg, Cologne, and Munster occupied Overyssel and besieged Groningen, which they failed to take. Meanwhile, the French overran the southern portion of the United Provinces; but on June 18 the dykes were cut, and the sluices opened in front of Amsterdam, which was thereby saved. Louis' failure to overrun Holland synchronised with the defeat of a French force which endeavoured to overcome Zealand; moreover, on June 7 a combined Anglo-French fleet had been defeated by de Ruyter in the battle of Southwold Bay. On July 6 and 8, William of Orange was proclaimed Stadholder of Holland and Zealand; on August 1, ... the French invasion came to an end, and Louis returned to St Germain, having conquered Gelders, Utrecht, and Overyssel; on August 20, John and Cornelius de Witt were murdered at the Hague.
These events created profound alarm in Europe, although for some years the attitude of the various European Powers with regard to the French aggressions was uncertain, and their opposition betrayed great lack of vigour. On June 23, 1672, the Emperor Leopold concluded an alliance with Frederick William of Brandenburg, and on October 27 another with the States-General. This coalition, sometimes called the Great Coalition of the Hague, did not prove very effective. Turenne's successes on the lower Rhine and the Weser, and his march upon the Elbe, forced Frederick William to make peace on June 6, 1673, and thus deprived the Dutch of their most valuable ally. A peace conference which met in June, 1673, at Cologne having proved a failure, the Emperor formed a second Coalition, which was joined in the autumn of 1673 by Spain and the Duke of Lorraine, and in 1674 by Denmark, the Elector Palatine, the Brunswick-Lüneburg Dukes, and on July 1 by the Great Elector. Further, the English Parliament forced Charles II to abandon his alliance with Louis, and to make peace with the Dutch, on February 19, 1674.
In June, 1672, the States-General had offered Louis Maestricht and its dependencies, a number of fortresses stretching from the Meuse to the mouth of the Scheldt, and six millions of livres. By the advice of Louvois, Louis had rejected this offer. At the beginning of 1674 the only Dutch towns in his possession were Maestricht and Grave. Nevertheless, in spite of his mistakes, and notwithstanding the number of his foes, Louis in 1674 won some brilliant successes. In June Franche Comté was conquered, on August 11 Condé checked William of Orange in the battle of Seneff in Flanders; while on the Rhine Turenne conducted a most brilliant campaign. He defeated the Imperialists on June 16 at Sinsheim, driving them across the Neckar; and then, acting in accordance with the orders of Louvois, he devastated the Palatinate. A further victory at Enzheim on October 4 had no definite result, as a fresh concentration of his adversaries, reinforced by 20,000 Brandenburgers, forced Turenne to retire into winter-quarters in Lorraine. His enemies thought that the campaign was over and took no precautions. This was Turenne's opportunity; and, in spite of the opposition of Louis and Louvois, he determined to reconquer Alsace. In December, 1674, he carried out his brilliant Vosges campaign, which closed with the defeat of the Great Elector on January 5, 1675, at Colmar, and the expulsion of the enemy from the country on the left bank of the Rhine.
In 1675 Turenne continued his successful campaign, out-manoeuvring the Imperialist general Montecucculi, and forcing him to retire to Sasbach to the east of Strassburg. There, on July 27, 1675, Turenne fell, and with his death the great successes of the French ended. Though Condé preserved Alsace for France, Marshal Créquy was defeated on the Moselle on August 11, and Trier and Philippsburg were lost. The Swedes, on whose intervention in Brandenburg the French had placed high hopes, had on June 18 been decisively defeated in the battle of Fehrbellin by the Great Elector and forced to beat a disastrous retreat. The campaigns of 1676 and 1677 were generally favourable to France. The towns of Condé and Bouchain were taken by Louis in 1676; and in 1677 Valenciennes, Cambray, and St Omer fell into French hands. William of Orange also suffered a disastrous defeat at Cassel, and Christian V of Denmark was overthrown by the Swedes at Lunden. In the Mediterranean the French fleet was on the whole successful. There Duquesne fought engagements off Stromboli (January 8, 1676) and Catania (April 22) with a Dutch fleet under de Ruyter; but both battles remained undecided. The death of de Ruyter, however, was of immense advantage to the French, who for a time remained supreme in the Mediterranean.
In 1678 all the Powers were ready for peace. On November 15, 1677, William of Orange had married Mary, daughter of the Duke of York; and on January 10, 1678, a treaty between England and the Republic was signed. It seemed that at last France would encounter the united opposition of the two countries. But William's hopes were almost immediately disappointed; for the treaty was never ratified, owing to the resolution of the Republic, in consequence of its suspicions of the terms of the treaty of January 10, to make a separate peace with Louis. In May William, convinced of the treachery of Charles, who the same month signed a secret agreement with Louis, consented to negotiate.
But Louis' attempts to gain undue advantages suddenly changed the whole situation. Charles was compelled to tear up his secret agreement with Louis and to sign, on July 26, a treaty with the Dutch. Recognising the strength of public opinion in England and Holland, Louis finally agreed to make peace with the Republic on August 10, 1678; France ceding Maestricht and the Dutch incurring no loss. A second treaty, relating to commerce, abolished the onerous tariffs of 1667 and restored the more moderate of 1664.
On August 14 William of Orange and Luxembourg fought before Mons, then invested by the French, the battle of St Dcnys. Both generals knew that peace had been concluded, but William had no official knowledge of the fact.
A treaty between France and Spain was signed on September 17. Spain was not in a condition to continue the war. Her King Charles II had attained his majority on November 6, 1675. This event was soon followed by the overthrow of Fernando de Valenzuela, who, with the Queen-Regent, now fell into disgrace, and by the temporary ascendancy of Don John of Austria, the King's illegitimate brother. Don John, however, soon became unpopular, and, finding himself surrounded by internal difficulties, was anxious for peace with France. Spain yielded Franche Comté, Valenciennes, Aire, St Orner, Cassel, Bailleul, Poperinge, Warneton, Ypres, Cambray and thé Cambrésis, Bouchain, Condé, and Maubeuge, all of which were regarded as necessary for the defence of the French frontier. France on her part restored to Spain, Courtray, Oudenarde, Ath, Ghent, Binch, Charleroi, and the duchy and town of Limburg.
With the Emperor and Empire peace was signed by France on February 26, 1679. Louis restored Philippsburg, but kept Breisach and Freiburg. To Duke Charles V of Lorraine, his duchy was restored on certain conditions, namely, that France should keep Nancy, Longwy and Marsal, and control the four principal roads traversing the country. The Duke refused to accept these conditions, and the duchy remained in French hands till the Peace of Ryswick. These four treaties are known as the Peace of Nymegen, and were supplemented by the Treaty of St Germain-en-Laye between Brandenburg and Sweden, and by the Treaty of Fontainebleau between Denmark and Sweden. The first of these treaties was signed on June 29, 1679. During the war with Sweden the Great Elector had, besides winning the battle of Fehrbellin, taken Stettin and Stralsund. But, the Emperor having in the name of the Empire agreed to the restoration of Sweden's German possessions, Frederick William was compelled to give up to the Swedes nearly all his conquests in western Pomerania. By the Treaty of Fontainebleau signed on September 26, 1679, Denmark also restored to Sweden the conquests made in Scania and the Baltic.
The Treaties of Zurawna and Nymegen reestablished peace in Europe, which now enjoyed a short period of rest. Though the Treaty of Nymegen had in a general way reaffirmed the terms of the Peace of Westphalia, France was in a far stronger position in 1678 than in 1648. Spain in 1678 was in a condition of decadence, while the Empire was not only involved in troubles in Hungary, but was seriously threatened by the resurrection of Turkey. Moreover, though the League of the Rhine no longer existed, the suspicious attitude of the German Princes towards the Emperor was not as yet thoroughly changed. This suspicious attitude was encouraged and strengthened by Louis, who, by adroitly distributing pensions to certain Princes and influential personages in various German States, secured if not their active support at any rate their neutrality.
The danger to Europe was real and unmistakable, for the jealousies and selfishness of the various European Powers rendered them blind to the true meaning of Louis' ambitious policy, and unwilling to combine in the defence of the liberties of Europe. Hardly had the Treaties of Nymegen been signed than Louis entered upon a fresh phase of the policy which he hoped would gain for him the Imperial Crown. It was necessary in his opinion to strengthen France on her north-eastern and eastern frontiers. Lorraine was practically in his hands; the possession of Alsace and Luxemburg would complete the "ceinture de frontières,'' and, in Louis' opinion, would give greater weight to his influence in Germany, whenever the Emperor Leopold should die, or whenever it should be attempted to make his son Joseph (who was born in July, 1678) King of the Romans. Placing his own interpretation upon certain clauses in the Treaty of Westphalia, and adopting the view that the German Charles the Great was in reality a French Charlemagne, Louis resolved that "what once belonged to France continued to be by right the inalienable possession of the French Crown though it had been sold, exchanged or given away." At Metz, Besançon, Breisach, and Tournay "Chambers of Reunion " were set up, for the purpose of adjudging to France certain territories and towns on the left bank of the Rhine. What these Courts did not declare to have been ceded to France at the Peace of Westphalia was held to be a "dependency," and under this head came Luxemburg and Strassburg. By means of these two fortresses the French King would have the three Spiritual Electors of Mainz, Cologne, and Trier as well as the Elector Palatine in his power, so that by means of them he would be able to carry through without much trouble his election to the Roman Kingship. On March 22, 1680, the Parlement of Breisach gave the support of legal authority to Louis' claim of absolute sovereignty over Alsace; on September 30, 1681, French troops occupied Strassburg, and on the same day a French force seized Casale. Two of the places which were "deemed essential for the rounding-off of French territory " had fallen into the hands of Louis; it only remained to occupy Luxemburg, in order to make France practical mistress of the Netherlands.
The first reply to these aggressions was seen in the opposition in England and Holland to Louis' siege of Luxemburg, which began in November, 1681. So antagonistic were the Dutch to the idea of the town falling into French hands, that, in spite of their dread of the outbreak of a fresh European war, William of Orange was instructed to march to the relief of Luxemburg, whenever its capture by Louis seemed imminent. The outbreak of such a war would have enlisted public opinion in England in opposition to Louis, who at that moment desired above everything to avert a European conflagration. In order, therefore, to tranquillise public opinion in Holland and England, Louis consented early in 1682 to raise the siege of Luxemburg.
The year 1682 was thus marked both by the preparations made by the Emperor to resist the threatened invasion of Germany by the Turks and by a great political activity on the part of Louis XIV, as shown by his treaty with Denmark and his intrigues in Sweden, Poland, Hungary and Holland, and by his attempt to secure the independence of the Gallican Church. Throughout this and the following years the general uneasiness in Europe caused by Louis' activity and pretensions steadily increased. A notable instance of the effects was the "Association" formed at the Hague in February, 1683; the origin of which is to be found in efforts set on foot by Charles XI of Sweden and William of Orange in 1681, directly after the seizure of Strassburg and Casale, for the maintenance of the Treaty of Nymegen, and which was joined by the Emperor and the King of Spain. It was rendered ineffective by the Turkish advance on Vienna. That advance, followed by the siege of the Austrian capital, roused the interest of Europe and enlisted its sympathy on behalf of the Emperor. John Sobieski and the united Polish and German armies saved Vienna, September, 1683, and the opportunity for Louis to come forward as the defender of Christian Europe against the infidel had passed away. This success, which once more placed Austria in the centre of the resistance to the infidel, imparted fresh confidence to the Spaniards, who, in December, 1683, declared war against France. Luxemburg was at once seriously besieged by the French troops, and was taken in the beginning of June, 1684. It was impossible for the Emperor, with the Turkish War on his hands, to oppose the French successfully; and on August 15 the Truce of Ratisbon was concluded by Leopold and the Empire with Louis.
By this "truce" it was arranged that for twenty years Louis should continue to hold, in addition to Strassburg, all the places assigned to him before August 1,1681, by the Chambers of Reunion. The Spaniards were compelled to make large concessions to France, including the transfer of many villages in Hainault and Luxemburg, and the establishment of a Spanish protectorate over Genoa; while the Dutch, finding it impossible to secure any united opposition to Louis, accepted a twenty years' truce. It was necessary for the Emperor, who was engaged in his great struggle with the Turks; it was acceptable to Louis, who confidently anticipated that the armistice would be converted into a general peace, and that all the territory and places made over to him provisionally would become permanent portions of the French kingdom.
These three years (1685-88) proved to be decisive in the history of England and France not less than in that of Germany and Holland. James II, owing to his change of religion, showed himself to be more closely attached to France than had been Charles II. His self-confidence was such as to make him believe that the conversion of England to Roman Catholicism was possible, and could be brought about by his own efforts, backed up by the aid of the French King. He was resolved never to break off his alliance with France, and, if necessary, to support Louis against William of Orange. In coming to a resolution of such significance at the very time when Europe was beginning to realise the danger of French preponderance, James was mainly actuated by religious considerations, which to him, as to Louis, were of paramount importance. James, almost openly, aimed at a restoration of the Roman Catholic religion so complete "as to make its subsequent destruction impossible"; and he perceived that only by means of a French alliance could he expect to carry out his policy. His accession at the beginning, and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (approved of by the English King) at the close, of the year 1685 were thus calculated, not only to give to the religious question the foremost place in European affairs, but also to impress forcibly upon Europe the existence of a close understanding between the Kings of England and France. Before the end of 1685, James had assured Louis that he hoped to carry out his own religious views in close alliance with France; for a time, however, the sympathy of the English people for the French Protestants forced him to take up a moderate attitude.
By the beginning of 1686 it was becoming evident that a great European crisis was at hand. The proceedings of Louis and James II implied the existence of projects for strengthening Roman Catholicism in England and France; the action of the French King with regard to the Reunions and Luxemburg signified a definite resolution on his part to gain the Imperial dignity for himself or his son. The Truce of Ratisbon had given France for twenty years the left bank of the upper Rhine, which constituted an eighth part of the Empire; and henceforward Louis aimed at converting the truce into a permanent peace. In 1686 the predominance of Louis was fully established, his ally James II was on the English throne, the Emperor was busy with the Turkish War. The situation was not unlike that of 1672. Had James II remained King of England, and the unswerving ally of the French King, Louis' chances of success in his next European war would have been decidedly good. The events in England during the next two years were, therefore, of immense importance to Europe, and the struggle on the eve of being decided in England became an important feature of the great conflict which was about to engross the attention of the civilised world.
The longer hostilities were averted, the stronger became the position of the opponents of Louis. The Emperor Leopold had greatly improved his own by carrying on a crusade against the Turks. He thus secured the support of Innocent XI, and, as a Catholic sovereign furthering the cause of Catholicism, assumed the preeminence which Louis had hoped to assert. Moreover, the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 roused all the Protestant countries in Europe, while Pope Innocent XI had been alienated by the French King's declaration of the independence of the Gallican Church. Already in February, 1685, the Great Elector, abandoning his alliance with Louis, had made an alliance with William of Orange, and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes only confirmed him in his Protestant attitude. The resolution arrived at by the Great Elector was all the more important, seeing that the year 1686 might bring with it a joint attack upon Holland by the forces of England and France. The Emperor and the Elector of Bavaria were occupied by the war against the Turks, and James II was the firm ally of Louis XIV, who was resolved to transform the Truce of Ratisbon into a peace. He himself declared that "he could not doubt that he should be attacked, so soon as the war with the Turks had been brought to an end." The formation on July 6, 1686, of the Augsburg Alliance, with the object of preserving the Treaties of Munster and Nymegen, together with the armistice of 1684, justified Louis' apprehensions. It was a defensive alliance between the Emperor and members of the Empire, due to fear of a French attack upon the Palatinate; and Louis was convinced of its hostile purpose. The successes of the Imperialists against the Turks, therefore, could hardly fail to stir Louis into action. In 1686 Buda fell at last; and, in August, 1687, the Emperor won a great victory at Mohâcs, in consequence of which the Hungarian throne was, in December, declared to be hereditary in the Habsburg line. As the clouds darkened in the east, Louis prepared to take action. He fortified many of the towns provisionally in his occupation; and it was thus quite evident that he intended to enforce their definite cession to him. He openly aimed at acquiring complete military preponderance in Europe, the ecclesiastical independence of France, and the Imperial dignity for himself or his son. In the pursuit of these aims he received the full support of James II, under whose rule England had become "the corner-stone of the fabric" of French aggression.
The situation in the early months of 1688 was on the whole favourable to the execution of Louis' designs, though his position with regard to the lesser German Powers had become far from satisfactory. The Elector of Brandenburg had definitely thrown in his lot with the Emperor and with William of Orange; and the Elector Maximilian Emanuel of Bavaria, who in 1685 had married the Emperor Leopold's daughter, Maria Antonia, took a leading part in opposing Louis' schemes. Marshal de Villars had in 1687 been sent by Louis to Munich to win over the Elector of Bavaria to the French cause. Through Villars Louis offered the Elector, in exchange for an offensive and defensive alliance, his good offices to obtain the dignity of King of the Romans for him, and to recover Bavaria's former rights over Ratisbon, Nürnberg, Augsburg, and the territories between the Inn and the Danube. He also promised subsidies. In return for these advantages the Elector was to further the candidature of the Dauphin to the throne of Spain, should Charles II die without children. In that event, however, the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily would be handed over to Bavaria. The Elector, however, was proof against these offers of Louis, who further urged him to shake off the Habsburg yoke and to emancipate Germany; and he decided to support the Emperor, who appealed to his German sympathies, upheld the claims of his brother, Joseph Clement, Bishop of Freysingen and Ratisbon, to the electorate of Cologne, and proposed, with the consent of Spain, that part of Flanders should be ceded to Maximilian.
There seemed indeed, in the summer of 1688, little chance of any successful resistance being offered to the execution of Louis' schemes. He was allied with Denmark; he had made an agreement with Hanover; his fleet was supreme in the Mediterranean; James II was his supporter; the continuance of the Turkish War seriously hampered his opponents. The preponderance of France in Europe implied the complete overthrow of the balance of power; for not only would Germany be weakened and divided, but the very existence of the United Provinces would be constantly threatened by Louis' supremacy on the Rhine. He would acquire complete military domination in central Europe, while at the same time asserting the ecclesiastical independence of France. So long as James II, who cared nothing for the balance of power in Europe, was on the English throne, there was small chance of any successful resistance being made to the French King. Thus, the Revolution of 1688 in England, the deposition and flight of James II, and the accession of William of Orange to the English throne were events of the utmost importance in the history of Europe. So long as Louis felt safe from attack on the part of England, he was able to concentrate his energies upon his German schemes. The withdrawal of the English regiments from the Dutch service in the spring of 1688, the attitude of England and France with regard to the quarrel between Denmark and Holstein, the appearance in June of an English fleet of men-of-war in the Downs, the intention of Louis to bring the fleet then employed off Algiers up the English Channel - all convinced the Dutch of the danger which threatened the balance of power and the cause of Protestantism.
A clear perception of the full significance of Louis' policy was shared with the Dutch by the Protestant Princes of northern Germany. Among these Frederick William, the Great Elector of Brandenburg, who died in April, 1688, had for some time been convinced that it would be necessary for the European States to unite against the rising predominance of France. His successor, Frederick III, who opposed Fürstenberg's claim to the archbishopric of Cologne, made a treaty with Landgrave Charles of Hesse-Cassel, with the object of protecting Protestantism, and of preserving from French conquest the United Netherlands and the towns of Cologne and Coblenz. These Princes were thus acting in full agreement with the views of William of Orange, who desired, before he set sail for England, to see northern Germany and the Netherlands ready to offer a combined resistance to Louis.
On his part, Louis realised in the autumn of 1688 that the continuance of the Imperial successes against the Turks would imperil his chances of converting the Truce of Ratisbon into a permanent peace. He also found in the claim to the Palatinate put forward by him on behalf, but against the wish, of Charlotte Elizabeth, wife of the Duke of Orleans, and last descendant of the Simmern line, another reason for invading Germany. Accordingly in September his ambassador at the Hague warned the Dutch Government against taking any hostile action against James II, and in the same month French troops invaded Upper Germany and besieged Philippsburg, which fell on October 29. This action on the part of France rallied the Princes of Germany to the defence of the Emperor. John George, Elector of Saxony, at once agreed to march with his forces to the middle Rhine, thus cooperating with the Emperor on the upper, and with Brandenburg on the lower, Rhine. Equally anxious to assist in the defence of Germany were the Brunswick-Lüneburg Dukes at Celle and Hanover, and the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel. Innocent XI had already shown his apprehension of the growing ascendancy of France. He realised that the triumph of Roman Catholicism in England would bring with it a close alliance between the English and French Governments. To avert French predominance in Europe, the Pope therefore felt constrained to support the European opposition to Louis (October). All that was now necessary to prevent the triumph of Louis was the adhesion of England to the opposition offered to him by continental Europe.
On the day of the fall of Philippsburg, William of Orange first set sail for England. He had satisfied the Emperor that his expedition was not directed against the cause either of legitimacy or of Catholicism, but was simply intended to destroy the alliance between England and France. Had Louis attacked Holland instead of Philippsburg, William's expedition could not have taken place. Fortunately, the relations of James and Louis were at the time somewhat strained. James had taken exception to Louis' declaration at the Hague, which he thought implied that England depended upon France and could only defend itself with French aid. It was also the view of some of Louis' advisers that a civil war in England would best ensure English neutrality during the continental war. Even with James II on the throne, it was by no means certain that a wave of popular feeling might not force him, as it had forced Charles II, into war with France. Thus, while French troops fought on the Rhine, William of Orange sailed to England and carried out the Revolution of 1688.
Louis XIV, anxious to throw his forces against Germany and to increase and strengthen his frontier on the middle Rhine, and not altogether satisfied with the independent tone assumed by James II, left him to struggle with his assailant. He had convinced himself that they might be left to carry on a long struggle which would occupy their energies and resources, while he conquered the Palatinate, and by his intervention in western Germany hampered the Emperor's chances of a decisive victory against the Turks.
There was no time to be lost; for on September 6,1688, the Emperor captured Belgrade, a success which seemed likely to prove decisive. Louis at once determined not to besiege Maestricht, though its siege might have compelled the continued presence of William of Orange in Holland, and thus postponed for a time the overthrow of James II. He decided, instead, to declare war against the Emperor and to invade Germany. He had already shown his determination to allow no scruple to interfere with his settled plan of "acquiring complete military preponderance in Europe both for defence and offence." The election of his nominee, William von Fürstenberg, at Cologne (June), and the fall of Belgrade (September), decided Louis to take the equally important step of invading the Palatinate on September 25. In deciding on this course, Louis and his Ministers showed that they considered the interests of France were best served by insisting upon the permanent cession of the territories provisionally allotted to the French Crown by the Truce of Ratisbon in 1684, and by asserting the claims of the Duke of Orleans (in the name of his wife) to the Palatinate. William of Orange landed at Torbay on November 15, and entered London on December 28. James II fled, and on January 4, 1689, reached the French coast. The House of Stewart had fallen, and Louis XIV could no longer look upon England as an ally or as a quantité négligeable.
The rapid success of William of Orange and his coronation as King of Great Britain and Ireland were events of immense importance for Europe. The whole fabric of Louis XIV's foreign policy was overthrown, and the year 1689 marked the close of the period of French aggression. England was no longer a possible ally; Denmark was unable to make any diversion in favour of France; the Turks were being driven back. Wishing to concentrate his chief efforts upon Roussillon, Italy, and the lower Rhine, Louis decided to evacuate the Palatinate; and, by the advice of Louvois, orders were given in December, 1688, to devastate the country. Heidelberg was sacked in March, 1689, and shortly afterwards Mannheim, Speier and Worms suffered a similar fate; Ladenburg and Oppenheim were burnt, and a large tract of country, including not only the Palatinate, but parts of the electorate of Trier, and of the margravate of Baden were also ravaged. The Rhine district was in great measure ruined, with the result that the hostility to France among the German States was aggravated. Louis had been persuaded by Louvois that the devastation of the Palatinate, like that of 1674, was justifiable by custom, and necessary from a military point of view. Marshal de Villars in his memoirs condemns the devastation as unnecessary and opposed to the true science of war. It certainly united Germany in opposition to Louis, and it did not prevent the Germans from taking Bonn and Mainz. Thus, from a military as well as from a political point of view, Louis' action in the Palatinate and surrounding country was a blunder.
At first, Louis intended to bring about the restoration of James II by advocating a religious crusade. He hoped to unite all the Catholic Powers of Europe, including the Emperor and the Spanish King, for the overthrow of the English and Dutch Governments. But since the Peace of Westphalia religion had been steadily losing its influence as an active force in European politics. In 1688 and 1689 political necessities silenced the advocacy of religious partisans. The Emperor was satisfied that William of Orange had no anti-Catholic aims in invading England. When James II, early in 1689, appealed to Leopold for assistance, the Emperor pointed out that the Catholic religion had "suffered no greater injury than from the French themselves," who had taken the opportunity of the Turkish War to attack in the most savage and unjust manner the western portions of the Empire. On May 12,1689, the Grand Alliance was signed by Leopold and the Government of Holland, Leopold recognising William III as King of England. While the Emperor thus undertook to defend Holland from French invasion, William bound himself to defend Germany from future attacks on the part of Louis XIV. Denmark had already come to terms with the allies, and the Duke of Savoy was firmly united with the Emperor and Spain. In April, 1689, Louis, who was already engaged in hostilities with Holland, declared war upon Spain, which country, then under the guidance of Count Oropesa, had refused to observe such a neutrality in the coming struggle as Louis desired.
Early in 1689 it was clearly apparent that all idea of a crusade in the West must be given up. Neither Innocent XI, who died in August, 1689, nor Alexander VIII, nor, again, Innocent XII, who became Pope in July, 1691, would give any real support to James II, so long as it was apparent that he was being used by Louis XIV in the attempt to make France all-powerful in Europe. In the great struggle which began in 1689 and continued without intermission till 1697, Louis "arranged France as if she had been a huge fortress in the heart of Europe." Her troops would on occasion make forward movements; but, if pressed by the enemy, they could retire to a safe position under cover of the numerous fortresses on the frontier. The centre of the operations was Belgium, and its conquest by France entailed the conquest of Holland. The overthrow of William III was therefore essential for the success of Louis.
The French King's attempt to organise a crusade on behalf of James II had failed. He next endeavoured to secure supremacy in the English Channel, and to stir up in Ireland a civil war which should occupy the attention and energies of William III. Ireland would thus be the means of creating a diversion against England; a long war would ensue; and Louis, unhampered by his chief opponent, would be able to carry out his aims on the Continent. For the realisation of this scheme the supremacy of the French fleet in the Irish and English Channels was absolutely necessary. Unfortunately for the success of the plan, Louis miscalculated the strength of Irish resistance. He sent only 2,000 French troops to Ireland, and he made no attempt to secure supremacy in the Irish Channel. On July 11, 1690, the battle of the Boyne overthrew the hopes entertained by Louis of a long-drawn-out struggle in Ireland; and the fall of Limerick (October, 1691) rendered futile all plans for the restoration of James II by way of Ireland. Had Louis realised the importance of sea-power, a French fleet could have commanded the Irish Channel, and the battle of the Boyne would not have been fought. As it was, on July 10, the day before that battle, Admiral de Tourville, in command of seventy-five French men-of-war, defeated a combined English and Dutch fleet in the battle of Beachy Head. On July 1, the French under Luxembourg had won the battle of Fleurus over the Dutch and their allies, who were commanded by Prince George Frederick of Waldeck. The time seemed opportune for an invasion of England on behalf of James II, while William III was still in Ireland. But Louis insisted upon a Jacobite rising as a necessary preliminary to the landing of any French troops in England. Still under the influence of Louvois, Louis attached more importance to the operations in the Netherlands and Italy than to the naval operations in the English Channel. In April, 1691, Louis himself was present at the capture of Mons, and in June Hal also fell into the hands of the French. The same year saw Savoy overrun by the armies of France; while the Duc de Noailles took advantage of the discontent of the Catalans and captured Ripoli and other towns. Had Seignelay's advice been taken, the French might have secured naval supremacy in the Channel, and by the destruction of some of the southern English towns and of English commerce, if not by an actual invasion, seriously interfered with William Ill's projects. The victory of Beachy Head was, however, not followed up, and on May 29, 1692, Tourville was utterly defeated by the English and Dutch fleets, under Russell, in the battle of La Hogue.
The importance of the battle of La Hogue, so far as the restoration of James II and the security of England were concerned, cannot be overestimated. Before the battle took place, James II was confident that an attempt on England would be followed by his own restoration, and by the triumph of the principle of legitimacy. Louis XIV had equally satisfied himself that the probability of success was considerable. His agents reported that there were few troops in England, and that the fleet was unprepared. He accordingly placed under Marshal de Bellefonds a force of 30,000 men, who (in anticipation of Napoleon's arrangements in 1805) were to be conveyed across the Channel and to accomplish the conquest of England. As in 1805, all depended upon the superiority of the French sea-power and the command of the Channel. A fleet from Toulon was to meet the Brest fleet under Tourville, and to carry out the invasion of England. Luckily, tidings of these plans reached the English Government, which at once took energetic measures. The English and Dutch fleets having been ordered to unite, Tourville was ordered to prevent, if possible, the junction, and, though the Toulon fleet owing to contrary winds had not yet reached Brest, to attack the enemy. His defeat in the battle of La Hogue meant that the plan adopted by Louis XIV and James II for the invasion of England had utterly failed; that, in spite of the success of French privateers, under such men as Jean Bart, Duguay-Trouin, Ducasse, Pointis, and others, the command of the Channel had definitely passed into the hands of England; and that William would be able to devote all his attention to the war in the Netherlands.
There the struggle was of a fierce and prolonged character. It was impossible for the Dutch to allow the Spanish Netherlands to fall into the hands of the French. The Spanish Netherlands were the bulwark of the United Provinces: the loss of the former would leave the Dutch at the mercy of Louis. Moreover, their conquest by the French would mean the subjection of Spain to the will of Louis XIV. Though defeated in Ireland and on the sea, Louis could boast of successes in the Netherlands. In June, 1692, shortly after the battle of La Hogue, he had followed up his successes of 1691 by the capture of Namur, the bulwark of Brabant and Liege. Nor did the fall of Namur complete the list of Louis' successes on land in 1692, for on August 3 William of Orange was defeated by Luxembourg in the battle of Steinkirke.
The French defeat at La Hogue was thus to some extent balanced by the disasters to William of Orange in the Netherlands. What was more serious, the French naval power, though crippled in the Channel, had still to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean. Nor, moreover, had the army which Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, had collected in Piedmont won any signal success during its invasion of Dauphiné in 1692. No valuable position was captured, and, owing to the presence of Catinat, and the illness of Victor Amadeus, the invading army fell back, having accomplished nothing of importance. Thus the close of 1692 left the issue of the struggle between Louis XIV and the Grand Alliance still uncertain; and four more years of warfare followed, during which the influence of the sea-power of England gradually made itself felt.
For some years, however, it was doubtful if the allies would be able to hold their own against the French armies. The Emperor had on his hands a war with the Turks; the English fleet had by no means acquired an unquestioned supremacy at sea; and both Spain and Savoy seemed likely to be compelled to make terms with the French King. Moreover, the English attacks upon Martinique, Newfoundland, Guadaloupe and St Domingo failed, and in 1694 the French reconquered Senegal and Goree. The complete triumph of the Austrians over the Turks, and the establishment of British supremacy in the Mediterranean and in the Channel, were needed in order to assure the victory of the Grand Alliance. Fortunately, the Emperor in the end proved triumphant over the Turks; and the English Government, supreme in the Channel after the victory of La Hogue, recognised the necessity of sending a powerful fleet into the Mediterranean.
During the four remaining years (1693-97) of the war in western Europe while the financial distress of France, aggravated by bad harvests of 1692 and 1693, became more and more serious, the importance of the command of the Mediterranean was emphasised in a striking fashion. The withdrawal of English troops from Tangier in 1684 had been followed by the establishment of French supremacy in the Mediterranean and by the culmination of Louis' triumphs. The Truce of Ratisbon was signed six months after the retirement of the English fleet from the Mediterranean, and it was not till 1693 that any real attempt was made to interfere seriously with French naval preponderance in the south of Europe. In that year, William had been defeated at Neerwinden (Landen), and Tourville had captured a portion of the great Anglo-Dutch fleet which was making for Smyrna. The Duke of Savoy had been defeated in the battle of Marsaglia by Catinat, who was thus enabled to invade Piedmont, while the Spaniards had failed to check the advance of another French army under the Duc de Noailles into Catalonia. Unless the English fleet made a demonstration in the Mediterranean, it seemed more than likely that Louis would force Spain and Savoy to retire from the war. French supremacy in the Mediterranean being thus secured, Louis could withdraw his forces from the south of Europe and concentrate his attacks upon William III and the Emperor.
Immediate action was, therefore, necessary. The Tory admirals were dismissed; Russell was restored to his former position of Commander-in-Chief; and in May, 1694, he sailed for the Mediterranean. He arrived at a critical moment. Aided by the French fleet under Tourville, Noailles had invaded Spain, capturing Palamos and Gerona. The fall of Barcelona was imminent. The entry of Russell with his fleet into the Mediterranean at once changed the aspect of affairs. The advance of Noailles was checked; Barcelona was saved; and Tourville retired to Toulon. It was obvious that the recovery by the English fleet of the command of the Mediterranean would overthrow the plans of the French King, and would probably hasten the conclusion of peace. In 1695, Russell, who had wintered at Cadiz, planned to attack Toulon or Marseilles, to overthrow Tourville's fleet, and, with the cooperation of Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy, to deal the French sea-power in the Mediterranean an overwhelming blow. But the Duke was already meditating an arrangement with Louis, and Tourville continued his defensive tactics and remained safely in the harbour of Toulon, while the English fleet was unable to bring on a decisive action. Yet the presence of the fleet in the Mediterranean, and the tenacity shown by William III in the Netherlands, where he had besieged Namur, prevented Louis from achieving any striking success, and tended to exhaust the French resources. Nevertheless, during the later months of 1695, and throughout 1696, Louis was able to profit from the weakness and treachery of some of his opponents. The Duke of Savoy deserted the Grand Alliance, and, in consequence of this defection, the King of Spain and the Emperor were compelled to consent to the neutralisation of Italy. An attempted invasion of England in the winter of 1695-96 had, indeed, ended in failure; but the English Government had decided to recall the fleet from the Mediterranean, so that in 1696 Tourville was able to bring his squadron safely from Toulon to Brest.
The results of the English command of the Mediterranean during the years 1694-95 had, however, exercised a most profound effect upon the course of the war. Louis' plans had been upset; Spain had not been conquered, and the French fleet was no longer in a condition to carry out any important movement.
The adhesion of the Duke of Savoy on August 29, 1696, to the French cause, and the neutralisation of Italy, tended to reconcile William III to the prospect of peace; for the defection of Savoy would enable Louis to bring some 30,000 troops under Catinat into the Netherlands. William, indeed, on September 5, 1695, had taken advantage of the death of Luxembourg in the previous January, and had followed up the seizure by the allies of Dixmude and Huy by himself capturing Namur. For the first time during the war, the French armies had been badly beaten, and Europe was encouraged to find that Louis was not invincible. This success, however, was counterbalanced by the defection of Savoy in the following year, by Vendôme" reduction of Barcelona after fifty-two days' siege, and by Catinat's capture of several important Spanish towns in Flanders. In spite of these proofs of the growing weakness of the Grand Alliance, and in spite of the overtures of peace made by Louis to Holland and England, William III was, in the autumn of 1696, supported by Parliament in his determination not to treat with France except "with our swords in our hands." Early in 1697, however, to his astonishment, Louis expressed his willingness to restore Lorraine and Luxemburg to their lawful owners, to recognise William as King of England, and to surrender all the conquests made by France during the war. Accordingly, negotiations under the mediation of Sweden were begun. In May, 1697, the Congress of Ryswick was opened, and on September 20 a general peace was concluded.
The first treaty was made by France with England, Spain, and Holland. William III was recognised by Louis as King of Great Britain and Ireland, and Anne, second daughter of James II, was declared heiress to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland. Louis, moreover, promised not to encourage plots against William III. All places won since the Peace of Nymegen were to be restored, France thus regaining Pondicherry and Nova Scotia, and Spain recovering Catalonia, Mons, Luxemburg, Ath, and Courtray. On the other hand, France restored Fort Albany to the Hudson's Bay Company, which had been driven out of most of its possessions in 1685. The chief forts in the Spanish Netherlands, such as Namur, Ypres, and Menin, were to be garrisoned by Dutch troops, and the Dutch were to obtain an advantageous treaty of commerce with France.
The Emperor made peace with France very reluctantly, and it was not till October 30 that William III induced him to agree to a treaty with Louis. By it France ceded all places taken since the Treaty of Nymegen, except Strassburg and Landau. She also withdrew from the right bank of the Rhine, yielding Philippsburg, Freiburg and Breisach, and she restored Lorraine to its Duke, keeping only Saarlouis in her hands. Louis, moreover, abandoned his candidate for the electorate of Cologne, and renounced the claims of the Duchess of Orleans to the Palatinate for a sum of money.
In view of the imminence of the Spanish Succession question and of the financial distress in France, Louis acted wisely in coming to terms with his foes. He hoped, moreover, by his concessions to win over to his side a number of the German Princes, who presumably might be expected to regard with alarm the great increase of the Imperial power consequent upon the defeat of the Turks and the annexation of all Hungary and Transylvania. At any rate, the Grand Alliance was broken up, and France, with her recuperative powers and her well-organised government, remained the strongest and most united Power in Europe.