The War of the Spanish Succession

During the 1690s all Europe awaits the death, thought likely to be imminent, of Charles II, the king of Spain. He is childless and has no cousins in the immediate Spanish Habsburg line. The question of the day is who will inherit the vast Spanish domains.

The two most powerful European rulers, Louis XIV of France and the Austrian emperor Leopold I, can make almost equal claims on behalf of their descendants. Both these monarchs have a Spanish Habsburg princess as a mother and a Spanish Habsburg princess as a wife (such as the interconnection of Europe's royal families, though the Habsburg link is of course almost a tradition in the Austrian imperial family).

In each generation, the elder infanta has been sent to France, but the French brides have specifically renounced any claim to the Spanish throne. The younger sisters, marrying in Austria within the Habsburg clan, have not renounced their claim.

In the mid-1690s the Austrian case looks stronger than the French. A daughter of Leopold I and his Spanish bride has married the elector of Bavaria. In 1692 she gives birth to a son, Joseph Ferdinand. His claim is clearly good. Perhaps even more important, he has the advantage of being neither Bourbon nor Habsburg. The boy is a Wittelsbach. Another great European dynasty in possession of Spain will help to preserve the balance of power.

Agenda item: Open agenda

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