Front Matter France Long Ago The Gauls In France The Priests of the Gauls Sailor Stories Conquests of the Gauls Two Great Battles Caesar in Gaul Gaul under the Romans First Christian Martyrs Patron Saint of France Franks Come to Gaul The First Kings Conquests of Clovis Clotaire and His Relatives Two Rival Queens Good King Dagobert The Saracens Checked End of the Merovingians Charlemagne's Wars Charlemagne's Manners Charlemagne, Emperor Feudalism Troublesome Sons The Strassburg Oath Normans Besiege Paris Last of the Carolingians The Year One Thousand Robert's Two Wives Wealth of the Clergy The First Crusade A Love Story The Second Crusade More Crusades The Battle of Bouvines Blanche of Castile The Sixth Crusade The Reign of Louis IX Effect of the Crusades The Battle of the Spurs End of Knights Templar The Hundred Years' War The Siege of Calais The Battle of Poitiers Seven Years of Misery The Brave du Guesclin Achievements of Charles V Charles VI Misrule in France The Disgraceful Treaty Joan to the Rescue Orleans and Rheims Joan's Martyrdom Charles's Successes The Crafty King Louis XI Louis XI's Reign Achievements of Louis XI Charles VIII The Second Italian War Death of Louis XII Francis I Rivalry of Kings Achievements of Francis I End of Francis's Reign Reign of Henry II A Young King and Queen Catherine's Regency The Forced Wedding Massacre of the Huguenots Death of Charles IX An Effeminate King he Battle of Coutras The Murder of the Guises Winning a Crown Conversion of Henry IV Henry IV's Second Marriage Death of Henry IV The Minority of Louis XIII Rule of the Favorites Richelieu and Louis XIII End of Louis XIII's Reign Beginning of a Great Reign Wars of the Fronde Death of Mazarin Versailles The Iron Mask Louis XIV's Campaigns Madame de Maintenon Later Wars of Louis XIV The Spanish Succession The Age of Louis XIV

Story of Old France - Helene Guerber

The Spanish Succession

The beginning of the eighteenth century was marked by the outbreak of a new war, known in history as the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713). You must understand clearly how it came to be fought. You remember that at the death of the King of Spain, who was Maria Theresa's father, the King of France had claimed part of his inheritance in the Netherlands. Now, the queen's step-brother also died, leaving no direct heir to the Spanish crown, but stating in his will that he wished Maria Theresa's second grandson, Philip, the Duke of Anjou, to succeed him.

The French were delighted to have a prince of France accept this crown, provided it were arranged that France and Spain should never be united; but the other nations, fearing lest such a promise should be disregarded, and one monarch become in time so dangerously strong as to threaten the peace of Europe, opposed the Spanish king's will with all their might.

After due consideration, Louis XIV bade his young grandson accept the crown offered to him, and announced this decision by presenting him to the French court, thus: "Gentlemen, here is the King of Spain!" Then he pronounced a famous speech, in which he told the youth to rule wisely and be true to Spain, yet never to forget the ties of birth which bound him to France, from which even the Pyrenees could not divide him! This speech gave rise to the oft-quoted, grandiloquent saying, "There are no more Pyrenees," or "The Pyrenees have disappeared!"

By accepting the Spanish king's will, many people claimed that Louis XIV had violated his wife's renunciation, but others asserted that, as her dower had never been paid in full, there was nothing binding about this promise. Europe in general, however, rose up in arms against France and Spain. William III again headed the League, and its armies were ably led by the two great generals, Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy. The latter, it is said, had once offered his services to Louis XIV, only to be scorned on account of his small stature, a mistake that was to cost France dear.

Villars, a famous French general, won the battle of Hochstadt (1703), while one of his countrymen won another. Then luck turned, and the allies gained victories in three battles (Blenheim, 1704, Ramillies, and Turin, 1706). After the second of these engagements, Louis XIV comforted his defeated general, Villeroi, by exclaiming, "Mr. Marshal, at our age fortune no longer favors us,"—alluding, of course, to the popular saying, "Fortune favors the young."

The news of these defeats caused great dismay in France; but, confident that they would triumph in the end, the French went on singing a mocking song about Marlborough, which is still familiar in French nurseries to-day (Malbrook s'en va-t'en guerre). Then a victory in Spain (1707) again raised French spirits, only to be followed the succeeding year by a crushing defeat at Oudenarde in the Netherlands.

This was followed by a winter of such unusual severity that the army suffered untold hardships, and Louis XIV had to beg for peace. But when the allies refused to grant it unless he helped drive his own grandson out of Spain, he bravely answered, "Since I must fight, I had rather fight my enemies than my children!"

The war was therefore renewed, and the French lost the battle of Malplaquet (1709). But the next year Louis's grandson, Philip V of Spain, won a triumph (Villaviciosa); and soon afterwards England withdrew from the struggle, leaving France with one foe less. The year 1712 saw Villars victor at Denain, and in 1713 the treaty of Utrecht put an end to the War of the Spanish Succession. By this treaty Philip V was left in possession of all Spain—except Gibraltar—and of Spain's colonies in America. The other lands which had once belonged to the Spanish crown—the Spanish Netherlands, Milan, Naples, Sardinia, Sicily, and Minorca—now went to various countries, and Louis XIV ceded to England the Hudson Bay region, Newfoundland, and Acadia.

The three great treaties signed during the reign of Louis XIV—Nimwegen, Ryswick, and Utrecht—were unsatisfactory to the German Imperialists, who, punning on these Dutch names, said that it had all been a case of "Take away, tear away, and wrongdoing" (Nimm-weg, reiss-weg, and unrecht).

You will not be surprised, after what you have heard about him, to learn that two favorite sayings of Louis XIV were "Self-aggrandizement is the noblest occupation of kings," and "Kings give by spending." The many wars of his reign, added to his building extravagances, had been steadily running the country deeper and deeper into debt, besides making the taxes heavier and heavier. It was computed that the French nation, then numbering about 19,000,000 souls, had a public debt of about $300,000,000!

Both king and government were poor; the nobles, who had long lived beyond their means, were no better off; the middle class suffered from the ruin of commerce; and the overtaxed peasants, lacking the means to cultivate the land, allowed great stretches to run to waste.

Acquisitions of Louis XIV