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The last Spanish Habsburg King, Charles II of Spain, died in 1700 without a child, leaving his crown to Philip, duc d'Anjou, grandson of his half-sister and King Louis XIV of France. Philip as the younger son of the Dauphin of France was therefore in the line of succession of the French throne. This meant the Spanish Empire passing under the effective control of Louis XIV and this provoked a massive coalition of powers to oppose the Duc d'Anjou's succession.

The war began slowly, as Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, fought to protect the Austrian claim to the Spanish throne. As Louis XIV began to expand his territories more aggressively, other European nations including England and the Dutch Republic entered on the Holy Roman Empire's side to check French expansion. Other states joined the coalition opposing France and Spain in an attempt to acquire new territories, or to protect existing dominions. Spain itself was divided over the issue of succession, and fell into a civil war.

The war was primarily fought in Spain and West-Central Europe, especially the Low Countries, with other important fighting in Germany and Italy. Prince Eugene and the Duke of Marlborough distinguished themselves as military commanders in the Low Countries with famous victories at Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706) Oudenarde (1708) and Malplaquet (1709). The allies were less successful in Spain, although the English captured Gibraltar in 1704.

The war was concluded by the treaties of Utrecht (1713) and Rastatt (1714). As a result, Philip V remained King of Spain but was removed from the French line of succession, thereby averting a union of the two kingdoms. The Austrians gained most of the Spanish territories in Italy and the Netherlands.

English foot with their superior firepower provided the foundation for Marlborough's victories.

Although heavy cavalry provided the vital offensive punch in many battles.

 

and their Dutch allies

 

 

 

 

The French army was the dominant military force in Europe at the end of the 17th century, 440,000 strong at its high point in 1693.

 

 

French Horse

 

Dragoons & Hussars

 

 

See also the Austrian army of this period.

 

 

 

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