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War of the Grand Alliance
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War of the Grand Alliance

The War of the Grand Alliance (also known as the War of the League of Augsburg, the War of the English Succession, and the Nine Years War) was a major war fought in Europe and America from 1688 to 1697, between France and the League of Augsburg (which, by 1689, was known as the "Grand Alliance"). The war was fought to resist French expansionism along the Rhine, as well as (on the part of England) to safeguard the results of the Glorious Revolution from a possible French-backed restoration of James II. The North American theatre of the war, fought between English and French colonists, was known in the English colonies as King William's War.

The League of Augsburg was formed in 1686 between the Emperor, Leopold I and various of the German princes (including the Palatinate, Bavaria, and Brandenburg) to resist French aggression in Germany. The alliance was joined by Spain, Sweden, and the United Provinces.

The war began with the French invasion of the Palatinate in 1688, ostensibly to support the claims of Louis XIV's sister-in-law, the Duchess of Orleans, to the territory following the death of her nephew in 1685 and the territory's inheritance by the junior Neuburg branch of the family. The harshness of Louis's activities united all of Germany behind the Emperor, who was, however, still busy fighting a war in Hungary against the Ottoman Empire

France had expected a benevolent neutrality on the part of James II's England, but after James's deposition and replacement by his son-in-law William of Orange, Louis's inveterate enemy, England declared war on France in May of 1689, and the League of Augsburg became known as the "Grand Alliance", with England, Spain, the United Provinces, and most of the German states joined together to fight France.

The early military campaigns, which mostly occurred in the Spanish Netherlands, were generally successful for France. After a setback at the Battle of Walcourt in August 1689, in which the French were defeated by an allied army under Prince Georg Friedrich of Waldeck, the French under Marshal Luxembourg were successful at the Battle of Fleurus in 1690, but Louis prevented Luxembourg from following up on his victory. The French were also successful in the Alps in 1690, with Marshal Catinat defeating the Duke of Savoy at the Battle of Staffarda and occupying Savoy. The Turkish recapture of Belgrade in October of the same year proved a boon to the French, preventing the Emperor from making peace with the Turks and sending his full forces west. The French were also successful at sea, defeating the Anglo-Dutch fleet at Beachy Head, but failed to follow up on the victory by sending aid to the Jacobite forces in Ireland or pursuing control of the Channel.

The French followed up on their success in 1691 with Luxembourg's capture of Mons and Hal and his defeat of Waldeck at the Battle of Leuze, while Marshal Catinat continued his advance into Italy, and another French army advanced into Catalonia, and in 1692 Namur was captured by a French army under the direct command of the King, and the French beat back an allied offensive under William of Orange at the Battle of Steenkerke.

1692 did, however, see a major setback for the French with the naval defeat at La Hougue, where an Anglo-Dutch fleet under Edward Russell decisively defeated the French fleet. This proved decisive in that it prevented any further French efforts to invade England, making ultimate success for France in its continental ambitions much more difficult.

The war continued, however, as did the French successes on land. 1693 saw another victory by Luxembourg over William at Landen, and the capture of Charleroi by the French. The French also continued their successes in Piedmont with a decisive victory at Marsaglia, while in 1694 the French advanced into Catalonia and besieged Barcelona until forced to withdraw by an English fleet.

The French cause was significantly handicapped by the death of Luxembourg in 1695. In the campaign that followed that summer, William was successful, capturing Namur in September. The Treaty of Turin in 1696 ended Savoy's part in the war, and the French were now free to send more troops to the northern front, where they repulsed further offensive efforts by William.

The war ultimately came to an inconclusive conclusion with the Treaty of Ryswick, which restored the status quo ante. Louis also agreed to surrender fortifications at Mons, Luxembourg, and Courtrai to the Spanish, although this was widely seen as a decision taken to improve his chances of a Bourbon inheritance of the Spanish throne following the death of the childless Carlos II.

The period was marked by famine and recession.

See also: