Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The War of the Palatine Succession (1688 - 1697)

Louis XIV Army crosses the Rhine (1699) Joseph Parrocel
The War of the Palatine Succession has many names.  It is most commonly known as The Nine Years War. It is also known as The War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg.
The first serious engagement of the war began when Louis XIV army crossed into the Rhineland in September 1688 laying siege to Philippsburg. After a month long siege Philippsburg fell in October. Following this, the army took many of the key cities in the Palatinate including Mannheim, Worms, Kaiserslautern, Heidelberg, and Mainz. France was now in control of all the Palatinate south of Mainz. This, however, would be as far as Louis XIV would go.
Louis XIV quick sweep through German cities had a galvanising effect on the German Princes.  Fearful of their own states they met in Magdeburg on 22nd October and agreed to mobilise the forces of Germany in a united army.  This was an unexpected turn of events and one that Louis had not prepared for. Not willing to fight a protracted war on German soil, Louis decided to retreat. However, in his retreat he made a decision that would have absolutely devastating consequences for the Palatinate.
Louis XIV was worried that the mobilised German army would continue and invade France.  To prevent this, Louis XIV implemented scorched earth policy as the French made their way back to France.  All the main cities and towns of the Palatinate where burned to the ground or destroyed. The German forces finally entered the Palatinate in 1689 laying siege to Mainz on the 22nd July. The siege ended on the 8th September when the French surrendered.
The campaign in the Palatinate was tactically and strategically a failure for Louis XIV. As a postscript to the campaign it also had indirect relevance in Ireland. The difficulties of the campaign diverted Louis XIV attention from other parts of Europe, and in particular England.  James I was supported by Louis XIV on the English throne.  However without Louis XIV full assistance, William III, also known as William of Orange was able to seize the throne on behalf of his wife Anne. The English aspect of the Nine Years War was fought out in some very famous battles in Ireland, most notably the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
The War in Europe continued until 20th September 1697 when it was finally resolved through the Treaty of Ryswick. Unfortunately for the palatines, it would be a short lived peace as they would become embroiled in another war, the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701.


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  2. I thought William III was married to Mary? (Hence, William and Mary...) It was when they both died without heir that Anne became the queen of England. With 20 children, Anne looked to be someone who could secure the future for the Stuart line. However, Anne's last surviving child died at 18, shortly before Anne died in 1714.

    Also, did William of Orange bring the Palatine Germans over with him to England, or was that a separate piece of history?