Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The War of the Spanish Succession
Louis XIV (Sun King) [1643-1715]

Some years after the Peace of Ryswick Charles II, King of Spain, died. He had no children to succeed him, so he made a will leaving the throne to Philip Duke of Anjou. Philip of Anjou was the second son of the Dauphin of France, and grandson of Louis XIV. Louis, you remember, had married the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa, so her children were really the nearest heirs to the Spanish throne. But, you remember, she had given up all claim to the throne for herself and her children when she married.

Charles of Spain disliked France, he did not wish the King of France to be King of Spain also, so he left the throne to Philip of Anjou on condition that he should give up all claim to the throne of France. Louis had hoped always to be able to unite the two kingdoms. And when he heard upon what condition the King of Spain had made Philip his heir he was very uncertain about allowing him to accept the throne.

For before this, knowing Charles to be very ill, Louis had entered into a secret treaty with his old enemy, William III. This treaty was meant to settle the question of who should succeed to the throne of Spain in a friendly way, and so prevent another war in Europe. If Louis broke this treaty and accepted the throne for his grandson there was sure to be war. On the other hand, if he refused, was peace certain.

For three days Louis hesitated. Then he decided. He made known his will in the grand and ceremonious way in which he did everything. First he called the Spanish Ambassador into his private room, and pointing to the Duke said, "You may salute him as your king."

The Ambassador with Spanish fervor threw himself on his knees, and greeted his new King with rapture. Then Louis ordered the great folding doors to be thrown open so that all the nobles might be admitted. The Court was all agog with excitement and curiosity, wondering what the King would do. Now they crowded in, impatient to hear the news.

Louis drew himself up majestically, swept a proud glance round the eager throng and, pointing to the Duke of Anjou, said, "Gentlemen, here is the King of Spain. Birth calls him to the crown, the late King bequeathed it to him, all the nation wishes it. It is the command of heaven, and I consent to it. "

Then turning to his grandson, "Be a good Spaniard," he said. "That is now your first duty. But remember that you were born a Frenchman so that you may maintain union between the two nations. That is the way to make them happy and keep peace in Europe."

The Duke of Anjou was delighted to find himself thus a King. His father, the Dauphin, hardly knew how to contain himself for joy. He made his son go before him everywhere and called him "Your Majesty.' 5 "The King my father, the King my son," he kept repeating, and he was never tired of reminding others that few people were in the proud position of having a father and a son both at the same time reigning kings.

In Spain Philip was quietly accepted as King. And although the other states of Europe were ill-pleased at this "strengthening of the power of France they were unwilling to go to war.

[Illustration] from History of France by H. E. Marshall


Peace then might have been kept had Louis been wise. But he did many things to arouse the anger of the other rulers.

Among these he announced that the King of Spain would not give up his right to the throne of France. Then when James II died he recognized the Pretender as King of Great Britain. This was as good as a declaration of war. So once more a league was formed against France. This was called the Grand Alliance. The war which followed is called the War of the Spanish Succession, and Britain took a great part in it.

Before war began William III died. He was succeeded by Anne and she carried it on. It was the greatest of all Louis's wars. Yet by this time all his most brilliant generals were dead. The British army, on the other hand, was led by one of our greatest soldiers, Marlborough. He gained victory after victory. Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, are names of which the British are proud. They meant ruin and misery to France. Never before had Louis's armies been so often and so badly beaten, and France was full of despair.

Then upon the miseries of war followed a terrible winter. The frost was cruel. Even the Rhone, the most rapid of French rivers, was frozen over. Vines and fruit trees were killed by frosts, the people starved and were found dead of cold and hunger in their cottages. Shopkeepers, peasants, gentlemen, all alike were ruined. The land was full of beggars. At the royal table even bread was lacking more than once. At length even Louis could hold out no longer. He bowed his proud head to the storm of misfortune and asked for peace.

The allies were willing to listen, but they demanded a great deal. They demanded among other things that Louis should drive his grandson from the throne of Spain. That meant war with Spain and Louis refused. "If I must fight," he said, "I would rather fight against my enemies than against my own children."

So the war went on. But after a time a new party came into power in Great Britain. They wished to put an end to the war. So Marlborough was recalled and at length peace was made, and the treaties of Utrecht and Rastadt were signed.

These treaties were very different from those which Louis had been used to sign. For France lost much land, yielding to Great Britain the colonies of Hudson Bay and Newfoundland, and other vast possessions in the New World. France itself was left in a state of ruin and woe. And after all the misery and bloodshed Philip V still kept the throne of Spain.

The brilliant reign of Louis XIV now closed in gloom and sadness. The country was plunged in poverty, the royal household was plunged in mourning. For the Dauphin died and his eldest son died. When at length Louis himself, grown old and gray, and bent with sorrow and years, died, he left his great-grandson, a child of five, to succeed to the throne.

When Louis felt that his last hour had come he called for little Louis, his great-grandson. "My child, " he said, "you will soon be King of a great kingdom. Never forget the duty you owe to God. Remember that you owe to Him all that you are. Try to keep peace with your neighbors. I have loved war too much. Do not copy me in that nor in my great extravagance. Take counsel in all things. Try to relieve your people in every way you can. Do for them all that it has been my misfortune not to do."

Too late Louis knew his mistakes.

The magnificent King was weary of life. "I have always heard that it was hard to die," he said. "I do not find it so hard."

"Why do you weep!" he said to his servants at another time. "Did you think I was immortal?"

Louis was seventy-seven when he died, having reigned seventy-two years. It is the longest reign known in history. He had lived magnificently. He had been like a sun of splendor shedding light upon his adoring subjects. His slightest action was applauded. Even his getting out of bed and dressing in the morning, his going to bed at night, were turned into great court ceremonies at which the nobles were eager to be present. They deemed it an honor to be allowed to help him on with his coat, or to hold a candle while he undressed.

But magnificently as he had lived he died a forsaken, lonely old man. Even his wife, Madame de Maintenon, forsook him at the end, and he was left to die surrounded by servants. And although they wept around his deathbed, no one was really sorry. For his pride and his tyranny had robbed him of all love.