War and Social Upheaval: The War of the Austrian Sucession (1740-48)


Figure 1.--

The war of the Austrian Sucession might be seen as the first world war as fighting spread from Europe to the Americas. It was in may ways a prelude to the much larger Seven Years War, a truly worldwide conflict. Some European rulers refused to recognize the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and thus Maria Theresia's right to rule. These included Augustus III of Poland and Saxony and Charles Albert of Bavaria (later Emperor Charles VII). Both had married nieces of Charles VI and thus had dynastic claims to the Hapsburg lands. They and otheres, especially Frederick II (the Great) saw the opportunity to benefit from the succession of Maria who because she was a woman they assumed would be weak and inefectual. Maria Theresa succeeded her father Emperor Charles VI as ruler of his Hapsburg dominions (1740). The war began with the invasion of Hapsburg Silesia by Frederick the Great of Prussia (1740). Within a year nearly all the powers of Europe were involved in the conflict. The hear of the War was the struggle between Prussia and Austria for Silesia. Battles were also fought in southwest Germany, the Low Countries and Italy. Major battles were also fought between Austria and France. France and Prussia were supported by Spain and Bavaria. Austria was supported by Britain and the Netherlands. Sardinia and Saxony also at times supported Austria. The war was ended by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) (1748). It was embematic of the difficulties faced by continental powers. A huge amount of treasure and countless lives were expended and all that changed was the possession of Silesia--an important but hardly vital province. And Prussiae cistly wars to hold it. Today it is in Poland.

The Austrian Hapsburgs

Sussession throughout Hapsburg history was through the male line. The male line of the Austrian Habsburgs, however, ended with Charles VI in 1740. When it became cleat that there would be not male heir, Charles arranged for the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, in which he assured the recognition of the indivisibility of the Hapsburg lands and the right of succession of his daughter--Maria Theresa. She married Duke Francis of Lorraine in 1736. Francis after the marriage became Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. (A woman could not serve as Holy Roman Emperor.) The marriage created the house of Habsburg-Lorraine. Maria Theresa lost most of the valuable province of Silesia to Prussia in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). The Habsburg Empire played a leading role in confronting Republican France. Louis XVI's wife, Marie Antoinette, was an Austrian princess. After the rise of Napoleon, Austria was a key participant in the coalitions that eventually defeated Napoleon.

The Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire was the medieval German state it was ruled by several dynasties before the Emperor becoming dominated by the Hapsburgs. The Holy Roman Empire of the German nation became the effective organization of Germany after the Investiture Controversy. It was not, however, an exclusively German political unit. The Empire included the Burgundian inheritance (the Carolingian "middle kingdom" ') and parts of Italy and the Netherlands, which were not German in any ethnic or linguistic sense. Nor were national loyalties and sensibilities nearly as important in Medieval Europe as would be the case in the 19th century after the French Revolution. Certainly Germany was the nucleus of the Empire. The emperors were Germans and might hve built a powerful empire in central Europe that could have dominated Europe. This did not occur although the Hapsburgs came close to it. Instead the possession of non-German possessions served to involve the Empire in foreign quarrels which drained its resources and exacerbated domestic differences. These problems would come to fruition in the Reformation.

Silesia

The war began with the invasion of Hapsburg Silesia by new king of Prussia--Frederick II who was to become known as Frederick the Great (1740). Frederick seized Silesia, making it clear that he intended to ignore the Pragmatic Sanction that guaranteed Marie Therese's seccession. Silesia is a province in central Europe beyween Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. It is located along the upper and middle Oder river, upper Vistula river and along the Sudetes and Carpathian mountains. The largest cities are Wrocław and Katowice. The history of Silesia like many European provinces is complicated. It was originally inhabited by Germans, but after the fall of Rome became inhabited primarily by Slavs. Silesia became a Piast duchy. The Mogols devestated the province after which the ruling dynasty invited Germans to help repopulate the province. The province became contested between Poland and the Holy Roman Empire. Silesia was acquired by the Bohemian crown under the Holy Roman Empire (14th century). The Habsburgs acquired the Bohemin crown and thus Slesia (1526). Frederick II seized most of Silesia from the Hapsburgs during the War of the Austrian Secession (1740). The Prussians and later the Germns controlled nost of Silesia until the NAZI defeat in Wotld War II (1945). Many Germans fled Silesia with the retreating Wehrmacht. Thise who tried to stay or return after the War were expelled by the Poles ad Czechs, in many cases with considerable brutality. Most of Silesia after the War was transferred to Poland and what had been Austrua Silesia is now part of the Czech Republic.

Pragmatic Sanction (1721)

Marie Therese's father Charles VI carefully worked out the Pragmatic Sanction to encure the sucession before his death. A pramatic sanction (pragmaticae sanctiones) in French and German history is a decession of state with the force of law on an important matter. Charles VI in 1713 issued a pragmatic sanction altering Hapsburg family law. The sanction authorized a daughter to inherit Hapsburg family lands (but not the position of Holy Roman Emperor which was elective and involved the other German states) if there was no male heir. Charrles during his reign succeeded in getting most European monarchs and the diets in the various Hapsburg territories to recognize the Pragmatic Sanction and thus the legitimacy of his daughter's rule. Maria Theresia was able to inherit the Hapsburg territories, but had to defend her rights in the War of the Austrian Succession because of objections of some neighboring states.

Dynastic Claims

Some rulers, especially Frederick II of Prussia, refused to recognize the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and thus Maria Theresia's right to rule. These included Augustus III of Poland and Saxony and Charles Albert of Bavaria (later Emperor Charles VII). Both had married nieces of Charles VI and thus had dynastic claims to the Hapsburg lands. They and otheres, especially Frederick II (the Great) saw the opportunity to benefit from the succession of Maria who because she was a woman they assumed would be weak and inefectual.

Marie Therese

Maria Theresia was born in 1717. She played a central part in the history of the 18th century. She became Archduchess of Austria at the death of her father Charles VI when she was only 23. She also became Queen of Hungary in 1741 and Queen of Bohemia in 1743. During her reign she was always actively involved in state affairs and Austria went through major social and economic reforms. Austria under Maria Thresa lost several military engagements with the expanding Prussian power to the north, especially during the reign of Frederick the Great. The Emperess had to make territorial concessions. She married Francis of Lotharingen in 1736. He was elected Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and crowned in Frankfurt during 1745. They had 16 children, providing numerous dynastic links to the royal houses throughout Europe. One of her children was the unfortunate Marie-Antoinette who married Louis XVI of France. Maria Theresia is also remembered as the monarch before whom the prodigy Mozart performed in 1762.

Hungary

Frederick's invassion put Maria Therese in a difficult position. She decided to recognized the sovereignty of her most powerful non-German ethnic group in the Ha[sburg (Austrian) Empire--the Hungarian Magyars. In return the Hungarians agreed to support her. This preserved the Hapsburg Empire, but introduced constitutionl limitations to creating a centralized nation state. In the era before the French Revolution and the rise of 19th century nationalism, the concept of states organized around a single ethnic/linguistic group was not yet throughly established.

Wider War

The War over Silesia (between Austria and Prussia) and The War of Jenkins' Ear (between England and Spain) began as two separate conflicts. They effectively merged, primarily because of France's desire to acquire territory. France decided to support Frederick in the conflict with Austria. Austria had been France's traditional eneny in Germany. Prussia was a relative newcoer in big-power politics. France preceived this an opportunity to weaken Austria using a German state as an ally. Within a year nearly all the powers of Europe were involved in the conflict. The French designs on Austria caused Britain to enter the war to prevent France from dominating Europe. Of specil concen was the Lowlands, especially the Austrian Netherlands. Britain saw French domination of the Lowlands as a direct threat. The coflict widened further when France decided to assist Spain it its war with Britain in the Americas. The heart of the War was the struggle between Prussia and Austria over Silesia. Battles were also fought in southwest Germany, the Low Countries and Italy. A French army under Marshal Saxe defeated an English army and their allies under the Duke of Cumberland Battle of Fontenoy (1745). Cumberland had to rush back to England when the Scotts under Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Stuart claimant, threatened London (1745). Major battles were also fought between Austria and France. France and Prussia were supported by Spain and Bavaria. Austria was supported by Britain and the Netherlands. Sardinia and Saxony also at times supported Austria.

The Jacobite Rebellion (1745-46)

James III with French encouragement conceived a plan to seize the British throne from the ruling Hanoverians--George II. James obtained approval from the French for the plan and his son, Prince Charles, was to command French invasion forces. Charles went to France to assume command of the French forces. The French, however, cancelled the expedition due to bad weather and a British naval build up. Little further French assistance was forecoming. Prince Charles, however, relcklessly decided to go ahead with the expedition even without the anticipated French forces. Prince Charles in July 1745 sureptiously landed on the west coast of Scotland. He raised his standard at Glenfinnan on August 18, 1745. Little support was forth coming from the Lowlanders, but the Highlands was a different matter. The Prince succeeded in amassing a small, but dedicated force of Highlanders (about 2,500 men) for his Jacobite cause. At first not taken seriously, the Prince Charles by September occupied Edinburgh and destroyed the Hanoverian Government army of John Cope at Prestonpans outside Edinburgh. In November he crossed into England, his ranks swelling to almost 6,000 men and marched south to Derby. English Catholicsm however, did not rise to his Jacobite standard. The reenforcements he had anticipated from France never arrived. The English recalled forces from the Continent and began amassing a powerful force.

Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748)

The war was ended by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) (1748). The War ended in a stalemate with none of the major participants achieving its objectives, excet Prussia which maintained its hold on Silesia. The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was more of an armed truce rather than a real peace. Federick wanted to expand further and resented the role of Austria within the German community. Left unsettled was the future direction of colonial expansion. Spain had been the major colonial power, but Spanish power was waining. Britin and France had colonies in the Caribbean, North America, and India. These colonial claims both overlapped and competed with each other. The Treaty had not resolved any of the issues between Britain and France. And the colonial conflict were increasing.

Results

The principal result of the War was that Frederick was able to consolidate his territory as a major German state. This was in large measure due to French aid. Prussia after the War posed a significant challenge to Austria within the Holy Roman Empire. Not only would Prussis challenge Austria, but it the future would pose a more powerful danger to France than Austria ever posed. The War was, however, embematic of the difficulties faced by continental powers. A huge amount of treasure and countless lives were expended and all that changed was the possession of Silesia--an important but hardly vital province. And Prussiae cistly wars to hold it. Today it is in Poland. Notably as the continental countries were bashing each other for little or no gain, Britain was steadily building its empire and prepaing for a showdown with France. But France heavily involved in the costly continental battles was limited as to the resources which could be devoted to its navy.









HBC








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Created: 6:47 PM 9/15/2006
Last updated: 6:47 PM 9/15/2006