War and Social Upheaval: The War of the Polish Sucession (1733-38)


Figure 1.--

Augustus the Strong King (Elector) of Saxony had been elected king of Poland. The issue of the sucession became a major Europen issue. Two rival candidates emerged, each of which was supported by rival European powers. The primary Polish candidate was Stanislaus I Leszczynski who supported by France and Spain, important but distant countries. Poland's neigbors (Austria and Russia) supported Frederick Augustus II, elector of Saxony. The issue was finally resolved by the Treaty of Vienne (1735). The Treaty was not rarified until 1738). Frederick Augustus was able to secure election as King Augustus III of Poland. Leszczynski was partially compensated with the duchy of Lorraine which Francis I reluctantly surrendered. Francis was Maria Theresa's husband and would become Holy Roman Emperor. (The Hapsburgs dominated the post of Emperor, but Maria Theresaas a woman was ineligible.) Austria gained Parma and Piacenza from Spain in the settlement, but Spain recovered both in the War of the Austrian Succession. Th primary significance of the War was the impact on Poland, especially Russian influence, leading to the subsequent partition of the county.

Poland

The Polish-Lituanian Commonwealth had dominated Eastern Europe. It was badly defeated by the Russians in a seies of wars culminaing in the Great Northern War. Unlike most other European countries, it has a weak government. The Polish nobels had emasculated the monarchy which became an elected office. Poland at the time was closely associated with the Holy Roman Empire. Thus an imperial elector could become a Polish king. Foreign-born rulers were relatively common at the time.

Augustus II the Strong (1697-33)

Frederick Augustus I became Elector of Saxony. Saxony at the time was the largest and most affluent territories of the Holy Roman Empire. It included Dresden, Leipzig, Meissen, Magdeburg, and Wittenburg. An elector was one of the key figures which elected the Holy Roman emperor. He was elected king of Poland (1697) and crowned King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as Augustus II. He is known in history as Augustus II the Strong King of Poland. Saxony was strictly Protestant. They had played a key role in the Reformation. The Poles were the strictly Catholic. Thus Frederick Augustus had to become Catholic to be crowned King of Poland. August had the difficult task of making his Saxon subjects believe this was a tactical matter, while convincing the Poles of his sincerity. He briefly lost the Polish crown when King Karl XII, of Sweden, invaded and defeated defeated Augustus II's armies and put Stanislas Leczczynski on the throne (1704-06). After defeating the Swedes, the Polish throne was restored to August II (1709). His death created an international crisis (1733).

Rival Candidates

The issue of the sucession became a major Europen issue. Two rival candidates emerged, each of which was supported by rival European powers. The primary Polish candidate was Stanislaus I Leszczynski. Stanislaus sought to reascend the Polish throne. He was supported by his son-in-law, Louis XV of France. Spain added its weight. These were two important but distant countries which only with difficulty could bring their weight to bear in Eastern Europe. The Polish magnates in the Sejm elected Stanislaus by a majority vote. A minority of the nobles proclaimed the new elector of Saxony king of Poland as Augustus III. Frederick Augustus II, elector of Saxony, was the son of Augustus II who was supported by Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI and by Anna of Russia. These were powerful countries whih bordered on Poland.

The War

The two rival candidates led to a civil war in Poland which turned into a much-weider European conflict. Austria, Prussia, and Russia supported Frederick Augustus. France and Spain negotiated an alliance--the Treaty of Escorial (1733). France, Sardinia, and Spain supported Stanislaus. The war was fought on several different fronts. The Russians and Austrians prevailed in Poland. The Allies (French Sadinians, and Spanish) prevailed in the West.
Poland: The Polish civil war began (August 1733). Given the strength of the Russians, there was relatively little fightivialed if the conflict had remained a civil war, but it did not. Russian and Austrian armies invaded Poland to support Frederick Augustus. Prussia supported the Austrians. Stanislaus could not oppose the Russian and Austrian armies that intervened to install Frederick Augustus on the throne. When Danzig fell to the Russians (June 1734), Stanislaus fled and sought refuge in France. The war then shifted west where the Allies (Spain and Sardinia joining France) attacked the Austrian imperial possessions.
The Rhine: France was successful on the Rhine. The French laid siege to the fortress of Philippsburg which surendered (July 1734). The French forces occupied the Duchy of Lorraine and the Habsburg Netherlands (modern Belgium). The duke of Lorraine was the son-in-law of Charles VI, later Emperor Francis I .
Northern Italy: Sardinia attempted to drive Austrians from Lombardy. A French-Sardinian army successfully seized Milan. The Austrian Army commanded by Prince Eugene reinforced by the Prussians fought the French-Sardinian forces. The battle of Parma was indecisive (June 1734), The rival forced faced off again at the Battle of Guastalla ((September 1734). This time the Franco-Sardinian victory gained a victory. The Sardinians played akey role in the struggle.
Southern Italy: Spain sought to recover Naples and Sicily, which it had ceded to Austria at the Peace of Utrecht. Spanish forces at the Battle of Bitonto defeated the Austrian forces in souther Italy (May 1734). The Austriahns as aesult oif the fighting in northern Italy could not reinforce thjeir southern forces. The Spanish as a result occupied Naples and Sicily.

Treaty of Vienna (1735-38)

The fighting by 1735 the war was essentially over. The Emperor had lost several important terrotories and was was willing to negotiate. The issue was finally resolved by the Treaty of Vienna--a grand dynastic shuffle (1735). The Treaty was not rarified until 1738). Frederick Augustus was able to secure election as King Augustus III of Poland. Stanislaus while losing the throne--retained his title. He was partially compensated for his loss with the duchy of Lorraine and Bar, which were to pass to the French crown at his death. Francis I only reluctantly surrendered the duchies. The now dispossessed duke of Lorraine was promised the succession to the grand duchy of Tuscany after the death of its last Medici ruler. This occurred (1737). Spain received Naples and Sicily and in exchange ceded to Austria its claims to the duchy of Parma. Austria retained control of Lombardy. The Eemperor also received from France a guarantee of the Pragmatic Sanction. (This was the decesion to allow Emperor Charles VI's daughter Maria Theresia to succeed her father, in her Habsburg territories.) Sardinia neither gained nor lost anything. A final peace treaty was signed after lengthy negotiations (1738).

Francis

Francis, Duke of Lorraine, was Maria Theresa's husband and would become Holy Roman Emperor. (The Hapsburgs dominated the post of Emperor, but Maria Theresa (1740-80) as a woman was ineligible.)

War of the Austrian Sucession (1740-48)

The War was generally seen as a French victory. The War was, however, only one more round in a seies of European dynastic struggles. The Vienna settlement was not lasting. In only a few years the War of Austrian succession broke out. Again French and Austrian armies were pitted against one another. Austria had gained Parma and Piacenza from Spain in the Vienna settlement, but Spain recovered both in the War of the Austrian Succession.

Historical Overview

Largely unseen at the time is that this was just one more in an endless aeries of dynastic wars in which the major European countries warred with each other, gradually gaining or losing minor provinces. It is difficult to count the number of wars over privibces like Aklsace and Sicily. There was one country on the perifery that was acquiring territory and not losing any--Russia. And on the other end of Europe, Britain and France, had begun to build important overseas empire of increasing importance. The Seven Years War (1756-63) would determine who would prevail in overseas empire building.

Polish Partitions (1772-95)

The primary significance of the War was the impact on Poland, especially Russian influence. Poland's fate was no longer its own. It had been determined by oreign armies. This was one of several steps leading to the subsequent partition of the county. The weakness of Polish forces and internal diuvisions woulkd lead to the disappearance of Poland from European maps for a century and a half.









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