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Habsburgs, relations with

Habsburgs, relations with. The addition of the Low Countries to the Habsburg empire in 1482 made the latter a force in northern Europe. Henry VIII was at times allied with the Habsburgs against France, but the divorce of Catherine of Aragon turned her nephew, the Emperor Charles V, into an obdurate opponent. The central European parts of Charles's empire did not greatly interest the English until, with the accession of William III, the Habsburgs joined the Austro-Dutch alliance against Louis XIV. Notable successes were achieved in the War of the Spanish Succession, including the remarkable co-operation of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy at the battle of Blenheim (1704). The alliance of Austria and Britain in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–8) was, however, marred by mutual recriminations. A renewed threat from France and a common interest in the exclusion of that power from the Low Countries brought the two together again from 1793. Years of frustration and fractiousness followed until 1814 when Castlereagh and Metternich began an eight-year partnership to preserve the balance of power in Europe against Russia as well as France. Britain's subsequent relations with Austria were frequently upset by the latter's determination to uphold autocracy, notably during the revolutions of 1848–9. Although Palmerston saw the Habsburg empire as an essential component of the European balance, he began to treat its presence in northern Italy as injurious to the Italians and itself. Both Britain and Austria were fearful of Russian ambitions in the Near East in 1854–6, 1878, and again in 1887–97 when the two powers were loosely bound by the Mediterranean agreements. The First World War ranged them on opposite sides, but even so the British, until late in the war, showed some interest in the survival of at least part of the Habsburg empire as a component of the balance of power.

C. J. Bartlett

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