Pyrenees, Peace of the (1659)

views updated May 08 2018


PYRENEES, PEACE OF THE (1659). The struggle between France and Spain that burst out into full-scale war in 1635 was not ended by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Instead, the French lost much ground when Spain took advantage of the Fronde, the French civil wars of 16481653. Eventually allied with the prince of Condé (16211686), one of the leaders of the Fronde, the Spaniards retook earlier French gains, such as Dunkirk, and ended the French-backed rebellion in Catalonia. The end of the Fronde brought little improvement in French prospects, and defeats in 16551656 led France to offer terms, only for Philip IV (16051665) of Spain to reject them. The French demand that the peace include the marriage of Louis XIV (16381715) with Philip's daughter Marie-Thérèse (16381683), then first in line in the succession, was unacceptable.

The war ended only after the intervention of English forces on the side of France, under an alliance signed in 1657, tipped the balance in Flanders. English units helped Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne (16111675), marshal Turenne, defeat the Army of Flanders at the Battle of the Dunes (14 June 1658). This transformed the strategic situation. Having exploited the victory to capture Dunkirk, Gravelines, Menen, and Ieper (Ypres), La Tour d'Auvergne could threaten an advance on Brussels, the capital of the Spanish Netherlands.

This led to the Peace of the Pyrenees of 7 November 1659, signed at the Isle of Pheasants at the western end of the mountain chain. Important French gains in the war, Artois in the Low Countries and Roussillon at the eastern end of the Pyrenees, were ceded by Spain. However, the peace was more of a compromise than is usually appreciated, and this reflected the outcome of the war. The French had failed to drive the Spanish from the southern Netherlands or Italy as had been planned, and as a result the Spaniards retained their territories in Italy as well as most of the Spanish Netherlands. The Spanish Empire remained the largest in western Europe.

The marriage of Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse as part of the settlement was now acceptable to Spain because Philip now had a son, a reminder of the role of dynastic fortune. As an indication, however, of the extent to which policy was debated and thus of the danger of treating states as unproblematic building blocks, the negotiations were opposed by the queen of Spain, who wanted Marie-Thérèse to marry Emperor Leopold I (16401705), and by courtiers concerned to secure better terms for Condé. Dunkirk, a major naval base on the North Sea, was ceded to England, but the recently restored Charles II (16301685) sold it to Louis XIV in 1662.

When Louis married Marie-Thérèse in 1660, she renounced the right of succession on the Spanish inheritance, both for herself and for her heirs. However, it was by no means clear how acceptable this was to Spanish custom and law. Indeed at the time of the marriage her renunciation was regarded as a matter of formality, entered into in order to allay international mistrust. It gave Louis and the Bourbon dynasty a claim to the Spanish inheritance, which was pushed when Philip IV died in 1665. Louis claimed Brabant, Antwerp, Limburg, and parts of Franche-Comté and Luxembourg from the inheritance, leading to the War of Devolution in 16671668. After gains then, including Lille and Tournai, he won more, including Franche-Comté and parts of the Spanish Netherlands, in the Dutch War of 16721678. More seriously, the death of Philip's son, Carlos II (16611700), led to the War of the Spanish Succession (17011714) as the inheritance of the whole succession by Louis's second grandson, Philip V of Spain (16831746; ruled 17001746), was contested by Britain, Austria, and the Dutch.

The Peace of the Pyrenees is sometimes seen as setting the seal on the decline of Spain. This is misleading. It was no more than a stage in the long-running saga of relations. Spain proved a robust power possessing great resilience in the 1640s and 1650s. Subsequent Spanish difficulties owed more to contrasting domestic developments in the 1660s. The vigorous Louis XIV took personal charge of France on the death of Cardinal Jules Mazarin (16021661) in 1661, while in Spain the physically and mentally impaired Carlos II (ruled 16651700) could not provide the necessary leadership.

See also Condé Family ; Devolution, War of (16671668) ; Fronde ; Louis XIV (France) ; Netherlands, Southern ; Philip IV (Spain) ; Spain ; Spanish Succession, War of the (17011714) .


Méndez de Haro, Luis. Letters from the Pyrenees: Don Luis Méndez de Haro's Correspondence to Philip IV of Spain, July to November 1659. Edited by Lynn Williams. Exeter, U.K., 2000. A crucial source.

Jeremy Black

Pyrenees, Peace of the

views updated May 23 2018

Pyrenees, Peace of the (1659) Treaty between France and Spain after the Thirty Years' War. France gained territory in Artois and Flanders, and Philip IV of Spain reluctantly agreed to his daughter's marriage to Louis XIV. She was to renounce her claim to the Spanish throne in exchange for a subsidy. Because Spain could not pay the subsidy, the renunciation became void, giving Louis a claim on the Spanish Netherlands and resulting in the War of Devolution.

About this article

Peace of the Pyrenees

All Sources -
Updated Aug 24 2016 About content Print Topic