Peace of Utrecht
Utrecht, Peace of (1713)
UTRECHT, PEACE OF (1713)
UTRECHT, PEACE OF (1713). The Peace of Utrecht consisted of twenty-three treaties and conventions that ended the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). Most, but not all, were signed in Utrecht in the Netherlands in 1713. France and Austria ended hostilities with the Treaty of Rastatt in March 1714; the Treaty of Baden (September 1714) ended war between France and the Holy Roman Empire; Portugal and Spain concluded negotiations in Madrid in February 1715. Austria and the empire did not sign treaties with Spain until 1725, despite the cessation of fighting a decade before, largely because of Habsburg unwillingness to concede the Bourbon succession in Spain.
The contested Spanish succession fed fears of French hegemony after a Bourbon prince, Philip d'Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV, became Philip V of Spain in 1700. A Grand Alliance, comprising England, the Dutch Republic, Austria, and many smaller European powers, commenced war against France and Spain in 1702. Particularistic complaints underlying the allies' shared concerns made peace elusive. The French troops' occupation of towns in the southern Netherlands in 1701 threatened the security of the Dutch Republic. The English and Dutch feared French trade restrictions in Spanish America after France received an asiento ('contract') to supply slaves to Spanish colonies, in 1701. An Austrian Habsburg prince, Archduke Charles, second son of Emperor Leopold I (ruled 1658–1705), was Philip V's chief rival for the Spanish throne.
Attempts at peace commenced in 1706 but faltered repeatedly. Negotiators failed to craft terms acceptable to multiple parties, and the fickle fortunes of war frequently reconfigured bargaining positions. In 1710, a change of government in Britain broke the impasse. War-weary Britons voted out the Whigs, and a Tory ministry headed by Robert Harley assumed power. Henry St. John, a new secretary of state, abandoned multilateral negotiations for bilateral negotiations with the French, and soon Britain and France had cut deals that promised peace but compromised the interests of Britain's allies.
On 29 January 1712, an international congress convened in Utrecht to negotiate a general peace between France and some members of the Grand Alliance. St. John wanted the semblance of a general settlement, even if most negotiating was bilateral rather than in congressional sessions. One of Britain's war aims was a balance of power in Europe, a goal that St. John suspected the French did not heartily support. A general peace between France and the allies, he believed, would forward that goal more than would a separate peace between France and Britain. By early 1713, the plenipotentiaries of Britain, the Dutch Republic, Savoy, Portugal, and Prussia had agreed to terms with France, and on 11 April signed treaties ending their participation in the war.
Spanish involvement in the congress was delayed until the April treaties acknowledged Philip V and his delegates' rights to negotiate for Spain, but treaties with some allies soon followed. Representatives from Austria and the empire left Utrecht without treaties because of unresolved differences with France or Spain. The Spanish succession remained their primary stumbling block, but its context had changed dramatically between 1702 and 1713. During those years, two Austrian emperors had died, Leopold I in 1705 and Joseph I in 1711. Archduke Charles, the contender for the Spanish throne as Charles III, was crowned Emperor Charles VI. In the Bourbon line, deaths claimed the French dauphin in 1711, putting Philip V of Spain fourth in line for the French throne. Two Bourbon deaths in 1712 left only a sickly boy between Philip and the French throne. These untimely deaths left both Charles and Philip with multiple dynastic claims, which, as the primary Spanish claimants, made them unattractive to many powers unless they renounced some of them. In 1712, Philip V renounced his French claims, which five allies, but not Austria and the empire, recognized in 1713.
The Peace of Utrecht redefined numerous dynastic conflicts. In addition to Philip V of Spain's renunciation of his French claims, the dukes of Berry and Orléans and their heirs were excluded from claims to the Spanish throne, thus precluding a future royal union of France and Spain. International acknowledgment of Philip V effectively ended a possible Habsburg union of Austria and Spain. France recognized the Protestant succession in Britain and agreed that the Stuart Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart, and his heirs could not live on French soil. Frederick William I was acknowledged as king of Prussia. The house of Savoy received Sicily from Spain (despite Austria's claim), and assurances that, if the Spanish Bourbon line failed, the Savoy line would succeed it. Emperor Charles VI received the other Spanish territories in Italy and the Netherlands. These arrangements curbed the hegemonic tendencies of dynastic unions, elevated state and national interests, and made a balance of power a shared European objective, if not a reality.
Colonial and commercial issues figured prominently in the Peace of Utrecht. France returned Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Portugal and agreed to clarify the border between Portugal's and France's American claims. Rather than cede Iberian border towns, Spain gave Sacramento in South America to Portugal and acknowledged its Brazilian claims. France ceded Newfoundland, Acadia, St. Christopher, and the Hudson Bay territory to Britain, but insisted on exclusive seasonal shore rights in Newfoundland to exploit the cod fishery. The Anglo-Spanish treaty protected Spain's interest in the Newfoundland fishery. Spain transferred the asiento from France to Britain for thirty years, and allowed British trading stations on the Río de la Plata in South America. Gibraltar and Minorca, former Spanish possessions, guaranteed British commercial access in the Mediterranean.
Despite the achievements of the Peace of Utrecht, British machinations by Henry St. John, backed by Robert Harley, haunted European affairs for decades. In Britain, vitriolic criticism of St. John and Harley's treatment of allies forced both men into exile. British disregard of Dutch interests probably sped the Dutch Republic's decline as a European power. British abandonment of the Catalans left them vulnerable to Philip V's revenge for their support of the Grand Alliance. Newfoundland fishing concessions incensed opposition critics in Britain, and created international tensions that continue to the present. A fortified barrier in the southern Netherlands failed to hold back French forces in 1745, and festering boundary disputes in the colonies fueled the conflicts leading to the Seven Years' War. All contributed to the contested legacy of the Peace of Utrecht.
See also Bourbon Dynasty (France) ; Bourbon Dynasty (Spain) ; Charles III (Spain) ; Frederick William I (Prussia) ; Habsburg Dynasty ; Philip V (Spain) ; Seven Years' War (1756–1763) ; Spain ; Spanish Succession, War of the (1701–1714) .
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