Philip Carteret

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Austrian Succession, War of the. Most of western Europe was plunged into war through Frederick the Great's invasion of Austrian Silesia in December 1740 (though Britain was already fighting the War of Jenkins's Ear with Spain). There followed eight years of continental and colonial warfare that killed half a million people. The European fighting took place in three theatres, the Low Countries, Italy, and central Europe. Spain and France were closely allied, with periodic links to Prussia. Britain, Piedmont-Sardinia, the United Provinces, and Austria were ranged against them. British, Austrian, and Dutch troops, often under the duke of Cumberland's command, fought against the French in the Low Countries. George II himself fought at Dettingen (1743), but before the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, the French army had thrust deep into Dutch territory. In Italy, Britain provided financial and naval support for the Austrians and Piedmont-Sardinians against a Franco-Spanish army seeking to carve a kingdom for Don Philip of Spain. In central Europe, British money helped Maria Theresa in her fight for the territorial survival of Austria against the powerful onslaughts of France and Prussia. At sea Britain was triumphant, the French navy having been destroyed by late 1747, largely due to the skill of Anson and Hawke. This placed the French economy under great strain by barring access to her colonies. In India the French had moderate success, but in America the British predominated, capturing the fort of Louisbourg in June 1745.

At home, the war helped to end the career of Walpole and assisted the rise of Carteret. The suggestion that Britain was supporting others for little gain was used by the Pelham brothers to oust Carteret in 1744, but the policy of subsidizing allies continued. Apart from the Jacobite rising of 1745–6, the conflict seemed remote to the British people and was not a ‘popular war’ in the manner of the Seven Years War. Its inconclusiveness demonstrated its futility.

Andrew Iain Lewer

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