Nine Years' War
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Nine Years' War (1688–97) – often called the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg – was a major war of the late 17th century fought between King Louis XIV of France, and a European-wide coalition, the Grand Alliance, led by the Anglo-Dutch Stadtholder-King William III, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, King Charles II of Spain, Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, and the major and minor princes of the Holy Roman Empire. The Nine Years' War was fought primarily on mainland Europe and its surrounding waters, but it also encompassed a theatre in Ireland, where William III and James II struggled for control of the British Isles, and a minor campaign between French and English settlers and their Indian allies in colonial North America. The Nine Years' War was the second of Louis XIV's three major wars.
Louis XIV had emerged from the Franco-Dutch War in 1678 as the most powerful monarch in Europe; but although he had expanded his realm the 'Sun King' remained unsatisfied. Using a combination of aggression, annexation, and quasi-legal means, Louis XIV immediately set about extending his gains in order to stabilize and strengthen France's frontiers, culminating in the brief War of the Reunions (1683–84). The resulting Truce of Ratisbon guaranteed the extended borders of France for twenty years, but Louis XIV's subsequent actions – notably his revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, and his attempt to extend his influence in the German Rhineland – culminated in the deterioration of his military and political dominance. Louis XIV's decision to cross the Rhine and besiege Philippsburg in September 1688 was intended to pre-empt a strike against France by Emperor Leopold I and to force the Holy Roman Empire into accepting his territorial and dynastic claims. But when the Emperor and the German princes resolved to resist, and when the States-General and William III brought the Dutch and the English into the war against France, Louis XIV at last faced a powerful coalition aimed at curtailing his ambitions.
The main fighting took place around France's borders: in the Spanish Netherlands; the Rhineland; Duchy of Savoy; and Catalonia. These campaigns were dominated by siege operations, notably at Mons, Namur, Charleroi and Barcelona: open battles such as Fleurus and Marsaglia were less common. These engagements generally favoured Louis XIV's armies but by 1696 France was in a grip of an economic crisis. The Maritime Powers (England and the Dutch Republic) were also financially exhausted, and when Savoy defected from the Alliance all parties were keen for a negotiated settlement. By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) Louis retained the whole of Alsace but was forced to return Lorraine back to its owner; he also had to give up any gains on the right bank of the Rhine. Louis XIV agreed to accept William III as King of England, while the Dutch garrisoned a line of fortresses in the Spanish Netherlands to help secure their border. However, with the imminent death of the childless Charles II of Spain a new conflict over the inheritance of the Spanish Empire (the most important unsolved question of European politics) would soon embroil France and the Grand Alliance in Louis XIV's final conflict – the War of the Spanish Succession.