First and Second Treaties of Partition

The treaties of partition were attempts by the king of France and the king of England, Scotland, and Ireland to maintain a balance of power in Europe and avoid war by dividing the vast Spanish Empire in anticipation of the death of the last Spanish Habsburg ruler of Spain.

Summary of Event

In the second half of the seventeenth century, the Spanish Habsburg Dynasty was represented by Charles II Charles II (king of Spain) , who suffered serious physical and mental disabilities. He was not expected to live long, and the major European powers feared that a war would erupt over the spoils of the Spanish Empire. This concern led to the extraordinary circumstance in which European countries, including France, Austria, and England negotiated to partition Spain. [kw]First and Second Treaties of Partition (Oct. 11, 1698, and Mar. 25, 1700)
[kw]Partition, First and Second Treaties of (Oct. 11, 1698, and Mar. 25, 1700)
[kw]Treaties of Partition, First and Second (Oct. 11, 1698, and Mar. 25, 1700)
Diplomacy and international relations;Oct. 11, 1698, and Mar. 25, 1700: First and Second Treaties of Partition[3090]
Expansion and land acquisition;Oct. 11, 1698, and Mar. 25, 1700: First and Second Treaties of Partition[3090]
France;Oct. 11, 1698, and Mar. 25, 1700: First and Second Treaties of Partition[3090]
England;Oct. 11, 1698, and Mar. 25, 1700: First and Second Treaties of Partition[3090]
Partition, First Treaty of (1698)
Partition, Second Treaty of (1700)
Spain;partition of

As early as January 19, 1668, French king Louis XIV Louis XIV and the Austrian Habsburg emperor Leopold Leopold I (Holy Roman Emperor) I executed a secret treaty to partition the Spanish Empire. This was the only partition treaty to which Leopold agreed, for he was convinced of the legality of the claims of the Austrian Habsburgs to the Spanish Empire and the inevitability of Austrian Habsburg acquisition of Spanish territories. The treaty’s terms stipulated that Louis XIV would gain the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Franche-Comté, Navarre, and the Philippines. Leopold I would gain Spain, Milan, and the colonies in the Americas if Charles II were to die without heirs.

Louis XIV and William III William III (king of England);Louis XIV and , king of England, Scotland, and Ireland and leader of the Netherlands, were enemies during France’s war against the Dutch (1672-1678) and during the Wars of the League of Augsburg (1689-1697). The two leaders took advantage of the tenuous balance of power established by the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) Ryswick, Treaty of (1697) to begin negotiations to prevent a European war over the disposition of the Spanish Empire. There were assumptions underlying these negotiations, including that the Spanish Empire, upon the death of Charles II, would be kept intact and given to one candidate, or that it could be divided among rivals. In either case, a union of the Spanish Empire with either the French monarchy or Austrian Empire would be prevented.

Urgency was the order of the day when Charles II became seriously ill in February-March, 1698, as Louis XIV began talks with the English ambassador in France, William Bentinck, Bentinck, William first earl of Portland, and then sent French ambassador Camille Tallard Tallard, Camille to England to negotiate with William III personally in late March of 1698. After several months of discussions in England, Bentinck and Tallard traveled to France in August. Louis sought a peaceful resolution to the Spanish Succession problem because France had suffered a serious financial burden in the wake of Louis’s wars and major crop failures in the 1690’. William was concerned because the English army had been drastically reduced in size, and he believed that France was in a position to acquire the Spanish Empire by military action.

The negotiations were tedious and moved slowly, given the many proposals and counterproposals. Spain, its colonies, the Spanish Netherlands, and Sardinia would go to Joseph Ferdinand Joseph Ferdinand , the electoral prince of Bavaria and son of Maximilian II Emmanuel Maximilian II Emmanuel of Bavaria and Maria Antonia Maria Antonia , oldest daughter of Leopold I and niece of Charles II. Maria Antonia earlier had renounced her claim to the Spanish throne. Furthermore, if the young Joseph Ferdinand died, his father, Maximilian II Emmanuel, would succeed him, and Milan would go to Charles III (later Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI Charles VI (Holy Roman Emperor) ), second son of Leopold I. Louis, the French dauphin, would receive Naples, Sicily, Tuscan ports, and the Spanish province Guipuzcoa. Dutch troops would occupy a series of fortresses in the Spanish Netherlands as a barrier against possible French aggression. The First Partition Treaty was signed by England and France on September 8, 1698, and officially ratified on October 11, 1698.

This treaty proved satisfactory to William and Louis but outraged the Spanish, who would not countenance the division of their empire. Charles II named Joseph Ferdinand as his heir by will on November 14, 1698. Leopold rejected the First Partition Treaty and asserted his claim to the entire Spanish Empire on behalf of Charles III. Historians note that if Charles II had died in late 1698, Joseph Ferdinand would have ascended the throne supported by both the First Partition Treaty and Charles II’s will; however, the unexpected death of Joseph Ferdinand on February 6, 1699, at the age of six, threw diplomacy into chaos, leaving only two alternatives for the Spanish throne: an Austrian of the Habsburg Dynasty or a French member of the Bourbon Dynasty.

Louis and William negotiated a Second Partition Treaty and framed a preliminary agreement on June 11, 1699, to be presented to the Dutch and to Leopold for their approval. Leopold’s rejection and some dissension among the Dutch delayed ratification until March 25, 1700. The provisions involved Charles III’s inheriting Spain, the Spanish colonies, and the Spanish Netherlands. The French dauphin Louis would inherit Naples, Sicily, and Lorraine, while the duke of Lorraine would obtain Milan as compensation for relinquishing Lorraine. Naples and Sicily would be exchanged for Piedmont-Savoy. The Spanish rejected the treaty, leading to a fierce struggle within the Spanish court over whether the Austrian or French candidate should inherit the empire intact. Charles II’s queen, Maria Anna of Bavaria-Neuburg, pushed for Charles III. The Spanish clergy supported the French and eventually convinced Charles II to make a will on October 2, 1700, designating the dauphin’s second son, Philip Philip V (king of Spain)[Philip 05 (king of Spain) of Anjou, as heir to the entire Spanish Empire, provided he relinquish his claim to the French throne. If Philip did not accept the Crown, it would be offered to the Austrian Habsburgs. Habsburgs;Austria

Spanish policy was consistent in maintaining the empire’s territorial integrity, and a calculation of military might indicated that France would be in the best position to defend the empire. Charles II died on November 1, 1700, and Louis had to determine whether to adhere to the Second Partition Treaty or to Charles II’s will. The English and Dutch believed that Leopold would now accept the Second Partition Treaty, as would Louis, since France would gain Piedmont-Savoy through the treaty, whereas, by accepting the will, France would gain nothing. Louis nevertheless accepted the will on November 16, 1700, and the sixteen-year-old Philip of Anjou began his journey to Spain to become its king—to reject the will would give the Spanish Empire to Charles III. On November 18, 1700, Leopold ordered his military advisers to begin planning an attack on Milan.


The Second Treaty of Partition paved the way for the Wars of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) Spanish Succession, Wars of the (1701-1714) . Philip of Anjou arrived in Madrid on February 18, 1701, to be crowned King Philip V. He brought with him French military advisers. Aggressive actions by Louis upset the English and Dutch; French troops expelled Dutch troops from the barrier fortresses in the Spanish Netherlands; Louis recognized Philip V’s right to the French throne; Philip V awarded the lucrative slaving contract, the asiento, to the French for ten years. Smaller European powers began to gravitate toward France. Maximilian II Emmanuel of Bavaria entered into a military alliance with France in March of 1701. Europe was lurching toward the war so many had worked so hard to avoid.

Hostilities began in Italy on June 19, 1701, as the French tried to block an Austrian advance into Milan. England, Austria, and the Dutch signed the Grand Alliance to fight for a partition of the Spanish Empire in early September, and, in late September, Louis recognized James, the so-called Pretender and the son of King James II (r. 1685-1688), as king of England, an extremely provocative action.

The Grand (Triple) Alliance officially declared war on France on May 15, 1702, with the following aims: Spain and France were not to be ruled by the same monarch, and there would be compensation for Leopold with Italian territory and commercial concessions for the English and Dutch. The war ended with the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) Utrecht, Treaty of (1713) and the Treaties of Rastatt and Baden (1714) Rastatt and Baden, Treaties of (1714) , which partitioned the Spanish Empire. Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, the former King Charles III of Spain, received Naples, Sardinia, Milan, Tuscan ports, and the Spanish Netherlands. Philip V renounced claims to the French throne and retained the remainder of the Spanish Empire, except for Gibraltar, which England had conquered during the war.

Further Reading

  • Baxter, Stephen B. William III and the Defense of European Liberty, 1650-1702. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966. This analytical biography discusses William’s negotiations during the formation of the Partition Treaties in chapter 26, “Armed Truce.”
  • Bromley, J. S., ed. The Rise of Great Britain and Russia. Vol. 6 in The New Cambridge Modern History. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1970. Numerous chapters in this comprehensive survey deal with the Partition Treaties and the international background, especially chapters 11-13.
  • Frey, Linda, and Marsha Frey, eds. The Treaties of the War of the Spanish Succession. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995. An excellent resource with short reference entries on the Partition Treaties, the rulers, diplomats, and the subsequent Wars of the Spanish Succession.
  • Grimblot, Paul, ed. The Letters of William III and Louis XIV and Their Ministers. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1848. A valuable collection of the correspondence between the two monarchs in the years 1697-1700. Essential for understanding the foreign policy of this period.
  • Spielman, John P. Leopold I of Austria. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1977. This biography presents the Austrian Habsburg position on the Spanish Succession and the partition treaties.
  • Wolf, John B. Louis XIV. New York: W. W. Norton, 1968. Louis’s aggressive foreign policy, his participation in the diplomacy that produced the partition treaties, and his rationale for accepting Charles II’s will are all discussed in this biography.

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