Treaties of Nijmegen Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The treaties of Nijmegen ended a series of wars involving the Dutch, the Holy Roman Emperor, Spain, Lorraine, France, England, Denmark, and Sweden. King Louis XIV of France, in a bid for territorial aggrandizement along his northern and eastern borders, launched the French-Dutch War in 1672. The treaties ended hostilities and redistributed land among the Dutch, the French, the Spanish, and the empire.

Summary of Event

French king Louis XIV Louis XIV;Netherlands and launched an attack on the Dutch in 1672 French-Dutch War (1672-1678)[French Dutch War (1672-1678)] in order to support his interpretation of certain territorial clauses of the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and to create more defensible borders. The French-Dutch Wars began in 1672, when Louis’s ally England attacked the Dutch at his behest, after France had helped to subsidize England’s war against the Netherlands in the 1660’. This subsidy committed England to help France in 1672. The 1672 conflict widened as German states, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Spain entered the war, while Denmark and Sweden fought over territory and commercial privileges in Scandinavia. These conflicts were ended by the treaties of Nijmegen. [kw]Treaties of Nijmegen (Aug. 10, 1678-Sept. 26, 1679) [kw]Nijmegen, Treaties of (Aug. 10, 1678-Sept. 26, 1679) Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Aug. 10, 1678-Sept. 26, 1679: Treaties of Nijmegen[2650] Government and politics;Aug. 10, 1678-Sept. 26, 1679: Treaties of Nijmegen[2650] Netherlands;Aug. 10, 1678-Sept. 26, 1679: Treaties of Nijmegen[2650] Nijmegen, Treaties of (1678-1679)

The French gained an early advantage in the war, which emboldened them to reject Dutch efforts to end the conflict in 1672. The Dutch had been forced to flood their own country by opening the dikes that protect the below-sea-level land. William of Orange ordered the flooding to forestall additional French gains. In 1672-1673, the war expanded to France’s eastern frontier with the entry of German states and Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I Leopold I (Holy Roman Emperor) .

In 1674, the Dutch and English made a separate peace at Westminster, which ended their conflict and brought increasing pressure to bear on France, which was involved in fighting in the Pyrenees along the French-Spanish border and in Sicily as Louis XIV sought to gain a foothold in southern Italy by supporting a tax revolt in Messina.

Because France’s military and diplomatic position worsened, Louis XIV supported the calling of a peace conference, the Congress of Nijmegen, in January, 1676, but wrangling over the arrangements and the opposition of William William III (king of England) of Orange delayed any serious negotiations until 1677. The participants also sought to wait on favorable military developments to strengthen their negotiating positions. Several factors contributed to the willingness of the Dutch to accept French terms, which were first presented in April, 1678. The Dutch were under an extremely heavy financial burden and the French captured Ghent on March 12, 1678; the Dutch had made an alliance with their former enemy, England, in March, 1678, and William of Orange married Mary Mary II (queen of England);marriage of Stuart, niece of English king Charles II (r. 1660-1685).

The first Treaty of Nijmegen between the Dutch and the French concluded on August 10, 1678, and gave the Dutch important economic advantages, as the French tariffs of 1664 and 1667 were revoked. The French returned Maastricht to the Dutch, although with the stipulation that Catholicism could be freely practiced there. Furthermore, the Dutch were to remain neutral in future conflicts. William attempted to undo the treaty by attacking the French at St. Denis on August 14, 1678, but he was defeated.

Spain could not continue fighting without the support of the Dutch, forcing Spain to reach agreement with France (September 17, 1678). This agreement was broader in territorial scope and provided France with a more defensible border with the Spanish Netherlands. France received Franche-Comté along its eastern border and a series of towns, most of which the French had captured in 1676 and 1677: Valenciennes, Cambray, the Cambrésis, Aire, Poperingen, St. Omer, Ypres, Condé, Bouchain, Maubeuge, Warneton, Cassel, and some smaller, nearby dependencies. France ceded the following towns to the Spanish Netherlands: Charleroi, Binche, Oudenarde, Ath, Courtray, Limburg, Ghent, Rodenhus, Leuze, St. Ghislain, and Waes. In addition, Puycerda in Catalonia was returned to Spain, and French troops evacuated Messina. Spanish losses were much more significant than the gains. The agreement also provided for the betrothal of Louis XIV’s niece Marie-Louise d’Orléans Orléans, Marie-Louise d’ to Spanish king Charles II Charles II (king of Spain) (r. 1665-1700); they were married in November, 1679.

On February 6, 1679, France, the Holy Roman Emperor, and Sweden came to terms, with France gaining Freiburg on the eastern side of the Rhine River and a passage to Breisach; the emperor kept Philippsburg. Arrangements concerning Lorraine were complicated. France kept Longwy and Nancy along with certain military roads, and Charles V Leopold Charles V Leopold , duke of Lorraine, was to be restored to his duchy; however, he refused to accept the conditions and did not take possession. The emperor had to free French ally Bishop Wilhelm Egon von Fürstenberg, Fürstenberg, Wilhelm Egon von whom the emperor had imprisoned during the course of the war. The elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William, Frederick William, the Great Elector had to return most of Pomerania along the Baltic Sea coast to Sweden, France’s ally. Louis XIV had acted on Sweden’s behalf in accepting this treaty without consulting Sweden. France received territory, but Louis’s pursuit of additional gains provoked the Wars of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697)—also known as the Wars of the League of Augsburg League of Augsburg, Wars of the (1689-1697) or Nine Years’ War—and the Wars of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) Spanish Succession, Wars of the (1701-1714) .

Ancillary agreements were reached between the Dutch and Swedes on October 12, 1679, which, in effect, recognized the earlier treaties. On September 2, 1679, Denmark and France signed an agreement at Fontainebleau in France. The Danish-Swedish conflict was terminated by a treaty agreed to at Lund, Sweden, on September 26, 1679, that ratified territorial provisions of the other arrangements, but a series of secret articles pledged unprecedented cooperation between the two Scandinavian crowns. They were not to make alliances without apprising the other, war was to be engaged in only after informing the other party, and any joint military action would necessitate a sharing of any territorial gains. This was quite a change in the light of the bloody conflict between them (1675-1679).


Louis XIV, able to dictate most of the peace terms, received high-standing gloire (glory or reputation), as he became the most powerful European prince. He pursued an aggressive policy against his Protestant subjects, the Huguenots, and an equally aggressive policy that had gained territory without having to resort to war. The so-called Chambers of Reunion at Breisach, Besançon, and Metz ruled that certain territories or dependencies were possessions of the French king because of their longstanding connections to areas recently obtained by France. In this fashion, most of Alsace, including Strassburg, was annexed by September, 1681. Such aggressive actions aroused resentment but did not provoke a military response against France initially. However, Louis XIV continued such tactics until other European countries felt compelled to respond in 1686 by forming the League of Augsburg League of Augsburg , which included the German states, the Holy Roman Emperor, Sweden, and Spain.

In May, 1689, William of Orange, who directed the formation of the League of Augsburg, brought the Netherlands and England into the league, forming the Grand (Triple) Alliance Triple Alliance . Many of the territorial changes of the treaties of Nijmegen between France, the Dutch, Spain, the Holy Roman Emperor, and German states were revisited in the Wars of the Grand Alliance, which were ended by the Treaty of Ryswick Ryswick, Treaty of (1697) (1697) and William’s accession to the throne of England as William III, and the Wars of the Spanish Succession, which were ended by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) Utrecht, Treaty of (1713) and the Treaties of Rastatt and Baden (1714) Rastatt and Baden, Treaties of (1714) .

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bots, J. A. H., ed. The Peace of Nijmegen. Amsterdam: Holland Universiteits Pers, 1980. A collection of essays remembering the treaties after three hundred years. In English and French. Includes a bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Carsten, Frank, ed. The Ascendancy of France: 1648-88. Vol. 5 in The New Cambridge Modern History. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1961. A number of chapters in this work examine Louis’s war with the Dutch, the provisions of the treaties, and their aftermath. Especially relevant is chapter 9.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lynn, John A. Giant of the Grand Siècle: The French Army, 1610-1715. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. This detailed study clearly presents the importance of the French army in Louis’s pursuit of his foreign policy objectives.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lynn, John A. The Wars of Louis XIV. London: Blackwell, 1999. The most detailed survey to date of Louis’s military actions, which provides analysis of the peace treaties that ended those conflicts.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wolf, John B. Louis XIV. New York: W. W. Norton, 1968. This massive biography provides extensive treatment of the French-Dutch War and a perceptive analysis of the provisions of the treaties of Nijmegen and their impact on France.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

The Great Condé; Frederick William, the Great Elector; Leopold I; Louis XIV; Marquis de Louvois; Viscount de Turenne; William III. Nijmegen, Treaties of (1678-1679)

Categories: History