Treaty of Ryswick Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Treaty of Ryswick ended the hostilities of the Wars of the League of Augsburg and proved to be a peace signed out of exhaustion more than a concrete settlement of the issues. Neither side offered much in the way of significant concessions and many problems, most notably the question of who would inherit the Spanish Habsburg Empire, were unsettled.

Summary of Event

During the nine years of the Wars of the League of Augsburg (1689-1697) League of Augsburg, Wars of the (1689-1697) , contending armies from a variety of nations marched over and through Germany, Flanders, Ireland, Savoy, North America, and India and had yielded very little advantage to either Louis XIV Louis XIV of France or to the coalition aligned against him. This coalition, which was variously known as the League of Augsburg League of Augsburg , or the Grand Alliance, was organized and sustained mainly by William III William III (king of England);League of Augsburg , Dutch stadtholder and king of England, and had included England, the Netherlands, the Holy Roman Empire, Savoy, and Spain, among the major powers. [kw]Treaty of Ryswick (Sept. 20, 1697) [kw]Ryswick, Treaty of (Sept. 20, 1697) Diplomacy and international relations;Sept. 20, 1697: Treaty of Ryswick[3070] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Sept. 20, 1697: Treaty of Ryswick[3070] Government and politics;Sept. 20, 1697: Treaty of Ryswick[3070] Expansion and land acquisition;Sept. 20, 1697: Treaty of Ryswick[3070] Netherlands;Sept. 20, 1697: Treaty of Ryswick[3070] Ryswick, Treaty of (1697)

On both sides, sentiment grew to break the deadlock and bring the hostilities to a close. William III was ultimately won over to the idea of arriving at a settlement by the defection of Victor Amadeus II, duke of Savoy, who negotiated a separate peace with Louis XIV at Turin. William feared that France could now deploy free troops from the Italian front to use against his armies in Flanders and perhaps achieve a breakthrough in that sector of operations. He hoped to forestall this potential disaster by initiating peace talks, and Louis XIV, himself anxious to end the incessant warfare, agreed to the idea of a peace conference mediated by Sweden and taking place at the Dutch town of Ryswick, which at that time lay halfway between the two opposing armies.

Long-standing mutual suspicion and enmity prevented Louis and William, the two most crucial individuals involved, from even sustaining meaningful negotiations, and the talks soon reached an impasse. However, in an unusual move, special representatives from either side were hand-picked to meet informally and lay the basis for further discussion. The two who were chosen to break the log jam were Marshal Louis-François Louis-François , duke of Boufflers, and William Bentinck, Bentinck, William first earl of Portland. They were old friends, and both enjoyed the trust of their respective monarchs: Boufflers had gained international notice for his tenacity and skill at the Battle for Namur in 1695, and Portland had been William III’s childhood companion and served his sovereign as a diplomat and as a lieutenant-general of cavalry.

Boufflers and Portland began meeting in June of 1697 and had soon resolved the more prickly details surrounding the major issues. The primary bone of contention was over recognition of William III’s claim to be king of England. In 1688, William had landed in England and deposed his father-in-law, James II James II (king of England) . James had fled to France, where he received the support of Louis XIV, who had allowed him to maintain a court in exile at Saint-Germain. The military and financial assistance tendered to James by King Louis had continuously nettled William, who also faced at home a strong Jacobite (pro-James II) sentiment that he could not afford to ignore. Boufflers and Portland proposed that Louis XIV should recognize William and agree to give no further assistance to the Jacobite cause, and also to prohibit James’s subjects from giving such assistance. Louis, however, refused to expel James and his family from France, though he stopped insisting that William grant a pardon to exiled Jacobite sympathizers. These conditions proved to be mutually acceptable, and formal exchanges resumed.

Paramount issues included the status of border regions seized by Louis XIV during his 1680’s “reunions,” the fate of the exiled Huguenots, and the controversy over the principality of Orange. On the sensitive issues over territorial claims, a compromise was reached, whereby France agreed to suspend such claims in the German states and to restore nearly all the lands seized on Germany’s eastern and northern borders that had not been specified as French in the Treaties of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, Treaties of (1678-1679) with the significant exception of Strasbourg, and virtually the whole of Alsace with it. Lorraine was to be reconstituted as an independent duchy under the former ducal family. Though Holland gained no land, Dutch forces were permitted to deploy at various key locations in the Spanish Netherlands. Spain was accordingly confirmed in its possession of the southern Netherlands, the grand duchy of Luxembourg, and the province of Catalonia, following the withdrawal of French troops. Colonial transfers of territory included the cession by Spain to France of the western part of the island of Hispaniola, as the colony of Haiti, and the return of French colonial possessions in India and North America, which had been taken by allied forces during the course of the war.

Henri de Massue, Massue, Henri de first earl of Galway, was a former deputy-general of the French Calvinists at the court of Louis XIV and the titular leader-in-exile of some 200,000 Huguenots who had been forced to flee from France under persecution. Massue had high hopes that King Louis would relent and agree to take the Calvinist refugees back under a contract guaranteeing religious freedom. Now an English peer who had been an ardent participant in the military and diplomatic efforts against Louis, Galway was at the height of his influence. However, on this deeply religious matter, Louis—who was becoming more fanatically Catholic as he grew older—absolutely refused to budge and William did not press the issue. The principality of Orange, King William’s ancestral home, which was nestled inside southern France, was allowed to revert to him, but under the strict condition that it would not be the site of any activity against Louis and would never become a haven for Huguenots—in fact, no Huguenots were to dwell there at all.

Though Louis XIV and William III readily agreed to the conditions of the pact, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire at first raised objections. By September 20, 1697, though, the government of Spain had yielded, and it joined France, England, and the Netherlands for the official signing of the treaty. The lone holdout was Emperor Leopold Leopold I (Holy Roman Emperor) I, who resented the loss of Strasbourg, but energetic diplomacy on the part of King William persuaded the emperor to finally come to terms on October 30, 1697.


Though the Treaty of Ryswick reflected the indecisive nature of the conflict that it ended, it did provide all concerned with much-needed breathing space and a relief from nearly a decade of fighting. The question of the Spanish Succession, the most daunting of the controversies facing the signatories of the Treaty of Ryswick, was deferred for further discussion.

In the final analysis, the Treaty of Ryswick was a reasonably solid agreement, and its provision cannot be blamed for bringing about the Wars of the Spanish Succession in 1701. The succession war can be more accurately attributed to the failure of the sovereigns and statesmen to arrive at a viable formula for peace in the years between.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Churchill, Winston S. Marlborough: His Life and Times. Book 1. Reprint. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. The author submits that Ryswick was a great triumph for King William III, and it marked the height of his international prestige.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ladurie, Emmanuel Leroy. The Ancien Regime: A History of France, 1610-1774. Translated by Mark Greengrass. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1996. Assigns great importance to the Ryswick Pact as marking a significant realignment in the European balance of power away from overwhelming domination by France.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lynn, John A. The Wars of Louis XIV. New York: Longman, 1999. This volume is strong as far as providing the historical background to the Ryswick talks but falls a bit short in providing actual details of the diplomatic process.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McKay, Derek, and H. M. Scott. The Rise of the Great Powers, 1648-1715. New York: Longman, 1983. Offers a fairly detailed analysis of the factors propelling the Ryswick negotiations and the domestic difficulties faced by Louis and William that factored in the final settlement.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wolf, John B. Toward a European Balance of Power, 1620-1715. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1970. A highly useful account of the major diplomatic and military efforts of the time. The Treaty of Turin and the Boufflers-Portland meetings are considered to be historically critical.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

James II; Leopold I; Louis XIV; William III. Ryswick, Treaty of (1697)

Categories: History