Treaty of the Pyrenees Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Treaty of the Pyrenees ended hostilities between France and Spain that began in 1635 in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War. The two countries were reconciled by the marriage of King Louis XIV to the Spanish infanta Marie-Thérèse. Louis received several Spanish territories and agreed to reconcile himself to the duke of Lorraine and the prince of Condé, both of whom had fought for Spain.

Summary of Event

Bourbon France and Habsburg Spain became belligerents in 1635 in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War. Spain’s Philip IV Philip IV (king of Spain);Habsburgs and aided his Austrian Habsburg relatives, while France, under the guidance of Cardinal de Richelieu Richelieu, Cardinal de and Jules Mazarin, Mazarin, Jules chief ministers, worked to keep Habsburg power in check. [kw]Treaty of the Pyrenees (Nov. 7, 1659) [kw]Pyrenees, Treaty of the (Nov. 7, 1659) Diplomacy and international relations;Nov. 7, 1659: Treaty of the Pyrenees[1980] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Nov. 7, 1659: Treaty of the Pyrenees[1980] France;Nov. 7, 1659: Treaty of the Pyrenees[1980] Spain;Nov. 7, 1659: Treaty of the Pyrenees[1980] Pyrenees, Treaty of the (1659)

Mutual animosity was fueled when the Spanish supported the French uprising known as the Wars of the Fronde (1648-1653) Fronde, Wars of the (1648-1653) , and the French Huguenot, the Great Condé, Condé, The Great one of the Fronde’s leaders, fought successfully for Spain from the Spanish Netherlands.

France, for its part, had supported the Catalan Revolt (1640) Catalans, Revolt of the (1640) , a serious threat to the Spanish crown. French goals were largely met in the Peace of Westphalia (1648) Westphalia, Peace of (1648) , but Philip kept Spain out of the congress, making a separate peace with the Dutch in January, 1648 (Treaty of Münster Münster, Treaty of (1648) ). By the mid-1650’, France was exhausted by the continued warfare with Spain and suggested a peace plan.

Among other stipulations, Louis XIV Louis XIV;marriage of would marry the Spanish infanta Marie-Thérèse Marie-Thérèse , long an aspiration of Mazarin and Louis’s mother. Philip IV, who sought an Austrian marriage for his daughter, refused the overture, and the war continued. The tide turned in France’s favor when Mazarin engaged the services of Cromwell’s English troops in March, 1657, and orchestrated the anti-Habsburg League of the Rhine Rhine, League of the (August, 1658). Within a year French and English forces under Marshal Turenne Turenne beat the Spanish army of Flanders at the Battle of the Dunes (June 14, 1658) Dunes, Battle of the (1658) and quickly occupied numerous Spanish territories in the Netherlands and threatened Brussels. Spain was actively seeking peace, and negotiations began on August 13.

Both French chief minister Mazarin and Spanish chief minister Luis de Haro Haro, Luis de had served their respective kings for nearly two decades, but Mazarin proved the abler negotiator. Indeed, France held the stronger position, but Mazarin’s personal acumen combined with his strong desire to leave a major foreign policy coup behind him made him irresistible. In the course of their twenty-five meetings it became clear that Mazarin had three major goals: to assert clearly the victory of the French at Spain’s expense, to add strategic territory at Spain’s expense, and to marry young Louis to Marie-Thérèse. Spain in fact led with the marriage proposal as a way of opening the negotiations. Philip’s situation had changed with the birth of an heir, and there was little likelihood that the Marie-Thérèse or her son—and therefore a Bourbon—would inherit the Spanish throne. The negotiators decided that the Marie-Thérèse would renounce her dynastic claim upon marrying Louis. Philip sealed the renunciation with a promised payment of 500,000 ecus, an utterly unrealistic sum given Spain’s financial straits.





France relinquished any right to interfere in Spanish internal affairs as well as claims to Catalonia. In return, Spain promised to not interfere in French internal affairs and to cede the following territories: From the Pyrenees region, the French gained Roussillon and part of Cerdagne, and from the Spanish Netherlands, they gained Gravelines, Bourbourg, St. Venant, and Bergues in Flanders. The French also gained the cities of Thionville and Damvillers in Hainault, a part of Luxembourg, and Artois. France also returned a number of occupied cities to the Spanish. Louis thus gained the Pyrenees as a southern border and a considerable buffer against the Dutch to the north.

Philip treated the fate of the Great Condé as a matter of personal honor, and some of his territorial cessions were made specifically for the prince’s rehabilitation and return to French public life. Condé had fought well for France, engineering several victories—including Rocroi—before turning against the young king in the Fronde. Though imprisoned for his role, Condé was released in 1651 by Mazarin, who had been under pressure from important nobles. The prince then joined the Spanish forces in the Netherlands, leading the army that was defeated at the Dunes in 1658. Louis issued the sealed letters patent that constituted his pardon in January, 1660. Philip also had been served by the duke of Lorraine, who also was reconciled to Louis, though at a cost of part of his territory (Bar, Clermont en Argonne, Stenay, Moyenvic, Dun, and Jametz ceded to Louis) and right of passage for his troops through all of it. The final treaty consisted of seventy-four articles and covered seventy-nine folio pages. The two state ministers signed the final document on November 7, 1659, and all that was left was for the two sovereigns to do likewise.

French minister Jules Mazarin signed a peace treaty with Spain, which ended decades of conflict between the two countries and marked the ascent of France as a European power and the descent of Spain and the Habsburgs. Mazarin attempted but failed to secure the Spanish Netherlands for France, however, and he died in 1661 knowing that, despite the 1659 treaty, hostilities between France and Spain would continue for many years.

(Francis R. Niglutsch)

Neither Philip nor Louis would deign to leave their national soil, but a unique solution was found by staging the signing ceremonies on the Isle of Pheasants in the midst of the Bidassoa River, an island claimed by neither country. Louis’s royal architect, Louis Le Vau, designed and built the pavilion, which was placed on the very center of the island. The French half was decorated in blue and gold in the French style, while Spanish red and yellow dominated the other half. On June 6, 1660, the two monarchs met to sign the treaty. The royal guards of each lined their respective riverbanks, and the pavilion filled with distinguished bureaucrats, diplomats, and nobles, each vying with all others for splendor. As this was Louis’s first trip to southern France, he took his time as he traveled to and from the ceremony, stopping at Saint-Jean-de-Luz on June 9 to marry his new bride.


The Treaty of the Pyrenees marked not only the end a quarter century of Spanish-French hostilities but also the rise to dominance of Bourbon Bourbons France in Europe and the sunset of Spain and the Habsburgs.

Spain retained a large and powerful empire in the Netherlands, Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula, but its ability to project power and enforce its will was slipping away rapidly. The Habsburg encirclement of France was far stronger on paper than in reality, and Louis knew it. The position of the Spanish Netherlands was less secure than ever, a situation exacerbated by Spain’s inability to pay even the first installment of the huge indemnity.

Mazarin’s failure to secure the entire Spanish territoryresulted in decades of horrific conflict. For Louis, royal rights—including patrimony—were divinely bestowed and might not be renounced or otherwise alienated. He set aside his wife’s renunciation upon Philip’s death in 1665, an act that led to the War of Devolution (1667-1668) Devolution, War of (1667-1668) and the French-Dutch War (1672-1678) French-Dutch War (1672-1678)[French Dutch War (1672-1678)] . Louis again asserted Bourbon rights to Spanish inheritance in 1701, after the death of the weak and childless King Charles II. It took the Wars of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) Spanish Succession, Wars of the (1701-1714) to place his grandson on the throne as Philip V.

Additionally, Pope Alexander VII Alexander VII was livid when he learned of the treaty: That two major Catholic powers would make peace without reference to the supreme pontiff was both an insult and a sign of declining papal prestige and influence.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Black, Jeremy. European Warfare, 1494-1660. New York: Routledge, 2002. Chapter 7 gives a brief overview of the Franco-Spanish conflict from 1635 to 1659.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stradling, R. A. Philip IV and the Government of Spain, 1621-1665. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1988. A positive treatise on Philip’s reign, which emphasizes the king’s independence after the dismissal of his court favorite, the count-duke of Olivares.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Sturdy, David J. Richelieu and Mazarin: A Study in Statesmanship. New York: Palgrave, 2003. Places the war and peacemaking with Spain within a broad study of Mazarin’s career in diplomacy.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Treasure, Geoffrey. Mazarin: The Crisis of Absolutism in France. New York: Routledge, 1995. Chapter 29, “Peace with Spain,” examines the hostilities and the treaty from the French point of view.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Williams, Lynn. Letters from the Pyrenees: Don Luis Méndez de Haro’s Correspondence to Philip IV of Spain. Exeter, England: University of Exeter Press, 2000. This work includes both original letters in translation and summaries of these key documents.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

The Great Condé; Louis XIV; Marie-Thérèse; Jules Mazarin; Count-Duke of Olivares; Philip IV; Cardinal de Richelieu; Viscount de Turenne. Pyrenees, Treaty of the (1659)

Categories: History