Treaty of Vienna

The Treaty of Vienna was agreed to in the wake of the War of the Polish Succession. It transferred the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from Austria to Spain and awarded the duchy of Lorraine and the county of Bar to Stanisław I Leszczyński, the deposed king of Poland.

Summary of Event

After battling for more than two years in the War of the Polish Succession, Polish Succession, War of the (1733-1735) the European powers involved agreed to a cease-fire known as the Preliminary Treaty of Vienna (October 3, 1735). The War of the Polish Succession had erupted in 1733 over whether Stanisław I—supported by France, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the duchy of Savoy, and Spain—or Saxon elector Augustus III—a protégé of Russia, Prussia, and Austria—would accede to the throne of Poland. Because these great European powers were directly involved, the conflict rapidly spilled over into other festering disputes in various parts of Europe and had, by the time the Preliminary Treaty of Vienna was agreed to, developed such a degree of complexity that negotiations dragged on for three more years before the definitive Treaty of Vienna was signed on November 18, 1738. [kw]Treaty of Vienna (Nov. 18, 1738)
[kw]Vienna, Treaty of (Nov. 18, 1738)
French Lorraine
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
Vienna, Treaty of (1738)
[g]Austria;Nov. 18, 1738: Treaty of Vienna[0950]
[g]Poland;Nov. 18, 1738: Treaty of Vienna[0950]
[c]Diplomacy and international relations;Nov. 18, 1738: Treaty of Vienna[0950]
[c]Expansion and land acquisition;Nov. 18, 1738: Treaty of Vienna[0950]
Stanis{lstrok}aw I
Augustus III
Louis XV
Philip V
Farnese, Isabella
Bourbon, Don Carlos de
Charles VI
Francis I
Maria Theresa
Fleury, André-Hercule de

Though the war had generally gone well for France and its main ally, Spain (apart from Stanisław I’s having virtually been expelled from Poland), French prime minister André-Hercule de Fleury was somewhat anxious over the possibility that Britain and the Netherlands might be drawn in on the opposing side if the conflict persisted much longer. He had therefore thought it advantageous to negotiate while his government and its allies were still in a position of relative strength.

The question of the Polish succession itself was settled with the understanding that even though he enjoyed most of the popular support in Poland, Stanisław would renounce his claims to the throne in favor of Augustus III. However, Stanisław would be compensated with the duchy of Lorraine, the county of Bar, and the title of king for the duration of his life. The title to Lorraine and Bar was then to pass to his daughter, Maria Leszczyńska, who was the wife of King Louis XV of France—in effect, Lorraine and Bar were to come under French control. In return for what would be a considerable aggrandizement of French territory, Louis XV agreed to sign and support the Pragmatic Sanction, Pragmatic Sanction
Women;royal succession recognizing the succession of a woman to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire.

Habsburg emperor Charles VI of Austria had no male heir, and his eldest daughter Maria Theresa was legally prevented from succeeding under Salic law, which excluded females and reserved royal inheritance to the male line. Charles VI therefore sought to nullify the Salic law through an international agreement known as the Pragmatic Sanction. By agreeing to the sanction, the monarchs of Europe vowed to respect Maria Theresa’s territorial inheritance, Salic law notwithstanding. Because France was the major continental superpower, France’s support of the Pragmatic Sanction was deemed to be indispensable, and, given the long-standing enmity between the Habsburgs and the Bourbons, Louis XV’s assent was a considerable breakthrough.

The hereditary duke of Lorraine, Francis III, Maria Theresa’s husband, was to be compensated with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, where the last of the Medici Dynasty of grand dukes, Gian Gastone, would die without an heir in 1737. A branch of the Habsburg Dynasty was to rule in Tuscany until 1859. In a minor border adjustment, Sardinia and Savoy received territories around Tortone and Novara, in western Lombardy, from Austria. This was a bitter disappointment for King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia (also duke of Savoy), who had successfully overrun and seized the duchy of Milan (Lombardy) from Austria but now had to hand back all but a sliver of land.

As an added complexity, Spain’s Philip V and his influential queen, Isabella Farnese, wished to secure a kingdom for their son Don Carlos de Bourbon. Don Carlos did not seem likely to succeed to the Spanish throne, because the heir apparent was his elder half brother, Ferdinand. During the War of the Polish Succession, Don Carlos’s forces had occupied the take the Two Sicilies from Austria. It was eventually agreed that Don Carlos could become ruler of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies on the condition that it would never be united with the crown of Spain and that the same individual could not reign simultaneously over both. In addition, Don Carlos had to surrender the duchies of Parma and Piacenza, which he had inherited from his mother, to Austria. When Don Carlos eventually ascended the Spanish throne as Charles III in 1759, his third son, Ferdinand, succeeded to the throne of the Two Sicilies. The Bourbons would reign there until 1860.


For Poland, the effects of the Treaty of Vienna were cataclysmic: Stanisław I was the last Polish king with a substantial following among his own people. Thereafter, the Polish crown was controlled by Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and the Polish monarchs from Augustus III governed mainly by the whim of these foreign powers, especially Russia. The treaty was thus a major step in the process leading to the three partitions of Poland Partitions of Poland and the annihilation of the Polish state by Russia, Austria, and Prussia in 1795.

France would expand and consolidate its eastern frontiers when Lorraine and Bar devolved to Louis XV through his wife Maria upon Stanisław’s death in 1766. The former Polish king was very popular, and his reign, centering around his glittering court at Lunéville (which was dubbed “Little Versailles”), is considered a period of prosperity and cultural achievement in Lorraine. Charles Emmanuel III was outraged at what he perceived as Fleury’s undervaluation of his contribution as an ally by conceding him a paltry strip of western Lombardy. His outrage was a factor in his decision to shift his support from France to Austria during the War of the Austrian Succession. France’s adherence to the Pragmatic Sanction is considered a foundation stone of what was later termed the “Diplomatic Revolution” with Austria, whereby the former arch-enemies were to forge an alliance of mutual interests that would endure until the French Revolution.

Further Reading

  • Bernier, Olivier. Louis the Beloved: The Life of Louis XV. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984. Louis as portrayed the largely passive beneficiary of Fleury’s efforts during the Vienna negotiations.
  • Hayes, Carlton J. H. Modern Europe to 1870. New York: Macmillan, 1967. Solid, succinct general history that nonetheless very effectively places the provisions of the 1738 Treaty of Vienna within the broader context.
  • Imbruglia, Girolamo, ed. Naples in the Eighteenth Century: The Birth and Death of a Nation-State. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Deals in part with the transition from Habsburg to Bourbon rule brought about by the Treaty of Vienna.
  • Kamen, Henry. Philip V of Spain: The Man Who Reigned Twice. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2001. Concise account of the interaction between the comparatively passive Philip and his bellicose queen. Brings to light their burning resentment against France for allowing the loss of Parma to Austria.
  • Lynch, John. Bourbon Spain, 1700-1808. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1989. Good general period analysis that disappoints in that there are no details regarding the effects of the Treaty of Vienna.
  • Reddaway, W. F., et al. The Cambridge History of Poland, 1697-1935. New York: Octagon Books, 1978. Classic study (in the chapters written by William Konopcynski) presenting the Vienna agreement as a watershed event on the road to Poland’s destruction in the late eighteenth century.
  • Wilson, Arthur McCandless. French Foreign Policy During the Administration of Cardinal Fleury, 1726-1743: A Study in Diplomacy and Commercial Development. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972. A thorough analysis of the motivations and maneuverings of the most one of the most skilled diplomatic practitioners of the era.

War of the Polish Succession

Lorraine Becomes Part of France

Partitioning of Poland

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Charles III; Charles VI; André-Hercule de Fleury; Louis XV; Maria Theresa; Philip V. Treaties;European
French Lorraine
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
Vienna, Treaty of (1738)