Triple Alliance Forms Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

England, Sweden, and the United Provinces of the Netherlands established an alliance to curb the expansionist policies of French king Louis XIV. The alliance formed specifically to prevent the French from annexing Spanish territory in the Low Countries and the Rhine Valley.

Summary of Event

Taking advantage of the weakness of central Europe after the Thirty Years’ War, French king Louis XIV Louis XIV;Triple Alliance and sought to extend the borders of France into the Rhine valley, the Alps, and the Pyrenees; to stalemate the Habsburg Dynasty in Austria, Spain, the Low Countries, and the Holy Roman Empire; and to restore Roman Catholicism to England. As his religious fervor was often indistinguishable from his political and territorial ambition, he set his sights particularly on Protestant lands. [kw]Triple Alliance Forms (Jan. 23, 1668) [kw]Alliance Forms, Triple (Jan. 23, 1668) Diplomacy and international relations;Jan. 23, 1668: Triple Alliance Forms[2330] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Jan. 23, 1668: Triple Alliance Forms[2330] Expansion and land acquisition;Jan. 23, 1668: Triple Alliance Forms[2330] England;Jan. 23, 1668: Triple Alliance Forms[2330] Netherlands;Jan. 23, 1668: Triple Alliance Forms[2330] Sweden;Jan. 23, 1668: Triple Alliance Forms[2330] Triple Alliance

The Low Countries consisted of the United Provinces of the Netherlands (roughly equivalent to the Netherlands of today) and the Spanish Netherlands, roughly equivalent to today’s Belgium. The United Provinces, also called the Dutch Republic, was created by the Peace of Westphalia Westphalia, Peace of (1648) in 1648, and it struggled to maintain its independence and identity as a Protestant enclave. The region was attractive economically to would-be conquerors because of its position at the mouth of the Rhine River, a major trade route. The river, controlled predominantly by the Catholics, was a buffer between France and the Dutch Republic.

Louis’s wife, Marie-Thérèse Marie-Thérèse , was born María Teresa, the daughter of King Philip IV Philip IV (king of Spain) of Spain and his first wife Elizabeth (Isabella). His male heir (the future King Charles II) Charles II (king of Spain) was by his second wife Mariana de Austria Mariana de Austria . By the Treaty of the Pyrenees Pyrenees, Treaty of the (1659) in 1659, which ended twenty-four years of war between France and Spain, and as part of the conditions under which Philip would allow her to marry Louis, Marie-Thérèse renounced all claims to succeed her father in any of his domains. Upon the death of Philip in 1665, Louis alleged that Spain had never paid him the full dowry of 500,000 crowns, so therefore the marriage terms in the Treaty of the Pyrenees were null and void. He invoked an archaic Brabantian law, the jus devolutionis, which declared that children of first wives inherit the throne before the children of subsequent wives. On this basis, Louis asserted that the Spanish Netherlands properly belonged to France. When Spain refused to accept this rational, Louis declared war.

French armies invaded the Spanish Netherlands on May 24, 1667, thus starting the War of Devolution Devolution, War of (1667-1668) . With more than fifty thousand troops against Spanish garrisons totaling only about eight thousand, France easily overran city after city. By the end of the year most of the strategic places in the Spanish Netherlands were in French hands. Early in the new year France began invading Franche-Comté and other Spanish territories along the Rhine. Naturally alarmed, the Dutch Republic appealed to England and Sweden for help. Sweden;Triple Alliance Netherlands;Triple Alliance England;Triple Alliance

The Dutch and English had been fighting each other during the Second Anglo-Dutch Anglo-Dutch War, Second (1665-1667)[Anglo Dutch War, Second (1665-1667)] War from 1665 to 1667. The Treaty of Breda Breda, Treaty of (1667) among the Dutch Republic, England, France, and Denmark, which ended that war on July 31, 1667, moderately favored the English, yet the treaty gained significant prestige at home for its Dutch architect, Johan de Witt Witt, Johan de . The two recent combatants quickly found common ground in their anxiety about what Louis might do to the map of Europe. De Witt and English envoy Sir William Temple Temple, Sir William concluded an anti-French alliance called the Triple, or Grand, Alliance, on January 23, 1668, amid expectations that Sweden would soon join. In the 1660’, Sweden was the major power in the Baltic region and its support was greatly coveted by any nation making war in northern Europe. Swedish king Charles XI Charles XI , ruling through his regent Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie De la Gardie, Magnus Gabriel , dispatched Christoph Delphicus von Dohna Dohna, Christophe Delphicus von to negotiate with de Witt and Temple. Dohna and Temple concluded their part of the negotiations in early February of 1668 for the treaty that created the Triple Alliance against France.

The crux of the treaty was that the English, Dutch, and Swedes would protect the Dutch Republic by defending the Spanish Netherlands against any French incursion. Sweden entered the alliance on condition that Spain would pay all Swedish troops involved in any ensuing war with France. Spanish diplomats were not involved in the negotiations, and Temple exceeded his authority in agreeing to this condition, but he had sufficient leverage to guarantee it, given that Spain was so keen to check French aggression. Spain agreed in May, 1668, at Temple’s insistence, to pay Sweden 480,000 crowns for its part in the alliance, but it took Spain two years to pay.

Louis, apparently wishing to avoid a major war against three Great Powers until all his possible diplomatic schemes had been tried, immediately offered to make peace. He reasoned correctly that the Triple Alliance was fragile and that he would soon have ample opportunity to pursue his quest for land west of the Rhine. The Triple Alliance gained mostly favorable terms against Louis in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle Aix-la-Chapelle, Treaty of (1668)[Aix la Chapelle, Treaty of (1668)] , signed on May 2, 1668. France returned the Burgundian region of Franche-Comté to Spain but kept about half of what it had conquered in the Netherlands.


The Triple Alliance’s ascendancy over Louis was short-lived because his clever diplomacy quickly undermined it. Using Henrietta Anne Henrietta Anne , sister of King Charles II of England and sister-in-law of Louis, as an intermediary, the two kings concluded the secret Treaty of Dover Dover, Treaty of (1670) on June 1, 1670. Charles promised to abandon the Triple Alliance, convert to Catholicism, try to convert England, announce his conversion as soon as politically safe, and support France’s policies in Europe. Louis promised to pay the English king in both troops and money for these concessions. Neither king followed through on these agreements, but, in 1672, when Louis launched another war against the Dutch, Charles dutifully sided with France. An angry Dutch mob murdered de Witt on August 20, 1672, blaming him for both the French invasion and the loss of English support.

William of Orange William III (king of England) , nephew of Charles II, was elevated to stadtholder on July 2, 1672, and soon turned the tide of war in favor of the Dutch. After significant military and naval victories against the French, the English, and their allies, William made separate peace with England in the Treaty of Westminster, Westminster, Treaty of (1674) signed on February 19, 1674, with terms strongly favoring the Dutch. The end to the Third Anglo-Dutch War did little to check Louis, whose pride had been wounded at Aix-la-Chapelle. By the end of his own war against the Dutch (1672-1678), French-Dutch War (1672-1678)[French Dutch War (1672-1678)] the Dutch Republic was secure, but France had gained or regained most of the territory it had coveted in 1667.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dunlop, Ian. Louis XIV. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. A comprehensive biography of King Louis.
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    xlink:type="simple">Ekberg, Carl J. The Failure of Louis XIV’s Dutch War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979. An analysis of the causes and consequences of the 1672-1678 French war against the Dutch.
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    xlink:type="simple">Faber, Richard. The Brave Courtier, Sir William Temple. London: Faber and Faber, 1983. The standard biography of Temple.
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    xlink:type="simple">Haley, Kenneth Harold Dobson. An English Diplomat in the Low Countries: Sir William Temple and John De Witt, 1665-1672. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1986. The standard work on the diplomacy of the War of Devolution and its aftermath.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lindenov, Christoffer. The First Triple Alliance. Translated by Waldemar Christian Westergaard. Copenhagen, Denmark: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1947. Transcriptions of documents and other primary sources pertaining to the 1668 alliance.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lynn, John A. The French Wars, 1667-1714: The Sun King at War. Oxford, England: Osprey, 2002. Concentrates on the military aspect of these conflicts.
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    xlink:type="simple">Price, J. Leslie. The Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century. New York: St. Martin’, 1998. An account of how the Protestant Netherlands survived wars with Spain, France, and England to become one of the major European economic powers of its time.
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    xlink:type="simple">Rowen, Herbert Harvey. John de Witt, Grand Pensionary of Holland, 1625-1672. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1978. The standard biography on de Witt.
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    xlink:type="simple">Rowen, Herbert Harvey. John de Witt, Statesman of the “True Freedom.” New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. An insightful study of the Dutch diplomat’s tragic attempts to stave off French invasions.
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    xlink:type="simple">Sonnino, Paul. Louis XIV and the Origins of the Dutch War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. A carefully researched narrative of the intrigues that culminated in war between the alliance of France, England, and Sweden and the alliance of the Netherlands, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire.
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    xlink:type="simple">Zanger, Abby E. Scenes from the Marriage of Louis XIV: Nuptial Fictions and the Making of Absolutist Power. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997. Examines the causes of the War of Devolution.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

Charles II (of England); Charles II (of Spain); Louis XIV; Marie-Thérèse; Philip IV; William III. Triple Alliance

Categories: History