Wars of the League of Augsburg Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Wars of the League of Augsburg launched a global conflict involving a coalition of European powers against France. The wars produced little territorial change and failed to resolve major issues that were revisited in subsequent wars.

Summary of Event

The Wars of the League of Augsburg is also known as the Nine Years’ War and, in North America, King William’s War. It involved a coalition of European powers—the League of Augsburg League of Augsburg (Emperor Leopold I Leopold I (Holy Roman Emperor)[Leopold 01 (Holy Roman Emperor)] and German princes), Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Savoy, and England—fighting against France. King Louis XIV Louis XIV[Louis 14] of France had been pursuing an aggressive foreign policy since the 1660’, attacking the Spanish Netherlands in the War of Devolution (1667-1668) Devolution, War of (1667-1668) and waging war against the Dutch (1672-1678) French-Dutch War (1672-1678)[French Dutch War (1672-1678)] , earning the lifelong enmity of William William III (king of England)[William 03 (king of England)];Louis XIV and of Orange, Protestant leader of the Netherlands. William was to become king of England as William III after his successful invasion of England and after the Glorious Revolution (1688) Glorious Revolution (1688-1689) . [kw]Wars of the League of Augsburg (1689-1697) [kw]Augsburg, Wars of the League of (1689-1697) [kw]League of Augsburg, Wars of the (1689-1697) Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] Expansion and land acquisition;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] Government and politics;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] Worldwide;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] Europe;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] Sweden;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] Spain;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] France;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] Germany;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] Netherlands;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] American Colonies;1689-1697: Wars of the League of Augsburg[2910] League of Augsburg, Wars of the (1689-1697) James II Leopold I Louis XIV Mary II Victor Amadeus II William III of Orange

Several issues brought the major powers into conflict, including the French desire for territory and influence within the Holy Roman Empire, Leopold I’s goal of maintaining control in the empire and securing territory from the Spanish Succession, and William III wanting to protect the Netherlands and prevent French hegemony in western Europe.

This war was the first in a series of global conflicts between the European powers who attacked each other’s colonies in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and North America in addition to action in the British Isles and western Europe. The Treaties of Nijmegen (1678-1679) Nijmegen, Treaties of (1678-1679) , which ended the French-Dutch War French-Dutch War (1672-1678)[French Dutch War (1672-1678)] and hostilities between other European nations, had given France stronger borders, but King Louis XIV continued to add territory (Lorraine and German areas), through the so-called reunion policy and use of his army of 340,000. The Peace of Ratisbon Ratisbon, Peace of (1684) (1684; also known as the Peace of Regensburg), which was to last twenty years, recognized territories that were seized by the reunions and French control of Strasbourg and Luxembourg.

Such aggressive actions caused Leopold I and German princes to form the League of Augsburg in 1686 to uphold the territorial arrangements of the Peace of Westphalia (1648) and Treaties of Nijmegen and to provide a quota of troops. Although religious factors were not as important as they were in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), Louis XIV’s Louis XIV[Louis 14];Protestantism and revocation of the Edict of Nantes Nantes, revocation of Edict of (1685) in 1685, which stripped French Protestants of their limited religious and political rights, was viewed as an aggressive act.

The military action began in September, 1688, when the French army attacked Philippsburg in the Palatinate of the empire to try to make the Peace of Ratisbon a treaty and force the emperor to accept it within three months and to influence the election of the archbishop of Cologne. Louis XIV sought to retain influence within the empire. The movement of the French army away from the Netherlands allowed William of Orange to launch his invasion of England, which initiated the Glorious Revolution. William sought to gain the English throne to use England’s military resources against the French. James II was overthrown by William, who was his son-in-law, and by Mary II Mary II (queen of England)[Mary 02 (queen of England)] (Mary Stuart), James’s daughter, and the two became joint rulers of England.

James II James II (king of England)[James 02 (king of England)] fled to France, where he received assistance in his attempt to control Ireland for use as a springboard for regaining the English throne. An Anglo-French naval action at Bantry Bay, Ireland, was inconclusive in May of 1689, but William III’s victory over James II at the Battle of the Boyne Boyne, Battle of the (1690) in July, 1690, kept Ireland under English Protestant control. The Treaty of Limerick Limerick, Treaty of (1691) signed in October, 1691, provided for a general amnesty, religious toleration for Catholics, and transport of Irish soldiers to France. However, these provisions were rendered ineffectual by measures passed by Ireland’s Protestant-dominated legislature. Supporters of James II were also defeated in Scotland. Warfare in the British Isles produced the most decisive results of the entire war.

William III formally declared war on Louis XIV in May, 1689, and the Grand (Triple) Alliance Triple Alliance was formed. It included Leopold I, the League of Augsburg, the Dutch, England, Sweden, Spain, and Savoy. The alliance’s mandate was to return France to its borders as defined by the Peace of Westphalia and the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659). The French army devastated the Palatinate in the winter of 1688-1689, France declared war on the Netherlands in November, 1688, and this area was the scene of major engagements with the French winning victories at Fleurus (July, 1690), Mons (April, 1691), Steenkerk (August, 1692), and Neerwinden (July, 1693). Failure to follow up these victories, however, allowed the allies to remain in the field. After the French defeat at Namur (September, 1695) Namur, Battle of (1695) , neither side held an advantage in the Netherlands.

France had scored a major naval victory over an Anglo-Dutch fleet at Beachy Head (July, 1690) Beachy Head, Battle of (1690) in the English Channel, but the French did not press their advantage and the allies regained naval control by defeating the French navy at Barfleur-La Hogue (June, 1692) Barfleur-La Hogue, Battle of (1692) , thus preventing any future French-supported invasions of the British Isles by James II. During the course of the war, the English navy established a presence in the Mediterranean.

In northern Italy, the French invasion of Savoy caused the duke of Savoy-Piedmont, Victor Amadeus II Victor Amadeus II[Victor Amadeus 02] , to join the anti-French coalition. A major French victory at Marsaglia Marsaglia, Battle of (1693) in October, 1693, however, led Savoy to seek terms with France, producing the secret Treaty of Turin Turin, Treaty of (1696) (June, 1696) whereby Savoy left the Grand Alliance, thus allowing French troops to concentrate their efforts on Catalonia in Spain and besiege Barcelona, which fell on August, 1697, causing Leopold I to seek peace.

In fighting outside Europe, the Dutch captured Pondicherry in India in September, 1693. Along the African coast, France regained Gorée and the River Senegal. Military action in the Caribbean was inconclusive, as the French repulsed English attempts to capture French possessions. In North America, the French and English raided each other’s colonies and were supported by their American Indian allies, thus establishing a pattern for subsequent Anglo-French conflicts.

In 1695, Louis XIV began to negotiate with the allies separately, hoping to break up the Grand Alliance. Several factors led to the Treaty of Ryswick, Ryswick, Treaty of (1697) negotiated in September-October, 1697, which ended the war: war weariness, economic pressure, French desire to secure some territorial gains, William III’s worries about the stability of the Grand Alliance, Leopold I’s concern about the failing health of King Charles II Charles II (king of Spain)[Charles 02 (king of Spain)] of Spain (1665-1700), and possible division of the Spanish empire.

In September of 1697, the English, Dutch, and other powers came to terms with the French; Leopold I and Louis XIV concluded their agreement in October, 1697. The major provisions involved French evacuation of Catalonia; French retention of forts seized from Spain, including Luxembourg; French abandonment of territory seized east of the Moselle River; French retention of Alsace, including Strasbourg; and France yielding in the disputes over Cologne and the Palatinate. Lorraine was restored to its duke, and Louis XIV recognized William III as king of England but refused to expel James II from France as William III demanded.

The Dutch gained an extensive commercial treaty with France. In North America, conquests were restored to the original “owners,” and the question of control of Hudson Bay in Canada was referred to a group of commissioners.


The extensive peace terms produced no great advantages for any country, although recognition of William III allowed England to emerge as a major power, as did Leopold I’s Austria. Tensions elsewhere in Europe erupted into major wars within a few years: the Great Northern War (1700-1721) Great Northern War (1700-1721) and the Wars of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) Spanish Succession, Wars of the (1701-1714) . The vast military undertakings on a global scale resulted in tremendous expenditures, which escalated greatly in future wars. England’s establishment of the Bank of England in 1694 provided funds for subsequent conflicts through which England acquired a worldwide empire.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Baxter, Stephen B. William III and the Defense of European Liberty, 1650-1702. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966. Baxter covers the lifelong struggle of William of Orange against French aggression, highlights William’s plans for the invasion of England, and examines William’s military actions in the war.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Black, Jeremy. European Warfare, 1660-1815. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994. The author, who has published extensively on military and diplomatic history, places this struggle within a broader chronological context and describes weaponry, tactics, and strategy.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Childs, John. The Nine Years’ War and the British Army, 1688-1697: The Operations in the Low Countries. New York: Manchester University Press, 1991. In addition to discussing the political and diplomatic context of the war, Childs provides a detailed account of British and allied war efforts in the Netherlands.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rose, Craig. England in the 1690’: Revolution, Religion, and War. Oxford, England: Blackwell, 1999. Rose describes how the war transformed England by uniting rival Whigs and Tories against a common enemy, accustoming the country to new levels of taxation and returning the country to the larger arena of European affairs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Spielman, John P. Leopold I of Austria. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1977. This biography of one of the main protagonists in the war examines Leopold’s policy and military actions in western Europe and his protracted struggles in eastern Europe.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Symcox, Geoffrey. Victor Amadeus II: Absolutism in the Savoyard State, 1675-1730. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. Symcox focuses on the implications of the war for southern Europe and Savoy’s struggles against the French, an often neglected aspect of other studies.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Troost, Wouter. William III, the Stadholder-King: A Political Biography. Translated by J. C. Grayson. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2004. A comprehensive biography by a Dutch historian that includes information about the war and the formation of the Grand Alliance.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wolf, John B. Louis XIV. New York: W. W. Norton, 1968. This excellent biography analyzes Louis XIV’s foreign and military policy prior to and during the war.

European Powers Vie for Control of Gorée

Revolt of the Catalans

Peace of Westphalia

Treaty of the Pyrenees

British Conquest of New Netherland

War of Devolution

Triple Alliance Forms

French-Dutch War

Treaties of Nijmegen

Louis XIV Revokes the Edict of Nantes

Reign of William and Mary

The Glorious Revolution

Bank of England Is Chartered

Treaty of Ryswick

Related articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

Charles II (of Spain); James II; Leopold I; Louis XIV; Mary II; William III. League of Augsburg, Wars of the (1689-1697)

Categories: History