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The War of Austrian Succession 1741-1748

A.) The Diplomatic Pre-History of the War

Emperor CHARLES VI. (in German : Karl VI.) had no male heir. In order to insure the inheritance of his daughter MARIA THERESIA in all the Habsburgian possessions, the PRAGMATIC SANCTION was set up. Austrian diplomacy, by making a number of concessions, achieved the recognition of this document by most of the powers, including France. The French court, however, was determined to use the opportunity of Charles VI.' death in 1740 to weaken the Habsburg monarchy. While France herself did not take any action against Austria, she supported those who declared their candidacy for the Imperial crown (Charles of Bavaria; Charles Emmanual III. of Savoy, Augustus III. of Saxony) and those who were to use the opportunity to conquer and annex a part of the Habsburg territories.
Since 1737, Austria, in alliance with Russia, was involved in another war with the Ottoman Empire; in 1739, peace was concluded, at the expense of the cession of Serbia and Little Wallachia to the Ottoman Empire, to free Habsburg forces in the event of Emperor Charles' death.

B.) Military Course of Actions

B.1) A Brief Survey of the War

The expression WAR OF AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION is a comprehensive term, which includes two Austro-Prussian wars (the FIRST SILESIAN WAR 1740-1742 and the SECOND SILESIAN WAR 1744-1745, an AUSTRO-SAXON WAR 1741 (The Duke of Saxony also was King of Poland), an AUSTRO-BAVARIAN WAR 1741-1745 and the FRANCO-AUSTRIAN WAR 1744-1748, in which England and the Dutch Republic fought on the Austrian side. SAVOY, in 1740/41 pitted against Austria, in February 1742 signed an alliance with Austria and took it upon herself to defend the Austrian possessions in Italy against a Spanish attack (AUSTRO-SPANISH WAR 1742-1748).
French diplomacy had neutralized Russia, Austria's potential ally, by inducing Sweden to attack her ( SWEDISH-RUSSIAN WAR, 1741-1743). French support for the JACOBITE RISING of 1745 was intended to neutralize England at a time when France herself entered the theatre of war.

B.2.) The First Silesian War (1740-1742)

In 1740 Frederick II., King in Prussia, offered his vote (as Duke-Elector of Brandenburg) for Maria Theresia's husband, Duke Charles of Lorraine-Tuscany - if Austria would cede the territories of Jaegerndorf, Liegnitz, Brieg and Wohlau in Silesia to Prussia. The Viennese court rejected the proposition; Prussian troops invaded Silesia in December 1740 and quickly occupied the entire province. Austria, simultaneously attacked by Bavaria and Saxony, was yet unorganized; when Austrian forces were organized, they were preoccupied with the Bavarians. On April 10th 1741, the Prussians defeated the Austrians in the BATTLE OF MOLLWITZ, on May 17th 1742 in the BATTLE NEAR CHOTUSITZ (Czaslau, Moravia). On June 11th, truce was agreed upon; on July 28th, a peace treaty was signed at Berlin. Austria ceded most of Silesia (except Austrian Silesia) and the (Bohemian) county of Glatz to Prussia.

B.3.) The Austro-Saxon War (1741)

Saxon troops invaded Bohemia in 1741. Duke Augustus III. received little support from his kingdom of Poland; soon, peace was negotiated and the Saxons withdrew. In the SECOND SILESIAN WAR, Saxony was invaded by Prussia and the Duchy became an Austrian ally.

B.4.) The Austro-Bavarian War (1741-1745)

Duke Charles-Albert of Bavaria contended for the Imperial crown (he was elected Emperor in 1742). In 1741, Bavarian troops occupied UPPER AUSTRIA, in 1742 even Bohemia, where Charles-Albert had himself crowned King of Bohemia. Following a secret treaty of alliance with France and Spain, Bavaria was supported by French troops.
Maria Theresia went to Pressburg (Poczony/Bratislava), then the Hungarian capital. There she addressed the Hungarian nobility, describing her situation, attacked from all sides and helpless. The Hungarian nobility pledged to support her. Austrian forces then went on to expel the Franco-Bavarian troops from Upper Austria and Bohemia, occupied Bavaria; in the BATTLE OF DETTINGEN 1743, Austro-British troops defeated the French. Bavaria was knocked out of the war in 1742; Emperor Charles-Albert died in 1745.

B.5.) The Second Silesian War (1744-1745)

In 1744, Frederick the Great invaded Saxony and (Austrian) Bohemia; in the BATTLE OF HOHENFRIEDEBERG (June 4th 1745) and OF SOOR (Sept. 30th 1745) he defeated superior Austro-Saxon forces. The Prussian army suffered from extraordinarily high numbers of deserters, as it was incapable of properly supplying her troops. In 1745 the PEACE OF DRESDEN was signed, which confirmed Prussia's possession of Silesia and of EAST FRISIA, which Prussian troops had occupied in 1744.

B.6.) The Franco-Austrian War (1744-1748)

Until 1744, France, in order to keep Britain and the Dutch Republic out of the war, had respected the neutrality of the Austrian Netherlands. In 1744 she changed her policy and invaded the latter; Austrian fortresses in Flanders fell in quick succession. The Allied troops - Austria was supported by British and Dutch troops - attempted to halt the advance of the French, but defeats in the BATTLES OF FONTENOY (1745) and LAFELT (1747) caused them to retreat. In 1747, the French even took BERGEN OP ZOOM, in 1748 - while peace negotiations were going on - even MAASTRICHT. The PEACE OF AACHEN (Aix-la-Chapelle) was a diplomatic solution to the conflict; France had to return much of her conquests.

B.7.) The Austro-Spanish War (1744-1748)

Both France and Spain were ruled by kings of the Bourbon dynasty. Philip V. of Spain hoped to regain further formerly Spanish territories in Italy, foremost Milan, ceded to Austria after the War of Spanish Succession. The Republic of Genova was a Spanish ally. The Spanish defeated their Austrian opponents in the BATTLE OF VELLETRI 1744, but were defeated in the BATTLE OF CUNEO 1744. Savoy, in 1740 on the side of Austria's enemies, had concluded an alliance treaty with Austria in 1742. In 1745, Spanish troops briefly occupied Milan;.in 1746 the Franco-Spanish troops were defeated by Austro-Savoyard forces in the BATTLE OF PIACENZA (June 16th) and in the BATTLE OF ROTTOFRENO (Aug. 10th). The Republic of Genova, which had entered the war on the side of the Bourbons in 1745, was occupied by Savoyard forces, the occupation causing a Genoan rebellion; the Genoese expelled the occupants and then suffered siege and blockade. In December 1746, Austro-Savoyard forces invaded the Provence; they were expelled by the French in 1747. On June 17th 1747, the Savoyards defeated a French force in the BATTLE OF COLLE DELL'ASSIETTA. In the Peace of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), the prewar borders were restored.
The island of Corsica provided a sideshow to the war. A possession of the Republic of Genova, the port city of Bastia was occupied by an Anglo-Sardinian contingent in November 1745. In the same year, the peasants of Corsica's interior had again risen in revolt against Genoese rule (1745-1753). In 1747 the French took Bastia from the English, administrating parts of the island in the name of the Republic of Genova.

C.) Legacy

Despite her many challengers, Maria Theresia held on to (most of) her inheritance; the complex of Habsburg territories remained under Viennese administration. The Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty held on to the Imperial throne.
Frederick the Great had succeeded in the acquisition of Silesia - temporarily, that was; he was to fight for it again in the SEVEN YEARS' WAR.
Savoy had established herself as a military power of her own.
France, which had spent a considerable diplomatic, military and not the least monetary effort in an attempt to dissolve the complex of Habsburg territories, had utterly failed in achieving her objects. The War of Austrian Succession and the subsequent Seven Years' War, much more than the War of American Independence, are responsible for France's desolate financial situation in the late 19th century.
The Austrian Netherlands (Belgium), southwestern Germany, Bohemia-Moravia and northern-central Italy once again have functioned as theatres of war, incapable of defending themselves, because the countries were ruled by dynasties residing far away or were politically too fragmented to offer effective resistance.

Oestrigske Arvefoelgekrig, from Historiske Slag, in Danish
King George's War - War of Austrian Succession, 1744-1748, from
War of Austrian Succession, from Land Forces of Britain, the Empire and Commonwealth (so far an empty shell; dates the war at 1742-1748)
Article Austrian Succession, War of the, 1740/41-1748, from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 edition (scan not proofread for computer misreadings)
War of Austrian Succession, from Simonides
G.C. Boeri, R. Vela, The Army of the Most Serene Republic of Genoa in the Austrian Succession War
Guerre de Succesion D'Autriche, from Praetiriti Fides, Exemplumque Futuri; from AdmiNet (1741-1748)
Battle of Fontenoy, 1745 Campagnes & Batailles de l'Armee Francaise, in French; from Simonides; from Historiska Krig, in Danish
Biography of Hermann-Maurice Comte de Saxe (Hermann Moritz Graf von Sachsen) Marechal de France, from Musee Lecuyer, in French, illustrated; from Web Gallery of Art, illustrated; from Historiske Slag, in Danish, brief, illustrated
Friedrich II., "der Grosse", by Stefan Bielenberg (Frederick the Great; German language site); Frederick the Great, from Olga's Gallery
De Slag van Lafelt, 1747 (The Battle of Lafelt), from Gemeente Riemst, in Dutch
Guerra Successione Austriaca e L'Italia 1740-1748 (The War of Austrian Succession in Italy), from Cronologia
Federico Guiglielmo di Leutrum : Il Barone che salvo Cuneo dall'assedio del 1744, by, in Italian (Frederick William of Leutrum, the baron who saved Cuneo in the siege of 1744)
Die Schlacht bei Mollwitz, 10. April 1741, by Stefan Bielenberg (The Battle of Mollwitz, in German)
Die Schlacht bei Chotusitz, 17. Mai 1742, by Stefan Bielenberg (The Battle near Chotusitz; in German)
Die Schlacht bei Hohenfriedeberg, 4. Juni 1745, by Stefan Bielenberg (The Battle near Hohenfriedeberg, in German); from Preussische Kriege 1740-1792
Die Schlacht bei Soor, 30. September 1745, by Stefan Bielenberg (The Battle near Soor, in German)
Hennersdorf, 1745, entry in Historiske Slag, in Danish
Kesselsdorf 1745, entry in Historiske Slag, in Danish
A Rendezvous with Glory : The Silesian Wars, from Ursula's History Web
Die Schlachten der Schlesischen Kriege (The Battles of the Silesian Wars), from Preussische Kriege 1740-1792 (Prussian Wars 1740-1792, a German language site)
Thomas Carlyle, History of Friedrich II. of Prussia, Book XII : The First Silesian War, Dec.1740-May 1741, Book XIII : The First Silesian War, May 1741-July 1742, Book XIV : The Surrounding European War does not end, Aug. 1742-July 1744, Book XV : The Second Silesian War, Aug. 1744-Dec. 1745, from Net 4 You Library
John Gorren, Het Beleg van Bergen op Zoom 1747 (The Siege of Bergen op Zoom 1747) in Dutch; Entry Bergen op Zoom I, 1747, from Historiske Slag, in Danish
Le Combat de Rocour, 11. 10. 1746, from Centre Culturelle de Juprelle
DOCUMENTS The Battle of Dettingen, 1743, from Account of James Wolfe; Account of an Officer of the Royal Welsh Fusileers, posted on Hillsdale's Documents in Military History Website
French account of the Battle of Dettingen, from Praetiriti Fides, Exemplumque Futuri (has further accounts on Fontenoy, Rocourt, Lafelt)
London Quaker statement, 1744, from
Military letter describing the Battle of Dettingen, 1743, posted by Michael Pfeifer (French original here posted in German translation)
Poems of the Wild Geese, from Limerick Leader; the Wild Geese were Irishmen serving in the French Army; on the Battle of Fontenoy
Les dessins a la sanguine des medailles du regne de Louis XV attribues a Edme Bouchardon, posted by Archives Monetaires, French language site posting images of medals minted under Louis XV.; No.s 83 to 113 (clickable) are related to the War of Austrian Succession
Plan of the Battle of Mollwitz (1741), drawn by Frederick the Great, image from Preussen - Chronik eines Deutschen Staates
Letter of Frederick the Great to Voltaire, August 7th 1742, with reference to Chotusitz, from Oeuvres Completes de Voltaire, in French
Carte des lieux, Bataille de Rocourt, from Province de Liege
La Guerra de Sucesion Austriaca, 1740-1748, from Uniformes Militares de Mundo, 1740-1914, in Spanish
Medal : Louis XV., Protector of Alsace, Crossing the Rhine, 1744, from Medal Web, Collection Benjamin Weiss
Medal : Treaty of Füssen, 1745, from Medal Web, Collection Benjamin Weiss
REFERENCE L. van Ruckelingen, Geschiedenis der Oostenrijksche Nederlanden : Maria Theresia, 1740-1780, Antwerpen : J. van Dieren, 4th edition, 1859, 137 pp.
Geoffrey Symcox, The political world of the absolutist state in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, pp.104-122 in : John A. Marino (ed.), Early Modern Italy (Short Oxford History of Italy), Oxford : UP 2002

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 19th 2004

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