Thursday, January 19, 2006

The European Situation

Louis XIV’s policy in the early 1680s was one of réunions, whereby border towns were incorporated into the French state and forced to accept Catholicism.

In 1680-1 the French attacked Orange, where William’s family had its hereditary estates. In August 1681 they occupied the town and pulled down its walls and let the dragonnades loose on the town. This was a final insult to William as a sovereign prince. For a while though he was helpless, as the States General would not allow him to increase the number of armed forces. In September 1681 the Protestant city of Strasbourg was taken from the Empire, giving the French control of much of the lower Rhine. The barrier town of Luxembourg was then besieged (it fell in June 1684).

William’s only answer to his dilemma was to build up an anti-French alliance. However, the Emperor Leopold I was distracted by the Turkish invasion. In 1683 the Turks were at the gates of Vienna. When the siege lifted, Austria was still tied down in the Balkans.

In August 1684 in the Treaty of Ratisbon (Regensburg) the French acquisition of Strasbourg was confirmed in return for Louis’s promise of a twenty year truce in Europe.
However in the following years, France’s enemies were able to unite against her.

The Revocation of Edict of Nantes led to much ill-feeling in the Netherlands, where Dutch citizens resident in France found themselves forbidden to leave French territory. Amsterdam, previously criticised for being pro-French, became Orangist. This enabled William to gain the backing of the States-General for war against France and to build up the Dutch navy which had been run down after the war with England.

Innocent XI
showed open disapproval of the Revocation. The French declared the whole quarter of Rome in which the French embassy was situated to be French territory - thus becoming a haven for criminals. The pope refused to see the new ambassador, the ambassador was excommunicated, and the French threatened to sequester the papal enclave of Avignon.

In 1685 the Elector of Brandenburg abandoned his pro-French policy. Early in 1686 Sweden made a treaty with the Dutch. Shortly afterwards the princes of Germany formed the League of Augsburg (the emperor, the king of Spain, the king of Sweden, the elector of Bavaria) to protect Germany from further encroachments.

The involvement of the Empire was possible because the Turkish threat had receded with the capture of Buda in 1686. In the summer 1687 the Austrians took Belgrade. The military position was now transformed: for the first time in years it would now be possible to put an imperial army on the Rhine.