The Austrian War of Succession

The Austrian War of Succession was the result of the death of Emperor Charles VI. and the thus ending rule line of the House of Habsburg in the male line. Although his daughter Maria Theresia took the throne, but some other European rulers made hereditary claims which ultimately led to the war.



The consequences of the Spanish War of Succession prompted the Austrian Emperor Leopold I for his ruling dynasty to determine a succession order. These were set up in secret with his two sons Joseph and Karl and regulated the inheritance to female family members only under the aspect when all male line extinct. In 1705 Leopold died and his son Joseph succeeded him. When he died in 1711 and left only two unmarried daughters, the legacy fell to his brother Karl. After his coronation, he completed the succession order for the Pragmatic Sanction. This addition included the inheritance to the daughter of the last reigning Emperor, so that at his death, the inheritance went to his daughter and not to the daughters of his brother.

The Pragmatic Sanction was recognized by some European countries such as Brandenburg-Prussia and the United Kingdom. However, when Karl died on October 20, 1740, the husbands of Joseph's daughters Karl Albrecht Elector of Bavaria and Friedrich August Elector of Saxony demanded that the inheritance go to their wives and declared the Pragmatic Sanction null and void. Prussia under the leadership of Frederick II wanted to recognize the sanction that his father recognized at that time only on condition that Silesia be ceded to Prussia.




The Succession War:

After Frederick II of Prussia had issued an ultimatum to Charlemagne's daughter Maria Theresa on December 11, 1740, that he would recognize her husband Franz von Lorraine as emperor only after the cession of Silesia, he had his troops invaded Silesia on December 16, in the hope that the area would go to Prussia anyway. Through the army reform of his father, which had made the Prussian army one of the most modern armies in Europe, the campaign could be carried out without much opposition. In addition, Frederick played into the hands of the fact that Austria did not have a standing army, but could only deploy a force under mobilization and that would take time. Thus the Austrians withdrew to Bohemia and Moravia, and except for the fortresses Glogau, Brieg and Neisse, the area fell into Prussian hands.


Erzherzogin Maria Theresia

Archduchess Maria Theresa


After the winter of 9 March 1741, the Prussians were able to conquer the fortress Glogau, the Austrians tried with their troops Neisse and Brieg from the siege to free, but after the lost battle at Mollwitz on 10 April, they moved only in the Defensive not to lose their only army.


Frederick II of Brandenburg-Prussia

Frederick II of Brandenburg-Prussia


Already in February, Britain, Russia, Saxony and the Netherlands joined an alliance against Prussia. In the summer of 1741 came to the Prussian side France, Bavaria and Spain. A little later, Saxony moved to the Prussian side, as with Bavaria an agreement for the division of Austrian territories was closed. In addition, England declared its neutrality, as the country did not want a war with France and Spain.

At the end of the year, there were initial negotiations between the warring parties. Thus, Prussia concluded a ceasefire with Austria on 9 October and received the fortress of Neisse and Lower Silesia. Karl Albrecht Elector of Bavaria, however, conquered parts of Upper Austria until November. On the 26th of November, on the 9th of December, Karl had himself crowned King of Prague.


On January 24, 1742 Karl was also elected in Frankfurt to the Emperor Charles VII and on 12 February by his brother Clemens August, the Archbishop of Cologne, also crowned. During the coronation, the Austrians were able to pull together their troops from Italy and Hungary and conquer Linz and Munich. Karl then had to ask Frederick of Prussia for help, who again intervened in the war, Brno conquered and marched on Vienna. When Frederick's army threatened to cut off supplies, he again marched to Bohemia and defeated the Austrian army in the battle of Chotusitz. On June 11, 1742 Frederick again negotiated with Maria Theresia the Preliminary Peace of Wroclaw, which was supplemented with the Peace of Berlin July 28, 1742 and the areas Silesia and the County of Glatz to Prussia surrendered.

The now freed troops used the Austrians to take action against the troops of the French and Bavarians. So Prague was besieged and the French troops there had to retire to Eger in December.

Meanwhile, Spain tried to conquer Austria in the territory of Italy. With the troops from Naples began the campaign, but could be repulsed quickly and Naples explained with the emergence of an English fleet its neutrality, after England together with the Netherlands in May on the Austrian side, to a strengthening of France and Spain in Europe prevent.

By the end of the year, the Franco-Bavarian army could still recapture Bavaria, Bohemia and Moravia remained in Austrian hands.


In 1743, the Spaniards tried again in northern Italy to conduct 2 campaigns against Austria, but again suffered defeats and pull back.
On 27 June, the French were defeated at the Battle of Dettingen by a British -Hanoverian army and retreated, along with the Bavarian army were displaced from Bavaria, behind the Rhine.


At the beginning of 1744, the French set up a large army of around 80,000 and launched an attack on the United Netherlands. In this campaign they could conquer Menin, Ypres, Furnes and Knock, but had to divide their troops, when Charles of Lorraine with his Austrian troops crossed the Rhine and invaded Alsace.
Meanwhile, Frederick of Prussia feared that Austria could beat France and then demand Silesia from Prussia because of military power. For this reason, he renewed the alliance with France and continued his troops again from Silesia to Bohemia in march. In September he was able to take over Prague after a siege, but had to pull himself back to Silesia when the troops of Charles of Lorraine and the Austrian hussars threatened his army very much.
With the departure of his troops from Alsace Charles of Lorraine could not fight at the same time against the Prussians and the French, who now occupied again Bavaria.


The year 1745 began with the merger of Great Britain, Austria, the Netherlands and Saxony-Poland to form the Warsaw Quadruple Alliance, in order to work together against Prussia. As on January 20, 1745 Emperor Charles VII died and his son Maximilian III. Bayern suffered several defeats, Bavaria and Austria joined the Peace of Füssen, which included the Bavarian recognition of Maria Theresa's husband Franz as the new emperor. After the departure of Bavaria from the fighting, only France and Prussia remained as opponents, with the fights directed mainly against Prussia.
These initially behaved defensively and defend the Silesian territories against attacks by the Austro-Saxon army.
On 16 August, peace was negotiated with Great Britain-Hanover and under the leadership of Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau the Prussian army was now led against the main armed forces of the Austrians and Saxons on the Saxon territory. At the Battle of Kesselsdorf on 15 December Leopold won a decisive victory and Dresden fell into Prussian hands. There, on 25th December, the peace of Dresden was negotiated with Austria and Saxony.

During the year France concentrated on its campaign in Flanders, where the cities of Ghent, Bruges, Tournai, Nieuport, Dendermonde, Ath and Ostend were taken. On the Italian territory, the Franco-Spanish force was able to occupy almost the entire Lombardy by the end of the year.


In 1746, the French succeeded in conquering the Austrian Netherlands and Luxembourg almost unhindered. Also in 1747, the French were able to conquer more areas of Dutch Flanders under the leadership of Marshal of Saxony. On November 30, however, Austria concluded an agreement with Russia, which in 1748 assured the deployment of 37,000 Russian soldiers to the Rhine to support and fight against France. So it happened that in 1748 only the city of Maastricht was besieged by the French and taken on 7 May. Subsequently, a truce was negotiated, as the British, Dutch and Austrians waited for the Russian soldiers and the French feared them. Thus began the peace negotiations that were concluded on 18 October with the Treaty of Aachen.




The Peace of Aachen:

With the conclusion of the peace treaty, the Pragmatic Sanction was confirmed by all and the British successor to Hanover governed. Prussia was also awarded Silesia and the County of Glatz, while Austria got some territories in Italy. All other conquests had to be returned to the respective countries.






You can find the right literature here:


The War of the Austrian Succession

The War of the Austrian Succession

Reed S. Browning explores the often-changing war aims of the major belligerents-Austria, France, Great Britain, Prussia, Piedmont-Sardinia, and Spain-and links diplomatic and military events to the political and social context from which they arose.

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