Austria in the 18th Century Up to Maria Theresa

By | December 20, 2021

The happy outcome of oriental politics had given new vigor to the Austrian state and to the dynasty that ruled its fate. The weakening of France, since the early century. XVIII, still had to favor both and allow the Habsburgs of Austria to resume in the first half of the century. XVIII, a preponderant position in continental Europe. Great ambitions also on Italy pushed the Habsburgs who, at the end of the century. XVIII, they worked hard to refresh their imperial rights and restore their credit with the Italian princes. Then the period (1700-1748) of the wars of succession began. The first, that of Spain (v.), Saw the emperor Leopold I, who claimed the Spanish crown, allied with William III of England, with Holland, with the Duke of Savoy, with the Elector Frederick of Brandenburg. The events of the war were, until 1711, favorable to Austria, thanks to the victories of Prince Eugene of Savoy, the consolidator of the Habsburg power. The victory of Turin was decisive for the position of Austria in Italy, made possible by the tenacious resistance of Duke Vittorio Amedeo II to the French and by the rush of Eugenio who joined his forces to those of the duke. In Transylvania, however, a revolt led by Francis II Rákóczy, elevated to the dignity of prince in 1703, exploded: the last Hungarian national uprising against the Habsburg rule, before its definitive consolidation by the Pragmatic Sanction. But the death of Joseph I, which occurred two years later (April 17, 1711), broke the covenant of Austria with the maritime powers (England and Holland), to which it did not agree too much that the only surviving Habsburg, King Charles, who had already settled in Spain as regent (Charles III), united all the Germanic and Spanish lands in his person. And so Charles, who rushed from Spain to gird himself with the imperial crown, abandoned by his allies, was forced (peace of Utrecht and Rastatt, 1713 and 1714), to cede Spain to the French Philip of Anjou, on condition, however, that he did not come never reunited with France. But Charles kept Milan, Naples, Sardinia and the Belgian Netherlands for himself: although he had to grant the Dutch States-General the right to occupy various fortresses with the so-called Treaty of Barriers in return for the armed aid; a right that considerably impaired imperial sovereignty over Belgium, so far from hereditary lands. Thus was created that position of the Habsburgs in front of France which later, after the fall of the Bourbons, could not stand up against the impetus of the armies of the revolution and of Napoleon. Austria thus settled in Italy: and if, of all the purchases made at that time, only Lombardy was ultimately to remain, the extent of the event was also great. For it, in fact, Austria, whose character of Danubian power now clearly appeared, settled in a region outside the sphere of its vital interests. The Danubian political body was enriched by a fertile and important region, but it added to itself a member who would, inevitably, be left without live connections with the head and with the other members. What could have constituted,

Peace in the west had just ended, when Prince Eugene had to move again against the Turks, who, with a sudden attack, had raised the Morea from the Venetian republic and were already threatening Corfu (1714). They also tried to bring Prince Rákóczy back to Hungary, who fled when Prince Eugene, defeated the Turks in the glorious battle of Pietrovaladino (5 August 1716), entered Temesvár at the head of the imperial army and finally occupied Belgrade (16 August). The Peace of Passarowitz (21 July 1718) gave the emperor the banat of Temesvár, the western part of Wallachia, Bosnia and northern Serbia; while the Venetian Republic had the island of Corfu from the Porta. With these new borders, the Habsburg Monarchy reached its greatest expansion towards the southeast. At the same time,

It was necessary to give a state unity to all these numerous territories. A week after the peace of Utrecht, the Emperor Charles VI called his advisers to inform them of his decision: that is, that his countries should – in case of lack of male descendants – pass, united and undivided, to his daughters, and only after the extinction of their progeny, to the daughters of Joseph I. The document of this important decision was called Pragmatic Sanction and remained the fundamental law of the monarchy until its dissolution. The Sanction carried within itself, from the beginning, the germ of future complications, since it was in contrast with the pact that the brothers Giuseppe and Carlo had concluded, when Carlo took over the government of Spain. In fact, in the so-called pactum mutuae successionis, the brothers had reciprocally ensured the succession of the lines of their house descended from them, in Spain and in Austria, so that in the event of no male offspring, the daughters of the first-born Joseph would prevail over those of Charles the emperor. To annul this pact, Charles VI demanded acts of renunciation from the daughters of Joseph, Maria Giuseppina and Maria Amalia, on the occasion of their respective marriages with the electors of Saxony and Bavaria. The latter, Prince Charles Albert, did not recognize this act of renunciation at all; and the elector of Saxony, Augustus the Strong, recognized him only on condition that he had the support of the emperor for the succession of his son in Poland, linked by personal union to Saxony. And since France put the father-in-law of King Louis XV, Stanislao Leszczyński as candidate for the Polish throne, so the emperor, to honor his commitment with the Saxons, was forced to wage another war on the French on the Rhine. the last expedition of the now old Prince Eugene who died during the siege of Philippsburg (1736). His disappearance was the greatest loss for the emperor, who immediately concluded the peace of Vienna. With it, he succeeded in securing the succession in Poland to the Crown Prince of Saxony; but he had to cede to France the duchy of Lorraine, land of Francesco Stefano, to whom he had promised his daughter Maria Teresa in return. The young couple received in exchange the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which, having died out the Medici dynasty, had recognized the sovereignty of Empire. Naples and Sicily had to pass as a second-born to the Spanish Bourbons and the emperor had to content himself, however, with the small duchy of Parma and Piacenza, where a Habsburg third-born was established. Thus, the War of the Polish Succession ended with territorial losses, both for the Empire and for the imperial house. Even more serious damage to the Empire resulted from the second war against the Turks, which the emperor had undertaken to favor Russia. Disagreement among the generals led to severe defeats; and Charles VI, with the peace of Belgrade 1739, had to renounce all the advantages already acquired with the peace of Passarowitz, except for the sole possession of the Temesvár banat. For Austria history, please check

From that time the border of the Monarchy towards Turkey remained unchanged until the occupation of Bosnia in 1878. The recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction, by the maritime powers, cost the emperor other sacrifices. He had, already in 1718, founded a merchant company in Ostend, with the exclusive right of export to the Indies. Now, this important trading company had to be sacrificed to England. Thus Charles VI, at the end of his life, had to deplore many losses and many setbacks which impaired the power achieved by the House of Habsburg in 1718. But he was comforted by the almost unanimous acceptance of the Pragmatic Sanction in all the Habsburg lands. Only Hungary made the reservation of female succession only for the descendants of Leopoldo I, and accentuated the

The cohesion of the Habsburg lands was put to a severe test when, on 20 October 1740, Charles VI, the last male scion of the Habsburgs, died and left his empire to his young daughter Maria Teresa, wife of Francesco Stefano di Lorena, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Because the war for the succession immediately broke out; and, after years of struggles, Maria Teresa managed to secure the imperial throne to her consort (Francis I), but had to give Silesia to Frederick the Great’s Prussia (Peace of Dresden, 1745), and the duchies to the Spanish branch of the Bourbons of Parma and Piacenza, acquired just a decade ago (Peace of Aachen, 1748).

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