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Wanted: Catchy Name To Assign To Pointless War.

War of the Artificially Parallel Construction?

'The War of The Polish Succession' is an artifical name given by historians to a 1733-1735 conflict in Western Europe that resulted from the intricacies of Western European politics, and only peripherally involved Poland.

Poland had been a political basket case for nearly a century. It had fallen more and more under the control of Russia ever since the 'Bloody Deluge' of the 1650s. By the end of the 17th Century, Poland was ruled by Russia's ally Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony (It was convenient for Electors to find some territory outside the Holy Roman Empire to rule, so that they could style themselves as 'kings').

Parallel Wars of Unparalleled Destruction?

This situation provided a pretext for Swedish King Charles XII to invade Poland during his early 18th Century war against Peter the Great of Russia. Charles managed to drive out the Saxons and set up Stanislaw Leszczynski as a puppet king in 1704. But then Karl stupidly used Poland as a base for a general invasion of Russia. While he was throwing his armies against Peter the Saxons crept back in, and when his forces were annihilated at the 1709 Battle of Poltava, August regained his crown, with Stanislaw fleeing the country.

At the same time the powers of Eastern Europe were figthing the Great Northern War, the powers of Western Europe were engaged in their own struggle over the carcass of the Spanish Empire, the War of the Spanish Succession. Louis XIV of France and Josef I of Austria each advanced their teenaged grandsons for the Spanish throne, and a complicated series of alliances drew all the other powers in to fight on one side or the other. The war ended only after a political scandal caused Great Britain to withdraw. In the end, it was a partial victory for the Louis, who was able to put his grandson on the Spanish throne but had to agree he could never rule France. As most of Spain's other European possessions were given to Austria and its allies as consolation prizes, this was less of an inheritance than Louis had originally hoped, but surely the yearly Plate Fleet was its own consolation. The Austrian candidate became Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. Felipe was married to Elizabeth Farnese, niece of the Duchess of Parma. Their son became heir to Parma and Piacenza. Leszczynski retured to a quiet life in Zweibrück.

Artificial Entanglements of a Parallel Nature?

Louis XIV soon died and his five-year-old great-grandson succeeded him as Louis XV. Louis' cousin the duc d'Orléans was made Regent, and Cardinal André-Hercule de Fleury became the young King's tutor. When Louis' cousin Philip V tried to make himself regent, it led to the 1717-1720 War of the Quadruple Alliance. Spain had to fight France, Great Britain, Holland and (surprise!) Austria, with Savoy joining in because it was in the middle of it all. This war rearranged Italy, turning the Duchy of Savoy into the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia but giving the balance of power there to Austria (who now ruled Milan, Sicily, and Naples directly).

After this, Orleans and Fleury sought reconciliation with the Empire. When Orleans died in 1723, Fleury became the King's chief adviser.

Louis was now sixteen, and it was time to get him married and an heir produced. Cardinal Fleury had a difficult set of criteria: a suitable bride who wouldn't entangle France in yet another alliance. A bride who was nominally royal but who had no messy royal inheritance. Maria Leszczynska, daughter of the deposed Polish king, seemed the perfect choice.

Meanwhile, Emperor Charles VI was having trouble producing heirs. His sole legitimate child was a daughter, Maria Theresa, making the inheritance of his patchwork of territories, with their different inheritance laws, exceedingly complicated. So, he began a diplomatic campaign for the various powers to recognize Maria Theresa's right to inherit all of the Habsburg dominions, a recognition dubbed the Pragmatic Sanction.

Destruction of an Unparalleled Delusion?

Back to Poland. Remember Poland? This is a node about Poland. August the Strong finally died in 1733. Despite politicking to have his son succeed him, most of the Sejm thought that a Polish king was preferable to a German backed by the Russians. And there was one obvious choice.

August 1733 was a perilous time in Warsaw. Delegates were threatened with being shot or even defenestration. A candidate secretly agreed upon by Austria and Russia, Prince Emanuel of Portugal, was never even considered. The Poles may have imagined that Leszczynski's son-in-law would send an army to help him. His grandson was Dauphin, for Pete's sake. But such an action was politically suicidial and logistically impossible.

Leszczynski showed up in Warsaw on September 7, 1733. The Sejm elected him on September 13. The Russians invaded with 50,000 troops the same day. Leszczynski fled to Danzig on September 22. The Russians were in Warsaw by October 3. On October 5, Russian troops barricaded the Sejm in their chamber and (surprise!) they elected August III.

Saxony agreed to the Pragmatic Sanction and Austria joined on their side, readying troops to send into Poland. And so France became entangled after all. France and Spain declared war on Austria and Prussia. Piedmont-Sardinia joined again because they were going to be in the middle again, and wanted Milan.

Leszczynski fled to Königsberg when Danzig fell on June 2, 1734. Prussian King Frederick William I granted him asylum, and refused to give him up to Russian Empress Elizaveta Petrovna despite her threats of invasion, and being the enemy of her enemy and all.

So there's this war, you see, with no snappy name to give it.

In the west, fighting was essentially a Bourbon walkover. The Emperor was caught completely off guard. Despite being led by the fabled Prince Eugène of Savoy, the Austrians were defeated pretty much everywhere. The Spanish occupied Naples and Sicily after the Battle of Biontino on May 25, 1734. The French overran the Austrian Netherlands and Lorraine after Philippsburg fell to a siege on June 18. Parma fell to the French on June 29 (the Austrian commander, Count Mercy, was killed). The French and Piedmontese defeated the Austrians and Prussians on September 19 at the Battle of Guastalla, deciding events in Northern Italy.

This was the first war that the future Prussian king Frederick the Great would participate in, and the last one Prince Eugène of Savoy would participate in. They were together at the Siege of Phillippsburg, and Frederick remarked that the loss turned Eugene into a 'shadow of himself'.

War of the Musical Thrones?

Since the battlefield had determined everything that was going to be determined, the parties hammered out the Peace of Vienna in 1735. It was a game of royal musical chairs:

  • August remained King of Poland. Poland was now a political vaccum that would lead to several partitions in the late 18th century.
  • Leszczynski was made duke of Lorraine and Bar. When Leszczynski died in 1766, France formally absorbed the Duchy of Lorraine.
  • The former Duke of Lorraine was made Grand Duke of Tuscany when the last Medici died in 1737. But he had already married Maria Theresa in 1736 and was well on his way to becoming Holy Roman Emperor Francis I.
  • The Spanish Crown Prince, Don Carlos, was made King of the Two Sicilies in return for giving up Parma and Piacenza, which he had inherited from his uncle Antonio Farnese. The Spanish also agreed that Naples and Sicily would never be united with Spain.

The treaty tied up other loose ends:

  • Austria got the Austrian Netherlands back.
  • Piedmont got a slice of Milanese territory for its trouble.
  • France and Spain agreed to the Pragmatic Sanction, the last major powers to do so. This was the final irony, as the heir to Prussia was about to ignore the Pragmatic Sanction and plunge Europe into another bloody slough, the War of the Austrian Succession.

How about: The War Between The Last War And The Next War? Not specific enough? Drat.

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