Treaty of Utrecht

Treaty of Utrecht in 1713
Peace and Friendship Treaties of Utrecht

First edition of the Treaty of Utrecht

first edition of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht between Great Britain and Spain in Spanish (left) and a later edition in Latin and English.
Signed 1713
Location Utrecht, United Provinces

The Treaty of Utrecht, which established the Peace of Utrecht, is a series of individual peace treaties, rather than a single document, signed by the belligerents in the War of the Spanish Succession, in the Dutch city of Utrecht in March and April 1713. The treaties between several European states, including Spain, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Savoy and the Dutch Republic, helped end the war.

The treaties were concluded between the representatives of Louis XIV of France and of his grandson Philip V of Spain on one hand, and representatives of Anne of Great Britain, Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia, John V of Portugal and the United Provinces of the Netherlands on the other. They marked the end of French ambitions of hegemony in Europe expressed in the wars of Louis XIV, and preserved the European system based on the balance of power.[1]


Europe at the beginning of the War of the Spanish Succession.

The War of the Spanish Succession was occasioned by the failure of the Habsburg king, Charles II of Spain to produce an heir. In fact, the Habsburgs were prone to pedigree collapse, which is evident in the appellation given to Carlos II, el Hechizado (the bedevilled), and in portraits of the Kings, like those by Diego Velázquez and Juan Carreño de Miranda. Dispute followed the death of Charles II in 1700, and fourteen years of war were the result.

France and Great Britain had come to terms in October 1711, when the preliminaries of peace had been signed in London. The preliminaries were based on a tacit acceptance of the partition of Spain's European possessions. Following this, the Congress of Utrecht opened on 29 January 1712, with the British representatives being John Robinson, Bishop of Bristol, and Thomas Wentworth, Lord Strafford.[2] Reluctantly the United Provinces accepted the preliminaries and sent representatives, but Emperor Charles VI refused to do so until he was assured that the preliminaries were not binding. This assurance was given, and so in February the Imperial representatives made their appearance. As Philip was not yet recognized as its king, Spain did not at first send plenipotentiaries, but the Duke of Savoy sent one, and the Kingdom of Portugal was represented by Luís da Cunha.

One of the first questions discussed was the nature of the guarantees to be given by France and Spain that their crowns would be kept separate, and matters did not make much progress until after 10 July 1712, when Philip signed a renunciation. With Great Britain and France having agreed upon a truce, the pace of negotiation now quickened, and the main treaties were finally signed on 11 April 1713.

Principal provisions

North America about 1750, after the Treaty of Utrecht. Some French forts listed here were not built until thirty years after 1713.

The treaty recognised Louis XIV's grandson Philip, Duke of Anjou, as King of Spain (as Philip V), thus confirming the succession stipulated in the will of the Charles II of Spain who died in 1700. However, Philip was compelled to renounce for himself and his descendants any right to the French throne. In similar fashion various French princelings, including most notably the Duke of Berry (Louis XIV's youngest grandson) and the Duke of Orléans (Louis's nephew), renounced for themselves and their descendants any claim to the Spanish throne. Utrecht marked the rise of Great Britain under Anne and later the House of Hanover; her exploits martial were due to Marlborough. The lucrative trading opportunities afforded to the British were gained at the expense of her allies with the Dutch forgoing a share in the Asiento and the Holy Roman Empire ceding Spain to Philip V and being forced to reinstate the Elector of Bavaria.

The Spanish territories in Europe were apportioned: Savoy received Sicily and parts of the Duchy of Milan, while Charles VI (the Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria) received the Spanish Netherlands, the Kingdom of Naples, Sardinia, and the bulk of the Duchy of Milan. Portugal had its sovereignty recognised over the lands between the Amazon and Oyapock rivers, in Brazil. In 1715, the Portuguese also recovered Colónia do Sacramento, previously taken by Spain in Uruguay.

Western Europe's borders after the Treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt.

In addition, under Article X of the treaty Spain ceded Gibraltar and Minorca to Great Britain and agreed to give to the British the Asiento, a monopoly on the oceanic slave trade to the Spanish colonies in America.

In North America, France ceded to Great Britain its claims to Newfoundland and to the Hudson's Bay Company territories in Rupert's Land.[3][4] They also ceded the Acadian colony of Nova Scotia. The formerly partitioned island of Saint Kitts was also ceded in its entirety to Britain.[5] France was required to recognise British suzerainty over the Iroquois and commerce with the Far Indians was to be open to traders of all nations. France retained its other pre-war North American possessions, including Île-Saint-Jean (now Prince Edward Island), Saint Pierre and Miquelon, as well as Île Royale (now Cape Breton Island), on which it erected the Fortress of Louisbourg.

A series of commercial treaties were also signed.

After the signing of the Utrecht treaties, the French continued to be at war with Emperor Charles VI and with the Holy Roman Empire itself until 1714, when hostilities were ended with the treaties of Rastatt and Baden. Spain and Portugal remained formally at war with each other until the Treaty of Madrid of February 1715, while peace between Spain and Emperor Charles VI, unsuccessful claimant to the Spanish crown, came only in 1720 with the signing of the Treaty of The Hague.[6]

The treaty, which resulted from a British separate peace, ruined Britain's reputation with their allies. It also effectively bought the allies two more years of war which could have easily been won if Britain had stayed the course and refrained from dismissing the Duke of Marlborough from all his posts. It further served to eclipse the Tories in parliament once George I ascended the throne.

Responses to the treaties

North America in 1760, immediately before the Treaty of Paris. Note that New England was at this time depicted as bordering the St. Lawrence River, that New York State occupied the geographic area of Upper Canada or Ontario, that Pennsylvania occupied much of the region to the south of Lake Erie and that Nova Scotia had not yet been divided by New Brunswick.

The treaty's territorial provisions did not go as far as the Whigs in Britain would have liked, considering that the French had made overtures for peace in 1706 and again in 1709. The Whigs considered themselves the heirs of the staunch anti-French policies of William III and the Duke of Marlborough. However, in the Parliament of 1710 the Tories had gained control of the House of Commons, and they wished for an end to Great Britain's participation in a European war. Queen Anne and her advisors had also come to agree.

The party in the administration of Robert Harley (created Earl of Oxford and Mortimer on 23 May 1711) and the Viscount Bolingbroke proved more flexible at the bargaining table and were characterised by the Whigs as "pro-French"; Oxford and Bolingbroke persuaded the Queen to create twelve new "Tory peers"[7] to ensure ratification of the treaty in the House of Lords.

Although the fate of the Spanish Netherlands in particular was of interest to the United Provinces, Dutch influence on the outcome of the negotiations was fairly insignificant, even though the talks were held on their territory. The French negotiator Melchior de Polignac taunted the Dutch with the bon mot De vous, chez vous, sans vous,[8] meaning that negotiations would be held "about you, around you, without you." The fact that Bolingbroke had secretly ordered the British commander, the Duke of Ormonde, to withdraw from the Allied forces before the Battle of Denain (informing the French but not the Allies), and the fact that they secretly arrived at separate peace with France was a fait accompli, made the objections of the Allies pointless.[9] In any case, the Dutch achieved their condominium in the Austrian Netherlands with the Austro-Dutch Barrier Treaty of 1715.[10]

The peace, such as it was, between European powers was to endure until the onset of the Seven Years' War, ostensibly started by contention between Britain and France over North America. This war was concluded by the Treaty of Paris in 1763.

Balance of power

Allegory of the Peace of Utrecht by Antoine Rivalz.

The European concept of the balance of power, first mentioned in 1701 by Charles Davenant in 'Essays on the Balance of Power, became a common topic of debate during the war and the conferences that led to signing of the treaties. Boosted by 19 April 1709 issue of Daniel Defoe's A Review of the Affairs of France, a periodical that supported the Harley Ministry, the concept was a key factor in British negotiations, and was reflected in the final treaties. This theme would continue to be a significant factor in European politics until the time of the French Revolution (and was to resurface in the 19th century).

See also

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  1. R.R. Palmer, A History of the Modern World 2nd ed. 1961, p. 234.
  2. The staunch Tory Strafford was hauled before a committee of Parliament for his part in the treaty, which the Whigs considered not advantageous enough.
  3. "American Annals" Page 73, 1813
  4. Article X
  5. Article XII
  7. The twelve peers consisted of two who were summoned in their father's baronies, Lords Compton (Northampton) and Bruce (Ailesbury), and ten recruits, namely Lords Hay (Kinnoull), Mountjoy, Burton (Paget), Mansell, Middleton, Trevor, Lansdowne, Masham, Foley, and Bathurst. David Backhouse, "Tory Tergiversation In The House of Lords, 1714–1760".
  8. Szabo, I. (1857) The State Policy of Modern Europe from the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century to the Present Time. Vol. I, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts, p. 166
  9. Churchill, W. (2002) Marlborough: His Life and Times, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 0-226-10636-5, pp. 954–955
  10. Israel, J.I. (1995), The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477–1806, Oxford University Press,ISBN 0-19-873072-1 hardback, ISBN 0-19-820734-4 paperback, p. 978


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