Its cause was the extinction of the Spanish branch of the Habsburg family, after which the Austrian Habsburgs tried to take over Spain.
The War of the Spanish Succession broke out on this day in 1701. Its cause was the extinction of the Spanish branch of the Habsburg family, after which the Austrian Habsburgs, being the only surviving branch, tried to take over Spain and its huge estates both in the Americas and in Europe (Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, Belgium).
However, France under Louis XIV, the leading European power of that time, didn’t intend to leave those countries to the Habsburgs. In fact, France had a stronger claim on the so-called Spanish Succession since the last Spanish king from the Habsburg dynasty – Charles II – had left his lands to the French Bourbon dynasty.
Even according to the regular line of succession, Louis XIV was at an advantage since his wife was the oldest sister of the deceased king. Therefore, Louis’s eldest son and heir was also supposed to inherit the Spanish throne through his mother’s line. In order to prevent the unification of two thrones in this way, Louis XIV appointed his grandson, the dauphin’s younger son Phillip, to the position of Duke of Anjou.
War broke out between France and the Habsburg Monarchy and soon spread across Europe because each of these countries had many allies. The war lasted 14 years and finished with a compromise of sorts. The French Bourbon dynasty inherited the Spanish throne and its colonies, but the Austrian Habsburgs received most of the Spanish possessions in Europe (Milan, southern Italy, Belgium, etc.), which represented a significant gain for the Viennese court.