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The Nine Years’ War (1688–97) – War of the Grand Alliance

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The War of the Augsburg League, also known as the Nine Years War was fought between France and the Augsburg League in 1688-1697. The war took place not only in continental Europe but also in North America, as well as in Ireland, Scotland, and Guinea.

In 1685, Palatine Elector Charles II died. His sister was married to the Duke of Orleans, brother of the French King Louis XIV. Louis XIV, having successfully completed the Dutch War in 1679 became even more powerful. The death of the Elector gave France the basis for claiming most of his possessions.

Under the pretext of protecting the interests of his brother’s wife, Louis ordered the Dauphin with an 80,000-strong army to cross the Rhine. In view of the fact that this step endangered German lands and led to the strengthening of France in Central Europe, Prince Wilhelm of Orange, the irreconcilable and most powerful opponent of Louis, formed the Augsburg League on July 9, 1686, to which the emperor and the most important German princes and regions joined, and also Sweden and Italy. The Allies demanded the transfer of the Electorate to the next senior Waldlesbach Palatine, Philip Wilhelm of Neuburg. Meanwhile, Louis, striking first, intervened in disputes that arose in the election process of the Cologne archbishop, and, without declaring war, began military operations.

The Course of the War

On September 1688, Louis XIV decided to send his troops. Dauphin with 30,000 men took Phillipsburg on October 29. Heidelberg surrendered on October 24, Mannheim on November 11. The French detachments reached Stuttgart and Augsburg, at the Netherlands frontier, where there were almost no Spanish troops. All other French forces, according to the plan of Louis and his military minister, Luvua, were supposed to be sent for the main attack in Germany.

The French king made a bet that the Austrians were bogged down in the Great Turkish War, and Wilhelm of Orange was, above all, concerned with the overthrow of the Stuarts from the English throne. However, his calculation was not justified.After the victory at Mohács, the Habsburgs quickly completed the fighting in the east and began to move their forces to the west, and the Glorious Revolution bloodlessly delivered English and Scottish crowns to Wilhelm.

In 1689, thanks to the efforts of the Prince of Orange, the chain of hostile states surrounding Louis XIV became even bigger. The European powers, except for Russia, Poland, Portugal, and Turkey, joined the league. Nevertheless, Louis did not lose heart and put up three armies in defense. The Allies also opposed Louis’ three armies.

The French king believed that the broad border strip was the best defense against attack, and the French generals received appropriate instructions for the devastation of the Palatinate. These barbarities increased the irritation of the Allies. On February 14, war was declared. Union troops rushed to the Rhine and forced the French to leave the right bank, occupying Cologne, Trier, and Luttich. In April, Spain began military operations, in June – England. Nevertheless, in July, the French fleet defeated the Anglo-Dutch, and on July 1, Marshal Luxemburg defeated the allied army from Fleurus.

Wilhelm of Orange was at that time engaged in suppressing an insurrection in Ireland and disputes with the Dutch general states. France organized an expedition to Ireland to support the anti-British uprising, but the Battle of the Boyne River quickly dispelled the illusions of the French regarding the possibility of English neutrality in the continental campaign. At the same time, the ruin and excesses committed by the French in the Palatinate disturbed the small German princes.

The year 1690 passed relatively quietly on the Rhine and in Germany. Wilhelm convened in The Hague a congress of authorized representatives of all states belonging to the Great Union. It was decided to gather against France another 220,000 men. But before they were collected, Marshal Buffer besieged Mons. Wilhelm moved to liberate it, but Mons fell in April 1691.

The fighting in the Spanish Netherlands and in the north of Italy was exhausting, consisting of maneuvers diluted with long, carefully prepared sieges. In these conditions, the most important role belonged not so much to military leaders as to the art of military engineers. Simultaneously, the French fleet, although it was larger than the United fleet of England and Holland, suffered a number of sensitive defeats.

At the beginning of 1693, only sea operations were carried out, successful for France. As for land, on July 29, Wilhelm lost an important battle at Neuerwinden, and could not invade Flanders and only managed to take Yui. On the Rhine, because of a lack of money and disagreement between the German princes, inactivity continued.

In 1694, peace negotiations began, but without success, after which Wilhelm considered it necessary to weaken Louis for the establishment of tranquility in Western Europe. In 1695, Wilhelm took Namur in view of the French army of Bufler, but the latter captured Dinan and bombarded Brussels. The Anglo-Dutch fleet responded by bombing several French ports. The most gifted of the French commanders, Luxembourg, died, Vilroua taking his place. Louis was weary of the war, which was unsuccessful. Finances were exhausted, the best generals died; he again offered peace, but in vain. The military operations in the Netherlands and the Rhine continued in 1696 and 1697, but were very sluggish. Allied fleets devastated the coast of France. Marauders of the latter harmed the trade of the Allies.


After the exit of the war of the Savoy, the remaining members of the Great Alliance agreed to sit down at the negotiating table. In September 1697, the Peace Treaty of Ryswick was signed. Under his conditions, Louis XIV retained Lower Alsace and Strasbourg, which passed into perpetual possession of France. Also, to the king of France returned Pondicherry and Acadia, and San Domingo was officially recognized as his possession. Lorraine was returned to its rightful owner, the King of France. France recognized William III as King of England.

France won the Pyrrhic victory, and the balance of 1697 remained positive for her. However, the question of the succession of the Spanish throne was not resolved. In just 4 years, the fighting between the old opponents resumed in the form of the War of the Spanish Succession.


  • Military Encyclopedia Ed. VF Novitsky and others
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