The Nine Years War

 

William III/ livius.org

William III / livius.org

Of all the wars known by duration in years, the least well-known is the Nine Years War (1688 – 97). Nevertheless this conflict has its important side, as it involved the Sun King himself, Louis XIV of France, and Britain under her Dutch-born monarch, William III.

It may be that you were taught about this war using another name – The War of the Grand Alliance – but there have always been ‘grand alliances’, and they always seem to involve poor France, in which case it was probably a mésalliance. Better to stick with ‘Nine Years War’.

Historians insist (unless they are French) that this war resulted from French aggression in the Rhineland, but this was only the beginning. It burgeoned into a full-scale conflict between Louis XIV and William, who had been invited you will remember, by English magnates to become King after they had ousted James II from the throne and kicked him across the Channel, where perhaps they thought he might forget his Catholicism. William kept quiet as a matter of policy, but he had a determined will.

In 1688 French armies invaded Cologne (Köln) and The Palatinate, and all members of The League of Augsburg (the Emperor Leopold and a collection of powerful German princes) seethed with rage and thirsted for revenge etc.

In 1689 William formed a Grand Alliance, involving England, the United Provinces, Austria, Spain and the Savoy, and their target was France. The French answer was to withdraw from The Palatinate. Then the exiled James II popped up again, leading French troops against England, but was defeated in Ireland at the Battle of the Boyne. It is generally accepted that James was trying to recover his throne, and that he failed.

In 1690 French warships achieved victory over the English navy in a messy battle off Beachy Head, but in 1692 France was thrashed off La Hogue, though her privateers continued to play havoc with allied shipping in the Channel and elsewhere. Meanwhile French armies were successful in Italy and Cataluña, but the fighting in the Spanish Netherlands became bogged down in a series of advances and retreats, failed sieges, and general mayhem.

William however remained almost silent, as was his wont, and managed to re-take Namur. The French put up an excellent military performance, but they did not have the financial resources that Britain and the United Provinces could and did provide. It was all rather silly really, except for the thousands of casualties and deaths, and peace was at last concluded by the Treaty of Ryswick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *