1705, the Alliance offensive, Joseph I becomes emperor


The seapowers

After the victory of Blenheim the allies thought of the path of action that would end the war soonest. Because of the logistics of those days they could either attack in Flanders, up the Moselle, or via Strassbourg. Attacking Strassbourg 'the key to Germany' would of course be very nice strategically, but not open up the way to Paris. Attacking in Flanders would mean taking the road to Paris via multiple chains of fortresses, and thus not end the war quickly.

Attacking up the Moselle would mean taking Trier and Traarbach in fall 1704, heaping up supplies there, and opening the next campaign with a siege of Thionville and Metz. The way into Lorraine, where supplies would be easy to get would then be open. The first steps of this had indeed been taken in fall 1704.

The empire

After the influence of the young court in Vienna had declined from the summer of 1704, reaching its ebb when crown-prince Joseph was excluded from politics in early February 1705. When Leopold I died 5 May 1705 the young court finally came into power with the accession of Joseph I.

One of Josef's first measures was to exclude the Jesuits from politics. He appointed Salm as Obersthofmeister (the most important post in government) instead of Harrach and of course kept Eugen as president of the Hofkriegsrat and Gundaker Starhemberg as president of the Hofkammer. As chancellor of the Austrian Archduchy he appointed both Baron Seilern (of civilian origin!) and Sinzendorf. As Bohemian chancellor he appointed Graf Wratislaw.

Joseph reformed the government institutions by reducing the 'Geheimrat' from 150 to 33 members, in order that it could effectively deliberate again. The 'Geheime Konferenz' (committee for defense and foreign affairs) was abolished and replaced by eight smaller Commissions (seven of them for European problems, the eight for finance and military affairs). There were for example the 'Seapowers' commission, the Spanish commission and the Hungarian commission. He also tried to make the finance and defense offices in Graz and Innsbrück subservient to the Hofkkriegsrat and the Hofkammer but only (partly) succeeded in 1709. In matters of finance he succeeded in considerably raising the income of the crownlands.

Josef's prime objectives for this year were to help Victor Amadeus in Italy (For which the allies sent 8,000 Prussians) and to put an end to the Hungarian rebellion. Though gaining some success in Hungary both plans would fail.


Friedrich had three armies fighting. One of 12,000 that would fight on the Rhine, 8,000 that fought in Italy, and 8,000 that fought in Flanders. Friedrich would this year press for his hereditary rights in Ansbach and Bayreuth.


The French reaction to Blenheim was to take draconian measures to rebuild the army. Much to the surprise of Europe they succeeded very well in this. The French justly expected the allies to start by attacking Thionville, and would stay on the defensive everywhere except in Italy.


The description Saint Simon gives of the arrival of Des Ursins in Versailles is beautiful: She determined to put on the air of one who is disgraced and humiliated, but still hoped to undo her disgrace. The news of her imminent arrival made much noise and was seen by the court as a sure sign of her redemption. Therefore everyone now wanted to be friends with her, and as soon as she put up residence near Versailles she could behave like royalty picking whom she did or did not grant an audience. Soon the aura around her changed from that of a disgraced person to that of a mistreated princes coming to Versailles to vindicate herself in person.

And so she did arriving at Versailles on the 10th of January, she got a two and a half hour private conference with the king, and just as long ones with Maintenon and the duchess of Burgundy. After that no one doubted her complete victory. It appeared as if Des Ursins was a visiting queen drawing the complete attention of the court to her person. She did not return to Spain immediately, but from Versailles started working to arrange every Spanish affair to her taste.

When Felipe heard of the approaching return of Des Ursins he revealed other feelings to Louis XIV in secretly writing to him that he did not want Des Ursins to return. A few months later he turned around again by insisting on the return of Orry and Des Ursins. Gramont, appreciating that he could not succeed in his embassy, wanted to return to France and got his rappel by letter of 29 March. He was succeeded by Amelot, marquis de Gournay. Père Daubenton was also recalled.

The subsequent events in the field now fully revealed how much the Spanish state had been damaged by the recall of D'Ursins and Orry: for want of money and bread a substantial part of the army had deserted, and the financial situation had returned to chaos. Amelot had scarcely arrived at Madrid when he had to send messages about the disastrous campaign. Felipe now had to reorganize the government again, but he wanted to wait for Des Ursins to do so. Meanwhile he had his Royal guards commanded by 'T Serclaes arrest Léganès, the master-general of artillery, for treason and had him transported to France. Léganès was replaced by the marquis de Canalez. Don Joseph Grimaldo was appointed as secretary of war. Montalto and Monterey had retreated from the Despacho without permission as soon as Amelot arrived. Of the old members only Montellano and Mancera were now left in the Despacho, and because these did not oppose anything they were left in.

To the joy of the royal couple Des Ursins then arrived in high summer, and the reform of the government continued. The count of Montellano, president of Castilla was replaced by Ronquillo, but stayed on in the Despacho. The duke of Montalto, president of Aragon was replaced by count D'Aquilar. The king then decided to go to the army, which made another regency necessary.


The Austrian occupiers of Bavaria did not launch a hearts and minds campaign to win over the Bavarians, instead they exacted heavy tribute and started to press Bavarians into Austrian service. Soon the Bavarians where planning an uprising.


Situation of the front in early 1705

Roughly the allies can be said to have 250,000 men against the two crowns 200,000.

The Moselle campaign of 1705

Sadly none of the imperial and German contingents for the Moselle came up in time and Marlborough thus started his advance only on 3 June. He was opposed by Marshal Villars who wisely refused to give battle. When it then became clear that the empire did not meet its obligations, ruining the whole plan, Marlborough was all to willing to retreat to Flanders starting 17 June.

He left 7,000 Palatine troops to hold Trier. The commander of these, Count Aubach would evacuate this city on 26 June without the French even being in sight. Two days later Villars heard of this and sent 400 men to take the abandoned city with its huge supplies. Of course this was Aubach's last campaign.

The Flanders campaign of 1705

In the mean time the French had taken Huy and were besieging the citadel of Liege. The news of Marlborough's approach from the Moselle lifted this siege on 25 June. Marlborough had by now thought out an alternative plan to the Moselle campaign: This would lead to the breaking of the lines of Brabant.

Breaking the lines of Brabant

The Lines of Brabant were a line of fortresses, strong-points and trenches that ran from Antwerp to Namur, with roads running parallel to it on the inner side. The function of the lines was that the defending army could easily concentrate against an attack on any point of them, and then have the better terrain.

With 70,000 men against 73,000 French, it was not obvious for the allies to make an attempt against the lines. In June however, Marlborough thought out a plan, and after retaking Huy this was set in motion on July 17. For this operation he kept personal command of the army he had brought back from the Moselle while commanding the Dutch army only with Ouwerkerk as an intermediary.

Near Namur the Dutch army crossed the Mehaigne on the 17th, while Marlborough's forces stayed on the other side. While the evening fell it looked as though the allies were fight their way across on the 18th. However, that same afternoon, evening and night counter-marches to the north started. Some 35 km north of Namur, near Tienen, Count Noyelles' part of Marlborough's forces crossed an almost undefended part of the lines, there a short battle was fought and won by the allies. The allies were now inside the lines.

The consequences were that the French gave up Aerschot and Diest, and that Léau and Tienen would be captured. They also lost some 5,000 men. Breaking the lines was a brilliant result, but Marlborough off course wanted to exploit his success. On 30 July the Dijle was crossed, but the armies retreated again because of internal quarrels in the Dutch command.

The unfought battle at the IJssche

Marlborough then decided on a very unconventional plan. He stocked up supplies and stroke deep to the south of Brussel. Reappearing in a position south of Brussel and Louvain with Villeroy's army to the north of him on 18 August 1705. Though being in a very favorable position some Dutch generals led by Slangenburgh frustrated an open battle, and the allies had to retreat.

Changes in command

The unfought battle stirred a public debate in Holland and England, and the result was that Slangenburgh left the army. On 21 September Willem Buys arrived at the HQ and promised that Slangenburgh would never return to the army, and that for the future the states deputies would never again oppose Marlborough's leadership, giving Marlborough not only the de jure command, but for the first time also de facto command of the united armies.

The upper Rhine campaign

Here Villars was in command, but also in the minority against Louis of Baden. Villars succeeded in making a small advance up the Lauter. However at the end of August Louis suddenly retook the Lauter lines. In September he was then ordered by emperor Joseph to send some of his Austrian troops to Italy, but he ignored the order and captured Drusenheim 24 September. He only send the troops to Italy when on 5 October he had captured Hagenau.

With the Prussian contingent of 12,000 going into winterquarters very soon for political reasons, Villars then sought an open battle, but this was avoided by Louis who thus ended his campaign with a success.

The Bavarian Uprising

The Bavarians had already started to collect powder and arms for an uprising when the endeavour was betrayed. In consequence two Austrian regiments entered Munich that had up till now been left to the electress. The defensive works were razed, the city disarmed, the elector's possessions dispossessed and a lot of youngsters forced to serve in the Austrian army.

In the country this led to rebels uniting themselves to fight the Austrians. These succeeded in having the Austrian garrison of Burghausen capitulate to them, captured Braunau on 27 November, and Schärding on 4 December. The Austrians soon succeeded in beating the rebels, but uprisings and plots against them would continue till the end of the war.

The Italian campaign of 1705

With the Austrians primarily occupied in Hungary they could not do much for their Italian front. In 1705 the French used almost 150,000 men in Italy and captured all of Savoy and the northern half of Piedmonte with Turin and Nice remaining as main strong points of the duke of Savoy, Nice falling 4 January 1706. Even Eugen could not do much against it and when he wanted to enter Piedmonte he was stopped at Cassano on 16 August 1705 by his cousin marshal Vendome, which amounted to a strategic defeat.

That winter the seapowers would take action to support Eugen, paying 250,000 pounds directly to Eugenius. They also encouraged the Prussian king to replace those of the 8,000 Prussian soldiers that had been lost in the campaign.

The Hungarian campaign of 1705

Joseph I's ideas about governing Hungary were a bit different from those of his father. On 14 May he made a public announcement that he would adhere to the oaths he had taken at his coronation. He however did not really change much in the policy towards Hungary, and failed to achieve anything in negotiations with Rákóczi, who now stood much stronger than in 1703 or 1704, and counted on French support. The Kuruzzen even started raiding Moravia.

Joseph then replaced general Heister, who was also accused of being to rough on the population with general Graf Herberville as commander of the army in Hungary. Herberville's prime objective would be to save general Rabutin who was besieged in Hermannstadt. This mission was very important because losing Transsylvania to the rebels could induce the Turks to enter the war. Rákóczi also had a legal claim to the principality of Transsylvania which factual possession would strengthen during negotiations. Anyhow: Herberville marched in August 1705 supported by Serbian and Danish troops.

Rákóczi tried to strengthen his position by summoning the diet to Szécsény. He wanted it to formally acknowledge his leadership, and make an official alliance with France. He also hoped that the diet could unite the different participants in the rebellion. He succeeded in so far that his leadership was recognized, the Protestants were given religious freedom and restitution of confiscated property. It however failed to deliver bondsmen from the 'robot' (obligations to work unpaid for their masters) even for the duration of the war, and the magnates made clear that they would refuse to declare the Hungarian throne void.

Negotiations then started in October near Pressburg (nowadays Bratislava) with mediation by the seapowers, but these failed to achieve anything. On 11 November Rákóczi with 24,000 men was then heavily defeated at the entrance to Transylvania by Herberville with 20,000. The Hungarians had about 5,000 casualties to the Austrians about 500. The battle raised the sieges of the Austrian garrisons and gave control of Transylvania back to the Austrians by the end of the month. In the meantime the Hungarians had however started an offensive in south-west Hungary that partly balanced the loss of Transylvania.

The Spanish campaign of 1705

At the beginning of 1705 the siege of Gibraltar had not made much headway. Apart from the slow advance of the Spanish the problem was that the Anglo Dutch were continually resupplied by sea. When the siege became more and more costly for the two crowns marshal Tessé was sent to supersede de Villadarias. Tessé concluded that it was absolutely necessary to take Gibraltar and that the enterprise was possible with strong support of a French naval squadron. The annihilation of this squadron near Cabrita point put an end to this design. Tessé then lifted the siege at the end of April.

The allied-Portuguese army did not make much headway in 1705. It was commanded by Henri Massue de Ruvigny count of Galway. Tessé gave way somewhat to them but stopped it at Badajoz and Alcantera. In 1705 the Anglo-Dutch appointed Charles Mordaunt count of Peterborough as supreme commander in Spain sailing in May 1705 with 6 ships of the line and 6,500 troops.

There were however possibilities: on 2 June 1705 the Geneva pact had been signed between England and some Catalonian dignitaries, in which England promised armed support. Shortly before open rebellion had started in some places in Cataluna.

After taking some places in Valencia (city of Valencia in May, Denia in August) Peterborough, Georg prince of Hessen-Darmstadt (killed) and Stanhope captured Barcelona on 9/14 October 1705. This then led to the adherence of all of Catalonia and Valencia to Charles III: Tarragona (on the coast between the Ebro and Barcelona), Tortosa (near the mouth of the Ebro), Gerona, Lerida and San Mateo (south of the Ebro) swung to Charles III's cause. These exploits were greatly helped because Cataluna had always held a privileged position in Spain, and thought here privileges to be in better hands with Charles III, the allied army thus enjoyed great popular support here.

Philip V then sent count Las Torrres with 7,000 men to recapture San Mateo. In December Peterborough lifted the siege with 1,200 men and then started a pursuit in winter time. Nules, on the coast some 65 km north of Valencia surrendered to him. (read on in 1706 timeline). The English parliament became very enthusiastic by the exploits in Spain and decided on major support for the Spanish campaign next year.

The naval campaign of 1705

After the battle of Malaga the French fleet had left a squadron of 13 ships of the line and two frigates near Gibraltar in order to assist in the siege. On 21 march 1705 this French squadron commanded by De Pointis was on a mission near Marbella when it met an English squadron commanded by Leake. Near Cabrita point a battle was fought in which Leake captured 3 ships of the line and destroyed two others. This effectively established allied supremacy in the Mediterranean.