1702, King William III dies


The Seapowers

1702 opened with a serious drawback for the coalition. The personal union that tied England, Scotland and Ireland to the United Provinces was severed when on 20 February 1702 King-Stadholder William III fell of his horse, and died 19 March 1702. In England, Scotland and Ireland he was followed by Queen Anne. In the United Provinces his authority was assumed by others.


On 8 March 1702 Anne was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom, and the English were quite happy with it. (It was only in later times that the English started to appreciate Billy) Perhaps the King's death was even an advantage for the coalition because they now began to understand that the war was a national cause, not a war by the Dutch that they had to help because Billy wanted them to.

Though they had never liked each other king William had already decided that John Churchill Duke of Marlborough should lead the English army. With the crowning of Queen Anne, Marlborough's fortunes took an even better turn: Sarah Churchill was the queen's most intimate friend, and Marlborough also had for a long time supported Anne against the rude treatment she got from William and Mary. Her crowning thus got him a prime position in English politics as well as military affairs.

England and the United Provinces confirm the Grand Alliance

The death of their common leader of course did cast some doubt on the effectiveness of the Grand Alliance between England and the United Provinces. Queen Anne therefore sent Marlborough to the States General as her plenipotentiary. He was received by the States General in a solemn meeting on 31 March 1702. In a speech he promised her full support and this contributed to the atmosphere of confidence between the two states. The allies took it upon themselves to formally declare war on May 15 and Marlborough went back to England.

Leadership of the United Provinces

As regards the political leadership of the United Provinces William III had named Johan Willem Friso to succeed him. The King of Prussia and Prince George of Denmark were also interested to succeed him as Stadholder, but the Dutch republicans did not want to have any of these candidates as stadholder. The logical consequence was that his powers as Stadholder were assumed by the States General, the separate provinces and cities.

The death of William III had also vacated the post of Captain General of the Dutch army. The appointment of a supreme commander therefore became an immediate concern for the Dutch. Johan Willem Friso was too young, but they had very experienced generals: Nassau-Saarbrücken, Athlone, Ouwerkerk, Obdam and Slangenburgh. But, none of them was an obvious choice to permanently command the army. The oldest fieldmarshall was not active and therefore the States provisionally appointed fieldmarshall Nassau-Saarbrücken as supreme commander on 24 March 1).

The United Provinces open the campaign

The Dutch had planned to open hostilities on the Rhine simultaneously with those of Hannover and Celle against Braunschweich- Wolffenbüttel. A persistent wind from the east had however delayed the movement of guns up the Rhine. Therefore hostilities started when Nassau-Saarbrücken moved some cavalry across the Rhine and attacked French troops near Bonn on 7 April. He would subsequently start to close in on Kaiserswerth on 16 April.

On the same day that hostilities started near Bonn 1,300 cavalry had marched to Antwerp and captured 5 soldiers. One could therefore be tempted to conclude that the Dutch were at war with France and Spain as of 7 April. What's strange about this is that these 5 soldiers were then released again. Another strange aspect is that on 11 April the States General asked the Raad van State to take all kinds of measures with an eye to expected hostilities 2). To me it therefore seems that the open rupture between the United Provinces and France was preceded by a kind of proxy war on the Rhine. However that may be, Boufflers marched to the Rhine and tried to attack Tilly there on 26/27 April. Open hostilities in Flanders were started by Coehoorn on 2 May.

All in all nothing much could be done before Kaiserswerth was captured. The siege would last for two months. Before the end the Dutch would be frightened by Boufflers' march to Nijmegen, but on 15 June the town surrendered. This surrender took place at about the same time that Marlborough and a lot of foreign troops arrived in the United Provinces. This gave the States the opportunity to plan some serious offensive action, but for this they had to take some decisions about the command.

The United Provinces consider the command structure

In order to operate effectively the united English and Dutch army also needed a supreme commander. However, because England would not consider a foreigner, the Dutch generals would not be acceptable. The States General could therefore chose between Marlborough, Prince George of Denmark or not having a supreme commander. Of course Queen Anne wanted her husband prince George of Denmark to be Supreme Commander of the allied armies. Everyone else was against him because he lacked the necessary capabilities. Also the Dutch would rather not have a royal person, and Queen Anne would of course not accept another royal then her husband.

Finally the States General came to a solution on 30 June 1702. Some claim that Marlborough became supreme commander of the Anglo-Dutch army on 30 June 3). This was not the case. What was done was that the states-general ordered their generals to obey Marlborough as their general when the English and Dutch armies were joined 4). In this case Marlborough should however act in concert with the field deputies of the States General. Marlborough thus became a kind of de facto Supreme Commander in concert with the field deputies, a solution that would generate a lot of trouble later.

The United Provinces: troubles in Gelderland

In Gelderland the 'Reglement Reformatoir' of 1672 had given William the right to appoint a lot of dignitaries. On 8 April 1702 the States of Gelderland declared that from then onwards the appointment of city magistrates was up to the city magistrates themselves. This meant that the rights of the stadholder were usurped by the magistrates (that had primarily been appointed by him) and that the 'gemeenlieden' (Guilds, city militia) and the families that had been in power before 1672 got nothing.

The dissatisfied united in the so-called 'Nieuwe Plooi' and in June 1702 they succeeded in forcefully taking over the governments of Nijmegen and Tiel. The result was a lot of chaos. The States of Gelderland intervened and in December even banished some leaders of the 'Nieuwe Plooi', but this failed to restore order. The army was also asked to send a battalion to Arnhem to restore order. Meanwhile this meant that no contributions came in from most of Gelderland. The other provinces therefore had to advance money in order to prevent the dissolution of the regiments paid by Gelderland.

The German Empire

The German empire would officially declare war on 6 October 1702, and then evict the French ambassador from Regensburg.

The Habsburgs

The outbreak of war had laid a further burden on the already overstrained Austrian financial system, but although always in arrears it would hold out this year. The king of Romans started to be involved in politics, and would participate in the coming campaign. A positive factor was the support Louis of Baden got from the confederation of Nördlingen (a city ligue) that made it possible to start an offensive on the Upper Rhine.


Already in August 1701 Prussia had started to negotiate a treaty with the seapowers to hire out troops to them. This was now signed in early 1702, and soon a Prussian detachment under Johan Sigismund baron de Heiden joined the seapowers army near Nijmegen. The Prussians hoped to occupy and annex parts of the Spanish Netherlands on the lower Rhine.


Louis XIV planned two offensives: One against the imperialists in Italy to ensure French dominance in Italy, and one against the United Provinces. He hoped to kick the Dutch out of the war by sending an army to invade the Netherlands via Nijmegen.


As regards internal affairs it had now become quite clear that Felipe lacked the will-power and or self-confidence to take the reins of government into his own hands. The possible danger that the queen would effectively seize control of the Spanish monarchy by dominating Felipe had been countered by sending away all her Piemontiese court. The princesse des Ursins, who had been sent to gain dominance at the Spanish court, was now working hard at gaining the confidence of the queen. In order to enable her to do so she was appointed Camera Major to the queen. Evidence of this situation can be found in letters by numerous authors like Marsin, Torcy and even Louis himself.

The Cortes of Catalonia concluded its meeting on January 11 giving some money to Felipe V in return for some concessions that, according to Marsin, served primarily to prevent further abuse by the vice-roy. Felipe V now wanted to travel to Italy in stead of going to Madrid and meet Porto Carrero and Arias again. This project was abhorred by all Spanish politicians that lived of the court or could be expected to have to accompany him. It was however executed with the king, Marsin, Louville and de Montviel leaving for Italy on April 8. On April 17 Felipe arrived in Naples. The Queen had to go to Madrid to remain there as president of a junta to govern in Felipe's absence. In this junta were: Porto Carrero, Arias, Villa-Franca, Montalto and Medina-Celi. Before this she convened the states of Arragon and succeeded in getting some money from them. After that she entered Madrid on June 30th. According to Saint Simon Des Ursins was also present in the junta, because it was not thought proper for a woman to be alone in such a male assembly.

The Spanish government desperately needed money, and some harsh measures were taken in cutting pensions. A further desperate measure was that Felipe had the vice-roy of Naples seize a third of all foreign-owned capital in his kingdom with a promise to repay it as soon as possible. A measure that could only severely damage trade. Felipe's later voyage into Naples did not get him much money, and failed to solidly ensure his rule in Naples, that was full of people wanting to get rid of Spanish rule. When Felipe traveled on to Milan trouble soon erupted again.

Felipe had not journeyed to Italy only to bring the Spanish possessions there under control, but also to gain prestige by defending them on the battlefield. One cannot say that he was very succesful at either of these tasks. Vendome however was able to gain the admiration of the Spanish by his actions. In Spain Felipe's wife Marie Louise soon proved to have what it takes to be a great queen by making herself admired in Madrid. She also started to impose some order in the junta, and by her example kindled some Spanish patriotism that led at least some individuals and cities to start supporting the government with troops and money. In order to take effective command in the capital it would however be necessary to have troops loyal to the crown to counter the court officials that were primarily loyal to the grandees. Measures to erect a guard regiment were thus taken.

The next project was to receive the Treasure fleet from the Americas that had arrived late September. Pressed by the need for money Felipe and Louis got the idea of not only receiving the gold and silver owned by the Spanish crown, but also to confiscate the gold and silver and the merchandise on board that was owned by private individuals, among them traders from the sea-powers and other foreign nations. The Princess des Ursins kept the government from executing this disastrous plan. When the fleet had entered the harbor of Vigo the king's gold and silver was unloaded. The private bullion and merchandise was not unloaded for fear of it getting into the wrong hands, the traders not trusting the government and vice-versa. When the Anglo-Dutch fleet took this fleet the losses were immense.

It now became clear that the Spanish government could never be reformed without the presence of the king. Felipe V therefore left Milan on November 6 to travel to Spain, arriving in Barcelona on 21 December. He was accompanied by a company of 100 infantrymen who would form the nucleus of the royal guard. It was a clear sign of the mutual distrust between the French and the Spanish that the French could not think of a more suitable colonel for this guard than cardinal Porto Carrero himself.


Max Emanuel was elector of Bavaria, vice-roy of the Spanish Netherlands and his family held the archbishopric of Cologne. During the Turkish wars he had been one of the stronger German powers and gained fame by his participation in the campaigns to liberate Hungary. He could still swing both sides and negotiated with the emperor as well as with Louis XIV. Full of ambition he hoped to get his hands on part of the inheritance (e.g. Milan, or full sovereignty over the Spanish Netherlands) or any other spoils.

Recently his power had been increased because he had been a recipient of French subsidies, and with these had further augmented his army to 21,000 men. In a secret treaty Louis XIV assured him the hereditary government of the Spanish Netherlands, as well as the Spanish provinces of Upper Guelre and Limbourg should he make no other conquests. To me the reasons for him joining the two crowns are not that clear. Some French sources say that he wanted the Austrians to recompense him for the costs he had made in the war against the Turks. One can also imagine him to be anxious about the rise in Austrian might. It was to the dismay of his subjects that he betrayed the empire by suddenly capturing the free city of Ulm and joining the war on the French side on 9-9-1702.


Situation of the front in early 1702

In Italy the war had already started (see 1701), but in the northern theatre the war started only in 1702.

In summer 1702 the emperor had 20,000 soldiers on the Rhine with Louis of Baden, and 40,000 under Eugenius in Italy. Early 1702 the Anglo-Dutch army was positioned near Nijmegen, Isolated to the south lay the very well fortified city of Maastricht with a garrison of 14,000 and huge supplies.

The French sent Boufflers with 60,000 men to the Low Countries, Villeroy and Vendome were sent to Italy also with 60,000 men, and Catinat with 20,000 men was sent to guard against the Louis of Baden. The French also had an ally in the bishop elector of Cologne, giving them command of part of the Rhine.

The northern campaign of 1702

Hostilities in the north were opened when in the night of 19 March 1702 the Hannoverians invaded the territories of Louis' allies the dukes of Brunswick-Wolffenbuttel, disarmed their forces and occupied their territory. The younger duke of Brunswick was then forced out of the government, while the elder reconciled himself with the emperor and had his army incorporated in the Imperial forces.

The Dutch opened their campaign mid April by ordering Nassau Saarbrücken to start the siege of Kaiserswerth on the Rhine. The French then attacked Athlone who had to retreat to Nijmegen. Kaiserswerth capitulated 15 June. On 26 July the 50,000 Anglo-Dutch, now under Marlborough, marched south, this forced Boufflers to march south too and forced him to retreat to Brabant.

Though not victorious the maneuver gave the allies some territories and enabled them to lay siege to the Meuse fortresses north of Maastricht. Venlo capitulated 22 September, Stevenweert and Roermond soon followed, and the Meuse was free on 7 October.

After this the allies triumphed by taking Liege in October and also Tongres, the French losing some 10,000 men up to this point. All this severely hindered French communications with their strong-points on the Rhine. Rheinsberg was besieged and would fall 9-2-1703. The French only had Bonn left, and everything seemed to go well for the alliance.

The Upper Rhine campaign of 1702

This was changed by the treason of Max Emanuel of Bavaria on 9 September 1702. France would then of course have wanted to establish communications with Bavaria and bring an army thither. However: unknown to Max Emanuel Landau had capitulated to Louis of Baden on 8 September 1702, making the passage into Germany via the normal route impossible.

There were however still other routes available. At the end of September Villars succeeded in crossing the Rhine near the Swiss border, intend on reaching Bavaria by a route that would lead along Lake Constance. He did not get far because near Friedlingen Villars with about 13,000 men was awaited by the Margave on 14 October 1702. Louis of Baden had about 8,000 men at his disposal on the battlefield.

The ensuing battle of Friedlingen unrolled in a rather chaotic fashion with the imperialists retreating at first but then coming back to rout the French that had advanced. The fact that just Villars had posted his victory report to King Louis (which would make him a marshal) just before the imperialists came back and beat him seems to be the source of the confusion about who won this battle. Also the fact that Villars kept his bridgehead on the Rhine and the imperialists retreated a bit after the battle adds to this confusion.

There is however little doubt who won this battle: one source for the casualties of this battle states losses as Imperialists 355 killed 742 wounded, French 1,703 killed 2,601 wounded. Though Villars captured the small fortresses Friedlingen and Sternschanze, that he had passed while advancing, he retired back across the Rhine early November. The margave had thus fought a successful campaign and gained a strategic victory. The French were further away from Bavaria then they had been in the beginning of 1702, and it was possible that Bavaria would reconcile itself with the emperor.

The naval campaign of 1702

In July a big Anglo-Dutch fleet was sent to south to capture Cadiz, and thus gain a naval base near the Mediterranean. It reached Cadiz 23-08-1702 and besieged it for about a month before retreating.

On the way home they heard that the Spanish treasure fleet from America was in the bay of Vigo escorted by a French fleet. The allies after landing a force to capture the fortifications sent in their small ships to take the fleet. The French admiral then ordered all ships to be sunk to avoid capture of the fleet and its treasure. 15 French and 3 Spanish ships of the line were lost by the two crowns, of which 6 would be carried home by the allies. Of the 13 treasure galleons 3-5 would be taken home and the rest destroyed. Sadly most of the treasure had already been unloaded, and a lot of it had sunk, but the allies were still able to lay their hands on 1,000,000 pounds worth of treasure.

Churchill says that Vigo could not compensate for the fleet's failure to capture Cadiz, Minorca and the Mediterranean (Which would have secured Mediterranean trade). On the other hand Vigo was a major defeat for the French fleet and cost Philip V a lot of revenue. It can thus be said that the allies failed to achieve their interests, but the interests of the two crowns were badly hurt.

In the Caribbean the English took St. Kitts and would keep it at Utrecht.

The Italian campaign of 1702

Before the campaign season started Eugen launched a nightly surprise attack on Cremona (1-2-1702) where Villeroy had his headquarters. In the end the attack failed, but the troops that had penetrated into the city had taken Villeroy prisoner. The blockade of Mantua was also continued by Eugen.

Vendome was then appointed commander of the more then 80,000 French troops. Eugen had about 28,000. One of Vendome's first actions was to bring provisions into Mantua on 24 May 1702. From 3 June onward he then with 50,000 men faced Eugen's 30,000, who continued with their blockade of Mantua. Vendome was then ordered by Felipe V to wait for his arrival on the battlefield. From Cremona Felipe V went to join the army on July 20th. Vendome then had a small success in surprising and routing an imperial cavalry unit near Santa Vittoria on the 26th, with Felipe taking no part in it.

The army of the two crowns then left Vaudemont with 20,000 men to keep an eye on Eugen, took Reggio and entered into Modena with the rest, quickly subduing almost all of it. This obliged Eugen to raise the blockade on 1 August 1702. Vendome and Felipe V then marched to Luzarra but Eugen marched after them. Eugen had 34 battalions and 75 squadrons or about 25,000 men (calculated), Vendome had 53 battalions and 101 squadrons or about 36,000 man (calculated). Eugen then attacked though Vendome was in a favorable position. Eugen succeeded in driving Vendome from the battlefield, but did not achieve much more. Imperialist losses were about 800 killed and 1,900 wounded. French losses were from (depending on source) 2,500 to 5,000 killed and wounded.

Eugen then dug in again near Luzarra. Luzarra itself capitulated to Vendome 17 August 1703 and the French also succeeded in taking Guastella. The Imperialists did however hold on to Borgoforte, and made a raid into the city of Milan itself. For the rest the two armies laid facing each other tile the French decamped first at 4 November, ending the campaign.


1) Staatse Leger VIII/I page 31
1) Staatse Leger VIII/I page 48 for some of these facts
3) Marlborough his life and times by Winston S. Churchill: in Dutch translation part 2 page 106
4) See 'The correspondence 1701-1711 of Churchill and Heinsius edited by B. van 't Hoff': The introduction on pages XII and XIII and page 609 with the text of the resolutions of the States General. Van 't Hoff was the first to prove that Marlborough was not in command of the forces of the States General, as had been believed by generations of historians.