The Turkish Wars and the Siege of Vienna

Austria Table of Contents

In 1663 rivalries between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs in Transylvania triggered renewed fighting between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire. The Turkish threat, which included a prolonged but unsuccessful siege of Vienna in 1683, prompted Poland, Venice, and Russia to join the Habsburg Empire in repelling the Turks. In 1686 Habsburg forces moved into central Hungary and captured Buda. By 1687 the Ottoman Empire had been eliminated as a power in central Hungary. In the late 1690s, command of the imperial forces was entrusted to Prince Eugene of Savoy. Under his leadership, Habsburg forces won control of all but a small portion of Hungary by 1699.

The War of the Spanish Succession

In 1700 the death of Charles II of Spain ended the Spanish Habsburg line. Spain's steady decline throughout the seventeenth century had already led to minor armed conflicts aimed at a realignment of power among European countries, and these rivalries blossomed into the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14). Both Leopold I and King Louis XIV of France, Charles's two nearest relatives, hoped to establish a junior branch of his own dynasty in Spain. But neither was willing to rule out the possibility that a single heir might someday inherit the lands of both the principal line and its Spanish offshoot. The strong central government and political institutions of France made the possible union of Spain and France a far greater threat to other European countries than the possible union of Spain and the Habsburg lands in Central Europe. Thus, when the dying Spanish king named as his heir Louis's son, Philip, Britain and a number of other European countries rallied to the Habsburg cause.

Despite early victories by the Austro-British alliance, the allies were unable to install the Austrian Archduke Charles on the Spanish throne. As the war dragged on, the alliance began to unravel, especially when, after the death of Leopold's elder son, Charles became Holy Roman Emperor in 1711. The actual unification of the Habsburg lines in Charles VI (r. 1711-40) posed a greater threat to other European powers than did the possible union of war-weakened France and Spain. Austria's allies made peace with France in 1713 and signed the Treaty of Utrecht. Because his former allies negotiated a treaty to protect their own interests, the settlement Charles received when he finally abandoned the war in 1714 was meager: the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium) and various Italian territories.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress