Hostilities between the French and the imperial forces began in Italy, where the imperial general, Prince Eugene of Savoy, defeated Nicolas Catinat and the duke of Villeroi. The general war began in 1702, with England, Holland, and most of the German states opposing France, Spain, Bavaria, Portugal, and Savoy. The duke of Marlborough, though ill-supported by the Dutch, captured a number of places in the Low Countries (1702–3), while Eugene held his own against Villeroi and his successor, Louis Joseph, duc de Vendôme. The duke of Villars, however, defeated Louis of Baden at Friedlingen (1702).
The successes of the French in Alsace enabled them to menace Vienna (1703), but the opportunity was lost by dissension among their chiefs. In 1704, Marlborough succeeded in moving his troops from the Netherlands into Bavaria, where he joined Eugene and won the great victory of Blenheim over the French under the count of Tallard (see Blenheim, battle of), and the French lost Bavaria. Meanwhile, Portugal and Savoy had changed sides (1703), and in 1704 the English captured Gibraltar.
In 1705, Marlborough in the Netherlands and Eugene in Italy had modest successes, although Vendôme defeated Eugene at Cassano. The year 1706 was marked by Eugene's victory at Turin, which resulted in French evacuation of N Italy, and by Marlborough's triumph at Ramillies (see Ramillies, battle of), which compelled the French to retreat in the Low Countries. In the same year, Louis XIV proposed peace to the Dutch, but English interference forced the continuance of the war.
In 1707, Marlborough made little progress in the north and Eugene's expedition into Provence resulted in the loss of 10,000 men; but in the following year Marlborough and Eugene won another great victory at Oudenarde, took Lille, and drove the French within their borders. Peace negotiations failed, and the allies won (1709) another success, though a costly one, at Malplaquet (see Malplaquet, battle of).
Meanwhile the indecisive allied campaigns in Spain (1708–10) did little to weaken Philip V. The death (1711) of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I, who had succeeded Leopold, and the accession of Charles VI led to the withdrawal of the English, who were as much opposed to the union of Spain and Austria as to that of Spain and France.
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