Charles VI

Charles VI, 1685–1740, Holy Roman emperor (1711–40), king of Bohemia (1711–40) and, as Charles III, king of Hungary (1712–40); brother and successor of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph I. Charles was the last Holy Roman emperor of the direct Hapsburg line. In 1700 he was designated successor in Spain to King Charles II, who was childless. On his deathbed, however, Charles II left his throne to Philip of Anjou (Philip V), grandson of King Louis XIV of France; Philip was proclaimed king in Nov., 1700. War broke out immediately against Louis XIV and Philip (see Spanish Succession, War of the). Although Charles, with the aid of British troops, invaded Spain and proclaimed himself king as Charles III in 1704, he was able to maintain himself only in Catalonia, with his capital at Barcelona.

When Charles's brother Joseph I died (1711), Charles succeeded him as Holy Roman emperor. His accession led to England's withdrawal from the war since the English did not wish to see the reunification of the empire of Charles V. A treaty (see Utrecht, Peace of; 1713) was signed between France and Charles's former allies, Holland and England. Charles continued fighting. He finally concluded peace in 1714. By the terms of the peace Philip V remained king of Spain and Charles received most of the Spanish possessions in the Low Countries and in Italy. Philip's subsequent attempt to overthrow the settlement in Italy resulted (1718) in the formation of the Quadruple Alliance against him. The war was ended by the Treaty of The Hague (1720), which repeated the terms of 1713–14, except that Charles obtained Sicily from Savoy in exchange for Sardinia.

In E Europe, Charles continued to defend his lands against Turkish invasions (1716–18). In a campaign against the Turks the imperial commander Eugene of Savoy obtained for Hungary the Banat and N Serbia. Charles was later forced to return these lands to the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) after several defeats in the Turkish war of 1736–39. Near the end of his reign in the War of the Polish Succession (1733–35) Charles was again involved in a conflict with France and Spain. By the Treaty of Vienna (1738) he was forced to give up Sicily and Naples to Spain, but received Parma and Piacenza.

Since Charles had no male heirs, one of his chief concerns was to secure the succession to the Hapsburg lands for his daughter, Maria Theresa. His last years were spent in an effort to win European approval of the pragmatic sanction of 1713, which made Maria Theresa his heir. Although the Pragmatic Sanction was guaranteed by the Treaty of Vienna, the succession was contested on his death (see Austrian Succession, War of the). Charles was a patron of learning and the arts, particularly of music. A mercantilist, he encouraged commerce and industry.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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