Letter from Louis XIV to Count Tallard (1698)
Versailles, May 29, 1698.
- The letter which you wrote to me on the 22nd of this month informs me of what passed at the private audience which you had of
the king of England. The account which you give me may be divided into three principal heads.
- I see by the first, that that prince is no longer restrained by the pain which he had expressed of treating for the partition
of the Spanish monarchy during the life of his Catholic Majesty.I was fully persuaded that the good reasons which you had to
produce on that subject would easily remove this obstacle.
- The second article regards the measures which the king of England thinks himself obliged to observe towards the Emperor, and
the opinion which he entertains that he cannot dispense with communicating to him the treaty in hand,when matters shall be so
far advanced that a seedy conclusion may be hoped for. There is reason to believe that, when matters shall be in this
state, the king of England will himself perceive how dangerous it would be to their success to communicate the project to the
Emperor. It is sufficiently apparent that his views are not for a partition of the Spanish monarchy; that he pretends to the
whole united. If the scheme of the partition were communicated to him, it can scarcely be doubted that he would make use of
this knowledge to oblige the king of Spain to prevent the dismemberment of the monarchy, by sending for the Archduke to
Madrid, and declaring him successor.
- The hatred which the Spaniards now entertain for the Germans would not hinder them from approving in this case the resolution
of his Catholic Majesty, and the whole nation, jealous of retaining so many state dependent on that crown, would unanimously,
concur in the choice of the Archduke, rather than see them transferred to other powers. This would be the probable
effect of the communication which might be made of the project to the Emperor, during the life of the king of Spain; by
securing to the Archduke the entire possession of that monarchy, the war, which it is meant to avoid, would become necessary,
to prevent the too great power of the Emperor and to maintain the rights of the legitimate heirs. I do not doubt
that the king of England will duly reflect on this point.
- As for secrecy, it is well known that he can cause resolutions to be adopted in Holland without fearing that they should be
revealed. But this is not the difficulty with which we have yet to contend, and the principal turns, at present, upon the
- What the king of England has said to you on this subject forms the third article of your letter. I see that, on his part he
has not made any change in the last proposals of which you have given me an account; the only important remark to be made is,
that he is persuaded that the interests of the English and the Dutch do not permit them to consent to leave the Low Countries
in the hands; of the Emperor. This is confessing that it suits them far less to let him unite all the dominions of the Spanish
monarchy in his hands; and, consequently, that there is nothing more conformable to their interest than to take some measures,
such as I propose, for the partition of the succession. It remains, therefore, only to see what those measures shall be, since
the king of England perceives inconveniences which he affirms to be insurmountable in the proposals which I have made, and I do
not find any equality in the alternatives which he has made.
- To reconcile my sentiments and his, I have made a new project. I have always followed the same principle of forming two
alternatives, my only view being to propose what appears to me to be t he best calculated to preserve the peace of Europe, and
at the same time, to indemnify, as far as possible, the legitimate heirs, for the just claims which they sacrifice to this
scale consideration. I even leave to the king of England the choice of these alternatives. He will decide in favour of that
which he shall believe to be most conformable to the interests of the English and the Dutch, and consequently, that which will
most promote the conclusion of the treaty.
- By the first of these alternatives one of my grandsons would have Spain, the Indies, the islands, countries, and places which
belong at present to that monarchy, with the exception of the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, and Milan, which the Archduke
would have for his share on condition that they should never be united to the Imperial Crown, the LowCountries in the state in
which they now are, would be ceded to the electoral prince of Bavaria. Though England and Holland cannot pretend to have any
claim to share in this partition, I would nevertheless consent, out of regard to the king of England, to leave to those two
nations, by this first alternative, Ceuta and Oran, for the security of the commerce.
- Lastly, whatever reasons there may be for preserving to the crown of Spain all that it now possesses in the Indies, without
detaching from it the smallest portion, you may add to this alternative, that I would consent that the English and Dutch should
become masters of that part of the Island of St. Domingo, which belongs to Spain. Jamaica, which the English already possess,
added to this part of the Island of St. Domingo, would give them a very considerable establishment in the West Indies; would
secure their commerce; and other nations would not so much fear to see theirs interrupted, as they would do if port of the
Havannah were in the hands of the English and the Dutch.
- As for the trade of the Mediterranean, I do not see what those two nations would have to fear. Ceuta and Oran secure them the
entrance; the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily would, by this alternative, be in the hands of the Archduke. The English and the
Dutch do not fear the power which that prince would possess by sea, and all the ports of those two kingdoms would be open to
them. One of those in the Mediterranean which would be reserved to the Spanish monarchy cannot be given them, without
rendering them absolute masters of that sea, and without depriving other nations of the liberty of commerce and navigation
without their consent. I therefore cannot make any change in what I have written to you on this article, and I cannot believe
that the king of England, when he knows my just reasons, will insist on his demand of a port in the Mediterranean; but if he
will not give up this pretension, he might reserve to himself a port, either in the kingdom of Naples or of Sicily; the
monarchy of Spain, such as I propose it to be given to one of my grandsons being already too much reduced to add any new
restrictions to this partition.
- With respect to the second alternative, you have already shown to the king of England that the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily,
with the places on the coast of Tuscany, were too unequal a portion to indemnify my son for his legitimate right to the whole
Spanish succession. I consider the cession of these kingdom as a continued source of expense and embarrassment; it cost France
but too dear to preserve them, and experience proves the indispensable necessity of always maintaining troops there, of
continually sending men of war, and also, how vain all these efforts proved. I therefore do not make a demand of the kingdoms
of Naples and Sicily in this second part of the alternative.
- On this basis you will propose that the electoral prince of Bavaria shall have the kingdom of Spain, and all that depends at
present on that monarchy, with the reserve of what is contained in the following exceptions, viz.(:) the kingdom of Navarre,
the towns of Fontarabia and St. Sebastian, and the duchy of Luxemburg, which should be give to the Dauphin; the kingdoms of
Naples and Sicily, and Milan, to the Archduke.
- It appears to me that the rights of my son cannot be reduced to smaller demands. I was contented with stipulating for him the
restitution of a kingdom which ought to belong to me, which the Spaniards have always unjustly retained, and which the kings my
predecessors have never ceded. I require the duchy of Luxemburg only for the security of my frontiers. Lastly, at the same
time that I thus limit the just claims of my son, I consent that the Archduke shall enjoy the greater part of Italy, and may
perhaps, soon become master of it, from the situation of the states which he will possess in it.
- But if the king of England should still make the same difficulties on the cession of the duchy of Luxemburg, I consent that
you shall propose to him a new alternative. The electoral prince of Bavaria should have the monarchy of Spain, and what now
depends upon it, with theexception of the kingdom of Navarre, which should be ceded to my son, with Milan, Final, and the
places on the coast of Tuscany; the Archduke should have the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily.
- By this last alternative, I ask nothing which can cause the slightest jealousy to England and Holland. The power of the
Archduke would be an object of less suspicion to Italy, and yet considerable share would be left to him. Of all these
alternatives I should prefer that which shall be judged the best calculated to preserve the general tranquillity.
- I shall expect the answer of the king of England to these proposals; and they must show the desire which I have to prevent all
occurrences which might interrupt the general peace.
- I shall likewise communicate these new alternatives to the Earl of Portland.
- Through all my letter have made you sufficiently acquainted with my intentions with respecting the proposal to cede some of my
fortresses in the Low Countries, to get the first alternative accepted, I cannot, however, too often repeat to you, that I do
not mean to cede any one for any reason whatever.