Letter from Louis XIV to Count Tallard (1698)

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Letter from Louis XIV, King of France, to Count Tallard  (1698) 
by Louis XIV of France

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.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.