The War of the Quadruple Alliance

Strategic Distaster:
The War of the Quadruple Alliance
Battle of Cape Passaro, between Great Britain and Spain off the coast of Sicily, August 1718. 

Whilst playing our strategy games, David remains ever adaptable whereas my tactics border on stubborn and ridiculous. Should we seem defeated, he will instantly alter his strategy to counter new threats and somehow ends up pulling us out of a hole. I have a tendency to stick to my guns and continue whatever tactics that have seen me thus far, stubbornness to a fault. Though we overcome nonetheless, particularly in Ruse, though almost no one plays the game anymore.  It is with this thought that I wanted to highlight one of the greatest examples of stubborn strategists in history from a country that simply wouldn't realize that it was defeated: Spain in the War of the Quadruple Alliance. 

There are many wars with ridiculous names such as this, and indeed the European military history of both the 17th and 18th centuries is rather tedious and lackluster to some. Though these wars are the foundation to the modern balance of power, and are very important in understanding European political affairs. Without this seemingly trivial war, Europe's borders might be drastically different, and Spain's power in global affairs may not have been so permanently curbed. 
Although we relate little to, and rarely discuss wars like the war of the Spanish Succession and the War of the Quadruple Alliance, they are greatly important in understanding the foundations of modern European Affairs, particularly for Spain, Britain, and Italy. Whether it be because they are rarely portrayed on screen or even in literature, or because their history is rather tedious to cover, the wars of 17th and 18th century Europe seem largely forgotten. They remain overshadowed by wars more recently engrained in our memories. These wars however are just as important as any in order to understand European affairs, and are greatly important in understanding both the borders and balance of power in Europe and the fate of her colonies abroad. 

"The unrelatable heroes of these wars are adorned with bright feathers and fashionable silks, a far cry from the war hardened soldiers that we admire today."

We may also feel distant from these conflicts due to our inability to relate, as one needs to have an extraordinarily bold ego to say one relates to the ambitions of colorful stocking wearing, whig toting, pampered monarchs such as Louis XIV and Philip V. Absolute monarchs have always seemed alienating to most modern cultures, and their frivolous wars even more so. Paintings of these wars glorify the aristocracy in typical Baroque fashion, and portray war as colorful, and full of pomp. The unrelatable heroes of these wars are adorned with bright feathers and fashionable silks, a far cry from the war hardened soldiers that we admire today. 
French Marshal Villars at Denain in the War of the Spanish Succession


"Nations will unite in order to prevent the creation of a superpower..."

The War of the Quadruple Alliance is largely a follow up to the War of the Spanish Succession, a tumultuous thirteen year war in which allied European powers fought to prevent the union of France and Spain under a single Bourbon monarch. Nations will unite in order to prevent the creation of a superpower, as is the case with both of these wars. When the War of the Spanish Succession concluded with the Peace of Utrecht, Philip V remained King of Spain lost his claim to the French throne, which was soon to be vacant with Louis XIV ailing. Philip lost all Spanish possessions in the Netherlands and Italy, the latter of which he would try to reclaim just four years later. 
The Pretentious, the relentless, Philip V of Spain

"The War of the Quadruple Alliance is the final nail in the coffin that the War of the Spanish Succession built..."

The War of the Quadruple Alliance is the final nail in the coffin that the War of the Spanish Succession built, it ensured the downfall of Spanish power in Europe, though they tried to hold on to indirect influence in Italy. Though Spain was already beginning to be a pawn of other rising nations n the early 18th century. The War of the Spanish Succession removed Spain from the Netherlands, ceding lands won my Habsburg Spaniards to the Habsburg Austrians. Spain officially lost territories throughout the Italian Peninsula, Sicily and Sardinia, but maintained token claims to many Italian lines of succession.  This war is the reason Britain currently own Gibraltar and Minorca, key points in the Mediterranean that have been pivotal to British military strategy for now well over three hundred years. 
Philip V wished to reclaim many of these lost territories, which sparked the ensuing War of the Quadruple Alliance, leading to many of the divisions and influences that made Italy what it is today. The state of affairs that resulted from this war led to a permanent French and Austrian influence in the North, whilst city states still maintained mild autonomy. Contrastingly, Southern Italy, not progressive and largely agrarian to begin with, would be weighed down by the continuance of a direct link to the Spanish Crown.  Sicily would be similarly anchored to the Spanish and Southern Italy under the rule of yet another Bourbon crown. It is interesting to note that there is far more information on this war in Spanish and Italian, of course due to the fact that the history applies to Spain and Italy far more than it does for the English speaking world. Though one must still note that wars such as these are indeed important, even if they are blunders, they are blunders that cemented the foundations of modern Europe. 
We needn't charge up any hills to grasp the importance of The War of the Quadruple Alliance. Philip V sent a foolhardy invasion force to Sardinia and Sicily which was swiftly defeated by the four nations, along with Savoy, that united to ensure the demise of Spain and the restoration of the balance of power established by the Treaty of Utrecht. Though the allies took well over 18,000 more casualties, the war was a victory against Spain, whereby the Treaty of the Hague forced Philip to return his recaptured holdings, in return France returned many of its conquered territory in Norther Spain and returned Pensacola in modern day Florida. 


Spain: Permanently loses its holdings in Italy, Florida returned but under threat, House of Bourbon maintains claim to Parma, Naples, and Sicily. Spain is greatly destabilized by this defeat, whereby the Spanish military both on land and sea will take decades to recover. As a political player, Spain is effectively a non-issue with no hope of rising again for the next few centuries, and is seen largely only as a pawn in the greater scheme of European affairs. 
Britain: Demonstrates naval dominance in the Mediterranean; utilizes and maintains its recently won strongholds in Gibraltar and Minorca. The British are able to quell another Spanish supported Jacobite rebellion and lessen Catholic influence in the British Isles.
France: Solidifies its status as the rising power in Continental Europe by ensuring the destruction of Spain but later allying with Spain in the Bourbon Pact. 
Austria: Gains naval dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean and strengthens its foothold in Northern Italy. Though Habsburg power is waning, they will still remain a major player until Napoleon. 
SavoyUnbenonced to the world at the time, this war would plant the seeds of Italian unification. Though the Duke of Savoy was stripped of his titles in Sicily and moved to the less prestigious Sardinia, the House of Savoy would rise to power in the 19th century and finally in 1860 Savoyard King Vittorio Emannuelle II would fight to bring Italy under one unified crown. 

Thus, admit defeat and adapt. Spain repeatedly tried to reclaim her Empire when she was clearly defeated and incapable. Spain remained a relentlessly stubborn power in the early modern period, ensuring not only her imperial demise, but an assuredly lessened role in global affairs for the next three hundred years. In trying to fight on when Spain should have accepted defeat, Philip weakened Spain's and her dominions' capabilities, and hurt already weak Catholic control in Western Europe. Learn that should one be defeated, it is not a particularly good idea to try to reclaim everything at once. Should your empire collapse, you cannot easily expand to your original borders. Know when you are defeated.