A Royal Bloodbath – H.P. Holden
Monarchies breed war, plenty of it. The War of the Spanish Succession is a perfect example of this. From the early 1500s, Spain was ruled by a dynasty known as the Hapsburgs, who also ruled over the Holy Roman Empire in Central Europe, primarily in Germany. In 1700, King Carlos II of Spain (sometimes Anglicized as Charles II) died at age thirty-nine. As a result of centuries of Hapsburg inbreeding, he was infertile and never left an heir (he also had a host of other personal problems, see “This Inbred Spanish King Was ‘So Ugly’ That He Scared His Own Wife”, Sources). Carlos’ will named Duke Phillipe of Anjou as the next King of Spain. There was a major problem: Duke Phillipe was not just not Spanish, he was grandson of the “Sun King”, King Louis XIV of France, a member of the Bourbon dynasty. Now with Phillipe on the Spanish throne (or as his Spanish subjects would have called him, Felipe), the two most powerful European countries, who both had plenty of colonies in the Americas (then known as the “New World”, and Spain also had the Philippines) peopled with millions of people and filled with valuable resources, had two kings of the same dynasty.
In 1701, fearing France and Spain would unite into an unstoppable superpower, the Netherlands, England (which would become part of Great Britain in 1707), Prussia, Hanover, other minor German states (Germany was not yet a unified nation-state), and Portugal declared war on France and Spain, with their intention to prevent a Bourbon from holding the Spanish throne, and have a Hapsburg instead. Bavaria, Cologne, and Mantua sided with France and Spain. The Catalans, an ethnic minority in Spain, sided with the anti-Bourbon coalition, as they felt a Bourbon monarchy would lead to more centralization in Madrid, controlled by the ethnic castellanos, and therefore less freedom for them. Conversely, the Hungarians, who had been under Austrian dominance for quite sometime at this point, revolted in 1703 against their Austrian overlords, feeling emboldened by the French and Spanish who were fighting their Austrian oppressors. Neither ethnic group was successful in winning their independence during the war. Essentially, the anti-Bourbon coalition was fighting against what they saw as France and Spain about to becoming too powerful, while the Bourbon coalition was fighting for keeping who they believed was the legitimate King of Spain on the throne.
For the next twelve years, the war raged on. Some fighting took place in the Americas, in Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana, which were English/British, Spanish, and French colonies respectively. Most however, took place in Europe, mainly in Belgium, Savoy, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and Spain itself, with the anti-Bourbon armies barely being repulsed from Madrid, and them having a stronghold in Catalonia due to the sympathetic populace for reasons stated in the previous paragraph.
In 1713, after over a million dead from the war (see “Eighteenth Century Death Tolls”, Sources) in the Peace of Utrecht, the war was brought to a close. The most important part of the agreement was that Felipe/Phillipe and his Bourbon descendants could rule Spain as monarchs, so as long as they agreed they would never unite Spain with France. While this might seem like a compromise between the two alliances, the anti-Bourbon coalition was the overall winner, as Spain had to give up Belgium, Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia, and had been significantly weakened by the war, as they were invaded on their own soil. A country that was hurt badly on the other side was the Netherlands, who had already been declining, and this war had exhausted their resources even further. The biggest winner was Great Britain. The country didn’t even exist when the war started, being the disparate kingdoms of England and Scotland, united in 1707 by Parliamentary acts. Great Britain had established themselves as a major power, and with others declining, this was their time to shine, and they surely would, at the expense of many peoples around the world, especially in India and Ireland, and while British imperialism is a subject for another day, it is still something that needs to be stressed, as their false narrative as just colonizers has been allowed to dominate for too long.
Over a million men perished due to the squabbling of dynasties. While many of these men likely had nothing to lose, as was custom in militaries at the time, many also likely had friends, families, and communities, who would not get to see them again, because of the carelessness, waste, and corruption of Europe’s monarchial elites who could not resolve a diplomatic solution to their problems that should not have existed in the first place. The War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718–20) followed, and was a direct result of the previous war of Spanish Succession, when Spain tried to regain Sardinia and Sicily, only to be thwarted by Austria, France, the Netherlands, and Britain, with deaths hovering around 20,000. The War of the Polish Succession (1733–38) saw around 90,000 die. The War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48) saw 500,000 dead, with 400,000 of those people being civilians. The Seven Years War (1754–63, yes, it lasted nine and not seven years) saw more dead than all of these at around two million; it was about territorial claims in Europe, specifically Silesia, which erupted into a full-scale world war, with fighting taking place in India, Europe, and the Americas. This war, although the result national rivalries that these wars contributed to, was about territorial disputes as opposed to immature monarchial blood feuds. The worst crime of the eighteenth century belongs to the Slave Trade of Africans. The Arab Slave Trade murdered 2,000,000, while the European Atlantic Slave Trade murdered 8,100,000, for a shameful total of 10,100,000. This crime, however, falls on the shoulders of capitalism in its infancy and not the dying feudal monarchies. (see “Eighteenth Century Death Tolls”, Sources, for death figures)
Monarchists, who usually are conservatives and reactionaries that like to pride themselves on their belief in a orderly, stringent, obedient society, claim monarchy is a superior form of government because a monarch can keep order and peace. But these wars were the opposite of both those things. They saw unnecessary and avoidable carnage over who should have been a monarch. The eighteenth century was a time of enlightenment and progress, and it could have been one even more so had it not been for these terrible wars that happened in between, or the shameful Slave Trade that happened throughout. There are many more problems with monarchy, like the monarch not being able to understand the needs of the people, and the fallacy that the monarch is always smarter than everyone else, when the aforementioned Carlos II, or incompetent failures like Louis XVI, prove otherwise. But this will have to do it for now.