THE SPANISH SUCCESSION
THOUGH the Congress of Ryswick gave peace to Europe, it was far from staying the struggle for the Mediterranean. It simply transferred the contest from the sea to the cabinets. The nightmare of the Spanish succession still hung over Europe. The childless King of Spain, in ever failing health, still lingered on, and any day the news of his death might blow into flame the embers which the peace had merely covered over. Every power, oppressed almost to exhaustion with financial embarrassment and the dislocation of trade, was pining for rest, and none more than France. The only possible escape from the intolerable situation was to arrange it diplomatically while the King of Spain yet lived. No sooner therefore was the peace signed than Louis set to work, and the result was the famous negotiations for the 'Partition Treaties,' which form perhaps the most extraordinary chapter in diplomatic history.
With the failure of the male line of the Spanish Hapsburgs, three claimants could show a title on the distaff side--the Dauphin, the eldest son of the Emperor, and the Electoral Prince, son of the Elector of Bavaria. The real struggle lay of course between France and Austria, who alone could hope to assert their claim to the undivided succession; but both Bourbon and Hapsburg had to face the fact that Europe would not sit down