War of the Polish Succession Facts & Worksheets

War of the Polish Succession facts and information plus worksheet packs and fact file. Includes 5 activities aimed at students 11-14 years old (KS3) & 5 activities aimed at students 14-16 years old (GCSE). Great for home study or to use within the classroom environment.

War of the Polish Succession Worksheets

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    • Background and Causes
    • Key Figures
    • Key Alliances
    • Major Battles and Campaigns
    • Peace Settlement: Treaty of Vienna 1738

    Key Facts And Information

    Let’s know more about the War of the Polish Succession!

    The death of Augustus II the Strong of Poland sparked a conflict that lasted from 1733 to 1735 known as the War of the Polish Succession. The war involved various European powers, including France, Spain, Austria and Russia, all vying for control over the Polish throne. 

    This contentious struggle for power and influence had important ramifications for the balance of power in Europe and had lasting effects on the political landscape of the continent. The conflict came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Vienna in 1738, which recognised Augustus III, son of Augustus II, as the legitimate king of Poland. 

    Augustus II’s death sparked the war
    Augustus II’s death sparked the war

    Background and Causes

    • The War of the Polish Succession emerged as a major European conflict in the early 18th century, deeply rooted in the unique political structure of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the shifting alliances among European powers. Following the death of King Augustus II the Strong in 1733, the szlachta – the Polish and Lithuanian nobility – convened in an election sejm (legislative body) to select the next monarch. This democratic practice, established after the death of Sigismund II Augustus in 1572, was a hallmark of the Commonwealth’s political landscape.
    • The liberum veto, which allowed any member of the sejm to block legislation, had increasingly paralysed the legislative assembly and weakened royal authority. By the 18th century, this democratic system was in decline, with the Commonwealth’s powerful neighbours often intervening to sway decisions within the sejm.
    • Augustus II secured the throne in 1697 with backing from Russia and Austria, but his reign faced challenges. Stanisław Leszczyński briefly usurped Augustus in 1705, only to be replaced again four years later. After seeking refuge in France, Stanisław’s daughter married King Louis XV in 1725, further entangling the region’s politics with European dynastic affairs. 
    • The death of Augustus II on 1 February 1733 without securing succession for his son, Augustus III, led to a succession crisis. The covert Treaty of the Three Black Eagles between Russia, Austria and Prussia in 1732 sought to install Manuel of Portugal instead of Stanisław or Augustus III, which intensified the struggle for the Polish throne.
    • In the lead-up to the chaos, Frederick August reached pacts in July 1733 with Russia and Austria: he would honour the Pragmatic Sanction and relinquish Polish claims to Livonia. France declared war on Saxony and Austria on 10 October 1733, to support Stanisław Leszczyński, while Spain – under King Philip V and driven by Elizabeth Farnese’s desire for Italian dominions for her offspring – entered the conflict to bolster its own dynastic interests.
    • Great Britain and the Dutch Republic, potential allies against Austria, chose neutrality. The Anglo-Austrian Alliance, according to British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, was only defensive, and the Dutch under Simon van Slingelandt were content to mediate rather than allow war to spread within their borders. The fear of war on their territories drove their call for peace, though internal discussions pointed towards possible conflict with Prussia in 1733. Emperor Charles VI’s diplomatic efforts aligned the Dutch Republic with Austria’s position.
    • Inside the Holy Roman Empire, France judiciously avoided theatres that might provoke Germany or the Dutch into the war, abstaining from campaigns in the Austrian Netherlands. Similarly, Austria found itself isolated, lacking dependable allies and struggling with internal strife that hindered troop mobilisation.
    • The Holy Roman Empire declared the Reichskrieg against France in 1734, leading to widespread involvement from all imperial circles. This intensified the war due to a mix of dynastic claims, regional ambitions, strategic alignments, and the decaying political structure of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
    War of the Polish Succession
    War of the Polish Succession

    Key Figures

    Stanisław Leszczyński

    • Formerly king of Poland and father-in-law to Louis XV of France, he was the candidate supported by France during the War of the Polish Succession.

    Augustus III

    • The son of the late King Augustus II the Strong, supported by Austria and Russia, he sought to secure his position on the Polish throne after his father’s death.

    Louis XV

    • The king of France, who supported his father-in-law Stanisław Leszczyński’s claim to the Polish throne, thereby challenging the Austro-Russian influence in the region.

    Charles VI

    • The Holy Roman Emperor during the conflict, who supported Augustus III and sought to stabilise the region in favour of his interests.

    Philip V

    • King of Spain, whose aspirations in Italy for his heirs led him to support the French cause in the war.

    Elisabeth Farnese

    • The second wife of Philip V, Queen of Spain, who was influential in Spanish politics and sought to acquire Italian territories for her children.

    Sir Robert Walpole

    • The British Prime Minister at the time, who adopted a stance of neutrality for Great Britain in the conflict.

    Simon van Slingelandt

    • The Dutch Grand Pensionary (chief executive), who led the Dutch Republic’s efforts to mediate the conflict and maintain Dutch neutrality.

    Augustus II the Strong

    • The late king of Poland, whose death without a clear successor caused the succession crisis.


    France and Spain

    • France declared war in support of Stanisław Leszczyński, and Spain joined France not only to support Stanisław but also to advance its own dynastic interests in Italy.

    Austria and Russia

    • Both powers supported the claims of Augustus III to the Polish throne, aiming to maintain the status quo and counteract French influence in the region.

    Treaty of the Three Black Eagles

    • A secret agreement between Austria, Russia and Prussia aimed at preventing either Stanisław Leszczyński or Augustus III from securing the Polish throne and instead installing a Portuguese prince, though this did not transpire.

    Anglo-Austrian Alliance

    • Although there was an alliance between Great Britain and Austria, British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole viewed it as defensive, which prevented Britain from taking a direct part in the conflict.

    Neutrality of Britain and the Dutch Republic

    • Despite the tensions and their existing alliances, both Great Britain and the Dutch Republic decided to remain neutral. This was a strategic choice to avoid the escalation of conflict within their own territories and to exercise diplomatic influence by acting as mediators.

    Holy Roman Empire

    • The declaration of a Reichskrieg by the Holy Roman Empire brought many smaller German states into the conflict on the side of Austria. This was an effort to respond to the aggression of France within the Empire’s territory.


    • Although involved in the secret Treaty of the Three Black Eagles, Prussia’s role in the war was more nuanced. Initially, Prussia did not commit to active military involvement against France, reflecting King Frederick William I’s cautious approach to the conflict.

    Military Engagements

    • The War of the Polish Succession was marked by a series of battles and military engagements as various powers sought to secure their interests in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the wider European landscape. 
    • In Poland, after the Russians took Warsaw, Augustus was appointed as the probable heir, forcing Stanisław to flee to Danzig. In June 1734, Danzig surrendered, leading to Stanisław’s withdrawal to Königsberg and later France. Major military operations in Poland stopped, although foreign forces remained.
    • In Rhineland, on 10 October, France declared war, encircling the imperial stronghold at Kehl and invading the Duchy of Lorraine. For the winter, France withdrew its forces from Lorraine and fortified its position across the Rhine. The emperor raised the Holy Roman Empire Army and organised his forces to fortify Ettlingen, close to Karlsruhe. French manoeuvres effectively flanked this line, compelling Prince Eugene of Savoy to retreat to the imperial camp at Heilbronn. This allowed for the French force led by the Duke of Berwick to besiege Philippsburg, which fell in July 1734 after a two-month siege. 
    • Despite courageous efforts from Frederick, heir to the throne of Prussia, and Eugene, they were unable to overcome the besieging army. It was at Philippsburg that Berwick met his end. The French armies continued their advance down the Rhine, reaching Mainz. However, they were halted by the expanding Russian-led imperial army, preventing France from laying siege. Eugene launched his attack. In one of the last fights before preliminary peace talks were completed, a force of 30,000 led by Friedrich Heinrich von Seckendorff crossed the Rhine and beat the French at Clausen in October 1735.
    • In Italy, in October 1724, French and Savoyard forces led by Charles Emmanuel occupied Milanese territory with little opposition. Only 12,000 Austrian soldiers remained in the duchy, and Milan had submitted by 3 November. On 11 November, France’s Duke de Villars arrived in Milan alongside Charles Emmanuel, but his goal was to seize Milan. The Austrian army cleared the remaining fortified towns in the duchy of Austrian opposition over the course of three months.
    • An Austrian army under the command of Count Claude Florimond de Mercy crossed the Alps in June and made a move to draw in on the rear of the French army. Villars gave up on his march into Mantua and made an effort to obstruct the Austrian army’s efforts to bridge the Po. On 17 June, he left the service and passed away in Turin. After retreating to the Po, more Austrian soldiers were added to their ranks and placed under the command of Field Marshal Königsegg. Königsegg raided Coigny’s Quistello headquarters in September, coming dangerously close to seizing Coigny and stealing Charles Emmanuel’s porcelain. 
    • Until December 1734, the Austrians pushed on the north bank of the Po River, while the French withdrew the majority of the united army to Cremona. The troops in northern Italy lost a great deal of men to illness and desertions. After Charles Emmanuel pulled back his soldiers, the Austrians managed to regain most of Milan in November with little resistance, as the Franco-Spanish army could not block Mantua. 
    • In the aftermath of these military engagements, the war gradually came to a close as peace talks began to take shape. Negotiations between the various powers involved led to the signing of the Treaty of Vienna in 1738, officially ending the War of the Polish Succession.

    Major Battles and Campaigns

    • The War of the Polish Succession saw several major battles and campaigns that shaped the course of the conflict and the struggle for the Polish throne.

    Siege of Kehl

    • Date: 14–28 October 1733
    • Location: Kehl, located across the Rhine River from Strasbourg
    • Combatants: French forces vs. Holy Roman Empire
    • Outcome: French forces captured the fortress of Kehl.
    • Significance: The fall of this fortress compromised the security of the Holy Roman Empire’s eastern border and allowed French forces to have a foothold near the Rhine River.

    Siege of Danzig

    • Date: 22 February–30 June 1734
    • Location: Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland)
    • Combatants: Russian forces supporting Augustus III vs. forces loyal to Stanisław Leszczyński and local defenders
    • Outcome: The city was captured by Russian forces after a lengthy siege.
    • Significance: Danzig was a strategic port, and its capture highlighted the intense struggle over the Commonwealth’s territories and the external interventions in the succession crisis.

    Russian Campaign in the Commonwealth

    • Date: Early phases of the war, 1733–1734
    • Location: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, particularly Ukraine and Belarus
    • Combatants: Russian forces supporting Augustus III vs. supporters of Stanisław Leszczyński
    • Outcome: The Russian campaign reinforced the military occupation of territories within the Commonwealth, in support of Augustus III.
    • Significance: The Russian intervention significantly influenced the internal power dynamics and stability of the Commonwealth.

    Battle of Bitonto

    • Date: 25 May 1734
    • Location: Bitonto, Kingdom of Naples, Italian Peninsula
    • Combatants: Spanish troops vs. Austrian troops
    • Outcome: A decisive victory for Spanish forces
    • Significance: The Battle of Bitonto showcased Spanish military strength in Southern Italy, which changed the balance of power and allowed Spain to pursue its dynastic ambitions in the Italian territories.

    Siege of Philippsburg

    • Date: 26 May–18 July 1734
    • Location: Philippsburg (present-day Germany)
    • Combatants: French forces vs. Holy Roman Empire
    • Outcome: Capture of Philippsburg by French forces.
    • Significance: The capture of this strategic location secured a critical crossing and defensible position on the Rhine, strengthening French military presence in German territories.

    Battle of Guastalla

    • Date: 19 September 1734
    • Location: Northern Italy
    • Combatants: French and Sardinian troops vs. Archduchy of Austrian troops
    • Outcome: French forces won the battle.
    • Significance: The victory at Guastalla secured French military achievements in Italy during the war and highlighted the vulnerability of Habsburg positions in the region.

    Battle of Clausen (or Klausen)

    • Date: 20 October 1735
    • Location: Near Klausen, present-day Chiusa, Italy
    • Combatants: French forces vs. Holy Roman Empire
    • Outcome: French victory
    • Significance: This victory allowed the French to maintain their advance into the territories of the Rhineland.

    Battle of San Pietro (also known as the Battle of Crocetta)

    • Date: 29 June 1734
    • Location: Between the village of La Crocetta and the city of Parma, within the Duchy of Parma
    • Combatants: French and Sardinian troops vs. Austrian troops
    • Outcome: Decisive French victory
    • Significance: Strengthened French control over the Italian territories and shifted the regional power balance.

    Peace Settlement: Treaty of Vienna, 1738

    • The Treaty of Vienna marked the official end of the War of the Polish Succession and resulted from a series of negotiations initiated by Great Britain and the Dutch Republic. Starting in 1734, these nations worked to mediate between Austria and France, eventually leading to a provisional peace agreement in October 1735. This agreement was later formalised on 18 November 1738 through its signing.
    • Key terms and outcomes of the treaty included:
      • Francis Stephen of Lorraine: Named heir to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, ensuring a transition of power that would maintain the balance within the region.
      • Stanisław Leszczyński: Compensated with the Duchy of Lorraine for his relinquished claim to the Polish throne, ensuring his dignity and status in European nobility.
      • Augustus III of Poland: Formally recognised and crowned King of Poland, cementing the support he received from Austria and Russia.
      • Charles of Parma: Previous ruler of Parma, who ceded his territories to Austrian administration, was in turn crowned King of Naples and Sicily, extending Bourbon influence in Italy.
      • Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia: Received territories west of the Ticino River, in the western portion of the Duchy of Milan, broadening his rule.
    • The Treaty of Vienna stipulated that the exchange of territories would only take place after the death of Gian Gastone, the last Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, who died in 1737. This alignment of succession prepared the ground for further shifts in territorial control. The French recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction was a significant element of the treaty, as it acknowledged the right of Emperor Charles VI’s daughter, Maria Theresa, to succeed him. However, after Charles passed away in 1740, France attempted to destabilise the Habsburg Empire, contradicting the terms they had previously agreed to.
    • Ultimately, the Treaty of Vienna established the groundwork for future conflict. Lorraine reverted to French power after Stanisław’s death in 1766, a strategic gain from his land acquisition. These showed the long-term impact of 18th-century diplomatic agreements on European politics.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • What was the War of the Polish Succession?

      The War of the Polish Succession (1733-1738) was a conflict that arose over the election of a new king for Poland following the death of King Augustus II.

    • Who were the main candidates for the Polish throne?

      The main candidates for the Polish throne were Stanisław I Leszczyński, supported by France and Spain, and Augustus III, supported by Russia and the Habsburg Monarchy (Austria).

    • How did the War of the Polish Succession end?

      The war ended with the Treaty of Vienna in 1738. Augustus III was recognised as the King of Poland, while Stanisław I was given the Duchy of Lorraine as compensation. Additionally, France acquired several territories in Italy, including parts of Naples and Sicily.