Treaty of Utrecht
The Peace of Utrecht was established in 1713 when the Treaty of Utrecht, actually a series of 23 agreements, was signed in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands by Spain, Great Britain, France, Portugal, Savoy and the Dutch Republic, bringing to an end the War of Spanish Succession, 1701-1713. The War had erupted after Spain's Habsburg rulers died out in 1700, leaving the throne to Phillippe de France, a move disputed by the Habsburgs of Austria. The treaties most significant effect was to separate the crowns of France and Spain, and also set forth individual European nations' borders and territories, sovereignty and succession, slave-trade and other commercial agreements and addressed the balance of European powers, a common topic of debate during the war and treaty conferences and beyond.
The War of Spanish Succession began in 1701 and ended in 1713 with signing of the final treaty. In October of 1711, Great Britain and France signed a preliminary peace agreement based upon Spain's tacit acceptance to partition its European land holdings. That helped to pave the way for further talks to begin in 1712, when a congress opened in Utrecht. That year saw a truce between Britain and France, and the talks finally gained a certain degree of momentum.
The year 1713 saw inevitable chaos as the countries wrangled around trying to get their needs and their desires met in these 23 individual treaties. A separate sovereignty, or crown, was to be afforded to Britain and Spain and that decision needed to remain firm. It was agreed there would be no blending or obscuring of the powers held by each country. With that out of the way, talks progressed into the shaky area of contract agreements.
In these individualised treaties, territories were ceded and sovereignties recognised. Louis XIV's grandson, Philip V, was recognized as the King of Spain and renounced any right to the French throne, and French princelings likewise renounced all claim to the Spanish throne.
Spain's European empire was divided, ceded Gibraltar and Minorca to Great Britain and granted asiento (trade) rights to the British. Portugal's sovereignty over areas of Brazil and Uruguay were recognized. France ceded claims to Hudson's Bay Company territories and Saint Kitts to Great Britain, and recognized British suzerainty over the Iroquois, while it maintained other North American possessions. Various commercial treaties were also signed, that saw England and France granted each other most-favored-nation status, and trade agreements were reached between France and the Netherlands and the Dutch and Austrian Netherlands.
In the asiento agreement, Spain gave Britain the sole right to sell an unlimited number of African slaves and 500 tons of goods per year to the Spanish colonies for a period of 30 years, a right which the British government passed to the South Sea Company. Acquiring the largest portion of spoils, including the power that went along with them, Britain was now dominant in the business of world trade, edging the French out of power.
The Peace of Utrecht did not mean all wars between European entities were ended, however. The Holy Roman Empire and France remained at war until 1714 when they signed the Treaty of Rastatt and the Treaty of Baden. Spain and Portugal finally ended their war with each other in 1750 with the signing of the Treaty of Madrid, and the Empire and Spain ceased fighting in 1720.
A famous Whig by the name of John Wilkes stated the peace created by the Treaty of Utrecht looked much like the "Peace of God, for it passeth all understanding," something of a testimonial to the convoluted machinations of the negotiations. When the treaty agreements were said and done, what remained was something less than what was initially imagined. The balance of power was seen as an illusion, but at least there was finally a peace that everyone involved would learn to live with. The question of "balance of power" would continue to influence European politics until the French Revolution and beyond.