The War of the Austrian Succession, also known as the first two Silesian Wars, was waged from 1740 to 1748 over a combination of Central European rivalries and colonial competition between Great Britain and France on one side and Great Britain and Spain for another (the War of Jenkins' Ear). Emperor Charles VI died without male issue. He was succeeded by Maria Theresa, who claimed the throne based on the Pragmatic Sanction (pragmatic sanctions were temporary amendments to the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire enacted by Imperial decree; in this case it was a temporary alteration in the succession laws) which her father had proclaimed note . Recognition of the Sanction was bought by The Emperor from the states of Europe at high cost in concession.
When Maria took the throne in 1740, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, advanced into the Province of Silesia then ruled by the Habsburgs. Eager for a share of the Plunder, several of the states of Europe joined him, leading some of Austria's allies — particularly Britain — to declare war to maintain the status quo. This marked the beginning of a continent-wide war.
The war lasted until 1748 through many convoluted twists and turns, the war spreading to North America and India by way of Franco-British colonial skirmishing (the North American theatre is known in American history as "King George's War" as a result). At last, the war subsided through a lack of resources. Frederick ended up gaining Silesia and establishing Prussia as a respected power, at the cost of continuing enmity from the Habsburg throne. The War also saw the last time a British monarch would personally lead their troops in battle, at Dettingen 1743 (although British royals have taken part in combat as recently as The War on Terror). In the meantime, the struggle between Great Britain and France remained undecided. This led to the Seven Years' War.
Appears in the following works:
- Der Rosenkavalier is set early during the reign of Maria Theresia, when the Marschallin's husband - obviously an Austrian Field Marshal - is off to the wars. The first silent film adaptation, for which Richard Strauss adapted the opera into a movie score, even included battle scenes intercut with the main action and ended with the Field Marshal receiving a hero's welcome from his wife.
- Several of the historical movies about Frederick the Great produced in Germany from the 1920s to World War II show the war from a Prussian point of view.
- Trenck, der Pandur (1940) is one of the few with an Austrian hero, in this case a commander of light troops.
- Hetalia: Axis Powers includes a reasonably accurate arc on the war. Maria Theresa and Frederick the Great both get a good deal of screen time (revealing just how hard and fierce they were).
- It could happen in Empire: Total War.
- George Frederic Handel wrote Music for the Royal Fireworks as part of a celebration of the war's end.