Images and Representations of the Habsburg Dynasty in the English Public Sphere, 1710-1713

Tuesday 27th October 2015, Green Room, Gonville & Caius College, 5-6pm

Philip Hitchings (University of Cambridge)

This paper took an illuminating look at the changing image of the Habsburg dynasty in the English public sphere during the peace negotiations surrounding the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. Within the polemical debates which surrounded the Anglo-French peace talks, begun in 1710 by the Harley-Bolingbroke Tory ministry, two very different images of the Habsburg dynasty, allies of Great Britain from 1701, competed with one another. Representations of the Habsburgs as defenders of a European political equilibrium and of Christendom, which had been the product of England’s need for continental allies against the power of Louis XIV’s France, competed with representations, especially associated with Swift and Defoe, of the Habsburgs as perfidious allies and threats to those same European political and confessional liberties. Such an image spoke to traditional 16th and 17th century views of the Habsburg dynasty as a threat to English, and European, political and religious liberty.

When considering the Habsburgs as allies, early-18th-century Englishmen found themselves caught between conflicting images of the Habsburgs as either natural allies or natural opponents. By the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the image of the Habsburgs as the natural ally of Great Britain had triumphed within the public and political sphere. The trope of an Anglo-Habsburg ‘Old Alliance’ would last well into the 19th century. However, the contested image of the Habsburg dynasty, within the peace debates of the early 1710s, reflected the swiftly changing relationship between Great Britain and her European neighbours and how that relationship was viewed and interpreted within the British public and political sphere.