LOUIS XIV.'s armies overran the Spanish Netherlands in 1666 and, when checked by Holland, the French monarch sought to take a drastic revenge on the Dutch. His invasion of Holland in 1672, however, called forth another William of Orange, who, like his ancestor a century before, flooded the land, and so gained time to collect allies against his cousin Louis. Louis lost Turenne in the long war that followed, but the peace treaty (Nymwegen, 1678) was the high-water mark of Louis's success. He then endeavoured to absorb more German territory; he was resisted by the Grand Alliance, or League of Augsburg. Its basis was Dutch gold and the indomitable tenacity of William. England, previously for a period subservient to France, began the long series of French wars which occupied fifty-nine of the years between 1689 and 1815.

The League asserted the Balance of Power against Low. The Powers made agreements for the partitioning of the Spanish Empire between French and Austrian claimants when its degenerate and childless King Carlos II. should die. William's chief object was to keep the Spanish Netherlands- the buffer of his own Holland-in any hands but those of France or a French prince. The Spanish ministers had, however, no desire for partition, and Carlos left his empire intact in 1700 to a French prince, or, failing him, an Austrian. Louis and the Austrians fought for twelve years, England supporting Austria chiefly because Louis threatened the Netherlands, maintained the Stuart claim to England, and proposed to monopolise Spanish trade for France. There was fighting all over Europe; the chief theatre of war was, as so often, Flanders. The armies of the Allies were mainly Dutch, but the war was a stage for the ablest of English generals, Marlborough. He won at Blenheim (1704) England's first great Continental victory since Agincourt, and during this war too, Holland allowed her ally, England, to displace her permanently as the leading naval power. England made a separate peace at Utrecht (1713). She gained territory in North America and trading privileges in Spanish South America, but her greatest achievement was to have brought Louis to his knees.