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Austrian Succession, War of the

First Silesian War

Frederick II began the war by invading and rapidly occupying Silesia. His cynical offer of support to Maria Theresa if she would cede the province was rejected. Victorious at Mollwitz (1741), Frederick obtained the alliance of France, Spain, Bavaria, and Saxony. Charles Albert of Bavaria, who was promised the imperial election, advanced on Vienna. In Oct., 1741, however, Prussia agreed to a truce in exchange for most of Silesia. This armistice was soon broken but gave the Austrians an opportunity to regroup their forces. The French were unwilling to permit the Bavarians too much power and ordered them to attack Bohemia, which was relatively unimportant, instead of Vienna. Joined by France and Saxony, Bavaria took Prague (Nov., 1741), and Charles Albert was elected emperor as Charles VII.

Meanwhile, Maria Theresa had obtained full support from the Hungarian diet and the promise of aid from Great Britain, which had been at war with Spain since 1739 (see Jenkins's Ear, War of). Early in 1742 Austrian troops overran Bavaria and laid siege to Prague, and in July, Maria Theresa made peace with Prussia by ceding most of Silesia (Treaty of Berlin). Thus ended this conflict, often called the First Silesian War. Saxony also made peace and joined Austria as an ally in 1743. The epic retreat from Prague of the French under Marshal Belle-Isle (winter, 1742–43) was followed by the victory of George II of Britain over the French at Dettingen (1743).

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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