A common feature of all the wars fought in the Imperial era was that the European monarchies had several colonies and interests in almost all the parts of the world, plus there was also certain monarchical houses and families with varied interests in the belligerents. Basically, the entire war of Austrian succession involved all of Imperial Europe and their respective colonies, which saw action at some or the other point of time. A very surprising fact in world history, which would make feminist movement really proud is that the war was fought in order to preserve Austrian Maria Theresa's right to her father's throne. Some would however dispute the exact cause.
Causes and Background
The house of Habsburg had been ruling substantial portions of Europe for several centuries, including, Austria, Hungary, Spain and several other smaller regions. The situation in 1740, post the death of King Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Austria was quite different, the Habsburg monarchy was left without a male successor and daughter of King Charles VI ascended the throne. By the means of Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, King Charles VI had of course, taken measures prior to his death in order to ensure that his daughter would be able to ascend the throne without hindrance. The Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, which was a formal request and agreement was accepted and signed by several people, German Kings, nobles, Lords, members of royalty and many other people who were affected by the title of Holy Roman Emperor. Though the sanction was successfully seen through, the big problem that persisted was that, no lady had been a Holy Roman Empress. In 1740, using some pretext and interpretation, from a prior treaty (of Brieg), the ambitious King Frederick II of neighboring Prussia invaded the Austrian area of Silesia, which triggered off the actual action. As one action has a reaction, the remaining European powers stepped in with the belligerents of Spain, France, Bavaria, Saxony, Naples and Sicily and Sweden siding with Prussia. The Habsburgs received the alliance of Great Britain, Hanover, Dutch, Sardinia, Russia and in later stages even Saxony. There were claims to the throne, allied treaties and colonies and even self-interests which dragged almost half of the world directly or indirectly, into the war.
The timeline of the war is divided into 7 major campaigns and several minor campaigns, continental battles and skirmishes in colonies. Here is a quick summary of what actually happened:
Silesian Campaign, 1740: Citing an interpretation in the Treaty of Brieg, Frederick invaded Austria and the Prussian armies quickly crossed the Oder river in the December of 1740. The small Austrian resistance was pushed back to Bohemia and Moravia, while Prussia established strong holds and bases at Glogau, Brieg and Neisse.
1741: In 1741, the Prussians backed by Bavarian Elector forces advanced further into Austria, via the Danube. The invaders further got the support of French forces, which moved to Amberg and Pilsen. The elector marched towards, Budweis whereas the Saxons invaded Bohemia. General Wilhelm Reinhard von Neipperg, was Austria's answer to the unsolicited invasion. In addition to that, the Austrians also got the support of Hungary. In October, General Neipperg, made a strange agreement with Frederick which is known as Klein Schnellendorf. According to this arrangement, the region of Neisse as surrendered to the Prussians and all of General Neipperg's troops were given a free passage. Meanwhile, the French Bavarian forces faced a winter offensive from Field Marshal Khevenhüller, who commanded a combined force of Austrians and Hungarians. Before the command of Field Marshal Khevenhüller could react significantly, the French conquered Prague Fortress and the Bavarian Elector crowned himself, King of Bohemia Charles VII.
Khevenhüller however, swiftly drove back the invaders to Linz and then turned his attention to Bavaria. The liberating campaign went smoothly, and Munich was won on 24 January 1742. The French managed to hold ground in certain places in Bohemia under the command of Marshal de Broglie, whereas the tensed Frederick, tried to make a truce with an enraged Khevenhüller and Austrians.
1742 : This year was quite uneven and the Austrians lost several territories that had been won in 1741 to the Prussian Field Marshal Kurt Christoph Graf von Schwerin, who reached Vienna, the Austrian capital. Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine, an Austrian leader, started diversionary and screen troop-tactics at Budweis and Jihlava against Frederick. Following the withdrawal his allies, the Saxons, Frederick started a withdrawal. The Armies of Prince Charles and Fredrick met at standoff at the Battle of Chotusitz in Bohemia, which was one of the bloodiest battles in the entire war. The Austrian objective of the battle was to retake Prague which remained unaccomplished.
1743 and 1744: George II of Great Britain entered the Anglo-Austrian-Hanovarian alliance and another victorious yet reckless standoff took place at the Battle of Dettingen, where the Anglo-Austrian-Hanovarian forces pushed the invaders further west. Prince Charles started marching towards Breisgau and King George II marched towards Mainz and Worms, both armies were marching westwards, to reclaim the invaded lands. The repelling march threatened the Dutch of Southern Netherlands who joined the British and Austrians. Saxony changed its alliance and Sardinia also stepped into the Austrian support. Spain on the other hand supported the Prussians and French. The Prussian side which had broken into a considerable sweat, planned to invade England via Dunkirk, the attempt was however unimplemented due to storms. The same pattern that was seen at the start of the war then took place. However at Metz, Louis XV of France fell violently ill and the entire French army was routed under confusion, making it almost dysfunctional. Frederick sat on the hot seat, as the Prussians were constantly pricked by Hungarians. Meanwhile Prince Charles arrived at the western front with an enormous army and once again Prague was won pushing the Prussians backwards and westwards.
1745: The year 1745 was the time of 3 mammoth battles. Battle of Hohenfriedberg, took place on 4 June 1745, where Fredrick defeated the Austrians and Saxons under the command of Prince Charles who was marching westwards. At the Battle of Kesselsdorf, two legends Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau (Prussia) and Field Marshal Rutowsky (Austria) fought a bloody battle on the western border which again resulted in Prussian victory. The third battle was fought in present day Belgian territory, was lost to the French, and the Netherlands was lost. Three victories again prompted Fredrick to launch another invasion into Austria. A very wired format was seen, wherein, Prince Charles was defeated two times at different skirmishes and two armies of Prussia routed the Austrian and Saxon armies at the western front. Maria Theresa, to avoid the constant bloodshed, agreed to treaty.
Peace of Breslau saw the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, where Silesia was handed over by Austrians to Prussia. Next, France withdrew from the conquered Dutch territory, against the handing over of Cape Breton Island which had been lost during the war. The French also handed over Madras to the British and the Barrier towns to the Dutch. Maria Theresa who had the rights to Duchy of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla handed over the same to Spain to stop them from supporting the Prussian alliance. Duchy of Modena and the Republic of Genoa, which had been conquered by Austria were declared to be independent. Asiento contract and Treaty of Madrid between Spain and Britain were settled by monetary reparations.
There were several other smaller battles fought in Europe, America and India. The outcome of the War of Austrian succession was however, disastrous as Austria and Netherlands, lost substantial territory. After several centuries of dominance in Europe, the Habsburg dynasty was finally weakened.