|King George III|
As the war went on, the King became understandably bitter and voiced contemptuous views of the American populace, despite the fact that two-thirds were active or passive loyalists. However, as he said to John Adams, the first U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, while he was the last to agree to the independence of America, he was indeed the first to extend a hand of friendship to the new nation and work to retain it as part of the British trade network and commercial empire. What many would find more surprising though, is that the King’s son and heir, the Prince of Wales and future King George IV, was allied with a political faction that practically cheered every American victory in the war. This group was backed by the Prince of Wales and focused around Charles Fox, the Marquis of Rockingham and Edmund Burke. Members of this group even took to wearing the colors of Washington’s Continental Army to show their solidarity with the American cause and most of these men were wealthy and/or aristocratic which says something about just how “revolutionary” the war in America really was. Fox and Burke would later part company over the much more revolutionary war in France with Fox supporting the revolutionaries and Burke staunchly opposing them.
|Ben Franklin meets the King & Queen of France|
In the end, no one did more than King Louis XVI of France to ensure victory for the United States in the War for Independence. Many Americans were truly grateful for this and never forgot it. Portraits of King Louis appeared in taverns around the country and the town of Marietta, Ohio was named in honor of Queen Marie Antoinette. However, one problem was that the most Francophile of the American founders were also the most radically republican. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, for example, were extremely pro-French but very anti-monarchy, though they did effectively make common cause with Napoleon Bonaparte. On the other side of the political divide, the more conservative Americans such as George Washington remained essentially Anglophiles and never forgot that the French had been pursuing their own interests rather than being truly committed to the American cause. Washington was convinced that the King Louis had been more the enemy of England than a friend of America and so he too, after independence, was quick to be friendlier with the British than the French.
|King Louis XVI|
The other monarch which, after France, contributed the most to the eventual American victory was King Carlos III of Spain. His reaction to the war in America was very much similar to that of his cousin in France. Being one of the “Enlightened Despots”, he too was supportive of the American push for representative government, welcomed the colonies being able to trade outside the British Empire and was also anxious to recoup previous Spanish losses to Britain from past conflicts. Yet, he too was rather hesitant about coming to the assistance of the Americans. Unlike France, the Kingdom of Spain still possessed a massive empire in the Americas, stretching from roughly the modern Canadian border to the southern tip of what is now Chile and Argentina. King Carlos III was less concerned about the cost involved as he was that some of his own colonial subjects might try to follow the example of the British-American colonists.
|King Carlos III|
|Prince Willem V|
|Frederick the Great|
In the neighboring Kingdom of Denmark, a major power at the time, the war in America coincided with a political division between proponents of absolutism and constitutional government as well as a lack of royal leadership due to the insanity of King Christian VII. There was widespread support for the Americans among the Danish public and even more in the Danish colonies which, of course, was a cause for concern by those in the government. The outpouring of support in the press for the Americans was also embarrassing given that Denmark was, at the time, allied with Great Britain. Those pushing for constitutional government naturally sympathized with the Americans but there was also economic realities to consider. Denmark was, for example, a major importer of rice from South Carolina and this caused considerable resentment against the British for the Royal Navy blockade of the American coast. These facts had an impact on Danish popular opinion but it likely would have amounted to nothing more were it not for another royal friend of the United States which was Empress Catherine the Great of Russia.
|Catherine the Great|
It was the Russian Empress who organized the League of Armed Neutrality to thwart the Royal Navy blockade of the American colonies as well as other countries at war with Britain. Many of these countries had little to no trade with the American colonies directly but they did do a great deal of business with France and Spain. Ultimately the League included Denmark (and Norway), Sweden (and Finland), Prussia, Austria, Portugal, Naples and even Turkey along with Russia. The Netherlands was set to join but the British acted first, seizing a Dutch ship and prompting The Netherlands to declare war on Britain, making them a participant in the war rather than a neutral. This made life very difficult for the Royal Navy which was trying to enforce a blockade but was hindered by the threat of making enemies out of all of these neutrals if they did so. As a result, of all the neutral powers of the time, the Russian Empire was doubtless the most helpful to the Americans in ultimately winning the independence of the United States. As it happens, when that came about, Empress Catherine derided King George III for recognizing American independence, which she had done all she could to help, saying that she would sooner commit suicide than to grant such recognition to any rebellious subjects of her own.
|Emperor Joseph II|
In this, Emperor Joseph II was not wrong as toward the end of his reign the Catholics and liberals in that land came together to depose him and declare independence as “The United States of Belgium”, the first bid for Belgian independence which Joseph’s brother and successor later suppressed. However, realpolitik also played a part in the Austrian attitude toward America and the rather cold reception that John Adams received when he came to Vienna to make the case for the Patriot cause. The Austrians had been trying to improve relations with Great Britain so as to isolate the Kingdom of Prussia which Emperor Joseph II had fought, unsuccessfully, early in his reign. However, the issue was complicated by family politics. The Emperor’s little sister, Marie Antoinette, was, after all, Queen of France which was America’s strongest ally. That marriage had been arranged to bind together France and Austria and the last thing the Austrian Emperor wanted was for Britain and France to be at war, since he desired friendship with both.
|Emperor Joseph II|
So it was that, among the crowned heads of the world, the United States of America was met with more support than opposition. King George III did not want it to come to war but, of course, pressed the fight zealously when it did. King Louis XVI of France and King Carlos III of Spain, after some initial hesitation, backed the Americans and gave absolutely vital support to the winning of independence for the United States. The Dutch backed the Americans though the Prince of Orange supported Britain, the King of Prussia cheered the Americans and the Empress of Russia worked to isolate Britain and make the United States acceptable in the halls of power across the Old World. The Austrian Emperor sympathized with Britain but more than anything else wanted there to be peace between Britain and France which could only benefit America. King Gustav III of Sweden was quick to recognize the United States, making Sweden the first neutral power to do so. Part of the reason for this was what was politically fashionable at the time but realpolitik proved the bigger factor as did the extent of the unpopularity of the British. British success had garnered a great deal of jealousy, past British victories left many thirsty for revenge and British policies had alienated former friends such as Prussia.
|St Mark's republic|
|Washington at the raising of the Grand Union flag|