The War of the Spanish Succession began in 1701, when most of Europe allied to block the accession of the French Bourbon Duke of Anjou to the throne of Spain as Felipe V. The ensuing war lasted until 1714, at enormous cost. Louis XIV of France provided early support to defend his grandson’s throne, but in 1709 he began to seek a separate peace with the anti-Bourbon coalition and to abandon Felipe V and Spanish interests in Europe and the Americas. He re-committed to the war in 1710.

Standard histories often argue that the turning point in the war came in 1711, when the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne, the Archduke Charles, also became the likely choice for Holy Roman Emperor. Faced with a revival of Habsburg hegemony, the ardor of the anti-Bourbon allies cooled, and the war wound down. Against that standard interpretation, I argue that the turning point came in 1710, centering on the allied occupation of Madrid. This paper explores the events before, during, and after that occupation, including the important role that the Portuguese played—or failed to play—in that historic chain of events.