In 1701, when England's exiled King James died in Saint-Germain, Louis XIV publicly recognized his son the Pretender as King of England. He meant this only as a polite form, but for the English, who had already had enough of Louis's effrontery, it added the touch of sentiment necessary to consolidate material interests. By then, the English hated and feared Louis XIV's France and everything it stood for: Louis's expansionist ambitions; a Catholicism that owed no more allegiance to Rome than had Henry VIII and that used priestcraft as an engine of rule; and Colbert's pronouncements, which took ideas that the British themselves held on commerce and enunciated them as mathematical propositions to be enforced "to the last detail with the authority that absolute power alone can confer." Anglican England, which had within less than one hundred and fifty years beheaded one king and exiled another, was then ruled by a king who held power not by "divine right" but because Parliament had placed him on the throne. More free than any other people in the world, they were ready to fight for their trade.
In 1701, the conflict known as the War of the Spanish Succession was brewing. The King of Spain had died, and Louis sent his grandson, who had been bequeathed the throne, to Madrid to assume rule of Spain. For Britain, the issues were clearly drawn. In Spanish hands, the Spanish Netherlands with its splendid port of Antwerp on the Schlecht was no threat to London; Minorca and Gibraltar harbored nothing except innocuous Spanish warships; and the colonies in Central and South America slumbered. Place these in the hands of competent and disciplined Frenchmen, and the situation would be far different. Hence, England fought with Austria, Holland, and Prussia against France and Spain in a war that lasted from 1701 to 1713 and extended from the Mediterranean to northern Europe and into the Americas. At the Peace of Utrecht, England retained possession of Minorca and Gibraltar, both of which she had seized during hostilities, and France conceded her interests in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Hudson Bay territories.
The Anglo-French struggle for India started in the 1740's. The French East India Company, founded by Colbert, had undergone several reorganizations. By the 1730's, it was flourishing, with Pondichéry as the base for a trade extending into Siam and China. The struggle, in which Clive became a national hero, went on until 1754, ending with the British stronger and the French weaker than at the outset. The future of India was decided in the Seven Years' War, which began officially in 1756. Since incidents had occurred in all overseas theaters for several decades, this date means little except a drift to more intense hostilities.
As far as Great Britain and France are concerned, the Seven Years' War was a struggle for sea power and colonial empire in America, the West Indies, West Africa, and India; and the struggle was world-wide. The French at sea were woefully inadequate. As a result, British trade actually increased during the war under the shield of naval supremacy, and the British took such far-flung posts as Florida, Havana in Cuba, and Manila in the Philippines. At the peace, Britain kept Canada and Florida and all territory east of the Mississippi, returning to Spain her islands and to France the best of her sugar colonies. The French influence in India was restricted in that they could trade but were not permitted any political organization.
To say that " Napoleon's power ended at the shore" is an oversimplification, for Mahan has written a two-volume study of sea power during this period in French history. After Trafalgar, the battle in which Lord Nelson lost his life but succeeded in crushing two-thirds of Napoleon's fleet before the other third could come into action, the British controlled the sea, and their control was never challenged. In this, as in other wars of the century, Britain furnished the naval strength. At the close of the war, the British retained islands and territories that they had occupied during the war, including Cape Colony in South Africa, Ceylon, Malta, and Helgoland -- all important as outposts of empire for a nation that was soon to need a world-wide network of coaling stations.