By Frank McLynn
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Extra resources for 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World
Nonetheless, optimistic reformers like Jonas Han way concluded that, thanks ‘to the hand of Providence interposed by the instrumentality of His Majesty’s Ministers . . the people themselves seem at length to have discovered that health and pleasure, food and raiment, are better than sickness and pain, want and wretchedness’. Other Panglossians pointed to the plummeting crime rates, always a concomitant of warfare in eighteenth-century England. Yet this was only a relative development. Opposition to forced enlistment and press gangs was acute and violent, and juries tended to be sympathetic to ‘lawbreakers’ in this context where the law itself seemed despotic.
But it was in North America that Franco-British rivalry was at its most intense. The effective French presence in Canada dated from the early seventeenth century, and France prided itself on a colony that was a perfect microcosm of France, with a similar class structure, its peasantry recruited mainly from Normandy, Picardy, Poitou and all western provinces except Gascony and Brittany. The early Canadian aristocrats tended to be those looking for peace and tranquillity away from the religious turmoil of the Thirty Years War, and it was notable that Canada became a fervently Catholic enclave.
When Barbara died in 1758, Ferdinand’s fragile mental equilibrium collapsed; he pined away and never recovered. One of the new king’s first actions was to sever the connection between the Spanish and Sicilian thrones, which had complicated Spanish affairs just as much as the Hanoverian connection complicated those of Britain. Formerly Carlos VII of the Two Sicilies, the new king Charles III of Spain abdicated the throne of Sicily in the Pragmatic Sanction of 6 October 1759. The Treaty of Naples embodying the Pragmatic Sanction forbade the union of the Spanish Crown with the Italian dominions, abdicated the Two Sicilies to Charles’s third son and his descendants in perpetuity, and set out new procedures for the succession.