The royalty of France, Spain and England had fought (and intermarried) for centuries over European territory, royal succession, and other political issues. When these kingdoms became interested in controlling the growing settlements and trade in North America in the 18th century, tensions took on another dimension.
The Seven Years War was fought between 1756 and 1763. Ongoing rivalry between Britain and France carried over into conflict surrounding their North American possessions, resulting in battles in both the colonies and in Europe. The British Royal Navy cut off the French forces in North America, located throughout the Francophone regions of what is now Canada. The British also took Havana from the Spanish, but returned it under the Treaty of Paris. Fighting in Europe involved a French attack on the British-held island of Minorca. Located in the Mediterranean, Minorca had passed to the English from Spain following the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-17). Prussia also became involved, fighting France and Austria in the west, and the Russian army on the eastern front.
The fighting and intrigue of these nation-kingdoms was also growing to include philosophical and political movements that were demanding that the kings and queens give power to elected representatives. The revolutions of the United States against Britain (1776) and France against the monarchy (1789) diverted troops and resources and frightened leaders. War between France and Britain resumed in 1792 with the Revolutionary Wars. The professional naval forces of Britain attacked the French Navy, which had suffered great losses of aristocratic officers who were executed by revolutionaries. The Spanish, allies of the British at the start of the wars, were not in a position to assist. The French continued their fighting under Napoleon, who occupied territory as far away as Egypt but faced incessant attacks and British blockades. In 1808, Napoleon placed his brother on the Spanish throne to the dismay of the Spanish. The British came to the aid of Spain, a nation that alternated between ally and enemy, and as a result, Britain developed its trade in the Spanish colonies of South America.