The Franco-German War


December 7, 2021

The Franco-German War, also known as the Franco-Prussian War (German: Deutsch-Französischer Krieg; French: Guerre franco-allemande) and in France known as the War of 1870, was fought between France and the North German Confederation under Prussian leadership, together with the southern German states of Baden, Bavaria, and Württemberg, as well as the Grand Duchy of Hesse between 19 July 1870 and 10 May 1871. After a series of French defeats in the opening phase of the war, almost half of the French force was surrounded at Metz, and the newly established French rescue force was crushed in a battle at Sedan, where the French emperor Napoleon III surrendered to the Germans. This led to the creation of the Third French Republic. The war ended with an overwhelming German victory after German forces had conquered Paris, and during the war Germany was united under Prussia's leadership.


The Franco-German war of 1870-71 had many and profound causes. The French and Germans, as well as their governments, mistrusted each other. The North German Chancellor and Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck had lost all confidence in France, after the country in 1866 still supported Austria despite the fact that Napoleon III and Bismarck at a meeting in Biarritz in October 1865 had agreed not to interfere in the dispute over Austria's claim to the Italian region of Veneto. France thus wanted to help provoke a war between Germany and Austria, mainly on the basis of the dispute over the management of Schleswig and Holstein after the Second Schleswig War through the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. In France, Prussia was viewed with distrust and envy. increased power after the Austro-Prussian War, overestimated the aversion to German unity under Prussian rule that prevailed in the states of southern Germany and hoped, often with the help of Austria, to take "revenge for Sadowa". In addition, Otto von Bismarck's promise to complete the collection with "blood and iron", as well as Napoleon III's and his entourage's belief that a glorious war could consolidate the dynasty and stop the growing opposition to the government's domestic policy. The triggering cause, however, was Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen's candidacy for the Spanish throne. The Spanish government offered Leopold the throne. The prince and his family were in doubt, and he gave negative answers twice, in the autumn of 1869 and the winter of 1870. His position was shared by King Wilhelm I of Prussia, who, as head of the House of Hohenzollern, took part in the negotiations. Bismarck was not involved in the negotiations, but followed them with interest, convinced that a connection between Prussia and Spain could keep France in check. Through secret agents, Bismarck managed to get the Spanish government to resume negotiations, and since he had won Crown Prince Fredrik for his cause, Prince Leopold was persuaded in May 1870 to change his decision and accept the offer of the Spanish throne. Before the royal election could take place in Spain, however, the plan became known in Paris. The French government, especially Foreign Minister Antoine Agénor de Gramont, who had hoped to inflict diplomatic defeat on Prussia, demanded in an aggressive tone that the prince's candidacy be formally withdrawn by the government in Berlin. He had his ambassador, Count Vincent Benedetti, visit King William of Bad Ems to get him to make such a statement. The king, who wished to end his life's work in peace, replied evasively that the case did not concern Prussia, but only the prince personally, and hurried on July 13 to give Benedetti a share in the prince's final decision and his blessing of it. The telegram that the king sent Bismarck to inform him of his conversation with Benedetti (Ems depeschen), was published by Bismarck the same evening in the newspapers. It happened in an easily edited form; Bismarck made it look as if the king had a

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