This week on Glory and Defeat: the Germans are closer than ever to having their empire, and Spain gets an Italian king. https://youtu.be/Y8Wie2dFdCA
Last week, the French defeated the Germans at Coulmiers, but were unable to follow up their tactical victory with a strategic success. This week, the Germans take a step towards a united empire, Paris suffers on, and the Spanish problem is solved. Sort of.
In the third week of November 1870, negotiations between the North German Confederation and the southern German states about a joint empire enter their seventh week. The southerners all accept there will be a united empire but with different degrees of enthusiasm. The Grand Duchy of Baden has wanted to join for years and is unreservedly in favor of union with the Northerners, since it wants permanent protection from neighboring France and its own revolutionaries. The Grand Duchy of Hesse is split – part of belongs to the North German Confederation and part does not. Hessian Prime Minister Reinhard von Dalwigk prefers a Greater German union including Austria, but Hessians in the northern part of the Grand Duchy oppose the Austrian option.
In any case, the Baden Prime Minister Julius Jolly wrote to his wife with a satisfied view of Baden and Hesse: "(...) the Hessians must endure and sign quite contre Cœur. On the whole, however, the matter seems to me to lie well, and it lies well for us in any case." (Deuerlein, 208)
In the Kingdom of Württemberg, the ruling elite also favors union with both the northerners and Austria – partly because relations with France had been good before the war. King Karl I and his wife Queen Olga even shed tears when the French ambassador departed at the outbreak of hostilities. Despite the royal couple’s francophilia, the kingdom’s national-liberal “German Party” and educated opinion cause the cabinet to send a delegation to negotiate terms of unification with the north.
The Kingdom of Bavaria is by far the most hesitant about pan-German unity. King Ludwig II wants to keep Bavaria independent but agrees to participate in negotiations anyway.
Bismarck’s diplomatic efforts weaken Bavarian resistance in October, and once Baden and Hesse submit applications to join the union, the pressure on Bavaria and Württemberg increases even further. This week, on November 15, 1870, Baden and Hesse formally join with the North German Confederation, which changes its name to the German Confederation. They adopt a modified version of the old North German Constitution, though their parliaments still have to ratifiy the deal.
Baden Prime Minister Jolly writes to his wife on the occasion: "I had thought the moment in which this goal was achieved, which I had striven for years to bring about with so much effort, would be more brilliant than it actually was (...) I always had only one wish in my mind, I wanted it to be over. And when, after three hours of tiring discussing all sorts of side issues, we finally got to Bismarck for his signature, he too complained of indisposition: his gall bladder was ruined, and so every nuisance hit him in the stomach." (Deuerlein, 216)
Baden and Hesse are in, but Bavaria and Württemberg are still playing coy. As for Bismarck, he is actually sick, but he also fakes being sick as a negotiating tactic. He is also stressed about international questions, as he explains on November 16 in a letter to his wife Johanna:
"The air is again so thick with attempts at mediation and dealings among the neutral powers that play into ours, and so many princely fantasies about Germany haunt the headquarters that I cannot part with His Majesty, as hard as it becomes for me to deny myself a break from my treadmill work." (N.N., 60)
The German Confederation now includes Baden and Hesse, while Bismarck stresses in the comfort of Versailles. Just a stone’s throw away, the soldiers and civilians in and around Paris are suffering far worse.
The Germans troops besieging Paris since September 19 are feeling the strain of war. They are frustrated that the war is still going on, since they thought it was won two months ago, but the French are still fighting. They’ve marched for days in the rain, fought numerous battles, and don’t have adequate rations – sometimes they go without food for 48 hours at a time.
Albert Böhme of the Braunschweig Infanterie Regiment No. 92 writes to his wife Friederike on November 16. She is supposed to send new boots to a relative, but Albert desperately wants them for himself – and he’s awfully homesick:
"I wrote to Ernst that you could not give him the boots now, I had none and would have to have others when God grants that I come back (...) if only the time would come when I could see you again and take you in my arms, if only this misery would have an end. wen doch dies Ehlend erst mal ein ende hätte." . (Schikorsky, 109)
The troops are cold, hungry, frustrated, and desensitized to violence, including the hardships they are inflicting on the population. The Germans help themselves to the bread, geese or wine of local peasants with complete impunity. The initial respect for private property and compensating civilians is a thing of the past by November. This low point in relations between the German military and French civilians in the combat zone is made worse by the issue of irregular French franc-tireurs.
Prussian Major von Kretschman bitterly writes of the violence to his wife Jenn on November 19:
"Yesterday the Franc-tireurs intercepted a dragoon officer whose horse they had shot. We got the mayor and six notable inhabitants for it; and the town has to pay a tribute of 10 francs per resident. What is the use? The inhabitants are mostly innocent in this. I have no mercy with the society. A peasant who shoots at a soldier is a murderer and, if only for the sake of deterrence, must himself be cruelly punished." (Braun, 218)
For civilians trapped inside Paris, the danger of famine continues to grow. Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm notes this week that intercepted letters reveal the increasing food shortage. One letter that makes it through is from 83-year-old Adélaïde de Montgolfier, who writes to her friend Louise Swanton-Belloc in England. The wealthy Montgolfiers have stocked up on food but are beginning to feel the squeeze:
"I learned with joy that one can extract from horses an excellent oil which is a wonderful replacement for butter [which] is 10 francs a pound […] Yesterday’s macaroni without butter, milk, or cheese, and badly cooked […] did not amuse me. Today the kitchen has been saved, tomorrow the country will be. " (Lowndes 128) In another letter she adds that she’s heard donkey meat is even tastier than veal.
De Montgolfier also complains about the constant thunder of the guns , as does writer Edmond de Goncourt. He distracts himself by trying to identify the different French artillery positions by ear:
"Les canons ont chacun leur son, leur timbre, leur résonnement. The cannons each have their own sound, their own timbre, their own resonance, their own rumbling, shrill, crisp, or shattering boom. I was able to recognize with certainty the cannon of Mont-Valérien, of Issy, of the cannonière of the Pont-du-Jour, [and] of the Mortemart battery." (Goncourt, 131)
As Germans French suffer in and around Paris, the problem of Spanish succession that helped start the war is solved – for now.
The Spanish throne has been vacant since a coup against Queen Isabella II back in 1868. After the controversy of Prince Leopold’s Hohenzollern candidacy helped spark the war in July 1870, Spanish Prime Minister Juan Prim y Prats looks to the second son of Italian King Victor Emmanuel II, Amadeus of Savoy. Amadeus was a Lieutenant General and had been badly wounded fighting the Austrians at Custoza in 1866. This week, on November 16, 1870, the Spanish parliament elects him as the country’s new king. The reign of Amadeus I however was tumultuous and short. He faces uprisings from Carlists who plunged the country into civil war, and he survives an assassination attempt. Given these insurmountable domestic problems, and never really having established himself as king, Amadeus abdicates on February 10,1873.
One of his 1890 obituaries takes a positive view of his decision: "As a laudable example of a regent who threw away the crown rather than consolidate it by breaking his word and shedding blood, he will live on in history." (Neue Presse 2)
Spain then becomes a republic, which sees four presidents and a dictator in less than two years. Finally, on December 30, 1874 Queen Isabella’s son is crowned King Alfonso XII. The succession dispute that had set off the Franco-Prussian War ends with the Bourbon royal house returning to Madrid, where it remains today.
This week Baden and Hesse join the German Confederation, German troops and the siege of Paris makes both soldiers and civilians miserable, and Amadeus I becomes the hapless king of Spain. Even an unhappy Spanish king, however, does not put an end to the war and the fighting continues next week.