Alternate History

Chapter 3: The Hohenzollerns' War (The Legacy of the Glorious)

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Part I: Casus Belli

As the Spanish government expected, the proclamation of Prince Leopold zu Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen as the new King of Spain provoked many different reactions among the main nations of Europe.

Italy and Portugal welcomed the news with great relief. Both countries had been sounded out by Spain, and they hoped now that, with this announcement, Prim would stop pressuring them to get a member of their dynasties to accept the crown, in spite of the Portuguese Iberist supporters (one of which was the Duke of Saldanha, Portugal's Prime Minister) and of Vittorio Emanuele II's ambition to place his son Amedeo in the Spanish throne. They also hoped for Spain to become politically stable once more, as well as an improvement in their bilateral relations with Spain and its new King: the Portuguese Royal Family was related to Leopold's family twice over (besides Leopold's marriage to the current Portuguese king's sister, late Pedro V had married one of Leopold's younger sisters) and the Prussian Hohenzollerns had recently helped the Italians to gain the Veneto in the Seven Weeks War from an Imperial Austria that opposed the German and Italian unifications.

In London, William Gladstone's government also saw this new development as a good thing. The stabilization of the Spanish democracy meant that now Spain could become a prosperous, liberal and capitalist nation that might become a great trade partner for the United Kingdom. It also was a way to reduce France's influence in Spain, which was too great since Louis Philippe I imposed the marriage of his son Antoine to Isabel II's sister.

Great support also came from the Balcanic nations that had recently rebelled against the Ottoman yoke, like Romania, where Leopold's brother reigned as Carol I. Meanwhile, the Scandinavian monarchies took these news as acceptable, although Denmark would have probably preferred that it were someone other than a Hohenzollern, after being defeated by Prussia and Austria during the Second Schleswig War of 1864.

This was not to happen everywhere in Europe: the absolutist regimes of Russia and Austria-Hungary were worried about the replacement of Queen Isabel II with a constitutional monarchy of democratic features led by a Hohenzollern, as they were more sympathetic to the Carlist rebels. The presence of a Hohenzollern especially worried Emperor Franz Joseph I, because the Austrian defeat in the Seven Weeks War had meant the loss of main German nation to Prussia.

There was little surprise, however, in that the greatest opposition in Europe came from the Second French Empire. Napoleon III felt the greatest indignation when the news reached the Tuileries Palace, because he had not been told about this through diplomatic means, nor had he been told about it by his ambassadors in Berlin or Madrid. No, he had read it in the press!

The French government was also surprised by the news: they had suspected that Spain might have made negotiations with several German princes, but they would have never guessed that the chosen one would have turned out to be one of the Prussian Hohenzollerns who were challenging France's predominance in Europe.

Once his angry rant had subsided, and he was able to think rationally, Napoleon III realized that this was even worse than what it looked like: if Leopold was crowned in the Royal Palace of Madrid, France would be surrounded by the Hohenzollerns, and his government would probably choose to declare war on Prussia to end the latter's continuous provocations, in spite of his personal opposition to a war that might destabilize his consolidation of the constitutional monarchy appeared after the recent referendum of May 8th. Thus, it was clear that France had to act now, in order to prevent worse things to happen.

Mercier de L'Ostende knew this as well, and when he received a telegram from Paris, ordering him to do anything in his hands to force the Spaniards to change their minds, he went to protest before President Prim, but Prim, perfectly knowing what the ambassador wanted to talk (or shout) about, he categorically refused to meet with him. L'Ostende would have to content himself with meeting with Home Affairs Minister Sagasta, who, although received him in conciliatory tones, finally lost any sympathy for him in a meeting that lasted a few minutes and whose minutes were never found. The version of the events held by historians as the most credible was, once more, that of the Spaniard in the meeting, Sagasta, who wrote about it in his memories:

That day had started calmly enough. I had started it with reviewing several documents related to the actions of the police, who had arrested a few gentlemen that had protested in a violent manner about our choice of King. I knew this would have happened, independently of who was chosen as the new King: at least, it had not brought outright riots.

I then picked some messages sent from Seville, speaking about the state of prisons in the region and requesting money to rebuild them to a better degree. I decided to write to Laureano about this when the door opened violently.

I raised my eyes, and saw Monsieur L'Ostende, the French ambassador, entering the office without asking for permission and really furious. Behind him ran Adolfo, my secretary, who seemed to be a bit dazed and was apologizing for not being able to advert me of L'Ostende's presence. I stood up and invited L'Ostende to take a seat, while I took Adolfo outside and told him that he had nothing to fear, since it was not his fault that L'Ostende was so angry, and to take some time off to calm down.

After closing the door, I returned to my seat and faced the ambassador. Despite his obvious anger, I did not step back, and instead tried to calm him down.

What is it that brings you here, Monsieur Ambassador? It must be a very important matter for you to come here without even asking for a meeting,” I asked him as diplomatically as I could.

Would you explain me what the hell this means, Sagasta?” L'Ostende asked angrily, dropping a newspaper over the table and hitting it with the palm of his hand. It was La Gaceta de Madrid, an issue from two days before, that proclaimed Leopold zu Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen as the new King of Spain under the name of Leopold I.

I would say that the article is quite clear. Spain has spoken through its representatives, and has made its choice about who it want as its King.”

France will not tolerate this insult! We will never allow a Prussian to sit in the Throne of Spain!”

It was clear that nothing was going to stop L'Ostende in his attempt to do things his way, or rather, the way of Napoleon. However, he did not count on the fact that, this time, we would not step back.

Monsieur, please, calm down, while I tell you the reasons why France has nothing to fear. In the first place, even if you dislike our king, at least he is not Montpensier, which I am quite sure His Imperial Majesty would have been horrified with. Our Constitution only gives the King a symbolic power, which I doubt he will be able to use to declare war on France, which Spain still regards as an ally. Finally, if I am not mistaken, His Imperial Majesty and our King are distant relatives through Joachim Murat, so, please, tell your government there is no need to get overexcited.”

Believe me when I tell you that His Imperial Majesty would rather see that buffoon of Montpensier as your pathetic King before any Prussian in the world, whether he is kin or not!”

I am a patient man, but even I have my limits. And L'Ostende, with his arrogant attitude, had consumed most of my patience.

Monsieur L'Ostende, you, your government and His Imperial Majesty may believe that Spain is France's playground, to do or undo at your wish, but that time is over. Spain has chosen its King, and we will not tolerate any more interferences in such an important affair. Please, leave, and advice your government to take things calmly before they reach the point of no return.”

If L'Ostende was angry before, now he seemed incensed. I have to say that, for a few seconds, I feared for my life.

I have been allowed to tell you that, if Spain continues on this stubborn path and does not reject the Prussian, it will suffer the serious consequences of not following France's suggestions.”

At the moment, I thought that France had not only gone past the point of no return, but that it did not plan to find the way to go back. However, some time later I would learn that they were already planning to cut off the candidacy from its origin, but, fortunately, in the end it was not successful. Either way, I had to show L'Ostende that, in this matter, we cared not about their opinion and 'suggestions'.

Let me tell you a bit about our common story. In 1808, the Emperor's uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, thought the same as you, and invaded Spain to force us his brother Joseph as our King. Four years later, Joseph was out of Spain, Napoleon's empire was shattered, and his soldiers had already retreated from Spain and Russia. History tends to repeat itself, Monsieur Ambassador, so I can tell you without any problem that, if His Imperial Majesty orders an invasion of Spain, it will end up with his empire shattered, Napoleon III exiled to Cochinchina, and the Bonapartes finished forever. Now, please, leave this office.”

Without a word of goodbye, L'Ostende stood up and left. Independently of what the future brought to Spain, it was clear that the meeting, for good or bad, was the end of the friendship between Spain and France.

Right after the meeting, L'Ostende sent a telegram with a slightly edited summary of his meeting with Sagasta to Paris. There, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Duke Antoine de Gramont, took the telegram with him to an extraordinary meeting of the Corps Législatif, the lower chamber of the Napoleonic Parliament, and claimed that the interests and the honor of the great French nation were in danger if something was not done soon to prevent what they regarded as an insult to France. The day after, the main newspapers of the Gaulish nation showed in their first pages a message from the French government:

We, the Government of France, wish to state our repulse and worry over the fact that the Prussian prince Leopold zu Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen has been proclaimed King of Spain by its government this past July 6th. We stand with the brave Spanish people, our allies, against those foreign dynasties that wish to meddle in Spain for their own benefit and upset the European political balance, and will do everything in our hand so that a proper king is crowned in Madrid.

Of course, when other nations pointed out the hypocrisy of that statement, since France was doing exactly what they were accusing Prussia of, the French government paid no attention to them, only to the many people that were claiming on mass demonstrations for a war against Bismarck and Prim, for their “audacity” in not following the suggestions of the leading European nation.

The French position, apart from sparking the reappearance of the Republicans, who had remained quiet after the voting and were now demanding that all votes in favor of Leopold were declared null and that the second most popular option, the formation of a Federal Republic, was accepted and applied as soon as possible, it only helped to reinforce General Prim's resolve to bring Leopold to Spain. Prim, a fervent Spanish nationalist, had wanted to eliminate all foreign interference in Spain, especially the French influence, so one of the factors that had become part of the search for a King was that the candidate was one disliked by Napoleon III (the only exception to that was Fernando de Coburgo). His anti-French stance was influenced by many factors, among them Prim's personal experience: the general had led the Spanish expedition to Mexico, in collaboration with France and the United Kingdom, to force the Aztec nation to pay its debts. However, the French had taken advantage of the situation to attempt to place Maximilian of Habsburg as the Mexican Emperor, a move Prim never supported, getting his troops out of Mexico as soon as all debts to Spain were paid (a choice, undoubtedly, also influenced by Francisca Agüero, his Mexican-born wife, who had important contacts in the Republic of Mexico).

Thus, on a secret session of the Spanish courts celebrated on July 9th, Prim's government announced that a general mobilization would be decreed, in order to help prepare the defenses of the Spanish nation in the case that France declared war, bringing out the continuous French insults towards Spain as a way to rile them up and bring them to his position.

In Prussia, the French demands sparked the reemergence of Leopold's and King William's doubts about putting the former in the Spanish throne, since they were not very willing to go to war over it. Leopold even thought about the possibility of immediately renouncing to the Spanish throne in order to prevent a war with France. However, he was prevented from doing by Chancellor Bismarck. The Chancellor knew that Leopold's accession to the throne would mean taking a faithful ally from the vain French, and Bismarck intended to use this to needle the French into declaring war and eventually give the definite impulse to German unification, the last step in a road that started in 1864 after the victory in the Second Schleswig War, and continued with the Seven Weeks War of 1866, that had allowed the formation of the Northern German Federation in replacement of the German Confederation.

However, the southern Catholic states (Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden and Hesse) still distrusted Protestant Prussia and did not want to join the NGF, although they felt free from the Austrian imperialism that had dominated them since the Vienna Congress.

Bismarck needed France to be the aggressor in a potential Franco-Prussian War because he had signed secret defensive pacts with the four southern German states, and only a French attack would get the Catholic states to help. Besides, he also expected that their inhabitants, on whom the memories of the Napoleonic hordes' brutalities were still heavily weighing, would trigger a wave of popular Pan-Germanic euphoria after a victory in such a war, and the people would push for integration in Bismarck's project for German unification, independently of the individual rulers' feelings.

The French reaction had been the one Bismarck expected, which he was glad for. When it became clear that the Spanish government would not follow the request to drop Leopold and choose a more acceptable candidate, Gramont decided that the best way to end such claims was at its origin, Prussia. While the different Bourbon branches pressured the French government (the most vocal being Isabel II and Carlos María de Borbón) to intervene in their favor and place their own candidate in the Spanish throne, Gramont ordered the French Ambassador in Berlin, Count Vincent Benedetti, to speak with King Wilhelm I and get verbal and written guarantees that he would vet Leopold's candidacy to the Spanish throne and would never allow it, since, as King of Prussia, he had to give his permission for any of his subjects to accept foreign commitments.

With this objective in mind, the French diplomat left for Bad Ems' spa, where the Prussian Royal Family was resting for the summer. On July 12th, the count met with Wilhelm I, told him that the only way to avoid war with France was for Leopold to renounce to the Spanish crown, and urged him to speak with his relative and convince him to change his opinion. Three days later, Prince Karl Anton told the Ambassador that his son, although he would have liked to become a good king for the Spanish people, he renounced the Spanish crown if that was the only way to avoid war. When they received the news, Bismarck and Count Rascón felt upset, but after speaking in a meeting on the 16th, they decided to wait for France's reaction and the eventual official answer by Wilhelm I before informing the Spanish government of the events, because there was yet a possibility of saving the candidacy. By awaiting, they struck gold.

The Prussian concessions, although they may have been enough in the past, now were insufficient for the French, who felt inflamed with the idea of a war with the upstart Prussians and had felt that the latter backing down was a let down. The more hawkish and anti-liberal elements of the Imperial government (led by Gramont and the Consort Empress, who were trying to raise the Emperor's falling popularity) decided that this was not enough and decided to push the Prussians even further, so on July 16th they ordered Benedetti to ask for a written confirmation, with Wilhelm I's Royal Seal on it, that the Prussian candidacy would be dropped and never be taken up again. In case this was not enough, the French Minister of War, Marshal Edmond LeBoeuf, ordered a general mobilization of the French Imperial Army, for their deployment if there was war with Prussia.

The next day, July 17th, the French ambassador, who had remained in the city of Bad Ems, met again with Wilhelm I and presented him the request from the government, but the old King answered that he had nothing else to say to the ambassador, as everything had been done already, and politely ended the meeting. That afternoon, Wilhelm I sent, through his diplomatic advisor Heinrich Abeken, a telegram retelling the encounter with Count Benedetti, to Chancellor Bismarck, who was in Berlin. The telegram arrived that night to the Berliner Wilhelmstrasse Palast, where Bismarck was dining with General Helmuth von Moltke.

As soon as he read the telegram, Bismarck shrewdly saw it as the thing that could finally provoke the French into declaring war, so he took his quill and wrote a communication in regards to the telegram. He did not transcribe it entirely, though: he condensed the telegram's text into a few words. Only then did he send it so that it could be published on the newspapers.

On July 18th, the main Prussian newspapers showed in their first pages the communication sent by Bismarck:

After the news of the renunciation of the Prince von Hohenzollern had been communicated to the Imperial French government, the French Ambassador in Ems made a further demand on His Majesty the King that he should authorize him to telegraph to Paris that His Majesty the King undertook for all time never again to give his assent should the Hohenzollerns once more take up their candidature. His Majesty the King thereupon refused to receive the Ambassador again and had the latter informed by the Adjutant of the day that His Majesty had no further communication to make to the Ambassador.

The actual text, as sent by Abeken, was far longer, and contained things that would have changed everything if they had become known, but Bismarck had seen the chance and taken it by the horns: this telegram, which would be known by posterity as the Ems telegram, turned what had been a polite meeting between Wilhelm I and Count Benedetti into an arrogant order of the French ambassador and a blunt royal answer before the ambassador's offensive manners.

His genial maneuver had the rewards Bismarck anticipated: in Prussia, people were angry at the arrogance the French were displaying when treating with their emergent nation, and thus did not bat an eye when the Prussian order of mobilization was given on July 19th, while the French went volcanic. Upon receiving the news about the communication, Napoleon III, incensed, gave a blunt ultimatum to the Prussian government in which he demanded immediate apologies from the Prussian King and Government for the falsities stated in the telegram, and the conformation that a Prussian would not be allowed to be candidate to the Spanish crown, ever: the alternative was war, a war the French expected to win.

Other news also appeared in Spanish newspapers, mostly because their transcendence would only affect these people: the Carlist pretender, Carlos María de Borbón y Austria-Este, had managed to meet with Duke Gramont and had asked him to support an invasion of Spain in order to re-establish the absolutist monarchy around his person, which he promised would always be a faithful ally of France. In the end, however, Napoleon III decided to show his support for Alfonso, son of Isabel II (who had, just recently, renounced to her dynastic rights in her son's favor), both because of the great friendship between Empress Eugénie and the exiled queen (so great it was, they were already planning to join their families by marrying Napoleon Eugéne, the French heir, with one of Isabel II's daughters) and the personal and political affinities Napoleon had with young Alfonso. These two political moves, although they could have worked in other circumstances, instead caused far-reaching consequences that neither the Carlist pretender nor Alfonso could have guessed.

Of course, both the Prussian and the Spanish government rejected the French ultimatum: the Prussians were not going to stand down against what was described by Prussian newspapers as the second round of the Napoleonic invasions, while Spain was also encouraging the people by both keeping legitimizing Leopold's appointment as the King (since they had not been officially notified of Leopold's renounce to the throne, which Prim had classed as pure French lies) and reminding everyone of the heroic deeds of Generals Castaños and Reding, of the Battle of Bailén, of Agustina de Aragón and the Sieges of Zaragoza, of the Siege of Cádiz and of the guerrilleros who had made the French invaders' lives an absolute hell, all to remind the people that the French could be beaten and would be beaten once more.

The French government, thinking that this was the end of the rope, issued, on July 20th 1870, a declaration of war against the Kingdoms of Prussia and Spain, with the objectives of teaching the Prussians a lesson on war, annexing the Rhineland and re-establish the Bourbon monarchy in Spain.

Part II: The War Preparations

Prussia's Reaction

Prussia's initial reaction, which was equal to Chancellor Bismarck's, was joy: the war with France would finally allow Prussia to show its political and military superiority over France, who would be put into its true place, and at the same time they would be gaining a faithful ally in Spain. This was formalized when, on July 21st, all Europe woke up to an official note, sent by the Prussian government, in which Prince Leopold definitely accepted the Crown of Spain and Wilhelm I showed his support. The note added that Leopold would travel to his new country as soon as the danger for both himself and his family ended, a danger cause by the French's cocky and defying attitude as the meddled in Spain's internal affairs. Of course, the note and the attitude displayed on it did nothing but anger the French even more, which suited Bismarck just fine.

The Prussian Armed Forces could already count on the support of the Catholic German states, which had declared war against France on the 21st, and they also had two unique elements that gave them certain advantages over the French: their recruiting system was based on universal military service, which meant a great number of potential soldiers, and the existence of a branch of the army called General Staff, which so far did not exist in other armed forces and which was exclusively dedicated to administration, logistics and planning. It was something that gave them a great advantage, as the Prussians would be better able to plan a fast and organized mobilization of the great number of troops that would be required for the war against France.

Thanks to their preparations, the Prussians had 1,200,000 soldiers ready for battle eighteen days after the mobilization order was given. Due to their numerical superiority, the Prussian higher echelons of the Army, led by General Moltke, made plans that would allow them to make use of the extensive German railway network and, at the same time, force the French into traps. In the first place, they would let the French troops enter in Germany (raising, at the same time, the Southern German nations' fear of French imperialism, which also played into Bismarck's plans) and then launch massive enveloping movements that would allow them to surround and destroy the enemy formations. These maneuvers would be facilitated by the Dreyse needle gun, which was the main infantry rifle used by the Prussian troops and which had played a decisive role in the Prussian victory in the Battle of Königgrätz in the Seven Weeks War, and the famed Krupp six-pound cannon, the Prussian artillery's most distinguished weapon due to its lethal power and its average 4,500 meters of range.

With these strategies in hand, their main objective would be to, first, destroy all French troops that invaded German territory, and then enter into France, where a series of debilitating victories would allow them to reach, besiege and conquer Paris, with which they hoped to force the surrender of French authorities and their acceptance of German terms.

France's Reaction

The mood in France was a bit double-sided: on one side, they were finally going to hand Prussia the defeat they deserved, and reinforce France as the great power of Continental Europe, but, on the other side, it would be a war with two fronts very far away from each other. However, all worries were brushed away in the wave of nationalism and that hit the nation, especially after certain memorandums of the French Imperial Forces stated that defeating Spain, Prussia and its German allies in a two front war was, not only possible, but almost certain.

However, soon France realized that they were completely alone, due to Napoleon III's diplomatic mistakes: Belgium and Luxembourg had made it clear to them that they would send their armies to fight the Germans nor let the French pass through, as the memory of Napoleon's willingness to annex them both was still fresh; Portugal and Italy had stated their unwillingness to fight against Spain (which both nations wished to have better relationships with) and Prussia (which had helped Italy very recently), and Italy added the French support for the Pope as another reason not to help; Denmark had learned its lesson from 1864; Russia was too far away to act fast enough in this war; and the United Kingdom had reminded them that their actions were very much against the Quadruple Alliance of 1834, by which United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal would agree to work together to maintain stability in the Iberian Peninsula, and thus considered France would now have to sleep in the bed they had made.

In the end, the only ally Napoleon III could find was Austria-Hungary, and their support was conditioned to the support of the German Catholic states for France, something made impossible after the former declaration of war against the latter, and Austria-Hungary stated their neutrality on July 22nd. Ironically, Austria's declining prevented the entrance of the Russian Empire in the war... on the Prussian side: a secret pact between Prussia and Russia stated that both nations would be automatically allied to each other if Austria-Hungary were to ally with France at any moment.

The French Imperial Army was a professional army, formed by about 500,000 soldiers, most of which were battle-hardened veterans from the many wars France had been part of, or started, in the last decades: the Crimean War, the colonization of Algeria, the Second Italian War of Independence or the French Intervention in Mexico, among others. The number of soldiers could be at least doubled when adding the forces of the National Guard, a reserve corps created in 1866 during the military reorganization started after the end of the Seven Weeks War. There was also the French Foreign Legion, which could be counted on to protect the colonies, as well as helping to defend Metropolitan France if there was risk of invasion of the metropolis.

Two technical inventions that had been recently introduced in the French Armed Forces were heavily weighing in the French generals' conviction that victory would fall on their side: the Chassepot rifle, a single-shot breech-loading rifle with the highest power, accuracy and penetration amongst the existent rifles at that time; and the Reffye and Bollée mitrailleuses, static weapons that were able to shoot 100 rounds per minute at 2000 yards.

The French strategy was simple: in the German front, they would invade the Rhineland, take Saarbrücken and then advance to smash the German forces before they managed to group together and use their numerical superiority as an advantage, while the Spanish front would consist of following the path the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis had taken in 1823 to restore Fernando VII's absolutist monarchy, entering Spain through the passes of La Junquera and Fuenterrabía and advancing in three corps, one along the northern coast, the second towards the south of Spain and the third along the Mediterranean coast.

Spain's Reaction

Spanish society saw, astonished, how the election of their new king had suddenly turned into an international crisis and a declaration of war by France. At first, the people of Spain had wanted to avoid war against their northern neighbors, whom they still held (although that feeling had diminished very fast) as their allies. However, when the news that Napoleon III intended to impose 12-year-old Alfonso, Isabel II's son, as the King of Spain, the Spanish exploded in a never seen wave of French-hating popular nationalism, an explosion that many would later compare to the one that sparked the Dos de Mayo and started the Spanish Independence War. General Prim's government, which had decreed high levels of conscription to face the Napoleonic menace for the second time in a century, did nothing to prevent this: instead, they did as much as possible to fan the flames as high as possible, reminding the people of the innumerable French affronts to the Motherland, like their support for the hated Bourbons, their constant interventions in Spain and their blocking Spanish attempts to recover its rightful place in the world, like their pressure to force Spain to sign the Wad-Ras Treaty to establish peace with Morocco, a peace that gave Spain much less than what it deserved after the smashing victories its armies had gained (Prim conveniently “forgot” that the greatest pressure had come from the United Kingdom, not France).

Unfortunately, the war was but the last in a series of events that were preventing Prim from implementing his plan for the elimination of the unfair recruitment system of quintas (by which one out of every five men had to serve in the army, but that could be avoided by paying a certain price, which only the high-class families were able to pay) and replace it with a professional army similar to the one used by the United Kingdom and France. However, the ugly situation of the Spanish treasury and the revolts and rebellions had forced Prim to maintain conscription. The disproportionate number of officers in the army (a trend started after the First Carlist War, when the Vergara Embrace allowed the Carlist officers that accepted Isabella II to join the Royal Army with the same rank they held in the Carlist Army) and the lack of experience in foreign conflicts (save for a few honorable exceptions, such as the African War, the brief re-annexation of Santo Domingo and the First Pacific War) had weighed down on the Armed Forces and prevented their modernization. This was fortunately compensated by the construction of a powerful navy (the fourth in the world) and the use of the Berdan Rifle (a weapon between the Dreyse needle gun and the Chassepot in terms of quality) since 1867 as the Army's regulated weapon.

These, however, did not mean the Spanish Army should be underestimated: the hard situation, with limited economic and material resources, was balanced with how, with a little motivation, the Spanish soldiers became fearsome fighters, something that the French learned themselves during the Peninsular War.

All sides thought that Spain's role and military strategy would be only defensive, using their limited forces to prevent the entrance of French troops into Spanish territory, as they awaited for the development of events in the French-German frontline. However, things would be a bit different than what everybody expected.

Part III: Deployment

The French Plans

The French initial plans were quite ambitious, and had much promise and potential, if they managed to reach their objectives. An army formed by 350,000 soldiers would be deployed between Metz and Strasbourg and personally led by Napoleon III himself, although he would be assisted in the task of directing the army by Marshals Patrice de MacMahon and François Bazaine. Meanwhile, 150,000 soldiers would be deployed near the Pyrenées, with half of each assembled before the two only border crossings that could be used by large numbers of people at the same time: one of them would be deployed in Bayonne (western Pyrenees) and cross into the Vascongadas through Fuenterrabía, and would be led by Marshal François Certain-Canrobert, while the second army, led by General Louis Jules Trochu, would be deployed in Perpignan and enter Catalonia through La Junquera. All armies were also awaiting for the complete mobilization of the National Guard, which would allow them to increase their numbers.

The French mobilization was chaotic: the order of mobilization was just four days old when the declaration of war had been given, and the troops were still scattered throughout the nation, so there was a rush of movement of troops across France as they attempted to assemble the required troops in both fronts, which was doubly done in the case of Germany, as every day the attack against them was delayed was a day that they had to prepare themselves for battle. The rushing, however, contributed even more to the chaos, as many troops would arrive to their destinations without the required equipment (there were some soldiers who had not even been given their uniforms) while other soldiers remained in the different train stations due to delays.

Another important factor in the French deployment was that most officers had served in Algeria. This influenced much in the command method, because the army in Algeria had suffered constant ambushes. The French armies would thus establish lines of defensive fortresses between Metz and Strasbourg (especially to keep the control over the Lorraine region's coal deposits, which were important for the industries and the Navy) while the same was done in the cities near the Pyrenees border crossings. In this task, they were helped by some Spanish military officers that had been exiled with Isabel II, such as the Marquis of Novaliches (the defeated general in the Battle of Alcolea) and the Marquis of La Habana (who had replaced González Bravo as head of government in the few days between his resignation following La Gloriosa and Serrano's arrival to Madrid).

The French Navy (or the part of it that was still anchored near France, as many were protecting the French fishermen near Newfoundland) would be tasked with blocking the North German coast, as the small Norddeutsche Bundesmarine could do little to oppose it, as well as protecting the French coast from the Spanish Navy. Further plans for the future, such as the potential bombardment of Spanish ports like Barcelona, Bilbao, La Coruña, Cartagena or Cádiz, or a seaborne invasion of Germany, were also developed, but many felt they would not been necessary.

The Prussian Ploys

Only General Helmuth von Moltke would have guessed that, eighteen days after Kronprinz Friedrich Wilhelm read the mobilization order to the crowd gathered in Postdam on July 19th, there would be already 1,200,000 soldiers ready to battle, and 475,000 of them already deployed on the border. The monumental task of arranging such mobilization without problems had been up to the collaboration between the General Staff Communication Department and a civilian-military committee, which worked together to secure the railways in war times. The high number of soldiers and supplies being moved around meant several problems of transport for the Germans, but thanks to the efforts of the GSCD, the committee and General Moltke's own concern about the matter meant that these problems never became as serious as the ones suffered by the French.

The German forces would be separated in three great armies, led by General Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz, Prince Frederick Charles and the Kronprinz. These armies would travel together and start to disperse after 300 km, to then be separated as they met different mountain ranges. The troop disposition would allow the Germans to lead the French into their own territory, and then use their advantageous positions to cut them off from France, surround them and finally destroy them. The resulting victory would then allow for a counterinvasion of France, which would give them the chance to strike further into enemy territory.

The Spanish Daring

Around the same time the German troops were being deployed near the border with France, the 200,000 soldiers Prim had managed to mobilize were already near the two border crossings. General Prim himself, after temporarily delegating the Presidency of the Government to Minister Sagasta, took command of the troops that would defend the La Junquera crossing, while he was covered from the coast by a squadron led by Admiral Topete, who, despite his previous support for the Duke of Montpensier, volunteered to defend his nation and his new King.

The border crossing of Fuenterrabía would, meanwhile, be protected by troops led by Regent Francisco Serrano and placed in the Vascongadas. Their main maritime support would be the squadron led by Admiral Luis Hernández-Pinzón. There would also be another group that had decided to throw its hat in the defense of Spain: several groups of Carlists requetés. The news that Carlos VII, the man they regarded as the legitimate king, had supported the invasion of Spain and asked Napoleon III to support him to re-establish the Ancien Régime in Spain, had divided Carlism in twine. The majority compared Carlos VII's actions with the humiliating Bayonne Abdications, which had seen Carlos IV and Fernando VII abdicate in the person of Napoleon Bonaparte, and decided to side with the legitimate government they had tried to topple just several months ago, and one of Carlism greatest leaders, veteran General Ramón Cabrera, publicly declared from London “We prefer to serve the foreigner loyal to Spain before the traitor and afrancesado [1] Spaniard [2],” a sentence that gained him some popularity in Spain.

Other important factor would be the Spanish Royal Navy, which had just acquired several armored frigates and was in great shape: its main missions, besides supporting the troops' defense of Spain, would be to protect Spanish waters and attack the most important French naval bases, like Brest, Marseilles, Toulon, Oran or Algiers.

[1] The afrancesados were the Spaniards and Portuguese that supported the French invasion of Iberia and the appointment of Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain in 1808, hoping that he would lead Spain away from the Enlightened absolutism of the Bourbons. The defeat of the Napoleonic troops in the Peninsular War led to the exile of most of them and the persecution of anyone that was suspected of collaboration with the French (even those that were offered the choice but rejected it), persecution that lasted for many years after the end of the war. Amongst them were famed painter Francisco Goya and dramatist Leandro Fernández de Moratín.

[2] Ironically, Carlos de Borbón was no more Spanish than Leopold: he had been born in Ljubljana, which is in RL Slovenia, and had never put a foot on Spain despite his claims to the crown.

Part IV: The War

The war between France and the German-Spanish alliance started properly on August 8th. Under a hot sun proper of the time, the French armies crossed the Rhine and entered German territory, occupying the city of Saarbrücken after a short battle where victory fell on the French side, thanks to the superiority of the Chassepot rifle and the city's isolation from the rest of Germany. This rose the French morale, and there were soon boasts that, in two months, Berlin would be taken and Prussia would be humiliated. However, the French sung victory too soon: Moltke's preparations had placed the three armies in excellent positions, and after two hard-gained victories in Wissembourg (August 10th) and Spicheren (August 12th) Germany was devoid of French soldiers. Soon, German soldiers would cross the border with France.

In the south, things went better for the French, although not as well as they expected: they had counted on repeating their walk across Spain from 1823, but the reality was that, this time, the Spanish soldiers would not surrender so easily, and very soon the French found themselves involved in a series of bloody battles in which Prim's and Serrano's armies did their best to prevent a large-scale invasion of Spain. Serrano was forced to retreat towards Vitoria after his defeat in the Battle of Fuenterrabía (August 9th-12th), opening the way of the French towards San Sebastián, but Prim would manage to stop the Gauls, first in La Junquera (August 9th) and a day later in Figueras. Trochu was forced to retreat back into Perpignan. Canrobert entered San Sebastián on the 14th, and sent his troops to take the cities of Bilbao, Vitoria and Pamplona. Their advance was turned very difficult, however, due to the Carlist requetés, which constantly attacked them in a recalling of the guerrilla tactics employed in the Spanish Independence War.

August 18th would be nicknamed in the future “The Day of Balance”, as three battles happened simultaneously and the results were balanced between the two opposing sides: the Kronprinz's German army managed to smash Marshal MacMahon's army in the Battle of Wörth; the invasion of France launched by Prim ended in the First Battle of Perpignan against Trochu, with a stalemate, and a hurried attack by Serrano on Canrobert ended with the Spaniard's defeat and another withdrawal towards Vitoria.

Serrano would soon find himself besieged by the French troops while in Vitoria. He managed to escape towards the south, so that he could gather a new army, and the city was taken five days after the siege started. Two days before the Fall of Vitoria, Prim had been defeated in Ceret, and was forced to retreat back into Spanish territory.

The French conquest of San Sebastián allowed Prince Alfonso to return to Spanish lands, reversing the path he had taken with his mother and sisters nearly two years before, and arrived to the city. There, the so-called Manifiesto de La Concha [1] was published: the Manifiesto proclaimed Alfonso as King Alfonso XII of Spain and the restoration of the Bourbons, “against the upstart foreigners that confuse popular sovereignty with the Spanish historical sovereignty, declaring themselves the saviors of the Motherland, when they can only fill it with blood, pain and tears, because of their affronts against the true holders of the Crown of the Catholic Monarchs.”

Alfonso and the supporters that had come with him had expected that the Manifiesto would help them gain legitimate support, both from the politicians and the general population. However, although he had gained support from people like Alejandro Pidal y Mon, leader of the Moderate Party, and even the Duke of Montpensier (who was already planning the possibility of marrying one of his daughters to the young pretender [2]), the Manifiesto caused the rejection of most of the Spanish population, including those who had been before his most faithful followers, because they, like the Carlists, had been reminded of the Bayonne Abdications. Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, leader of the group that would be later be known as the Patriot Alfonsines, famously declared “I will never be a new Godoy!” [3], a sentence that would become part of Spain's history.

Meanwhile, Serrano's defeats in the north stirred the Republican minority again against the government provisionally led by Sagasta. Led by Pi y Margall and Estanislao Figueras, they claimed that the war was a great mistake and that Spain had no actual reason to participate in the French-Prussian conflict. This minority became angrier when a squadron led by Admiral Pierre-Gustave Roze with the frigate Guérriere at its head managed to avoid Topete's squadron and attacked Barcelona, the base of the Federal Republican movement, for several hours. This made the Republicans believe that the Leopoldine monarchy was finished before it even started, and tried to start a coup with the help of General Juan Contreras, the only free high-ranked officer that supported them (as all other Republican officers had been imprisoned after the Republican revolt of 1869). Thankfully, Sagasta and Zorrilla acted very fast, as did Eugenio de Gaminde and Lorenzo Milans del Bosch [4], General Captains of Catalonia and Castile, and the revolt was easily put down and its leaders were imprisoned until the trial, which would not happen until the end of the war.

For the French, August 22nd would become the start of the end: in a battle held near the town of Mars-La-Tour, Bazaine's army was soundly defeated by the troops of Prussian Generals Voigts-Rhetz and Alvensleben, and was forced to withdraw towards Metz. Two days later, a second defeat was handed to Bazaine, this time in Gravelotte, where German numerical superiority proved better than French individual weaponry superiority.

The situation was becoming very grave for the French government, as so far the Germans had beaten back the initial attack and started a successful invasion of France, while Spain, despite the defeats in the north and the proclamation of Alfonso, were resisting like corralled animals. A choice had to be made, before no choice could actually be made. Since the northern Spanish front seemed to be the most successful one so far, and the German advance threatened Paris, Canrobert was ordered to stop his advance and consolidate his gains, while sending several troops to the eastern frontline.

This choice gave new wings to Spain: Serrano managed to gather a new army of 100,000 soldiers and attacked the French positions around the city of Vitoria, which was freed on August 26th. Prim had invaded France once more, and on the 27th he won the Second Battle of Perpignan, city that, after two centuries under French control, finally returned to Spanish hands. A series of victories in the last days of August and first days of September allowed Serrano to keep pushing the French until they could only hold San Sebastián and a narrow corridor until Fuenterrabía. On September 3rd, Prim defeated Trochu near the city of Carcassonne, and Serrano freed San Sebastián. Finally, on September 7th, Spain became free once again from French soldiers, after the Battle of Irún ended in French defeat. Alfonso XII had been evacuated days before to France, before the Spanish army could get a hold of him.

The situation was clearly worsening for France. Napoleon III decided that the only way to counter the string of defeats was to fight a great battle, in which they would be able to smash the Prussian armies and raise the falling French morale, after which they would be able to free all occupied territory. The Emperor decided to take personal command of the troops, assisted by Marshal MacMahon. The main army withdrew towards Sedan, where recruits from the National Guard and other reserves joined them. Napoleon III expected to win a fast victory over the Germans, and then march towards Metz, where they would defeat the force besieging the city, which was garrisoned by Marshal Bazaine's army.

This situation, however, played right into recently ascended Marshal Moltke's plans. Taking several troops from the army besieging Metz, and two other armies, he moved the troops in a pincer movement until the city of Sedan fell into a siege, isolating the troops therein from the rest of France, and continuing the siege of Metz.

By the time the French realized that they had fallen in the German trap, it was too late: the pincer had already turned into a circle, and now they were completely surrounded. The only way to save the Emperor and the highest possible number of troops was to attempt an attack on the weakest point of the German positions and withdraw towards the west. Some officers, though, contradicted that order, adding chaos to the situation that started when the German artillery started to bombard the French positions.

A few hours later, the Emperor, seeing the tragic situation his men were in, decided on a new, desperate course of action. He ordered General Charles Denis Bourbaki, commander of the Imperial Guard, to save Napoleon Eugéne, his 14-year-old son and heir, who had been accompanying him and bring him to Paris, while he personally led a cavalry charge against the German troops to distract them. In the future, the Emperor's actions led to many debates about his actual intentions, whether he intended to attack in order to give Bourbaki time to save the prince and later escape himself, or if he actually just planned to fight to death in an attempt to restore his stained honor. Either way, the only certain thing was that Napoleon III, Emperor of France, died in that charge at the last hours of September 7th 1870.

The next day, when he saw himself completely surrounded by the German enemy, without any possibility of escape, when he was told that his emperor and commander-in-chief was dead, and that Sedan would certainly fall unless external help arrived soon, which was believed impossible, Marshal MacMahon took the hard choice and surrendered his troops and himself to Marshal Moltke and the Prussian King, Wilhelm I, who had come to the frontline accompanied by Chancellor Bismarck.

[1] El Manifiesto de La Concha (La Concha Manifest) was called this way both because Alfonso XII's proclamation was done in the San Sebastian's La Concha Beach and because it was the Marquis of La Habana, General José Gutiérrez de la Concha, who proclaimed him King of Spain.

[2] RL Alfonso XII's first wife was María de las Mercedes de Orléans, the Duke of Montpensier's seventh daughter out of the ten children he had, and who died on 1878 without issue. His second wife was Mary Christine of Austria, with whom he would have three children, the latter being his only son, born several months after his father died and who would reign as Alfonso XIII.

[3] Manuel Godoy was Spain's Prime Minister in 1792-1797 and 1801-1808 (it is said he gained the position because he was Queen Maria Luisa's (Carlos IV's wife) lover) and who became infamous because of his dealings with Republican and Napoleonic France, particularly the Treaty of Fontainebleu, that stated that Portugal would be divided in three, with the southern part being given to Godoy. The invasion of Portugal that resulted from this was the start of the Peninsular War.

[4] Ironically, he is the grandfather of Jaime Milans del Bosch, one of the 23-F coup d'état leaders, which tried to finish the Spanish democratic system that had surged after Franco's death. By the way, these news just in: Generalissimo Franco is still dead.

Part V: End and Consequences

The death of Napoleon III would spell the end of France, although many tried to push that death sentence back as much as possible, and perhaps even reemerge from their own ashes like the phoenix of the legends. The Imperial Parliament rushed to crown young Napoleon Eugéne as Emperor Napoleon IV of France, while his mother, distraught Dowager Empress Eugénie de Montijo, was named Regent, and a Republican coup led by Leon Gambetta was aborted. The next action made by Parliament was to send emissaries to the German and Spanish armies, asking for a ceasefire and a start of peace negotiations, which was granted. Although they started quite promisingly, the negotiations soon turned bitter as the French refused to pay the excessive compensations demanded by the allies. Negotiations broke, and the Empress felt forced to continue the war, hoping that they might be able to gain several victories that could give France a stronger position in the negotiation table.

Unfortunately for France, Bazaine's army surrendered on October 30th in Metz, and the Spanish won several victories in Pau, Auch, Montgiscard and Muret, and laid siege to Toulouse. Paris itself would end up being under siege soon after Bazaine's surrender.

The naval front was another complete disaster, their only victory being the attack on Barcelona launched by Admiral Roze's squadron. Even though the Imperiale Marine was bigger than the Spanish Royal Navy and the Norddeutschen Bundesmarine put together, the coal they required to sail out of the docks could not arrive to them, and thus they had to stay put. The Spanish Royal Navy was thus able to bombard the cities of Marseilles and Oran without any punishment. The latter would be the scenario of one of Spain's most daring and risky maneuvers, when the Spanish Marine Infantry executed a landing on September 20th, possible thanks to Rear Admiral Claudio Alvargonzález Sánchez's (known as the Hero of Abtao due to his actions during the First Pacific War) ability in directing his ships. The beachhead gained with this landing allowed a whole army led by General Manuel Pavía y Rodríguez de Alburquerque [1], who bravely fought and won against the feared troops of the French Foreign Legion, a victory that allowed him to take the city of Oran.

Diplomatically, things were taking a turn for the worse: the United Kingdom was pressuring them to make peace as soon as possible, most of the world was telling them that it was their own hubris that had brought them their just desserts, and the number of nations that supported them was dwindling. Among the latter was the Papal States: when the Imperial Government called the French garrison in Rome to help defend France, the Kingdom of Italy took the chance that was being served to them on a silver platter and took the last fragments of the Papal States, including Rome, on September 24th,, finally unifying the whole Italian Peninsula under the same flag for the first time since the times of Eastern Emperor Justinian. It also gave birth to a curious situation, as the Pope refused to leave the Vatican Palace and did not recognize the rule of the Kingdom of Italy over Rome, despite Italian offers, so he remained “Prisoner in the Vatican”, which would not be solved until many years later.

Rome was not enough, though: the French support for the Pope had soured previous friendly relationships, and now many Italian cities had great demonstrations, demanding that the government acted to recover what had been Italian land in the past: the regions of Savoy and Nice, which had been given to France in 1860 after referendums were held in both cities, and the island of Corsica, Napoleon Bonaparte's birthplace, which had been sold by Genoa to France some time before Napoleon himself was born.

The Imperial government, which had left for Nantes shortly before the German Army surrounded Paris, knew now that their time was ending, and ordered that the peace negotiations were restarted before it was too late to save what had yet to be lost. On November 2nd, as the Spanish troops entered Toulous and the Germans reached the English Channel, the Dowager Empress decided to accept the conditions before Italy allied with Prussia and Spain.

On November 7th, the initial armistice between France and the German-Spanish alliance was signed, and ratified on November 15th at Versailles. The French representatives there witnessed astonished how King Wilhelm I of Prussia, who had attended the ratification with the apparent desire of being witness to it, was crowned as the first Kaiser of the Second German Reich, which brought even further to them the humiliation they had suffered. The definite peace treaty was signed on December 24th 1870 in Frankfurt (which would lead to it being nicknamed Le Charbon du Pére Noel, “Santa Claus' coal”, by the French people) and stipulated these conditions:

  • France recognizes being the only responsible nation for the war that ends with this peace treaty.

  • France recognizes Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen as legitimate King of Spain.

  • France recognizes the foundation of the German Reich, with William I of Prussia as the new German Kaiser under the name of William I of Germany.

  • France recognizes the following territorial changes.

    • The regions of Alsace (save for the Belfort territory) and Lorraine become part of the sovereign territory of the German Reich.

    • The departments of Eastern Pyrenees (Rousillon) and of Oran (Oranesado) [2] become part of the sovereign territory of Spain.

  • The people residing in the regions whose sovereignty has changed will have until January 1st 1873 to decide whether they wish to keep their French nationality and leave for France or remain in the region and become German or Spanish citizens, in accordance to the region. Children will have the same nationality as their parents.

  • A suitable frame for the withdrawal of German and Spanish troops from certain zones will be established.

  • The Empress Dowager of France, in the name of her son Napoleon IV, transfers his dynastic rights over the Princedom of Andorra to Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and his heirs.

  • France will compensate, in respect of war damages to both the German Reich and Spain, a quantity of 5,500 millions of francs to each country, along a period of time not longer than 15 years.

  • Military occupation of certain zones of France by German and Spanish forces will be kept until the payments are satisfied. Costs are to be paid by the occupied country, without attributing those to the demanded compensation.

  • The use of navigable channels in connection to European regions lost by France is regularized.

  • Trade between France on one side and the German Empire and Spain on the other side is regularized.

  • The return of prisoners of war is regularized.

The end of the war did not bring the start of peace to Europe. The definite establishment of the Hohenzollern monarchy in Spain, as well as the creation of the Second German Reich, and the territorial changes that ensued from the Treaty of Frankfurt, brought the people the confirmation that everything had changed.

The defeat caused multiple disturbs in France. Napoleon IV never had the chance to replace his mother as de facto governor of France: on February 1st 1871, a bloody revolt exploded, led by the Republicans who had been awaiting for the chance to topple the Second French Empire and pinned the blame of all of France's recent disasters on the Imperial Government. Napoleon IV and his mother managed to evacuate for London before they were caught by the rebels, who soon declared the end of the Second French Empire and the start of the Third French Republic. Notable Republican Adolphe Thiers became the President of the National Council with the support of Generals Trochu and Louis Faidherbe, and the task was soon started in the development of a new constitution for the new Republic.

This would, stir up the Parisian rebels, who had established a workers' government within the besieged Paris after the government left. This government, which would be known as the Paris Commune, demanded that armed fight was restarted against the Germans and Spaniards to revert the defeats suffered in the war and recover the regions lost in the Treaty of Frankfurt.

All of this sparked the immediate mobilization of the German and Spanish armies that were still within France. To stop the possibility of war continuing, the National Council declared that the Republic accepted the Treaty of Frankfurt and ordered the Commune's dissolution, an order that was rejected as the Commune accused the Council of selling the Motherland to the enemies. In the end, the National Council had to humiliate itself once more and ask for the help of German cannons, which on June 1st managed to take Paris and dissolve the Commune, while the French government managed to establish itself again in the city.

Napoleon IV and the Dowager Empress would soon be joined in London by the one who, for a few days, had been Alfonso XII, King of Spain, and his mother and sisters. There, they would live and wait for the chance of returning to their homelands, perhaps as new kings or emperors. Duke Gramont did not have the same luck as them, for he was captured while he tried to escape Nantes and was sentenced to death by the Republic for his role in the diplomatic crisis that had ended in the defeat against Prussians and Spaniards: the war that had started as an attempt to prevent a Hohenzollern from being crowned in Madrid had ended with another Hohenzollern crowned as German Emperor in the Versailles Palace itself.

Vittorio Emanuele II and republican revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi [3] felt disappointed that they had not been able to retake Savoy, Nice and Corsica from the French, something that Garibaldi felt especially affected by, as he was from Nice. However, they could, at least, console themselves with the unification of Italy and the naming of Rome as the new capital of the Kingdom of Italy.

Meanwhile, Spain was living in a completely patriotic jubilation after the victory in the war against the French (who had been, a priori, better prepared than the Spanish troops, although the fact that French had fought in two fronts at the same time weighed in that), which had established international recognition of Leopold as their new King, and he brought under his arm the regions of Rousillon and Oranesado, which had been lost two centuries ago in the Peace of the Pyrenees and sold to the Ottoman Empire several decades before, respectively. The victory dispelled any doubts the people may have about Leopold, producing a great wave of optimism that ancient General Espartero would compare to the celebrations that followed the arrival of Fernando VII after the Spanish Independence War.

It was five months after being elected by the Spanish Courts, but, finally, on December 9th, Leopold, his family and the Spanish delegation that had traveled to Reichenhall (Bavaria) the past July to notify him of his election, and which had been stuck there due to the war, arrived to Cartagena after taking the armored frigate Numancia (which had led the attack on Marseilles) in Genoa: this route had been chosen by Leopold, who did not want to risk crossing the English Channel in case a rogue French admiral decided to drastically end with the cause of the war. When he arrived to Cartagena, he was received by General Prim and several other members of the Spanish government.

The crowd that had reunited in Cartagena's main square listened ecstatic how Leopold gave a speech in slightly accented Spanish (which he had learned before the war and had taken the time between his acceptance of the throne and his arrival to practice with the Spanish delegation, although his Germanic accent would never leave him) in which he praised Spain's great past and the great future that now awaited the nation, as well as solemnly remembering the Spanish war heroes and also led a praying for the souls of the fallen. President Prim later gave another speech, establishing the similarities between Leopold and Carlos I of Spain, emphasizing that Leopold's arrival would be the start of a new era for Spain, just like Carlos I's arrival had been on his time.

Three days later, Leopold arrived to Madrid, where he was received in front of the Puerta de Alcalá by Regent Francisco Serrano and an aroused crowd that was excited about the King's arrival. The King and Prim gave speeches similar to those that had been given in Cartagena, and Serrano similarly welcomed the King in a great speech that was several times interrupted by applause. Leopold and his companions then took a carriage that would take them to the Courts' Palace.

On the way there, a group of intransigent Republicans led by Andalusian José Paul y Angulo attempted to attack the carriage where the King was riding, with the clear intention of killing both him and perhaps the men that had campaigned for his coronation. However, their strange actions attracted the attention of several agents of the Public Vigilance Corps, and they were able to arrest the would-be kingslayers several minutes before the royal procession passed by. These agents would be later personally decorated by the King for their bravery.

Finally, on December 12th 1870, Leopold swore the Constitution of Spain in the Courts' Palace, and Manuel Zorrilla, President of the Courts, declared “From this moment thereon, Leopold zu Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen is, officially and formally, to be known as Leopoldo I, King of Spain,” to a thunderous applause among the Deputies, Senators and other people that had been allowed to enter. Thus started the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty in the Spanish throne.

[1] Not to be confused with Manuel Pavía y Lacy, Marquis of Novaliches.

[2] Rousillon had been part of Spain until the Pyrenees Peace of 1659, and the African city of Oran (capital of the Oranesado) had been property of Spain since 1509 until Charles IV decided to sell the strategical city to the Ottoman Empire in 1797.

[3] In OTL, the Second French Empire was toppled during the war, and Garibaldi changed from supporting the Prussians to supporting the Third French Republic. Here, the Empire falls a month after the end of the war, and so Garibaldi does not feel the need to support the nation that stole his birthplace.

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