This OTL tells what happens if France defeats the Germans and take control of Germany and become a world power.
Part 1: The Victorious Empire
The war began over the ascension of a candidate from the Sigmaringen branch of the Hohenzollern royal family to the vacant Spanish throne as Isabella II had abdicated in 1868. This was strongly opposed by France who issued an ultimatum to King Wilhelm I of Prussia to have the candidacy withdrawn, which was done. Aiming to humiliate Prussia, Emperor Napoleon III of France then required Wilhelm to apologize and renounce any possible further Hohenzollern candidature to the Spanish throne. King Wilhelm, surprised at his holiday resort by the French ambassador, denied the French request. Prussia's Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, edited the King's account of his meeting with the French ambassador to make the encounter more heated than it really was. Known as the Ems Dispatch, it was released to the press. It was designed to give the French the impression that King Wilhelm I had insulted the French Count Benedetti, and to give the German people the impression that the Count had insulted the King. It succeeded in both of its aims. Wikipedia
How the French Could have Won
The Franco-Prussian War is a small war that most people know nothing or little about. However, a different outcome would have changed world history forever. The French were defeated by Prussia. Many think of Prussia as the great military power and later the symbol of Wilhelmine Germany. However, in 1870, the French had all odds on their side to achieve victory. The French Army comprised approximately 400,000 regular soldiers, some veterans of previous French campaigns in the Crimean War, Algeria, Second Italian War of Independence, and in Mexico supporting the Second Mexican Empire. The infantry were equipped with the breech-loading Chassepot rifle, one of the most modern mass-produced firearms in the world at the time. With a rubber ring seal and a smaller bullet, the Chassepot had a maximum effective range of some 750 yards (685 meters) with a rapid reload time. The artillery was equipped with rifled, muzzle-loaded Lahitte '4-pounder' (actual weight of shot: 4 kg / 8.4l lb) guns. In addition, the army was equipped with the precursor to the machine-gun — the mitrailleuse, which was mounted on an artillery gun carriage and grouped in batteries in a similar fashion to cannon. On the other side, the Prussian Army was composed not of regulars but reserves. Service was compulsory for all men of military age, thus Prussia and its North and South German allies could mobilize and field some 1.2 million soldiers in time of war, which it did within 18 days of mobilization. The sheer number of soldiers available made mass-encirclement and destruction of enemy formations advantageous. The army was still equipped with the "needle-gun" Dreyse rifle of fame from the Battle of Königgrätz which was by this time showing the age of its 25 year old design. The French had the technological advantage, but the Prussians detained the strategical advantage. The Prussians were led by famous Helmuth von Moltke, as well as the General Staff. The General Staff was unique in Europe because it directed the logistics of the war, as well as the war strategy. The French, however, had an inexperience command and French commanders were not equal to the Prussian commanders. But what if the French had been better commanded? Integrated from Wikipedia
Mac Mahon on the Defensive
The Prussians started in an uneasy position. No south German state had sided with the Prussians and they were left practically alone. As the war started, French Marechal Patrice de MacMahon advised Emperor Napoleon III to hold off attacks on Prussia and wait for Prussia to make the first move- and strike a blow at a Prussian offensive into Alsace. MacMahon's plan was simple. Stay on the defensive along the German border and fortify. The Prussians would expect the French to make the first move and invade the Saar and the Palatinate. MacMahon said the Prussians would assume the French were building up their army and von Moltke would attack Alsace. Of course, von Moltke would be defeated by the French defenses. Napoleon accepted the plan and put MacMahon in charge. But he warned MacMahon that he could afford no mistake. On July 26, 1870, von Moltke's Prussians led a back attack on the French garrison at Saint Dié. Surprisingly the Prussians did not charge head front on the "MacMahon Line". The garrison at Saint Dié was taken by surprise. However, von Moltke made the crucial mistake of sending a raid on the defensive positions south of Strasbourg to create a safe «way out». MacMahon was alerted and a French army surprised Moltke in Saint Dié.
Disaster at Saint Die
Mac Mahon held the upper hand- he had destroyed the Prussian column trying to break the fortifications, and he had surprised von Moltke in Saint Die. Von Moltke tried to save situation in a last ditch charge, but French cavalry broke through the Prussian lines. Trying to avert any further disaster, von Moltke fled under cover of darkness and retreated back to Saarbrucken. MacMahon, instead of alerting von Moltke's attention, he took the other road to Saarbrucken to create a "surprise". As von Moltke crossed the border into the Palatinate, MacMahon's army crossed the border into the Saar. However, von Moltke decided to not head towards Saarbrucken. Instead of getting von Moltke in Saarbrucken, the French got a Prussian division from further west. The Prussians were defeated and MacMahon launched the offensive with Marshal François Achille Bazaine's additional 40,000 men. With Bazaine's men, MacMahon launched a lightning strike throughout the Saar. Von Moltke was alerted and rushed north, meeting the French troops at the small hamlet of Bexbach. Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, eagerly awaiting the chance to destroy MacMahon sent an army, which outnumbered the combined Prussian armies from Wiesbaden who had come to aid von Moltke against the French. The King's re-enforcements arrived as MacMahon defeated von Moltke. However, the professional re-enforcements sent MacMahon in retreat, for a while it seemed the French would suffer a defeat. However, MacMahon, capturing French reserves, returned to surprise the Prussians.
MacMahon's time was running out- he knew the Prussians would soon seize the golden opportunity to pursue the French troops back to France. He needed to get back to surprise von Moltke at Bexbach. He rallied his remaining men, and the remaining 26,000 men of Marshal François Achille Bazaine's corps. The united French army had around 70,000 men, compared to the united Prussian army's 110,000 men. Victory seemed unlikely. However, MacMahon went forward with the plan and the two Marshals marched back on Bexbach. Using numerous artillery pieces and mounted soldiers, the French struck a surprise attack on the sleeping Prussians in the early hours of August 14, 1870. The Prussians were caught by surprise and quickly routed. But in the midst of confusion, firing, shouts, and battle, Marshal François Achille Bazaine was mortally wounded from a sniper's bullet. However, von Moltke used his strategy to save his division from the confusion and escape to the French border. However, a French cavalry division pursued von Moltke. But von Moltke's troops skirmished with the French cavalry and routed them. However, von Moltke let the French escape back- to alert MacMahon of the danger of von Moltke's division nearing the French border.
MacMahon’s divisions continued their march south into the Saar and across the border to France. However, General Karl von Steinmetz had mobilized reserves in Saarbrucken and marched out to meet the French column. The German reservists were no match for the French and MacMahon soundly routed von Steinmetz. However, von Steinmetz knew too well his force would loose, but during that time, the main Prussian corps led by von Moltke marched towards Metz. MacMahon had been distracted from marching back into France by a diversion attack. However, the French lost no time and entered French soil by late August 1870. Napoleon III had sent a fresh division of troops to Metz to meet von Moltke while MacMahon’s column arrived. Von Moltke laid siege to Metz by August 30. However, he was unaware that MacMahon had been alerted and had diverted his path to Metz. On September 5, the French artillery pounded on the German lines around Metz and the cavalry was able to breach the German lines. Meanwhile, the second French division attacked on the west and caused yet another breach in the German line. Von Moltke’s division, however, was able to flee southwards, towards Nancy. The exhausted French pursued the Germans and caught them before Nancy. However, von Moltke was prepared and crushed the French and was able to continue towards Nancy. Conversely, the French garrison in the town defeated von Moltke and held the Germans at bay until re-enforcements arrived.
While von Moltke was defeated in Nancy, a German army led by Prince Friedrich Karl led an incursion into Luxembourg with hopes of joining up with the Prussian army still in Lorraine. However, a French army, led by Jules Trochu, was alerted and led an incursion into Luxembourgish soil from the south. The two armies met at Bonnevoie in south-eastern Luxembourg. The Prince’s army was unready and was routed by French cavalry and infantry. Yet, things did not end there. The Prince tried to retreat back to friendly soil, but was pursued by the French army that forced them north. The armies clashed numerous times during the rest of September and October. By November, the front had stabilized in Luxembourg and northern Germany. The French had halted the German retreat further into German soil at Bitburg and laid siege to the city. Meanwhile, in Lorraine, MacMahon defeated von Moltke battle after battle and pursued the Prussians back into Germany. On December 5, 1870, Emperor Napoleon III met with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck outside Bitburg. The siege was dropped and a cease-fire was obtained. On the 6th, Helmuth von Moltke surrendered to Patrice de MacMahon. The next day, Prussia officially surrendered at Bitburg. France had won against all odds.
Part II: A New Balance of Power
The Treaty of Paris
In February 1871, Prussian and French negotiators arrived in Paris for the signing of the final treaty. Prussia was to cede all German lands west of the Rhine, including the Palatinate. Prussia was required to pay indemnities to France and was subject to French military occupation of north-western Germany, including the Ruhr. Prussia was militarily and politically weakened on the German scene and its new found role as the leader of Germany was destroyed. Prussia had lost its lands located west of the Rhine, and was subject to occupation of the economically vital Ruhr region. The entire country (especially other German kingdoms) was under French control.
Eyes on Belgium
Napoleon III’s imperial ambitions did not end on the banks on the Rhine. They also included Luxembourg and Belgium; formerly territories of his uncle, Napoleon I. Overseas, France had gained footholds in Algeria, Syria, Indochina, and Senegal. In 1872, the French government offered the Belgian government a division of the country between French-speaking areas and Flemish-speaking areas. The Belgian government refused and imperial ambitions were settled. In 1874, following the death of Napoleon III the previous year, the new Emperor, Napoleon IV, set his eyes on Belgium once again. In December of the same year, he positioned the army on the Belgian border and waited to spark an incident. In January 1875, he escaped an “assassination attempt” prompted by so-called “Belgian interests against France”. He ordered retaliatory military action against Belgium. In February, France invaded Belgium. The United Kingdom condemned and considered military action against France. Unwilling to face the Royal Navy, Napoleon IV promptly visited Queen Victoria in London to assure her of France’s “friendliness towards England” and persuaded her to back down. France, however, continued its invasion of Belgium and bombarded Ostend, while French troops marched into Brussels. Unable to resist, Belgium surrendered to France, along with their first and only colony, the Congo. Napoleon IV annexed Belgium and divided it into 9 departments. Luxembourg was later annexed by France.
The United Kingdom still had its doubts. The government worried that this Second Empire would seek the glory and area of Napoleon I’s empire, and thus set their eyes on Britain too. Victoria heard that Napoleon IV soon ordered the army to take over the Netherlands to increase their own power in Europe, along with their colonies including the Caribbean Islands, Suriname, and The Dutch East Indies. Napoleon IV and his Prime Minister, the war hero, Patrice de MacMahon hosted the British monarch in Paris in early 1876. MacMahon assured Victoria that France would “not seek further European conquests”. However, doubts remained. Napoleon IV, unlike Napoleon III, was eager to seek Franco-British rapprochement and made several good will visits to London over the course of his reign.
The Colonial Experience
France already had a sizable chunk of Africa prior to the Second Empire. In 1830, Algiers was occupied, in 1843 and 1844; Guinea and Gabon fell under the French helm. From 1854 to 1865 France acquired Senegal. And in 1874, they had acquired Belgian Congo, thus controlling the Congo region. In the Far East, France annexed Cochin china (the present day countries of Vietnam and Laos) in 1862 and Cambodia in 1863.
The Fashoda Incident
French and British imperialism in Africa were on the verge of clashing. British expansion into the Sudan was halted temporarily after the Mahdi’s revolt, but was to the point of fulfilling the dream of Cecil Rhodes- an empire from Cape to Cairo (this never accomplished to be till 1899). In 1898, a French force of around 150 tirailleurs commanded by Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand set out from Brazzaville to establish a French protectorate in Fashoda. France hoped of an empire from Dakar to the Horn. General Horatio Kitchener, who had just defeat the Mahdi at Omdurman, demanded the immediate retreat of French forces. A diplomatic incident was on the verge of creating a war. In Paris, the ministry of Gaëtan de Rochebouët sought to avert a diplomatic trauma. However, his Foreign Minister, Raymond Poincaré, a conservative and keen imperialist, thought otherwise. And yet, Napoleon IV, whose foreign policy was based around Franco-British rapprochement, was appalled by the incident. By December 1898, the diplomatic battle was at a stalemate. In the Sudan, both sides remained at a standoff before war. However, elections in France were quick approaching and the governing Liberal groups were eager to defeat the imperialist Conservatives once again. Gaëtan de Rochebouët was able to negotiate an amicable solution with Britain while Marchand withdrew his troops. The Liberals won a reduced majority in the 1899 election.
When Germany was weakened and annexed by the Franco-Prussian War, their colonies were in loose control and more likely to fall to any power. The colonies held on to themselves since Germany was wiped off the map. France, who wanted to expand their empire, decided to invade the colonies most likely to be annexed, so they had the invasion of the Cameroons, Togo, Jiaozhou Bay, Chefoo, Namibia, Tanzania, German New Guinea, and German Samoa. During 1898, France led an attack on the most likely colony to be invaded- German Samoa. With a 500,000 member army and 60 naval ships, the German Samoans were outnumbered with less than 100 troops. As a result, they surrendered without a fight. In Togo, the same army marched to the colony's capital, Lome. Germany sent at least 100,000 soldiers there to protect it. The battle outnumbered the Germans with only 100 French deaths and the German deaths of the whole army. Togo surrendered quickly after knowing what happened. France was getting ready for their invasion of German New Guinea, so they led an 700,000 soldiers to Madang to fight a 300,000 German army. Like the last battle, they were outnumbered, with the whole German army wiped out and 1,000 French deaths. France then began to invade Chefoo and Jiozhou Bay, which surrendered without a fight. In 1899, France took over what remained of the Germans.
With Germany defeated and annexed by France, Russia had lost its main rival in Europe, now faced only by feeble Austria-Hungary. However, Russia needed allies in Europe. In 1890, Napoleon IV visited Saint Petersburg. With the accession of Nicholas II to the Russian throne in 1894, France and Russia signed an alliance. Austria-Hungary was alone in Europe without Germany. It tuned to Italy for aid, but Italy was bitter of the Austrian occupation of the Trentino. In 1900, France and Italy concluded a pact. In 1906, France gained the rest of Morocco and Rio de Orio from Spain without any opposition, and gained reassurances from Italy and Russia. In Germany, France was slowly installing their empire into Germany, making France the most powerful nation. France was riding on without much interference in its European politics. In 1905, France and Britain played an important role in the negotiations following the Russo-Japanese conflict, which led to an era of liberalization in Russia.
In 1905, the European countries of Britain, Spain, Russia, France, Italy, and Austria-Hungary took role in the war against Japan. Japan wanted to control the seas. This rivaled Russia, so the two countries got in conflict. Russia needed help in the role so by that year, Britain, France, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Spain joined Russia in the war. As a country in danger because of Japanese invasion, Sun Yat-Sen allied with Europe against Japan. China needed help on improving in their army and navy, so France provided the technology and Western influence China needed to support the country. But because of the country's improvements, all of the European allies were in the war first. In 1906, Russia, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, and Austria-Hungary led 200,000 fleet against Japan's 222,000 fleet, Despite being outnumbered, the Europeans were able to defeat Japan soon. They had set mines around the sea before the battle, killing half of the Japanese fleet. Finally, the Europeans won the first battle. During the battle, Europe needed to raise at least $35 trillion for China with food supplies and Western technology. As a result, $9 trillion came from Britain, $6 trillion from Russia, $5 trillion from Italy, $7 trillion from France, $8 trillion from Spain, and $6 trillion from Austria Hungary. This may be over their goal with a total of $41 trillion, but supplied China with a lot of money. France and Russia helped turned China's old fashion navy and army into a strong, Westernized one like Europe and America, while Britain was responsible for helping out in the industries. this helped China so much that China had the world's most professional and largest navy and army, and was wealthier. Soon, China was able to join the war now, thanks for what they needed. In 1908, China, Britain, Russia, France, Spain, Italy, and Austria-Hungary led a 1 million fleet to Tokyo, while the government set at least 800,000 fleet against them. But they were outnumbered, and Japan finally lost. As a result, the Treaty of Tokyo was formed, and the results after the treaty was:
- China was to regain areas lost from Japan.
- Japan's army and navy were both limited.
- The countries of Europe including China became world powers.
- China had a same GDP as Britain, except it is $6 trillion lower than Britain's.
- Britain was forced to give back its territories in China.
- All of China's trade with Europe and America was controlled by the country itself.
- Japan lost southern Sakhalin to Russia.