Alternate History

The Balance of Power

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This is the portal page for The Balance of Power. This is a timeline in which the Franco-Prussian War is prevented, and the geopolitical landscape of Europe is changed dramatically.


In 1865, Austria and Prussia were at dispute over the Italian region of Venetia. Austria claimed it, but Prussia refused to let the Austrians control the area. In September of that year, the French Emperor Napoleon III met with Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck. Together, they signed the Biarritz Agreement. It proclaimed French neutrality in case the dispute resulted in war. Napoleon stayed true to the agreement, never allowing Austria to fully claim Venetia.

The dispute eventually boiled over and the Austro-Prussian War erupted in the fall of 1866. The war ended a year later with Prussian victory and Venetia being given to the Kingdom of Italy. Negotiations were held, where Napoleon appeared despite finding out he had a bladder stone. He served as an arbiter in the Peace of Prague, gaining the respect of the Prussian government and showing France was still a major player in European politics. Seeing a potentially great ally in Prussia, French media supported Bismarck's plan for a united Germany. Despite Vincent Bendetti's (French ambassador to Prussia) suggestion that Napoleon request territory (Belgium and Luxembourg) in exchange for their neutrality, Napoleon's views were not to upset the balance of power.

In 1870, the Spanish offered their throne to Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. A distant cousin of the Prussian King Wilhelm I, he originally refused. Otto von Bismarck however convinced Leopold to take the crown. This put France in a two front situation with Prussia. Napoleon, however, rejected the notions of some politicians that Prussia wanted war. He simply let the issue pass.

By this time, many people in France were losing faith in the monarchy. Napoleon, despite preventing disputes and forging a slight alliance with Prussia, was seen as weak on the world stage. His bladder stone, now entering a horrible period, didn't help his image. With communism on the rise in several French cities and a Republican opposition growing stronger, Napoleon was witnessing his power dwindle before him. Though he might have regretted never taking larger action, Napoleon had inadverently prevented a war which changed everything.


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