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Previous: Choose Your Own Alternate History! Redux
The Second French Empire! A revival of what was once the most powerful state in Europe! None could stand against it! Its Emperor ruled over a massive state with a powerful army. In early 1870, you could have been forgiven for believing that the Second French Empire would never fall. True, the Prussians had united the North of Germany- but the Catholic south still fiercely resisted, and without them, Prussia could not touch the French.
So when the Prussians sent a slightly rude telegram to the French Emperor- while it was certainly not a proper casus belli- the French Emperor, Napoleon III, was certainly not afraid of following his people's wishes and declaring war, expecting a short, sharp war, which would teach the Prussians where they got off, being rude to an emperor. His generals insisted that the army was ready "down to the last Galiot".
There was just one problem. The French never had any Galiots, the generals were lying, and the Prussians were led by the most intelligent political leader since Machiavelli himself- Otto von Bismarck.
One year later, the war was over. The French Empire had been dismantled by the Prussian forces ruthlessly. The Emperor himself was a prisoner of war, and the French had declared Republic. His son would later die fighting the Zulu for the British in South Africa. The French had been humiliated and had lost the territory of Alsace-Lorraine, right on the border with Germany. The events of the war would lead to the devastating World Wars of the following century, as the alliances formed after this war would last until that one.
But what if Napoleon had listened to saner heads? What if he realized that a single telegram was not worth hundreds of thousands dead?
What if he turned the other cheek?
Then the Germans would not have united. The South and the North would have unified against each other, and not long after Bismarck's failure and subsequent decline, would no doubt go to war.
It is now 1884, and war has broken out between the Bavarian-led South and the Prussian-led North.
What will the surrounding nations do?