Posts Tagged ‘July 13th’

Manipulating the Media: 1870

Posted in General on June 5th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

By 1870 France and Prussia were eager to fight. Prussia wanted to exploit a common enemy to weld the German states into one Reich. France intended to humiliate the expansionist upstart. Any excuse would have sufficed for a war. Was Hegel or Voltaire better in bed? Who you calling Allemagne? Is Leopold von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen a suitable name for a Spanish King?

In fact, it was Leopold who inadvertently started the war. By popular demand, Isabella II had fled Spain in 1868, and the Spanish were looking for a new monarch. Leopold, from an underachieving and Catholic branch of the Hohenzollern dynasty, could have used the steady work. France, however, vehemently objected to the idea of a Prussian on the Spanish throne, fearing the threat of goose-stepping Sancho Panzas yodeling Wagner from the Pyrenees. (Actually, the French Bourbons had ruled Spain for more than 150 years without making the Spanish sarcastic or adulterous.)

However, being an underachiever, Leopold withdrew his candidacy. (His more energetic brother eventually got a job as King of Rumania.) But the French wouldn’t take “Ja” for an answer. They wanted the personal guarantee of the King of Prussia that no member of his family would assume the throne of Spain. The King was spending his summer at the resort of Ems; so the French ambassador intruded on the King’s vacation and accosted the old junker with France’s complaints and qualms. The King certainly was affronted and he was not prepared–without Bismarck–to improvise foreign policy. He refused to make any commitment to France.

The King then telegraphed Bismarck a summary of this dismaying encounter; and the diabolical chancellor realized that he now had the perfect excuse for war. The French ambassador had insulted the King of Prussia, and the King of Prussia had insulted the ambassador of France. To exacerbate national outrage, Bismarck edited the telegram to make the affronts even more offensive and then released the doctored dispatch to the newspapers.

France declared war and finally had the chance to teach Prussia a lesson: how to humiliate France and be a vindictive victor.