Ems telegram

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Franco-Prussian War

William I (1797—1888)

Otto von Bismarck (1815—1898) Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, Prussian minister and German statesman, Chancellor of the German Empire 1871–90


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(13 July 1870)

A dispatch from the Prussian king William I to his chancellor, Bismarck, that precipitated the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. A relative of the Prussian king, Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, had accepted an offer to the Spanish throne. This alarmed the French, who feared Prussian influence south of the Pyrenees. Leopold withdrew his claim a few days later, but the French ambassador approached William at the German spa town of Ems, asking for an assurance that Leopold's candidacy would never be renewed. The king refused, politely but firmly, and he sent his chancellor a telegram to the effect that the crisis had passed. Bismarck, intent on provoking war with France, published a shortened version which turned the refusal into an insult. French public opinion was outraged and Napoleon III declared the Franco-Prussian War, whose consequences were to include the downfall of the French Second Empire and the creation of the German Second empire.

Subjects: World History.

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