Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

England and the Franco-Prussian War

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • England and the Franco-Prussian War

    I've recently read a few articles and a book by J. Wawro on the war between France and Prussia in 1870-1871 and I've yet to find out what England's stance was during this war. With England's traditional aversion to seeing one power becoming too strong on the continent, why did she let Prussia take Alsace-Lorraine and then unify all the German states into one cohesieve whole? Didn't this go against what England usually stood for? Wasn't England, at the time, a supporter of Napoleon III? Was it a case of really not being able to intervene or did England not see the power that Prussia was becoming until it was too late?
    Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

  • #2
    My memory is a bit scratchy on this, so don't quote me.

    I think Napoleon III's France was probably perceived as the greater threat compared to Prussia in 1870. I think everybody did, including the French themselves. Then Prussia went and surprised everybody by soundly beating the French.

    While German unification might seem the obvious trend for us now, it might not have been so obvious then, and it might also not have been obvious that the Germans would ultimately end up constituting a threat to the balance of power on continental Europe.

    And Prussia (and then Germany) under Bismarck was reasonably moderate, striking a balance between diplomacy and influence. It was only with the passing of Bismarck from the political scene that Germany became increasingly militant and aggressive.

    Comment


    • #3
      Well up to the 1870's Britain saw France as the bigger threat, where i live, Portsmouth was during the 1860's heavily fortified with the Portsdown and Gosport forts and the sea forts at Spithead (the so called Palmerston follies) to defend against France, and before that the French built La Gloire an ironclad battleship, so we built HMS warrior to counter, which rendered La Gloire obsolete.
      But in the end Napoleon III spent his exile in England, dying there in 1873, a strange fact to come out of this is that his son entered the British army, saw service in Africa and was killed in action fighting the Zulu's in 1879.
      Last edited by Post Captain; 07 Sep 07, 04:33.
      Never Fear the Event

      Admiral Lord Nelson

      Comment


      • #4
        Why England remained neutral

        Nice question and good answers IMO so far.

        Here are my bullets why England remained neutral in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870:

        1/ Lack of motive: Many in England (as UK was called then) believed that
        a/ the Balance of Power actually was strengthened instead of weakened by the rise of a solid Germany in Central Europe where before there had been a patchwork of unstable states.
        b/ a unified Germany would act as a restraint on threats to the British Empire from France and Russia.
        c/ Chancellor Bismarck was seen as a high-handed but controlled and responsible statesman, unlike the volatile French Emperor Napoleon III. NB: Germany had not the bad press yet it got later after Bismarck's dismissal and culminating in the WWs. Germany was in 1870 a land of thinkers and poets.

        2/ Lack of means to intervene. Even if Whitehall had wanted to:
        How could British forces have intervened in such a Continental European affair?
        a/ the army was small and spread out over the Empire, which safeguard was deemed much more important than what was happening on the Continent.
        b/ Intervention of the Royal Navy in this 'inland' affair would have been even more ineffective.

        3/ Lack of successful recent precedents to intervene:
        a/ the Crimean War 15 years earlier had been a disappointment.
        b/ the US Civil War had been economically wasteful for England.
        c/ there had been no popular support for intervention in the recent Danish-Prussian War and Austro-Prussian War

        4/ Lack of interest:
        While English neutrality in this war was hotly debated in Parliament and press, domestic issues like parliamentary Reform, Ireland and the Empire were deemed far more interesting and important.
        Last edited by Colonel Sennef; 07 Sep 07, 16:46.
        BoRG

        You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

        Comment


        • #5
          I think you hit the nail on the head especially on point 1b. Britain was still wary of the French, the Napoleonic wars were still fresh in their minds, and the Crimean war was a very recent occurrence against Russia.
          Last edited by Post Captain; 08 Sep 07, 06:17.
          Never Fear the Event

          Admiral Lord Nelson

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by mike brown View Post
            Well up to the 1870's Britain saw France as the bigger threat, where i live, Portsmouth was during the 1860's heavily fortified with the Portsdown and Gosport forts and the sea forts at Spithead (the so called Palmerston follies) to defend against France, and before that the French built La Gloire an ironclad battleship, so we built HMS warrior to counter, which rendered La Gloire obsolete.
            But in the end Napoleon III spent his exile in England, dying there in 1873, a strange fact to come out of this is that his son entered the British army, saw service in Africa and was killed in action fighting the Zulu's in 1879.
            No, the British and the French developed a very close relationship during the 1850's, that prettymuch never ended (culminating in an French offer of annexation to the British Crown in the 1940).

            While Britain remained officially neutral, the Channel Fleet deployed to protect the French northern seaboard, allowing the French fleet to venture east to blockade the German states. The British 1st Corps de Armee deployed to Antwerp to defend Belgian neutrality, and secure an entry point if it was decided to dispatch an expeditionary force to assist the French.

            The French were defeated so quickly, that the British never really had an option of intervening though.
            "[T]he worst that could be said of the Peninsula campaign was that thus far it had not been successful. To make it a failure was reserved for the agency of General Halleck." -Emory Upton

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by 67th Tigers View Post
              While Britain remained officially neutral, the Channel Fleet deployed to protect the French northern seaboard, allowing the French fleet to venture east to blockade the German states. The British 1st Corps de Armee deployed to Antwerp to defend Belgian neutrality, and secure an entry point if it was decided to dispatch an expeditionary force to assist the French.

              The French were defeated so quickly, that the British never really had an option of intervening though.
              67th Tigers, this is a piece of history of the war in 1870 I'm completely unfamiliar with! Could you please elaborate?
              Last edited by Colonel Sennef; 08 Sep 07, 08:20.
              BoRG

              You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

              Comment


              • #8
                I was always led to believe that the extensive fortifying starting in the 1850's was because of fear of French invasion, when the Portsdown forts were constructed in the 1860's we were told it was to stop the French bombarding the dockyard from the north, unless of course it was just a general fear of invasion from any other nation.
                Never Fear the Event

                Admiral Lord Nelson

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by mike brown View Post
                  I was always led to believe that the extensive fortifying starting in the 1850's was because of fear of French invasion, when the Portsdown forts were constructed in the 1860's we were told it was to stop the French bombarding the dockyard from the north, unless of course it was just a general fear of invasion from any other nation.
                  Ah, Portsmouth, God's own city.

                  Aye, it less a fear than a possibility. In 1858, the French achieved naval parity with the RN, and the 1859 Royal Commission concluded that it was possible for the first time since 1805 for a European power to land an army on our shores.
                  "[T]he worst that could be said of the Peninsula campaign was that thus far it had not been successful. To make it a failure was reserved for the agency of General Halleck." -Emory Upton

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by 67th Tigers View Post
                    In 1858, the French achieved naval parity with the RN.
                    67th Tigers, I keep learning new things. I never realised that the 'Two Power Standard' (Royal Navy to be bigger than the next two navies combined) could already be scuttled as early as 1858. Are you completely sure of your sources?
                    BoRG

                    You may not be interested in War, but War is interested in You - Leon Trotski, June 1919.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by captainsennef View Post
                      67th Tigers, I keep learning new things. I never realised that the 'Two Power Standard' (Royal Navy to be bigger than the next two navies combined) could already be scuttled as early as 1858. Are you completely sure of your sources?
                      Aye: http://www.amazon.com/Battleships-Tr.../dp/0870210904

                      Essentially, if we look at the lists for 1st Jan 1858

                      Britain: 36 Steam Battleships
                      France: 30 Steam Battleships

                      The British were just starting to pull ahead again, but a couple of years earlier the French had an advantage.

                      This state of affair occured because there was a naval race between France and Britain from 1848-1853 when the RN battlefleet became largely obsolete when France built L'Napoleon. A similar race occurs a decade later with the early ironclads. For much of the late 19th century the RN isn't that far ahead in number over France, although the 3rd placed navy (Russia) is ridiculously far behind these two.
                      "[T]he worst that could be said of the Peninsula campaign was that thus far it had not been successful. To make it a failure was reserved for the agency of General Halleck." -Emory Upton

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've always thought it was a case of Britain's hope that Germany might keep the attention of France & Russia focused inward upon Europe... not outwardly in any sort of significantly meddlesome manner against British nautical interests & those of Empire...

                        An interesting question...

                        On the Plains of Hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to rest-and resting... died. Adlai E. Stevenson

                        ACG History Today

                        BoRG

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks for the answers, guys!

                          Summing up then, it would be the speed of the French defeat and inaccessability of intervening on France's behalf that kept England from doing anything. And thanks for the Crimean War reference, I had forgotten that France and England had worked together on that problem.

                          Another question in the same war: What did England do or say about the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by Germany? Did anyone in England realize the trouble this would cause and did any member of the government protest to Imperial Germany about it?

                          Sorry, that's more than one question.
                          Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by captainsennef View Post
                            67th Tigers, I keep learning new things. I never realised that the 'Two Power Standard' (Royal Navy to be bigger than the next two navies combined) could already be scuttled as early as 1858. Are you completely sure of your sources?
                            It's important to remember that the Two-Power standard is only formulated officially in 1889 as a response to the 1884 Pall Mall Gazette naval scare: previously, measures of superiority had been formulated with reference primarily to France.

                            As for the Franco-Prussian war, the fact is often overlooked that for the British, the future is not Wilhelm II: it's his father Frederick III. Frederick is liberally educated and married to a British princess. By 1871, he's clashed with his father and Bismarck over his belief in a liberal policy and has been excluded from the business of state. Had it not been for a misdiagnosis of his cancer, which delayed treatment until it was too late, he would have held the throne for more than the 99 days he did. Instead of supporting the French, Britain's closest ally in Europe could have been a liberal, relatively democratic, unified Germany. That is, until Wilhelm II comes to the throne and wrecks the whole thing...
                            Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Indeed, throughout the 1860's/70's the British treasury only authorised a matching of French new construction, although generally the British responses were far more powerful ships, and the RN by hook and crook managed to acquire several extra ships.

                              I recently came across the standard British Corps organisation during the 1860's (which probably remained in effect until 1872, when a 4th battalion was added to each brigade).

                              It was 12 infantry battalions (2 divisions of 2 brigades), 3 cavalry regiments (a brigade), 2 horse batteries, a field arty brigade, 3 field coys, RE and a battalion of the train. Throughout the 1860's, the British maintained 5 Corps on mobilisation (the regular parts each to be matched by local forces or the militia on mobilisation).

                              It seems from the references I have that 1st Corps deployed to Antwerp, but I've had no joy finding the units that comprised it. What I do know is that had the Germans violated Belgian neutrality, the British would have had 100,000 men there within a week, kicking off the Western Front early?
                              "[T]he worst that could be said of the Peninsula campaign was that thus far it had not been successful. To make it a failure was reserved for the agency of General Halleck." -Emory Upton

                              Comment

                              Latest Topics

                              Collapse

                              Working...
                              X