Are Prussians historically German

lemoLiving Museum Online
  • Georg Bleibtreu: "The Battle of Königgrätz 1866", around 1869

In the German Confederation there was an unstable equilibrium between the mutually distrusting rivals Prussia and Austria. Their joint victory in the German-Danish War of 1864 only superficially covered the decades-long dualism. In the spring of 1866 the Austro-Prussian conflict came to a head. Mutual armaments efforts and secret treaties with European states had increased the tensions, which finally escalated because of the administrative conflict over Holstein and Schleswig. Austria wanted to leave the final settlement of the Schleswig-Holstein question to the Bundestag in Frankfurt, which had increasingly become the public venue for their power-political contradictions on both sides.

Since Prussia ran the risk of being put on the defensive by Austria and anti-Prussian states, the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck accused Austria of breaking the "Gastein Convention" signed in 1865. She had placed Schleswig under Prussian and Holstein under Austrian administration. On June 7, 1866, Prussian troops marched into Holstein, which Austria had previously evacuated without a fight. As a result, the larger German states in the Bundestag approved Vienna's application to mobilize a federal army. Prussia, in turn, declared this as an inadmissible declaration of war and withdrew from the German Confederation, which it declared expired.

The armies from Austria, Bavaria, Württemberg, Hanover, Saxony, Baden, Kurhessen, Hessen-Darmstadt, Nassau, Saxony-Meiningen, Liechtenstein, Reuss older line and Frankfurt formed the coalition troops officially set up by the German Confederation. Prussia received support from Oldenburg, both Mecklenburgs, Braunschweig, the central and northern German small states, the cities of Hamburg, Bremen and Lübeck as well as from the newly founded Kingdom of Italy in 1861, with which Prussia had entered an alliance directed against Austria on April 8, 1866.

Neither Prussia nor Austria officially issued declarations of war in 1866. Instead, Prussian parliamentarians presented the Austrians with notifications in June stating that Prussia was now at war with Austria. The war was decided after just a few weeks in the Battle of Königgrätz on July 3, 1866. In other European countries, Prussia's surprisingly quick victory was viewed with suspicion. After diplomatic negotiations, the French Emperor Napoleon III, who was striving to expand his influence in Germany, accepted. the shift in power in favor of Prussia. France made it clear, however, that the territorial incorporations should not go beyond the Main line.

The Peace of Prague of August 23, 1866 had a comparatively mild result for Austria: apart from Veneto, which fell to Italy, the treaty guaranteed it at least territorial integrity. Hanover, Kurhessen, Nassau and Frankfurt, which were annexed by Prussia regardless of dynastic aspects, were hit harder. With this, Prussia closed the last gap to a contiguous state territory between the Memel in the east and the Rhine in the west. At the same time, the Peace of Prague sealed the end of the German Confederation, which had existed since 1815, and pushed Austria out of Germany. Prussia now had unrestricted supremacy and founded the North German Confederation.