Wilhelm I proclaimed German Emperor

Wilhelm I
18th January

One hundred and forty-two years ago today, the King of Prussia Wilhelm Hohenzollern was proclaimed Emperor of the Second German Reich. This new imperium was formed by armed might and comprised twenty-seven constituent territories most of which were also ruled by royal families. One of those territories was Alsace-Lorraine, which included an ethnic French population living on the west bank of the River Rhine.
Outwardly, this transformative outcome of German fortunes was in equal measures a realization of the nationalist aspiration for a unified country, a dynastic triumph for the House of Hohenzollern (and their strategic architect Otto von Bismarck) and a disaster of the highest order for the Second French Empire. 

And to add insult to injury, the ceremony was conducted in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles. This stigmatized the French as a powerless, defeated nation in the recent Franco-Prussian War, a series of conflicts against the powers who sought to provide unification. Less well known is the conflict within the highest echelons of the Prussian Government. Bismarck objected to the occupation of Alsace-Lorraine, arguing that it would cause unending enmity with the French state. Even though he was later proven correct, he was however overruled Helmuth von Moltke the Elder and other Prussian generals who demanded westward expansion. 

This reversal of hegemony was so punitive that it had the amazing effect of forcing an alliance between the French and British, who had been sworn enemies that had fought for on and off for centuries. And so at the very moment when the struggle for the mastery of continental Europe appeared to have been settled, even larger forces came into focus and the seeds of the world crisis were planted. They were to bear bitter fruit in 1914 by when Helmuth von Moltke the Younger was Chief of the German General Staff.

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