The War of the Duchies, the beginning of German unification

The War of the Duchies, the beginning of German unification

The war of the duchies was the first conflict of the 19th century German unification process. It was a critical moment that the Chancellor Otto von Bismarck he knew how to take advantage of it well to achieve the annexation of several vital territories. However, the division of the territories with Austria would eventually lead to the seven week war.

The situation of duchies of Schleswig and Holstein it was very delicate in the middle of the 19th century. Both had a majority German population but had different policies. Holstein belonged to the German Confederation, while its neighbor Schleswig did not.

The holder of both duchies was the king of denmark, a position that was in full succession at the time of the conflict. The succession of Cristian IX to the Danish crown by feminine line contradicted the prevailing Salic tradition in the duchies, for which the new king of Denmark was forced to endow them with a new constitution.

The German opposition led Prussia to carry out a first attempt at war, which was stopped in the Malmo Armistice and in the London Protocol of 1852. But war broke out again when in 1863, the newly crowned Christian IX violated the London Protocol by incorporating the Duchy of Schleswig into the Danish crown.

This measure made the German nationalism of the duchies was set in motion and summoned several assemblies in which they declared heir to the German suitor Frederick of Augustenberg. Also, the Confederal Diet approved the occupation of the duchies by a German army.

At this juncture highlighted the figure of Bismarck. The chancellor forced the Austrian emperor to send an ultimatum to the king of Denmark recognizing Cristian, on the condition that the new Danish constitution did not affect the duchies. King Cristian's letter provoked the war. The Austrian and Prussian armies easily defeated the Danes.

The peace of Vienna From 1864 it served for Austria and Prussia to get not only the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, but also the bordering duchy of Lauenburg. To share the war profits equally, Prussia and Austria signed the Gastein Pact in 1865.

In said treaty, Schleswig, Lauenburg and the port of Kiel came under Prussian control, while Holstein was annexed by the Austrians. The problem is that the Duchy of Holstein was surrounded by Prussian territory, which forced it to pay easements to the Bismarck state and would be a constant source of future conflicts between the two powers.

Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was a child he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.


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