WI: Franz Josef, Emperor of all Germany after defeating Prussia in 1866

Let's consider a scenario where Austria and its allies defeats Prussia and Italy in an extended alt-Austro-Prussian War of 1866, resulting in the biggest possible disaster for Prussia, leaving it totally unable to lead the German unification.

With the right PoDs, German unification is later completed by Austria, accepting (or imposing) Franz Josef as Emperor of all Germany (including Prussia).

Which consequences could have this?

- Would France declare war anyway to this alt-German Empire led by Austria?
- How Hungary (and the other non-German nations under Habsburgs' rule) would be accomodated to such enlarged entity?
- How this would impact the process of Italian unification, assuming that Austria is able to retain Venice-Friuli?
- How Russia, the Ottomans and the UK would react to the formation of such entity?
 
IIRC there was a moment at Konigratz/Sadowa where one cannon shot almost took out the leading Prussians
Even if this were to occur, the Prussian Army and state would still be intact while its leadership is still crippled. The other German Revolutionaries and Nationalists won't accept Austria's non-German lands except for Bohemia which had been a part of Germany for centuries going back to the HRE. This would necessitate the breakup of Austria's Empire. Neither Franz-Joseph nor the Austrian Court would accept this arrangement. This might work if say Hungary successfully breaks away from the Austria giving them a more German focus, but that's an uncertain possibility.

If Austria scored such a massive victory, they would likely retake Silesia, restore Saxony's lost lands, retake its primacy in the German confederation, and Franz-Joseph would continue with his Neo-Absolutist style of rule.

France would likely jump in and try to take the Prussian Rhineland. If France does join, and takes the Palatinate, the Bavarians might be given Hohenzollern-Sigmarillen.

How Hungary (and the other non-German nations under Habsburgs' rule) would be accomodated to such enlarged entity?
They would demand independence from such an overtly German Empire rather than the Austrian Empire which was multi-ethnic Empire united under the Habsburg dynasty. Though the Habsburg might try to keep everything but all the competing forces within the Empire would hamper its centralization and organization.
 
They would demand independence from such an overtly German Empire rather than the Austrian Empire which was multi-ethnic Empire united under the Habsburg dynasty. Though the Habsburg might try to keep everything but all the competing forces within the Empire would hamper its centralization and organization.
I think the result of this would be not a 'German Empire' in the sense of German/Prussian Nationalism but an enlarged Habsburgian Empire, you can call it 'Empire of Germany-Hungary' as a proxy of the IOTL Austria-Hungary denomination (Franz Josef could bear the title of 'Emperor of Germany and King of Hungary').

Probably he could opt for abolishing all the loser states excepting a diminished Prussia and compensate the 'North hegemony' with an enlarged Hannover and direct Austrian rule over Schleswig-Holstein and the abolished Mecklenburg. Something like this:

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I think the result of this would be not a 'German Empire' in the sense of German/Prussian Nationalism but an enlarged Habsburgian Empire, you can call it 'Empire of Germany-Hungary' as a proxy of the IOTL Austria-Hungary denomination (Franz Josef could bear the title of 'Emperor of Germany and King of Hungary').
The problem here is the nature of Franz-Joseph's rise to power and the events leading up to the 1866 War. The structure of this Empire as laid in this map is too unfavorable to the Habsburgs who would have less power. The way it looks like, Bohemia is unchained from Austrian dominion. Furthermore Prussia is still strong enough to rival this Empire meaning that this Empire would likely be crippled by issues of centralization and leadership. Saxony would want its lost territories back. Prussia would need to be weakened so that Austria would be the undisputed master of GThe Austrian Army was not in a state to overrun the rest of Germany to create a Super-German Empire including Hungary. As a result the German nationalists would not want the Hungarians involved which would mean that that Franz-Joseph would have to detach it from the Empire. Franz-Joseph is also hated in Hungary and was nearly assassinated by Hungarian nationalists because he had the Russians intervene and suppress the Revolution. The loss of Lombardy-Venetia was a pretty big blow to Austria as it was very wealthy province. The Hungarian nationalists would be clamoring for independence while some of the other German states will chafe at being under Habsburg dominion. Plus the other Great Powers will be alarmed at such a massive power on their doorstep. France would most certainly intervene as would Russia.

To have something like this would require a POD going back beyond Franz-Joseph all the way to Emperor Ferdinand I's reign. The Austrian Government was essentially crippled for 20 years under the Regency Council when reforms were badly need to help stabilize the Austrian Empire. If something like Emperor Francis I having a healthy and competent heir as an Austrian Napoleon, something like this would be achievable.
 
I think the result of this would be not a 'German Empire' in the sense of German/Prussian Nationalism but an enlarged Habsburgian Empire, you can call it 'Empire of Germany-Hungary' as a proxy of the IOTL Austria-Hungary denomination (Franz Josef could bear the title of 'Emperor of Germany and King of Hungary').
It would be interesting if they bring back the title of Holy Roman Empire.
 
Probably he could opt for abolishing all the loser states excepting a diminished Prussia and compensate the 'North hegemony' with an enlarged Hannover
Why? With Prussia smashed the little "tom tiddlers" are dependent on Austrian goodwill to same them from being gobbled up by larger neighbours. Thus they will have to earn her favour by voting with her in the Federal Diet - thus giving her control of it.
 
It would be interesting if they bring back the title of Holy Roman Empire.
Honestly this might be a better outcome though for something like this Austria would need a very different Emperor on the throne to full take advantage of of the massive size and population of its large holdings as the second largest land power in Europe. This would likely require Francis having a competent heir who's essentially the next Napoleon who would re-work Austria's administration, military apparatus, and economic system. Though a revived federal Holy Roman Empire would have to be pitched that it emphasizes its origin as a universal Empire rather than as a GERMAN Empire. Thus with the claim of a "Roman" identity rather than a German identity, a universal Empire could be crafted. Though this would be tough to pull off.

With Prussia smashed the little "tom tiddlers" are dependent on Austrian goodwill to same them from being gobbled up by larger neighbours. Thus they will have to earn her favour by voting with her in the Federal Diet - thus giving her control of it.
Austria needs to be the largest and most dominant state here. This means breaking up its rival of Prussia back into the Grand Duchy of Brandenburg. This would mean that the Austrian Army and administration would have to be completely revamped. The Holy Roman Empire would also have to be re-constituted into something that it was before the 12th century from simply being a name-change of the German Confederation. Austria's allies would need to be compensated. Saxony and the other smaller states being maintained as separate realms unable to challenge Austrian Hegemony would allow Austria to dominate it. The problem with the HRE is that Hungary was legally considered separate from it. Prussia could likely be broke up further into a separate duchy of Pomerania and maybe even Posen. Silesia would have to be under Austrian rule as its the breadbasket of Central Europe. Hungary would have to have its magnates broken since they were the main driving factors behind the 1848 revolutions. Though any attempt at breaking their power would provoke a massive revolt.
 
The problem here is the nature of Franz-Joseph's rise to power and the events leading up to the 1866 War. The structure of this Empire as laid in this map is too unfavorable to the Habsburgs who would have less power. The way it looks like, Bohemia is unchained from Austrian dominion.
Not really, just separate Czech (B&M) and Hungarian administration in separate states BUT both ruled by the Habsburgs in a similar way they ruled Austria. There are no separate lineages ruling there, just like a double Ausgleich (IOTL an 'Ausgleich' with B&M was already considered).

Furthermore Prussia is still strong enough to rival this Empire meaning that this Empire would likely be crippled by issues of centralization and leadership. Saxony would want its lost territories back. Prussia would need to be weakened so that Austria would be the undisputed master.
Well this was just an approximate idea, of course Prussia could be still further diminished ceding more land to Saxony and maybe creating a separate Silesian state.

The Austrian Army was not in a state to overrun the rest of Germany to create a Super-German Empire including Hungary. As a result the German nationalists would not want the Hungarians involved which would mean that that Franz-Joseph would have to detach it from the Empire.
Ideally, the defeat of Prussia should also mean the weakening of German nationalism in favour to more Liberal ideals. Maybe some extra PoDs would be required though.

The loss of Lombardy-Venetia was a pretty big blow to Austria as it was very wealthy province.
ITTL Austria would keep Venice and Friuli and Italy was an allied of Prussia so it's assumed that Italy is defeated and Venice is not ceded then.

Plus the other Great Powers will be alarmed at such a massive power on their doorstep. France would most certainly intervene as would Russia.
France sure, but would they dare to attack such powerful entity alone (or even with Italy)? They would need either UK or Russia to be their allies. But Germany-Hungary could appease Russia promising their help against the Ottomans in the Balkans,

It would be interesting if they bring back the title of Holy Roman Empire.
By that time I think that title was seen as anachronistic and obsolete. I think Empire of Germany & Kingdom of Hungary would be more likely, even if less epic. An it could be unofficially called 'Habsburgian Empire'.

Also Hungary would not legally fit in a resurrected HRE.

Why? With Prussia smashed the little "tom tiddlers" are dependent on Austrian goodwill to same them from being gobbled up by larger neighbours. Thus they will have to earn her favour by voting with her in the Federal Diet - thus giving her control of it.
Basically all surviving states excepting Prussia are meant to be Austrian allies, so dominion of the Federal Diet is automatically granted.
 
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IIRC there was a moment at Konigratz/Sadowa where one cannon shot almost took out the leading Prussians.
Ayup. Wilhelm I, Moltke and Bismarck all reined up next to each other having a discussion when an Austrian cannon ball landed very close by forcing a less than dignified departure. The Austrian gunner having slightly better aim or a fortuitous gust of wind intervening and all three could be killed. You've then get a Prussian force potentially having to retreat through a rather narrow pass and then across countryside which has been completely picked clean of food several days ago by them going the opposite direction. Not good. That said without some major points of divergence I just can't see Austria winning as massive a victory as would be necessary for what the thread starter wants.


... retake [Austria's] primacy in the German Confederation...
Didn't the Prussians denounce and walk out of the Confederation right before the fighting started? If so it would likely be several years before they were readmitted, not until Austria had organised things to their liking.
 
I was already thinking in a sort of anticipated WWI in the 1870s, triggered by the creation of this great German-Hungar Empire.

Rivals could be very obvious: France, Italy, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Denmark, maybe Belgium and the Netherlands...not sure about the UK. At least the US are out of the picture is such early scenario.

But surely the Habsburgian Empire might lure some of them into his side with some good offer. Thoughts?
 
assuming that Austria is able to retain Venice-Friuli?
Actually Austria had already agreed to cede Venetia to France regardless of the war's outcome. Agreed that Franz Josef might consider reneging on it if he won, but that would risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by bringing France in against him. And he can write off the Italian lands if he gets Silesia for himself and bits of the Rhenish provinces for the deposed GDs of Tuscany and Modena. The RPs were big enough to do this and leave titbits over for Hanover and Bavaria. Saxony gets her 1813 borders back. Wurttemburg's part in the war has been too slight to really entitle her to anything, but she might get the Principality of Hohenzollern if she's lucky. The Duke of Augustenberg gets Schleswig-Holstein.

Prussia and Italy no doubt have to pay heavy indemnities. Nap III won't object tot hat as they'll have to borrow the money from France, so increasing his influence there. He may also collar Luxemburg while the German powers are still fighting. The monies will be paid direct to Austria so that if Bavaria et al want a share they must go cap in hand to Vienna.

Regarding the reorganisation of Germany, FJ may take it a step at a time. If Hanover, Saxony and Bavaria have all acquired Prussian territory, they need an Austrian alliance to guard against a Prussian war of revenge. So expect treaties similar to those which Prussia made OTL with the South German states. The little tiddlers which took the Prussian side may get a deal where their young men are sent to do their military service in the Austrian army. These would amount to little individually, but taken together would be a respectable boost to Austria's military manpower. So they don't have a united Germany on paper, but for military purposes at least are edging toward one in practice.
 
Actually Austria had already agreed to cede Venetia to France regardless of the war's outcome. Agreed that Franz Josef might consider reneging on it if he won, but that would risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by bringing France in against him.
I think that this outcome would unavoidably bring France against the Habsburgian Empire, with or without Venice. Like Prussia did IOTL, Austria should also defeat France (at least) for keeping up.
 
I think that this outcome would unavoidably bring France against the Habsburgian Empire, with or without Venice. Like Prussia did IOTL, Austria should also defeat France (at least) for keeping up.
By that reasoning he should have intervened against Prussia after Koniggratz - but he didn't

Basically, Napoleon III wasn't hugely interested in German affairs. His big hang-up was Italy, and Venetia in particular. In return he was willing to see the Habsburgs make gains in Germany to replace their Italian losses, ie Silesia in "exchange" for Lombardy-Venice, and Principalities(probably on the Rhine) for the deposed Grand Dukes, of similar populations to what they had before.

I agree that the Austrian gains might *eventually* have led to war but (as with Prussia's OTL) probably not at once. 1870 perhaps?
 
Couldnt Hungary be given "independence" under say Maximilian? It would be a german puppet state and would actually have to face the reality that if it wants to keep its territorial integrity it does what the germans tell him.
 
Basically, Napoleon III wasn't hugely interested in German affairs. His big hang-up was Italy, and Venetia in particular. In return he was willing to see the Habsburgs make gains in Germany to replace their Italian losses, ie Silesia in "exchange" for Lombardy-Venice, and Principalities(probably on the Rhine) for the deposed Grand Dukes, of similar populations to what they had before.
That's actually not very accurate for the simple reason that Napoleon III was very interested in German affairs for the goal of obtaining the industry, defensible border, and resources of the Rhineland which was a French foreign policy objective since the reign of Louis XIV. The resources of the Rhineland were critical for industrialization and France's border security as all major invasions into French territory was from the Rhine. France had pretty good Geographic barriers in the Alps and Pyrenees Mountains but its weakness was the Rhine. France wanted Wallonia and Napoleon III tried to purchase Luxembourg which was a major fortification. This nearly sparked a war between France and Prussia in the 1860's. Napoleon III's foreign policy blunder was the fact that he spent men and materials in the quagmire that was Mexico. Had he not done this, its likely that he would have had more clout to threaten Prussia with war.

Also there's no way France will tolerate a massive GrossOsterreich on their doorstep. That would cause him to panic since such a state on his border would be a massive existential threat like a dagger aimed at France. Napoleon would most likely invade with the insistence of his advisers to seize the Prussian Rhineland. He could also ally with the Danes and possibly even the Russians to contain such a power. Such a massive power like this would destroy the Balance of Power.

Actually Austria had already agreed to cede Venetia to France regardless of the war's outcome. Agreed that Franz Josef might consider reneging on it if he won, but that would risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by bringing France in against him. And he can write off the Italian lands if he gets Silesia for himself and bits of the Rhenish provinces for the deposed GDs of Tuscany and Modena. The RPs were big enough to do this and leave titbits over for Hanover and Bavaria. Saxony gets her 1813 borders back. Wurttemburg's part in the war has been too slight to really entitle her to anything, but she might get the Principality of Hohenzollern if she's lucky. The Duke of Augustenberg gets Schleswig-Holstein.
Lombardy-Venetia were very wealthy parts of the Empire so if they score a massive victory like this FJ is most likely going to pursue war against Sardinia-Piedmont to reconquer Milan.

Prussia and Italy no doubt have to pay heavy indemnities. Nap III won't object tot hat as they'll have to borrow the money from France, so increasing his influence there. He may also collar Luxemburg while the German powers are still fighting. The monies will be paid direct to Austria so that if Bavaria et al want a share they must go cap in hand to Vienna.
No but what he and the other Great Powers will object to is a massive superstate appearing in Central Europe. Britain wanted no one power threatening the balance of power. France wants hegemony in Europe and the Rhineland. Russia will be terrified of such a state on its doorstep.
 
Lombardy-Venetia were very wealthy parts of the Empire so if they score a massive victory like this FJ is most likely going to pursue war against Sardinia-Piedmont to reconquer Milan.
He would certainly like to, but as previously noted this would result in French intervention - unless of course the defeat caused the Italian kingdom to disintegrate altogether in whieh case France would have nothing to fight for. FJ may well have been secretly hoping for this, but in hindsight it is unlikely.

That aside, Nap III had already indicated what was acceptable to him. He was ok with Austria getting Silesia in return for surrendering Venice and writing off Milan. He also wanted a "neutral state" on the Rhine in place of Prussian power, and aa strengthening of the middling states like Bavaria. The terms I outlined would give him all or most of this. Even if a chunk of the Rhine Province went to an Austrian Archduke, this would still be an improvement on the whole of it being Prussian.

Keep in mind that he would not see this as creating a "superstate". As far as he could see, there would be a stronger Austria, stronger middle states, and a Prussia weakened but still stronger than any German state except Austria. In fact he would have cleared the way for German unification, but this would become obvious only after the event. In the same way, OTL, he assumed that Germany would be split three ways - North, South and Austria - when in fact it was now united under Prussia in all but name.

Nap III was always like this. While supporting nationalism in theory, in practice he always assumed that a halt could be called at some point convenient to him. Hence those elaborate schemes for an Italy split into four states, which were swept away when the Italians picked up the ball and ran off with it. The same happened a few years later iro Germany, and in neither case was Nappy ready to fight. He accepted the fait accompli both times, and there's no reason to suppose that his reaction to an Austrian victory would have been any more energetic than it was to a Prussian one.
 
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The Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861, so it's not Sardinia-Piedmont that is the state here.

I cannot see Austria conceding Venetia if Italy has done as badly as OTL and now Austria has defeated the Prussians. There is going to be some sort of peace conference and I imagine Vienna is going to try to trade parts of Prussia's Rhineland to France in exchange for keeping Venetia.

One interesting note is that if you go by the lucky cannonball route killing Wilhelm I, Moltke, and Bismarck, the sudden rout might well do for the Crown Prince too
 
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I cannot see Austria conceding Venetia is Italy has done as badly as OTL
Italy hasn't done especially well, but it Is still holding together and has mauled the Austrians badly enough that they can't pursue after Custozza. And a victory at Koniggratz is liable to be equally costly. So FJ is in no position to take on France immediately after. He still has to pay Nappy's price.
 
Italy hasn't done especially well, but it Is still holding together and has mauled the Austrians badly enough that they can't pursue after Custozza. And a victory at Koniggratz is liable to be equally costly. So FJ is in no position to take on France immediately after. He still has to pay Nappy's price.
Well that's why I said they would try to bargain at the international peace conference. Diplomacy isn't all about war. Once Prussia requests terms, Vienna will want to bring about an over-arcing agreement, helping its German allies, and the process for that can draw in France and Italy to a conference.
 
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