Beginning in 1848, pan-Germanic national sentiment grew stronger and stronger. Much stronger than in our timeline, but not strong enough for the Frankfurt Congress to succeed. By 1866, the Asutrian-Prussian War broke out, with Prussia leading an alliance of German states against Austria. The war led Prussia to uniting a number of states together into the North German Confederation, while Italy aided Prussia against Austria for the Küstenland. The War ended after 8 weeks, with Austria being defeated and the victorious Prussians inviting them to join one Deutschland. They declined, though the gracious Prussian invitation left a larger pro-Prussian sentiment in Austria.
Austria joined with Hungary in 1867 to form Austria-Hungary, though the marriage was troubled by more ethnic squabbling than OTL. By 1868, France struck, Napolean III seeing his opportunity to save his ailing popularity. His mistake couldn't have been greater. France attacked Austria, with Prussia and Italy striking back. The French attack struck the Austrian ruling elites and swathes of the population. Prussia, along with Bohemian allies, routed the French and forced Napolean to sign a peace treaty after a two-month war. In the cleanup after the war, Austrians, weary of the ethnic fighting and with their ruling elite decimated, agreed to join the new Groß-Deutschland, with Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovenia being brought into the country as well. In the restructuring of Germany, Austria gained a Mediterranean port at Modrus-Fiume from the new Kingdom of Hungary.
During its war with Prussia and Italy, the Hapsburg Empire suffers two crushing land defeats at Koniggratz and Custoza, which destroy most of its Army, and loses a naval battle at Lissa. Italy lands troops in Dalmatia. Prussia and Italy offer a lenient peace which concedes the annexation of Hannover, leadership of the German Confederation and Austrian Silesia to Prussia and Veneto, Trento, and Trieste to Italy in the Treaties of Prague and Vienna. The German states north of the Main river are united in the Northern Germany Confederation as a federal state under the leadership of Prussia.
However, in the Empire, the defeat stirs up lingering tensions among the Hungarians, the Slavs and the German ruling class and, instead of demanding political reform, they rise up in revolution much in the same fashion as they did in 1848. The surviving Armies of the Empire, overstretched managing both the Prussians and Italians in the west, and now divided, soon collapse with the formation of various Hungarians and Slavic militias across the country. The newly restored Hungarian Diet proclaims independence and hastily organizes an Hungarian Army which soon clashes the remnant of the Austrian army and the Slavic militias in the areas of the Empire which Hungary claims. Unable to successfully put down the regional revolts and fight Hungary at the same time Austria stubbornly attempts to do both. As the Austrian treasury empties her military is unable to defeat an invisible enemy in the outlying parts of the empire and is also unable to take the risk of openly driving on Buda and fighting the increasing organized Hungarian forces. As the weeks and months drag on and the expenses increase Austria faces a stalemate in her position.
After several months of chaos without aid, Austria concedes and recognizes the independence of Hungary: Franz Josef, under increasing political pressure, abdicates in favor of his 9-year old son, Rudolf. Vienna is forced to acknowledge the end of the Hapsburg preeminence amid the German states and hegemony over the subject nationalities of the Empire or wither away bankrupt and powerless in obscurity. The Austrian government appeals to the NGF for aid. Bismarck contacts Italy, Hungary, and Russia, and offers a partition scheme of the Hapsburg Empire (German Austria and Bohemia-Moravia as a satellite state of the NGF, Istria and Dalmatia to Italy, an independent Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Poland and Galicia to Russia, alongside with support for Russian expansion in the Black Sea and the Balkans). All parties forward general agreement. In order to preserve the interests of the German states, which are now forced to look upon Prussia as their leader, the Prussian Army (which now integrates the Armies of the NGF minor states) mobilizes once again and, with the help of Bavaria, enters Austria proper, Bohemia-Moravia, and Slovenia, as an occupation force, putting the Slavs down and establishing firm control over the area. Italy and Russia likewise send troops in Austrian Poland, Galicia, Istria, and Dalmatia to “protect their interests”. The Hungarian Army quells the Slavic resistance in their half of the ex-Empire with the help of the Prussians, the Italians, and the Bavarians.
NGF Chancellor Bismarck summons a Congress of the involved parties to settle the deal: diplomats from Russia, Italy, the NGF, Austria, Bavaria, and Hungary meet in Munich and sign a treaty which partitions the Hapsburg Empire. Russia gains Galicia and Austrian Poland, Italy annexes Trento, Trieste, Istria, and Dalmatia. The NGF is granted customs exemption and unrestricted access to the Trieste port. Austria, Slovenia, Bohemia, and Moravia are set up as the Kingdom of Austria-Bohemia, with Rudolf of Hapsburg on the throne, which signs a defensive military alliance and a customs and monetary union with the Prussian-led NGF. The independence of the Kingdom of Hungary is recognized, with the possession of Transylvania, Slovakia, and Croatia, and a throne in personal union with the Kingdom of Austria-Bohemia. Bismarck gives Russia a secret guarantee of German support to the repeal of the post-Crimean War limitations which Russia suffers in the Black Sea. It also offers support to Russian expansion in the Balkans as long as Russia does not interfere with the interests of Italy and Hungary in that area.
In the face of the Hapsburg Empire’s collapse, the southern German states are forced to reconsider their relationship with the rest of Germany: there is a significant German national sentiment which urges to complete the unification with the NGF, but there is also widespread reluctance to accept the leadership of Prussia and lose independence. In the end, Bavaria and the other southern states compromise and remain independent but sign a defensive military alliance and customs and monetary union with the NGF just as Austria-Bohemia has done.
Satisfied with the settlement, both Italy and Hungary sign a permanent defensive alliance with the NGF. Russia is satisfied with its gains in Galicia and Poland and the demise of her Hapsburg rival in the Balkans and expresses her full support to the deal. It also signs a treaty of non-aggression with the Triple Alliance powers. France is appalled but chooses not to act since she dares not challenge the NGF-Italian-Hungarian-Russian combination and the French Army is still recovering from the defeat it suffered from the Union in its intervention in Mexico. Bismarck is however able to mollify Napoleon III with secret promises of territorial gains for France in Luxembourg and Belgium. Britain is more than a little startled with the radical shift in the balance of power but soon makes itself comfortable with the deal as the best solution to the Hapsburg collapse.
France offers to buy Luxembourg from William III of the Netherlands. Being in financial trouble, William accepts. However, nationalistic outrage sweeps the German public over the proposed deal and Bismarck is forced to renege on the pledge that he had made to Napoleon, and and forcefully opposes the cession. Napoleon demands that Prussia withdraw its soldiers from Luxemburg City which were stationed there in accordance with the Congress of Vienna treaties, threatening war in the event that Prussia did not comply. When Bismarck sends a noncommittal answer, France declares war on the NGF. An overwhelming wave of nationalistic pride seizes the German public and patriotic union is declared against French aggression. All previous hesitations about national unification are soon largely forgotten in the feelings of national brotherhood forged by the common war against the hereditary enemy. All the German states, including A-B, join the war against France. Talks are started about the unification of the NGF, southern German states, and Austria-Bohemia in a larger federal state, and to recreate the German Empire. Italy, hoping to seize Rome and regain Nice and Savoy if France is defeated, declares war on France. Russia and Britain affirm their neutrality in the conflict. Hungary affirms her solidarity with Germany and Italy, but only sends a small contingent.
Kaiser Wilhelm I, along with his Kanzler Bismarck, he brought Germany together as one country. From the Reichsprotectorat of Elsaß-Lothringen to East Prussia, Germans began unifying across the land, with Bohemians, Moravians, and Slovenes being protected groups in the Reich.
(This timeline is not complete…will post more shortly)
Kaiser Wilhelm I died this year, leaving his son, Ferdinand III, as the new Kaiser. Frederick was a liberal and an admirer of the British and American constitutions, while his links to the United Kingdom strengthened further with his marriage to Princess Victoria, the eldest child of Queen Victoria. With his ascent to the throne, many expected and hoped for a liberalization of the Reich and an increase of the German parliament's influence on the political process. The dismissal of Robert von Puttkamer, the highly conservative Prussian interior minister, on June 8, was taken as a sign in the expected direction, and a blow to Bismark's administration.
By the time of his coronation, Frederick had developed his plan for the liberalization of the German Reich, including the incorporation of the German colonies into a more functional regime. Among his policies was Germanization, wherein German would be taught in all schools of the Reich, and all government documents would be available in German, and the local language. Government business would be conducted in German, though, much to the consternation of certain liberals. Frederick sought a colonial empire to match that of Britain and France, even though he was more liberal than many Prussians, he still believed Germany deserved its place in the sun, and carved out several colonies in Africa and the Pacific.
When this led to friction with Britain, Frederick and his wife agreed to several concessions in the Treaty of Hannover 1893, where Germany would limit its naval size, and exchange German East Africa for Nigeria to allow the British to complete their Cape-to-Cairo railway. German Guinea in the Pacific became a major trading post. The British, having been forced out of the Americas, had focused their efforts on colonizing their African and South American colonies, and Germany's treaty also mandated that they participate in 'gross-deutschland/Responsible Colonization' of their newfound colonies.