Handschreiben König Ludwigs II. von Bayern an König Wilhelm I. von Preußen, "Kaiserbrief"

Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amts


The last stage on the way to the foundation of the German Empire was the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). After France had been decisively defeated at Sedan, the Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) seized the opportunity to promote the union of the southern German states with the North German Confederation. The Bavarian King Ludwig II (1845-1886) was to be won over as the second most powerful of the federal princes in order to offer the imperial crown to the Prussian King Wilhelm I. An initiative from parliament was to be avoided, since the empire was conceived as a federation of princes. Bismarck drew up a draft letter for this purpose, which Ludwig finally copied and signed on 30 November 1870, with amendments by the Bavarian Foreign Minister Otto von Bray-Steinburg (1807-1899). The "Imperial Letter" reached Versailles with Count von Holnstein (1835-1895), one of the king’s confidants. Ludwig’s uncle, the later Prince Regent Luitpold of Bavaria (1821-1912), handed it over to the Prussian king at the beginning of December 1870. On 18 January 1871, the German Empire was proclaimed in Versailles Palace and Wilhelm I was proclaimed German Emperor. The question of whether Ludwig II was bribed when the empire was founded is still disputed today. From 1871 to 1886 he received secret payments of five million marks from the Prussian Guelph Fund directly into his cabinet’s coffers.


Misamer, Julia

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