THE hegemony of Prussia over confederated German states so ardently desired by the Prince Consort, and now so doubly desirable to the Queen owing to her eldest daughter's position as Crown Princess, was still far from accomplishment, and in 1863 it looked as if Austria rather than Prussia might become the head of a Teutonic Empire. The two countries had already been in disagreement over the insurrection in Poland, and in the late summer of this year the Queen broke her Osborne seclusion and went out to Coburg as she had done the year before, partly for pious pilgrimage, partly to interview the King of Prussia and the Emperor of Austria and try to bring them together. Her efforts only proved that England's prestige was valueless in Continental politics. But any fear of conflict between them was averted by a further international complication which for the time brought Austria and Prussia into alliance, and proved to be the first step in Prussian aggrandisement. This was the Schleswig-Holstein question. Though it was complicated by a thousand side issues the main threads of it were fairly simple.
There were three claimants for the possession of the Duchies of whom the first was the King of Denmark by virtue of his being Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, though Schleswig was partly German in population and Holstein almost entirely so. This year the Danish Rigsrad passed a Bill incorporating Schleswig and altering the constitution