'WE COULD NOW fight France and beat her too,' Bismarck told his chief propagandist, Moritz Busch, in February 1870. 'But that war would give rise to five or six others.'1 He was waiting for his opportunity to make France seem an aggressor. Time and Spain delivered that chance into his hands. The throne of Spain was vacant; as usual, a German prince was the traditional choice to fill it. The Spanish Parliament and its leader, General Prim, asked for a Hohenzollern prince to accept their crown. To France, this overture could seem to be a Prussian plot. In the event of war, Louis Napoleon would have to divide his armies to guard against a stab in the back from across the Pyrenees. But how could he protest against the offer? How could a civilized modern country still go to war for dynastic reasons? 'Please see that this theme, a new war of succession in the nineteenth century,' Bismarck scoffed to Busch, 'is thoroughly threshed out in the press.'2
When the Spanish offer came to Prince Frederick of Hohenzollern- Sigmaringen, Bismarck encouraged him to accept it. As head of the royal family, the King of Prussia would have to give his consent. Bismarck sent him a strong memorandum, favouring a Prussian prince on the Spanish throne. Prussia would benefit, France would feel threatened and humiliated. The King did not agree. Ignoring all advisers except the Crown Prince, he refused to give his permission. There might be too much trouble for too little gain. No Hohenzollern would take the Spanish throne, even if Bismarck wanted it.
The Crown Princess sent this information to her mother; her husband had asked her to do so in his name. In fact, it was no business of