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The Franco-Prussian War: Rare Historical Photos of the Siege of Paris that resulted in Massive Destruction

The Franco-Prussian War was a conflict between the Second French Empire (later the Third French Republic) and the North German Confederation led by the Kingdom of Prussia. The conflict is also called Franco-German War in history. France’s goal to regain its dominance over continental Europe sparked the conflict.

Origins of the Conflict

The defeat of Austria in the Seven Weeks’ War in 1866 confirmed Prussia’s leadership over the German states and threatened France’s position as Europe’s dominant power. However, a primary cause of the Franco-German War was the election of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (related to Prussian royalty) to the Spanish throne, which had been left vacant when Queen Isabella II was executed in 1868. Both Bismarck and Prim successfully persuaded Leopold to accept the Spanish throne as King in June 1870. A potential alliance between Prussia and Spain greatly alarmed France, who felt threatened. After France’s ambassador demanded that Prussian King William I promise not to allow Leopold to be a candidate for the Spanish throne again, Leopold withdrew his candidacy. Bismarck edited William’s telegraphed description of the interview, and on July 14, he published a provocative letter (the Ems telegram). He achieved his purpose of inflaming France and prompting it to declare war.

Deceleration of the War

Napoleon III declared war on Prussia on July 19, 1870, because his advisers told him they could defeat the German army and that such a victory would restore his declining popularity in France. French generals believed that reorganizing their militaries in 1866 made their army superior to the Germans’. For Bismarck, the war with France was an opportunity to unite the North German Confederation with the south German states and build a strong German Empire.

Napoleon III was captured by the Germans during the decisive battle of Sedan, fought around the town in northern France. The news of the emperor’s capture sparked an explosion in Paris; the legislative assembly was dissolved, and France was declared a republic. By the end of September, the Germans had taken Strasbourg and surrounded France’s capital city, which they then bombarded mercilessly for several months. The French government was forced to open negotiations for surrender on January 19, 1871. Germany was unified one day earlier than France, if humiliated the French, when Wilhelm I of Prussia have crowned emperor of the new German state, in the sumptuous Hall of Mirrors, at the Palace of Versailles, in Paris.

Treaty of Frankfurt

Germans gained control of Alsace (excluding Belfort) and Lorraine under the final treaty signed at Frankfurt am Main on May 10, 1871. France had to pay an indemnity of five billion francs as well. In September 1873, the German troops left France after the debt was fully settled. As a result of the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent German occupation, the French began to feel more and more at odds with Germany, which was technologically and industrially advanced and had built the most powerful land armies on the continent at the beginning of the 20th century. After 12 months of rivalry and rivalry, this rivalry would culminate in the world’s most devastating conflict in 1914, as France, the Allies, and Germany faced off against Germany and the Central Powers.

Below are some rare historical photos that depict the destruction caused by the Franco-Prussian war in Paris.

#1 A mobile barricade erected in the Place Vendome, Paris, during the Franco-Prussian War.

A mobile barricade erected in the Place Vendome, Paris, during the Franco-Prussian War.

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#2 National guardsmen pose in front of an artillery barricade in the Place Vendome, following the Franco-Prussian War.

National guardsmen pose in front of an artillery barricade in the Place Vendome, following the Franco-Prussian War.

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#3 An entrenched Prussian siege artillery battery sighting it’s guns on Paris at the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War on 1 October 1870 at Paris.

An entrenched Prussian siege artillery battery sighting it's guns on Paris at the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War on 1 October 1870 at Paris.

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#4 The Hötel De Ville after the Commune, 1871.

The Hötel De Ville after the Commune, 1871.

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#5 Colonne Vendôme, 1871.

Colonne Vendôme, 1871.

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#6 The ruined interior of the Palais des Tuileries in Paris. It was destroyed in 1871 by supporters of the Commune of Paris.

The ruined interior of the Palais des Tuileries in Paris. It was destroyed in 1871 by supporters of the Commune of Paris.

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#7 Place de la Bastille, Burned, 1871.

Place de la Bastille, Burned, 1871.

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#8 Finance Ministry, Burned. Exterior View, 1871.

Finance Ministry, Burned. Exterior View, 1871.

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#9 View of the rue de Chezy, Neuilly Bombarded, 1871.

View of the rue de Chezy, Neuilly Bombarded, 1871.

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#10 Prussian troops within the ruins of Fort Issy near Versailles at the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War on 1 February 1871 at Paris.

Prussian troops within the ruins of Fort Issy near Versailles at the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War on 1 February 1871 at Paris.

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#11 Gun battery directed over Paris at Fort D’Audervilliers during the Franco-Prussian war.

Gun battery directed over Paris at Fort D'Audervilliers during the Franco-Prussian war.

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#12 Buildings bombarded by the German occupation troops in the Paris Commune, during the Franco-Prussian War.

Buildings bombarded by the German occupation troops in the Paris Commune, during the Franco-Prussian War.

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#13 The overthrow of the statue of Napoleon I which was on top of the Colomne Vendome, 1871.

The overthrow of the statue of Napoleon I which was on top of the Colomne Vendome, 1871.

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#14 The Ministry of Finance in the Rue de Rivoli in ruins after the Paris Commune, during the Franco-Prussian War.

The Ministry of Finance in the Rue de Rivoli in ruins after the Paris Commune, during the Franco-Prussian War.

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#15 The Prussians arriving in Paris, March 1, 1871.

The Prussians arriving in Paris, March 1, 1871.

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#16 The ruins in the Place Vendome in Paris destroyed in the Paris Commune.

The ruins in the Place Vendome in Paris destroyed in the Paris Commune.

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#17 View of the marble colonnade in the Tuileries Palace, 1871.

View of the marble colonnade in the Tuileries Palace, 1871.

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#18 Cobblestones ripped from the streets and used for barricades on the Quai Pelletier and the Pont d’Arcole during the siege of the Paris Commune, 1871.

Cobblestones ripped from the streets and used for barricades on the Quai Pelletier and the Pont d'Arcole during the siege of the Paris Commune, 1871.

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#19 A corner building in Paris shows burn damage inflicted by Prussian occupation troops after the surrender of France in the Franco-Prussian War.

A corner building in Paris shows burn damage inflicted by Prussian occupation troops after the surrender of France in the Franco-Prussian War.

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#20 The Crown Prince Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia, commander of the Third Army with his General Staff at their headquarters during the Franco-Prussian War 13 January 1871 at Les Ombrages, France.

The Crown Prince Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia, commander of the Third Army with his General Staff at their headquarters during the Franco-Prussian War 13 January 1871 at Les Ombrages, France.

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#21 Prussian troops within the ruins of Fort Issy near Versailles at the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War on 1 February 1871 at Paris.

Prussian troops within the ruins of Fort Issy near Versailles at the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War on 1 February 1871 at Paris.

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#22 Prussian troops parade on the Champs Elysees in Paris after their takeover of the city during the Franco-Prussian War, France, January 1871.

Prussian troops parade on the Champs Elysees in Paris after their takeover of the city during the Franco-Prussian War, France, January 1871.

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#23 A battery at their artillery post during the civil war between the Third Republic and the Paris Commune, during the Franco-Prussian war.

A battery at their artillery post during the civil war between the Third Republic and the Paris Commune, during the Franco-Prussian war.

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#24 A Paris street is barricaded with a stone-block wall and cannon, during the Franco-Prussian War.

A Paris street is barricaded with a stone-block wall and cannon, during the Franco-Prussian War.

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#25 Damaged buildings on the Rue de Lille in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.

Damaged buildings on the Rue de Lille in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.

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#26 The ruins of the Ministry of Finance on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris after being badly damaged during the Franco-Prussian War.

The ruins of the Ministry of Finance on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris after being badly damaged during the Franco-Prussian War.

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#27 The shell of the old Hotel de Ville or Town Hall in Paris after its destruction by fire at the hands of the Paris Commune during the Franco-Prussian War.

The shell of the old Hotel de Ville or Town Hall in Paris after its destruction by fire at the hands of the Paris Commune during the Franco-Prussian War.

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#28 Troops collecting bodies after the Paris Commune, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War.

Troops collecting bodies after the Paris Commune, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War.

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#29 The Vendôme Column after being torn down by the Communards, 1871.

The Vendôme Column after being torn down by the Communards, 1871.

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Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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