Chapter 253 The Great Panic
July 10th, 1801.
More than a month had passed since Great Britain's surrender to the French Republic, and the world map had undergone a dramatic transformation.
The once mighty British territories abroad were now firmly under the control of the French Republic, transforming it into an empire that wielded its influence across seven seas. While there had been initial revolts in some of the newly acquired colonies, the French responded swiftly, dispatching armies to quell the uprisings and firmly assert their authority.
Across six continents, French territories stretched far and wide, a testament to the Republic's expanding power. Yet, in the corridors of European diplomacy and among the common people, a growing sentiment had taken root: the Republic no longer felt like an appropriate title. Many preferred to refer to this burgeoning superpower as an Empire.
News of the celebration of the people of France spread like wildfire with Napoleon parading on every major city of France. Yet, beyond the borders of France, their neighbors could only gaze upon these spectacles with a complex mix of emotions. Awe at the sheer scale of the Empire's success was tinged with a growing sense of unease. The world was changing, and the French Empire was ascending to a position of unparalleled influence. It was a sight to behold, but it also raised questions about what this meant for the rest of Europe and beyond.
At St. Petersburg of the Russian Empire, specifically at the Winter Palace.
Tsar Paul, I was staring at the huge map of the world spread across the wall. Each country had its own colors and intricate borders meticulously delineated on the grand tapestry. His eyes traced the contours of Russia, a vast expanse that dominated the northern hemisphere.
But as he was doing so, his eyes landed on the Middle East, a blue color shading on the region. Even in the Middle East, the French have influence.
"What do you think of the French Empire, Alexei?" Paul asked.
"They are a threat, Your Imperial Majesty," Alexei answered without hesitation. "We have seen their power, their technology, and their military. There's no nation in this world that could put up a fight with that nation."
"I know, Alexei. Which is why it's time we adopt drastic measures. The only way we can protect our sovereignty and influence in Europe is to mirror France. We will industrialize our country, implement radical reforms that would give rights to the common people, and modernize our military," Tsar Paul I declared with a steely determination in his voice.
"Fortunately, Your Imperial Majesty, we have the ingredients for that," Alexei said as he stepped forward. "We managed to get a copy of their bolt-action rifles and machine guns, thanks to the French soldiers in the Middle East who had defected on our side. We also acquired the know-how by hiring people who had worked in heavy industries in France. British naval engineers with ingenious ideas flocking to our borders. But it would take time, Your Imperial Majesty. So I suggest that we maintain our relationship with France until we are strong enough to challenge their might directly."
"We are going to mobilize our peasants, put them all in factories. I shall call this project of ours the 'Six Year Plan.'"
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Kingdom of Prussia, Potsdam Palace.
Queen Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz strode purposefully towards the King's Office. Walking next to her was a man in his thirties with a sharp intellect evident in his demeanor. They entered the opulent chamber where King Frederick William III of Prussia was poring over maps and documents.
"Frederick, we must talk," Queen Louise said with a sense of urgency in her voice.
The king looked up from his work, his expression shifting from deep concentration to curiosity. "Louise, what brings you here with such urgency?"
The man accompanying Queen Louise stepped forward.
"Your Majesty, I'm Ferdinand von Bismarck, Lord of Sch?nhausen and Kniephof. I came here to propose something that would make our influence in European affairs stronger."
"What is this…Louise?" Frederick asked, his gaze fixed on his wife.
"Frederick, we are surrounded by great powers, particularly France. If we don't do something radical, I'm afraid it'll be only a matter of time before France and Russia decide to carve us out like we did Poland. And I think Bismarck's plan is worth considering."
"Which is what?" Frederick flickered his gaze to Ferdinand.
"Your Majesty, you have witnessed it yourself. France invaded the United Kingdom and established itself as a superpower. In order to protect our country from France we'll have to modernize at a pace similar to France and we convince the states that are part of the Holy Roman Empire to become part of us."
"Elaborate," Frederick said, his interest piqued by the proposal.
"Your Majesty, the key lies in consolidation. We must take the lead in uniting the German states, forming a formidable confederation that can stand as a bulwark against the growing influence of France. The Holy Roman Empire is a relic of the past, and it is fragmented. If we can convince the various German states to join a united Germany under Prussian leadership, we can create a force to be reckoned with."
Queen Louise added, "Frederick, by uniting the German states, we not only enhance our own power but also provide stability to the region. France will think twice before challenging a united Germany. It is a path to securing our future."
"But, will France let it happen?" Frederick inquired and continued. "And I believe that the Holy Roman Empire is under the leadership of the Austrian Empire. That means we are bringing ourselves to a conflict with one of the other great powers."
Ferdinand von Bismarck nodded. "Your Majesty, it is true that this path will not be without challenges and potential conflicts. However, France has its own concerns and may not see the immediate benefit of opposing a united Germany. After all, they are going to be busy spreading their influence and controlling their colonies overseas rather than in continental Europe. Though we would still remain cautious of our neighbor."
Queen Louise chimed in, "And as for the Austrian Empire, they may be the current leaders of the Holy Roman Empire, but they, too, are wary of France's growing power. We may find common ground with them in our pursuit of stability and security in Central Europe."
"And you think you can pull this off?" Frederick's gaze bore a hint of skepticism.
"I do, Your Majesty."
"This is no time to be hesitant, Frederick," Louise urged. "This is the time we must step up. Even the councils agreed to Bismark's plan. They are more concerned than the Austrians."
"I almost forgot that we also have to conduct radical and progressive reforms like France. We'll stamp out any conservative opposition.," Louise added.
Frederick steepled his fingers and leaned back in his ornate chair. "Fine. You have my word."
Sch?nbrunn Palace, Austrian Empire.
Emperor Francis II was reading a newspaper covering Napoleon's upcoming proclamation as the President of the Republic of Italy. He tightened his grip on the paper as he read the news. The French Empire's expansion and influence across Europe and beyond were undeniable, and it sent ripples of concern throughout the halls of power in Vienna.
At that moment, his brother Archduke Charles, entered the room.
"I still couldn't get over the fact that Britain had lost the war with France," Francis II said.
"It's time to be proactive brother, for I am sure our neighbors are in action to counter the French."
"You're right even if I have to force things," Francis II nodded. "What shall we do?"
"First and foremost, we must focus on industrialization and modernizing our army like the French. Second is the Holy Roman Empire states to align themselves with us. I'm sure the Prussian Kingdom is planning on similar lines," Archduke Charles explained.
"Okay, we will do it."𝐛𝗲𝐝𝗻𝗼𝘃𝐞𝗹．𝗻𝐞𝘁