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Changing the War of Bavarian Succession and Italian Unification

© Final Sword Productions LLC 2010


The quite silly war of Bavarian Succession tends to be a footnote on 18th Century military history. Although near to four hundred thousand men were mobilized almost all the dead were from disease and starvation. Neither side could afford a war and neither side could afford to pay to feed their troops. Now let us tweak this war and have the preliminary mobilization pull off the deal that almost happened. The heir-presumptive is bought off with a straight swap of Bavaria in totality for the Austrian Netherlands in totality.

Now on paper this was a bad deal for the Hapsburg, Joseph II, which is why in the end he didn’t do it in OTL. While the Austrian Netherlands was distant from Vienna and expensive to defend it supplied a VERY large part of the crown’s revenues. It also had sentimental value as the seat of the Burgundian inheritance. However in fact it took poorly to Joseph’s administrative reforms such that it rose in revolt and was lost even before the French revolution. As Joseph was not going to back off his centralization drive which trampled over historic provincial and local rights he was better off with a more compact more German realm and in his more rational moments he seemed to have known this. So have the trade go through, perhaps with the new Duke of Flanders kicking back part of the provincial revenues as a subsidy to Vienna. The revenue deal is almost unimportant as it will be swept away with the French Revolution.

Where this all becomes important is at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. If Bavaria had been Austrian in 1789 the Congress would have returned it in 1814. However if Bavaria as well as Tyrol are Austrian a good argument would have been made to balance Prussian gains on the Rhine by giving Austria Switzerland. Indeed this ‘gift’ could well have been part of the settlement of the combined Saxon-Polish disputes. The Swiss would not have been happy at this to say the least but after a generation where Switzerland was a French puppet state and a menace to its alpine neighbors one doubts the powers would have especially cared. A suitable set of figs leaves could have been found leaving the Swiss with local autonomy in return for their military being under Austrian command plus an Austrian garrison of say twenty thousand kept at Swiss expense. An Austria that owned Bavaria would ring Switzerland on three sides anyway so the economic logic would be obvious.

In turn this makes Austria a solid Alpine block of mostly Germans. Such a larger Austria could well have defeated and finished off Piedmont in 1849. In turn the addition of Piedmont [ the House of Savoy becoming Kings of Sardinia] and Tuscany to the Austrian realms would have allowed a crown of Italy on the Napoleonic model. So the dual monarchy becomes Vienna-Milan instead of Vienna-Budapest. There is a separate diet in Milan presided over by the heir to the throne who is crowned as King of Italy. In OTL fiscal issues helped push Austria and Lombardy apart. Here the opposite is true as the realsm are fiscally separate except for those taxes needed for the military. Hungary is simply crushed with the non-Magyar portions added to the crown of Austria and the rest ruled directly as a de facto colony. This makes for some extremely unhappy Magyars but they are a minority in their realm and everyone else would be quite happy to be German or Slavic Austrians. This in turn probably leads to major Magyar emigration to North America which reduces them still further demographically.

The result here gives an entire new map to the Europe of the Age of Bismarck. With no prospect of an Italian War for glory Napoleon III is more likely to back Austria in 1866 in return for territory in the Rhineland [the British would not have let him have Belgium]. So we get a larger Austria, a more developed Padania and no huge Germany forming out of the Potato War going a different way.


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