About 100,000 people demonstrate against Empire on the occassion of the funeral of Victor Noir, a republican journalist killed by the Emperor's cousin, Pierre Bonaparte.
A national plebiscite votes confidence in the Empire [about 84% for].
After a diplomatic struggle over the Hohenzollern (Prussian) candidacy to the Spanish throne, France declares war on Prussia.
Crown Prince Frederick, commanding one of three German armies invading France, defeats French Marshal MacMahon at Worth and Weissenburg, pushes him out of Alsace, surrounds Strasbourg, and drives on Nancy. The other two German armies surround Marshal Bazaine's forces in Metz.
Bazaine's efforts to break through the German lines are bloodily defeated at Mars-la-Tour and Gravelotte. The Germans advance on Chalons.
Battle of Sedan. MacMahon, attempting to relieve Bazaine at Metz and finding the road closed, fights and is defeated at Sedan.
The French army, together with Emperor Napoleon III, capitulates at Sedan.
At news of Sedan, a Paris mob invades the Palais Bourbon and forces the Legislative Assembly to proclaim the fall of the Empire. Come evening, the Third Republic is proclaimed (at the Hotel de Ville). The provisional Government of National Defence (GND) is set up: General Louis Jules Trochu (President), Leon Gambetta (Ministry of Interior), Jules Favre (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
GND issues statement: blames war on Imperial government, it now wants peace, but "not an inch of our soil, not a stone of our fortresses, will we cede." Since Prussia demands Alsace-Lorraine, the war continues.
Two German armies begin long siege of Paris. Bismarck figures the "soft and decadent" French will quickly surrender. The GND sends delegation to Tours, soon to be joined by Gambetta (who escapes from Paris in a balloon), to organize resistance in the provinces.
French surrender (Bazaine with 173,000 men) at Metz.
National Guard defeated at Le Bourget.
Rebels storm GND at town hall. Attempt to set up a Commune in Paris, after the model of 1792. Besieged Paris has only a week's supply of food left.
GND promises elections and amnesty to rebels -- promises it will not deliver upon.
After four long months, Paris capitulates to Prussians. While all regular troops are disarmed, the National Guard are permitted to keep their arms -- the populous of Paris remains armed. The GND signs 3-week armistice with Bismarck, to negotiate peace. Paris forts turned over to the Germans. Food brought into Paris.
Elections held in France.
New National Assembly opens at Bordeaux; two-thirds of members are conservatives and wish the war to end.
The Assembly elects Adolphe Thiers chief executive.
Peace concluded with Bismarck: Alsace and one-third of Lorraine surrendered (including Metz); France to pay enormous indemnity over three years; German army of ocupation to slowly withdraw as indemnity payments made.
After months of struggle and suffering, Parisians react angrily to the entry of German troops in the city. The National Guard organizes a Central Committee, prepares for conflict.
National Assembly adjourns. It will now set up shop at Versailles on March 20.
Thiers wants to disarm Paris. Sends French troops (regular army) to Paris, but, through fraternization with Parisians, they refuse to carry out Thiers' orders. Generals Claude Martin Lecomte and Jacques Leonard Clement Thomas are killed. The bulk of the troops withdraw. Paris is now controlled by radicals.
A municipal council -- the Paris Commune -- is elected. Central Committee of the National Guard relinquishes power. Commune consists of radical and moderate republicans, mainly followers of Proudhon and Blanqui, with some members of Marx's First International.
Commune abolishes conscription and the standing army.
Civil servant salary cap introduced.
Thiers now enters power struggle with Commune. Versailles troops launch campaign against city. Commune formally announces separation of church and state. Church property nationalized.
Reacting to Versailles' policy of shooting captured Communards, Commune issues an "eye-for-an-eye" policy statement, promising retaliation. It is, however, never acted upon.
All religious representations removed from Paris schools.
Commune announces the postponement of all debt obligations for three years.
Thiers orders nationwide municipal elections.
The peace treaty concluded in February now signed, known as Treaty of Frankfurt. (Endorsed by National Assembly May 18.)
The Fall of Paris. Versailles troops enter Paris on May 21. They now spend eight days clearing resistance, which usually involved shocking massacres. Operation led by Marshal MacMahon, who would later become president of France. Thousands of Communards and innocent Parisians summarily executed (as many as 30,000); numerous others imprisoned and deported. Death tolls as great as Terror of 1793-94.