Memorial stone on the occasion of the famous "Emser Depesche"
A stone in the flowerbed is a reminder that a chapter in the spa town's European history has earned it an eternal place in the history books. This event has become known as the "Ems Dispatch". It was here that the events that led to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 took their course, triggered by a message from Otto von Bismarck in distant Berlin, which reported on King Wilhelm I's meeting with the French ambassador Benedetti at this very spot.
The whole story In July 1870, as in every year, the Prussian King Wilhelm I travelled to Ems for a cure, and his counterpart, the French ambassador Benedetti, arrived soon afterwards. However, the real directors of the drama that was about to unfold remained in the background. Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck in distant Berlin and the French Foreign Minister Gramont in equally distant Paris. The latter had given Ambassador Benedetti the task of wringing a guarantee from Prussia's King William I that he would not agree to a German monarch running for the vacant Spanish royal throne. France saw its supremacy in Europe threatened if its neighbour to the south also became a Hohenzollern monarchy.
Well aware that this was not a wise policy, Benedetti made his way to the Kurpromenade, where he arranged a meeting with the king and, as instructed, presented the French demand for a guarantee. As expected, Wilhelm rejected it. Bismarck received a telegraphic report of the meeting from Bad Ems in the afternoon. The essence of the telegram was that Wilhelm had rejected the French demand for a guarantee and refused to negotiate further with the ambassador. Bismarck now revised the despatch, not, as he himself claimed, merely by deleting and without adding or changing a word, but he wrote a new, shorter and more stringent text, which he sent to the press that same evening and which he thus turned into the famous "Emser Depesche". In Bismarck's version, Benedetti had harassed the king on the Kurpromenade all too improperly and had been brusquely rebuffed by him. This caused a stir in Germany and France alike when they read about it in the newspapers the next morning. The French declaration of war a few days later led to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, which, however, was less a consequence of the "Ems Dispatch" than of the overall diplomatic entanglements of those days. The Ems Dispatch was at best the famous spark that set off the already open powder keg.