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(also Ems Telegram), a telegram of June 13, 1870, that contained an account of a conversation between King William I of Prussia and the French ambassador, V. Benedetti, about the filling of the vacant Spanish throne. It was sent from Ems by H. Abeken, a counselor of the Prussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the Prussian chancellor O. von Bismarck.
The telegram reported the king’s refusal to give the French a commitment not to allow his relative Prince Leopold von Hohenzollern to accept the Spanish throne if it should be offered again; Leopold had earlier been forced to decline the Spanish government’s offer because of France’s sharply negative attitude. By shortening and arbitrarily editing the text, Bismarck caused the telegram to anger and offend the French government. The text of the telegram was published in this edited form.
Napoleon II used the distorted contents of the Ems Dispatch as a pretext for the declaration of war against Prussia on June 19, 1870 (seeFRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR OF 1870–71).