Circular gilt bronze medal with loop for ribbon suspension; the face with an Iron Cross (cross pattée) with rays between the arms, inscribed ‘1870 1871’ within a wreath of laurel; the reverse with the crowned monogram of King Wilhelm above the inscription ‘Dem siegreichen Heere’ (the victorious army), circumscribed ‘Gott war mit uns Ihm sei die Ehre’ (God was with us To Him the Glory); on probably original tired combatant’s ribbon.
The medal was instituted on 20 May 1871 for those active in the War with France. It was in bronze for combatants and steel for non-combatants.
The conflict between France and Prussia that signalled the rise of German military power and imperialism was provoked by the Prussian (later German) Chancellor Otto von Bismarck as part of his plan to create a unified German Empire. The French armies were overcome at Sedan by the efficient Prussian forces, battle-hardened from their conflicts with Denmark and Austria. In Paris, a bloodless revolution led to the overthrow of Napoleon III. The city was besieged by the Prussians from 19 September and held out, suffering severe privation, until 28 January.
France was forced to cede Alsace and Lorraine to the Germany which had been proclaimed an empire under Wilhelm I on 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, sowing the seeds of future 20th Century conflicts.
Note that this example lacks the edge inscription ‘AUS EROBERTEM GESCHUETZ’ (from captured cannon) and is a privately-made piece of the period.