Germany came into being an autocracy. United by the sheer will of men like Otto von Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm the I, the first Reich was threatened from it’s infancy. Already established powers like France and Russia were not eager to see another power upset the already fragile balance in the continent.
At the dawn of the 19th century, Germany was a patchwork of duchies, bishoprics, and free cities dominated a few powerful kingdoms such as Prussia, Austria and Bavaria. The independence of the smaller states were protected by the elected emperor which was Austria. Nevertheless, the smaller states were still dominated by the surrounding kingdoms like, Sweden, Prussia, and France.
But, then comes Napoleon to upset the status quo, defeating Prussia, Austria, Spain, Great Britain and various European states. After defeating Austria, the then Emperor of the HRE, Napoleon dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. This removed even the nominal protection Austria offered the micro-nations. These states were partially annexed by Prussia, Sweden and Austria. The remaining were united into a French client state called the Rhine Confederacy.
After the defeat at Waterloo and the disastrous Russian campaign, Napoleon’s empire was dismantled and he was exiled. Without their protector, the powerless Rhine Confederacy was annexed by Prussia. After wresting Schleswig-Holstein, Alsace-Lorraine and parts of Poland, the Kingdom of Prussia proclaimed the Empire of Germany. The Konigreich turned into the Kaiserreich. The First Reich was born.