Holy Places Disputes
The French President (Emperor Napoleon III as of 1852) believed in liberal causes (a belief in democracy and greater freedom generally e.g. speech and religion) because of this he wanted to break the peace settlement (1815) and challenge Russia-a country that suppressed France's power and a very autocratic country (a form of government where an unelected ruler has total power). The collapsing Turkish Empire gave the Emperor an opportunity to oppose Russia. The French Catholic Monks had once owned the holy places is the Palestine (1740) but due to the expansion of Russia the Greek Orthodox Monks (with Russia's backing) gradually over took them. After a two year diplomatic struggle (a test of whose influence prevailed at Constantinople and would have guardianship of the holy places) in December on 1852 the Sultan handed the Catholic priests the keys. Tsar Nicholas I (Russia) was not happy at this French triumph.
December 1852-Lord Aberdeen becomes head of a coalition government. Lord Palmerston is appointed Home Secretary. Lord John Russell became Foreign Secretary (soon to be replaced by the Earl of Clarendon.) Russian Tsar (Nicholas) has established good relations with Aberdeen and hoped to revive the good rapport. The British Ambassador to Russia held many talks with the Tsar in January 1853 in which "a gentleman's agreement" between the two countries was made for dealing with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Some people (Palmerston) were suspicious of Nicholas' intentions, especially as the Tsar misunderstood Russell's polite response the Seymour conversations. These suspicions increased in January 1853 when Russian troops concentrated on the borders of Moldavia and Wallachia, posing a clear threat to Turkey.
The Menshikov Mission
February 1853-Russian Tsar Nicholas sends a high-powered Army mission headed by Prince Menshikov to Constantinople demanding that:
1) The keys to the holy places be given back to the Orthodox monks
2) The Tsar should be recognised as the protector of all Christians living in the Ottoman Empire (1/3 of the Ottoman public-reducing the state to a Russian protectorate)
These demands aroused danger and nationalist fervour in Constantinople, the British ambassador, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe encouraged the Sultan to stand firm. In May 1853, Russia announced that the army could expand into Moldavia and Wallachia unless it received the satisfaction it required.