The Prussian Epoch (1815-1919)According to the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the decision was made that the canton of Malmedy, which at that time also incorporated the canton of St.Vith, would be linked to Prussia. This was to remain so for about a century.
The special situation of Malmedy, being a Romanic town (and also even a Walloon one) within a German-speaking state such as Prussia, did not cause a lot of problems in the first fifty years. The inhabitants were free to speak French as they pleased, including its use in proceedings and decisions of the town council. In 1853, during a visit to the town by the King of Prussia, Frederick-William IV even affirmed his pride at having “a little country where French was spoken” within his kingdom.
On the other hand, this situation gradually changed, firstly when Chancellor Bismarck took power and then finally following the Franco-German War of 1870 that saw the advent of the Kulturkampf that ensued. In the eyes of the Prussian Administration, Malmedy suffered a double disadvantage as it was both francophone and the majority of the inhabitants were catholic.
From this moment on, Malmedy was forced to endure an attempt to be Germanized. In schools, lessons in French were not permitted while the German language profited from this being obligatory. Besides this, the canton rural authorities were forbidden to support the religious cults, and priests were not allowed to preach any longer in French (something that was often got round by preaching in Walloon).
A few undaunted individuals went as far as founding a “Walloon Club” in 1897, and this still exists today. However, the majority of the inhabitants, who were much more concerned with daily routine matters, gradually acceded to the situation although, for most, the preferred language at home and with friends continued to remain Walloon.