More than half of Europe was already Russian it was the largest Empire in the world. In Asia there were further vast Russian territories including Siberia. By taking Constantinople they would then gain control of the Mediterranean. Britain was not impressed as they wanted to get into Egypt, the French were interested in the near east.
In 1852 Lord Malmesbury became Foreign Secretary. Britain’s principal enemy throughout history had been France, and at this time relations had never been worse. In early spring there had been a crisis when France appeared to be intending to invade Belgium, which would have meant war with England. Then later in the year it looked as if France was planing a decent on the coast of England itself.
On 2nd December, 1852, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte took a decisive step. He proclaimed himself from being Prince President to Emperor Napoleon III. The Tsar of Russia would not accept his new title.
Palestine at this time was then Turkish, and it contained a number of Christian shrines, placed in the care of monks of the Latin Church. It included the site of the tomb of Christ. Emperor Napoleon was searching to assert glory and power of France. On 22nd December 1852 Latin monks under the protection of France went to the church in Bethlehem to place a silver star which was engraved with the arms of France in the sanctuary. France had a right in Holy Land as Protector of Christians which dated back to the Crusades. The key of the great door of the Church and the sacred manger keys to be restored to the Greeks, and for him to become Protector of the Greek Church. The British ambassadors and the Sultan of Turkey gave way to his first demand and a compromise between the parties was made. The second would not even be considered.
The Russians true objective was to establish sovereignty over all the provinces of Turkey to which England could not agree. The Russians then occupied the Principalities as a show of strength for their demands. After much diplomacy between Russia and ambassadors of the Great Powers, the Russians were ordered to leave the Principalities, they refused, and war was declared.
On 30th November, 1853, without warning a Russian fleet of was sailed out Sevastopol into the harbour of Sinope on the Black Sea and destroyed a Turkish fleet at anchor there.
A state of war was declared with Russia and France on 27th March, 1854, and with England on 28th
It must be noted at this point, that soldiers living conditions in peace time were terrible. Accommodation was crowded and there was lack of ventilation. They were not fed well, with daily rations of one loaf of bread, three-quarters of a pound of beef, in practise they were given beef broth and potatoes. This was divided between two meals served at 7.30 am and 12.30 pm. No provision was made for food any other time. They were not paid well, most of their money went on drink.