Catherine Radziwill.

Germany under three emperors online

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(Catherine Kolb-Danvin)

With Eight Photogravure Plates

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London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne



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Introduction .

Part I
Before the Emp


1. The Dawn of Imperialism .

2. Bismarck's Political Debut

3. Prussia and Russia

4. Austria and Prussia .

5. Genius at the Helm .

6. Frederick III. and his Father

7. Playing with Austria

8. Austria becomes a Pawn .










Part II
The Process of Union

9. First Steps to Empire

10. Welding the Southern States .

11. The Process Continues

12. New Light on the Ems Dispatch

13. Sedan and Paris

14. Inauguration of the Spy System

15. A King becomes Emperor





Part III
Development of Militarism


16. Bismarck and the Empress

17. Juggling with War .

18. Balkan Intrigues

19. Fears of Isolation

20. The Dual Alliance

21. Some Missing Documents .

22. Bulgarian Matters

23. Behind the Veil of Intrigue



Part IV
William II. in Power

24. Last Days and First Days

25. William II. and Bismarck

26. After the Crash

27. The Outcome

Index ....






Emperor William II. and the Empress Augusta

Victoria ...... Frontispiece

Prince von Bismarck ......

Marshal von Moltke . . . . . .114

Emperor William I. in 1871 ..... 200

William II. in 1884 244

Emperor William I. in 1884 ..... 282

Emperor Frederick III. ...... 304

Emperor William II. in 1899 338

Emperor William II. in 1905 ..... 338



Amid all the grave preoccupations that have absorbed
the world during the last three years and prevented it
from thinking about the past I experienced a strong
feeling of hesitation before deciding to relate the incidents
of which I write. And yet, according to the eloquent
remark of Catherine the Great, it is only in reading the
past that one can foresee the future, so far, at least, as
the historical development of nations is concerned.

Perhaps, indeed, Europe would have fared better had
it studied with closer attention the events that gradually
transformed Prussia into the powerful war machine the
great European conflict has proved her to be.

The processes of Militarism spread over three reigns.
In the development of these processes is embodied prac-
tically all the history which Germany has made under
William I., Frederick III., and, so far, William II.
Any account of Germany under these three Emperors,
therefore, must perforce make that predominance the
thread of the narrative, and particularly must this be so
with the present volume, which deals with the political
evolution of Germany in its relations with the rest of

From this same cause, too, it is inevitable that, even
to the limits of iteration, one name should recur. For
who but Bismarck was mostly responsible, through the
three reigns, for the international political situation?


x Introduction

Yes ; one always attributes to Prince von Bismarck the
creation of the German Empire such as it became in 1914.

In reality, however, Bismarck, with all his genius,
was a consequence of Prussian development ; Prussian
development was not the consequence of his presence
at the head of affairs. He was not like Richelieu, a
man of wide conceptions which he carried through in
defiance of every obstacle. Bismarck did not create, he
only built. As a worker he was, undoubtedly, one of
the most gigantic figures the world has ever seen. The
future alone can prove whether the edifice to which he
placed the topmost stone will continue to stand after
passes the tempest which is sweeping round the world in
unabated fury. Yet the past may help us to an intelli-
gent anticipation.

One cannot foresee the storms of the morrow. The
only thing which is within human power is to examine
the past with care. To do so is the aim of this book.
To the task I bring some material it has been within
my discretion to divulge, and which has long been within
my knowledge. At this distant date no great harm can
be done by thus bringing to light personal experiences
and private documents which may help to a clearer
view of the path the Prussian has trod during the three

Catherine Radziwill

Part I

Before the Empire



The Dawn of Imperialism

MANY people who have not taken the trouble to
study closely the history of Prussia in particular,
and of Germany in general, when speaking about the
events which raised the Hohenzollerns to an Imperial
Throne, do so under the impression that the war of 1870
with France was the great lever. But twenty-two years
before the disaster of Sedan a Parliament assembled at
Frankfurt had offered the crown of the Hohenstaufens
and of the Habsburgs to King Frederick William IV.,
King of Prussia.

Had there been at his side a Minister possessing the
undoubted and unscrupulous genius of Prince von Bis-
marck, he might have been persuaded into accepting
the diadem. But Frederick William, whose mind was
as timid as his nature was tortuous, could not agree to
what he conceived would be a revolt against tradition —
the degradation of the Austrian dynasty to the position
of a vassal of another German Power.

When thinking of those years between the Revolu-
tion of 1848 and the Franco-German War, one must
always remember that there existed in Germany two
different countries, as it were — Monarchical Germany


2 Germany under Three Emperors

and Democratic Germany. The former was repre-
sented by the King of Prussia, whilst the majority of
his advisers held Democratic opinions. Both parties
wanted union, for the very fact that the Parliament
assembled at Frankfurt had been called into being was
owing to the unacknowledged yearning after German
unity under the supremacy of one or other of the
German Princes. That Parliament had met in order
to bring some kind of order out of the chaos that had
existed ever since 1815 and the Congress of Vienna.
It had met also for another purpose, of which every
one of its members was aware though he would never
have owned to it : to exclude Austria from the new
Germany. Herein lay the divergence between the
Monarchical and the Democratic attitudes.

We may say, therefore, that the national passion
for unity which has become so overbearing in the
present Germany already existed in 1848, but it had
not yet gathered sufficient courage or power or vanity
to assert itself. It was as a means of transition from
a system of government which was weakening Ger-
many, and threatening it with impotence, that this
Frankfurt Parliament, at whose decisions King Fred-
erick William IV. was afterwards so terribly indig-
nant, proceeded almost immediately upon its election
to create a Central Power from among the members of
one of the reigning German dynasties. The name of
the Archduke John of Austria obtained almost all the
votes of the Assembly, which elected him to this
supreme dignity on the 29th of May, 1848.

The Archduke, as Imperial Vicar, immediately
called together a responsible Ministry, and assumed
the attitude of a Constitutional Sovereign. Unfortu-

One Flag in Common 3

nately for him, and for the success of an attempt that
was doomed to failure almost before it had been
entered upon, the new ruler had not to deal only with
a nation; his task was also to exercise supreme
authority over one Emperor, five Kings, Grand Dukes
and Dukes without number, and free towns like Ham-
burg and Bremen. How could he possibly bring them
all to act according to his instructions without wounding
their extremely sensitive consciousness of their own


The Ministry believed that it could reconcile all the
interests at stake by deciding that the armies of the
different German States were to swear allegiance to the
Imperial Vicar, with one common flag-the red, black
and gold colours of Germany— as the symbol of the

new unity.

This pretension, the significance of which lay in
dispossessing the German independent Princes of the
command of their own troops-the foremost of their
rights— instead of smoothing matters, caused a storm of
intonation all over the country. In Prussia especially
it gave rise to an opposition which no persuasion could
allay. The army hastened to protest against a humili-
ating decision which would have been contrary to all
the traditions associated with the name of Frederick
the Great. The King, who was the first to cry out,
declared that nothing in the world would ever make
him agree to what he characterised as a monstrous pro-
posal, the result of which would have been to make
him surrender his authority over his troops to a power
that owed its existence to revolution.

What infuriated Frederick William especially,
though he did not openly acknowledge it, was the fact

4 Germany under Three Emperors

that the representative of this revolutionary power was
a Prince belonging to the House of Habsburg, which
had always been beaten in battle wherever they had
encountered the Hohenzollerns. He declared that he
would resist to the last the decrees of the Imperial
Vicar. All the other German Princes followed his
example, so that, though the Central Ministry of
Frankfurt went so far as to fix a day upon which the
oath of allegiance to the Archduke John was to be
sworn, no such oath was ever taken. The Prussian
army remained under the command of the King of
Prussia, whilst the Hanoverian, Saxon, Bavarian, and
Wiirtemberg troops still recognised their respective
Sovereigns as supreme military chiefs.

Remembering all that took place at that time, one
cannot help discovering food for thought in the fact
that the Frankfurt programme was carried out almost
to the letter twenty-two years later. But this time it
was for the benefit of Prussia. Even at the time of
Archduke John's brief span of power people in every
part of Germany whispered to each other that the
ferocious opposition of Prussia to the scheme of one
large German army might vanish altogether in the
then improbable case of the King of Prussia being
offered its command. And the prophets were right.

This idea of unity, which was already gaining
ground, was assiduously cultivated by partisans of the
then Prussian Kingdom, who proceeded with alacrity
to encourage the Frankfurt Parliament to vote the
constitution of a new German Empire, from which
Austria was to be excluded. This, however, was fated
only to take place after the decisive battle of Sadowa had
ratified the decisions of an Assembly no one had ever

English Sentiment 5

taken seriously into account, but which, nevertheless, laid
the foundations of the work that Bismarck was to accom-
plish with such success later on. For when this separa-
tion of Austrian from the German community became an
accomplished fact in 18GG, after the Treaty of Nikolsburg,
it had been already voted some seventeen years earlier by
the National Assembly of Frankfurt.

It is not inopportune, perhaps, here to remind our-
selves that it is chronicled in the Memoirs of Baron
von Bunsen that this idea of ousting Austria from her
place in the German Confederation had been viewed
with considerable sympathy by several English states-
men. Lord Palmerston, Lord John Russell, Sir Robert
Peel and others said to Bunsen that the Parliament of
Frankfurt, in taking the initiative of such a resolution,
had shown proof of real political intuition.

It must be remembered, in order to explain why
these clever politicians had been led to take such a point
of view of a situation that could not but engross their
attention on account of the complications that were
bound to follow upon its development, that at the time
to which I am referring the Austrian Government was
in the hands of an intelligent, daring and inexorable
man, whose ambitions constituted a perpetual threat to
the safety of Europe. Prince Felix Schwarzenberg had
replied to the votes of the Frankfurt Assembly, which
had excluded the realm of the Habsburgs from the
common German Fatherland, by declaring his intention
to oblige the new Empire to accept all the Austrian
provinces that had not hitherto been included in the
German Confederation, e.g. Hungary, Bohemia, Galicia,
etc. This mass of foreign peoples, once they had been
merged into the Empire, almost inevitably would have

6 Germany under Three Emperors

obliged it to submit to the policy of reaction pre-con-
ceived by Austria. Thereby Prince Schwarzenberg, the
precursor of Bismarck, would have created a Central
European Empire of over seventy millions of inhabitants
which would have swallowed Prussia and quashed her
pretensions for ever. It would also have constituted a
permanent uncertain factor in European politics ; hence
the opposition it produced.

In proof of the opinion I have already ventured to
express, I reproduce in its entirety a curious letter from
the then well-known Donoso Cortes. It will be seen that
it emphasises the point that Bismarck was not the
originator of the revival of a German Empire for the
profit of the Hohenzollerns, as so many people think.
He simply took up with unusual ability, much un-
scrupulousness, and a certain degree of recklessness, an
idea that had already appeared before a few minds gifted
with more perspicacity than others, as being the inevit-
able result of the development of a situation that had
been carefully prepared from the days of Frederick the
Great. The disaster of Jena merely caused the matter
to be relegated to the background for a season ; it cer-
tainly never induced any thought of abandonment.

Donoso Cortes wrote on May 23rd, 1849, from
Berlin to a friend : " The Austrian, Bavarian and Hano-
verian Plenipotentiaries have assembled here to discuss,
in the name of the respective Sovereigns, a new German
Constitution, and, in accord with Prussia, they have
elaborated one which will shortly be promulgated.

: This Constitution is nearly the same as the one of
the Frankfurt demagogues, except for a few modifica-
tions. For instance, the Imperial veto will not be a
suspensive, but an absolute one; whilst the vote of

A Forecast 7

the citizens will not be universal, but restricted and sub-
ject to certain conditions determined beforehand.

" Germany is to become a military State that will
be designated an Empire. This Empire will be ruled
by the King of Prussia, who, however, will not be
called Emperor, but bear a name which in German will
mean ' Guardian of the Empire.' No other German
State will be allowed to maintain at foreign Courts its
independent diplomatic agents, nor accredit any. This
right will only belong to the Guardian of the Empire,
and the King of Prussia himself will only be able to
avail himself of it in virtue of his quality as such.

" Austria is to remain outside the Union, forming
a separate Empire.

" As you can see for yourself, this means the
mediatisation of all the independent German Princes,
who, rinding themselves placed between the revolution
that weighs upon their future and Prussia that crushes
them with her protection, have no other choice left to
them than that of the way in which they are to die.
They have been called together not to hear whether they
wish to live, but to learn whether they desire to perish
from the hand of a king or of a peasant. At present
the future of that immense and mighty German Empire
which is itself as yet unformed is uncertain : will it be
democracy or Monarchy ; ruled by an obscure, glib-
tongued demagogue, or the King of Prussia?'

That a statesman of long experience and superior in-
telligence should have been compelled to ask such a
question in 1849 must necessarily require the presump-
tion that already certain people whose political acumen
allowed them to guess the probable march of events
considered that Prussia becoming supreme in Germany

8 Germany under Three Emperors

was only a matter of time. In reality it was even more
a question of form. Prussia was preparing her own
aggrandisement without leaving those spheres of the
divine right so dear to the pious heart of its King ; she
was advancing with discretion, noiselessly, slowly, but
she was advancing all the same, and things had already
gone so far that sagacious spectators of her conduct like
Donoso Cortes could see whither they led. I have only
quoted his letter because it is but one among the many
proofs that could be advanced in favour of the theory that
in May, 1849, Prussia was already making ready to grasp
Imperial dignity as her legitimate possession, and that
according to the best judges nothing would be able to
stop her.

Donoso Cortes, however, had been absolutely mis-
taken in his prophecy that the independent German
Sovereigns would be forced into the dilemma of having
to perish either at the hand of a king or by the demand
of the populace. They resigned themselves to nothing
of the kind, but tried to play a double game. Outwardly
they seemed to be in perfect accord with Frederick Wil-
liam IV., but in the secret of their hearts they were still
expecting that Austria would be able to recover sufficient
strength to deliver them from Prussia.

This was clearly proved when a little later Austria,
having really recovered the full liberty of her move-
ments, Hanover and Saxony denounced the Treaty which
they had accepted on May 26th. Frederick William IV.,
who believed he had coerced them to his policy, had been
in reality their dupe. The Kings of Hanover and
Saxony had found in the Treaty an excellent pretext
to gain time, which was the only thing they wanted.
Indeed, on the very day after he had agreed to the

What Wellington Advised 9

arrangement proposed by Prussia in regard to the
Treaty which had bound it with its neighbours, the
King of Hanover had written to the Duke of Wellington
to consult him as to the conduct which he ought to follow
in such a grave juncture. " Would he not do better,"
he asked, " to keep his liberty in spite of the Treaty
he had been compelled to conclude by trying to delay
things as long as possible, so as to allow to Austria
sufficient time to reconstitute her strength and her
army? " In spite of the indignation of the Iron Duke,
the King persisted in his opinion. This, too, was shared
by Saxony. The Government there made no secret of
its intentions to break the Treaty, and Herr von Beust,
questioned on the point, had replied : " We have re-
served ourselves a door to escape from the obligations
we have entered upon. We have let the Bavarian
Government know that, unless it and the Vienna Cabinet
consent to join the Alliance, we should not consider
ourselves as bound by it. This declaration has produced
in Munich the impression which we had expected it to
make. Bavaria will refuse to accept the Treaty of
May 26th, and we shall thus be free to disengage our-
selves from its terms whenever we like."

Some Prussian statesmen have tried to represent
Prussian policy at that time as a model of disinterested-
ness and chivalry. We who look at things by the light
of subsequent events do not feel quite so ready to award
it such praise, but find reason for the attitude of Prince
Schwarzenberg, who attributed the hesitations which
at the last moment kept back Frederick William IV.
from adding to the embarrassments of his neighbours,
and especially to the distress of Austria, to the feeling
that the time had not yet come when Prussia might,

io Germany under Three Emperors

without danger for her future prestige, assert herself as
the one great Power in Germany.

Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, the Emperor Francis
Joseph's Prime Minister, was one of Prussia's most
dangerous foes. This great nobleman was an ex-
ception among the ignorant Austrian aristocracy. He
was certainly a great man, even if not a great statesman,
and he at least had a carefully elaborated programme that
he followed all the time that he remained in office — that
is, until his death, because he expired in harness. He
hated Prussia with one of those ferocious hatreds which
knows no bounds, and even when he had to fight against
internal difficulties that very nearly wrecked the Aus-
trian Monarchy he was thinking of the moment when
he would be enabled to crush Prussia, in whom he
already saw the foe of the morrow — the one enemy to
whom Austria was to owe its final humiliation.

The Prince had understood very well, if others had
not, the real significance of that Treaty of May 26th,
1849, which the King of Prussia had compelled the
Sovereigns of Hanover and Saxony to sign, and which
associated them with him in one political existence. It
was the beginning of that future unity of which Prussia
was to become the centre. This state of things he
meant to destroy. By a stroke of genius he persuaded
Prussia to conclude another Treaty, this time with
Austria, a Treaty which put an end to the power of
the Imperial Vicar, and which constituted an interim
authority exercised by Prussia and Austria in turns, in
the name of the German Confederation ; its term was
to extend until May 1st, 1850. It was opening the
door to all kind of discussions, and it was directed straight
against Prussia and her ambitions. One can but wonder

Prince Felix Schwarzenberg n

how the latter was induced to accept such a revolution,
because it was nothing else, in the government of the
German States. King Frederick William IV. evidently
did not realise its importance, because he immediately
proposed to call together another Parliament at Erfurt —
that is, the Parliament which, according to the Treaty
of May 2Gth, had, with the help and co-operation of
the rulers of the German independent States, to remodel
the Constitution of Frankfurt. As soon, however, as
he had declared this intention, Hanover said that Prussia
did not interpret correctly the sense of the Treaty of
May 2Gth, and that the King of Hanover had only
allied himself with the King of Prussia in order to fight
the democracy, but not at all to transform Germany
into one vast and united State. The people having been
crushed, the Treaty of May 26th had become null, and
Hanover consequently repudiated it altogether. Thanks
to the intrigues — for it is impossible to call his conduct
by another name — of Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, the
famous Alliance of the three Kings, which went in Ger-
many by the name of " Dreili■^7ligsbiindniss, ,, remained
nothing but a dead letter, devoid of every sense.

At the same time, also by reason of the influence
which directly or indirectly he succeeded in exercising
over the minds of certain Sovereigns and Ministers in
Germany, the Prince caused indignant protestations
without number against the supremacy which Prussia
had claimed as a right, to shake the whole of the Southern
German States. They began to awaken to the fact that
their independence was being seriously threatened. On
February 27th, 1850, Bavaria, Saxony and Wiirtemberg
signed a Convention which had for its object the preser-
vation of the sovereign rights of the small States in that

12 Germany under Three Emperors

future German Constitution about which everybody was
talking, but which no one cared to see become a fact,
with the exception, of course, of Prussia. A fortnight
later the King of Wurtemberg, in opening the Chambers
at Stuttgart, uttered words which caused undescribable
emotion all over Germany.

" Gentlemen," said the King of Wurtemberg, " the
dream of a united great German State is the most
dangerous of all dreams, not only from the point of
view of Germany, but also from that of Europe. Every
violent fusion of the German races, every complete
subordination of one of these races to the other, would
carry in itself the danger of our own inner dissolution,
and would be the death of our national existence. It
is only the maintenance of the old fidelity to historical
traditions, and of the rights of each of us, that can
assure us strength and salvation amidst the storms of the
present day. I, together with the Governments allied
with me, desire that each nation should remain in pos-
session of its undoubted right to be represented in a

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