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E-text prepared by Ted Garvin, Keith M. Eckrich, and the Project Gutenberg
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Trinity College Dublin



The Frontispiece is from a photograph by E. Bieber, of Berlin


I. INTRODUCTORY....................................... 1

II. YOUTH (1859-1881).................................. 10

III. PRE-ACCESSION DAYS (1881-1887)..................... 42

IV. "VON GOTTES GNADEN"................................ 56

V. THE ACCESSION (1888-1890).......................... 69

VI. THE COURT OF THE EMPEROR........................... 105

VII. "DROPPING THE PILOT"............................... 125

VIII. SPACIOUS TIMES (1891-1899)......................... 144

IX. THE NEW CENTURY (1900-1901)........................ 189

X. THE EMPEROR AND THE ARTS........................... 205

XI. THE NEW CENTURY - _continued_ (1902-1904)........... 237

XII. MOROCCO (1905)..................................... 255

XIII. BEFORE THE "NOVEMBER STORM" (1906-1907)............ 275

XIV. THE NOVEMBER STORM (1908).......................... 289

XV. AFTER THE STORM (1909-1913)........................ 321

XVI. THE EMPEROR TO-DAY................................. 342

INDEX ................................................... 391


William the Second, German Emperor and King of Prussia, Burgrave of
Nürnberg, Margrave of Brandenburg, Landgrave of Hessen and Thuringia,
Prince of Orange, Knight of the Garter and Field-Marshal of Great
Britain, etc., was born in Berlin on January 27, 1859, and ascended
the throne on June 15, 1888. He is, therefore, fifty-four years old
in the present year of his Jubilee, 1913, and his reign - happily yet
unfinished - has extended over a quarter of a century.

The Englishman who would understand the Emperor and his time must
imagine a country with a monarchy, a government, and a people - in
short, a political system - almost entirely different from his own. In
Germany, paradoxical though it may sound to English ears, there
is neither a government nor a people. The word "government" occurs
only once in the Imperial Constitution, the Magna Charta of modern
Germans, which in 1870 settled the relations between the Emperor and
what the Englishman calls the "people," and then only in an
unimportant context joined to the word "federal."

In Germany, instead of "the people" the Englishman speaks of when he
talks politics, and the democratic orator, Mr. Bryan, in America is
fond of calling the "peopul," there is a "folk," who neither claim
to be, nor apparently wish to be, a "people" in the English sense.
The German folk have their traditions as the English people have
traditions, and their place in the political system as the English
people have; but both traditions and place are wholly different from
those of the English people; indeed, it may be said are just the
reverse of them.

The German Emperor believes, and assumes his people to believe, that
the Hollenzollern monarch is specially chosen by Heaven to guide and
govern a folk entrusted to him as the talent was entrusted to the
steward in Scripture. Until 1848, a little over sixty years ago, the
Emperor (at that time only King of Prussia) was an absolute, or almost
absolute, monarch, supported by soldiers and police, and his wishes
were practically law to the folk. In that year, however, owing to the
influence of the French Revolution, the King by the gift of a
Constitution, abandoned part of his powers, but not any governing
powers, to the folk in the form of a parliament, with permission to
make laws for itself, though not for him. To pass them, that is; for
they were not to carry the laws into execution - that was a matter the
King kept, as the Emperor does still, in his own hands.

The business of making laws being, as experience shows, provocative of
discussion, discussion of argument, and argument of controversy, there
now arose a dozen or more parties in the Parliament, each with its own
set of controversial opinions, and these the parties applied to the
novel and interesting occupation of law-making.

However, it did not matter much to the King, so long as the folk did
not ask for further, or worse still, as occurred in England, for all
his powers; and accordingly the parties continued their discussions,
as they do to-day, sometimes accepting and sometimes rejecting their
own or the King's suggestions about law-making. Generally speaking,
the relation is not unlike that established by the dame who said to
her husband, "When we are of the same opinion, you are right, but when
we are of different opinions, I am right." If the Parliament does not
agree with the Emperor, the Emperor dissolves it.

These parties, from the situation of their seats in a parliament of
397 deputies, became known as the parties of the Right, or
Conservative parties, and the parties of the Left, or Liberal parties.
Between them sat the members of the Centre, who, as representing the
Catholic populations of Germany - roughly, twenty-two millions out of
sixty-six - became a powerful and unchanging phalanx of a hundred
deputies, which had interests and tactics of its own independently of
Right or Left.

By and by, one of the parties of the Left, representing the classes
who work with their hands as distinguished from the classes who work
with their heads, thought they would like to live under a political
system of their own making and began to show a strong desire to take
all power from the King and from the Parliament too. They agitated and
organized, and organized and agitated, until at length, having settled
on what was found to be an attractive theory, they made a wholly
separate party, almost a people and parliament of their own. This is
known as the Social Democracy, with, at present, no deputies.

Such, in a comparatively few sentences, is the political state of
things in Germany. It might indeed be expressed in still fewer words,
as follows: Heaven gave the royal house of Hohenzollern, as a present,
a folk. The Hohenzollerns gave the folk, as a present, a parliament, a
power to make laws without the power of executing them. The Social
Democrats broke off from the folk and took an anti-Hohenzollern and
anti-popular attitude, and the folk in their Parliament divided into
parties to pass the time, and - of course - make laws.

This may seem to be treating an important subject with levity. It is
intended merely as a statement of the facts. The system in Germany
works well, to an Englishman indeed surprisingly so. In England there
is no Heaven-appointed king; all the powers of the King, both that of
making laws and of administering them, have long ago been taken by the
people from the King and entrusted by them to a parliament, the
majority of whom, called the Government, represent the majority of the
electing voters. In the case of Germany the folk have surrendered some
of what an Englishman would term their "liberties," for example, the
right to govern, to the King, to be used for the common good; whereas
in the case of England, the people do not think it needful to
surrender any of their liberties, least of all the government of their
country, in order to attain the same end.

Thus, while the German Emperor and the German folk have the same aims
as the English King and the English people, the common weal and the
fair fame of their respective countries, the two monarchs and the two
peoples have agreed on almost contrary ways of trying to secure them.

The political system of Germany has had to be sketched introductorily
as for the Englishman, a necessary preliminary to an understanding of
the German Emperor's character and policy. One of the most important
results of the character and policy is the state of Anglo-German
relations; and the writer is convinced that if the character and
policy were better and more generally known there would be no
estrangement between the two countries, but, much more probably,
mutual respect and mutual good-will.

With the growth of this knowledge, the writer is tempted to believe,
would cease a delusion that appears to exist in the minds, or rather
the imaginations, of two great peoples, the delusion that the highest
national interests of both are fundamentally irreconcilable, and that
the policies of their Governments are fundamentally opposed.

It seems indeed as though neither in England nor in Germany has the
least attention been paid to the astonishing growth of commerce
between the countries or to the repeated declarations made through a
long series of years by the respective Governments on their countries'
behalf. The growth in commerce needs no statistics to prove it, for it
is a matter of everyday observation and comment. The English
Government declares it a vital necessity for an insular Power like
Great Britain, with colonies and duties appertaining to their
possession in all, and the most distant, parts of the world, to have a
navy twice as powerful as that of any other possibly hostile Power.
The ordinary German immediately cries out that England is planning to
attack him, to annihilate his fleet, destroy his commerce, and
diminish his prestige among the nations. The German Government
repeatedly declares that the German fleet is intended for defence not
aggression, that Germany does not aim at the seizure of other people's
property, but at protecting her growing commerce, at standing by her
subjects in all parts of the world if subjected to injury or insult,
and at increasing her prestige, and with it her power for good, in the
family of nations. The ordinary Englishman immediately cries out that
Germany is seeking to dispute his maritime supremacy, to rob him of
his colonies, and to appropriate his trade. Is it not conceivable that
both Governments are telling the truth, and that their designs are no
more and no less than the Governments represent them to be? The
necessity for Great Britain possessing an all-powerful fleet that will
keep her in touch with her colonies if she is not to lose them
altogether, is self-evident, and understood by even the most
Chauvinistic German. The necessity for Germany's possessing a fleet
strong enough to make her rights respected is as self-evident.
Moreover, if Germany's fleet is a luxury, as Mr. Winston Churchill
says it is, she deserves and can afford it. As a nation she has
prospered and grown great, not by a policy of war and conquest, but by
hard work, thrift, self-denial, fidelity to international engagements,
well-planned instruction, and first-rate organization. Why should she
not, if she thinks it advisable and is willing to spend the money on
it, supply herself with an arm of defence in proportion to her size,
her prosperity, and her desert? It may be that, as Mr. Norman Angell
holds, the entire policy of great armaments is based on economic
error; but unless and until it is clear that the German navy is
intended for aggression, its growth may be viewed by the rest of the
world with equanimity, and by the Englishman, as a connoisseur in such
matters, with admiration as well. A man may buy a motor-car which his
friends and neighbours think must be costly and pretentious beyond his
means; but that is his business; and if the man finds that, owing to
good management and industry and skill, his business is growing and
that a motor-car is, though in some not absolutely clear and definite
way, of advantage to him in business and satisfying to his legitimate
pride - why on earth should he not buy or build it?

The truth is that if our ordinary Englishman and German were to sit
down together, and with the help of books, maps, and newspapers,
carefully and without prejudice, consider the annals of their
respective countries for the last sixteen years with a view to
establishing the causes of their delusion, they could hardly fail to
confess that it was due to neither believing a word the other said; to
each crediting the other with motives which, as individuals and men of
honesty and integrity in the private relations of life, each would
indignantly repudiate; to each assuming the other to be in the
condition of barbarism mankind began to emerge from nineteen hundred
years ago; to both supposing that Christianity has had so little
influence on the world that peoples are still compelled to live and go
about their daily work armed to the teeth lest they may be bludgeoned
and robbed by their neighbours; that the hundreds of treaties solemnly
signed by contracting nations are mere pieces of waste paper only
testifying to the profundity and extent of human hypocrisy; that
churches and cathedrals have been built, universities, colleges, and
schools founded, only to fill the empty air with noise; that the
printing presses of all countries have been occupied turning out
myriads of books and papers which have had no effect on the reason or
conscience of mankind; that nations learn nothing from experience; and
to each supposing that he and his fellow-countrymen alone are the
monopolists of wisdom, honour, truth, justice, charity - in short, of
all the attributes and blessings of civilization. Is it not time to
discard such error, or must the nations always suspect each other? To
finish with our introduction, and notwithstanding that _qui s'excuse
s'accuse_, the biographer may be permitted to say a few words on his
own behalf. Inasmuch as the subject of his biography is still, as has
been said, happily alive, and is, moreover, in the prime of his
maturity, his life cannot be reviewed as a whole nor the ultimate
consequences of his character and policy be foretold. The biographer
of the living cannot write with the detachment permissible to the
historian of the dead. No private correspondence of the Emperor's is
available to throw light on his more intimate personal disposition and
relationships. There have been many rumours of war since his
accession, but no European war of great importance; and if a few minor
campaigns in tropical countries be excepted, Germany for over forty
years, thanks largely to the Emperor, has enjoyed the advantages of

From the pictorial and sensational point of view continuous peace is a
drawback for the biographer no less than for the historian. What would
history be without war? - almost inconceivable; since wars, not peace,
are the principal materials with which it deals and supply it with
most of its vitality and interest - must it also be admitted, its
charm? For what are Hannibal or Napoleon or Frederick the Great
remembered? - for their wars, and little else. Shakespeare has it
that -

"Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues
We write in water."

Who, asks Heine, can name the artist who designed the cathedral of
Cologne? In this regard the biographer of an emperor is almost as
dependent as the historian.

The biography of an emperor, again, must be to a large extent, the
history of his reign, and in no case is this more true than in that of
Emperor William. But he has been closely identified with every event
of general importance to the world since he mounted the throne, and
the world's attention has been fastened without intermission on his
words and conduct. The rise of the modern German Empire is the salient
fact of the world's history for the last half-century, and accordingly
only from this broader point of view will the Emperor's future
biographer, or the historian of the future, be able to do him or his
Empire justice.

Lastly, another difficulty, if one may call it so, experienced equally
by the biographer and the historian, is the fact that the life of the
Emperor has been blameless from the moral standpoint. On two or three
occasions early in the reign accounts were published of scandals at
the Court. They may not have been wholly baseless, but none of them
directly involved the Emperor, or even raised a doubt as to his
respectability or reputation. Take from history - or from biography for
that matter - the vices of those it treats of, and one-third, perhaps
one-half, of its "human interest" disappears.

In the circumstances, therefore, all the writer need add is that he
has done the best he could. He has ignored, certainly, at two or three
stages of his narration, the demands of strict chronological
succession; but if so, it has been to describe some of the more
important events of the reign in their totality. He has also felt it
necessary, as writing for English readers of a country not their own,
to combine a portion of history with his biography. If, at the same
time, he has ventured to infuse into both biography and history a
slight admixture of philosophy, he can only hope that the fusion will
not prove altogether disagreeable.




As the education of a prince, and the surroundings in which he is
brought up, are usually different from the education and surroundings
of his subjects, it is not surprising if, at least during some portion
of his reign, and until he has graduated in the university of life,
misunderstandings, if nothing worse, should occur between them: indeed
the wonder is that princes and people succeed in living harmoniously
together. They are separated by great gulfs both of sentiment and
circumstance. Bismarck is quoted by one of his successors, Prince
Hohenlohe, as remarking that every King of Prussia, with whatever
popularity he began his reign, was invariably hated at the close of

The prince that would rule well has to study the science of
government, itself a difficult and incompletely explored subject, and
the art of administration; he has to know history, and above all the
history of his own country; not that history is a safe or certain
guide, but that it informs him of traditions he will be expected to
continue in his own country and respect in that of others; he must
understand the political system under which his people choose to live,
and the play of political, religious, economic, and social forces
which are ever at work in a community; he must learn to speak and
understand (not always quite the same thing) other languages besides
his own; and concurrently with these studies he must endeavour to
develop in himself the personal qualities demanded by his high
office - health and activity of body, quick comprehension and decision,
a tenacious memory for names and faces, capacity for public speaking,
patience, and that command over the passions and prejudices, natural
or acquired, which is necessary for his moral influence as a ruler. On
what percentage of his subjects is such a curriculum imposed, and what
allowances should not be made if a full measure of success is not

But even when the prince has done all this, there is still a study,
the most comprehensive and most important of all, in which he should
be learned - the study of humanity, and in especial that part of it
with the care of whose interests and happiness he is to be charged. A
few people seem to have this knowledge instinctively, others acquire
something of it in the school of sad experience. It is not the fault
of the Emperor, if, in his youth, his knowledge of humanity was not
profound. There was always a strong vein of idealism and romance among
Hohenzollerns, the vein of a Lohengrin, a Tancred, or some mediæval
knight. The Emperor, of course, never lived among the common people;
never had to work for a living in competition with a thousand others
more fortunate than he, or better endowed by nature with the qualities
and gifts that make for worldly success; never, so far as is known to
a watchful and exceptionally curious public, endured domestic sorrow
of a deep or lasting kind; never suffered materially or in his proper
person from ingratitude, carelessness, or neglect; never knew the
"penalty of Adam, the seasons' difference"; never, in short, felt
those pains one or more of which almost all the rest of mankind have
at one time or other to bear as best they may.

The Emperor has always been happy in his family, happy in seeing his
country prosperous, happy in the admiration and respect of the people
of all nations; and if he has passed through some dark hours, he must
feel happy in having nobly borne them. Want of knowledge of the trials
of ordinary humanity is, of course, no matter of reproach to him; on
the contrary, it is matter of congratulation; and, as several of his
frankest deliverances show, he has, both as man and monarch, felt many
a pang, many a regret, many a disappointment, the intensity of which
cannot be gauged by those who have not felt the weight of his

A discharge of 101 guns in the gardens of Crown Prince Frederick's
palace in Berlin on the morning of January 27, 1859, announced the
birth of the future Emperor. There were no portents in that hour.
Nature proceeded calmly with her ordinary tasks. Heaven gave no
special sign that a new member of the Hohenzollern family had appeared
on the planet Earth. Nothing, in short, occurred to strengthen the
faith of those who believe in the doctrine of kingship by divine

It was a time of political and social turmoil in many countries, the
groundswell, doubtless, of the revolutionary wave of 1848. The Crimean
War, the Indian Mutiny, and the war with China had kept England in a
continual state of martial fever, and the agitation for electoral
reform was beginning. Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister, with Lord
Odo Russell as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Mr. Gladstone as
Minister of Finance. Napoleon III was at war with Austria as the ally
of Italy, where King Emmanuel II and Cavour were laying the
foundations of their country's unity. Russia, after defeating Schamyl,
the hero of the Caucasus, was pursuing her policy of penetration in
Central Asia.

In Prussia the unrest was chiefly domestic. The country, while
nominally a Great Power, was neutral during the Crimean War, and
played for the moment but a small part in foreign politics. Bismarck,
in his "Gedanke und Erinnerungen," compares her submission to Austria
to the patience of the French noble-man he heard of when minister in
Paris, whose conduct in condoning twenty-four acts of flagrant
infidelity on the part of his wife was regarded by the French as an
act of great forbearance and magnanimity. Prince William, the
Emperor's grandfather, afterwards William I, first German Emperor, was
on the throne, acting as Prince Regent for his brother, Frederick
William IV, incapacitated from ruling by an affection of the brain.
The head of the Prussian Ministry, Manteuffel, had been dismissed, and
a "new era," with ministers of more liberal tendencies, among them von
Bethmann Hollweg, an ancestor of the present Chancellor, had begun.
General von Roon was Minister of War and Marine, offices at that time
united in one department. The Italian War had roused Germany anew to a
desire for union, and a great "national society" was founded at
Frankfurt, with the Liberal leader, Rudolf von Bennigsen, at its head.
Public attention was occupied with the subject of reorganizing the
army and increasing it from 150,000 to 210,000 men. Parliament was on
the eve of a bitter constitutional quarrel with Bismarck, who became
Prussian Prime Minister (Minister President) in 1862, about the grant
of the necessary army funds. Most of the great intellects of
Germany - Kant, Goethe, Schiller, Hegel, Fichte, Schleiermacher - had
long passed away. Heinrich Heine died in Paris in 1856. Frederick
Nietzsche was a youth, Richard Wagner's "Tannhäuser" had just been
greeted, in the presence of the composer, with a storm of hisses in
the Opera house at Paris. The social condition of Germany may be
partially realized if one remembers that the death-rate was over 28
per _mille_, as compared with 17 per _mille_ to-day; that only a start
had been made with railway construction; that the country, with its
not very generous soil, depended wholly upon agriculture; that
savings-bank deposits were not one-twelfth of what they are now; that
there were 60 training schools where there are 221 to-day, and 338
evening classes as against 4,588 in 1910; that many of the principal
towns were still lighted by oil; that there was practically no navy;
and that the bulk of the aristocracy lived on about the same scale as
the contemporary English yeoman farmer. Berlin contained a little less
than half a million inhabitants, compared with its three and a half

Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 1 of 31)