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month, and Henry 10s. Out of these modest sums they had to
buy their own notepaper and little presents for the servants
or their favourite companions."

As to Prince William's character as a schoolboy, Monsieur Ayme writes:

"I do not suppose William was ever punished while he was in
Cassel. He was too proud to draw down upon himself
criticism, to him the worst form of punishment. At the
castle, as at school, he made it a point of honour to act
and work as if he had made his plans and resolved to stick
to them. He was always among the first of his class, and as
for me I never had any need to urge him on. If I pointed out
to him an error in his task he began it over again of his
own accord. We did grammar, analysis, dictations, and
compositions, and he got over his difficulties by sheer
perseverance. For example, if he was reading a fine page of
Victor Hugo, or the like, he hated to be interrupted, so
deeply was he interested in the subject he was reading.
Style and poetry had a great effect upon him; he expressed
admiration for the form and was aroused to enthusiasm by
generous or noble ideas. Frederick the Great was the hero of
his choice, a model of which he never ceased dreaming, and
which, like his grandfather, he proposed as his own. It is
easy to conceive that after ten or twelve years of such
study, regularly and methodically pursued, the Prince must
have possessed a literary and scientific baggage more varied
and extensive than that of his companions. And he worked
hard for it, few lads so hard. To speak the truth, he was
much more disciplined and much more deprived of freedom and
recreation of all sorts than most children of his age."

_Par paranthèse_ may be introduced here a reference to Prince Henry,
of whom Monsieur Ayme writes less enthusiastically.

"One day," the tutor writes, "I was dictating to him
something in which mention of a queen occurs. I came to the
words '... in addition to her natural distinction she
possessed that August majesty which is the appanage of
princesses of the blood royal....'

"Prince Henry laid down his pen and remarked, 'The author
who wrote this piece did not live much with queens.'

"'Why?' I asked.

"'Because I never observed the August majesty which attaches
to princesses of the blood royal, and yet I have been
brought up among them,' was the reply.

"William, however," continues Monsieur Ayme, "was the
thinker, prudent and circumspect; the wise head which knew
that it was not all truths which bear telling. He was not
less loyal and constant in his opinions. He admired the
French Revolution, and the declaration contained in 'The
Rights of Man,' though this did not prevent his declaiming
against the Terrorists."

One incident in particular must have appealed to the French tutor.
Monsieur Ayme and his Prussian pupil one day began discussing the
delicate question of the war of 1870. In the course of the discussion
both parties lost their tempers, until at last Prince William suddenly
got up and left the room. He remained silent and "huffed" for some
days, but at last he took the Frenchman aside and made him a formal
apology. "I am very sorry indeed," he said,

"that you took seriously my conduct of the other day. I
meant nothing by it, and I regret it hurt you. I am all the
more sorry, because I offended in your case a sentiment
which I respect above any in the world, the love of

But it is time to pass from the details of the Emperor's early youth,
and observe him during the two years he spent, with interruptions, at
the university. From Cassel he went immediately to Bonn, where, as
during the years of military duty which followed, we only catch
glimpses of him as he lived the ordinary, and by no means austere,
life of the university student and soldier of the time; that is to
say, the ordinary life with considerable modifications and exceptions.
He did not, like young Bismarck, drink huge flagons of beer at a
sitting, day after day. He was not followed everywhere by a
boar-hound. He fought no student's duels - though a secret performance
of the kind is mentioned as a probability in the chronicles - or go
about looking for trouble generally as the swashbuckling Junker,
Bismarck, did; for in the first place his royal rank would not allow
of his taking part in the bloody amusement of the _Mensur_, and his
natural disposition, if it was quick and lively, was not choleric
enough to involve him in serious quarrel. His studies were to some
extent interrupted by military calls to Berlin, for after being
appointed second lieutenant in the First Regiment of Foot Guards at
Potsdam on his tenth birthday, the Hohenzollern age for entering the
army, he was promoted to first lieutenant in the same regiment on
leaving Cassel.

For the most part the university lectures he attended were the courses
in law and philosophy, and he is not reported to have shown any
particular enthusiasm for either subject. The differences between an
English and a German university are of a fundamental kind, perhaps the
greatest being that the German university does not aim at influencing
conduct and character in the same measure as the English, but is
rather for the supply of knowledge of all sorts, as a monster
warehouse is for the supply of miscellaneous goods. Again, the German
university, which, like all American universities except Princetown,
has more resemblance to the Scottish universities than to those at
Oxford, Cambridge, or Dublin, is not residential nor divided into
colleges, but is departmentalized into "faculties," each with its own
professors and _privat docentes_, or official lecturers, mostly young
savants, who have not the rank or title of professor, but have
obtained only the _venia legendi_ from the university. The lectures,
as a rule of admirable learning and thoroughness, invariably laying
great and prosy stress on "development," are delivered in large halls
and may be subscribed for in as many faculties as the student chooses,
the cost being about thirty shillings or there-abouts per term for
each lecture "heard." Outside the university the student enjoys
complete independence, which is a privilege highly (and sometimes
violently) cherished, especially by non-studious undergraduates, under
the name "academic freedom." The German preparing for one or other of
the learned professions will probably spend a year or two at each of
three, or maybe four, universities, according to the special faculty
he adopts and for which the university has a reputation. There are
plenty of hard-working students of course; nowadays probably the great
majority are of this kind; but to a large proportion also the
university period is still a pleasant, free, and easy halting-place
between the severe discipline and work of the school and the stern
struggle of the working world.

The social life of the English university is paralleled in Germany by
associations of students in student "Corps," with theatrical uniforms
for their _Chargierte_ or officers, special caps, sometimes of
extraordinary shape, swords, leather gauntlets, Wellington boots, and
other distinguishing gaudy insignia. The Corps are more or less
select, the most exclusive of all being the Corps Borussia, which at
every university only admits members of an upper class of society,
though on rare occasions receiving in its ranks an exceptionally
aristocratic, popular, or wealthy foreigner. To this Corps, the name
of which is the old form of "Prussia," the Emperor belonged when at
Bonn, and in one or two of his speeches he has since spoken of the
agreeable memories he retains in connexion with it and the practices
observed by it.

Common to all university associations in Germany - whether Corps,
Landsmannschaft, Burschenschaft, or Turnerschaft - is the practice of
the _Mensur_, or student duel. It is not a duel in the sense usually
given to the word in England, for it lacks the feature of personal
hostility, hate, or injury, but is a particularly sanguinary form of
the English "single-stick," in which swords take the place of sticks.
These swords (_Schläger_), called, curiously enough, _rapiere_, are
long and thin in the blade, and their weight is such that at every
duel students are told off on whose shoulders the combatants can rest
their outstretched sword-arm in the pauses of the combat caused by the
duellists getting out of breath; consequently, an undersized student
is usually chosen for this considerate office. The heads and faces of
the duellists are swathed in bandages - no small incentive to
perspiration, the vital parts of their bodies are well protected
against a fatal prick or blow, and the pricks or slashes must be
delivered with the hand and wrist raised head-high above the shoulder.
It is considered disgraceful to move the head, to shrink in the
smallest degree before the adversary, or even to show feeling when the
medical student who acts as surgeon in an adjoining room staunches the
flow of blood or sews up the scars caused by the swords. The duel of a
more serious kind - that with pistols or the French rapier, or with the
bare-pointed sabre and unprotected bodies - is punishable by law, and
is growing rarer each year.

Take a sabre duel - "heavy sabre duel" is the German name for
it - arising out of a quarrel in a cafe or beer-house, and in which one
of the opponents may be a foreigner affiliated to some Corps or
Burschenschaft. Cards are exchanged, and the challenger chooses a
second whom he sends to the opponent. The latter, if he accepts the
challenge, also appoints a second; the seconds then meet and arrange
for the holding of a court of honour. The court will probably consist
of old Corps students - lawyer, a doctor, and two or three other
members of the Corps or Burschenschaft. The court summons the
opponents before it and hears their account of the quarrel; the
seconds produce evidence, for example the bills at the cafe or
beer-hall, showing how much liquor has been consumed; also as to age,
marriage or otherwise, and so on. Then the court decides whether there
shall be a duel, or not, and if so, in what form it shall be fought.

The duel may be fixed to take place at any time within six months, and
meanwhile the opponents industriously practise. The scene of the duel
is usually the back room of some beer-hall, with locked doors between
the duellists and the police. The latter know very well what is going
on, but shut their eyes to it. The opponents take their places at
about a yard and a half distance from advanced foot to advanced foot,
and a chalk line is drawn between them. Close behind each opponent is
his second with outstretched sword, ready to knock up the duellists'
weapons in case of too dangerous an impetuosity in the onset. The
umpire _(Unparteiischer)_, unarmed, stands a little distance from the
duellists. The latter are naked _to_ the waist, but wear a leather
apron like that of a drayman, covering the lower half of the chest,
and another piece of leather, like a stock, protecting their necks and
jugular veins. The duel may last a couple of hours, and any number of
rounds up to as many as two hundred may be fought. The rounds consist
of three or four blows, and last about twenty seconds each, when the
seconds, who have been watching behind their men in the attitude of a
wicket-keeper, with their sword-points on the ground, jump in and
knock up the duellists' weapons. When one duellist is disabled by skin
wounds - there are rarely any others - or by want of breath, palpitation
or the like, the duel is over, and the duellists shake hands. This
description, with some slight modifications, applies to the ordinary
Corps _Mensuren_, which are simply a bloody species of gymnastic

On one occasion early in the reign the Emperor spoke of the Corps
system with great enthusiasm, and especially endorsed the practice of
the _Mensur_. "I am quite convinced," he said at Bonn in 1891, three
years after his accession,

"that every young man who enters a Corps receives through
the spirit which rules in it, and supposing he imbibes the
spirit, his true directive in life. For it is the best
education for later life a young man can obtain. Whoever
pokes fun at the German student Corps is ignorant of its
true tendency, and I hope that so long as student Corps
exist the spirit which is fostered in them, and which
inspires strength and courage, will continue, and that for
all time the student will joyfully wield the _Schläger_."

Regarding the _Mensur_, he went on:

"Our _Mensuren_ are frequently misunderstood by the public,
but that must not let us be deceived. We who have been Corps
students, as I myself was, know better. As in the Middle
Ages through our gymnastic exercises (_Turniere_) the
courage and strength of the man was steeled, so by means of
the Corps spirit and Corps life is that measure of firmness
acquired which is necessary in later life, and which will
continue to exist as long as there are universities in

The word for firmness used by the Emperor was _Festigkeit_, which may
also be translated determination, steadiness, fortitude, or
resoluteness of character. It may be that practice of the _Mensur_,
which is held almost weekly, has a lifelong influence on the German
student's character. It probably enables him to look the adversary in
the eye - look "hard" at him, as the mariners in Mr. A.W. Jacobs's
delightful tales look at one another when some particularly ingenious
lie is being produced. In a way, moreover, it may be said to
correspond to boxing in English universities, schools, and gymnasia.
But, on the whole, the Anglo-Saxon spectator finds it difficult to
understand how it can exercise any influence for good on the moral
character of a youth, or determine, as the Emperor says it does, a
disposition which is cowardly or weak by nature to bravery or
strength, save of a momentary and merely physical kind. The Englishman
who has been present at a _Mensur_ is rather inclined to think the
atmosphere too much that of a shambles, and the chief result of the
practice the cultivation of braggadocio.

Besides, the practice is illegal, and though purposely overlooked,
save in one German city, that of Leipzig, where it is punished with
some rigour, the Emperor, who is supposed to embody the majesty and
effectiveness of the law, is hardly the person to recommend it. His
inconsistency in the matter on one occasion placed him in an
undignified position. Two officers of the army quarrelled, and one, an
infantry lieutenant, sent a challenge to the other, an army medical
man. The latter refused on conscientious grounds, whereupon he was
called on by a military court of honour to send in his resignation.
The case was sent up to the Emperor, who upheld the decision of the
court of honour, adding the remark that if the surgeon had
conscientious scruples on the point he should not remain in the army.
An irate Social Democratic editor thereupon pointed out that such a
decision came with a bad grace from a man with whom, or with any of
whose six sons, no one was allowed to fight. The Emperor is still a
member of the Borussia Corps, but chiefly shows his interest by
keeping its anniversaries in mind, by every few years attending one of
its annual drinking festivals (_Commers_), and by paying a substantial
yearly subscription.

The German student Corps, historically, go back to the fourteenth
century, when the first European universities were established at
Bologna, Paris, and Orleans. Universities then were not so called from
the universality of their teachings, but rather as meaning a
corporation, confraternity, or collegium, and were in reality social
centres in the towns where they were instituted. The most renowned was
that of Paris, and here was founded the first student Corps. It was
called the "German Nation of Paris," a corporation of students, with
statutes, oaths, special costumes, and other distinctive features. At
first, strange to say, it contained more Englishmen than Germans. The
"Nation" had a procurator, a treasurer, and a bedell, the last to look
after the legal affairs of the association. Drinking was not the
supposed purpose of the society, but the Corps mostly assembled, as
German Corps do to-day, for drinking purposes.

The earliest form of German student associations Was the
Landsmannschaft. To this society, composed of elders and juniors,
new-comers, called Pennales, were admitted after painful ceremonies
and became something like the "fags" at an English public school. The
object of the original Landsmannschaft was to keep alive the spirit of
nationality. The object of the German Corps is different. It is to
beget and perpetuate friendship, and this accounts for the steady
goodwill the Emperor has always shown towards the comrades of his Bonn
and Borussia days.

An ancient form of Corps entertainment is called the Hospiz, now,
however, much modified. Upon invitation the members of the Corps meet
in a beer-hall or in the rooms of one of the Corps. The president is
seated with a house-key on the table before him as a symbol of
unfettered authority. As members arrive, the president takes away
their sticks and swords and deposits them in a closet. The guests sit
down and are handed filled pipes and a lighted _fidibus_, or
pipe-lighter. Bread and butter and cheese, followed by coffee, are
offered. After this, the real work of the evening begins - the
drinking. A large can of beer stands on a stool beside the president.
The latter calls for silence by rapping three times on the table with
the house-key, and the Hospiz is declared open. Thenceforward only the
president pours out the beer, unless he appoints a deputy during his
absence. The president's great aim and honour is to make every one,
including himself, intoxicated. He begins by rapping the table with
his glass and saying "Significat ein Glas." In response all drain
their glasses. Then comes a "health to all," and this is followed by a
"health to each." "The Ladies" follow, including toasts to the pretty
girls of the town, and ladies known to be favourites of those present.
Married ladies or women of bad reputation must not be toasted in the

A story is told of a toast the Emperor, in these his Lohengrin days,
once proposed at a Borussia meeting. "On the Kreuzberg" (a hill near
Bonn), he said,

"I saw a picture, the ideal of a German woman. She united in
herself beauty of face and an imposing form, the roses in
her cheeks spoke of the modesty peculiar to our maids, and
her voice sounded harmoniously like the lute of the
Minnesingers on the Wartburg. She told me her name - may it
be blessed."

The toast found its way into the local papers and gave birth to a
romantic legend connecting the future Emperor with a pretty and modest
girl of the town, but no true basis for it has ever been discovered.

In toasting the Ladies in a Hospiz each of those present may name the
lady of his choice, and if two name the same lady they have a drinking
bout to determine which is entitled to claim her. The one who first
admits that he can drink no more - usually signified by a hasty and
zigzag retreat from the room - is declared the loser. If a guest comes
late to the Hospiz he must drink fast so as to catch up with earlier
arrivals, unless he has been drinking elsewhere, when he is let off
with drinking a "general health."

The close of the Emperor's student days was marked by an event which
was to have a great influence on his life and happiness. It was in
1879 that he made the acquaintance of the young lady who was, a couple
of years later, to become his wife, and subsequently Empress. When at
Bonn Prince William had developed a liking for wild-game shooting, and
accepted an invitation from Duke Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein to
shoot pheasants at Primkenau Castle, the Duke's seat in Silesia. More
than one romantic story is current about the first meeting of the
lovers, but that most generally credited, as it was published at or
near the time, represents the young sportsman as meeting the lady
accidentally in the garden of the castle. He had arrived at night and
gone shooting early next morning before being introduced to the family
of his host, and on his return surprised the fair-haired and blue-eyed
Princess Auguste Victoria as she lay dozing in a hammock in the
garden. The student approached, the words "little Rosebud" on his
lips, but hastily withdrew as the Princess, all blushes, awoke. The
pair met shortly afterwards at breakfast, when the visitor learned who
the "little rosebud" was whom he had surprised. The Princess was then
twenty-two, but looked much younger, a privilege from nature she still
possesses in middle age. The impression made on the student was deep
and lasting, and the engagement was announced on Valentine's Day, in
February, 1880. The marriage was celebrated on February 27th of the
following year at the royal palace in Berlin. Great popular rejoicing
marked the happy occasion, Berlin was gaily flagged to celebrate the
formal entrance of the bride into the capital, and most other German
cities illuminated in her honour. The imperial bridegroom came from
Potsdam at the head of a military escort selected from his regiment
and preceded the bridal cortege, in which the ancient coronation
carriage, with its smiling occupant, and drawn by eight prancing
steeds, was the principal feature. On the day following the marriage
the young couple went to Primkenau for the honeymoon.

The marriage with a princess of Schleswig-Holstein was not only an
event of general interest from the domestic and dynastic point of
view. It had also political significance, for it meant the happy close
of the troubled period of Prussian dealings with those conquered

A story throwing light on the young bride's character is current in
connexion with her wedding. One of the hymns contained a
strophe - "Should misfortune come upon us," which her friends wanted
her to have omitted as striking too melancholy a note. "No," she said,

"let it be sung. I don't expect my new position to be always
a bed of roses. Prince William is of the same mind, and we
have both determined to bear everything in common, and thus
make what is unpleasant more endurable."

Since the marriage their domestic felicity, as all the world is aware,
has never been troubled, and the example thus given to their subjects
is one of the surest foundations of their influence and authority in
Germany. The secret of this felicity, affection apart, is to be sought
for in the strong moral sense of the Emperor regarding what he owes to
himself and his people, but no less perhaps in the exemplary character
of the Empress. As a girl at Primkenau she was a sort of Lady
Bountiful to the aged and sick on the estate, and led there the simple
life of the German country maiden of the time. It was not the day of
electric light and central heating and the telephone; hardly of lawn
tennis, certainly not of golf and hockey; while motor-cars and
militant suffragettes were alike unknown. Instead of these delights
the Princess, as she then was, was content with the humdrum life of a
German country mansion, with rare excursions into the great world
beyond the park gates, with her religious observances, her books, her
needlework, her plants and flowers, and her share in the management of
the castle.

These domestic tastes she has preserved, and the saying, quoted in
Germany whenever she is the subject of conversation, that her
character and tastes are summed up in the four words _Kaiser, Kinder,
Kirche_, and _Küche_ - Emperor, children, church, and kitchen - is as
true as it is compendious and alliterative. It is often assumed,
especially by men, that a woman who cultivates these tastes cultivates
no other. This is not as true as is often supposed of the Empress, as
a journal of her voyage to Jerusalem in 1898, published on her return
to Germany, goes to show. Following the traditions and example of the
queens and empresses who have preceded her, she has always given
liberally of her time and care, as she still does, to the most
multifarious forms of charity. She has a great and intelligible pride
in her clever and energetic husband, while her interest in her

Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 3 of 31)