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children is proverbial. She appears to have no ambition to exercise
any influence on politics or to shine as a leader of society. Like the
Emperor, she is not without a sense of humour, and is always amused by
the racy Irish stories (in dialect) told her and a little circle of
guests by Dr. Mahaffy, of Trinity College, Dublin, who is a welcome
guest at the palace.

The offspring of the marriage, it may be here noted, is a family of
seven children - six sons and a daughter - as follows: -

Crown Prince Frederick William, born 1882
Prince Eitel Frederick " 1883
Prince Adalbert " 1884
Prince August William " 1887
Prince Oscar " 1888
Prince Joachim " 1890
Princess Victoria Louise " 1892

The Crown Prince was born on June 6th at the Marble Palace in Potsdam.
He was educated at first privately by tutors, and later at the
military academy at Plön, not far from Kiel. When eighteen he became
of age and began his active career as an officer in the army. He is
now commander of the First Regiment of Boay Guards ("Death's Head"
Hussars) at Langfuhr, near Danzig, with the rank of major. He was
married in June, 1905, to Cecilie, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin,
and is the father of four children, all boys. The Crown Princess is
one of the cleverest, most popular, and most charming characters in
Germany, of the brightest intelligence and the most unaffected
manners. The leading trait in the Crown Prince's character is his love
of sport, from big-game shooting (on which he has written a book) to
lawn tennis. In May last he began to learn golf. He is personally
amiable, has pleasant manners, and is highly popular with all classes
of his future subjects. He is credited with ability, but is not
believed to have inherited the intellectual manysidedness of his
father. The only part he can be said to have taken in public life as
yet is having called the imperial attention to the Maximilian Harden
allegations regarding Count Eulenburg and a court "camarilla,"
referred to later, and having, while sitting in a gallery of the
Reichstag, demonstrated by decidedly marked gestures his disagreement
with the Government's Morocco policy.

Since his marriage the Emperor has more than once publicly
congratulated himself on his good fortune in having such a consort as
the Empress. The most graceful compliment he paid her was in her own
Province of Silesia in 1890, when he said:

"The band which unites me with the Province - that of all the
provinces of the Empire which is nearest to my heart - is the
jewel which sparkles at my side, Her Majesty the Empress. A
native of this country, a model of all the virtues of a
German princess, it is her I have to thank that I am in a
position joyfully to perform the onerous duties of my
office."

Only the other day at Altona, after thirty years of married life, he
referred to her, again in her home Province and again as she sat
smiling beside him, as the

"first lady of the land, who is always ready to help the
needy, to strengthen family ties, to discharge the duties of
her sex, and suggest to it new aims. The Empress has
bestowed a home life on the House of Hohenzollern such as
Queen Louise, alone perhaps, conferred."

Queen Louise, the famous wife of Frederick William III, died in 1810
and is buried in the mausoleum at Charlottenburg, the suburb of
Berlin. She has remained ever since, for the German nation, the type
of womanly perfection.




III.



PRE-ACCESSION DAYS



1881-1887

The seven years between the date of his marriage and that of his
accession were chiefly filled in by the future Emperor with the
conscientious discharge of his regimental duties and the preparation
of himself, by three or four hours' study daily at the various
Ministries, among them the Foreign Office, where he sat at the feet of
Bismarck, for the imperial tasks he would presumably have to undertake
later.

Emperor William I, now a man of eighty-four, was still on the throne.
Born in 1797, he lived with his parents, Frederick William III and
Queen Louise, in Koenigsberg and Memel for three years after the
battle of Jena, won the Iron Cross at the age of seventeen in the war
with Napoleon in 1814, took part in the entry of the Allies into
Paris, and devoted himself thenceforward, until he became King of
Prussia in 1861, chiefly to the reorganization of the army. For a year
during the troubled times of 1848 he was forced to take refuge in
England, from whence he returned to live quietly at Coblenz until
called to the Regency of Prussia in 1858. He was the Grand Master of
Prussian Freemasonry. The attempts on his life in Berlin in 1878 by
the anarchists Hödel and Nobiling are still spoken of by eye-witnesses
to them. Both attempts were made within a period of three weeks while
the King was driving down Unter den Linden, and on both occasions
revolver shots were fired at him. Hödel's attempt failed, but in view
of Socialist agitation, the would-be assassin was beheaded (the
practice still in Prussia) a few weeks later. Pellets from Nobiling's
weapon struck the King in the face and arm, and disabled him from work
for several weeks. The political events of the reign, including the
Seven Weeks' War with Austria in 1866, which ended at Sadowa, where
King William was in chief command, and that with France in 1870, when
he was present as Commander-in-Chief at Gravelotte and Sedan, are
frequently referred to by Bismarck in his "Gedanke und Erinnerungen,"
and to these the reader may be referred.

The high and amiable character of the old Emperor, as he became after
1870, is common knowledge. He was a thoroughgoing Hohenzollern in his
views of monarchy and his relations to his folk, but he was at the
same time the type of German chivalry, the essence of good nature, the
soul of honour, and the slave of duty. He was extremely fond of his
grandson, Prince William, and it is clear from the latter's speeches
subsequently that the affection was ardently reciprocated.

Of Emperor William, Bismarck writes in the highest terms, describing
his "kingly courtesy," his freedom from vanity, his impartiality
towards friend and foe alike; in a word, he says, Emperor William was
the idea "gentleman" incorporated. On the other hand, Bismarck tells
how the old Emperor all his life long stood in awe of his consort, the
Empress Augusta, Bismarck's great enemy and the clearing-house
(_Krystallisationspunkt_), as he describes her, of all the opposition
against him; and how the Emperor used to speak of her as "the
hot-head" ("_Feuerkopf_") - "a capital name for her," Bismarck adds,
"as she could not bear her authority as Queen to be overborne by that
of anyone else." The Iron Chancellor, by the way, mentions a curious
fact in connexion with the attempt on Emperor William's life by
Nobiling. The Chancellor says he had noticed that in the seventies the
Emperor's powers had begun to fail, and that he often lost the thread
of a conversation, both in hearing and speaking. After the Nobiling
attempt this disability, strangely enough, completely disappeared. The
fact was noticed by the Emperor himself, for one day he said jestingly
to Bismarck: "Nobiling knew better than the doctors what I really
needed - a good blood-letting."

Referring to the Empress Frederick at this period, Bismarck writes:

"With her I could not reckon on the same good-will as I
could with her husband (Emperor Frederick). Her natural and
inborn sympathy for her native country showed itself from
the very beginning in the endeavour to shift the weight of
Prussian-German influence on the European grouping of the
Powers into the scale of England, which she never ceased to
regard as her Fatherland; and, in consciousness of the
opposition of interests between the two great Asiatic
Powers, England and Russia, to see Germany's power, in case
of a breach, used for the benefit of England."

An incident may be mentioned here which took place at what was to turn
out to be the Emperor William's death-bed and refers particularly to
our young Prince William. Bismarck was talking to the sick Emperor a
few days before the latter's death. The Chancellor spoke about the
necessity of publishing an Order, already drawn up in November of the
preceding year, appointing Prince William regent in case the necessity
for such a measure should occur. The sick Emperor expressed the hope
that Bismarck would stand by his successor. Bismarck promised to do so
and the Emperor pressed his hand in token of satisfaction. Then,
suddenly, Bismarck relates, the Emperor became delirious and began to
rave. Prince William was the central figure in his ravings. He
evidently thought his grandson was at his bedside and exclaimed, using
the familiar _Du_; "_Du_ you must always keep on good terms with the
Czar (Alexander III) ... there is no need to quarrel in that quarter."
Thereafter he was silent, and Bismarck left the sick-room.

The Prince's parents, Crown Prince Frederick and his English consort,
had also their Court at the Marmor Palais in Potsdam, and their palace
in Berlin, but the life they led was comparatively simple. The Crown
Prince and Princess were great travellers and consequently often
absent from Germany; and when at home, while the Crown Prince, in his
serious-minded fashion, was absorbed in study, the Crown Princess
divided her time between the practice of the arts and correspondence
with her now grown-up sons and daughters.

Still, it is clear from the signs of the time that there was a good
deal of intrigue going on throughout this pre-accession period, or, if
intrigue is too strong a term for it, a good deal of friction, social
and political, in high circles. It was chiefly caused, if the old
Chancellor's statements to his sycophantic adorer, Busch, are to be
credited, by the interference of the Empress Augusta and her
daughter-in-law, the Crown Princess, in the sphere of politics, the
Empress seeking to influence her husband in favour of the Catholics,
whom she had taken under her protection, and the Crown Princess
trying, as we have seen, to influence German policy in favour of
England.

Exactly what part Prince William took in it all is not very clear. One
thing we know, that he greatly displeased Bismarck by his constant
attendance at the Waldersee _salon_, then a social centre in Berlin.
Countess Waldersee, who is still living in Hannover, was the daughter
of an American banker named Lee. She married Frederick, Prince of
Schleswig, but he died six months after the wedding. His widow
afterwards married Count Waldersee, who was subsequently to command
the international forces during the Boxer troubles in China. Bismarck
detested Waldersee, perhaps because many people spoke of him as his
probable successor, and consequently looked with anything but favour
on his imperial pupil's visit to the Waldersees.

The great figure of the time, however, was neither the Emperor nor the
Crown Prince nor Prince William, but Prince Bismarck, who, as
Chancellor for now more than a quarter of a century, had throughout
that period guided the destinies of Prussia and the German Empire.
Emperor William and Crown Prince Frederick and Prince William were
playing, doubtless, more or less prominent parts on the public stage,
but all things of moment gravitated towards Bismarck, whose days were
spent, now persuading or convincing the Emperor, now warring with a
Parliament growing impatient of his dictatorial attitude, now
countermining the intrigues and opposition of his adversaries at Court
and in the Ministries. He hardly ever went into society, but though he
spent his days growling in his den at the Foreign Office when he was
not immersed in work, he was the great popular figure of Berlin;
indeed, it might be said, of all Germany.

As second lieutenant, Prince William had naturally a good deal to
learn, though, entering life, as we have seen, as a "fine young
recruit," having had a "military governor" appointed to his service
when he was four, being made an officer at the age of ten, and having
passed most of his life hitherto in a military society and atmosphere,
he had less perhaps to learn than the ordinary young German officer.
He went through the usual drills, and doubtless felt, as keenly as
does the young officer everywhere, their monotonous and seemingly
unnecessary repetitions, but they fulfilled the object in view and
gave him the well-set-up bearing and martial tread which still
distinguish him. Living in the old Town Castle of Potsdam, in rooms
that had once been occupied by Frederick the Great, he entered with
zest into the task of learning the mechanism of his regiment and at
the same time of the army generally, though it cannot have been as
interesting a task then as now, when science has added so many new
branches to military organization. Both he and his young wife were as
hospitable as their not too generous means and occasional cheques from
the Emperor William would allow, particularly to any Borussian of the
Prince's Bonn university days who might be passing through Berlin or
Potsdam. The young Prince and Princess took part, as was to be
expected of them, in the festivities and ceremonies of the Emperor's
and Crown Prince's Court, and, when they had nothing more interesting
to do, might be seen strolling arm in arm about the streets in Potsdam
looking into the shops as young married people do in every town, and
being apparently, as the story-books say, as happy as the day is long.

On the whole, however, during these pre-accession years, only glimpses
of Prince William's character and doings are obtainable, but, though
meagre, they are sufficient to suggest that in his case, too, if we
extend the saying to cover the entire period of youth, the child was
father to the man. The chief, almost the only, reliable authorities
for the inner history of the time are the memoirs and notes left by
the two Chancellors, Prince Bismarck and Prince Hohenlohe - _en
passant_ let the hope be expressed here that in the interests of
Germany herself another Chancellor, Prince Bernhard Ernst von Bülow,
now living in retirement at Rome, will enlighten the world as to that
of the last ten or twelve stirring years, _quorum pars magna fuit_.
Both Bismarck and Hohenlohe were excellent judges of character, and
have, described, though with regrettable brevity, the character of
Prince William about this time. Talking to his confidant, Dr. Busch,
in June, 1882, Bismarck says of the Prince:

"He is quite different from the Emperor William, and wishes
to take the government into his own hands; he is energetic
and determined, not at all disposed to put up with
parliamentary co-regents, a regular guardsman; Philopater
and Antipater at Potsdam! He is not at all pleased at his
father (Crown Prince Frederick) taking up with professors,
with Mommsen, Virchow, Forckenbeck. Perhaps he may one day
develop into the _rocher de bronze_ of which we stand in
need."

This _rocher de bronze_ is an expression constantly employed by
devoted royalists and imperialists in Germany. It was first used by
Frederick William IV, who, in the jargon which in his time passed for
the German language, exclaimed: "_Ich werde meine Souvereinetat
stabilizieren wie ein rocher de bronze_."

Again, about this time Bismarck says:

"Up to that time (when Prince William was studying at the
Ministries) he knew little, and indeed did not trouble
himself much about it, but preferred to enjoy himself in the
society of young officers and such-like,"

and he goes on to tell how the Prince took - or did not take - to this
Ministerial education. It was proposed that the Under Secretary of
State, Herrfurth, who was reputed to be well informed, particularly in
statistics, should instruct him about internal questions. The Prince
agreed and invited Herrfurth to lunch, but afterwards told Bismarck he
could not stand him, "with his bristly beard, his dryness and
tediousness." Could Bismarck suggest some one else? The Chancellor
mentioned Privy Councillor von Brandenstein. The Prince did not
object, had the Baron several times to meals, but paid so little
attention to his explanations that Brandenstein lost patience and
begged for some other employment. Concerning a rendezvous, Bismarck
writes:

"He (Prince William) has more understanding, more courage
and greater independence (than his grandfather), but in his
leaning for me he goes too far. He was 'surprised' that I
had waited for him, a thing his grandfather was incapable of
saying;"

and the Chancellor adds:

"It is only in trifles and matters of secondary importance
that one occasionally has reason to find fault with him, as,
for instance, in the form of his State declarations - but
that is youthful vivacity which time will correct. Better
too much than too little fire."

Busch relates, under date of April 6, 1888, Bismarck's birthday, how
Prince William came to offer his congratulations, and, having done so,
invited himself to dinner. The meal over, he made a speech toasting
Bismarck, in which he said:

"The Empire is like an army corps that has lost its
commander-in-chief in the field, while the officer who is
next to him in rank lies severely wounded. At this critical
moment forty-six million loyal German hearts turn with
solicitude and hope to the standard, and the standard-bearer
in whom all their expectations are centred. The
standard-bearer is our illustrious Prince, our great
Chancellor. Let him lead us. We will follow him. Long may he
live!"

Prince Hohenlohe's references to Prince William as Emperor are
frequent and full, but he has little to say about his character as
Prince William beyond noting, when there was some talk of the Prince
directly succeeding Emperor William, that he was "too young." On an
occasion subsequently Prince Hohenlohe amusingly notes that the
Emperor shook hands with him until his fingers "nearly cracked." This
is still a genial gesture of the Emperor's.

One document, however, is available to show the spirit of religious
tolerance which then animated our young Lutheran Prince, as it has
animated him, it may be added, ever since. Pius IX had been succeeded
in the Papacy by the more liberal Leo XIII, and the Kulturkampf had
come to an end. Prince William, writing to an uncle, Cardinal
Hohenlohe, says: -

"That this unholy Kulturkampf is at an end is a thing which
rejoices me beyond expression. Of late many eminent
Catholics, among them Kopp (afterwards Cardinal) have
frequently visited me and honoured me with a confidence at
once complete and gratifying. I was often so happy as to be
able to be the interpreter of their wishes (to the Emperor
and Bismarck, presumably) and do them some service. So it
has been granted to my youth to co-operate in this work of
peace. This has given me great pleasure and happiness.

"Give my regards to Galimberti and lay my respects at the
feet of the Pope.

"Thy devoted nephew,

"WILLIAM OF PRUSSIA."

With his future subjects Prince William was brought into close
relations only in a very limited way. No one, save perhaps Bismarck,
seems to have known or suspected his true character and aims. This was
natural enough, since it is not until a man comes to occupy some
influential or prominent position that the public begins to take an
interest in him. His father would be Emperor before him, and fate
might have it that he himself would not live to come to the throne.
Royal highnesses are not uncommon in a country with such a feudal
history and so many courts as Germany. The young Prince, moreover, was
never, to use a phrase of to-day, in the limelight. He was never
involved in a notorious scandal. He had not, as his eldest son, the
present Crown Prince, has, published a book. He was more or less
absorbed in the army, the early grave of so many dawning talents. And
there was no newspaper press devoted to chronicling the doings and
sayings of the fashionable world of his time. His natural abilities
would doubtless have secured him reputation and success in any sphere
of life, but, as he himself would probably be the first to admit, much
of his fame, and even much of his merit, is due to the splendid
opportunities afforded him by his birth and position.

At the same time it is obvious that if his people at this period had
not much opportunity of studying the young Prince, he had been
studying them and their requirements as these latter appeared to him.
He had evidently thought much on Germany's conditions and prospects
before he came to the throne, and was Empire-building in imagination
long before he became Emperor. It is not hard to guess the drift of
his meditations. The success of the Empire depended on the success of
Prussia, and the success of Prussia, ringed in by possibly hostile
Powers, on union under a Prussian King whom Germans should swear
fealty to and regard as a Heaven-granted leader. From the history of
Prussia he drew the conclusion that force, physical force, well
organized and equipped, must be the basis of Germany's security.
Physical force had made Brandenburg into Prussia, and Prussia into the
still nascent modern German Empire. He knew that France was only
waiting for the day to come when she would be powerful enough to
recover her lost provinces. Russia was friendly, but there was no
certainty she would always be so. Austria was an ally, but many people
in Austria had not forgotten Sadowa, and in any case her military and
naval forces were far from being efficient. An irresistible army, and
a national spirit that would keep it so, were consequently Germany's
first essentials.

Simultaneously a new fact of vital importance for Germany's prosperity
presented itself for consideration - the growth of world-policy in
trade, the expansion of commerce through the development caused by new
conditions of transport and intercommunication in which other nations
were already engaged. The Prince saw his country's merchants beginning
to spread over the earth, and believing in the doctrine that trade
follows the flag, he felt that the flag, with the power and protection
it affords, must be supplied. For this it appeared to him that a navy
was as indispensable as was an efficient army for Germany's internal
security. All other great countries had fine navies, while to Germany
this complement of Empire was practically wanting. Accordingly he now
took up the study of naval science and naval construction.

There was an occasion, however, at this time when the young Prince
attracted general attention, if only for a few days. It was when as
colonel of the Body Guard Hussars, he ordered his officers to withdraw
from a Berlin club in which hazard and high play had ruined some of
the younger and less wealthy members. The committee of the club used
their influence to cause Emperor William to make the new commander
cancel his order. The Emperor sent for his grandson and requested its
withdrawal.

"Majesty," said the young commander, "permit me a question - am I still
commander of the regiment?"

"Of course - "

"Well, then, will your Majesty allow me to maintain the order - or else
accept my resignation?"

"Oh," said the Emperor, who was in reality pleased with the young
disciplinarian, "there can be no talk of such a thing. I could not
find so good a commanding officer again in a hurry."

When the club committee's ambassadors came to the Emperor to learn the
result of his intervention, his answer was, "Very sorry, gentlemen; I
did my best, but the colonel refuses."

The political situation as regards France was just now highly
precarious. General Boulanger, whom Gambetta once described as "one of
the four best officers in France," had become Minister of War in the
de Freycinet Cabinet of 1886. Relying on a supposed superiority of the
French army, he prepared for a war of revenge against Germany and
aimed, with the help of Deroulède and Rochfort, at suppressing the
parliamentary _régime_ and establishing himself as dictator. His plans
were answered in Germany by the acceptance of Bismarck's Septennat
proposals for increasing the army and fixing its budget for seven
years in advance. The war feeling in France diminished, and though it



Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 4 of 31)