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the formal resignation reached the palace, the Emperor's letter
granting the Chancellor's request for his release, naming him Duke of
Lauenburg and announcing the appointment of General von Caprivi as his
successor, was put into the old Chancellor's hands.




VI.



THE COURT OF THE EMPEROR

While the ex-Chancellor is bitterly meditating on the unreliability
and ingratitude of princes, yet having in his heart, as the records
clearly show, the loyal sentiments of a Cardinal Wolsey towards his
royal master, even though that master had cast him off, we may be
allowed to pause awhile in order to give some account of the Court of
which the Emperor now became the centre and pivot.

Human imagination, in its worship of force as the source of ability to
achieve the ends of ambition and desire, very early conceived the
courts of kings as fairylands of power, wealth, luxury, and
magnificence - in a word, of happiness. The same imagination represents
the Almighty, whose true nature no one knows, as a monarch in the
bright court of heaven, and his great antagonist, Satan, who stands
for the king of evil, is enthroned by it amid the shades of hell. The
fiction that courts are a species of earthly paradise is still kept up
for the entertainment of children; while the adult, whom the annals of
all countries has made familiar with a long record of monarchs, bad as
well as good, is disposed to regard them as beneficial or otherwise to
a country according to the character and conduct of the occupant of
the throne, and to believe that they are at least as liable to produce
examples of vice and hypocrisy as of virtue and honesty.

The court of the German Emperor in this connexion need not fear
comparison with any court described in history. True, courts all over
the world have improved wonderfully of recent years. Their monarchs
are more enlightened, they are frequented by a very different type of
man and woman from the courts of former times, their morale and
working are more closely scrutinized and more generally subjected to
criticism, and they are occupied with a more public and less selfish
order of considerations. The Court of the Emperor is, so far as can be
known to a lynx-eyed and not always charitably thinking public,
singularly free from the vices and failings the atmosphere of former
courts was wont to foster. There is at all times, no doubt, the
competition of politicians for influence and power acting and reacting
on the Court and its frequenters, but of scandal at the Court of
Berlin there has been none that could be fairly said to involve the
Emperor or his family. Dame Gossip, of course, busied herself with the
Emperor in his youth, but whatever truth she then uttered - and it is
probably extremely little - on this head, there is no question that
from the day he mounted the throne his Court and that of the Empress
has been a model for all institutions of the kind.

The life of courts, the personages who play leading parts in them,
their wealth and luxury, and the currents of social, amorous, and
political intrigue which are supposed to course through them have in
all countries and in all ages strongly appealed to writers, fanciful
and serious. Perhaps one-third of the prose and poetic literature of
every country deals, directly or indirectly, with the subject, and
determines in no small degree the character of its rising generations.
The great architects of romance, depicting for us life in high places,
and often nobly idealizing it, or working the facts of history into
the web of their imaginings and thus pleasantly combining fact with
fiction, aim at elevating, not at debasing, the mind of the reader. A
second valuable source of information on the topic are the memoirs of
those who have set down their observations and recorded experiences
made in the courts to which they had access. Among this class,
however, are to be found unscrupulous as well as conscientious
authors, the former obviously cherishing some personal grievance or as
obviously actuated by malice, while the latter are usually moved by an
honest desire to tell the world things that are important for it to
know, and at the same time, it is not ill-natured to suspect, enhance
their own reputation with their contemporaries or with posterity. The
multitudinous tribe of anecdote inventors and retailers must also be
taken into account. In our own day there is still another source of
information, which, agreeably or odiously according to the temperament
of the reader, keeps us in touch with courts and what goes on
there - the periodical press; while afar off in the future one can
imagine the historian bent over his desk, surrounded by books and
knee-deep in newspapers, selecting and weighing events, studying
characters, developing personalities, and passing what he hopes may be
a final judgment on the court and period he is considering.

For a study of the Emperor's life, as it passes in his Court, a large
number of works are available, but not many that can be described as
authoritative or reliable. Among the latter, however, may be placed
Moritz Busch's "Bismarck: Some Secret Pages of His History," three
volumes that make Busch almost as interesting to the reader as his
subject; Bismarck's own "Gedanke und Erinnerungen," which is chiefly
of a political nature; and the "Memorabilia of Prince Chlodwig
Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst," who was for several years Statthalter of
Alsace-Lorraine and subsequently became Imperial Chancellor in
succession to General von Caprivi. These works, with the collections
of the Emperor's speeches and the speeches and interviews of
Chancellor Prince von Bülow, may be ranked in the category of serious
and authentic contributions to the Court history of the period they
cover. Then there are several German descriptions of the Court,
reliable enough in their way which is a dull one, to those who are not
impassioned monarchists or hide-bound bureaucrats. In the category of
works by unscrupulous writers that entitled "The Private Lives of
William II and His Consort," by a lady-in-waiting to the Empress from
1888 to 1898, easily takes first place. Certainly it gives a lively
and often entertaining insight into the domestic life of the palace,
but it is so clearly informed by spite that it is impossible to
distinguish what is true in it from what is false or misrepresented.
Finally, for the closer study of individual events and the impressions
they made at the time of their happening, the daily press can be
consulted. For the Bismarck period the biography of Hans Blum is of
exceptional value.

What may be termed the anecdotic literature of the Court is
particularly rich and trivial, and this is only to be expected in a
country where the monarchy and its representative are so forcibly and
constantly brought home to the people's consciousness. Yet it has its
uses, and is referred to, though sparingly, in the present work. "The
Emperor as Father of a Family," "The Emperor and His Daughter's
Uniform," "The Amiable Grandfather," "The Emperor as Husband," "The
Emperor as Card Player," "How the Emperor's Family is Photographed,"
"What does the Emperor's Kitchen Look Like," "Adieu, Auguste"
("Auguste" is the Empress), "The English Lord and the Emperor's
Cigarettes," "When My Wife Makes You a Sandwich," "What the Emperor
Reads," "The Emperor's Handwriting," "Can the Emperor Vote?" (the
answer is, opinions differ), "Washing Day at the Emperor's," "The
Emperor and the Empress at Tennis," "Emperor and Auto," are the sort
of matters dealt with. Literature of this kind is beyond question
intensely interesting to vast numbers of people, but helps very little
towards understanding a singularly complex human being placed in a
high and extraordinarily responsible position.

Strictly speaking, there is no Imperial Court in Germany, since the
King of Prussia, in accordance with the Imperial Constitution, always
succeeds to the imperial throne, and therefore officially the Court is
that of the King of Prussia only. The distinction is emphasized by the
fact that the Court is independent of the Empire as regards its
administration and finance. It is a state within a state, an _imperium
in imperio_. In all that pertains to it the Emperor is absolute ruler
and his executive is a special Ministry. At the same time it is almost
needless to add that the Court of Berlin is practically that of the
Empire. It is this character, apart from Prussia's size and
importance, that distinguishes it from other courts in Germany and
reduces them to comparative insignificance in foreign, though by no
means in German, consideration.

The Court of the Empire and Prussia - and the same thing may be said of
the various other courts in Germany - engages popular interest and
attention to a much larger extent than is the case in England. The
fact is almost wholly due to the nature of the monarchy and of its
relations to the people. In England a great portion of the popular
attention is concentrated on Parliament and the fortunes of its two
great political parties. The attention given to the Court and its
doings is not of the same general and permanent character, but is
intermittent according to the occasion. The Englishman feels deep and
abiding popular interest at all times in Parliament, whether in
session or not, because it represents the people and is, in fact, and
for hundreds of years has been, the Government.

The reverse may fairly be said to be the case in Germany. In Germany
popular attention has been from early times concentrated on the
monarch, his personality, sayings and doings, since in his hands lay
government power and patronage. Monarchy of a more or less absolute
character was accepted by the people, not only in Germany but all over
the Continent, as the normal and desirable, perhaps the inevitable,
state of things; and it is only since the French Revolution that
parliaments after the English pattern, that is by two chambers elected
by popular vote, yet in many important respects widely differing from
it, were demanded by the people or finally established. Up to
comparatively recent times the monarch in Prussia was an absolute
ruler. Frederick William IV, after the events of 1848, was compelled
to grant Prussia a Constitution which explicitly defined the
respective rights of the Crown and the people in the sphere of
politics; and the Imperial Constitution, drawn up on the formation of
the modern Empire, did the same thing as regards the Emperor and the
people of the Empire; but neither Constitution altered the nature of
the monarchy in the direction of giving governing power to the people.
Both secured the people legislative, but not governing power.
Government in the Empire and Prussia remains, as of old, an appanage,
so to speak, of the Court, and the fact of course tends to concentrate
attention on the Court.

It has been said that the Court is a state within a state, an
_imperium in imperio_. In this state, within Prussia or within the
Empire, it is the same thing for our purpose, there are two main
departments, that of the Lord Chamberlain (_Oberstkammeramt_) and that
of the Master of the Household (_Ministerium des Königlichen Hauses_).
The first deals with all questions of court etiquette, court
ceremonial, court mourning, precedence, superintendence of the courts
of the Emperor's sons and near relatives, and of all Prussian court
offices. The second deals with the personal affairs of the Emperor and
his sons, the domestic administration of the palace, the management of
the Crown estates and castles, and is the tribunal that decides all
Hohenzollern differences and disputes that are not subject to the
ordinary legal tribunals. Connected with this Ministry are the
Herald's office and the Court Archives office. The chief Court
officials include, beside the Lord Chamberlain and the Master of the
Household, a Chief Court Marshal. The Master of the Household is also
Chief Master of Ceremonies, with a Deputy Master of Ceremonies who is
also Introducer of Ambassadors, two Court Marshals, a Captain of the
Palace Guards, a Court Chaplain, Court Physician, an Intendant in
charge of the royal theatres, a Master of the Horse who has charge of
the royal stables, a House Marshal, and a Master of the Kitchen. All
these officials are princes (_Fürst_) or counts (_Graf_), with the
title Highness (_Durchlaucht_) or Excellency.

Court officials also include the various nobles in charge of the royal
palaces, castles, and hunting lodges at Potsdam, Charlottenburg,
Breslau, Stettin, Marienburg, Posen, Letzlingen, Hohkönigsberg,
Homberg von der Höhe, Springe, Hubertusstock, Rominten, Korfu (the
"Achilleion"), Wiesbaden, Koenigsberg, etc., to the number of thirty
or more. The Empress has her own Court officials, including a Mistress
of the Robes and Ladies of the Bedchamber, also with the title of
Excellency, the Ladies being chosen from the most aristocratic
families of Germany. The Empress has her own Master of the Household,
physician, treasurer, and so on. Similarly with the households of the
Crown Prince, other royal princes and the Emperor's near relatives.

Every order the Emperor gives that is not of a purely domestic kind
passes through one of his three cabinets - the Civil Cabinet, the
Military Cabinet, or the Marine Cabinet. The cost of the first, with
its chief, who receives £1,000 a year, and half a dozen subordinate
officials on salaries of £200 to £350, is budgeted at about £10,000 a
year. The Military Cabinet is a much larger establishment, having
several departments and a staff of half a hundred councillors and
clerks. The Naval Cabinet, on the other hand, is composed of only
three upper officials and five clerks. The Emperor's "civil list" is
returned in the Budget as £860,000 roughly. His entire annual revenue
does not exceed £1,000,000. Out of this he has to pay the expenses of
his married sons' households and make large contributions to public
charities. He was left, however, a very considerable sum of money by
the Emperor William. The Crown Prince, as such, receives a grant of
£20,000 a year, chiefly derived from the royal domain of Oels in
Silesia. Like all fathers of large families, the Emperor has been more
than once heard to complain that he finds it difficult to make both
ends meet.

The Emperor's staff of adjutants are exceptionally useful and
important people. At their head is the chief of the Emperor's Military
Cabinet. Not less important are the members of the Emperor's Marine
Cabinet, consisting of admirals, vice-admirals, and wing-admirals. The
personal adjutants divide the day and night service between them, so
that there may always be three adjutants at the Emperor's immediate
disposal. The adjutant announces Ministers or other visitors to the
Emperor, telegraphs to say that His Majesty has an hour or an hour and
a half at his disposal at such-and-such a time, or intimates that an
audience of half an hour can be given in the train between two given
points. They act as living memorandum books, knock at the Emperor's
door to announce that it is time for him to go to this or that
appointment, remind him that a congratulatory telegram on some one's
seventieth birthday or other jubilee has to be sent, or perhaps
whispers that Her Majesty the Empress wishes to see him. All the
Emperor's correspondence passes through their hands. They accompany
the Emperor on his journeys and voyages, and when thus employed are
usually invited to his table. The Emperor reads of some new book and
tells an adjutant to order it, and the latter does so by communicating
with the Civil Cabinet.

Court society in Berlin includes the German "higher" and "lower"
nobility, with the exception of the so-called Fronde, who proudly
absent themselves from it; the Ministers; the diplomatic corps; Court
officials; and such members of the burghertum, or middle class, as
hold offices which entitle them to attend court. The wives, however,
of those in the last category are not "court-capable" on this account,
nor is the middle class generally, nor even members of the Imperial or
Prussian Parliaments as such. Members of Parliament are invited to the
Court's seasonal festivities, but as a rule only members of the
Conservative parties or other supporters of the Government. The
nobility, as in England, is hereditary or only nominated for life, and
the hereditary nobility is divided into an upper and lower class. To
the former belongs members of houses that were ruling when the modern
Empire was established, and, while excluding the Emperor, who stands
above them, includes sovereign houses and mediatized houses. Some of
the ancient privileges of the nobility, such as exemption from
taxation, and the right to certain high offices, have been abolished,
but in practice the nobility still occupy the most important charges
in the administration and in the army. The privileges of the
mediatized princes consist of exemption from conscription, the
enjoyment of the Principle called "equality of birth," which prevents
the burgher wife of a noble acquiring her husband's rank, and the
right to have their own "house law" for the regulation of family
disputes and family affairs generally. No increase to the high
nobility of Germany can accrue as no addition will ever be made to the
once sovereign and mediatized families. With the exception of these
houses the rest of the German nobility, hereditary and non-hereditary,
is accounted as belonging to the lower nobility. That part of the
German aristocracy who refuse to go to court, and are accordingly
called by the name Fronde, first given to the opponents of Cardinal
Mazarin, in the reign of Louis XIV, consist chiefly of a few old
families of Prussian Poland, Hannover (the Guelphs), Brunswick,
Nassau, Hessen, and other annexed German territories, and of some
great Catholic houses in Bavaria and the Rhineland. Their dislike is
directed not so much against the Empire as against Prussia. The
Kulturkampf had the effect of setting a small number of ancient
Prussian ultramontane families against the Government.

Not much that is complimentary can be said of the German aristocracy
as a whole. "Serenissimus" is to-day as frequently the subject of
bitter, if often humorous, caricature in the comic press as ever he
was. A few of the class, like Prince Fürstenberg, Prince Hohenlohe,
Count Henkel-Donnersmarck and some others engage successfully in
commerce; many are practical farmers and have done a good deal for
agriculture; several are deputies to Parliament; but on the whole the
foreigner gets the impression that the class as such contributes but a
small percentage of what it might and should in the way of brains,
industry, or example to the welfare and the progress of the Empire.

It is difficult to communicate an impression of the Court, whether at
the Schloss in Berlin or the New Palace in Potsdam, and at the same
time avoid the dry and dusty descriptions of the guide-books. If the
reader is not in Berlin, let him imagine the fragment of a mediæval
town, situated on a river and fronted by a bridge; and on the bank of
the river a dark, square, massive and weather-stained pile of four
stories, with barred windows on the ground floor as defence against a
possibly angry populace, and a sentry-box at each of its two lofty
wrought-iron gates. It may be, as Baedeker informs us it is, a
"handsome example of the German renaissance," but to the foreigner it
can as equally suggest a large and grimy barracks as the
five-hundred-years-old palace of a long line of kings and emperors.
And yet, to any one acquainted with the blood-stained annals of
Prussian history, who knows something of the massive stone buildings
about it and of the people who have inhabited them, who strolls
through its interior divided into sombre squares, each with its cold
and bare parade-ground, who reflects on the relations between king and
people, closely identified by their historical associations, yet
sundered by the feudal spirit which still keeps the Crown at a
distance from the crowd, above all to the German versed in his
country's story - how eloquently it speaks!

When one thinks of the Court of Berlin one should not forget that the
New Palace, the Emperor's residence at Potsdam, sixteen miles distant
from the capital, is as much, and as important, a part of it as the
royal palace in Berlin itself. The Emperor divides his time between
them, the former, when he is not travelling, being his more permanent
residence, and the latter only claiming his presence during the winter
season and for periods of a day or so at other parts of the year, when
occasion requires it. It is only during the six or eight weeks of the
winter season that the Empress and her daughter, Princess Victoria
Louise (now Duchess of Brunswick), go into residence at the Berlin
royal palace. There is a railway between Potsdam and Berlin, but since
the introduction of the motor-car the Emperor almost always uses that
means of conveyance for the half-hour's run between his Berlin and
Potsdam palaces.

The other section of the Court, if Potsdam may be so described, is
hardly less rich in memories than the old palace by the Spree. Indeed
it is richer from the cosmopolitan point of view, for though Frederick
the Great was born in the Berlin Schloss and spent some of his time
there, it was at Potsdam that, when not campaigning, he may be said to
have lived and died. To this day, for the foreigner, his personality
still pervades the place, and that of the Emperor sinks,
comparatively, into the background. The tourist who has pored over his
Baedeker will learn that Potsdam has 53,000 inhabitants and is
"charmingly situated" - it depends on your temperament what the charm
is, and to guide-book framers all tourists have the same
temperament - on an island in the Havel "which here expands into a
series of lakes bounded by wooded hills." He will learn that the old
town-palace, which few visitors give a thought to, was built by the
Great Elector, that Frederick the Great lived here in "richly
decorated apartments with sumptuous furniture and noteworthy pictures
by Pater, Lancret, and Pesne"; that it contains a cabinet in which the
dining-table could be let up and down by means of a trap-door, and
"where the King occasionally dined with friends without risk of being
overheard by his attendants"; that the present Emperor, then Prince
William, lived here with his young wife when he was still only a
lieutenant. He will drive to the New Palace - now old, for it was built
by Frederick the Great in 1769, during the Seven Years' War, at a cost
of nearly half a million sterling - and gaze with interest at the
summer residence of the Emperor. If he is an American he may think of
his multi-millionaire fellow-citizen, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who, when
driving up to call on his erstwhile imperial schoolfellow and friend,
was nearly shot at by a sentry for whom the name Vanderbilt was no
"Open Sesame." He will see before him a main building, seven hundred
feet in length, three stories high, with the central portion
surmounted by a dome, its chief façade looking towards a park. The
whole, of course - for Baedeker is talking - forms an "imposing pile,"
with "mediocre sculptures, but the effect of the weathered sandstone
figures against the red brick is very pleasing." Here the Emperor's
father, Frederick III, was born, lived as Crown Prince, reigned for
ninety-nine days, and died. Here, too, are more "apartments of
Frederick the Great," with pictures by Rubens, including an "Adoration
of the Magi," a good example of Watteau and a portrait of Voltaire
drawn by Frederick's own hand. In the north wing are situated the
present Emperor's suite of chambers, where distinguished men of all
countries have discussed almost every conceivable topic, political,
social, religious, martial, artistic, financial, and commercial, with
one of the most interesting talkers of his time. No bloody tragedy has
defiled the palace, as did the murder of Lord Darnley at Holyrood,
that of the Duke of Guise (Sir Walter Scott's "Le Balafré") the
chateau of Blois, the execution of the Bourbon Duc d'Enghien the
palace of Vincennes, or the murder of the boy princes the Tower of
London. But bloodless tragedy, and exquisite comedy, and farce too,
have doubtless had their hour within the walls. One such incident of
the politico-tragic kind was that which passed only two years ago
between the Emperor and his Imperial Chancellor, when Prince von Bülow
went as deputy from the Federal Council, the Parliament, and the
people to pray the Emperor to exercise more caution in his public, or



Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 9 of 31)