William II and Francis Joseph
SECRET MEMOIRS OF THE COURTS OF EUROPE
William II Germany
Francis Joseph Austria Hungary
MME. LA MARQUISE DE FONTENOY
IN TWO VOLUMES
The essential qualifications for an author of such a work as the present are an actual acquaintance with the persons mentioned, an intimate knowledge of their daily lives, and a personal familiarity with the scenes described.
The author of William II. and Francis-Joseph, sheltered under the nom de plume of Marquise de Fontenoy, is a lady of distinguished birth and title. Her work consists largely of personal reminiscences, and descriptions of events with which she is perfectly familiar; a sort of panoramic view of the characteristic happenings and striking features of court life, such as will best give a true picture of persons and their conduct.
There has been no attempt to trammel the subject,—which embraces religious, official, social and domestic life,—by following a strictly sequential form in the narrative, but the writer's aim has been to present her facts in a familiar way, impressing them with characteristic naturalness and lifelike reality.
To this task the author has brought the habits of a watchful observer, the candor of a conscientious narrator, and the refinement of a writer who respects her subject. Hence she presents a true, vivid and interesting picture of court life in Germany and Austria. If such merely sensational, and too often fictitious, unsavory tales as crowd the so-called court narratives expressly concocted for the "society" columns of the periodical press are not the most prominent features of the present work, it is because they receive only a truthful recognition and place in its pages.
"If only Emperor William would be true to himself—be natural, in fact!" exclaimed Count S——, a Prussian nobleman, high in the diplomatic service of his country, with whom I was discussing the German Emperor a year or so ago. Then my friend, who had, a short time previously, been brought into frequent personal contact with his sovereign, in connection with his official duties, went on to say:
"There are really two distinct characters, one might almost say two personalities, in the kaiser. When he is himself he is the most charming companion that it is possible to conceive. His manners are as genial and as winning as those of his father and grandfather, both of whom he surpasses in brilliancy of intellect, and in quickness of repartee, as well as in a keen sense of humor. He gives one the impression of possessing a heart full of the most generous impulses,—aye, of a generosity carried even to excess, and this, together with a species of indescribable magnetism which appears to radiate from him in these moments, contributes to render him a most sympathetic man."
"But," interposed an Englishman who was present, "that is not how he is portrayed to the outer world. Nor is that the impression which he made upon me and upon others when he was at Cowes."
"That is precisely why I deplore so much that the emperor should fail to appear in his true colors," continued Count S——. "All the qualities which I have just now ascribed to him are too often concealed beneath a mantle of reserve, self-consciousness, nay, even pose. During my recent interviews with his majesty, whenever we happened to be alone, he would show himself in the light which I have just described to you. But let a third person appear upon the scene—be it even a mere servant—at once his entire manner would change. The magnetic current so pleasantly established between us would be cut through, his eyes would lose their kindly, friendly light, and become hard, his attitude self-conscious and constrained, the very tone of his speech sharp, abrupt, commanding, I would almost say arrogant. In fact he would give one the impression that he was playing a role—the role of emperor—that he was, in one word, posing, even if it were only for the benefit of the menial who had interrupted us. But when the intruder had vanished, William would, like a flash, become his own charming self again. That is what made me exclaim just now, 'if only the kaiser would be true to himself!—be natural, in fact.'"
"I fully agree with you, my dear S——," I remarked, after a short pause. "If the emperor has remained anything like what he was prior to his ascension to the throne, your estimate of his character is correct." And I went on to relate a little incident which occurred on the occasion of my first meeting with the emperor many years ago.
This meeting took place on that particular spot where the empires of Germany, Austria, and Russia may be said to meet, the frontier guards of each of those three nations being within hail of one another. The great autumnal military manoeuvres were in progress, and a merry party, including a number of ladies, were riding home from the mimic battlefield. We passed through a narrow lane, bordered on each side by groups of stunted willows and birch trees, under the sparse shadow of which nestled a few cottages painted in blue, pink, or yellow, in true Polish fashion. Suddenly our progress was arrested by terrifying screams proceeding from one of these hovels. Several of us were out of our saddles in an instant and rushed in at the low door.
Before the hearth, where a huge peat-fire was burning, stood a young peasant woman, her face distorted with agonized grief, and holding in her arms a bundle of blackened rags. We found that her baby had fallen into the glowing embers, while she herself was occupied out of doors, and the poor mite was so badly burned that there seemed but little hope of its ever reviving from its state of almost complete coma. We were all busying ourselves eagerly about the child and its distraught mother, when raising my eyes from the palpitating form of the child, I caught sight of "Prince William," as the kaiser was then called, standing near the door, apparently quite undisturbed and unmoved by this tragedy in lowly life. It even seemed to me in the dim light as if he were smiling derisively at our efforts to relieve the sufferings of the little one, and to soothe the grief of its mother. But my indignation vanished quickly when a slanting ray of the setting sun, piercing through the grime of the little window, revealed the presence on his cheek of two very large and bona-fide tears, which had welled up in his eyes, to which the lad was endeavoring to impart an expression of callous indifference; and when at last we left the hut to seek a doctor for the tiny sufferer it was Prince William's own military coat, none too new, and even, to say the truth, much worn, that remained as an additional coverlet upon the roughly-hewn wooden cot, over which the sobbing mother was bending.
"Nobody," I added, "will, therefore, make me believe that Emperor William has not got a very soft spot in his heart, and that beneath the mannerisms which he considers it necessary to affect in order to maintain the dignity of his position as emperor,—those mannerisms which have given rise to so much misapprehension about his character,—there is not concealed a very kindly spirit, literally brimming over with generous impulses, which, if more widely known, would serve to render the kaiser the most popular, as he is the most interesting figure of Old World royalty."
It is because Emperor Francis-Joseph and the veteran King of Saxony are so thoroughly acquainted with his real nature, that they are truly and honestly fond of him. Both of them old men, with no sons in whom to seek support for the eventide of lives that have been saddened by many a public and private sorrow, they entertain a fatherly affection for William, who as emperor treats them in public as brother sovereigns, and as equals, but accords to them in private the most touching filial deference and regard, remembering full well the kindness which both of them showed to him when he was still the much-snubbed, and not altogether justly-treated "Prince William." They on their side are led by his behavior towards them to regard him in the light of a son. Of course they cannot be blind to his faults, but they are disposed to treat them with an indulgence that is even more than paternal, and to see in them relatively trivial defects, due to the manner in which he was brought up, and which are certain to disappear with advancing years and experience.
During his early manhood, Prince William was by no means a favorite either at his grandfather's court or at that of any other foreign sovereign which he was occasionally allowed to visit. Pale-faced and delicate-looking, very severely treated by his mother, who is what one is bound to call une maitresse femme, the boy at seventeen was by no manner of means prepossessing, and his efforts to assert himself, and to crush down a good deal of natural awkwardness and timidity added to his singularly unlikeable appearance.
In those days it could clearly be seen that everything that he did or said was meant to create an impression of dignity and of grandeur, to which his physique did not lend itself very easily, and the contrast between him and his bosom friend the courteous, graceful and dashing Crown Prince of Austria, was very marked.
Good-hearted and endowed with a great many truly generous instincts the young fellow was, however, sorely handicapped by his education, the abnormal strictness displayed towards him at the Court of Berlin, and also by a continually and most distressingly empty purse. It is a hard and almost pitiful thing for the heir apparent of a great empire to find himself often without the necessary amount with which to cut the figure which his social rank forces him to adopt, and it must have been especially galling to the overbearing and proud nature of this boy to be continually obliged to borrow from his friends, nay even from his aides de camp, small sums wherewith to pay his way wherever he went. Nevertheless his father and mother, then Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Germany, believed it to be a thoroughly wholesome thing for the young man to have to humble his pride, should he not be content with the very small allowance made to him, this unfortunate idea being, however, the cause of a great deal of bitterness, which to this day has not completely faded from the heart of the now omnipotent ruler of the German Empire.
It is undeniable that many eccentricities and false moves on the part of William II. have been grossly exaggerated and placed before the public in a false light, showing him up as a conceited, bumptious and silly person, whereas not only his state of health, but his entourage should have been blamed for whatever he did that was out of place. During a great many years the young prince suffered from what is called technically otitis media, namely, a disease of the middle ear, very painful, exasperating and even somewhat humiliating to endure, and which he must have inherited in some extraordinary way from his great-uncle, King William IV. of Prussia, who died insane. There are certainly some traits of resemblance between this hapless monarch and the present occupant of the German throne, for in both there exists and has existed the same exaggerated and narrow-minded religious beliefs, bordering on mysticism, and also an all-embracing faith in their absolute and unquestionable infallibility.
It has long since become a well-anchored creed that William II. has occasional fits of insanity. This is by no means the case, but it must be admitted that the peculiar malady to which I referred above, and which is as yet not eradicated from his system, causes him, at times, days of the most excruciating pains all over the back and side of his head, and it is scarcely surprising that at such moments the emperor should act in a way which astonishes the uninitiated. Indeed, William II. displays extraordinary force of character in suppressing physical agony, when the duties he owes to the state force him to come forward when unfit for anything else but the sick room.
The truth of the matter is that there are but few who can boast of knowing him well, and the masses as well as the classes both at home and abroad seem to take a peculiarly keen delight in accepting for gospel truth any sweeping statements made about him by the press of all civilized countries.
Although twenty-nine years of age when he ascended the throne on June 15, 1888, he may be said to have been at that time still but a raw youth, continually kept in the background, and treated more or less like a child, without any consequence or weight. It is, therefore, not remarkable that the first years of his reign should have been signalized by many errors of judgment; for it is not with impunity that one suddenly releases a person, locked up for years in a dark room and drives him into dazzlingly-lighted spaces without a guide, a philosopher, or a friend by his side to lead him on the way. The mental, as well as the physical optic has to gradually become accustomed to so complete a change, and this fact was not sufficiently taken into consideration by all the detractors of the young monarch, when he, to speak very familiarly, leaped over the saddle in his anxiety to secure for himself a firm seat on the throne of his forefathers.
It is well to mention also that Emperor Frederick III., who reigned alas! but for a few weeks, was positively worshipped by the German people, and not without cause, for he was undoubtedly one of the finest personalities of this century. His appearance, his demeanor, his unaffected dignity, kindness of heart, and loftiness of purpose were difficult to surpass, and it was a bitter disappointment to his subjects when death snatched him away before he had had time to carry out the grand plans and ideas which he had long cherished and reserved for the time when he would have the reins of government in his own hands.
Speaking with all kindness and good-will, one cannot but after a fashion understand the disappointment of the Germans when this towering military figure, this magnificent specimen of perfect physical and mental manhood, vanished from their ken, to be replaced by the slender, pale-faced, somewhat arrogant and despotic young man, who resembled this father so little.
Emperor William II. is an extremely intelligent personage, in spite of all that may have been said to the contrary. He thinks for himself when he has a mind to do so, and, what is more, thinks logically, and is quite capable of following a thus logically-attained conclusion to its furthermost point. He feels keenly his enormous responsibilities, and the tremendous international importance of his position as the ruler of over 50,000,000 people, for he well knows that any man wearing on his head the double crown of King of Prussia, and of German Emperor, is a being endowed with powers which are bound to compel attention from every point of the European Continent. Being given, as I have just remarked, that his health and his physique are neither of them of a kind to aid him in the tremendous task which belongs to him by right of birth, it is easily explainable that his self-assertive ways and imperious manners should often be mistaken for posing and posturing. Moreover, his imperfect left arm—a misfortune which has been a source of great distress to him ever since his birth—is but another one of those physical troubles which his pride makes him anxious to conceal, this only adding to his stilted and repellent attitude. In spite of all these drawbacks, the emperor fences exceedingly well, rides with pluck, and even skill, managing to hold his reins with his poor withered left hand when in uniform, in order to keep his sword-arm free, and during his visit to Austrian Poland, which I referred to at the beginning of this chapter, I more than once saw him with my own eyes, whilst we were riding across country, take obstacles which would have made a far older and more experienced hunter pause and reflect on.
Nobody, even the best-intentioned, can deny that Emperor William has many faults; those are, however, either ignored altogether, or else exaggerated to an extent that eclipses all his good qualities, by his various biographers. Very few pen-portraits of royal personages that pass through the hands of the publishers can be said to present a true picture of their subject. Either the writer holds up the object of his literary effort as a person so blameless as to suggest the idea that he is an impossible prig, or else every piece of malevolent gossip is construed into a positive fact, his shortcomings magnified until they lose all touch of resemblance, while every word and action capable of misrepresentation is construed in the manner most detrimental to his reputation. In one word, he is either glorified as a preposterous saint, or else held up to public execration as an equally impossible villain. Now, in pictorial art, a portrait, in order to present a satisfactory and successful resemblance to its subject, must contain lights and shadows. You cannot have all light, or all shadow, but it is necessary to have a judicious mixture of both. So it is with the art of biography. If one wishes to give in print a true, and above all, a human picture of one's subject, it is necessary to mingle the shadows with the lights. In fact, the former may be said to set off the latter, and there are many shortcomings, especially those which the French, so graphically describe as petits vices,—small vices—which, resulting from a generous and impulsive temperament, serve, like the Rembrandt shadow of a portrait, to render the subject more attractive to the eye.
It is my object, not to give a definitive biography of either of the two kaisers, or even a mere record of their vie intime, but rather to present to my readers a series of incidents, full of lights and full of shadows, showing their surroundings, describing as far as possible the atmosphere in which they move, the conditions of life which they are obliged to consider, the temptations to which they are exposed—and to which they sometimes succumb—and when I have completed my task I venture to believe that the readers of these volumes, while they may find the two emperors neither quite so blameless, nor yet quite so bad as they expected, may nevertheless experience a greater degree of sympathy and regard for them as being after all so extremely human.
While Emperor Francis-Joseph is justly reputed to have played sad havoc with the hearts of the fair sex in his dominions, especially in his younger days, having inherited that frivolity with regard to women which is a traditional characteristic of the illustrious House of Hapsburg, he has never at any moment during his long reign permitted his susceptibility to feminine charms to go to the length of influencing his political conduct, or the action of his government.
Emperor William, on the other hand, whose married life has been, from a domestic point of view, singularly blameless, and who has been an exceptionally faithful husband, has, in at least two instances, permitted himself to be swayed in his role of sovereign by ladies, who for a time figured as his "Egerias." One of them was a woman of extraordinary cleverness, and an American by birth, who while she has long since ceased to exercise any influence upon him, has retained the affection and the regard of both his consort and himself. She is the Countess Waldersee, daughter of the late David Lee, a wholesale grocer of New York, and who at the time that she became the wife of Field-marshal Count Waldersee, was the widow of the present German empress's uncle, Prince Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein. The latter abandoned his royal rank and titles, and assumed the merely nobiliary status of a Prince of Noer, in order to make her his consort.
The countess is treated as an aunt by both William and the kaiserin, and she may be said to have swayed her imperial nephew by her cleverness and intellectual brilliancy, rather than by her looks, for she is a woman already well-advanced in years.
Different in this respect was the influence of the emperor's other Egeria, namely, the Polish baroness, Jenny Koscielska, a woman of rare elegance and beauty, whose political importance during the time she reigned supreme at the Court of Berlin, was attributable to her personal fascination rather than to her sagacity or statecraft. She is the wife of that Baron Kosciol-Koscielski, who was one of the most celebrated leaders of the Polish party in the Russian House of Lords, and perhaps, also, the most popular of all modern Polish poets and playwrights.
It would be going too far to assert that William was infatuated by her loveliness. Yet there Is no doubt that as long as she figured at the Court of Berlin, he not only paid her the most marked attention, but likewise allowed himself to be advised by her in political matters. It was during the so-called "reign of the baroness" that the kaiser showed such an extraordinary degree of favor to his Polish subjects as to excite the jealousy and ill-will of the people in many other parts of his dominions. He reestablished the Polish language in the schools and churches of Posen, that is of Prussian-Poland, nominated a Polish ecclesiastic to the archbishopric of that province, and conferred so many court dignities, government offices, and decorations upon the compatriots of the fair Jenny, as to give rise to the remark that the best road to imperial preferment at Berlin was to add the Polish and feminine termination of "ska" to one's name. Old Prince Bismarck, who was at the time at daggers-drawn with his young sovereign, at length gave public utterance to the popular ill-will, excited by the role of Egeria, which the baroness was accused of playing to the "Numa Pompilius" of Emperor William. For, in the course of an address delivered by the old ex-chancellor at Friedrichsrueh, and reproduced in extenso in the press, he declared among other things that: "The Polish influence in political affairs increases always in the measure that some Polish family obtains of more or less influence at Court. I need not allude here to the role formerly played by the princely house of Radziwill. To-day we have exactly the same state of affairs, which is to be deplored!" Bismarck's allusion to the Radziwills was an ungenerous reference to the romantic attachment of old Emperor William for that Princess Elize Radziwill, whom he was so determined to marry that he offered his father to abandon his rights of succession to the throne on her account. This King Frederick-William would not permit, and William was compelled to wed Goethe's pupil, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar. A loveless match in every sense of the word, for he remained until the day of Princess Elize's death her most devoted friend and admirer, seeking her advice in many a difficulty, to the great annoyance of Prince Bismarck, who detested her, and after her death the old emperor continued to show the utmost favor and good-will to the members of her family in honor of her memory. Of course this speech of Prince Bismarck created no end of a sensation throughout the empire, as well as abroad, the press being encouraged thereby to print in cold type what had until that time been merely whispered in official and court circles. It is possible that the young emperor might have remained indifferent to popular clamor about the matter, had not two other incidents occurred about the same time to cool his liking for the fair Jenny.
In the first place, she felt herself so much encouraged by the influence which she believed that she exercised over the emperor, that when during the annual army manoeuvres Field Marshal Prince George of Saxony, and other Prussian and foreign royalties were quartered under her roof, she absolutely declined to hoist either the German flag, or the Royal Saxon standard, but insisted upon flying the national colors of Poland from the flag staff that surmounted the turret of her chateau. Naturally, Prince George and his fellow royal guests complained of this breach of etiquette to the kaiser, and protested strongly against it.
Almost at the same time, her husband, the baron, having been invited to attend the opening of a provincial exhibition in the neighboring Empire of Austria, was so carried away by enthusiasm, due to the kindness with which the Poles present were treated by Emperor Francis-Joseph, that forgetting all he owed to Emperor William, he publicly hailed Francis-Joseph as "sole sovereign of all Polish hearts," and as "Poland's future king!" About this time too, the empress paid a couple of rather mysterious visits to her mother-in-law at Friedrichkron. Court gossip ascribed these hurried trips to the fact that the empress had been prompted by her jealousy of the baroness to invoke the intervention of the strong-minded widow of Frederick the Noble. But it is far more likely that the empress visited the Dowager Kaiserin in order that she should call the attention of her son to the harm which the association of the name of the baroness with his own was doing him in a political sense both at home and abroad.
Whatever the cause of these consultations between the two empresses may have been, the fact remains that almost immediately afterwards Baron and Baroness Koscielski received from the Grand-Master-of-the-Court, Count Eulenburg, an official intimation that their presence at court was not desired in highest quarters until further notice, and that under the circumstances they would do well to remain at their country seat. In fact they were virtually banished, and when both husband and wife travelled all the way to Berlin with the object of asking for an explanation from the emperor, he declined to receive either the one or the other. He had apparently come to the conclusion that the game was not worth the candle, and that in view of the fact that his intimacy with the baroness had never gone beyond platonic friendship and mild flirtation, it was ridiculous to incur the ill-will of his subjects and expose himself to slanderous stories concocted by his enemies on her account.
The influence of the American born Countess Waldersee was of a far more lasting character, and may be said to have been inaugurated very shortly after his marriage. Prior to becoming a benedict, Prince William was as gay as his very limited financial means would permit. In fact, he was charged with playing the role of Don Juan to at least half a dozen beauties of the Prussian Court, while at Vienna he became involved in a scandal of a feminine character, from which he was only extricated with the utmost difficulty by the then German Ambassador to the Austrian Court, namely, Prince Reuss. The presumption is that he had allowed himself to become the prey of an adventuress, and with the object of avoiding publicity he was practically compelled to provide for the welfare and future of a child which may or may not have been his offspring. But as soon as he married, he turned over a new leaf, and became the very model of husbands.
It has always been my conviction that this was due in part to the influence of the Countess Waldersee, and largely also to the unkindly treatment which his consort received during the early years of her marriage at the hands of his family. Although a nice and gentle-looking girl, Augusta-Victoria was far from shining either by her beauty or her elegance at a court which is one of the most cruelly critical and satirical in all Europe. Moreover, she labored under the disadvantage of being the daughter of the Duchess of Augustenburg, who is not credited with a robust intellect, and, in fact has passed the greater part of her life in retirement, and of the Duke of Augustenburg, who was famed thirty years ago for the dullness of his mind. In fact, after Prussia had undertaken in his behalf the conquest of the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein, to which he was entitled by right of inheritance, and which had been unlawfully seized by Denmark, Prince Bismarck refused to permit the duke to assume the sovereignty thereof, on the publicly expressed ground that it would be an act of the most outrageous tyranny to subject any state to the rule of so intensely stupid a man as the duke.
This utterance on the part of Bismarck, which may be found in most of the German histories printed prior to the accession of the present Emperor, was naturally recalled to mind at the Court of Berlin, when the daughter of the duke became the bride of Prince William, and the widespread belief in her inherited dullness of intellect was further increased by the mingled impatience and pity which characterized the behavior of her husband's mother and sisters towards her.
There is much that is chivalrous in the nature of the present German emperor, and it was precisely the unkindness and slights to which his bride was subjected that had the effect of drawing him more closely to her. He did not conceal the fact that he strongly resented the attitude of his family towards her, and his friendship with Countess Waldersee owes its origin to the motherly way in which she behaved to his wife, acting as her mentor, as her adviser and guide in the intricate maze of Berlin society, and of court life. Debarred from all intimacy with her sisters-in-law, who were ever ready to scoff at, and to make fun of her, Augusta-Victoria was wont to have recourse to the countess in all her difficulties, and inasmuch as Count Waldersee himself is the most brilliant soldier of the German army, and was designated at the time by the great Moltke as his successor and his principal lieutenant, Prince William and his wife ended by becoming very intimate indeed with the Waldersees, and almost daily visitors at their house.
The countess is of a deeply religious turn of mind, with a strong disposition towards evangelism, and already before the marriage of Prince William, she had become conspicuous as one of the most influential leaders of the anti-Semite party in Prussia. It was in her salons at Berlin that the great Jew-baiter Stoecker was wont to hold his politico-religious meetings, denouncing the Jews, and it was through her influence, too, that he obtained appointment as court chaplain, in spite of the opposition of the father and the mother of Prince William. It was also under the roof of the Countess Waldersee that the present emperor became imbued with that very religious,—one might almost say pietist—disposition, which has since been so marked a feature of his character.
True, the hereditary tendency of the sovereign house of Prussia is distinctly religious, leaning in fact towards fanaticism, and King Frederick-William III., his son Frederick-William IV., and likewise old Emperor William, entertained the most extraordinary ideas on the subject of Providence, with which they believed themselves to be in constant communion, as well as its principal agent here on earth. In fact, there is hardly a public utterance of any of these three sovereigns, which is not marked throughout by a deep religious tone, and by a degree of familiarity with the Almighty which would be blasphemous were it not so manifestly sincere. This hereditary tendency towards religion was, to a certain extent, obliterated by the education which William received, and which was of a nature to dispose him to be both a materialist and a free-thinker. He may be said in fact to have been brought up in an atmosphere of Renan-ism and Strauss-ism, for which his extraordinary and mercilessly clever mother, Empress Frederick, was largely responsible, and at the moment of his marriage it looked as if he were destined to figure in history as quite as much of a philosopher, and even atheist, as Frederick the Great, for whom he professed the most profound veneration.
It was Countess Waldersee who revived all the inherited and latent religious tendencies of his character.
Up to the time when he ascended the throne, Prince William and his consort were constant and devout attendants at the prayer-meetings held in the salons of the countess, and if he remains to this day a remarkably religious man, with a sufficient regard for scriptural commands to have shown himself a more faithful husband than any other prince of his house, either living or dead—if, to-day, piety is fashionable at the court of Berlin instead of being bad form, if the building or endowment of a church, or of a charitable institution, is regarded as the surest road to imperial favor, it is due to the influence of William's American aunt, the daughter of that New York grocer, the first Princess Noer, and who is to-day Countess of Waldersee.
It is natural that the influence exercised over William and his wife by the countess should have given rise to the utmost jealousy, especially on the part of his mother, Empress Frederick, and during the hundred days' reign of her lamented husband, she availed herself of her brief spell of power to secure the virtual banishment of the count and the countess from Berlin, by causing the field marshal to be transferred from the chieftaincy of the headquarter staff to the command of the army stationed in Altona. Moreover, she did not hesitate to denounce the influence of the Waldersees as disastrous, as illiberal, and in every sense of the word reactionary, and if her husband, Emperor Frederick, was led to share her views concerning them, it was because of his disapproval of the movement against the Jews in which the countess had figured so conspicuously. It is a peculiar fact that although Emperor William has always remained on the most affectionate terms with the Waldersees, and never loses any opportunity of manifesting the warmth of his affection for them, he has never repealed the decree of banishment to which they were virtually subjected during his father's reign. He has transferred the field marshal from one post to another, but he has never appointed him to one which would admit of his coming back to live in Berlin. I cannot help thinking that the emperor resented the imputation that he was subject to the sway of his wife's aunt, and was offended by the articles which appeared at one moment both in the German and foreign press intimating that she was the power behind the throne. He is sufficiently jealous of his dignity to object to be considered as subject to the influence of anyone, be it man or woman, and one of the chief causes of the dismissal of old Prince Bismarck was precisely because so long as he remained in office there was a disposition to regard the kaiser as a mere puppet in the hands of the old statesman.
It is this aversion to being considered as swayed by any other influence than his own that has led the emperor on so many occasions to adopt a course diametrically opposed to that urged upon him by his clever and masterful mother, a woman with the most powerful intellect and the least tact to be found in all Old World royalties. It was this, too, that led the emperor to banish, just a trifle unjustly, the pretty and dashing Countess Hohenau from his court. She had been guilty of no indiscretion with regard to him. She had done nothing wrong, and she was not only a brilliant ornament of the imperial entourage, but likewise a relative of the family. But he banished both her husband and herself almost at a moment's notice, owing to the fact that in the anonymous letters circulated at the time of the so-called Kotze scandal, he was mentioned as altogether infatuated and subjugated by her beauty.
Count Hohenau is the half-brother of that Prince Albert of Prussia, who is now Regent of the Grand Duchy of Brunswick. Old Prince Albert of Prussia, his father, was married to the eccentric and half-crazy Princess Marianne of the Netherlands. Not long after the birth of the present Prince Albert, she lost her heart to such an extent to a chamberlain in her household that her husband was compelled to divorce her, whereupon she contracted a morganatic marriage with the gentleman in question, and lived and died at an advanced age only about twelve years ago.
Prince Albert, the elder, thereupon married morganatically a young girl of noble birth of the name of Baroness Rauch, whose family had for more than one hundred and fifty years occupied leading positions at the Court of Berlin. On the occasion of her marriage to the prince, she received from the Prussian Crown the title of Countess of Hohenau, and the children whom she bore to Prince Albert the elder are now known as Counts and Countesses of Hohenau. The elder of these Counts Hohenau bears the name of Fritz, and his wife, before their banishment from the capital, was one of the most dashing and brilliant figures in the ultra-aristocratic society of Berlin. No entertainment was regarded as complete without her presence, and in every social enterprise, no matter whether it was a flower corso, a charity fair, a hunt, a picnic, or amateur theatricals, she was always to the fore, besides being the leader in every new fashion, and in every new extravagance. Although eccentric—she was the first member of her sex to show herself astride on horseback in the Thiergarten—and in spite of her being famed as a thorough-paced coquette, and as a flirt, yet no one ventured to impugn her good name, until the disgraceful anonymous letter scandal; and both her husband and herself naturally resent most keenly that without any hearing or explanation they should have been banished from the court, and sent to live, first at Hanover, then at Dresden, but always away from Berlin and Potsdam, solely on account of an anonymous letter.
The sympathy of society in the affair was all with the Hohenaus, who although absent from Berlin, may be said to have taken the leading part in that great controversy which is known to this day as "the anonymous letter scandal," and which not only divided all Berlin society into separate hostile camps, but led to innumerable duels, some of them with fatal results; to the imprisonment of some great personages; to the ruin of others, and in one word to one of the most talked of court scandals of the present century. In fact, the anonymous letter affair, many of the features of which remain shrouded in mystery to this day, played so important a part in the history of the Court of Berlin during the first decade of the present emperor's reign, that it deserves a chapter to itself.
What, however, I wish specially to impress upon my readers is that in spite of the many scurrilous stories that have been circulated on both sides of the ocean concerning the alleged intrigues of Emperor William with the fair sex, since his marriage, nearly eighteen years ago, his wedded life has been singularly free from storms, and exceptionally happy. In fact, there are few more thoroughly-devoted couples than William and Augusta-Victoria, who is to-day far more comely as a woman than she was as a young girl. So domestic, indeed, are the tastes of the kaiser, so excellent is he both as a husband and a father, that his home life may be said to atone for many of his political errors and shortcomings as a monarch. His loyalty towards his consort is all the more to his credit, as the Anointed of the Lord in the Old World are exposed to feminine temptations in a degree of which no conception can be formed in this country. In most of the capitals of Europe it is in the power of the sovereign to make or mar the social position of any man, and of any woman. Social ambitions coupled with an exaggerated degree of loyalty will lead many a beautiful woman to cross that border line which separates mere indiscretion from something worse, all the more that the reputation of being the fair favorite of a monarch, and able to influence his conduct, is regarded as a title to prestige, and has the effect of converting the fair one into one of the acknowledged powers of the land.
For an ambitious woman it is something to be treated by statesmen and the representatives of foreign governments, as the power behind the throne, and provided this power is wisely exercised, the intimacy of the lady with the monarch is regarded by high and low with something more than mere indulgence.
History has given so lofty a pedestal to Madame de Maintenon, that there are many women who are eager to emulate her role in present times, and to likewise figure in history. That is why royal personages, and especially kings and emperors, are exposed to such extraordinary temptations.
Most women put forth all their charms and powers of fascination to captivate the attention, and, if possible, the heart of their sovereign, who is, after all, but human. That is why Emperor William deserves so much credit for having remained true to his wife, and why Emperor Francis-Joseph of Austria merits so much indulgence in connection with the indiscretions which had the effect of keeping him for so many years parted and estranged from his lovely consort, the late Empress Elizabeth.
While on this subject, it should be stated that for many years past, probably for the last decade, the life of Francis-Joseph has been free from affairs of this kind, for it is hardly possible to treat in the light of a scandal his association with that now elderly actress, Mlle. Schratt, since it is virtually tolerated, accepted and, so to speak, recognized both by the imperial family and by the Austrian people. Indeed the only persons who have ever taken exception to this intimacy have been Herr Schoenerer, and some of his anti-Semite colleagues who, to the indignation of every one, gave vent three years ago to their spite against their kindly old sovereign by calling attention in the Reichsrath to the alleged questionable relations between the sovereign and the popular and veteran star-actress of the Burg Theatre.
Herr Schoenerer, who was formerly a baron, but who was deprived of his title by the emperor at the time when he was sentenced to a year's imprisonment for a violent and unprovoked assault upon a Jewish newspaper proprietor, declared in the legislature, to which he had been elected on emerging from jail, that public opinion was becoming outraged by the impropriety of the conduct of the emperor. The scene which ensued defied description. Schoenerer was suspended, and had not steps been taken to assure his protection, would have been subjected to very violent treatment by the vast majority of the house, which is intensely loyal to the emperor, and the members of which resented criticism of his majesty's twenty years' friendship with old Frau Schratt Even the late empress herself did not regard as serious or dangerous her husband's association with the actress. This is shown by the fact that on two separate occasions she honored Frau Schratt with a visit at the actress's villa near Ischl. At the Austrian Court it is generally understood that whatever may have been the nature of the intimacy of the monarch and the actress in the past, it is now nothing more than a platonic affection between two old friends, the emperor being accustomed to spend half an hour or so with this witty and amiable lady nearly every day. The actress is a great favorite with the people at large, on account of her devotion to the emperor, and for her tact in declining to take any undue advantage of the favor which he accords to her. Indeed, the degree of indulgence with which Austrian society, as well as the masses, look upon this intimacy maybe gathered from the fact that one of the most—popular photographs on exhibition in the windows of the leading picture-shops at Vienna, and at Pesth, is a snapshot, showing the kindly-faced old emperor and the sunny-tempered old actress seated in the most domestic fashion opposite one another at a breakfast table with the actress's pet dog on a chair midway between stage and throne.
It was on the evening of June 7th, 1894, that a carriage, the servants of which wore court liveries, drew up at the entrance of that old building on the avenue known as "Unter Den Linden," which serves as a military prison of the Berlin garrison. From this equipage alighted two men, each of them a well-known figure in the great world of the Prussian metropolis. The one in uniform was General Count von Hahnke, chief of the military household of the emperor, while the other, who was in civilian attire, was Baron von Kotze, master of ceremonies at the court of Berlin, one of the most well-to-do and jovial of bons vivants, and who up to that time had stood so high in the favor of the reigning family that his sovereign was accustomed to address him by his Christian name, and by the so familiar equivalent pronoun in German of "thou."
Shortly afterwards General von Hahnke reappeared alone, entered the carriage hurriedly, and drove back to the palace. On the following morning it became known that Baron von Kotze had been suddenly arrested, and lodged in the military prison by personal order of the kaiser, and without the warrant of any tribunal or magistrate, either military or civil.
While the general public was speculating as to the cause of this mysterious and startling disciplinary measure against a nobleman so well known and so prominent in every way as Baron von Kotze, the court gossips were rubbing their hands, chuckling with satisfaction, and congratulating themselves on the fact that success had at length crowned the efforts made to bring to book the author of the hundreds of anonymous letters that had been circulated in the great world of Berlin during the two preceding years.
Gradually the circumstances which had led to the arrest of Baron Kotze became public property, and people both at home and abroad were made aware for the first time of the existence of a scandal which for over four-and-twenty months had set court and society by the ears, and which had caused every man and woman to regard with suspicion not merely their acquaintances, but even their most intimate friends and nearest relatives. No one, with the exception of the emperor, the empress, and the widow of Emperor Frederick, can be said to have been altogether exempt from this reflection on their honor. For among those who were at one time most strongly suspected of being the author of these letters were the eldest sister of the kaiser, Princess Charlotte, and the only brother of the empress, Duke Ernest-Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein.
Color was given to these suspicions by the fact that many of the anonymous letters contained remarks and information that manifestly emanated from the imperial family, while some of the views expressed in the letters were known not merely to have been shared, but even to have been uttered in conversation by the prince and princess in question. What gave still further weight to these suppositions was the extraordinary fact that incidents which had occurred within what may be described as the most intimate circle of the court,—incidents, indeed, of which no one could be aware, save royal personages themselves and those few chosen friends and associates who were with them at the time when the incidents in question occurred,—were revealed a few days later in the anonymous letters, twisted and distorted in such a manner as to admit only of the most shameful interpretation.
Added to this was the knowledge that there are few women at the Court of Berlin more cruelly satirical or have a keener sense of ridicule than Princess Charlotte, or any more inveterate gossip than Duke Ernest-Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein.
The anonymous letters had literally spared no one, not even that most blameless and excellent of women, the Empress Augusta-Victoria; nor was there anybody of mark who had not received at least several of them. But for some reason or other which was not understood at the time, they seemed to be imbued with an especially relentless and savage animosity against the charming Countess "Fritz" von Hohenau, who must not be confounded with her less attractive sister-in-law, Countess "Willy" von Hohenau; for whereas the latter is by birth a princess of Hohenlohe and a niece of the imperial chancellor of that ilk, Countess Fritz is by birth a Countess von der Decken, and rejoices in the Christian name of Charlotte.
If Countess Fritz has one weakness which in any degree lends itself to unfriendly criticism and ridicule it is the pride which she manifests in her relationship through marriage to the reigning house of Prussia, and in her being the sister-in-law of that Prince Albert of Prussia, who is regent of the Duchy of Brunswick, her husband, Count Fritz von Hohenau, being a half-brother to Prince Albert. It is owing to this very innocent weakness of the countess that she was nicknamed "Lottchen von Preussen," or "Die Preussiche Lotte" that is to say "Lotte of Prussia" and at least a third of the hundreds of anonymous letters confided to the mails during the period extending between 1892 and 1896 were filled with the most scurrilous remarks concerning the unfortunate "Lottchen von Preussen."
The letters imputed to the countess almost every crime under the sun. Inasmuch as her husband's principal friend was Baron Schrader, who was of course frequently seen in her company at the races and at the opera, it naturally followed that she was charged with an altogether questionable intimacy with him. In fact, she was accused of sharing her favors between him and the emperor, and in the letters that reached both the kaiser and his consort, it was asserted that she was, moreover, in the habit of constantly boasting among her friends about the influence which as "Sultana" she was able to exercise over the ruler of the German Empire.
It was on the receipt of one of these letters that the emperor without a moment's warning abruptly ordered Count and Countess Fritz Hohenau to leave Berlin and to transfer their residence to Hanover. The count and countess were not long in discovering the cause of their disgrace, and bitterly incensed, at once resolved to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to discover the culprit.
In this determination they were supported by the "Willy" von Hohenaus, by the various members of the Hohenlohe family, by Baron Schrader, Baron Hugo Reischach, chamberlain to the Empress Frederick, Prince and Princess Aribert of Anhalt, the latter being a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Prince and Princess Albert of Saxe-Altenburg, and last, but not least, Baron von Tausch, the chief of the secret police attached to the particular service of the emperor.
I have already mentioned that suspicions had at first been directed against the empress's only brother, Duke Ernest-Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein. Somehow or other, probably through reading the detective novels of Gaboriau, Baron Schrader became imbued with the idea that the most successful manner of discovering the identity of the suspected writer of the anonymous letters would be to carefully examine the blotting-pads which either he or she were in the habit of using. Accordingly, Countess Fritz von Hohenau took advantage of the admiration and devotion entertained for her by Count Augustus Bismarck to induce him to bring to her the blotting-pad habitually used by the duke, to whose household he belonged, as chief aid-de-camp. The count, very reluctantly, it is true, brought to Madame von Hohenau, the said blotting-pad, and it was immediately submitted to a most careful and even microscopical examination by her husband, herself, and their friends. But in spite of every effort it was impossible to discover the slightest analogy between the writing of the anonymous letters and the impressions left on the blotting-pad of the duke. The countess and her assistants in this queer task, therefore, came to the conclusion that they would have to search in a different direction.
It is impossible to say with any degree of certainty how suspicion was then directed towards Baron Kotze. But I am under the impression that his name was first mentioned in connection with the affair by Baron Schrader, who like himself was a Master of Ceremonies of the Court of Berlin. The vast wealth enjoyed by the Kotzes, as well as the extraordinary favor manifested towards them by the emperor and the members of the reigning family, had not unnaturally rendered them objects of no little jealousy on the part of other personages belonging to the court circle. The exceedingly sarcastic and malevolent tongue of the Baroness Kotze, and the somewhat coarse flavor of the ever-ready jest and quip of her jovial, loud-voiced, hail-fellow-well-met mannered husband did not tend to render the couple very popular.
Baron Kotze's mother had been an heiress in her own right as the daughter of the court banker, Krause, while the baron's wife is the daughter of that extraordinary old General von Treskow, who for so long commanded the division of Guards, and whose reputation as one of the bravest and most dashing officers of the war of 1870, alone saved him from the ridicule which his corseted waist, his painted cheeks, his dyed moustache, and his youthful wig, would otherwise have excited. While he himself has no drop of Jewish blood in his veins, both his daughter, Madame Kotze, and her brother possess the facial features of the Semitic race in a most marked degree, and despite their protestations to the contrary, have undoubtedly Hebrew ancestors, if not on the father's side, at any rate on that of the mother. Old General Treskow was very rich indeed, his country seat at Friedrichsfeld being one of the most magnificent country seats in the neighborhood of Berlin.
During the early years of the reign of Emperor William, his eldest sister, Princess Charlotte, and her husband, Prince Bernhardt of Saxe-Meiningen, occupied a lovely little palace, or rather, I should say large and roomy villa on the outskirts of the Thiergarten, at Berlin. Among their near neighbors were Baron and Baroness Kotze. Little Ursula Kotze, the daughter of the baroness, was precisely of the same age as Princess Fedora of Saxe-Meiningen, the only child of Princess Charlotte, and the two young girls soon became inseparable friends. The relations thus established soon extended to the parents, and while Princess Charlotte,—herself disposed to satirizing and ridiculing everybody, and like many royal personages, passionately fond of gossip, especially when spiced with scandal,—found never-ceasing entertainment in the witty comments of the baroness about the social events of the day, and in her reports of the latest stories current concerning mutual acquaintances and friends, Prince Bernhardt, in spite of his seriousness, and his fond predilection for Hellenic research, could not help laughing and enjoying the merry sallies of Baron Kotze. In fact, the Kotzes ended by becoming the most intimate friends of the princely Saxe-Meiningen couple, whose taste for their society was eventually shared by the Empress Frederick to a degree that excited the utmost jealousy and ill-will of her chamberlain, Baron Reischach. The latter was, therefore, only too ready to accept the view expressed by his friend. Baron Schrader, to the effect that Baron Kotze was the author of the anonymous letters.
I think that it was in the latter part of 1892 that the Prince and Princess of Saxe-Meiningen, having made up their minds to visit Greece and the Holy Land, invited Baron and Baroness Kotze to accompany them. Some quarrel, however, took place between the princess and the baroness during this trip, which they did not complete together, and when they took up their residence once more at Berlin the formerly so intimate relations between the two families ceased absolutely. It was about this time that it became known that Princess Charlotte either during her trip to the Orient, or just before she started, had in some unexplainable manner lost the diary in which she had, like so many members of the fair sex, been accustomed to describe her daily impressions, and to the pages of which she was wont to impart sentiments and opinions that she did not venture to confide to anybody else.
For a considerable time after the return of the princess from the Orient the anonymous letters contained phrases and peculiarities of expression that clearly indicated Princess Charlotte, and to such an extent was this the case that those in pursuit of the sender of the missives would have ascribed their authorship to the princess, had it not been that she herself was referred to in many of the letters in a particularly savage and scurrilous manner. Baron Schrader, the Hohenaus and their friends, being aware of the existence of the quarrel between the Kotzes and the Saxe-Meiningens, naturally became more convinced than ever that it was either Baron Kotze, or his "viper-tongued" wife, as they described her, who were the culprits, and insisted that it was the baroness who had taken advantage of her intimacy with the princess to get possession of her royal highness's diary, the contents of which were now being used in so many of the letters.
What has now become of the diary it is impossible to say, but judging by the excerpts used in the anonymous letters, it must have constituted a particularly piquant volume or series of volumes! Thus there was one remark about the emperor which ridiculed "his intolerable swagger." There were also some comical references to Princess Victoria of Prussia, who was jilted by the late Prince Alexander of Battenberg, on the very eve of the day appointed for the wedding, and that for the sake of a little actress. This princess has since then married Prince Adolph of Schaumburg, who was recently ousted from the regency of the tiny principality of Lippe. "Poor Vicky" was described as being "many-sided" owing to the number of her affaires de coeur, notably those with Baron Hugo von Reischach, at that time a very handsome lieutenant of the "Garde-du-Corps," but who afterward became gentleman-in-waiting to the widowed Empress Frederick, and married one of the princesses of Hohenlohe. This flirtation between Baron Reischach and Princess Victoria formed the theme of quite a number of the anonymous letters, in which the princess was charged with every kind of indelicacy, while the unfortunate baron was ridiculed in connection with the modernity of his nobility. Other love affairs of "poor Vicky" were likewise discussed in no friendly manner, and she was represented as being to such a degree infatuated for Count Andrassy, the eldest son of the famous Austro-Hungarian statesman, that the young fellow, it is declared, was forced to resign his secretaryship to the Austro-Hungarian Embassy, at Berlin, and to flee from the Prussian Court, in order to escape from the demonstrative attentions of the princess: "If it is like this now," said one of the letters, "what in Heaven's name will it be when 'Vicky' marries!"
There were, moreover, all sorts of matters relating to the vie intime of the imperial family discussed in these anonymous communications, such as bickerings between the emperor and his mother, quarrels with his English relatives, flirtations of the younger princesses, etc., which no one could possibly have known about, save members of the imperial family, and which were just the sort of thing that Princess Charlotte would have written in her diary, in her witty and sarcastic manner.
In fact there was so much of the phraseology and style habitual to Princess Charlotte in the letters, that they would inevitably have been, as I remarked above, positively ascribed to her had it not been for the grossly improper and even disgusting twist and construction that was invariably added to her well-known manner of writing. Although a terrible flirt as well as a daring coquette, the princess has never been charged with anything more serious than trivial affaires de coeur, excepting by the writer of the anonymous letters.
Then too, as I have also already stated many of these letters assailed the princess herself, in the most unscrupulous fashion; an abominable and impossible story, picked up from the filthiest of Berlin gutters, impugning the legitimacy of the only child of the princess, being thus circulated far and wide. This vile fabrication alleged that Charlotte had been married off in a hurry to Prince Bernhardt of Saxe-Meiningen, in order to avoid a public scandal. It is only necessary to recall the fact that the sole child of Princess Charlotte, Princess Fedora, now married to Prince Henry of Reuss, was born twelve months after her mother's marriage, in order to show how utterly without foundation was this shameful slander. At least a dozen anonymous letters sent to the emperor and to various other personages dealt with an episode said to have taken place during a trip undertaken by the princess in Norway and Sweden. She was attended on that occasion by a Captain von Berger, and his wife, who were her gentleman and lady-in-waiting, and there was also in her suite a diminutive officer holding the rank of lieutenant, and bearing the old Silesian name of Count Schack, who acted as aid-de-camp.
According to the anonymous letters, Princess Charlotte made a kind of toy of the little officer, and behaved in a most volatile manner. There was evidence of such intense malignity in these letters against Princess Charlotte that they were attributed to a jealous woman, and that if not actually written by one, they had at any rate been inspired by a member of the fair sex.
There can be no doubt that Princess Charlotte and her husband ended by sharing the opinion entertained by the Schrader-Hohenau clique, about the letters being inspired by Baroness Kotze, and written by her husband, and it must be confessed that there was a certain amount of ground for their doing so. The blotting pads used by Baron Kotze, both at the Union Club and elsewhere, were subjected to much the same microscopic examination as those of Duke Ernest-Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein, and when at length a distinct degree of similarity was discovered to exist between the caligraphy of the anonymous letter writer and the impressions which figured on the blotting pads habitually used by Baron Kotze, Baron Schrader drew up a report on the subject, charging Baron Kotze with being the author of the letters, and presented it to the emperor. The latter hesitated a little before taking any action in the matter, and would doubtless have yielded to the advice of the minister of the imperial household, Prince Stolberg-Wernigrode, who urged him to institute a very careful secret investigation of his own before rushing the denouement, cautioning him that Baron Schrader's evidence was inadequate, had it not been for the pressure brought to bear upon his majesty by the Saxe-Meiningens and other members of his family, who were all convinced that Baron Kotze was the guilty party.
It was due entirely to this pressure that the kaiser, incensed beyond measure at the persistency and the malignity of these letters, took the extraordinary step of having Baron von Kotze arrested by the chief of his military household, General von Hahnke merely on the strength of his imperial order, dispensing with any legal warrant. That Count Hahnke should have been selected for this duty, and that a military prison, rather than the ordinary house of detention, should have been chosen for the incarceration of Baron Kotze, must be ascribed to the fact that the latter was at the time a captain of cavalry on the reserve lists, and that in a military prison the authority of the emperor, as head of the army, is supreme and absolute, which cannot be said of the ordinary civil prisons, the officers of which are subject above everything else to the tribunals and to the laws of the land.
Of course, from the very moment when the baron was arrested, the entire scandal, that is to say the existence of a conspiracy for the writing and distribution of anonymous letters, became public, and served to furnish material for articles both in the German and the foreign press on the alleged moral rottenness of the Court of Berlin. At first there is no doubt that society, and even the ordinary public, accepted the guilt of Baron Kotze as assured, and were further led to believe the story about the baroness having been the instigator of many of the letters, by her at once withdrawing to her country-seat at Friedrichsfeld, and refusing to receive anyone.
Doubts as to the baron's guilt, however, commenced to arise when it was found that in spite of his incarceration, the anonymous letters continued to be sent as before, without any interruption, while all efforts to bring home the guilt to the baron completely failed in every sense of the word. Not only did the famous expert in caligraphy, Langenbuch, declare that the handwriting of the letters had nothing whatsoever in common with that of Baron Kotze, but that those written during his incarceration were exactly similar to the others. The emperor himself received anonymous letters, describing him to be a fool for having unjustly imprisoned an altogether innocent man, and recommending him to look after his brother-in-law, Duke Ernest-Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein.
At the end of a fortnight, therefore, the military governor of Berlin, old Field Marshal Count Pape, declared to his majesty that he would do well to immediately set Baron Kotze at liberty, since there was no adequate ground for keeping him under arrest. The field marshal, however, suggested that in view of the seriousness of the charge that had been made against the baron, the only thing to do would be to hold a court-martial, permitting the baron meanwhile to reside "on parole" at Friedrichsfeld. The whole matter was thereupon turned over to General Prince Frederick of Hohenzollern, brother of the King of Roumania, commanding the metropolitan division of troops, to the reserve force of which Baron Kotze belonged.
Nine months after his arrest. Baron Kotze appeared before a court-martial, composed of a colonel, who acted as president, and eight other officers, and after a lengthy trial, during the course of which Baron Schrader acted not merely as witness against Kotze, but likewise as prosecutor, endeavoring to show analogy between the writing of the anonymous letters, and the caligraphy, not merely of Baron Kotze, but also of the baroness, the court-martial acquitted the prisoner, and the emperor not only signified his approval of the verdict, but a week later took the occasion of the Easter festivities to send to his former favorite Kotze, a huge floral piece in the shape of an Easter egg, bound with ribbons in the national colors.
William, however, refrained from intimating to Kotze his desire that he should resume his service at court as master of ceremonies, and this taken in conjunction with the fact that the procedure of the court-martial remained a secret, left a painful degree of suspicion resting upon the character of the unfortunate Baron Kotze. It is perfectly true that many of those members of the court, and of society, who had been most bitter in their denunciation of him, left cards at his residence, but the Hohenau clique still remained obdurate, and in spite of every possible intervention, persisted in regarding Baron Kotze as having been unable to clear himself completely. His most obdurate detractor remained Baron Schrader.
Kotze learning the part which Schrader had played in the entire affair, after having consulted with his friends, came to the conclusion that the injury done to him by his fellow master of ceremonies, was far too great to admit of its being expiated, or atoned for by a mere exchange of bullets on the duelling field, and he accordingly instituted criminal proceedings against him. The preliminaries to this sort of thing are exceedingly intricate and tedious in Germany, and the legal authorities having received the impression in one way or another that the public trial in connection with the scandal would be viewed with displeasure in high quarters, naturally placed every obstacle in Baron Kotze's way. Of course, having instituted legal proceedings against Schrader, he was debarred by the so-called code of honor from challenging Schrader, a circumstance of which the latter took advantage to insinuate that if Kotze had refrained from calling him to account on the field of honor, it was because he did not feel sufficiently sure of his ground.
This insinuation was taken up by Kotze's cousin, Captain Dietrich Kotze, who challenged Schrader and fought a duel with him, slightly wounding him. Kotze himself meanwhile challenged, and fought a duel with another of his persecutors, Baron Hugo Reischach, the chamberlain of Empress Frederick, and received a rather severe wound, which kept him in bed for several weeks.
As legal proceedings were pending, which were expected to eventually clear up the entire scandal, and show who was the author of the anonymous letters, it was generally assumed that Baron von Kotze could not be regarded as altogether cleared from the suspicion which rested upon him, until the case had come up for trial. Meanwhile poor Kotze remained under a cloud. Nearly nine months elapsed before the criminal authorities declared that there was no ground for a criminal suit against Schrader. Kotze thereupon endeavored to institute a civil suit, this requiring still more time, and when at length the matter came into court, Kotze was non-suited virtually without any hearing, on the ground that the statutes of limitation had disqualified him from any civil redress against Baron Schrader.
Kotze being thus frustrated in his efforts to obtain punishment for his foe and persecutor through the courts of law, came to the conclusion that there was no other means left him to vindicate his honor, but a challenge to fight a duel. His demand for satisfaction, however, was declined by Baron Schrader, on the ground that it was too late for Kotze to resort to arms, and that if he had stood in need of satisfaction of this kind, he should not have allowed so long a period to elapse before demanding it. The matter was referred to a so-called court of honor, which sustained the contention of Baron Schrader, and declared that inasmuch as Baron Kotze had by his dilatoriness placed himself beyond the power of exacting satisfaction from Baron Schrader for the indignities to which he had been subjected, he was no longer worthy to wear the uniform of a Prussian officer. This decision of the court of honor was ratified by Prince Frederick of Hohenzollern, the general commanding the division of Guards, to the reserve force of which Baron Kotze belonged, but it was annulled by the emperor, an action on the part of his majesty which led Prince Frederick to resign his command, and to withdraw for the time from the Court of Berlin.
The emperor thereupon entrusted the affair to another jury of honor at Hanover, which rendered a decision, blaming Baron Kotze for his dilatoriness in demanding satisfaction of Baron Schrader, but authorizing him to continue to wear the uniform, and to remain in the service of the emperor as an officer. This verdict was ratified by the emperor himself and on the strength thereof the long delayed duel took place between the two barons. In June, 1896, Baron Schrader was wounded in the abdomen by Baron Kotze, a wound to which he succumbed on the following day. That seemed to settle, in the minds of all, the innocence of Baron Kotze, for after spending the customary few months in nominal imprisonment for infraction of the civil laws, which prohibit the fighting of those very duels which are prescribed by the military code, he was invited to resume his service as master of the ceremonies at court, was treated once more with the utmost distinction by the emperor, while his wife spent several weeks in the autumn of that year as the guest of Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Meiningen, at the latter's country seat.
But who was the author of the anonymous letters?
That is a question with which I propose to deal in the following chapter, at the same time showing how this most sensational court scandal of the latter half of the nineteenth century led to the exodus from Berlin, and the desertion of its court by numerous royal personages and great nobles.
To this day the identity of the writer of the anonymous letters remains a secret to the general public in Germany, as well as abroad, but it is pretty generally known in court circles at Berlin and at Vienna; and if steps have been taken by the authorities to prevent the true facts from getting into print, and the writer was merely expelled from Germany, instead of being brought to justice and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment, it is only because the culprit could not have been tried and convicted without the name of one of the greatest personages in Germany being dragged into the case.
Needless to add that the anonymous letter writer was a woman—a foreign lady of title—who for a time was one of the most admired beauties at the Court of Berlin, where, thanks to her inimitable chic, elegance and brilliancy of wit, everybody, men and women alike, were charmed. Old Emperor William, who was always very attentive to the fair sex, up to the very last, and easily smitten by a pretty face, had introduced the lady to his court without taking much trouble to investigate her antecedents or character, and of course, with such a sponsor, everyone took it for granted that she was above reproach, socially, as well as morally. She became very intimate with many of the court people, notably with the Hohenaus, the Kotzes, etc., and was even admitted to the intimacy of Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Meiningen, the emperor's eldest sister. She possibly might have, in spite of all, retained her social eminence, had she not allowed herself to be compromised, first, in the eyes of a few, and subsequently, in a more general fashion, by the only brother of the empress, Duke Ernest-Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein-Augustenburg. The association of their names ultimately became such that the great ladies of the Berlin Court, commenced to cut adrift from the fair foreigner, whose resentment at this treatment naturally became particularly bitter against precisely those with whom she had been most intimate.
Her animosity against Countess Fritz Hohenau was especially intensified by the particularly offensive manner in which she was cut by "Charlotte of Prussia," whose bitter and contemptuous remarks concerning her were naturally communicated to the foreign lady by the men who still frequented her salons. Through these noblemen and princes she was kept au courant of everything that went on at court, and there is no doubt that she was able to extract much information concerning the emperor and his family from the duke, who visited her daily, and who was infatuated by her potent and undeniable charms beyond all reason.
Of course, no one dreams to-day of accusing the duke of having knowingly played any part in the fabrication of the anonymous letters; but there is no doubt that, with his utter absence of discretion, his lack of intellectual brilliancy, and the thoroughly royal predilection for gossip and tittle-tattle, which monopolize to this day his interest, he imparted to her, in the course of his daily visits, a vast amount of news and information which she could not possibly have obtained from any one else. Dissipated, foolish and indiscreet to an incredible extent, the duke is nevertheless an honorable man, and in spite of the suspicions entertained at one time concerning him by the Schraders, the Hohenaus, the Anhalts, and the Reischachs, there is no doubt that he had not the slightest conception of the manner in which the gossip which he retailed day by day to his inamorata was used by her for the fabrication of her anonymous letters.
It was Baron von Kotze's cousin, Captain Dietrich Kotze, mentioned in the preceding chapter as having espoused the cause of his unfortunate relative with particular vigor, to whom belongs the credit of having discovered the culprit. He accomplished this more through a piece of good fortune than by design, for he was put on the right scent by a mere chance remark which he happened to overhear at a dinner party in Paris. The information which he obtained was imparted to the emperor, and the latter without a moment's hesitation gave orders that his palace police should visit the "Grande Dame's" residence during the following night, take possession of all her papers and correspondence, and convey her to a small town, near the Belgian frontier, where she was to be kept by the police under strict surveillance, without being permitted to see any one, until further orders.
It is impossible to say exactly what was discovered among these papers, but it is generally understood that the police recovered possession of the missing diary of Princess Charlotte, and obtained ample proofs of the fact that the fair foreigner was the author of all the anonymous letters.
After a twenty-four hours' detention, she was conducted to the frontier by the police, and warned against returning to Germany. If no severer measures were taken against her, it is because it would have resulted in a more or less public disclosure of the indiscreet role played by the duke in the matter, and likewise because she really knew too much! In fact, there is scarcely a secret pertaining to the reigning family, or to the Court of Prussia, with which she is not acquainted, and the fact that she should have refrained from making any attempt to publish them to the world, gives rise to the presumption that means of a financial character, or else some threats of terrorism, have been used to insure her silence.
At the time of the descent of the police upon her house, Duke Ernest-Gunther was staying at Lowther Castle, in Westmoreland, England, as the guest of Lord Lonsdale, and was to have gone on at the end of the week to Sandringham, to stay with the Prince and Princess of Wales. On receiving telegrams, however, from his beautiful friend, notifying him of her expulsion from Germany, he left Lowther Castle, literally at an hour's notice, and without taking leave of his host, proceeded immediately to Paris for the purpose of meeting her, in order to find out to what extent the situation was compromised. There is every reason to believe that it was not until then that he realized that the writer of the long series of anonymous letters was no other than the lady by whose fascinations he had been so completely captivated. A considerable time elapsed before he returned to Berlin. In fact, a very serious estrangement between himself and the emperor ensued, William declining to hold any intercourse with a relative whose susceptibility to feminine charms, and whose extraordinary absence of even the most elementary discretion, had contributed to one of the most painful scandals that have overtaken the Prussian Court since the close of the last century.
Not even the Kaiser's fondness for his wife, nor his anxiety to please her, could soften the anger which he felt against his brother-in-law, and when after a prolonged voyage to India and elsewhere, the duke on landing at Trieste, ran over from there to the neighboring seaside resort of Abbazia, for the purpose of visiting the German imperial couple, who were spending the early spring there with their children, the kaiser declined to receive his brother-in-law and went out shooting, so as to avoid an interview with him, the princely prodigal meeting with no one except his sister, the empress, with whom he had an interview of a couple of hours.
It is generally believed that Princess Charlotte's missing diary is to-day in the possession of the emperor, after having been seized by the police among the correspondence of Duke Ernest-Gunther's fair friend; for the former very warm affection manifested by William for his eldest sister, arising from the belief that she had been subjected to as harsh treatment as he imagined himself to have received at the hands of their mother, the imperious, masterful and immensely clever Empress Frederick, appears since the anonymous letter episode to have given way to feelings of distrust, and even dislike. Princess Charlotte and her husband have been ever since that time virtually banished from the Court of Berlin, at which they are rarely if ever seen. Prince Bernhardt of Saxe-Meiningen, was transferred to the command of the troops at Breslau, although he has but little taste for a military career, and is far more devoted to art, literature, music, and the drama, than to soldiering. At Berlin his duties as a general were more or less titular, and he had all the leisure which he required for the researches into the affairs of modern and ancient Greece, which have won for him celebrity as one of the most erudite Hellenists of the present time. He was surrounded by a congenial circle of friends possessed of the same disposition as himself, and had access to some of the finest libraries and museums in the world, while his still charming wife was the most conspicuous figure in a circle composed of all that was most elegant, witty, brilliant and clever in the so-called "Athens on the Spree" Indeed, her palace in the Thiergarten was the centre of everything that was eclectic and brilliant, and her salons were the rendezvous of all that was best in Berlin society.
Imagine, therefore, a prince and princess with tastes and dispositions such as these compelled to close up their lovely home, to bid adieu to all their friends, and to take up their residence in the dullest, most uninteresting and provincial of cities, situated in the least picturesque portion of the empire; where the only society consists of bureaucrats of the most starchy description, with no ideas beyond their office, or of impoverished landowners, belonging to the district, whose nobiliary pretensions can only be compared with the paucity of their resources, and whose conversation and even intellect is restricted to mangelwurzels, potatoes, and the different grades of fertilizers.
Breslau, to say the whole truth, is a city utterly without any attractions, either social or intellectual; the only other royal personage in the place is an eccentric Wurtemberg princess, a cousin of the now reigning King of Wurtemberg. This lady sacrificed her royal rank and prerogatives in order to marry a physician of the name of Dr. Willim, who had attended her father in his last illness. She could not, however, bring herself to descend to the social level of her husband, who is of plebeian origin, and a mere commoner, but thought that she had done enough in that direction when she contented herself with the name and title of Baroness Kirchbach, which she now bears. Of late years she has become a convert to socialism, much to the dismay and distress of her eminently respectable husband, and at the last Socialist Congress held at Breslau, took a very prominent part in the proceedings, arrayed in a blouse of flaming red.
I am very sorry to have to destroy the romance by which the name of this Princess Wilhelmina of Wurtemberg has until now been surrounded, especially that portion thereof which represents her as a lovely and interesting woman. The truth is that she is fearfully homely, both in face and figure, while her eccentricities are such that in America, for instance, she would be described as a "crank." Thus she distinguishes herself through her inordinate fondness for cats, goats and rabbits; escorted by whole herds of which she is wont to wander through the gloomy streets of Breslau. Her costumes are invariably as queer as the one in which she appeared on the platform of the Socialist Congress. Compare this strange figure so utterly unfeminine in its lack of all elegance, with the dainty, spirituelle Princess Charlotte! Yet Baroness von Kirchbach is the only lady of sufficiently lofty birth either in Breslau or in the vicinity to associate with Princess Charlotte on terms of any thing like equality!
It is probable that Princess Charlotte and her husband will be kept at Breslau, virtually exiled from the Court of Berlin, until the accession of Prince Bernhardt to the throne of Saxe-Meiningen, through the death of his aged father. It is naturally surprising that Prince Bernhardt, as heir to his father's crown, should not take up his residence in the capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen, instead of being condemned to vegetate at Breslau. The fact of the matter is, however, that the atmosphere of the Saxe-Meiningen capital is even less congenial than that of Breslau to Prince Bernhardt and Princess Charlotte, for the old duke is morganatically married to an actress of the local theatre, upon whom he has conferred the title of Baroness Helburg, and the princess finds it difficult to associate with this person.
How unrelenting William remains with regard to his sister, may be gathered from the fact that when her only daughter, Princess Fedora, was married the other day at Breslau, he himself, and the empress, pointedly avoided being present at the ceremony, although they were within a couple of hours' distance of Breslau at the time, spending the day in shooting. The slight thus placed upon Princess Charlotte and her husband was all the more marked, as not only were all the other members of the reigning house of Prussia present, but even the aged King of Saxony, the King of Wurtemberg and the Grand Duke of Hesse, had all three taken the trouble to come from long distances in order to attend the wedding, at which Queen Victoria was represented by several members of her family, who had travelled from England for the purpose. The sensation created, not only over all Germany, but even throughout Europe by the absence of the emperor and empress from the wedding of the only child of the hereditary Prince and Princess of Saxe-Meiningen, when they were actually in the neighborhood, was so great that it can only be assumed that the emperor intended to give a public manifestation of his continued ill-will towards his sister; and that his so kind-hearted and good-natured consort should have thus joined him in this act of public discourtesy, can be explained by a story current at Berlin to the effect that she, too, feels that she can neither forget nor forgive the mingled ridicule, satire and even downright contempt expressed not only about herself, but about the emperor, her sisters, and her mother in the missing diary of Princess Charlotte.