WILLIAM OF GERMANY
STANLEY SHAW, LL.D. Trinity College Dublin
WITH A FRONTISPIECE
The Frontispiece is from a photograph by E. Bieber, of Berlin
I. INTRODUCTORY....................................... 1
II. YOUTH (1859-1881).................................. 10
III. PRE-ACCESSION DAYS (1881-1887)..................... 42
IV. "VON GOTTES GNADEN"................................ 56
V. THE ACCESSION (1888-1890).......................... 69
VI. THE COURT OF THE EMPEROR........................... 105
VII. "DROPPING THE PILOT"............................... 125
VIII. SPACIOUS TIMES (1891-1899)......................... 144
IX. THE NEW CENTURY (1900-1901)........................ 189
X. THE EMPEROR AND THE ARTS........................... 205
XI. THE NEW CENTURY—continued (1902-1904)........... 237
XII. MOROCCO (1905)..................................... 255
XIII. BEFORE THE "NOVEMBER STORM" (1906-1907)............ 275
XIV. THE NOVEMBER STORM (1908).......................... 289
XV. AFTER THE STORM (1909-1913)........................ 321
XVI. THE EMPEROR TO-DAY................................. 342
INDEX ................................................... 391
William the Second, German Emperor and King of Prussia, Burgrave of Nuernberg, Margrave of Brandenburg, Landgrave of Hessen and Thuringia, Prince of Orange, Knight of the Garter and Field-Marshal of Great Britain, etc., was born in Berlin on January 27, 1859, and ascended the throne on June 15, 1888. He is, therefore, fifty-four years old in the present year of his Jubilee, 1913, and his reign—happily yet unfinished—has extended over a quarter of a century.
The Englishman who would understand the Emperor and his time must imagine a country with a monarchy, a government, and a people—in short, a political system—almost entirely different from his own. In Germany, paradoxical though it may sound to English ears, there is neither a government nor a people. The word "government" occurs only once in the Imperial Constitution, the Magna Charta of modern Germans, which in 1870 settled the relations between the Emperor and what the Englishman calls the "people," and then only in an unimportant context joined to the word "federal."
In Germany, instead of "the people" the Englishman speaks of when he talks politics, and the democratic orator, Mr. Bryan, in America is fond of calling the "peopul," there is a "folk," who neither claim to be, nor apparently wish to be, a "people" in the English sense. The German folk have their traditions as the English people have traditions, and their place in the political system as the English people have; but both traditions and place are wholly different from those of the English people; indeed, it may be said are just the reverse of them.
The German Emperor believes, and assumes his people to believe, that the Hollenzollern monarch is specially chosen by Heaven to guide and govern a folk entrusted to him as the talent was entrusted to the steward in Scripture. Until 1848, a little over sixty years ago, the Emperor (at that time only King of Prussia) was an absolute, or almost absolute, monarch, supported by soldiers and police, and his wishes were practically law to the folk. In that year, however, owing to the influence of the French Revolution, the King by the gift of a Constitution, abandoned part of his powers, but not any governing powers, to the folk in the form of a parliament, with permission to make laws for itself, though not for him. To pass them, that is; for they were not to carry the laws into execution—that was a matter the King kept, as the Emperor does still, in his own hands.
The business of making laws being, as experience shows, provocative of discussion, discussion of argument, and argument of controversy, there now arose a dozen or more parties in the Parliament, each with its own set of controversial opinions, and these the parties applied to the novel and interesting occupation of law-making.
However, it did not matter much to the King, so long as the folk did not ask for further, or worse still, as occurred in England, for all his powers; and accordingly the parties continued their discussions, as they do to-day, sometimes accepting and sometimes rejecting their own or the King's suggestions about law-making. Generally speaking, the relation is not unlike that established by the dame who said to her husband, "When we are of the same opinion, you are right, but when we are of different opinions, I am right." If the Parliament does not agree with the Emperor, the Emperor dissolves it.
These parties, from the situation of their seats in a parliament of 397 deputies, became known as the parties of the Right, or Conservative parties, and the parties of the Left, or Liberal parties. Between them sat the members of the Centre, who, as representing the Catholic populations of Germany—roughly, twenty-two millions out of sixty-six—became a powerful and unchanging phalanx of a hundred deputies, which had interests and tactics of its own independently of Right or Left.
By and by, one of the parties of the Left, representing the classes who work with their hands as distinguished from the classes who work with their heads, thought they would like to live under a political system of their own making and began to show a strong desire to take all power from the King and from the Parliament too. They agitated and organized, and organized and agitated, until at length, having settled on what was found to be an attractive theory, they made a wholly separate party, almost a people and parliament of their own. This is known as the Social Democracy, with, at present, no deputies.
Such, in a comparatively few sentences, is the political state of things in Germany. It might indeed be expressed in still fewer words, as follows: Heaven gave the royal house of Hohenzollern, as a present, a folk. The Hohenzollerns gave the folk, as a present, a parliament, a power to make laws without the power of executing them. The Social Democrats broke off from the folk and took an anti-Hohenzollern and anti-popular attitude, and the folk in their Parliament divided into parties to pass the time, and—of course—make laws.
This may seem to be treating an important subject with levity. It is intended merely as a statement of the facts. The system in Germany works well, to an Englishman indeed surprisingly so. In England there is no Heaven-appointed king; all the powers of the King, both that of making laws and of administering them, have long ago been taken by the people from the King and entrusted by them to a parliament, the majority of whom, called the Government, represent the majority of the electing voters. In the case of Germany the folk have surrendered some of what an Englishman would term their "liberties," for example, the right to govern, to the King, to be used for the common good; whereas in the case of England, the people do not think it needful to surrender any of their liberties, least of all the government of their country, in order to attain the same end.
Thus, while the German Emperor and the German folk have the same aims as the English King and the English people, the common weal and the fair fame of their respective countries, the two monarchs and the two peoples have agreed on almost contrary ways of trying to secure them.
The political system of Germany has had to be sketched introductorily as for the Englishman, a necessary preliminary to an understanding of the German Emperor's character and policy. One of the most important results of the character and policy is the state of Anglo-German relations; and the writer is convinced that if the character and policy were better and more generally known there would be no estrangement between the two countries, but, much more probably, mutual respect and mutual good-will.
With the growth of this knowledge, the writer is tempted to believe, would cease a delusion that appears to exist in the minds, or rather the imaginations, of two great peoples, the delusion that the highest national interests of both are fundamentally irreconcilable, and that the policies of their Governments are fundamentally opposed.
It seems indeed as though neither in England nor in Germany has the least attention been paid to the astonishing growth of commerce between the countries or to the repeated declarations made through a long series of years by the respective Governments on their countries' behalf. The growth in commerce needs no statistics to prove it, for it is a matter of everyday observation and comment. The English Government declares it a vital necessity for an insular Power like Great Britain, with colonies and duties appertaining to their possession in all, and the most distant, parts of the world, to have a navy twice as powerful as that of any other possibly hostile Power. The ordinary German immediately cries out that England is planning to attack him, to annihilate his fleet, destroy his commerce, and diminish his prestige among the nations. The German Government repeatedly declares that the German fleet is intended for defence not aggression, that Germany does not aim at the seizure of other people's property, but at protecting her growing commerce, at standing by her subjects in all parts of the world if subjected to injury or insult, and at increasing her prestige, and with it her power for good, in the family of nations. The ordinary Englishman immediately cries out that Germany is seeking to dispute his maritime supremacy, to rob him of his colonies, and to appropriate his trade. Is it not conceivable that both Governments are telling the truth, and that their designs are no more and no less than the Governments represent them to be? The necessity for Great Britain possessing an all-powerful fleet that will keep her in touch with her colonies if she is not to lose them altogether, is self-evident, and understood by even the most Chauvinistic German. The necessity for Germany's possessing a fleet strong enough to make her rights respected is as self-evident. Moreover, if Germany's fleet is a luxury, as Mr. Winston Churchill says it is, she deserves and can afford it. As a nation she has prospered and grown great, not by a policy of war and conquest, but by hard work, thrift, self-denial, fidelity to international engagements, well-planned instruction, and first-rate organization. Why should she not, if she thinks it advisable and is willing to spend the money on it, supply herself with an arm of defence in proportion to her size, her prosperity, and her desert? It may be that, as Mr. Norman Angell holds, the entire policy of great armaments is based on economic error; but unless and until it is clear that the German navy is intended for aggression, its growth may be viewed by the rest of the world with equanimity, and by the Englishman, as a connoisseur in such matters, with admiration as well. A man may buy a motor-car which his friends and neighbours think must be costly and pretentious beyond his means; but that is his business; and if the man finds that, owing to good management and industry and skill, his business is growing and that a motor-car is, though in some not absolutely clear and definite way, of advantage to him in business and satisfying to his legitimate pride—why on earth should he not buy or build it?
The truth is that if our ordinary Englishman and German were to sit down together, and with the help of books, maps, and newspapers, carefully and without prejudice, consider the annals of their respective countries for the last sixteen years with a view to establishing the causes of their delusion, they could hardly fail to confess that it was due to neither believing a word the other said; to each crediting the other with motives which, as individuals and men of honesty and integrity in the private relations of life, each would indignantly repudiate; to each assuming the other to be in the condition of barbarism mankind began to emerge from nineteen hundred years ago; to both supposing that Christianity has had so little influence on the world that peoples are still compelled to live and go about their daily work armed to the teeth lest they may be bludgeoned and robbed by their neighbours; that the hundreds of treaties solemnly signed by contracting nations are mere pieces of waste paper only testifying to the profundity and extent of human hypocrisy; that churches and cathedrals have been built, universities, colleges, and schools founded, only to fill the empty air with noise; that the printing presses of all countries have been occupied turning out myriads of books and papers which have had no effect on the reason or conscience of mankind; that nations learn nothing from experience; and to each supposing that he and his fellow-countrymen alone are the monopolists of wisdom, honour, truth, justice, charity—in short, of all the attributes and blessings of civilization. Is it not time to discard such error, or must the nations always suspect each other? To finish with our introduction, and notwithstanding that qui s'excuse s'accuse, the biographer may be permitted to say a few words on his own behalf. Inasmuch as the subject of his biography is still, as has been said, happily alive, and is, moreover, in the prime of his maturity, his life cannot be reviewed as a whole nor the ultimate consequences of his character and policy be foretold. The biographer of the living cannot write with the detachment permissible to the historian of the dead. No private correspondence of the Emperor's is available to throw light on his more intimate personal disposition and relationships. There have been many rumours of war since his accession, but no European war of great importance; and if a few minor campaigns in tropical countries be excepted, Germany for over forty years, thanks largely to the Emperor, has enjoyed the advantages of peace.
From the pictorial and sensational point of view continuous peace is a drawback for the biographer no less than for the historian. What would history be without war?—almost inconceivable; since wars, not peace, are the principal materials with which it deals and supply it with most of its vitality and interest—must it also be admitted, its charm? For what are Hannibal or Napoleon or Frederick the Great remembered?—for their wars, and little else. Shakespeare has it that—
"Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues We write in water."
Who, asks Heine, can name the artist who designed the cathedral of Cologne? In this regard the biographer of an emperor is almost as dependent as the historian.
The biography of an emperor, again, must be to a large extent, the history of his reign, and in no case is this more true than in that of Emperor William. But he has been closely identified with every event of general importance to the world since he mounted the throne, and the world's attention has been fastened without intermission on his words and conduct. The rise of the modern German Empire is the salient fact of the world's history for the last half-century, and accordingly only from this broader point of view will the Emperor's future biographer, or the historian of the future, be able to do him or his Empire justice.
Lastly, another difficulty, if one may call it so, experienced equally by the biographer and the historian, is the fact that the life of the Emperor has been blameless from the moral standpoint. On two or three occasions early in the reign accounts were published of scandals at the Court. They may not have been wholly baseless, but none of them directly involved the Emperor, or even raised a doubt as to his respectability or reputation. Take from history—or from biography for that matter—the vices of those it treats of, and one-third, perhaps one-half, of its "human interest" disappears.
In the circumstances, therefore, all the writer need add is that he has done the best he could. He has ignored, certainly, at two or three stages of his narration, the demands of strict chronological succession; but if so, it has been to describe some of the more important events of the reign in their totality. He has also felt it necessary, as writing for English readers of a country not their own, to combine a portion of history with his biography. If, at the same time, he has ventured to infuse into both biography and history a slight admixture of philosophy, he can only hope that the fusion will not prove altogether disagreeable.
As the education of a prince, and the surroundings in which he is brought up, are usually different from the education and surroundings of his subjects, it is not surprising if, at least during some portion of his reign, and until he has graduated in the university of life, misunderstandings, if nothing worse, should occur between them: indeed the wonder is that princes and people succeed in living harmoniously together. They are separated by great gulfs both of sentiment and circumstance. Bismarck is quoted by one of his successors, Prince Hohenlohe, as remarking that every King of Prussia, with whatever popularity he began his reign, was invariably hated at the close of it.
The prince that would rule well has to study the science of government, itself a difficult and incompletely explored subject, and the art of administration; he has to know history, and above all the history of his own country; not that history is a safe or certain guide, but that it informs him of traditions he will be expected to continue in his own country and respect in that of others; he must understand the political system under which his people choose to live, and the play of political, religious, economic, and social forces which are ever at work in a community; he must learn to speak and understand (not always quite the same thing) other languages besides his own; and concurrently with these studies he must endeavour to develop in himself the personal qualities demanded by his high office—health and activity of body, quick comprehension and decision, a tenacious memory for names and faces, capacity for public speaking, patience, and that command over the passions and prejudices, natural or acquired, which is necessary for his moral influence as a ruler. On what percentage of his subjects is such a curriculum imposed, and what allowances should not be made if a full measure of success is not achieved?
But even when the prince has done all this, there is still a study, the most comprehensive and most important of all, in which he should be learned—the study of humanity, and in especial that part of it with the care of whose interests and happiness he is to be charged. A few people seem to have this knowledge instinctively, others acquire something of it in the school of sad experience. It is not the fault of the Emperor, if, in his youth, his knowledge of humanity was not profound. There was always a strong vein of idealism and romance among Hohenzollerns, the vein of a Lohengrin, a Tancred, or some mediaeval knight. The Emperor, of course, never lived among the common people; never had to work for a living in competition with a thousand others more fortunate than he, or better endowed by nature with the qualities and gifts that make for worldly success; never, so far as is known to a watchful and exceptionally curious public, endured domestic sorrow of a deep or lasting kind; never suffered materially or in his proper person from ingratitude, carelessness, or neglect; never knew the "penalty of Adam, the seasons' difference"; never, in short, felt those pains one or more of which almost all the rest of mankind have at one time or other to bear as best they may.
The Emperor has always been happy in his family, happy in seeing his country prosperous, happy in the admiration and respect of the people of all nations; and if he has passed through some dark hours, he must feel happy in having nobly borne them. Want of knowledge of the trials of ordinary humanity is, of course, no matter of reproach to him; on the contrary, it is matter of congratulation; and, as several of his frankest deliverances show, he has, both as man and monarch, felt many a pang, many a regret, many a disappointment, the intensity of which cannot be gauged by those who have not felt the weight of his responsibilities.
A discharge of 101 guns in the gardens of Crown Prince Frederick's palace in Berlin on the morning of January 27, 1859, announced the birth of the future Emperor. There were no portents in that hour. Nature proceeded calmly with her ordinary tasks. Heaven gave no special sign that a new member of the Hohenzollern family had appeared on the planet Earth. Nothing, in short, occurred to strengthen the faith of those who believe in the doctrine of kingship by divine appointment.
It was a time of political and social turmoil in many countries, the groundswell, doubtless, of the revolutionary wave of 1848. The Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, and the war with China had kept England in a continual state of martial fever, and the agitation for electoral reform was beginning. Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister, with Lord Odo Russell as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Mr. Gladstone as Minister of Finance. Napoleon III was at war with Austria as the ally of Italy, where King Emmanuel II and Cavour were laying the foundations of their country's unity. Russia, after defeating Schamyl, the hero of the Caucasus, was pursuing her policy of penetration in Central Asia.
In Prussia the unrest was chiefly domestic. The country, while nominally a Great Power, was neutral during the Crimean War, and played for the moment but a small part in foreign politics. Bismarck, in his "Gedanke und Erinnerungen," compares her submission to Austria to the patience of the French noble-man he heard of when minister in Paris, whose conduct in condoning twenty-four acts of flagrant infidelity on the part of his wife was regarded by the French as an act of great forbearance and magnanimity. Prince William, the Emperor's grandfather, afterwards William I, first German Emperor, was on the throne, acting as Prince Regent for his brother, Frederick William IV, incapacitated from ruling by an affection of the brain. The head of the Prussian Ministry, Manteuffel, had been dismissed, and a "new era," with ministers of more liberal tendencies, among them von Bethmann Hollweg, an ancestor of the present Chancellor, had begun. General von Roon was Minister of War and Marine, offices at that time united in one department. The Italian War had roused Germany anew to a desire for union, and a great "national society" was founded at Frankfurt, with the Liberal leader, Rudolf von Bennigsen, at its head. Public attention was occupied with the subject of reorganizing the army and increasing it from 150,000 to 210,000 men. Parliament was on the eve of a bitter constitutional quarrel with Bismarck, who became Prussian Prime Minister (Minister President) in 1862, about the grant of the necessary army funds. Most of the great intellects of Germany—Kant, Goethe, Schiller, Hegel, Fichte, Schleiermacher—had long passed away. Heinrich Heine died in Paris in 1856. Frederick Nietzsche was a youth, Richard Wagner's "Tannhaeuser" had just been greeted, in the presence of the composer, with a storm of hisses in the Opera house at Paris. The social condition of Germany may be partially realized if one remembers that the death-rate was over 28 per mille, as compared with 17 per mille to-day; that only a start had been made with railway construction; that the country, with its not very generous soil, depended wholly upon agriculture; that savings-bank deposits were not one-twelfth of what they are now; that there were 60 training schools where there are 221 to-day, and 338 evening classes as against 4,588 in 1910; that many of the principal towns were still lighted by oil; that there was practically no navy; and that the bulk of the aristocracy lived on about the same scale as the contemporary English yeoman farmer. Berlin contained a little less than half a million inhabitants, compared with its three and a half millions of to-day, and the state of its sanitation may be imagined from the fact that open drains ran down the streets.
The Emperor's father, Frederick III, second German Emperor, was affectionately known to his people as "unser Fritz," because of his liberal sympathies and of his high and kindly character. To most Englishmen he is perhaps better known as the husband of the Princess, afterwards Empress, Adelaide Victoria, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, and mother of the Emperor. Frederick III had no great share in the political events which were the birth-pangs of modern Germany, unless his not particularly distinguished leadership in the war of 1866 and that with France be so considered. The greater part of his life was passed as Crown Prince, and a Crown Prince in Germany leads a life more or less removed from political responsibilities. He succeeded his father, William I, on the latter's death, March 9, 1888, reigned for ninety-nine days, and died, on June 15th following, from cancer of the throat, after an illness borne with exemplary fortitude.
To what extent the character of his parents affected the character of the Emperor it is impossible to determine. The Emperor seldom refers to his parents in his speeches, and reserves most of his panegyric for his grandfather and his grandfather's mother, Queen Louise; but the comparative neglect is probably due to no want of filial admiration and respect, while the frequent references to his grandfather in particular are explained by the great share the latter took in the formation of the Empire and by his unbounded popularity. The Crown Prince was an affectionate but not an easy-going father, with a passion for the arts and sciences; his mother also was a disciplinarian, and, equally with her husband, passionately fond of art; and it is therefore not improbable that these traits descended to the Emperor. As to whether the alleged "liberality" of the Crown Prince descended to him depends on the sense given to the word "liberal." If it is taken to mean an ardent desire for the good and happiness of the people, it did; if it is taken to mean any inclination to give the people authority to govern themselves and direct their own destinies, it did not.
The mother of the Emperor, the Empress Frederick, had much of Queen Victoria's good sense and still more of her strong will. A thoroughly English princess, she had, in German eyes, one serious defect: she failed to see, or at least to acknowledge, the superiority of most things German to most things English. She had an English nurse, Emma Hobbs, to assist at the birth of the future Emperor. She made English the language of the family life, and never lost her English tastes and sympathies; consequently she was called, always with an accent of reproach, "the Englaenderin," and in German writings is represented as having wished to anglicize not only her husband, her children, and her Court, but also her adopted country and its people. A chaplain of the English Church in Berlin, the Rev. J.H. Fry, who met her many times, describes her as follows:—
"She was not the wife for a German Emperor, she so English and insisted so strongly on her English ways. The result was that she was very unpopular in Germany, and the Germans said many wicked things of her. She hated Berlin, and if her son, the present Emperor, had not required that she should come to the capital every winter, she would have lived altogether at Cronberg in the villa an Italian friend bequeathed to her.
"She was extremely musical, had extensively cultivated her talents in this respect, and was an accomplished linguist. Like her mother, Queen Victoria, she was unusually strong-minded, and was always believed to rule over her amiable and gentle husband. Her interest in the English community was great, another reason for the dislike with which the Germans regarded her. To her the community owes the pretty little English church in the Mon Bijou Platz (Berlin), which she used to attend regularly, and where a funeral service, at which the Emperor was present, was held in memory of her.
"German feeling was further embittered against her by the Morell Mackenzie incident, and to this day controversy rages round the famous English surgeon's name. The controversy is as to whether or not Morell Mackenzie honestly believed what he said when he diagnosed the Emperor's illness as non-cancerous in opposition to the opinion of distinguished German doctors like Professor Bergmann. Under German law no one can mount the throne of Prussia who is afflicted with a mortal sickness. For long it had been suspected that the Emperor's throat was fatally affected, and, therefore, when King William was dying, it became of dynastic and national importance to establish the fact one way or other. Queen Victoria was ardently desirous of seeing her daughter an Empress, and sent Sir Morrell Mackenzie to Germany to examine the royal patient. On the verdict being given that the disease was not cancer, the Crown Prince mounted the throne, and Queen Victoria's ambition for her daughter was realized.
"The Empress also put the aristocracy against her by introducing several relaxations into Court etiquette which had up to her time been stiff and formal. Her relations with Bismarck, as is well known, were for many years strained, and on one occasion she made the remark that the tears he had caused her to shed 'would fill tumblers.' On the whole she was an excellent wife and mother. She was no doubt in some degree responsible for the admiration of England as a country and of the English as a people which is a marked feature of the Emperor's character."
This account is fairly correct in its estimation of the Empress Frederick's character and abilities, but it repeats a popular error in saying that German law lays down that no one can mount the Prussian throne if he is afflicted with a mortal sickness. There is no "German law" on the subject, and the law intended to be referred to is the so-called "house-law," which, as in the case of other German noble families, regulates the domestic concerns of the House of Hohenzollern. Bismarck disposes of the assertion that a Hohenzollern prince mortally stricken is not capable of succession as a "fable," and adds that the Constitution, too, contains no stipulation of the sort. The influence of his mother on the Emperor's character did not extend beyond his childhood, while probably the only natural dispositions he inherited from her were his strength of will and his appreciation of classical art and music. Many of her political ideas were diametrically opposed to those of her son. Her love of art made her pro-French, and her visit to Paris, it will be remembered, not being made incognito, led to international unpleasantness, originating in the foolish Chauvinism of some leading French painters whose ateliers she desired to inspect. She believed in a homogeneous German Empire without any federation of kingdoms and states, advocated a Constitution for Russia, and was satisfied that the common sense of a people outweighed its ignorance and stupidity.
The Emperor has four sisters and a brother. The sisters are Charlotte, born in 1860, and married to the Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Meiningen; Victoria, born in 1866, and married to Prince Adolphus of Schaumberg-Lippe; Sophie, born in 1870, and married to King Constantine, of Greece; and Margarete, born in 1872, and married to Prince Friederich Karl of Hessen.
The Emperor's only brother, Prince Henry of Prussia, was born in 1862, and is married to Princess Irene of Hessen. He is probably the most popular Hohenzollern to-day. He adopted the navy as a profession and devotes himself to its duties, taking no part in politics. Like the Emperor himself and the Emperor's heir, the Crown Prince, he is a great promoter of sport, and while a fair golfer (with a handicap of 14) and tennis player, gives much of his leisure to the encouragement of the automobile and other industries. Every Hohenzollern is supposed to learn a handicraft. The Emperor did not, owing to his shortened left arm. Prince Henry learned book-binding under a leading Berlin bookbinder, Herr Collin. The Crown Prince is a turner. Prince Henry seems perfectly satisfied with his position in the Empire as Inspector-General of the Fleet, stands to attention when talking to the Emperor in public, and on formal occasions addresses him as "Majesty" like every one else. Only in private conversation does he allow himself the use of the familiar Du. The Emperor has a strong affection for him, and always calls him "Heinrich."
Many stories are current in Germany relating to the early part of the Emperor's boyhood. Some are true, others partially so, while others again are wholly apochryphal. All, however, are more or less characteristic of the boy and his surroundings, and for this reason a selection of them may be given. Apropos of his birth, the following story is told. An artillery officer went to receive orders for the salute to be discharged when the birth occurred. They were given him by the then Prince Regent, afterwards Emperor William I. The officer showed signs of perplexity. "Well, is there anything else?" inquired the Regent. "Yes, Royal Highness; I have instructions for the birth of a prince and for that of a princess (which would be 30 guns); but what if it should be twins?" The Regent laughed. "In that case," he said, "follow the Prussian rule—suum cuique."
When the child was born the news ran like wildfire through Berlin, and all the high civil and military officials drove off in any vehicle they could find to offer their congratulations. The Regent, who was at the Foreign Office, jumped into a common cab. Immediately after him appeared tough old Field-Marshal Wrangel, the hero of the Danish wars. He wrote his name in the callers' book, and on issuing from the palace shouted to the assembled crowd, "Children, it's all right: a fine stout recruit." On the evening of the birth a telegram came from Queen Victoria, "Is it a fine boy?" and the answer went back, "Yes, a very fine boy."
Another story describes how the child was brought to submit cheerfully to the ordeal of the tub. He was "water-shy," like the vast majority of Germans at that time, and the nurses had to complain to his father, Crown Prince Frederick, of his resistance. The Crown Prince thereupon directed the sentry at the palace gate not to salute the boy when he was taken out for his customary airing. The boy remarked the neglect and complained to his father, who explained that "sentries were not allowed to present arms to an unwashed prince." The stratagem succeeded, and thereafter the lad submitted to the bathing with a good grace.
Like all boys, the lad was fond of the water, though now in another sense. At the age of two, nursery chroniclers relate, he had a toy boat, the Fortuna, in which he sat and see-sawed—and learned not to be sea-sick! At three he was put into sailor's costume, with the bell-shaped trousers so dear to the hearts of English mothers fifty years ago.
At the age of four he had a memorable experience, though it is hardly likely that now, after the lapse of half a century, he remembers much about it. This was his first visit to England in 1863, when he was taken by his parents to be present at the marriage of his uncle, King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales. The boy, in pretty Highland costume, was an object of general attention, and occupies a prominent place in the well-known picture of the wedding scene by the artist Frith. The ensuing fifteen years saw him often on English soil with his father and mother, staying usually at Osborne Castle, in the Isle of Wight. Here, it may be assumed, he first came in close contact with the ocean, watched the English warships passing up and down, and imbibed some of that delight in the sea which is not the least part of the heritage of Englishmen. The visits had a decided effect on him, for at ten we find him with a row-boat on the Havel and learning to swim, and on one occasion rowing a distance of twenty-five miles between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. About this time he used to take part with his parents in excursions on the Royal Louise, a miniature frigate presented by George IV to Frederick William III.
Still another story concerns the boy and his father. The former came one day in much excitement to his tutor and said his father had just blamed him unjustly. He told the tutor what had really happened and asked him, if, under the circumstances, he was to blame. The tutor was in perplexity, for if he said the father had acted unjustly, as in fact he thought he had, he might lessen the son's filial respect. However, he gave his candid opinion. "My Prince," he said, "the greatest men of all times have occasionally made mistakes, for to err is human. I must admit I think your father was in the wrong." "Really!" cried the lad, who looked pained. "I thought you would tell me I was in the wrong, and as I know how right you always are I was ready to go to papa and beg his pardon. What shall I do now?" "Leave it to me," the tutor said, and afterwards told the Crown Prince what had passed. The Crown Prince sent for his son, who came and stood with downcast eyes some paces off. The Crown Prince only uttered the two words, "My son," but in a tone of great affection. As he folded the Prince in his arms he reached his hand to the tutor, saying, "I thank you. Be always as true to me and to my son as you have been in this case."
The last anecdote belongs also to the young Prince's private tutor days. At one time a certain Dr. D. was teaching him. Every morning at eleven work was dropped for a quarter of an hour to enable the pair, teacher and pupil, to take what is called in German "second breakfast." The Prince always had a piece of white bread and butter, with an apple, a pear, or other fruit, while the teacher was as regularly provided with something warm—chop, a cutlet, a slice of fish, salmon, perch, trout, or whatever was in season, accompanied by salad and potatoes. The smell of the meat never failed to appeal to the olfactory nerves of the Prince, and he often looked, longingly enough, at the luxuries served to his tutor. The latter noticed it and felt sorry for him; but there was nothing to be done: the royal orders were strict and could not be disobeyed. One day, however, the lesson, one of repetition, had gone so well that in a moment of gratitude the tutor decided to reward his pupil at all hazards. The lunch appeared, steaming "perch-in-butter" for the tutor, and a plate of bread and butter and some grapes for the pupil. The Prince cast a glance at the savoury dish and was then about to attack his frugal fare when the tutor suddenly said, "Prince, I'm very fond of grapes. Can't we for once exchange? You eat my perch and I—" The Prince joyfully agreed, plates were exchanged, and both were heartily enjoying the meal when the Crown Prince walked in. Both pupil and tutor blushed a little, but the Crown Prince said nothing and seemed pleased to hear how well the lesson had gone that day. At noon, however, as the tutor was leaving the palace, a servant stopped him and said, "His Royal Highness the Crown Prince would like to speak with the Herr Doktor."
"Herr Doktor," said the Crown Prince, "tell me how it was that the Prince to-day was eating the warm breakfast and you the cold."
The tutor tried to make as little of the affair as possible. It was a joke, he said, he had allowed himself, he had been so well pleased with his pupil that morning.
"Well, I will pass it over this time," said the Crown Prince,
"but I must ask you to let the Prince get accustomed to bear the preference shown to his tutor and allow him to be satisfied with the simple food suitable for his age. What will he eat twenty years hence, if he now gets roast meat? Bread and fruit make a wholesome and perfectly satisfactory meal for a lad of his years."
During second breakfast next day, the Prince took care not to look up from his plate of fruit, but when he had finished, murmured as though by way of grace, "After all, a fine bunch of grapes is a splendid lunch, and I really think I prefer it, Herr Doktor, to your nice-smelling perch-in-butter."
The time had now come when the young Prince was to leave the paternal castle and submit to the discipline of school. The parents, one may be sure, held many a conference on the subject. The boy was beginning to have a character of his own, and his parents doubtless often had in mind Goethe's lines:—
"Denn wir koennen die Kinder nach unserem Willen nicht formen, So wie Gott sie uns gab, so muss man sie lieben und haben, Sie erzielen aufs best und jeglichen lassen gewaehren."
("We cannot have children according to our will: as God gave them so must we love and keep them: bring them up as best we can and leave each to its own development.")
It had always been Hohenzollern practice to educate the Heir to the Throne privately until he was of an age to go to the university, but the royal parents now decided to make an important departure from it by sending their boy to an ordinary public school in some carefully chosen place. The choice fell on Cassel, a quiet and beautiful spot not far from Wilhelmshohe, near Homburg, where there is a Hohenzollern castle, and which was the scene of Napoleon's temporary detention after the capitulation of Sedan. Here at the Gymnasium, or lycee, founded by Frederick the Great, the boy was to go through the regular school course, sit on the same bench with the sons of ordinary burghers, and in all respects conform to the Gymnasium's regulations. The decision to have the lad taught for a time in this democratic fashion was probably due to the influence of his English mother, who may have had in mind the advantages of an English public school. The experiment proved in every way successful, though it was at the time adversely criticized by some ultra-patriotic writers in the press. To the boy himself it must have been an interesting and agreeable novelty. Hitherto he had been brought up in the company of his brothers and sisters in Berlin or Potsdam, with an occasional "week-end" at the royal farm of Bornstedt near the latter, the only occasions when he was absent from home being sundry visits to the Grand Ducal Court at Karlsruhe, where the Grand Duchess was an aunt on his father's side, and to the Court at Darmstadt, where the Grand Duchess was an aunt on the side of his mother.
An important ceremony, however, had to be performed before his departure for school—his confirmation. It took place at Potsdam on September 1, 1874, amid a brilliant crowd of relatives and friends, and included the following formal declaration by the young Prince:
"I will, in childlike faith, be devoted to God all the days of my life, put my trust in Him and at all times thank Him for His grace. I believe in Jesus Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer. Him who first loved me I will love in return, and will show this love by love to my parents, my dear grandparents, my sisters and brothers and relatives, but also to all men. I know that hard tasks await me in life, but they will brace me up, not overcome me. I will pray to God for strength and develop my bodily powers."
The boy and his brother Henry stayed in Cassel for three years, in the winter occupying a villa near the Gymnasium with Dr. Hinzpeter, and in summer living in the castle of Wilhelmshohe hard by. Besides attending the usual school classes, they were instructed by private tutors in dancing, fencing, and music. Both pupils are represented as having been conscientious, and as moving among their schoolmates without affectation or any special consciousness of their birth or rank. Many years afterwards the Emperor, when revisiting Cassel, thus referred to his schooldays there:
"I do not regret for an instant a time which then seemed so hard to me, and I can truly say that work and the working life have become to me a second nature. For this I owe thanks to Cassel soil;"
and later in the same speech:
"I am pleased to be on the ground where, directed by expert hands, I learned that work exists not only for its own sake, but that man in work shall find his entire joy."
This is the right spirit; but if he had said "greatest joy" and "can find," he would have said something more completely true.
The life at Cassel was simple, and the day strictly divided. The future Emperor rose at six, winter and summer, and after a breakfast of coffee and rolls refreshed his memory of the home repetition-work learned the previous evening. He then went to the Gymnasium, and when his lessons there were over, took a walk with his tutor before lunch. Home tasks followed, and on certain days private instruction was received in English, French, and drawing. His English and French became all but faultless, and he learned to draw in rough-and-ready, if not professionally expert fashion. Wednesdays and Saturdays, which were half-holidays, were spent roving in the country, especially in the forest, with two or three companions of his own age. In winter there was skating on the ponds. The Sunday dinner was a formal affair, at which royal relatives, who doubtless came to see how the princes were getting on, and high officials from Berlin, were usually present. After dinner the princes took young friends up to their private rooms and played charades, in which on occasion they amused themselves with the ever-delightful sport of taking off and satirizing their instructors. At this time the future Emperor's favourite subjects were history and literature, and he was fond of displaying his rhetorical talent before the class. The classical authors of his choice were Homer, Sophocles, and Horace. Homer particularly attracted him; it is easy to imagine the conviction with which, as a Hohenzollern, he would deliver the declaration of King Agamemnon to Achilles:—
"And hence, to all the host it shall be known That kings are subject to the gods alone."
The young Prince left Cassel in January, 1877, after passing the exit (abiturient) examination, a rather severe test, twelfth in a class of seventeen. The result of the examination was officially described as "satisfactory," the term used for those who were second in degree of merit. On leaving he was awarded a gold medal for good conduct, one of three annually presented by a patron of the Gymnasium.
A foreign resident in Germany, who saw the young Prince at this time, tells of an incident which refers to the lad's appearance, and shows that even at that early date anti-English feeling existed among the people. It was at the military manoeuvres at Stettin:
"Then the old Emperor came by. Tremendous cheers. Then Bismarck and Moltke. Great acclaim. Then passed in a carriage a thin, weakly-looking youth, and people in the crowd said, 'Look at that boy who is to be our future Emperor—his good German blood has been ruined by his English training.'"
Before closing the Emperor's record as a schoolboy it will be of interest to learn the opinion of him formed by his French tutor at Cassel, Monsieur Ayme, who has published a small volume on the education of his pupil, and who, though evidently not too well satisfied with his remuneration of L7 10s. a month, or with being required to pay his own fare back from Germany to France, writes favourably of the young princes. "The life of these young people (Prince William and Prince Henry) was," he says,
"the most studious and peaceful imaginable. Up at six in the morning, they prepared their tasks until it was time to go to school. Lunch was at noon and tea at five. They went to bed at nine or half-past. All their hours of leisure were divided between lessons in French, English, music, pistol-shooting, equitation, and walking. Now and then they were allowed to play with boys of their own age, and on fete days and their parents' birth-anniversaries they had the privilege of choosing a play and seeing it performed at the theatre. As pocket-money Prince William received 20s. a month, and Henry 10s. Out of these modest sums they had to buy their own notepaper and little presents for the servants or their favourite companions."
As to Prince William's character as a schoolboy, Monsieur Ayme writes:
"I do not suppose William was ever punished while he was in Cassel. He was too proud to draw down upon himself criticism, to him the worst form of punishment. At the castle, as at school, he made it a point of honour to act and work as if he had made his plans and resolved to stick to them. He was always among the first of his class, and as for me I never had any need to urge him on. If I pointed out to him an error in his task he began it over again of his own accord. We did grammar, analysis, dictations, and compositions, and he got over his difficulties by sheer perseverance. For example, if he was reading a fine page of Victor Hugo, or the like, he hated to be interrupted, so deeply was he interested in the subject he was reading. Style and poetry had a great effect upon him; he expressed admiration for the form and was aroused to enthusiasm by generous or noble ideas. Frederick the Great was the hero of his choice, a model of which he never ceased dreaming, and which, like his grandfather, he proposed as his own. It is easy to conceive that after ten or twelve years of such study, regularly and methodically pursued, the Prince must have possessed a literary and scientific baggage more varied and extensive than that of his companions. And he worked hard for it, few lads so hard. To speak the truth, he was much more disciplined and much more deprived of freedom and recreation of all sorts than most children of his age."
Par paranthese may be introduced here a reference to Prince Henry, of whom Monsieur Ayme writes less enthusiastically.
"One day," the tutor writes, "I was dictating to him something in which mention of a queen occurs. I came to the words '... in addition to her natural distinction she possessed that August majesty which is the appanage of princesses of the blood royal....'
"Prince Henry laid down his pen and remarked, 'The author who wrote this piece did not live much with queens.'
"'Why?' I asked.
"'Because I never observed the August majesty which attaches to princesses of the blood royal, and yet I have been brought up among them,' was the reply.
"William, however," continues Monsieur Ayme, "was the thinker, prudent and circumspect; the wise head which knew that it was not all truths which bear telling. He was not less loyal and constant in his opinions. He admired the French Revolution, and the declaration contained in 'The Rights of Man,' though this did not prevent his declaiming against the Terrorists."
One incident in particular must have appealed to the French tutor. Monsieur Ayme and his Prussian pupil one day began discussing the delicate question of the war of 1870. In the course of the discussion both parties lost their tempers, until at last Prince William suddenly got up and left the room. He remained silent and "huffed" for some days, but at last he took the Frenchman aside and made him a formal apology. "I am very sorry indeed," he said,
"that you took seriously my conduct of the other day. I meant nothing by it, and I regret it hurt you. I am all the more sorry, because I offended in your case a sentiment which I respect above any in the world, the love of country."
But it is time to pass from the details of the Emperor's early youth, and observe him during the two years he spent, with interruptions, at the university. From Cassel he went immediately to Bonn, where, as during the years of military duty which followed, we only catch glimpses of him as he lived the ordinary, and by no means austere, life of the university student and soldier of the time; that is to say, the ordinary life with considerable modifications and exceptions. He did not, like young Bismarck, drink huge flagons of beer at a sitting, day after day. He was not followed everywhere by a boar-hound. He fought no student's duels—though a secret performance of the kind is mentioned as a probability in the chronicles—or go about looking for trouble generally as the swashbuckling Junker, Bismarck, did; for in the first place his royal rank would not allow of his taking part in the bloody amusement of the Mensur, and his natural disposition, if it was quick and lively, was not choleric enough to involve him in serious quarrel. His studies were to some extent interrupted by military calls to Berlin, for after being appointed second lieutenant in the First Regiment of Foot Guards at Potsdam on his tenth birthday, the Hohenzollern age for entering the army, he was promoted to first lieutenant in the same regiment on leaving Cassel.
For the most part the university lectures he attended were the courses in law and philosophy, and he is not reported to have shown any particular enthusiasm for either subject. The differences between an English and a German university are of a fundamental kind, perhaps the greatest being that the German university does not aim at influencing conduct and character in the same measure as the English, but is rather for the supply of knowledge of all sorts, as a monster warehouse is for the supply of miscellaneous goods. Again, the German university, which, like all American universities except Princetown, has more resemblance to the Scottish universities than to those at Oxford, Cambridge, or Dublin, is not residential nor divided into colleges, but is departmentalized into "faculties," each with its own professors and privat docentes, or official lecturers, mostly young savants, who have not the rank or title of professor, but have obtained only the venia legendi from the university. The lectures, as a rule of admirable learning and thoroughness, invariably laying great and prosy stress on "development," are delivered in large halls and may be subscribed for in as many faculties as the student chooses, the cost being about thirty shillings or there-abouts per term for each lecture "heard." Outside the university the student enjoys complete independence, which is a privilege highly (and sometimes violently) cherished, especially by non-studious undergraduates, under the name "academic freedom." The German preparing for one or other of the learned professions will probably spend a year or two at each of three, or maybe four, universities, according to the special faculty he adopts and for which the university has a reputation. There are plenty of hard-working students of course; nowadays probably the great majority are of this kind; but to a large proportion also the university period is still a pleasant, free, and easy halting-place between the severe discipline and work of the school and the stern struggle of the working world.
The social life of the English university is paralleled in Germany by associations of students in student "Corps," with theatrical uniforms for their Chargierte or officers, special caps, sometimes of extraordinary shape, swords, leather gauntlets, Wellington boots, and other distinguishing gaudy insignia. The Corps are more or less select, the most exclusive of all being the Corps Borussia, which at every university only admits members of an upper class of society, though on rare occasions receiving in its ranks an exceptionally aristocratic, popular, or wealthy foreigner. To this Corps, the name of which is the old form of "Prussia," the Emperor belonged when at Bonn, and in one or two of his speeches he has since spoken of the agreeable memories he retains in connexion with it and the practices observed by it.
Common to all university associations in Germany—whether Corps, Landsmannschaft, Burschenschaft, or Turnerschaft—is the practice of the Mensur, or student duel. It is not a duel in the sense usually given to the word in England, for it lacks the feature of personal hostility, hate, or injury, but is a particularly sanguinary form of the English "single-stick," in which swords take the place of sticks. These swords (Schlaeger), called, curiously enough, rapiere, are long and thin in the blade, and their weight is such that at every duel students are told off on whose shoulders the combatants can rest their outstretched sword-arm in the pauses of the combat caused by the duellists getting out of breath; consequently, an undersized student is usually chosen for this considerate office. The heads and faces of the duellists are swathed in bandages—no small incentive to perspiration, the vital parts of their bodies are well protected against a fatal prick or blow, and the pricks or slashes must be delivered with the hand and wrist raised head-high above the shoulder. It is considered disgraceful to move the head, to shrink in the smallest degree before the adversary, or even to show feeling when the medical student who acts as surgeon in an adjoining room staunches the flow of blood or sews up the scars caused by the swords. The duel of a more serious kind—that with pistols or the French rapier, or with the bare-pointed sabre and unprotected bodies—is punishable by law, and is growing rarer each year.
Take a sabre duel—"heavy sabre duel" is the German name for it—arising out of a quarrel in a cafe or beer-house, and in which one of the opponents may be a foreigner affiliated to some Corps or Burschenschaft. Cards are exchanged, and the challenger chooses a second whom he sends to the opponent. The latter, if he accepts the challenge, also appoints a second; the seconds then meet and arrange for the holding of a court of honour. The court will probably consist of old Corps students—lawyer, a doctor, and two or three other members of the Corps or Burschenschaft. The court summons the opponents before it and hears their account of the quarrel; the seconds produce evidence, for example the bills at the cafe or beer-hall, showing how much liquor has been consumed; also as to age, marriage or otherwise, and so on. Then the court decides whether there shall be a duel, or not, and if so, in what form it shall be fought.
The duel may be fixed to take place at any time within six months, and meanwhile the opponents industriously practise. The scene of the duel is usually the back room of some beer-hall, with locked doors between the duellists and the police. The latter know very well what is going on, but shut their eyes to it. The opponents take their places at about a yard and a half distance from advanced foot to advanced foot, and a chalk line is drawn between them. Close behind each opponent is his second with outstretched sword, ready to knock up the duellists' weapons in case of too dangerous an impetuosity in the onset. The umpire (Unparteiischer), unarmed, stands a little distance from the duellists. The latter are naked to the waist, but wear a leather apron like that of a drayman, covering the lower half of the chest, and another piece of leather, like a stock, protecting their necks and jugular veins. The duel may last a couple of hours, and any number of rounds up to as many as two hundred may be fought. The rounds consist of three or four blows, and last about twenty seconds each, when the seconds, who have been watching behind their men in the attitude of a wicket-keeper, with their sword-points on the ground, jump in and knock up the duellists' weapons. When one duellist is disabled by skin wounds—there are rarely any others—or by want of breath, palpitation or the like, the duel is over, and the duellists shake hands. This description, with some slight modifications, applies to the ordinary Corps Mensuren, which are simply a bloody species of gymnastic exercise.
On one occasion early in the reign the Emperor spoke of the Corps system with great enthusiasm, and especially endorsed the practice of the Mensur. "I am quite convinced," he said at Bonn in 1891, three years after his accession,
"that every young man who enters a Corps receives through the spirit which rules in it, and supposing he imbibes the spirit, his true directive in life. For it is the best education for later life a young man can obtain. Whoever pokes fun at the German student Corps is ignorant of its true tendency, and I hope that so long as student Corps exist the spirit which is fostered in them, and which inspires strength and courage, will continue, and that for all time the student will joyfully wield the Schlaeger."
Regarding the Mensur, he went on:
"Our Mensuren are frequently misunderstood by the public, but that must not let us be deceived. We who have been Corps students, as I myself was, know better. As in the Middle Ages through our gymnastic exercises (Turniere) the courage and strength of the man was steeled, so by means of the Corps spirit and Corps life is that measure of firmness acquired which is necessary in later life, and which will continue to exist as long as there are universities in Germany."
The word for firmness used by the Emperor was Festigkeit, which may also be translated determination, steadiness, fortitude, or resoluteness of character. It may be that practice of the Mensur, which is held almost weekly, has a lifelong influence on the German student's character. It probably enables him to look the adversary in the eye—look "hard" at him, as the mariners in Mr. A.W. Jacobs's delightful tales look at one another when some particularly ingenious lie is being produced. In a way, moreover, it may be said to correspond to boxing in English universities, schools, and gymnasia. But, on the whole, the Anglo-Saxon spectator finds it difficult to understand how it can exercise any influence for good on the moral character of a youth, or determine, as the Emperor says it does, a disposition which is cowardly or weak by nature to bravery or strength, save of a momentary and merely physical kind. The Englishman who has been present at a Mensur is rather inclined to think the atmosphere too much that of a shambles, and the chief result of the practice the cultivation of braggadocio.
Besides, the practice is illegal, and though purposely overlooked, save in one German city, that of Leipzig, where it is punished with some rigour, the Emperor, who is supposed to embody the majesty and effectiveness of the law, is hardly the person to recommend it. His inconsistency in the matter on one occasion placed him in an undignified position. Two officers of the army quarrelled, and one, an infantry lieutenant, sent a challenge to the other, an army medical man. The latter refused on conscientious grounds, whereupon he was called on by a military court of honour to send in his resignation. The case was sent up to the Emperor, who upheld the decision of the court of honour, adding the remark that if the surgeon had conscientious scruples on the point he should not remain in the army. An irate Social Democratic editor thereupon pointed out that such a decision came with a bad grace from a man with whom, or with any of whose six sons, no one was allowed to fight. The Emperor is still a member of the Borussia Corps, but chiefly shows his interest by keeping its anniversaries in mind, by every few years attending one of its annual drinking festivals (Commers), and by paying a substantial yearly subscription.
The German student Corps, historically, go back to the fourteenth century, when the first European universities were established at Bologna, Paris, and Orleans. Universities then were not so called from the universality of their teachings, but rather as meaning a corporation, confraternity, or collegium, and were in reality social centres in the towns where they were instituted. The most renowned was that of Paris, and here was founded the first student Corps. It was called the "German Nation of Paris," a corporation of students, with statutes, oaths, special costumes, and other distinctive features. At first, strange to say, it contained more Englishmen than Germans. The "Nation" had a procurator, a treasurer, and a bedell, the last to look after the legal affairs of the association. Drinking was not the supposed purpose of the society, but the Corps mostly assembled, as German Corps do to-day, for drinking purposes.
The earliest form of German student associations Was the Landsmannschaft. To this society, composed of elders and juniors, new-comers, called Pennales, were admitted after painful ceremonies and became something like the "fags" at an English public school. The object of the original Landsmannschaft was to keep alive the spirit of nationality. The object of the German Corps is different. It is to beget and perpetuate friendship, and this accounts for the steady goodwill the Emperor has always shown towards the comrades of his Bonn and Borussia days.
An ancient form of Corps entertainment is called the Hospiz, now, however, much modified. Upon invitation the members of the Corps meet in a beer-hall or in the rooms of one of the Corps. The president is seated with a house-key on the table before him as a symbol of unfettered authority. As members arrive, the president takes away their sticks and swords and deposits them in a closet. The guests sit down and are handed filled pipes and a lighted fidibus, or pipe-lighter. Bread and butter and cheese, followed by coffee, are offered. After this, the real work of the evening begins—the drinking. A large can of beer stands on a stool beside the president. The latter calls for silence by rapping three times on the table with the house-key, and the Hospiz is declared open. Thenceforward only the president pours out the beer, unless he appoints a deputy during his absence. The president's great aim and honour is to make every one, including himself, intoxicated. He begins by rapping the table with his glass and saying "Significat ein Glas." In response all drain their glasses. Then comes a "health to all," and this is followed by a "health to each." "The Ladies" follow, including toasts to the pretty girls of the town, and ladies known to be favourites of those present. Married ladies or women of bad reputation must not be toasted in the Hospiz.
A story is told of a toast the Emperor, in these his Lohengrin days, once proposed at a Borussia meeting. "On the Kreuzberg" (a hill near Bonn), he said,
"I saw a picture, the ideal of a German woman. She united in herself beauty of face and an imposing form, the roses in her cheeks spoke of the modesty peculiar to our maids, and her voice sounded harmoniously like the lute of the Minnesingers on the Wartburg. She told me her name—may it be blessed."
The toast found its way into the local papers and gave birth to a romantic legend connecting the future Emperor with a pretty and modest girl of the town, but no true basis for it has ever been discovered.
In toasting the Ladies in a Hospiz each of those present may name the lady of his choice, and if two name the same lady they have a drinking bout to determine which is entitled to claim her. The one who first admits that he can drink no more—usually signified by a hasty and zigzag retreat from the room—is declared the loser. If a guest comes late to the Hospiz he must drink fast so as to catch up with earlier arrivals, unless he has been drinking elsewhere, when he is let off with drinking a "general health."
The close of the Emperor's student days was marked by an event which was to have a great influence on his life and happiness. It was in 1879 that he made the acquaintance of the young lady who was, a couple of years later, to become his wife, and subsequently Empress. When at Bonn Prince William had developed a liking for wild-game shooting, and accepted an invitation from Duke Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein to shoot pheasants at Primkenau Castle, the Duke's seat in Silesia. More than one romantic story is current about the first meeting of the lovers, but that most generally credited, as it was published at or near the time, represents the young sportsman as meeting the lady accidentally in the garden of the castle. He had arrived at night and gone shooting early next morning before being introduced to the family of his host, and on his return surprised the fair-haired and blue-eyed Princess Auguste Victoria as she lay dozing in a hammock in the garden. The student approached, the words "little Rosebud" on his lips, but hastily withdrew as the Princess, all blushes, awoke. The pair met shortly afterwards at breakfast, when the visitor learned who the "little rosebud" was whom he had surprised. The Princess was then twenty-two, but looked much younger, a privilege from nature she still possesses in middle age. The impression made on the student was deep and lasting, and the engagement was announced on Valentine's Day, in February, 1880. The marriage was celebrated on February 27th of the following year at the royal palace in Berlin. Great popular rejoicing marked the happy occasion, Berlin was gaily flagged to celebrate the formal entrance of the bride into the capital, and most other German cities illuminated in her honour. The imperial bridegroom came from Potsdam at the head of a military escort selected from his regiment and preceded the bridal cortege, in which the ancient coronation carriage, with its smiling occupant, and drawn by eight prancing steeds, was the principal feature. On the day following the marriage the young couple went to Primkenau for the honeymoon.
The marriage with a princess of Schleswig-Holstein was not only an event of general interest from the domestic and dynastic point of view. It had also political significance, for it meant the happy close of the troubled period of Prussian dealings with those conquered territories.
A story throwing light on the young bride's character is current in connexion with her wedding. One of the hymns contained a strophe—"Should misfortune come upon us," which her friends wanted her to have omitted as striking too melancholy a note. "No," she said,
"let it be sung. I don't expect my new position to be always a bed of roses. Prince William is of the same mind, and we have both determined to bear everything in common, and thus make what is unpleasant more endurable."
Since the marriage their domestic felicity, as all the world is aware, has never been troubled, and the example thus given to their subjects is one of the surest foundations of their influence and authority in Germany. The secret of this felicity, affection apart, is to be sought for in the strong moral sense of the Emperor regarding what he owes to himself and his people, but no less perhaps in the exemplary character of the Empress. As a girl at Primkenau she was a sort of Lady Bountiful to the aged and sick on the estate, and led there the simple life of the German country maiden of the time. It was not the day of electric light and central heating and the telephone; hardly of lawn tennis, certainly not of golf and hockey; while motor-cars and militant suffragettes were alike unknown. Instead of these delights the Princess, as she then was, was content with the humdrum life of a German country mansion, with rare excursions into the great world beyond the park gates, with her religious observances, her books, her needlework, her plants and flowers, and her share in the management of the castle.
These domestic tastes she has preserved, and the saying, quoted in Germany whenever she is the subject of conversation, that her character and tastes are summed up in the four words Kaiser, Kinder, Kirche, and Kueche—Emperor, children, church, and kitchen—is as true as it is compendious and alliterative. It is often assumed, especially by men, that a woman who cultivates these tastes cultivates no other. This is not as true as is often supposed of the Empress, as a journal of her voyage to Jerusalem in 1898, published on her return to Germany, goes to show. Following the traditions and example of the queens and empresses who have preceded her, she has always given liberally of her time and care, as she still does, to the most multifarious forms of charity. She has a great and intelligible pride in her clever and energetic husband, while her interest in her children is proverbial. She appears to have no ambition to exercise any influence on politics or to shine as a leader of society. Like the Emperor, she is not without a sense of humour, and is always amused by the racy Irish stories (in dialect) told her and a little circle of guests by Dr. Mahaffy, of Trinity College, Dublin, who is a welcome guest at the palace.
The offspring of the marriage, it may be here noted, is a family of seven children—six sons and a daughter—as follows:—
Crown Prince Frederick William, born 1882 Prince Eitel Frederick " 1883 Prince Adalbert " 1884 Prince August William " 1887 Prince Oscar " 1888 Prince Joachim " 1890 Princess Victoria Louise " 1892
The Crown Prince was born on June 6th at the Marble Palace in Potsdam. He was educated at first privately by tutors, and later at the military academy at Ploen, not far from Kiel. When eighteen he became of age and began his active career as an officer in the army. He is now commander of the First Regiment of Boay Guards ("Death's Head" Hussars) at Langfuhr, near Danzig, with the rank of major. He was married in June, 1905, to Cecilie, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and is the father of four children, all boys. The Crown Princess is one of the cleverest, most popular, and most charming characters in Germany, of the brightest intelligence and the most unaffected manners. The leading trait in the Crown Prince's character is his love of sport, from big-game shooting (on which he has written a book) to lawn tennis. In May last he began to learn golf. He is personally amiable, has pleasant manners, and is highly popular with all classes of his future subjects. He is credited with ability, but is not believed to have inherited the intellectual manysidedness of his father. The only part he can be said to have taken in public life as yet is having called the imperial attention to the Maximilian Harden allegations regarding Count Eulenburg and a court "camarilla," referred to later, and having, while sitting in a gallery of the Reichstag, demonstrated by decidedly marked gestures his disagreement with the Government's Morocco policy.
Since his marriage the Emperor has more than once publicly congratulated himself on his good fortune in having such a consort as the Empress. The most graceful compliment he paid her was in her own Province of Silesia in 1890, when he said:
"The band which unites me with the Province—that of all the provinces of the Empire which is nearest to my heart—is the jewel which sparkles at my side, Her Majesty the Empress. A native of this country, a model of all the virtues of a German princess, it is her I have to thank that I am in a position joyfully to perform the onerous duties of my office."
Only the other day at Altona, after thirty years of married life, he referred to her, again in her home Province and again as she sat smiling beside him, as the
"first lady of the land, who is always ready to help the needy, to strengthen family ties, to discharge the duties of her sex, and suggest to it new aims. The Empress has bestowed a home life on the House of Hohenzollern such as Queen Louise, alone perhaps, conferred."
Queen Louise, the famous wife of Frederick William III, died in 1810 and is buried in the mausoleum at Charlottenburg, the suburb of Berlin. She has remained ever since, for the German nation, the type of womanly perfection.
The seven years between the date of his marriage and that of his accession were chiefly filled in by the future Emperor with the conscientious discharge of his regimental duties and the preparation of himself, by three or four hours' study daily at the various Ministries, among them the Foreign Office, where he sat at the feet of Bismarck, for the imperial tasks he would presumably have to undertake later.
Emperor William I, now a man of eighty-four, was still on the throne. Born in 1797, he lived with his parents, Frederick William III and Queen Louise, in Koenigsberg and Memel for three years after the battle of Jena, won the Iron Cross at the age of seventeen in the war with Napoleon in 1814, took part in the entry of the Allies into Paris, and devoted himself thenceforward, until he became King of Prussia in 1861, chiefly to the reorganization of the army. For a year during the troubled times of 1848 he was forced to take refuge in England, from whence he returned to live quietly at Coblenz until called to the Regency of Prussia in 1858. He was the Grand Master of Prussian Freemasonry. The attempts on his life in Berlin in 1878 by the anarchists Hoedel and Nobiling are still spoken of by eye-witnesses to them. Both attempts were made within a period of three weeks while the King was driving down Unter den Linden, and on both occasions revolver shots were fired at him. Hoedel's attempt failed, but in view of Socialist agitation, the would-be assassin was beheaded (the practice still in Prussia) a few weeks later. Pellets from Nobiling's weapon struck the King in the face and arm, and disabled him from work for several weeks. The political events of the reign, including the Seven Weeks' War with Austria in 1866, which ended at Sadowa, where King William was in chief command, and that with France in 1870, when he was present as Commander-in-Chief at Gravelotte and Sedan, are frequently referred to by Bismarck in his "Gedanke und Erinnerungen," and to these the reader may be referred.
The high and amiable character of the old Emperor, as he became after 1870, is common knowledge. He was a thoroughgoing Hohenzollern in his views of monarchy and his relations to his folk, but he was at the same time the type of German chivalry, the essence of good nature, the soul of honour, and the slave of duty. He was extremely fond of his grandson, Prince William, and it is clear from the latter's speeches subsequently that the affection was ardently reciprocated.
Of Emperor William, Bismarck writes in the highest terms, describing his "kingly courtesy," his freedom from vanity, his impartiality towards friend and foe alike; in a word, he says, Emperor William was the idea "gentleman" incorporated. On the other hand, Bismarck tells how the old Emperor all his life long stood in awe of his consort, the Empress Augusta, Bismarck's great enemy and the clearing-house (Krystallisationspunkt), as he describes her, of all the opposition against him; and how the Emperor used to speak of her as "the hot-head" ("Feuerkopf")—"a capital name for her," Bismarck adds, "as she could not bear her authority as Queen to be overborne by that of anyone else." The Iron Chancellor, by the way, mentions a curious fact in connexion with the attempt on Emperor William's life by Nobiling. The Chancellor says he had noticed that in the seventies the Emperor's powers had begun to fail, and that he often lost the thread of a conversation, both in hearing and speaking. After the Nobiling attempt this disability, strangely enough, completely disappeared. The fact was noticed by the Emperor himself, for one day he said jestingly to Bismarck: "Nobiling knew better than the doctors what I really needed—a good blood-letting."
Referring to the Empress Frederick at this period, Bismarck writes:
"With her I could not reckon on the same good-will as I could with her husband (Emperor Frederick). Her natural and inborn sympathy for her native country showed itself from the very beginning in the endeavour to shift the weight of Prussian-German influence on the European grouping of the Powers into the scale of England, which she never ceased to regard as her Fatherland; and, in consciousness of the opposition of interests between the two great Asiatic Powers, England and Russia, to see Germany's power, in case of a breach, used for the benefit of England."
An incident may be mentioned here which took place at what was to turn out to be the Emperor William's death-bed and refers particularly to our young Prince William. Bismarck was talking to the sick Emperor a few days before the latter's death. The Chancellor spoke about the necessity of publishing an Order, already drawn up in November of the preceding year, appointing Prince William regent in case the necessity for such a measure should occur. The sick Emperor expressed the hope that Bismarck would stand by his successor. Bismarck promised to do so and the Emperor pressed his hand in token of satisfaction. Then, suddenly, Bismarck relates, the Emperor became delirious and began to rave. Prince William was the central figure in his ravings. He evidently thought his grandson was at his bedside and exclaimed, using the familiar Du; "Du you must always keep on good terms with the Czar (Alexander III) ... there is no need to quarrel in that quarter." Thereafter he was silent, and Bismarck left the sick-room.
The Prince's parents, Crown Prince Frederick and his English consort, had also their Court at the Marmor Palais in Potsdam, and their palace in Berlin, but the life they led was comparatively simple. The Crown Prince and Princess were great travellers and consequently often absent from Germany; and when at home, while the Crown Prince, in his serious-minded fashion, was absorbed in study, the Crown Princess divided her time between the practice of the arts and correspondence with her now grown-up sons and daughters.
Still, it is clear from the signs of the time that there was a good deal of intrigue going on throughout this pre-accession period, or, if intrigue is too strong a term for it, a good deal of friction, social and political, in high circles. It was chiefly caused, if the old Chancellor's statements to his sycophantic adorer, Busch, are to be credited, by the interference of the Empress Augusta and her daughter-in-law, the Crown Princess, in the sphere of politics, the Empress seeking to influence her husband in favour of the Catholics, whom she had taken under her protection, and the Crown Princess trying, as we have seen, to influence German policy in favour of England.
Exactly what part Prince William took in it all is not very clear. One thing we know, that he greatly displeased Bismarck by his constant attendance at the Waldersee salon, then a social centre in Berlin. Countess Waldersee, who is still living in Hannover, was the daughter of an American banker named Lee. She married Frederick, Prince of Schleswig, but he died six months after the wedding. His widow afterwards married Count Waldersee, who was subsequently to command the international forces during the Boxer troubles in China. Bismarck detested Waldersee, perhaps because many people spoke of him as his probable successor, and consequently looked with anything but favour on his imperial pupil's visit to the Waldersees.
The great figure of the time, however, was neither the Emperor nor the Crown Prince nor Prince William, but Prince Bismarck, who, as Chancellor for now more than a quarter of a century, had throughout that period guided the destinies of Prussia and the German Empire. Emperor William and Crown Prince Frederick and Prince William were playing, doubtless, more or less prominent parts on the public stage, but all things of moment gravitated towards Bismarck, whose days were spent, now persuading or convincing the Emperor, now warring with a Parliament growing impatient of his dictatorial attitude, now countermining the intrigues and opposition of his adversaries at Court and in the Ministries. He hardly ever went into society, but though he spent his days growling in his den at the Foreign Office when he was not immersed in work, he was the great popular figure of Berlin; indeed, it might be said, of all Germany.