Friday, June 21, 2013
MM Mini View: Kings of Prussia (Part III)
Kaiser Friedrich III: I have a bit of a hard time with Friedrich III because he was such a good man yet one who often seemed inclined towards political movements not to my taste at all. His father Wilhelm I worried a great deal about his liberal tendencies and the influence his wife (Princess Royal Victoria) had on him. Like her, he was inclined toward limited, constitutional monarchy, watched over rather than ruled by an equal husband and wife team. Yet, he was as devoted to the army as any Prussian king and was quite the German nationalist, certainly much more than his predecessors. He wanted a united Germany, without a powerful Reichskanzler like Bismarck, with ministers responsible to parliament and a parliament that was more democratic. It would certainly be far removed from the Germany created by Moltke, Roon and Bismarck. Would it have endured though? He lived to reign only 99 days and his vision for the future died with him but it has always tantalized historians as to whether his more liberal, more middle class, more democratic Germany would have survived a calamity like the First World War. I cannot fault Friedrich III for his idealism but, I tend to doubt it. It would have meant putting trust in those who, in the course of German history, proved themselves untrustworthy and German success would have still engendered the envy of Great Britain, France would have still been seeking revenge for 1870 and so on. A good man but rather too idealistic for me.
Kaiser Wilhelm II: Finally we come to my old friend, “Kaiser Bill”, one of the first monarchs I ever really studied in depth. In fairness that should be kept in mind when I say that a great deal of what has been written about him is, in my view, utter nonsense. He certainly made his share of mistakes and could be too free with his opinions, however, he was not a bad man, he was not a warmonger (though he tried to sound like one at times) and while he could be aggravating he was certainly no villain. Like his grandfather rather than his father, he believed in absolute monarchy, detested parliaments but, like his father, was an upstanding family man. The devout Christian faith of Wilhelm II is something very seldom remembered. His bombast was intended to distract from what was really an inferiority complex and it has often been said that he talked like an autocrat but never ruled as one. That is misleading though as, despite the big talk, Wilhelm II did not like being flattered or lied to and knew what his own limitations were. He was a very monarchist monarch who recognized the danger of republicanism and was astounded that brother monarchs would make common cause with them. He may have been a bit on the racist side when it came to Asians but he was certainly no anti-Semite, despite what some have tried to say by blowing the odd remark out of proportion. He was not responsible for the First World War, did his best to see it fought honorably, warned of the danger in making use of Lenin in Russia, refused to recognize the Weimar Republic and he never trusted Hitler. Not a perfect man, of course, but a good man, a dutiful monarch, a man with a plethora of interests, forward thinking but also reverent of past traditions and a man of considerably more common sense than he is often given credit for.
Posted by MadMonarchist at 12:05 AM
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Ah, Wilhelm II. I've been reading a couple of World War I books, all of them critical of Wilhelm's expansion of the German navy. One author even called it "a selfish pursuit". Yet Britain's insistence that only the Royal Navy should be the sole master of the seas is perfectly unselfish. In fact, Britain's arrogant antagonism to Germany over their navy completed the isolation that Germany so feared, and only added fuel to the fire that would spark in 1914.ReplyDelete
Well, only the victorious write history.
It is not unreasonable for Britain to worry about naval competition, however, they did take it to rather paranoid lengths. Any colonial power (like Germany) requires a strong navy and though Germany did expand to the point of having the second largest navy in the world, most don't realize that even at its peak, the Kaiserlichemarine was still less than half the size of the Royal Navy.Delete
I'm sorry, but Wilhelm will always have a negative connotation to me for the way he treated his mother all her life, as well as the ransacking of his parents home HOURS aft their deaths.ReplyDelete
I know he had good in him, as evidenced by his treatment of his Grandmother, and his rescue of his Russian relatives.
But as a mother myself, I just cannot forgive his treatment of her.
I guess that never made much of an impression on me. 'You get the children you raise' I've always been told. He wasn't terribly kind to her but nor was she to him. Some of the things done to him would be considered extreme child abuse today and the fact that he would go against his father is not surprising considering that he grew up seeing Friedrich III go against the wishes of Wilhelm I. But, I agree, it certainly wasn't right. It just never bothered me as much given the way I was raised with parents who would never tolerate people complaining about their children. "Well, you taught them" or "you were their example" was their usual reply.Delete
But he *wasn't* raised by his parents - through no fault of their own. Empress Elizabeth took him & Prs Charlotte from them to raise and educate. Empress Vicky had loving relationships w/her other children, and tried to get close to the eldest two as they grew older.ReplyDelete
Of course she never fit in with the Prussian Court, but her & Friedrich's love for one another helped her deal.
That is complete nonsense to put it nicely. Wilhelm II had the most civilian and least Prussian upbringing of any heir to the throne in Prussian history -because of his mother and he didn't start getting very close to his grandfather until he was a legal adult. Hinzpeter was chosen by Friedrich and Vicky (so, Vicky in other words) and was given unprecedented control over Wilhelm's entire education and upbringing. His first military tutor resigned because Hinzpeter and the parents had final say on everything. It was Vicky who wanted Wilhelm educated with other boys, outside of Berlin and despite the opposition of the Kaiser, again, she got her way and he was sent to Kassel. She insisted that her idea of civilian training be given precedence over his military training and she got her way, he didn't go back to his regiment until he was 18.Delete
As soon as he was born, Vicky's first words to her mother about him were words of disappointment and later on, even when he was in his 20's, she spoke of him like an unruly child and considered every disagreement, social, political or religious, to be a sign of his being "evil" and all an effort to "destroy" her personally. It is certainly true that she never fit in with the Prussian court and it is just as true that she never really tried.
What books of Kaiser Bill would you recommend?ReplyDelete
I `m really impressed. Nice.ReplyDelete