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Friday 15 July 2011

2nd Excerpt from "Shattered Crowns: The Scapegoats"

This is a second excerpt from "Shattered Crowns: The Scapegoats".
Here, Kaiser Wilhelm, at his daughter's wedding, is viewing himself in a mirror and trying to make sense of his conflicting emotions regarding his late mother and his sense of his own inadequacy.

He pressed his hand to his ear, trying to silence the demons that had taunted him for so long. If only Mama had been more like Queen Victoria, things could have been very different. Grandmama did not see him as weak – she recognised his potential as a noble German Emperor. While she lived, the two nations could stand side-by-side, their combined heritage bringing peace and culture to the world. With Grandmama’s passing, and the accession of Uncle Bertie as Britain’s King Edward VII, that seemingly unbreakable bond had been severed. For almost a decade an aggressive rivalry had replaced the former cooperation between the two countries, and the mutual respect they had once shared had been twisted into antipathy.
Wilhelm peered more closely at the mirror and, as he stared intently at his own face, that of his late uncle, lying in state, floated through his mind. Along with the rest of the family, he had paid his respects to the corpse of the British king but, while others struggled to contain their grief, it had taken Wilhelm even greater self-control to conceal his relief and elation. Looking down at that lifeless body, lying like a great oak felled by a storm, it had dawned on him that the death of King Edward VII marked the dawn of a new age for Germany and for her Emperor.
Huge, bronchitic and bloated by his own excesses, Uncle Bertie, no less than Wilhelm himself, had come to personify his empire. Like her king, quaffing and gluttonising at his table, Britain’s appetites had become insatiable, ravenously gobbling up so much of the world. Like her king, too, flirting and sprawling with his Parisian whores, Britain had abandoned her rightful partner, Germany, choosing instead an adulterous alliance with France. This was all Uncle Bertie’s doing, Wilhelm thought. With his patronising attitude and his lack of respect for his Kaiser-nephew, the nine years of his reign had brought nothing but tension between two great nations whose union had been sealed seventy years earlier in the marriage of Wilhelm’s grandparents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Three years had passed since Uncle Bertie’s death but still that union remained unrestored. Britain continued her liaison with France and had even extended her alliances to create a comfortable ménage-a-trois with Russia, leaving Germany – the young and virile nation – to seek dubious comfort in the arms of the aged and decrepit old crone, Austria-Hungary.
“Now, though,” Wilhelm murmured, adopting the pose of a hero, “it is time for the restoration of the true order. When Britain realises that her era of domination is over and it is Germany’s hour to take the lead, she will abandon her flirtation with France and return to me, begging for an alliance like an unfaithful wife pleading for her husband’s forgiveness.”
He smiled at his own magnanimity, “I will take her back. I will overlook these past thirteen years and, in her gratitude, she will treat me with respect and devotion. Germany is in the ascendancy. Our military prowess, our growing navy, our social welfare programmes and advances in industry, outclass those of any other nation, and I, as her Kaiser, the All-Highest, am the most influential ruler of the age!”

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