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Sunday 8 November 2015

An Excerpt from 'The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II'

An excerpt from 'The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II'

Throughout the celebrations [for the Kaiser's daughter's wedding in 1913] there was nothing but goodwill between the cousins, whose obvious amity gave no hint of an impending war. Eight months later, Wilhelm wrote to the Tsar:
“I am most gratified that you still keep pleasant recollections of the visit you paid us last summer on the occasion of Sissy’s wedding, and you may be assured that we all most heartily reciprocate your kind feeling and remembrance.”[i]
            That summer, despite rising international tensions, peace was being spoken of everywhere. In August, the Peace Palace was officially opened in The Hague; and, in June, as Wilhelm celebrated his Silver Jubilee, he repeatedly stressed that throughout the twenty-five years of his reign he had never spilt human blood and he intended to keep it that way. The American industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, who dined with him, was deeply impressed by his sincerity, believing him to be ‘an earnest man, anxious for peace and the progress of the world’[ii]. Such was Carnegie’s faith in him that he came to the conclusion that the world had little to fear from Germany, since her interests were ‘all favourable to peace’ and Wilhelm was:
“…not only an Emperor, but something much higher – a man anxious to improve existing conditions, untiring in his efforts to promote temperance, prevent duelling, and, I believe, to secure International Peace.”[iii]
Others were equally convinced of his pacific intentions. The recently retired American President, William Howard Taft, concurred that, for the last quarter of a century, the Kaiser had been ‘the single greatest force in the practical maintenance of peace in the world’; the French Ambassador, Jules Cambon, reported to the British Foreign Secretary that ‘Germany and the Emperor were bent on avoiding war’[iv]; and a British newspaper described the Kaiser as a man of great versatility, being an artist, musician, sportsman, ‘theologist’ and traveller who had seen enough of the world to recognise the horror of battle. Others drew attention to his efforts to promote good relations between nations through academic, artistic and sporting events. He had arranged an exchange of German and foreign professors; he had invited foreign contributors to numerous art exhibitions; and he had organised a variety of international yachting and motor races, convinced that such events would promote greater mutual respect and understanding. In 1902, when the Berlin Yachting Club sent vessels to the Cork races, the Kaiser had written personally to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, inviting him to send Irish yachts to similar events at Kiel ‘because such manifestations are excellent for the furtherance of goodwill and brotherhood between nations.’[v] Two years later, when starting a race at Cuxhaven, he announced optimistically that:
“Together with our colours, the Union Jack, the Stars and Stripes, and the Tricolour will flutter in the breeze in peaceful contest and partnership….If the merchant, the manufacturer and the farmer are able to progress, they owe it to this solidarity which gives them confidence in the future.”[vi]
Even in France, he was not without admirers, as the renowned pacifist and editor of Temps, Baron d’Estournelles, recorded:
“I am convinced that he sincerely loves peace, and that he believes in his mission to maintain it. A man who, even if he is an Emperor, lives daily in the company of his children, does not love war. He understands better than anyone else its tragic risks.”[vii]

[i] Don Levine, Isaac (editor) Letters from the Kaiser to the Tsar (Frederick A. Stokes 1920)
[ii] Carnegie, Andrew An Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie (Constable & Co Ltd 1920)
[iii] Carnegie, Andrew An Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie (Constable & Co Ltd 1920)
[iv] Gooch G.P. & Temperley, Harold (editors) British Documents on the Origins of the War 1898-1914 Vol. IX  (1932)
[v] Fried, Alfred H. The German Emperor & The Peace of the World (Hodder & Stoughton 1912)
[vi] Fried, Alfred H. The German Emperor & The Peace of the World (Hodder & Stoughton 1912)
[vii] Fried, Alfred H. The German Emperor & The Peace of the World (Hodder & Stoughton 1912)

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