For over a century Kaiser Wilhelm II has been viewed as either a madman or a warmonger who brought his country to destruction by provoking the First World War. Following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies planned to have him tried as a war criminal and only the refusal of the Dutch Queen and her Government to extradite him prevented the planned tribunal from ever taking place. Since then, though, he has largely been portrayed as guilty of the charges that were levelled against him, as the century old propaganda continued to be believed.
I am the granddaughter of an English prisoner-of-war, and, as a tiny child, I listened often as my grandmother sang sad war songs and told me of her brother who was killed fighting for the English near Ypres in 1916. As I grew older, I spent years trying to make sense of a conflict in which so many millions had died, but all I was taught left me even more confused...particularly as I began to delve deeper into the life and true character of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The more I discovered, the more I realised that virtually everything I had been told about that war was false, and that, far from being a warmonger or a madman, Kaiser Wilhelm had done his utmost to preserve peace.
Until 1914, he was described as ‘The Apostle of Peace’ or the Peace Kaiser who had spent his twenty-six reign attempting to improve the lives of his people and to maintain good relations with his neighbours. Even on the eve of the war, he was desperately seeking some means to resolve the international crisis which had suddenly been blown out of all proportion following the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He was the last of the European leaders to mobilise his army, and as one American commentator observed he was ‘the most sorrowful man in the world’ when he realised that war could not be avoided.
From the moment hostilities began, the British Bureau of Propaganda set out to destroy his reputation, severely distorting his image and portraying him as the instigator of the war. So successful was this campaign, that even today he is widely viewed as a cruel son, a megalomaniac, and a tyrant, but I believe that, contrary to all we were told, the truth is in reality quite simple, and I sincerely, with all my heart, believe that Kaiser Wilhelm II deserves a far better reputation than that with which he has been so cruelly saddled for over a century. In my book ‘The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II’ I hope I have succeeded in portraying him in far fairer light.