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Tuesday 28 July 2020

The Outbreak of World War I

Although Britain did not enter WW1 until 4th August 1914, the war began on 28th July. Contrary to popular opinion, it was not a war between Emperors, as the Emperors of Germany and Russia tried their utmost to maintain peace.
"The declaration of war, which was due to be sent on August 12th, was delivered by telegram to Belgrade at eleven o’clock in the morning of 28th July, and was so unexpected that the Serbs initially believed it to be a hoax. They were quickly disillusioned when the Austrians began firing shells across the Danube, prompting the anxious Serbs to blow up the main bridge across the river to prevent the invading army from reaching Belgrade.
On hearing that Austria had launched an attack, the Russian press roused the people to demand retribution for the ‘ignoble war’ against a ‘weaker and smaller’ country, and the Tsar ordered a partial mobilisation against Austria. In spite of their antipathy towards Austria-Hungary, the Russians were largely unmoved by the headlines that attempted to turn them against Germany, and, according to one witness, the people of St Petersburg generally believed that the Kaiser would eventually prove successful in his attempts to resolve the situation peacefully.
“Everyone firmly believed in Kaiser Wilhelm’s peaceful intentions, and the efficacy of his powerful mediation, and were convinced that he would intervene in the last moment. The Kaiser’s vaunted love of peace seemed a guarantee.”
Wilhelm, realising that the situation was rapidly escalating out of control, urgently telegraphed Nicholas, asking him to halt the mobilisation, and offering further mediation while promising to ‘induce Austria-Hungary to seek a frank and satisfactory understanding with Russia.’ True to his word, he repeatedly sent emissaries to Vienna, exhorting the Austrians to show restraint and to agree to some form of compromise but his suggestions were rejected as Franz Josef’s ministers and Chiefs of Staff insisted that there could be no compromise without a complete acceptance of their demands.
Over the next forty-eight hours, telegrams flew back and forth between St Petersburg and Berlin as the Kaiser and the Tsar pleaded with each other to do everything possible to avoid war."
The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II

Saturday 25 July 2020

A Meeting of the Kaiser & the Tsar

On July 24th 1905, the Kaiser and the Tsar met aboard the Kaiser's yacht to sign the Treaty of Bjorko, agreeing to come to one another's aid if either country were attacked by more than one power. Unfortunately, the Russian ministers declared the treaty was not binding...From 'The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II':
"To avoid speculation or outside interference, the Kaiser and the Tsar arranged an apparently informal meeting aboard Wilhelm’s yacht, Hohenzollern, which would be cruising the waters around Finland when the Tsar was in the area. On a warm Sunday evening, 24th July 1905, in the company of a two diplomats – one German and one Russian – and an Admiral of the Russian fleet, Nicholas and Wilhelm signed the Treaty of Bjorko.
Wilhelm returned home ecstatic about what he had achieved and, two days later, he wrote to Nicholas, thanking him effusively for the pleasure of his company and assuring him that the alliance would:
‘…restore quiet in the minds of people and confidence in the maintenance of Peace in Europe and encourage financial circles in foreign countries to place funds in enterprises in Russia.’
His joy, alas, was short-lived.
As soon as Nicholas presented the treaty to his horrified ministers they told him that, without France’s agreement, it could never be ratified and was therefore meaningless. Aghast at the news, Wilhelm, in a moment of rage, told the Tsar that their vows had been made before God and were therefore too sacred to be broken. His rant achieved nothing, but their friendship remained intact, and, in their continuing correspondence, both agreed that they should stand together against the machinations of ‘the Arch-intriguer and mischief maker in Europe’ – Nicholas’ description of King Edward VII." 

Wednesday 22 July 2020

King Cetshwayo

I greatly admire and simultaneously feel sorry for King Cetshwayo - the King of the Zulus, whose well-disciplined and courageous soldiers inflicted a shocking defeat on the British at the Battle of Isandlwana. They won the battle but lost the war, and the King - who, incidentally, personally ensured that the Prince Imperial's belongings were returned to ex-Empress Eugenie - went into exile in Britain. Happily, his graciousness and his story were taken up by a number of prominent people and the British public turned against the officials in S. Africa, who had brought about the war. Cetshwayo became very popular with the British people and he was eventually asked to resume his kingship in Zululand. Unfortunately, rival factions within his kingdom began a campaign against him and he died quite suddenly, ostensibly of a heart attack, but many people believe he was poisoned. I think he was a great king.

There is more about the Prince Imperial's story in my books: "Queen Victoria & the French Royal Families" and "Queen Victoria's Cousins":

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Kaiser Wilhelm Honoured His Father

Due to propaganda, many people think that Wilhelm II tried to erase his father's memory, but this is far from the truth. At his behest, his father's anniversary and his birthday (and those of his grandfather) were always celebrated by schools, choirs and special events. This particularly school band was one of those which always held a parade and sporting event on those dates.

Monday 20 July 2020

A Royal Love Story

I am surprised that this lovely story is not better known...a true account of an impoverished working woman, who met and married her handsome prince....

Wednesday 8 July 2020

The Silent Emperor - German Emperor Frederick III

On a bright summer’s day in June 1887, a procession of mounted kings and princes moved sedately through the streets of London in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Amid such illustrious company, all eyes were drawn to the ‘towering Lohengrin-like figure’ of the future German Emperor Frederick III in his imperial helmet, silver breastplate and the brilliant white uniform of the Cuirassier Guards. The cheering crowds could never have believed that he had less than a year to live, or that ‘our Fritz’, the hero of Koniggrätz, Worth and Sedan, would soon appear as little more than a silent portrait hanging on the walls of history. So often throughout his life, duty, modesty and loyalty obliged him to remain silent, concealing his own achievements and stifling his opinions. Tragically, when at last he was free to speak with authority, he was rendered voiceless by a painful and debilitating illness. To those who knew him well, however, he truly deserved the epithet, ‘Frederick the Noble’, whose heroic stoicism in the face of suffering equalled and even surpassed his courage on the battlefield.
My new book, The Silent Emperor, is available now worldwide in Kindle & paperback formats.