One would have thought that with an English mother that Wilhelm would have developed a fondness for England. As a boy he indeed was very close to his mother and made constant visits to England with her. Bismarkck considered his mother a dangerous foreign influence, especially because of her liberal views. As a young man Wilhelm's attitude toward his mother changed markedly and with it his attitudes toward his English realtives, including Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. He is known to have made extrodianarily crude comments about them, even to their realtives in foreign courts. More is involved here than a family squable. Wilhelm's private comments about his family and belicose public comments on diplomatic incident well as his decisssion to build a navy to challenge England were major factors in changing England from viewing Prussia/Germany as an ally against France to seeing Germany as England's principal adversary requiring a raprochment with France. Thus undoing Bismarck's principal admonition--isolate France.
One would have thought that with an English mother that Wilhelm would have developed a fondness for England. As a boy he indeed was very close to his mother and made constant visits to England with her. Ther private comminications were odten quite touching even during Wilhelm's teen years. His mother's private letters to Queen Victoria, however, show rising anxiety about his arrogance as he grew older.
Prince Otto von Bismarck was, more than any other single indiviadual, responsible for the unification of Germany. Both Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm I considered Prince Wilhelm's English mother a dangerous foreign influence. It was her liberal view toward democratic governent that they most disliked. Russia and France were seen as the principal military dangers. They attempt to undo the liberal influences of the young prince's parents. It is an irony of history that they largely succeed in turning Prince Wilhelm against his liberal parents. This was accomplished largely by flattering the young man, rather than helping to see his limitations. This was in sharp contrast to the criticism he often received at home. Ironically, in doing so they created a Kaiser with severe character whitnesses that would notonly dismiss Bismarck, but undo Bismarck's carefully honed policies and lead German and Europe to the horrors of World War I.
As a young man Wilhelm's attitude toward his mother changed markedly. His parents spoke frankly to him about his arrogance and limited understanding of imprtant issues. They objected to his whole hearted acceptance of Bismarck's blood and iron dictum. Wilhelm as a young man began to suround himself with synophants that would flatter and agree with him. He loved to dress up in militay unifprms and assocaite with heel-clicking Prussians. His choice of the meek Donna as his wife was another step in this direction. He less readily accepted criticism from his parents.
As a result, he began seeing his English mother as poisoning his realtionship with his father. He started refeering tn his family and younger sisters as the English colony. and with it his attitudes toward his English relatives, including Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. Some of his remarks were extremely crude. He reffered to his grandmother, Queen Victoria, as an "old hag". He was especially critical of his uncle, the Prince of Wales. He is known to have made extrodianarily crude comments about them, who after all were relatives. He even made some of these comments to realtives in foreign courts. Some reports indicate that he would criticise the Prince of Wales on diplomatic meetings with Tsar Alexander III, the Prince of Wales brother-in-law. Some of the remaks are so astonishing that some historians view the accounts as Russian fabrications. [Van der Kriste, Kaiser Wilhelm II, p. 36.]
Queen Victoria was Kaiser Wilhelm's grandmother. Wilhelm began causing problems at an early age when his mother would bring him along on her visits to Queen Victorisa. After he became kaiser his behavior worsened and Queen Victoria decided she wanted nothing to do with him. Despite this, Wilhelm was known to describe himself as Victoria’s favorite grandson. This was not how the Queen herself saw Wilhelm. She warned another grandson, Tsar Nicvholas, to be careful of Wilhelm’s “mischievous and unstraight-forward proceedings.” She described the Kaiser to her prime minister as “a hot-headed, conceited, and wrong-headed young man”. Queen Victoria chose to not invite the Kaiser, to her Diamond Jubilee celebration, a stinging rebuke (1897). She also did not invite the Kaiser to her 80th birthday (1899).
The Kaiser's boorish behavior only gradually affected their persional attitude toward him. Here not only good manners within the family, but the needs of national diplomacy caused them to ignore the Kaiser's crude remarls and behavior. There was one member of the family who not only despised Kaiser Wilhelm II, but Germans in general and that was the Crown Prince's wife and future queen--Alexandra. Prussia's invasion and defeat of her beloved Denmark in 1864, netted Bismarck Schlevig-Holstein and a follow up victorious war with Austria informing Prussia's dominance in Germany. It also created an implacabable foe in Alix. The normally charming, diplomatic Princess of Wales could not hide her contempt of te Germans even a diplomatic events. Her reasoning was not infrequaently flawed, but her passion on the subject was heartfelt. She was childed for her behavior by her husband and Queen Victoria. But in the subject of the Germans she could not be disuaded. Over time, it was her view of the Germans that became dominate in Britain. Her role in affecting the opinions of the British airistocrcy and many British officials over time should not be overlooked. Of course, Alix by herself, could not have changed British foreign policy, combined with the behavior and policies of the Kaiser, it had an important imoact.
While Bismarck had no love of the English, especially their liberal democracy, it was Russia and France that he saw as a military threat. His policies wre to court the Russians and isolate the French. If he could not have Engkland as an ally, at least he hoped for English neutraily on the continent. Wilhelm who was especially interested in foreign affairs and had been grromed by both his grandfather and Bismarck began to see himself as particularly gifted in diplomacy. After dismissing Bismarck he proceeded to undo the carefully crafted policies that protected Germany. He badly handled the Russian relationship by placing too great an emphasis on the allince with declining Austria-Hungary. Russia as a result, allowed an allince with Germany lapse and negotiated one with France--undoing Bismarck's main dictum of isolating France and opening the possibility of a two front war. If that was not enough, Wilhelm decided that Germany needed a navy and not just any navy--but one which could challenge the British Royal Navy. The ensuing naval arm's race more than any other factor, changed British foreogn policy. There was no military necesity for a German navy. It would play no real role in a future war with Russia and France. The only use for a large navy was to challenge Britain, a country which was a historical ally and had no real quarels with Germany.
More is involved here than a family squable. Wilhelm's private comments about his family were bad enough, but his belicose sable rattling when diplomatic incidents occured and drive to build a navy which could threaten Britain help to create an enemy where one had not before existed. Slowly England attitudes changed from viewing Prussia/Germany as an ally against France to seeing Germany as England's principal adversary requiring a raprochment with France. Thus undoing Bismarck's principal admonition--isolate France. Not only did the Germany navy play a major role in bringing Britain to France's defence in World War I, but in the end the navy's threatening battleships played no sugnificant role in the War and the submarines served only to even bring isolationist Americ into the War.
Kohut, Thomas A. Kaiser Wilhelm II and his parents, in John C. G. Röhl and Nicolaus Sombart (eds). Kaiser Wilhelm II. New Interpretations. The Corfu Papers (Cambridge, 1982).
Morier, Sir Robert. Memoirs and Letters, (Edward Arnold, 1911), 2 volumes.
Röhl, John C.G. Young Wilhelm : the Kaiser's early life, 1859-1888, translated by Jeremy Gaines and Rebecca Wallach.
Van der Kriste, John. Kaiser Wihelm II: Germany's Last Kaiser (Bodmin: Sutton Publishing, 1999), 244p.
Wilhelm II. My Early Life (New York, 1926).
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