Another reason why Princess Charlotte and her husband are forced to conform themselves to the command, by means of which the sovereign keeps them almost permanently at Breslau, is that Prince Bernhardt has little or no money at all, as long as his father lives, and that the couple are, therefore, almost entirely dependent upon the allowance which the princess receives as a member of the reigning house of Prussia. Now it is the kaiser who, as chief of the family of Hohenzollern, controls all its vast private possessions, and, if at any time, a member of the House of Prussia declines to yield obedience to his orders, he is empowered by the statutes of the Hohenzollern family to suspend the allowances of those guilty of such insubordination. Thus it is greatly because they are so poor that the prince and princess invariably travel incognito when they go abroad, although it has been asserted that the kaiser carries his irritation against his sister to the extent of declining to permit her to leave Germany, save on the understanding that neither she nor her husband will anywhere exact, or receive the honors due to their royal rank.
At the time of the visit of the Emperor and Empress of Germany to Rome, during the silver-wedding festivities of King Humbert and Queen Marguerite of Italy, Prince Bernhardt and Princess Charlotte were in the Eternal City, entirely ignored by the Italian court, as well as by all the foreign royalties present. Indeed, while the emperor, and even the pettiest foreign princelets invited for the occasion, were driving about the streets and parks in royal equipages, the kaiser's sister and brother-in-law had to content themselves with the dingiest of hack cabs, and also with the role of ordinary sight-seers.
Those who imagine that Princess Charlotte prefers an incognito role to that of a royal princess are singularly mistaken. No one is fonder than she is of the prerogatives of rank, and like all clever and pretty women, she is ever eager to be the centre of attraction, and the object of much homage. She cannot, therefore, be said to relish the treatment and neglect to which she is subjected through her brother's displeasure.
In the Berlin great world the princess has always been popular, not merely by reason of her devotion to society, but because a certain amount of sympathy was felt for her in connection with the treatment which she had received at the hands of her mother. For some strange reason or other, Princess Charlotte was never appreciated by her mother, who showed her preference for her younger daughters in a very marked manner. Charlotte was always treated with a far greater degree of strictness than any of the other girls, in spite of her being vastly superior to them in intellect and in looks. Princess Charlotte is still a very charming woman, and was in her younger days a singularly attractive girl, one of the fairest indeed of all Queen Victoria's numerous descendants, but her sisters are inclined to be homely, absolutely deficient in feminine elegance or chic, and, while accomplished, are extremely dull, and not a bit sparkling or witty.
Empress Frederick always declared that her daughter Charlotte was frivolous, and as much inclined to be forward and rebellious to discipline and control as her eldest son, the present emperor. Therefore, as I have already stated, Charlotte and William were treated by their mother with exceptional severity, were snubbed on every occasion, often in the most humiliating manner, and were made to feel that Prince Henry and their younger sisters held a higher place in the maternal heart than they.
Sad is it to add that the youth of neither William nor Charlotte was a particularly happy one, and thus it is not astonishing that one as well as the other should have felt inclined to run a bit wild, like young colts, when first emancipated from the school-room. It was during the very few years that intervened between his leaving the university at Bonn and his marriage, that William obtained his reputation for dissipation. His shortcomings, due to the exuberance of youth, were exaggerated until they were transformed from very venial offences into the most mortal of sins, while in the same way the delight manifested by Princess Charlotte at the admiration and homage to which her comeliness gave rise—a very natural feeling when one recalls the snubbings and humiliations to which she had been subjected until then—were construed into frivolity and deep-dyed coquetry, altogether unworthy of a royal princess. She was taxed, too, with an absence of that simpering modesty, more or less affected, which is de mise with so many young girls in Germany and in France, when they make their debut in society, and even her most harmless flirtations were condemned by her mother as grave indiscretions.
Empress Frederick became very soon imbued with the idea that it was necessary to marry off Charlotte without delay, in order to avert the danger, as she conceived it, of one or another of these girlish flirtations developing into something calculated to compromise both her dignity and her fair name. Had the princess been less hurried in this matter, it is probable that she would have found a more suitable husband, and above all one calculated to capture the fancy of a young girl, reared at a court which can boast of some of the finest specimens of manhood in the world. But she was married to the first princelet who happened to catch the eye of Empress Frederick, namely Prince Bernhardt of Saxe-Meiningen—aye, and she was hustled into matrimony in such a hurry, too, as to give a sort of foundation for some shameful and base slanders, cruelly unmerited, but which one hears even Germans who profess loyalty to the crown repeating to this day. Prince Bernhardt, though an excellent man in his way, was very far from meeting the requirements of the "Prince Charmant" fit to be mated to a princess so gay and so brilliant as Charlotte of Hohenzollern. His appearance is effeminate, his manner finicky and old-maidish to a degree. He is neither stalwart nor good-looking; he excels neither as a dancer nor as a rider, nor yet as an athlete, and he gives one at first sight the impression of being an artist or a composer, rather than a son of that grand looking old fellow, the reigning Duke of Saxe-Meiningen.
Indeed, there was at the time of the marriage but one voice in Berlin society, condemning it as having been forced upon Princess Charlotte against her inclinations by her mother. And after the marriage the poverty of the prince rendered him to such an extent dependent upon the financial assistance of his mother-in-law, that he, as well as his wife, was compelled to remain subservient in every respect to her wishes. Nor was it until William came to the throne and availed himself of his position as head of the family to grant Princess Charlotte an allowance suitable to her rank, that the princess and her husband were emancipated from the strict control of her mother, Empress Frederick.
Young married folks in America can form no conception of the extent of such tyranny, and when, some time after the wedding, Prince Bernhardt and Princess Charlotte secured permission from Empress Frederick—then only crown princess—to visit Paris, and to make a stay there of three weeks, she only gave her consent on the condition that they should be accompanied by one of her chamberlains, and one of her ladies-in-waiting who had known the princess from childhood, and whose behests the prince and princess were obliged to obey throughout their sojourn in the French capital, just as if they had been a little boy and girl, instead of grown-up and married people. Probably the happiest time of Princess Charlotte's life was the period which elapsed between the death of her lamented father and her exile to Breslau. She amused herself to her heart's content, fluttered about in Berlin like a butterfly, took a leading part in every social movement, was admired, feted and petted by everyone, but gave her worthy husband no cause whatsoever for uneasiness, and avoided all scandals, save those contained in the anonymous letters, for which she cannot really be held responsible.
To-day she must feel that she has exchanged the unbearable tyranny of Empress Frederick for the yet infinitely more oppressive despotism of her eldest brother, Emperor William,—a despotism so harsh that it has won for her, somewhat late it is true, the kindly sympathy of her own mother,—a severity which may be said to have its source in that most dangerous of all the intimate friends and confidants of the princess, namely, that diary of hers which was stolen from her, and which is believed to be now in the possession of the kaiser.
I am thoroughly aware that the point which is likely to excite the attention of my readers to a greater degree than any other in the previous chapter, is the reference contained therein to the tyranny exercised by the monarchs of the Old World upon their relatives. In fact, it is far better in Europe to be a mere subject than a kinsman or kinswoman of the sovereign.
Even the lowliest of the lieges of the anointed of the Lord has certain constitutional rights and prerogatives which may be said to safeguard him from oppression and persecution, but princes and princesses of the blood have no such rights, and are exposed to every caprice and every whim of the head of their family, defiance of whose wishes entails exile, loss of property, even poverty and outlawry, without any redress.
Royal and imperial personages, in addition to being subjected to the ordinary laws of the land, are expected to yield blind and unquestioned obedience to another code, comprising what are officially styled the "Family Statutes" of the dynasty to which they belong. These are administered by the head of the family, who is free to construe them as he sees fit, and while they are binding upon the members of his house, they in no way can be said to constitute any limitation to the exercise of his authority. In fact, the latter is absolutely unrestricted, and extends to every phase of the life of a royal personage. Thus, a prince or princess of the blood is debarred from contracting a marriage without the consent of the sovereign, and if any union has taken place without the sanction of the head of the family, it is regarded, not only at court, but even by the tribunals of the land, as invalid, and children that may be born of the marriage bear the stigma of illegitimacy. If a marriage has received the full authorization of the ruler, and there is any issue, the children cannot be educated without the sovereign's wishes being consulted. The parents, in fact, are regarded much as if they were either minors, outlaws, or demented people, unfitted to be entrusted with the control and bringing up of their offspring, for the sovereign is ex officio the guardian of all children who are under age, belonging to the married members of his family, and his rights over the children are superior to those of the latter's father and mother.
If the boy is to have a tutor, or the girl a governess, the appointment cannot be made by the parents without their previously obtaining the permission of the sovereign, and he has it in his power to reject their nominee, and to assign some candidate of his own, who may possibly be regarded as most objectionable to the unfortunate parents, for the duty of taking charge of the education of the young people in question. The royal or imperial mother, indeed, may esteem herself fortunate if the sovereign does not insist on personally selecting the nurses of her infants: when the present kaiser was born, not merely the late Empress Augusta, but likewise all the other members of the reigning house of Prussia, and of the Court of Berlin, thought it quite right and natural that the old Emperor William should exercise his authority for the purpose of prohibiting the young mother from herself nursing her baby; on the ground that it was contrary to the traditions of the House of Hohenzollern, and a quite undignified proceeding. Fortunately, the late Emperor Frederick, who had spent much of his time at the court of his mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, and who was aware that she had nursed every one of her numerous children herself, without permitting this motherly duty to interfere with the arduous official business of the State, expostulated with his father, and persuaded him to withdraw his prohibition, much to the horror of the courtiers, and greatly to the satisfaction of the royal lady, who is now Empress Frederick.
In Austria one of the principal sources of the domestic unhappiness of the lamented Empress of Austria, was the small voice that she was allowed by the sovereign—her husband—to have in the management and the control of her own children, as long as her mother-in-law, the late Archduchess Sophia, was alive. It was only after the demise of the archduchess that Empress Elizabeth first realized in their full measure the joys of motherhood.
While on the subject of Austria, I may cite the case of the widowed Crown Princess Stephanie as another illustration of the extent to which royal parents are deprived of all authority over their children. Thus when Crown Prince Rudolph died at Mayerling, his little daughter, at that time barely six years of age, was assigned to the guardianship, not of her widowed mother, but of her grandfather. A very general belief prevails that this arrangement about the care of the little Archduchess Elizabeth, was due to a piece of animosity on the part of the ill-fated crown prince against his wife, and I have seen it stated in print that he had left a will confiding his only child to his father, and directing that its mother should be allowed no voice in its education. There is no official authority for any such statement, but no matter whether the crown prince expressed any such testamentary wish or not, the fact remains that at his death his child was bound by the statutes of the House of Hapsburg, to become the ward of the sovereign, who in this case happened to be her grandfather. Gentle and soft-hearted as is Emperor Francis-Joseph, he nevertheless exercised his authority over his grandchild in a way that cannot but have been galling in the extreme to its mother, a way, in fact, which I imagine would be beyond the endurance of any American woman. Thus he insisted upon himself appointing and selecting her governesses and teachers; he nominated her entire household without consulting her mother, and its members, as well as the girl's instructors made their reports not to Crown Princess Stephanie, but to him, from whom, also, they alone took their instructions.
It was the emperor who decided where his grandchild was to stay, where she was to spend this part of the year, and where another season, and finally he strictly prohibited her from leaving his dominions. The position of the Crown Princess of Austria since the death of her husband has been so extremely unpleasant and painful, that she has spent much of her time—indeed, at least nine months of the year—in foreign travel. The imperial family, the court and the people, hold her responsible for that domestic wretchedness which drove her so universally popular husband to his tragic death at Mayerling. Of a jealous disposition and of a temper that even at its best is difficult, she is generally understood to have driven him by her violence and injustice to seek, away from his home, the pleasures that he could not find by his own fireside.
It had been known that she had been strangely lacking in dignity in her complaints concerning his behavior, and after his death she gave cruel offence both to his parents and to the people of her adopted country by her indifference to his terrible fate, and by the frivolity with which she bore her widowhood, not a little of which was spent at the gaming tables of Monte-Carlo in the gayest mourning costumes possible; a circumstance which horrified Queen Victoria, who was at that time at Nice, and naturally cruelly embittered the bereaved and sorrowing mother, Empress Elizabeth, who, robed in deepest black, was at Cap-Martin, endeavoring to recover her health, which had been absolutely shattered by the tragedy.
All these things led to the crown princess being regarded with deep disfavor in Austria. Difficulties were raised with regard to her rank and precedence at court, and the animosity manifested towards her was such at Vienna, and elsewhere in the dual empire, that she found it preferable to spend the greater part of her time abroad. She was not, however, permitted to take her little daughter with her, and thus the young archduchess may be said to have grown up altogether away from her mother, whom she saw for barely two months of the year, and then more as a visitor and a stranger, than as a relative who had any voice in the ordering of her life.
If, then, this control of the minor princes and princesses of his dynasty is insisted upon to such an extent by the aged Emperor of Austria, the kindliest, most warm-hearted and sympathetic of old men, always prone to patient forbearance and indulgence, it will be readily understood that it is exercised to its fullest extent by Emperor William, in whose character the tendency to autocracy, and the spirit of command, is far more developed than in his brother monarch. Indeed, he not only claims the right to act as the chief guardian of the junior members of the reigning house of Prussia, of which he is the head, but likewise of the children of all those sovereign families of Germany which have acknowledged him as their emperor. Thus he insisted upon having entire control of his young cousin, the only son of the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, declaring that his own authority must be substituted for that of the lad's father, in spite of the latter being himself a reigning sovereign, and an ally rather than a vassal.
The tragic fate of the young prince will be too fresh in the memory of my readers to need more than passing reference here. The boy, removed from parental care, was transferred by Emperor William to Berlin, with the avowed purpose of being under his own imperial eye. Unfortunately, the duties and occupations of William are so multifarious that he was unable to fulfil his very excellent intentions with regard to Prince Alfred. The latter fell into bad hands, squandered large sums of money at cards, became involved in pecuniary difficulties, and in his endeavors to retrieve them, sunk deeper and deeper into the mire, until finally Emperor William, suddenly alive to the results of his wholly-unintentional neglect of the royal lad, sent him back to his heart-broken parents, discredited, implicated in all sorts of unpleasant gambling transactions, and shattered alike in health and mind. In the midst of their silver-wedding festivities, they were forced to send their only boy off to a sanitarium in Austria, where, in spite of the close restraint under which he was kept, he managed to put an end to his life, only a few days after his arrival, prompted thereto by either physical or mental agony, no one knows which.
Small wonder, when it became necessary to find a likely successor to the present reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg, and his younger brother, Prince Arthur of Great Britain, Duke of Connaught, was proclaimed heir, that the prince decided that it would be preferable to sacrifice his rights to this throne, rather than his rights over his only son. On being given to understand that if he accepted the position of heir apparent, his sixteen-year-old boy would become the ward of Emperor William, and that the authority of the kaiser would be superior to his own over the lad, Prince Arthur declined to have anything to do with the Saxe-Coburg succession, and abandoned both his own claims thereto and those of his son, in favor of his young nephew, the fatherless Duke of Albany. It was precisely on the same ground that the Duke of Cumberland declined to complete the agreement whereby a reconciliation was to be effected between himself and the kaiser. Born crown prince of the now defunct Kingdom of Hanover, he should have succeeded to the throne of the Duchy of Brunswick on the death of his kinsman, the late Duke of Brunswick, in 1884. The German Emperor, however, decided that he could not be permitted to take possession of the sovereignty of the duchy, nor to assume the status of one of the federal rulers of the confederation known as the German Empire, unless he recognized the latter, as now constituted, that is to say with his father's Kingdom of Hanover incorporated with Prussia. For a long time he refused to do this, but was ultimately persuaded by his brother-in-law, the late czar, and the Prince of Wales, to consent to a reconciliation with Prussia, and to accept the present condition of affairs. The arrangements were on the eve of being completed when a conflict arose between the duke and the kaiser, as to the education of the former's eldest son, Prince George. The duke wished to send him to the Vizhum College, at Dresden, where so many members of the sovereign families, and of the great houses of the nobility, have received their instruction, while the kaiser objected to this particular school on the ground that its teachings were calculated to increase instead of to diminish particularist and anti-Prussian sentiments. The duke thereupon declared that he alone was competent to judge and determine how his boy should be educated, whereupon the kaiser put forth his pretension to the guardianship of all the junior members of the sovereign houses comprised in the German Empire. Rather than consent to this, the Duke of Cumberland, who has inherited much of the obstinacy for which his great-grandfather, King George III. of Great Britain, was so celebrated, broke off all negotiations with Emperor William, and refused to have anything more to do with him, for, like his cousin, the Duke of Connaught, he would rather sacrifice his rights to a German throne than his parental rights over a much-loved boy.
But the despotism of the monarchs of the Old World is by no means restricted to this question of the control and custody of the junior members of their respective families. Every prince and princess of the latter, no matter what his or her age, or superiority in point of years to the sovereign may be, is subjected to the will of the head of the house. For instance, no Russian grand duke or grand duchess can leave the Muscovite empire without previously asking and obtaining the permission of the czar, and in the same way, the Austrian archdukes and archduchesses have to crave the sanction of Emperor Francis-Joseph, and the Prussian princes and princesses, that of the kaiser, before they can leave their respective countries for a foreign trip. Even Empress Frederick is compelled to obtain the permission of her son, the emperor, before taking her departure from Germany for England or Italy, and a few years ago when quietly enjoying herself in Paris, she was forced by a peremptory command from her son to suddenly cut short her stay in the French capital, and to betake herself to England.
To such an extent is this despotism carried that when Prince Henry of Prussia was stationed at Kiel, he had to ask his elder brother's permission before he could run up to Berlin, although Kiel is only a few hours' trip from the capital; and, as stated in the previous chapter, Princess Charlotte of Saxe-Meiningen and her husband, are kept at Breslau, except when their brother William graciously condescends to permit them to leave their home. Two years ago the emperor, for reasons which can only be surmised, and which were of a personal rather than of a political character—of which more anon—suddenly ordered his only brother Henry off to China, and a little later, possibly with the object of showing to the world that his authority extended to the ladies of his house, as well as to the men, he directed Princess Henry to join her husband at Hong Kong. As the two little boys of the princess are exceedingly delicate, owing possibly to the fact that their parents are first cousins, the poor mother was very reluctant to undertake the trip, but she was forced by the emperor to go, and had scarcely reached Hong Kong before she learnt by cable that both her little ones were prostrated by a terrible attack of diphtheria. She was not, however, permitted to return, but was kept out in China away from her children until late in the spring, and reached home well on towards autumn, to find her little ones—the youngest was but two years old—more delicate than ever, but fortunately alive.
In the memoirs of Bismarck published by Dr. Busch, there is reproduced one of Emperor William's letters, written prior to his accession to the throne, in the course of which he asks the great chancellor whether he approves of his "commanding" (the German word is "befehlen") his brother Prince Henry to make certain inquiries of the late Prince Alexander of Battenberg. William in this letter does not talk of "requesting" his brother, but of ordering him to do this. If then William, as crown prince, already took upon himself the right of ordering his brother and his sisters to do this and to do that, it may be readily imagined that he is not less peremptory in his dealings with them now that he is their emperor and king.
If they disobey him, he has various means of punishment at his command. He can banish them from court for a long term; he can deprive them temporarily, or for all time, of the prerogatives, the privileges, and the honors due to their rank; he can suspend their allowances from the national treasury, or from the family property, or can stop it altogether; he can take from them the control of any estates which they may have inherited, and confide the administration thereof to curators appointed for the purpose; finally, he can subject them to various forms of arrest, as he once did in the case of his brother-in-law, Prince Frederick-Leopold; while in very extreme cases he can place the offending relative under restraint in an asylum for the insane on the pretext of dementia, as has been done in the case of Princess Louise of Coburg, daughter of King Leopold of Belgium, and mother of Princess "Dolly" of Coburg, who is now the wife of Duke Ernest-Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein.
"Aux arrets," or confinement to one's quarters, is the most common form of punishment inflicted by Old World monarchs upon those of their kith and kin who have failed to comply with their behests, and there is scarcely a single sovereign or prince of the blood, who has not been subjected to this species of discipline at one time or another of his career. Thus the late Emperor Frederick, prior to his accession to the throne, but long after his marriage, was sentenced to several weeks' detention in his palace under strict arrest, as a punishment for a little joke which he had played during the course of a military inspection.
He had been protesting for a long time against the tightness of the uniforms, and of the belts of the rank and file of the infantry, declaring that it impeded the movements and play of the muscles of the men, to such an extent as to deprive them of more than fifty per cent, of their usefulness. One day, during an inspection of the division of guards at Potsdam, while the troops happened to be standing at ease, he walked along the front rank of the first regiment, accompanied by a number of officers, with whom he had just been discussing this very question of equipment; suddenly, he stopped short in his walk, and extracting a piece of gold from his pocket, dropped it on the ground, and told the men nearest him to pick it up, adding that whoever got hold of it first, might keep it! Several of them made frantic attempts to bend down in order to get the money, but so tight were their uniforms and belts that they found it absolutely impossible to reach, the coin, which Emperor Frederick ultimately picked up himself, and handed to them.
"And how do you expect to win battles with soldiers hampered to such an extent as that in their movements?" he exclaimed contemptuously to the officers around him. "What greater demonstration than this is needed to prove the justice of my argument?"
The incident was reported to the then Minister of War, who immediately lodged a complaint with Frederick's father, the result being that "Unser Fritz," at that time Crown Prince of Prussia, was placed by old Emperor William for several weeks under arrest in his palace!
Prince Rupert of Bavaria, the heir apparent to the ancient throne of the Wittelsbachs, was sentenced by his grandfather, the prince regent, to no less than three months' close arrest in his quarters at Munich, for having left the kingdom without permission, in order to spend three days at Paris, in fair but frail company; while the widowed Duchess of Aosta on one occasion was placed under arrest in her palace of Turin by her brother-in-law, King Humbert, because she had ventured to appear in public on her wheel wearing a pair of bloomers!
Prince and Princess Frederick-Leopold, the latter a younger sister of the Empress of Germany, have both been condemned on several occasions by the kaiser to close confinement in their palace under the most stringent kind of arrest, for having disobeyed his majesty's commands with regard to the management of their household. Duke Ernest-Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein, the brother of the empress, has been subjected to more numerous orders of arrest by his imperial kinsman than any prince of the blood now living.
Severe as are European monarchs nowadays in punishing the disobedience of the members of their families, they do not, however, venture any longer to proceed to such extremities as the father of Frederick the Great, who when the latter was still crown prince, cast his son into prison, and ordered him to be shot, merely because he discovered that he was about to leave the kingdom without his permission for the purpose of undertaking a trip to England; and there is no doubt that the crown prince would have been put to death, and thus shared the fate of his two aids-de-camp, who were beheaded before his very eyes, in the fortress prison of Kuestrin, had it not been for the intervention of the ambassadors of Austria, Great Britain, Russia and France in behalf of his royal highness.
Yet another phase of this despotism, which the two kaisers,—namely their majesties of Germany and of Austria,—exercise over the members of their respective families, is the right which they claim to select and appoint the officers and ladies-in-waiting of every prince and princess of the blood. In order to appreciate what this means it must be explained that it is not merely contrary to etiquette, but absolutely forbidden by the rules and regulations instituted by Emperor William and his brother sovereigns, that any such princes or princesses should venture to appear anywhere in public without being escorted either by a gentleman or a lady-in-waiting. These attendants, who are, it is needless to state, of noble birth, may be said to constitute the very shadow of the personage to whose household they are attached. In fact a royal or imperial prince or princess cannot even cross the street, far less leave home for a ride, a drive, a walk, or for the purpose of paying a visit, or of doing some shopping without being escorted, if a prince, by a gentleman-in-waiting, and if a princess, by a lady-in-waiting, and possibly by a chamberlain as well.
Nor are the duties of the ladies and gentlemen-in-waiting confined to attendance upon their royal charges in public, for they form part and parcel of the royal or imperial household to which they are attached, and if they do not occupy quarters in the palace, at any rate they take all their meals there, since their duties commence in the early morning, and only cease late at night.
Now, human shadows of this kind are all very well when one is at liberty to choose them one's self; but it is very different when one has no voice whatsoever in the matter, and when one is forced to submit to close and intimate attendance of this kind by ladies and gentlemen whom one neither likes nor trusts. In such cases as these, the gentlemen or ladies-in-waiting are apt to be regarded in the light of spies by their royal charges, and as people appointed by the sovereign to keep watch upon their actions. It is probable that no one has suffered so cruelly in this connection as the widowed Empress Frederick of Germany. Possessed of extremely liberal views in political matters—ideas which she imparted to her consort, she found herself, within a few years after her marriage, in complete opposition to Prince Bismarck. The latter regarded her as a very dangerous opponent, and responded to her openly avowed disapproval of his political methods by using his influence with her father-in-law, old Emperor William, urging him to interfere with her management of her children; and above all, to appoint as members of her household personages with whom she could have no possible sympathy, political or otherwise, and who were, in every sense of the word, devoted to the Iron Chancellor. In fact, Prince Bismarck acknowledges in his reminiscences, as published by his Boswell, Dr. Busch, that he caused the crown princess—as Empress Frederick was then—to shed many a bitter tear, by his interference, through her father-in-law, in her domestic affairs.
Bismarck made no secret of his enmity towards Empress Frederick and her husband before the latter ascended the throne, and it is on record that he even officially insisted that secrets of state should not be confided to "Unser Fritz," for fear that the latter's consort might communicate them to her English relatives. He even went so far as to accuse her of having, during the war of 1870, betrayed to non-German relatives Prussian military secrets, which were used by the French against her adopted country, and served to prolong the conflict. These odious charges, "which have been abundantly disproved" and for which "there was not even the shadow of a foundation," are merely referred to here in order to show the intense bitterness of the personal animosity entertained by the chancellor towards Empress Frederick. Yet it was he, Bismarck, who, through the old emperor, had the right of selecting and nominating, not merely the instructors and attendants of her boys, but her own gentlemen and ladies-in-waiting—nay, even the physicians and surgeons to be called in cases of illness.
It is to the part played by Prince Bismarck in selecting the attendants and tutors of the present emperor that must be ascribed the strained relations that notoriously existed between the kaiser and his mother during the few years immediately preceding and following his accession to the throne; while there is no doubt whatsoever that the last eighteen months of Emperor Frederick's so prematurely-ended life, were saddened and embittered by the feeling that a conspiracy was on foot to prevent his succession to the throne on the ground of the incurable malady from which he was suffering—a conspiracy in which some of the principal participants were members of his household and physicians who had been forced upon him by his father at instigation of Prince Bismarck.
If I mention this, it is not so much with the idea of evoking a very painful chapter of the history of the Court Berlin, as it is for the purpose of explaining, and in a measure of excusing, the charges of unfilial conduct brought against the present emperor, and which contributed so much to his unpopularity both at home and abroad during the early years of his reign.
I have related in a previous chapter how William, while a boy, was snubbed by his parents, and treated with considerable strictness. His father, like so many good-looking giants, utterly free from affectation and pose, believed that he saw in his eldest boy a tendency to posture, a forwardness of manner, and a disposition towards pride of rank, amounting to arrogance, which it was necessary, at all costs, to repress. Prince William, therefore, was constantly receiving setbacks, often of a most humiliating character, from his parents, and I am sorry to say that this practice of regarding him as a presumptuous youth whom it was necessary to check, extended to other European courts, so that poor William can not be said to have had an altogether enjoyable time; and in this connection it is just as well to state that the Prince of Wales and his other English relatives, took their cue from his mother in their treatment of him, a circumstance which he has neither forgiven nor forgotten. Indeed the notorious absence of cordiality between the Prince of Wales and his imperial nephew of Berlin originates with the snubs which the British heir apparent, in his capacity of uncle, felt it necessary to administer to William, when the latter was a lad, and even when he had reached manhood.
Yet it would be unfair to ascribe any undue blame in the matter to the parents of Emperor William. The responsibility must rest rather with those people with whom Prince Bismarck, acting through the old emperor, surrounded the young prince. The mission of these nominees of the chancellor was to counteract the influence of the then crown prince and crown princess over their eldest son, and this was achieved by setting the boy against his parents. Every direction or command given by Frederick or by his consort to their son was made the subject of critical discussion by the personages with whom Bismarck had surrounded him, until the latter became convinced that the judgment of his parents was at fault in almost everything that could be imagined, and that all their views, political as well as social, were thoroughly out of keeping with Prussian traditions and German patriotism.
This in itself was bad enough: but what made matters infinitely worse, was that whenever William was subjected to any reproof or discipline by either his father or mother, those composing his immediate entourage at once impressed upon the royal youth that he was the victim of the most gross and unpardonable injustice, that both his father and mother were inordinately jealous of his striking individuality, that the unmerited severity to which he was subjected was brought about by their consciousness that his intellect was superior to theirs, and that his ideas were too thoroughly Prussian to constitute anything but a serious danger to their English liberalism. The effect of influences such as these upon a high-spirited and impulsive youth, at the time entirely devoid of experience or of knowledge of the world, may readily be conceived. It naturally led to an increase of what his parents regarded as his presumptuousness and forwardness of manner, and consequently to a growth of their severity towards him. He, on the other hand, became more and more embittered by the unduly harsh and rather unjust treatment to which he was being subjected by both his father and his mother.
The persons in attendance on the imperial family, with the conspicuous exceptions of Count Seckendorff and Countess Hedwig Bruehl, were careful to fan the embers of bitterness rankling in the bosom of young William whenever any opportunity offered, and thus it happened that when Emperor Frederick, while still crown prince, was discovered to be suffering from that cancer of the larynx which ultimately carried him off, the relations between parents and son were so strained as to give rise to the very widespread belief that William was the ally of his father's enemies, and a participator in the disgraceful conspiracy which ensued for the purpose of barring him from succession to the throne on the ground of his fearful malady.
As soon as the nature of the disease from which Frederick was suffering had been ascertained, his opponents, Prince Bismarck first and foremost, dug out from the most remote recesses of the family archives of the house of Hohenzollern an obsolete and forgotten law barring from the succession to the throne of Prussia any prince of the blood who was afflicted with an incurable malady. Of course, the original object of the statute in question was to enable the elimination from the line of succession of princes afflicted with hopeless insanity, or some such disease as would prevent them from administering the government, thus rendering the institution of a regency necessary. In one word, the purpose of the measure was to prevent such a situation from arising in Prussia as prevails now in Bavaria, where, since 1886 the throne has been occupied by a lunatic prince, who was incurably insane for many years before his accession to the crown, and whose dementia takes that peculiar form, which is described in the Bible as having overtaken Nebuchadnezzar. King Otto of Bavaria imagines himself to be alternately a quadruped or a bird, and when he is not browsing on leaves and grass in the gardens of his prison palace at Fuerstenried, under the impression that he is a sheep or goat, he will stand on one leg in the centre of a shallow pond, firmly convinced that he is a stork, occasionally flapping his long coat-tails in lieu of wings, and greedily attempting to devour any frogs or tadpoles that may come within his reach, unless prevented by his attendants from doing so.
There have been, alas! numerous cases of insanity in the reigning house of Prussia. Old Emperor William's elder brother and predecessor, King Frederick-William IV., spent the last few years of his life under restraint, hopelessly insane, his brother and ultimate successor administering the government as regent. The late Princess Frederick of Prussia was afflicted like her brother, the last Duke of Anhalt-Bernburg, with a peculiar kind of lunacy which took the form of an invincible objection to clothing of any kind whatsoever; while one of her two sons, Prince Alexander, who died only a few months ago, suffered from a species of good-natured imbecility, which led him to offer his heart and his hand to every woman or young girl that he encountered, no matter what her age, or looks, or rank, sometimes making as many as thirty or forty offers of marriage in the same day! The above-mentioned law was created for the purpose of preventing a prince thus situated from ascending the throne of Prussia, but the family statutes evoked by Prince Bismarck and his followers certainly never contemplated the deprival of a prince of his hereditary rights of succession to the throne because of some physical ailment or infirmity. This would have been entirely contrary to the spirit and ethics of the monarchical system of the Old World; as will be readily seen when attention is called to the fact that both the late King of Hanover, and the present reigning Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, were absolutely and totally blind at the time they succeeded to their present thrones.
Prince Bismarck took the view, however, that the statute in question was sufficient to bar "Unser Fritz" from succeeding to his father, if it were once medically admitted that his malady was incurable, or if curable, that it was liable to permanently destroy the vocal chords, thus abolishing forever the power of speech.
Prince Bismarck declared that in a matter of such extreme importance, where the succession to the throne, and the life of the heir apparent were at stake, the surgeons and physicians should be selected by the State—that is, by himself—and that their verdict should be final. Chief among the medical experts whom he nominated for the purpose, was the celebrated German surgeon, Professor von Bergmann, who is as famed for his skill in the use of the knife as for his fondness in applying it in cases where it might possibly be dispensed with. Having convinced himself that the malady from which Crown Prince Frederick suffered was a cancer, he decreed that the only manner of saving the life of the illustrious patient was the extremely dangerous and almost certainly fatal operation of removing the entire portion of the larynx that was affected. This, as stated above, would have left the crown prince dumb for the remainder of his days, and according to the views of Prince Bismarck would have barred him from succession to the throne.
It is related in court circles at Berlin, that Professor Bergmann was on the point of operating upon the crown prince unknown to the crown princess, and under the pretext of making a very radical examination, for which anaesthetics were necessary, when, he was prevented at the very last moment by her imperial highness. It is even stated that she tore the instruments from his hands, and turned him out of the room with the most bitter and cutting reproaches. Whatever may be true in this bit of court gossip, it is certain that a fierce quarrel did take place between the crown princess and the great surgeon, and that the cause of this quarrel was the decision taken by the latter to operate upon the crown prince as the only means of saving his life.
The crown princess thereupon summoned to her assistance Sir Morel MacKenzie, the greatest throat specialist in England, who throughout his long career was consulted by all the leading singers and orators of his day. MacKenzie came to Berlin, examined the crown prince, and utterly rejected the diagnosis of Professor Bergmann, and of the German physicians. He declared that the affection of the larynx, while cancerous, would not be bettered by using the knife, at any rate at that time, and that he believed the malady to be curable by treatment. Needless to add that his opinion was reviled in Germany as that of a charlatan, and that the Teuton specialists declared that the crown prince was doomed to certain death within six months, unless the operation was performed.
Fearing that some further attempt might be made at Berlin to operate upon her husband without her knowledge, or in spite of her opposition, the crown princess took him off to England, and from thence to the Tyrol, from which place they eventually migrated to San Remo. Meanwhile, the German newspapers, that is to say, those which were believed to be receiving their inspiration from Bismarckian sources, were filled with abuse of the crown princess, who was charged openly with being willing to sacrifice the life of her husband rather than her chances of becoming German Empress.
Meanwhile the crown prince became worse and worse, and while at San Remo had several fits of agonizing suffocation, to which he almost succumbed, and from the worst of which he was virtually saved by the late Dr. Thomas Evans, of Philadelphia, who displayed the utmost devotion and intelligence of treatment in the case of the imperial sufferer.
It was at this juncture that one of the most dramatic scenes which can be imagined took place in the antechamber of the illustrious patient. The crown princess received letters which informed her that Prince Bismarck had submitted to the old emperor, then himself near death, a decree for signature, transferring the succession of the throne from Crown Prince Frederick to the latter's son, Prince William, a decree which, by the by, the old emperor could not bring himself to sign. Furthermore, she learnt through the same sources that one of the principal members of her household at San Remo, in fact, one of the chamberlains in attendance, was sending daily reports of the most venomous character to Berlin, and to Prince Bismarck particularly, about everything that went on around the unhappy crown prince. Not a thing was said, not a thing done, not a change for the worse or the better in the condition of the hapless crown prince, that was not instantly reported to the chancellor, in a sense most detrimental and inimical to the imperial couple at San Remo. This traitor in the camp owed his appointment to the imperial household to Prince Bismarck, but by his charming manners, his professions of loyalty and of devotion, and his denunciations of Prince Bismarck, and of the latter's policy and ways, had completely captured the confidence of both the crown prince and crown princess.
Empress Frederick has inherited from her mother, Queen Victoria, a singularly fiery temper. Her passionate anger when she realized the base treachery to which her sick husband and herself had been subjected in their time of cruel tribulation and trouble can only be imagined by those who have the privilege of knowing her, and the scene that took place between herself and the offending chamberlain was not merely dramatical, but tragical in its fierce intensity.
It was very shortly after this that the old emperor died. If Prince Bismarck entertained any further hopes of preventing the accession of Crown Prince Frederick to the throne, they were frustrated by Prince William, who declined to be a party to any such conspiracy. Indeed, in spite of all that has been said to the contrary, I am firmly convinced that William at no time took any part, either directly or indirectly, in the Bismarckian plot to oust his so sadly afflicted father from his rights to the crown. But, on the other hand, it is certain that he was suspected by his parents and relatives of being privy to the scheme, and that he was treated with still greater hostility and lack of affection by them than previously, which naturally served to embitter him more than ever before.
Emperor Frederick's reign lasted not quite one hundred days, and throughout that period a conflict may be said to have raged around the bedside of the dying man. Both he and his wife, aware how brief his tenure of the throne was destined to be, were bent on inaugurating some of those liberal reforms and popular measures which had been the dream of their entire married life, and which they wished to see put in force, as a lasting memorial of that monarch who figures in German history to-day as "Frederick the Noble."
Prince Bismarck, and all the leading statesmen of Prussia, it must be admitted, ranged themselves against the imperial couple in the matter. They expressed profound pity for the dying emperor, but they denounced the empress with the utmost virulence for taking advantage, as they described it, of his condition to endow Germany with some of the most pernicious features of English political life, which, while all very well for Britons, were destined to prove disastrous in the extreme if applied to Prussia. The fiercer the opposition, the more resolute did both the emperor and empress become in their determination to attain their aim, before death once more rendered the throne vacant; and the position of William, who was now crown prince, became even more difficult than it had hitherto been. His political sympathies were, it is impossible to deny, with Prince Bismarck and his followers, and he could not with his training and with the influences by which he had been surrounded, ever since he had left school, but disapprove of the measures which his father and mother wished to adopt. This very naturally added to their distrust of him, and while they lavished every token of affection upon their other children, he was treated by them more as a political adversary and a personal foe than as a friend or a son.
At length the end came. The pitiful sufferings of "Unser Fritz," uncomplainingly and patiently borne, were brought to a close by a death which in his case must have been a longed-for release; and within an hour afterwards, William, the present emperor, had startled his subjects and the entire civilized world, by taking an extraordinary step, which for a long time afterwards served as a theme for the denunciation of unfilial character hurled against him both in Germany and abroad; this step being the giving of an order to the effect that the guards placed at all the entrances of the Palace of Potsdam, in which his father had breathed his last, should be doubled, that a cordon of troops should be drawn around the park walls, and that no one should be allowed to enter or leave the palace without his permission.
While there is every reason to believe that this measure was suggested to him by Prince Bismarck, yet it must be admitted that it was to a certain extent justified by the circumstances. Emperor Frederick was known to have kept a most exhaustive diary throughout his entire married life, dealing day by day with all the political questions of the hour, the secrets of the Prussian State, the incidents of court life, etc., just as they occurred. From a German point of view it was a matter of the most extreme importance that this collection of diaries should not be permitted to leave Prussia, or to reach a foreign country, for it would practically have meant the placing at the mercy of a foreign land all the state secrets of Prussia during the previous thirty years. Emperor William and Prince Bismarck had both been led to believe that Empress Frederick had made arrangements to have these books conveyed to England by Sir Morel MacKenzie, whom they both disliked as much as they distrusted him. The idea that these volumes should be in the care of MacKenzie, even during the twenty-four hours journey separating Berlin from London, was to them quite intolerable.
Before many hours had elapsed, however, the measures were relaxed. It was discovered that the diaries were no longer in the palace, and that they had been taken over to England either knowingly or unknowingly by Queen Victoria on the occasion of her visit to Potsdam, when she came to bid adieu to her dying son-in-law.
Let me add that some time later, after a considerable amount of explanation and negotiation, Queen Victoria, of her own accord, returned the cases containing Emperor Frederick's diaries to her grandson at Berlin, with the seals unbroken, taking the very sensible ground that inasmuch as there were many Prussian state secrets therein contained, their place was in the archives of the House of Hohenzollern, rather than in England.
Emperor William has never forgotten the course adopted by his grandmother in the matter, and by his manner towards her has repeatedly shown since then that he feels how greatly he can rely upon having his actions appreciated with perfect impartiality and all absence of prejudice at Windsor.
Empress Frederick was naturally deeply offended by the precautionary measures adopted by the emperor on his father's death, and saw therein a new and most insulting indication of his unfilial conduct towards herself. Nor were the relations between the mother and the son improved, but on the contrary rather aggravated by the presence of the Prince of Wales at Berlin. The latter remained in the Prussian capital for a number of weeks after the funeral of Emperor Frederick, and the English newspapers, which had been most outspoken in their criticisms of the young emperor's attitude towards his parents, did not hesitate to declare openly that if the prince was continuing his stay in Berlin, it was for the purpose of championing the interests of his favorite sister, and of protecting her from the insults of her son, and of the latter's mentor and chief counsellor, Prince Bismarck.
There were all sorts of troublesome questions cropping up between the mother and the son during the first few months of her widowhood, many of which were inevitable; for certain courses of policy upon which Emperor Frederick had embarked were disapproved by the young sovereign's constitutional advisers. Then, too, it would appear that Frederick III. had taken advantage of his brief tenure of power to unduly favor his wife and his younger children at the expense of the Hohenzollern family property in a manner that was not in consonance with the traditions of the reigning house. It was also whispered that the late emperor had lent a very large sum of money to his brother-in-law, the Prince of Wales, and it was further asserted that the then minister of the imperial household had preferred resigning his post to countenancing such a use of the money belonging to the Hohenzollern family. There was the question, moreover, of the distribution of the palaces. While William was perfectly ready to permit his mother to keep her residence at Berlin, he felt that he was entitled, as emperor and chief of the family, to the new palace of Potsdam, the finest of the lot, and the only one roomy enough for the abode of a reigning sovereign. It was, therefore, necessary that he should have possession thereof. His mother, on the other hand, took the ground that inasmuch as it had been her principal home throughout her married life, that nearly all her children had been born there, and that it was in many respects a creation of her husband's, she ought to be allowed to retain it. Of course the emperor had his way, and this but served to increase the bitterness, particularly when he issued an order to the effect that its old name of "Neues Palais" should be restored in the place of "Friedrichskron," which had been given to it by the widowed empress during her husband's brief reign.
Of course all these differences of opinion between the mother and the son were carefully intensified by Prince Bismarck, and aggravated by the continued presence of the Prince of Wales, who was regarded, probably unjustly, as largely responsible for the animosity which it was claimed was entertained and manifested by the imperial widow for her son. The newspapers took sides in the matter, and the press being very active, there is every reason to believe, in view of the wide field of German and foreign journalism over which the influences of the chancellor extended at the time, that he had a finger, not alone in the denunciation on the one hand of Empress Frederick as grasping, mercenary, and too much of an Englishwoman to be a patriotic German, but likewise in the abuse of Emperor William for unfilial conduct. Every act of his that could possibly be construed as such, was painted in the blackest of colors, especially in the English press, manifestly with the idea of conveying to the kaiser the impression that the attacks originated with his English relatives, possibly with his mother herself; and I can recall seeing at the time a story to which the London papers devoted columns, and which was made the theme of editorials, the subject of which was that the emperor had sold to a carpenter the pony-carriage and pony used by his father daring the few weeks immediately preceding his death, for his drives in the palace gardens. The story related with much detail about how the pony trap was to be seen during the week in the streets of Potsdam, laden with window-sashes, etc., while on Sunday and holidays the seat where formerly the dying emperor reclined was occupied by the "Herr Tischlermeister" and his frowsy, vulgar-looking "frau." Yet there was not a word of truth in this story. The pony-carriage used by "Unser Fritz" during the closing days of his life is preserved as a species of sacred relic in the imperial coach-house at Potsdam, while the pony leads a life of ease, idleness and equine luxury, out of regard for the fact that it had the honor of drawing the moribund monarch around the grounds of Charlottenburg and Potsdam. Inasmuch as this precious story about Emperor William's selling the pony-carriage in question first made its appearance in a London newspaper, which, as long as Bismarck remained in office, was regarded as his particular organ in the British press, being owned by a gentleman bearing a distinctly German name, there is every reason to believe that the tale in question originated with some of the journalistic myrmidons employed by the chancellor, and that its object was to embitter William against the English, against his British kinsfolk, and, above all, against his mother.
It is not without significance that the mother and the eldest son have understood one another only since the dismissal from office of Prince Bismarck. From that time the relations between the two have been of the most affectionate and cordial character. Perhaps at first there was at times a little difference of opinion, owing to the difficulty experienced by a woman of the imperious character of Empress Frederick in realizing the fact that her eldest son was no longer "her boy Willie," to be ordered about and controlled, but that he had become, not merely emancipated from her control, but her sovereign master, whose commands she is now forced to obey, and whose wishes she is obliged to consult and consider. But every year since the fall of Bismarck has had the effect of bringing the mother and the son nearer to each other.
The empress seems to have come to the conclusion that she has judged her son harshly and unjustly, prejudiced by appearances which were frequently against him; while he, on the other hand, demonstrated to Prince Bismarck that, while he was grateful to him for his services to the empire, he found difficulty in pardoning him for the advantage which he had taken of his—the emperor's—youth and inexperience to estrange him from both his father and his mother.
If I have repeated in this chapter some history that may be regarded as ancient, since it dates back to eleven and twelve years ago, it is for the purpose of relieving Emperor William of much unmerited reproach heaped upon him, as the most unfilial of royal and imperial princes in modern times. William has a warm heart, and an affectionate disposition. He shows this in the happiness of his home life, and by the tenderness of his devotion to his wife and children. If he was for a time estranged from his parents, and in particular from his mother, it was less through any fault of his, or of theirs—I repeat it—than through the intrigues of Bismarck, and of the latter's friends within and without the imperial household, who fondly imagined that they were serving the "vaterland" by keeping the parents and their son estranged from one another.
Everyone, I presume, is acquainted with that old French saying, "Dis moi qui tu hantes et je te dirai qui tu es!" which may be rendered in English: "Tell me with whom you associate and I will tell you who you are!" While this adage is almost invariably true in the case of ordinary people, it would hardly be just to apply it where monarchs and princes of the blood are concerned. Given that every form of pleasure, of entertainment and of amusement is always within their reach, thanks to the loftiness of their station, their wealth, and facilitated furthermore by the anxiety of their courtiers both to please them and to retain their favor, they naturally soon become blase to such an extent that they become a prey to ennui—a thoroughly royal malady, from which few, if any, of the scions of the reigning houses of Europe are exempt. "Ennui," like "chic," is a French word difficult to translate and subject to much misinterpretation, especially in the United States, where it is practically unknown. The majority of Americans are far too busy, and are environed by too much bustle and activity to experience such a thing as ennui, and even the American leisure class, still in an embryo condition, as a rule are too new to their privileges to have that feeling. To suffer from ennui implies so deep a knowledge of life, and a corresponding satiety of its pleasures, that all the ordinary routine events of existence have no longer any power to interest the mind. Ennui is not weariness nor tediousness, as described in the dictionary; neither is it boredom, for the latter differs therefrom in its not necessarily being the outcome of a high degree of civilization, which ennui certainly is.
An untutored savage of Central Africa, or of the wilds of Australia may be bored; so are many of the ignorant houris of Oriental harems and zenanas. Nay, even an energetic business man may feel temporarily bored by enforced bodily or mental inaction, or by dreary associations; but that can scarcely be described as ennui, a feeling which in the true sense of the word means being thoroughly blase and oppressed by moral and physical satiety. You must know everything, have tried everything, have had all your personal wishes and desires satisfied, all obstacles removed from your path, and pass your way through life with the firm conviction that there remains nothing to interest or arouse your ambition in order to be a victim of ennui. The greatest sufferers from this disagreeable sensation are, as I have just remarked, the royal and imperial personages of Europe, and although the emperors of Germany and Austria have the greater portion of their time taken up by the business of the State, and the administration of the government of their respective countries, yet neither of them is exempt from ennui. Indeed, there are no princes whose features betray to such an extent unmistakable evidence of ennui, as those of the imperial house of Hapsburg, while Emperor William's choice of many of his friends is guided by the powers which they may possess to entertain him, and to deliver him in his hours of leisure from that dreaded complaint. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, and there are several of Emperor William's cronies who owe the friendship of their sovereign to kindnesses which they rendered, and devotion which they displayed to him, in the days prior to his accession to the throne. But in the majority of instances, the sometimes strange selection of friends made by the emperor is attributable to the fact that the personages to whom he accords his favor succeed in amusing and entertaining him during the time that he is not occupied with the cares of his empire.
Conspicuous among friends of this particular character, is Baron von Kiderlen-Waechter, who holds the rank of minister plenipotentiary in the diplomatic service of Germany, and who was recently, and possibly still remains, Prussian envoy to the Court of Denmark, but who is known in the imperial circle at Berlin by the nickname of "August," that being the "sobriquet" given to the clowns belonging to variety-shows and circuses in England, Austria, and France. In fact, he certainly occupies among William's immediate circle of cronies and associates the position of court jester, and the emperor makes a point of taking the baron along with him whenever he goes on his annual yachting trips along the coast of Sweden and Norway. The latter is the life and soul of these imperial yachting parties, his witticisms, his antics, and, above all, his inimitable talent for mimicry keeping even the sailors of the Hohenzollern in continual roars of laughter. Yet he can be grave and dignified on state occasions, and when one sees him at the Court of Berlin arrayed in full uniform, his breast covered with decorations, it is difficult to realize that this imposing-looking diplomat is the principal partner of the autocrat of Germany in such juvenile games as "Hot Cockles," which is a very favorite game on board the Hohenzollern, and in which the kneeling and blindfolded victim receives a terrific spank or smack, and then has to guess, under the penalty of ridiculous forfeits, who it is that struck him!
No one would ever have dreamt of finding any fault with this intimacy between the emperor and the baron, had it not been for the fact that the latter laid himself open to charges of having taken advantage of the imperial favor won by mimicry and practical joking, to further political and personal intrigues in which he was interested. Indeed, he was repeatedly accused in the German press of being largely responsible for the manifestation of animosity between the Court of Berlin and Friedrichsrueh that characterized the last eight or nine years of the life of Prince Bismarck. The newspapers did not hesitate to assert that the baron, who had formerly been one of the confidential secretaries of the old chancellor, had deliberately fomented the irritation of the kaiser against the veteran statesman, believing that any reconciliation between the monarch and his former chancellor would entail the baron's disgrace. Finally, the abuse of the baron in the Berlin press became so pronounced that he was virtually obliged to challenge the editor of one of the most vituperative of the metropolitan sheets, and very gallantly lodged a bullet through the shoulder of this "knight of the quill!"
For this escapade the baron was condemned to three months' imprisonment by the courts, duelling, as has been intimated already, being forbidden by law in Germany. His incarceration in the military fortress of Ehrenbreitstein on the Rhine was absolutely unprecedented. Ambassadors and envoys have in times gone by been imprisoned by sovereigns to whose courts they were accredited, in defiance of all the laws of international right regulating the intercourse between civilized powers, but this was the first occasion of a government taking the unheard-of step of jailing one of its own envoys.
Fortunately for the baron, the King of Denmark was, before his accession to the throne, an officer of the German army, and as such was disposed to regard with the utmost leniency the offence for which his excellency was condemned to imprisonment. He realized that the baron had no alternative but to fight, his honor having been questioned by the paper whose editor he challenged. Although duelling is forbidden by the criminal law of Germany, under the penalty of imprisonment, yet, had the baron failed to fight, and taken shelter behind the law, he would not only have been compelled to resign his diplomatic office, his position at court, and his rank in the army, but he would have subjected himself to such odium as to have become to all intents and purposes a social outcast, and compelled to leave Germany.
Appreciating this, old King Christian raised no objections to the appointment of a charge d'affaires, to represent the diplomatic interests of Germany at his court, during the term of imprisonment served by the minister plenipotentiary, and from the moment when the latter completed his term, and was liberated from prison, he resumed his duties as envoy at the Court of Copenhagen, just as if nothing had happened.
Another intimate friend of the kaiser, who possesses much the same talents de societe as Baron Kiderlen-Waechter, and whose position in the high favor of the kaiser has been a subject of much unfavorable comment, and even of open abuse in Berlin, is Baron Holstein, popularly known as the "Austern-Freund" or "Oyster-Friend," owing to his altogether phenomenal capacity for the absorption of bivalves, and his strongly developed fondness for good cheer! Baron Holstein, like Baron Kiderlen-Waechter, was formerly one of the confidential secretaries of Prince Bismarck, and a daily guest at his table, and was treated as a member of the old chancellor's family for years, yet he became one of the most relentless foes of the Bismarck family as soon as the prince was dismissed from office.
Prince Bismarck was not the sort of man to submit in silence to the enmity of his former secretary, and a few years after his retirement to Friedrichsrueh he took occasion, during the course of a public discussion of the circumstances which led to the disgrace and ruin of Count Harry Arnim, for a long time German ambassador at Paris, to disclose for the first time in speech, and in print, the part which Baron Holstein had played in the affair. According to the prince, Baron Holstein, while first secretary of the German embassy at Paris, and though treated by Count Arnim as an inmate of his home, living in fact under his roof, and eating at his table, was in the habit throughout an entire year of sending secret reports to Berlin against the chief under whom he was serving—reports which subsequently furnished the basis of the charges upon which Count Arnim was tried, convicted and disgraced.
It is true that some mention was made in the Parisian and English press at the time of the Arnim trial of the questionable role which Baron Holstein had played in the affair, and there were a number of Parisian papers that did not hesitate to hold up the baron to, at any rate, French obloquy, as a man guilty of the base betrayal of the kindest and most indulgent of chiefs. The only person on that occasion who had the courage to take up the baron's defence was M. de Blowitz, French correspondent of the London Times, of which he is described on the banks of the Seine, as the "ambassador," and who possesses an immense amount of influence with the Parisian press. Blowitz's championship of the baron's cause was sincerely appreciated by the latter. He called upon the correspondent, thanked him effusively, and declared that it was his intervention alone that had made his stay at Paris possible.
During the conversation that followed, Blowitz opened his heart to his visitor, telling him that his own position as the Paris correspondent of the Times was in danger owing to some changes in the administration of the London office. A fortnight later, Blowitz received from the managing editor of the Times in London a letter sixteen pages long, addressed to Printing-House Square, and entirely written and signed by Baron Holstein. It denounced Blowitz as being one of the creatures of the late Duc Decazes, as wilfully ignoring and concealing for interested purposes of his own, a number of matters that should have found their way into the columns of the Times, and urging the managers of the latter to send to Paris some fitter and more impartial person, who would be better able to keep the great English newspaper au courant of what was going on below as well as above the surface, than so unscrupulous a person as M. de Blowitz. This letter was dated exactly three days after the latter's visit of gratitude to the correspondent, and the incident may be regarded as being in perfect harmony with the behavior of this favorite of the kaiser to both Count Harry Arnim and subsequently to Prince Bismarck.
The third of these cronies of the kaiser, to whom his subjects take objection on the ground that they are in the habit of using the favor shown to them by his majesty to further their own interests, and to injure those who, for one reason or another, have incurred their animosity, is Count Philip Eulenburg, who has been again and again referred to in the Berlin newspapers as "the Troubadour." He is at the present moment German ambassador at Vienna, whence his predecessor, Prince Reuss, was ousted in spite of the eminent services of a personal character which he had rendered to the emperor, in order to make way for the count. The latter's intimacy with his sovereign is largely due to his cleverness as a poet, a dramatist, and a composer, and while he has furnished the words to many of the musical compositions of the kaiser, William has, in turn, had much of his own poetry set to music by the count.
Philip Eulenburg has been clever enough to foster William's very pardonable weakness as to his gifts as a musician and a poet, and being a man of the most charming manners, possessed of an unusual supply of tact, and extremely accomplished in many respects, he has acquired an extraordinary degree of influence over his sovereign. Indeed it may be doubted whether there is any member of the imperial entourage who stands as high in the good graces of the German ruler as does his ambassador to the Court of Vienna.
Each year the emperor makes a point of spending a week at Liebenberg, the country-seat of the count, and it has long been a matter of comment that these visits are invariably signalized by the inauguration of some political or administrative move on the part of the kaiser. It was, indeed, at Liebenberg that the emperor decided upon the dismissal from the chancellorship of General Count Caprivi, who had been unfortunate enough to incur the enmity of the Eulenburgs.
Count Philip, who possesses a fine voice, and who during the annual yachting trip of the emperor on board the Hohenzollern, is accustomed to sing duets with the monarch, and to play the latter's accompaniments, is not, as is generally supposed, the brother, but merely the cousin of Botho, Augustus, and the late Count Wend Eulenburg. His career was almost wrecked at its very outset by an incident which developed into an international question. While stationed as a young sub-lieutenant of cavalry at Bonn, he was one day inadvertently jostled in the street by a gray-haired and rather portly stranger, whom he at once addressed in the most insulting manner. Upon the stranger responding in kind, the count drew his sabre and cut the man down, inflicting upon him such a wound that he expired a short time afterwards at the hospital. There it was discovered that he was one Ott, a Frenchman, and one of the chefs of Queen Victoria, momentarily detached from his duties at Windsor Castle, in order to attend her majesty's second son, the Duke of Edinburgh,—now the reigning sovereign of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha,—during his stay on the continent. Both the queen and Prince Alfred were indignant at the outrage, which was made the subject of an acrimonious correspondence between the English, French and Prussian Governments, the result being that Count Philip was sentenced to pay heavy damages to the widow and to the orphaned children of his victim, and to undergo a year's imprisonment in a fortress.
He only joined the diplomatic profession in 1881, when he was appointed as third secretary to the German embassy at Paris, and he occupied very inferior roles in the diplomatic service of his country until the accession to the throne of his friend and patron, Emperor William, who promoted him a few weeks later, at one bound, from the post of second secretary of the legation at Munich to the rank of Prussian minister-plenipotentiary at Aldenberg, whence he was transferred a year later to Stuttgart, then, to The Hague, and then back to Munich, as chief of the legation, which post he retained until his nomination in 1892 to the German ambassadorship at Vienna, that is to say, to the blue ribbon of the diplomatic service of the kaiser.
He is generally regarded as destined in course of time to become chancellor of the empire, in spite of the human blood with which his hands are stained.
Both the court and the public object far less to the intimacy that exists between Count Augustus Eulenburg and his imperial friend, for Augustus, who is the grand master of the imperial household and the chief executive dignitary of the court, has been the closest associate of William since the latter's earliest boyhood. He was one of those officials whom Prince Bismarck forced upon the then crown prince and crown princess, in order to keep watch over their actions and to counteract their influence on their eldest son. It was he, Count Augustus, who acted as the comforter of William whenever he was subjected to reproof or to disciplinary measures by his father or mother; who invariably espoused the lad's cause, and who contributed more than anyone else to convince William that he was a victim of the most cruel and unmerited form of parental severity and persecution. He constituted himself the mentor and the guide of the prince, initiated him into all the intricacies of the imperial court, as well as into the secrets of its most prominent members. In one word, he rendered himself so indispensable to the prince, that as soon as the latter succeeded to the throne he at once appointed Count Augustus Eulenburg to the grand mastership of the court and household.
To what extent Emperor and Empress Frederick were aware of the spirit characterizing the count's relations with their eldest son, it is difficult to say, but there is no doubt that during the last two or three years of Emperor Frederick's life, the position of Augustus in the household of "Unser Fritz" was vastly improved and facilitated by the sensational quarrels of his elder brother, Count Botho Eulenburg, the celebrated statesman, with Prince Bismarck, for both Frederick and his wife, from, that time forth, ceased to look upon Augustus as a creature and a spy of the chancellor.
How great was the intimacy between William and the count, may be gathered from the fact that Augustus was the invariable and sole companion of the emperor in that species of Haroun-al-Raschid nocturnal expeditions which his majesty was wont to undertake in the slums of his capital, for the purpose of learning what his people were saying about him. At that time, his features were far less familiar to the public than they are to-day, and by giving his moustache a different twist, and his hair another turn, he experienced no difficulty in disguising himself. The adventures which he met with during the course of these nightly prowls in the company of Count Augustus are numerous enough to fill a book. Still, while they furnished plenty of amusement, excitement, and experiences not altogether unpleasant, they involved his majesty, on one or two occasions, in so much personal danger, that the count, realizing the responsibility which would rest upon his shoulders in the eyes not merely of the nation, but of the entire world, if anything untoward happened to the monarch, induced him, though with difficulty, to abandon this species of pastime so dear to crowned heads.
Let me add that it was on the occasion of one of these expeditions that the emperor met with a very severe injury to his hand. There is an old established usage in Berlin, on New Year's eve, which prescribed that any man appearing in the street in a high or stiff hat should be incontinently bonneted, that is to say, have his hat crushed down over his eyes and ears by a blow of the fist. Emperor William, who is somewhat fond of rough horse-play, used to delight in this form of amusement, and on the first New Year's eve after his accession to the throne, he sallied forth with Augustus Eulenburg in search of adventures. Catching sight of a portly citizen of mature years walking along under the shadows of the trees that line the magnificent avenue known as "Unter den Linden," he immediately proceeded to crush the high silk hat which the man wore by a tremendous blow from his imperial fist! He was unable, however, to refrain from a cry of pain, and his companion the count, on seeing that his sovereign's hand was drenched with blood, at once summoned the two detectives who were following discreetly in the rear, and caused them to arrest the citizen. The man on being searched at the palace police station, was found to be a merchant of high standing, who, determined to get even with the practical jokers from whose brutality he himself had suffered on previous New Year's eves, had devised a sort of thick leather hat-lining, armed with long and sharp prongs, pointed outward like the quills of a porcupine. The emperor, on smashing the hat, naturally had his hand dreadfully lacerated. The citizen was kept under arrest for twenty-four hours, during which the question was discussed as to whether he should be prosecuted and punished for inflicting personal injury upon the sovereign, or not. Finally, William himself, with that good sense which so often characterizes him, gave orders for his liberation, on the ground that he could not possibly have dreamt that he would be bonneted by his sovereign, that he was, therefore, quite innocent of any intention to inflict injury upon the person of the emperor, and that he, William, had, after all, got nothing but what he deserved for playing such a prank. Moreover, in order to show the citizen that he bore him no grudge, he sent him, by way of consolation for his arrest and the destruction of his hat, a portrait bearing the autograph signature of the kaiser, as well as the words: "In memory of Sylvester-nacht."—New Year's eve is sacred to Saint Sylvester.
Count Botho Eulenburg, the elder brother of Augustus, has repeatedly held the offices of cabinet minister and Premier of Prussia. He happened to be at the head of the Department of the Interior at the time when the attempts were made by Nobiling to assassinate old Emperor William, and ever since that time has been the sworn foe of socialism, and identified with everything that is reactionary and despotic in Prussian legislation. His influence with the emperor is very great, and there is no doubt that he has contributed in a great measure to the somewhat extravagant views which the kaiser entertains with regard to the Divine Rights of monarchs, and especially concerning their responsibility, not towards their people alone, but also towards the Almighty.
Count Botho's quarrel with Prince Bismarck, originated in the following manner. The count, in accordance with a decision reached at a cabinet meeting, spoke as Minister of the Interior in the Prussian Diet in favor of placing the communal councils under the provincial board, instead of under the central government. He had no sooner sat down than a member arose and said that he was instructed by the Prime Minister, Prince Bismarck, to disavow the view taken by the Minister of the Interior. This extraordinary action of the prince was due to the fact that he had suddenly decided upon coquetting with the Liberals, for the sake of obtaining their support upon the subject of another of his little inaugurations. Count Botho immediately sent in his resignation, and did not resume office until after the disgrace of Prince Bismarck. Previous to this quarrel, however, as I have already stated, the most intimate relations had subsisted between the Eulenburgs and the Bismarcks. Indeed, Countess Marie, only daughter of Prince Bismarck, was at one time betrothed to Wend, the youngest of the three Eulenburg brothers. Three days before the day fixed for the wedding, the young man was suddenly seized with typhus, and forty-eight hours later succumbed to this awful disease. Countess Marie, it may be added, subsequently married Count Rantzau, after having been between times engaged to Baron Eisendecker, once German envoy at Washington, and now the kaiser's adviser in yachting matters, whom she jilted in consequence of differences of religious opinion.
So much for the Eulenburgs, who may be said to constitute the most influential family at the Court of Berlin, and without a description of whom no history of the life and surroundings of Emperor William could possibly be regarded as complete.
Other cronies of the kaiser, who are less influential in a political sense, and, therefore, less obnoxious to the people, are Counts Douglas, Count Dohna, and Count Goertz. Public attention, however, has often been drawn to the friendship of the kaiser for the Dohnas by the frequency of the imperial visit with which Count Richard Dohna is honored at his superb old chateau of Schlobitten, and likewise by reason of the fact that on two occasions William almost lost his life through carriage accidents which he sustained while out driving with the count.
The Dohnas are one of the most ancient houses of the old German nobility, and Schlobitten, with its grand old park, shaded by glorious trees, has been in the possession of the family since the fourteenth century. The castle, as now arranged, is only two hundred years old, having been reconstructed on the site, and with the ruins, of an ancient monastery and dwelling. The name of Dohna is recorded in the most important pages of Prussian history. Statesmen, generals, and in particular, confidants and cronies of their successive rulers have borne that name, and there is not a king who has reigned over Prussia, and previous to that an elector who has ruled over Brandenburg, who has not stayed at the castle of Schlobitten and occupied the antiquated four-poster bed, in which the present emperor sleeps whenever he makes a visit there.
Count Richard Dohna is a great breeder of blooded horses, a magnificent whip, and the accidents which happened to the kaiser, while out driving with him, were merely due to the fact that in each case the horses were too young, and not sufficiently broken in. On one occasion, the drag was upset into a ditch not far from Schlobitten, the kaiser and the count being severely bruised and shaken up; while at another time a splendid team got beyond the control of the count, smashed harnesses and pole, and dashed helter-skelter into the little town of Proeckelwitz, where they were fortunately stopped without further mishap.
The intimacy of the kaiser with the Dohna family serves to recall the fact that there was a daughter of this house, Countess Anna Dohna, who claimed to have become the wife of the late Emperor William. She lived for a time in London, Geneva, and then in New York, and was wont to style herself Countess Dohna-Brandenburg, having added the name of Brandenburg to that of Dohna by reason of this alleged marriage.
While in New York she lived in a large house in Lexington Avenue, which she furnished handsomely, and she never seemed to be in want of money. According to her own story she met the late Emperor William in 1825, during the lifetime of his father, King Frederick-William III., when she was sixteen years of age. After several clandestine meetings, she claimed that they were married late one night at Clegnitz, in Silesia, by a young country parson. The latter did not know the prince, who gave the name of William Count Brandenburg, and his occupation as that of an officer of the Royal Guards. The marriage certificate was duly made out, and then her husband told her that it would be expedient to keep their union secret for a time. To this she reluctantly assented.
When at length, urged by her entreaties, her husband revealed their marriage to his father, King Frederick-William III., he flew into a terrible rage, forced him to sign a renunciation of the countess's hand, and she was conveyed to a small castle near Koenigsberg, in East-Prussia, where she was kept a close prisoner for years. In 1837, always according to her story, she succeeded in escaping, and crossing the Polish frontier reached Warsaw, where in the following year she was recognized at a state performance of the opera given by Czar Nicholas, in honor of the King of Prussia and Prince William, who were visiting the Russian Court.
She was arrested at the theatre, and on the following morning conveyed to Eastern Russia, where she was kept under strict surveillance until the death of Frederick-William III., in 1840, led to her release. She was then permitted to return to Prussia, and the new king, Frederick-William IV., offered to compromise the matter with her. This she refused to do. Her father's death placed her in possession of a large fortune, and she spent several years in travelling.
In 1848 she intended to appeal to the Prussian National Assembly for justice, but the police got wind of it, and she was interned in her chateau in Silesia. On William becoming King of Prussia, she was given the alternative of leaving the country or of becoming an inmate of a lunatic asylum, so she transferred her abode to Paris, and after living for awhile in London and Geneva, came to New York in 1876.