At Berlin and at Potsdam the kaiser keeps his court chaplains under very strict discipline, and they expose themselves to a stern reprimand if they presume to extend their pulpit orations beyond the term of ten or, at the most, fifteen minutes. Emperor William very justly takes the ground that if they are sufficiently concise in their remarks, they can say all that they have to say within that space of time, and if their discourse is prolonged beyond the stipulated period it loses its force and its power of retaining the interest and the attention of the congregation.
The emperor does not hesitate to call the divines to account when they enunciate doctrines of which he does not approve, and whereas in former reigns a court chaplaincy was regarded in the light of an office for life, it is now considered as a merely temporary appointment, so frequent are the dismissals.
At the Dome at Berlin, and at the Garrison Church at Potsdam, the emperor follows the service with an air of mingled devotion and authority that is rather amusing. While most devout and fervent in his prayers, and joining in the hymns in such a manner that his ringing baritone voice is easily discernible above the rest, his eyes wander in a stern fashion around the church, quick to note any member of the congregation who is not behaving with proper decorum and reverence. He conveys the impression that he considers it to be his duty to keep the congregation in proper order, and if he finds that either he, or the imperial party is being stared at with any degree of persistency or curiosity, he at once sends off one of his officers to sharply warn the offenders. Indeed, he has more than once caused it to be made known through official communications to the press that he thoroughly disapproves of being stared at when attending church, and engaged in his devotions.
Like William, Francis-Joseph has made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, but it was without any fuss or pomp. In fact, there are few persons, save those connected with the Court of Austria, who are aware that Austria's ruler ever visited the Holy Land. He went there in 1869, traveling in the strictest incognito, and attended only by two of his gentlemen-in-waiting and two servants, after the inauguration of the Suez Canal, at which he had been present. There was no solemn entry on horseback into the city that witnessed the foundation of Christianity, and while he prayed at the Holy Places like Emperor William, he did so quietly and unobtrusively, without attracting any attention. His pilgrimage was characterized by the same unaffected humility that distinguishes his religion from that of his brother monarch at Berlin.
William's faith still retains the enthusiasm and, if I may use the word, the exuberance of youth, whereas that of Francis-Joseph, though even more fervent, is chastened, humbled and mellowed by the experience of many a cruel sorrow and many a hard blow. To some of these he would have succumbed had it not been for his religious belief. There have been at least three different occasions during his fifty years' reign when he would have abandoned his throne, and abdicated his crown had it not been pointed out to him by his spiritual adviser that it was his duty—his religious duty—to remain at his post, and to bear with bravery the trials with which he was overwhelmed.
The first of these occasions was at the close of the disastrous wars of 1866, when the march of the Prussians on Vienna was only stayed within a few hours' distance of the capital by the ignominious peace of Nicolsburg. The second time was when he lost his only son by the frightful tragedy of Mayerling, and he saw his boy's body refused even Christian rites of burial by the church, until he had been able to convince the kindly old pontiff at Rome that the poor lad's mind was unbalanced at the time that he took his life. The third occasion was when his lovely consort, to whom, in spite of all that is said to the contrary, he was so deeply devoted, was taken from him by the hand of an assassin in a foreign land, and under peculiarly heartrending circumstances.
Moreover, he saw the body of his brother Maximilian brought home from the Mexican plain of Queretaro, where he had been shot down by a file of soldiers as if a vulgar criminal; he stood by the deathbed of a favorite niece, burnt to death before his eyes in the palace of Schoenbrunn, when her dress had caught fire from a lighted cigarette which she was endeavoring to conceal from him and from her father; he followed to the grave another favorite of his, a nephew, accidentally killed while out shooting. Indeed, there is no end to the tragedies which have gone to sadden the life of this now septuagenarian monarch, and while on ordinary occasions, especially when engaged in military inspections or in great court functions, he appears to retain the elasticity, vigor and temperament of a man still in his prime, yet when in church or chapel, attending divine service, and so wrapped up in his devotions that he becomes oblivious to his surroundings, the restraint which he puts upon his feelings at other times disappears, and one is able to realize the extent of his sufferings, and how supreme is the consolation that he finds in his religion.
Vienna is the only capital in the world where one can see a full-fledged monarch kneeling bareheaded in the streets, and offering up prayers in the most fervent manner, the spectacle exciting not ridicule, but sentiments of profound reverence and sympathy on the part of the people—Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans from Herzegovina and Bosnia—who throng the thoroughfares of the beautiful city on the Danube. The sight is witnessed each year, on the occasion of the Corpus Christi procession. This glorious procession starts out from the Cathedral of St. Stephen at an early hour in the morning, and the entire route through the various streets which it traverses Is kid with boards, over which grass is strewn. At various points along the way there are altars, or so-called reposoirs, where the Sacred Host is placed for a few moments, the emperor and the great personages with him kneeling piously on the ground and offering up prayers.
The procession is opened by choristers, then come priests and monks with hands crossed upon their breasts, next the rectors of the various metropolitan parishes, displaying their distinctive banners like the knights of old. The municipal authorities, the officers of the imperial household, the Knights Grand Cross of the various orders, the cabinet ministers, and the principal dignitaries of the army, of the navy, and of the crown. Finally, comes a magnificent canopy borne by generals, under which walks the tall and stately Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, carrying the Host, to which the troops lining the route bend the knee while presenting arms, the civilians behind them baring their heads, while the women cross themselves. Immediately behind the Host, bareheaded and alone, with a lighted candle in his hand, and wearing the full uniform of an Austrian field marshal,—a snow-white cloth tunic with scarlet and gold facings,—strides the aged emperor, still erect as a dart, with all the slender, shapely elegance of a man of thirty, in spite of his three-score years and ten. He is followed by the archdukes, conspicuous among them the gigantic Archduke Eugene, grand master of the Teutonic Order, in the semi-ecclesiastical habits of his rank, while the procession is brought to a close by escorts of the superbly arrayed Archer and Hungarian Body Guards.
The spectacle is impressive, and the silence along the route, save for the chanting of the choristers, and the recitation of prayers in an undertone by the clergy, adds to the solemnity of the occasion. In days gone by, the murdered empress used to figure in the procession in full court dress and followed by her ladies, but now women take no part therein.
Another remarkable religious ceremony in which the emperor plays the leading part, and which is only to be witnessed nowadays at the Court of Vienna, is the washing of the feet of twelve aged men on the Thursday of Holy Week, in memory of the washing of the feet of the twelve apostles on the first Holy Thursday by the Founder of Christianity. The ceremony takes place at the imperial palace, in the presence of the entire court. The twelve old men, each carefully dressed for the occasion, who have been brought from their homes to the palace in imperial carriages, are seated in a row, and, after a brief religious service celebrated by the cardinal archbishop, the emperor kneels in front of each, and washes his feet in a golden basin filled with rose water, the ewer being carried by the heir to the throne, while the prelate who holds the office of court chaplain hands to his majesty the gold-embroidered towel with which the feet are dried after having been washed. When the emperor has reached the end of the line there are more prayers, and the blessing; then a banquet is served to the old men, at which they are waited on in person by the emperor, the various dishes being handed to him by the archdukes and princes of the blood. The old people are finally sent home, each with a purse containing gold pieces, and a large hamper, wherein are placed several bottles of fine wine and the remains of the various dishes and gastronomical masterpieces which have figured on the table during the banquet. As a rule, the old men dispose of these for considerable sums of money to wealthy Viennese, who are only too delighted to purchase them, and thus to be able to boast of having partaken of the emperor's hospitality!
Brought up by parents who axe renowned for their religious bigotry, in the absolutist school of the great Prince Metternich, Emperor Francis-Joseph has experienced the utmost difficulty in reconciling his religions belief with his obligations as a constitutional monarch, for he has been repeatedly obliged to give his sanction as a sovereign to reforms enacted by the legislature of Austria, and particularly of Hungary, which were strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, fiercely denounced by the clergy, and condemned by the Vatican. That he should in matters such as these have sacrificed his religious prejudices and conscientious scruples to what he conceived to be his duty as a constitutional monarch, speaks volumes for his strength of character, and for his uprightness as a ruler. There is only one thing that he has declined to do, in spite of all the pressure brought to bear upon him by his ministers and by his allies: he has absolutely declined to visit Rome so long as the Pope remains deprived of his temporal sovereignty. Ordinarily the most chivalrous and courteous of monarchs, and extremely punctilious in the fulfilment of all the obligations imposed by etiquette, he has up to the present moment refrained from returning the visit paid to his court at Vienna by King Humbert and Queen Marguerite nearly twenty years ago. Leo XIII., like his predecessor, has intimated that he would regard any visit paid to the King of Italy in the former Papal Palace of the Quirinal at Rome, by a Catholic sovereign, as a cruel affront to the occupant of the chair of St. Peter. The only Catholic ruler who has visited King Humbert at the Quirinal, in spite of this papal protest, is Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria, who was at the time subject to the ban of the church, in consequence of the conversion of his little son from Catholicism to the Greek orthodox rite, in order to insure his own (Ferdinand's) recognition by Russia as ruler of Bulgaria. But Francis-Joseph has never consented to set his foot in Rome, although it has been pointed out to him that the existence of the triple alliance was imperilled by this slight placed upon King Humbert and Queen Marguerite. He did not hesitate to declare that he would rather forego the alliance than affront the Pope by visiting Rome under the present circumstances.
One little scene, in conclusion, which I witnessed at Vienna, has always remained impressed upon my mind, illustrating as it does the democracy of the Catholic Church, if I may use that expression, and demonstrating the good old emperor's belief,—so different from that of Emperor William,—that in the eyes of the Almighty all men are equal.
It transpired at the funeral of Cardinal Gangelbauer, the popular and universally venerated Archbishop of Vienna. The obsequies took place in the ancient Cathedral of St. Stephen. Military and ecclesiastical pomp were combined with the magnificent ceremonial of the Austrian court for the purpose of rendering the last honors to the dead prelate. The entire metropolitan garrison was under arms, and lined the streets through which the funeral procession passed. The bells of all the churches in the metropolis were tolling throughout the ceremony, and added to the solemnity of the occasion. The stately Papal Nuncio performed the funeral service in the most impressive manner, and when he stood on the step of the high altar, and raised his hands aloft to pronounce the absolution, the whole of the vast assemblage bowed down, the wintry sunlight streaming through the rich stained glass windows, falling alike upon the reverently bent head of the monarch, and those of the peasant mourners who stood by his side at the head of the bier. For the dead cardinal was the son of an old farmer, and his brothers, his sisters, and his nephews, all of them plain, humble peasants of Upper Austria, were kneeling there in their peasant garb with the emperor in their midst, and surrounded by the glittering uniforms of the archdukes, the princes, the generals, cabinet ministers and ambassadors assembled around the coffin. There was no undue exaltation or timidity on the part of the peasants, no undue condescension or contempt on the part either of emperor or dignitaries for the lowly rank of their fellow mourners. All seemed thoroughly to realize that they were equal in the face of death, and in the presence of their Creator.
It is only in a metaphorical sense that William can be described as an Anointed of the Lord. For whereas Francis-Joseph was both anointed and crowned as King of Hungary in 1867, Emperor William has never been the object of either of these ceremonies. The fact of the matter is that there is a good deal of difference of opinion concerning the dignity of a German emperor; for while William claims that it is identical with the status of the emperors of Austria and Russia, the non-Prussian states of Germany insist that it is merely titular, inasmuch as he has no control or jurisdiction in the various federal states which constitute the empire, such as Bavaria, Saxony and Wuertemberg, each of which has an independent king in nowise subject, but merely allied to the Prussian monarch.
It is only in time of war, and for the sake of successful co-operation that the supreme command of the united German military forces is by special agreement vested in the hands of the German emperor—a tribute to the superiority and pre-eminence of the Prussian military reorganizations. It is true that Prussia has since then, by degrees, endeavored to encroach upon the independence of the federal states. But this is strongly resented, to-day more than ever, and William is constantly being reminded by the non-Prussian press, by the non-Prussian governments, and even by the non-Prussian reigning dynasties that they are not vassals, but allies of Prussia.
The German emperor has no crown as such, nor any civil list, and with the solitary exception of his eldest son, all the members of his family figure merely as royal Prussian, not imperial German princes. Thus, for instance, Prince Henry, the brother of the emperor, is addressed not as imperial highness, but only as royal highness.
Had William attempted to have himself crowned as German emperor, it would merely have had the effect of attracting public attention to the difference existing between his own status as emperor and that of his fellow-sovereigns of Austria and Russia, besides which it would have raised all sorts of troublesome questions with the non-Prussian courts, and intensified their sensibilities and prejudices. If, on the other hand, he had caused himself to be crowned king of Prussia in the ancient city of Koenigsberg, where all Prussian kings have been crowned, the ceremony would have had the effect of impressing upon the world at large the fact that the only real crown to which William can lay claim, and which he is entitled to wear, is the crown of the kings of Prussia.
That is why he has never been either crowned or anointed, differing in this respect from Francis-Joseph, Emperor Nicholas and Queen Victoria, all of whom have experienced both ceremonies, which by the masses of Europe, especially among the uneducated and ignorant, are considered indispensable to endow the majesty of the sovereign with a sacred character. The Hungarians did not consider Francis-Joseph as entitled to their allegiance and loyalty until he had been crowned at Pesth with the crown of St. Stephen, and anointed with the sacred oil, and there is no doubt that the Bohemians would be transformed from the most turbulent, malcontent, and troublesome of his subjects into his most devoted lieges, were he to comply with their demands, and have himself anointed and crowned as King of Bohemia, with the crown of Saint Wenceslaus.
Nor was Emperor Nicholas of Russia considered a full-fledged Czar of Russia, nor his consort a czarina, until he had been anointed and crowned at Moscow, nearly two years after his accession to the throne. In fact, until the time of his coronation, his mother, the dowager empress, enjoyed precedence of his wife on all official occasions, on the ground that she was the widow of a crowned czar, and had herself been solemnly crowned as the consort of Alexander III., by her imperial husband, whereas her daughter-in-law, the younger empress, had enjoyed no such advantage up to that time.
Only those who know William well can realize how deeply he feels this difference which exists between himself and the rulers of more ancient dynasties, or how glad he would be to find some means of being crowned and anointed, not as a mere titular German emperor, but as Emperor of Germany. It is difficult to see how this ambition of his could be fulfilled so long as the Austrian empire remains in existence. The dignity of Emperor of Germany belonged for centuries to the house of Hapsburg, in relation to the head of which the chief of the Hohenzollern family ranked merely as a cup-bearer, being compelled to stand behind the chair of the Hapsburg monarch at all state banquets, and to keep his cup supplied with wine. The whole of the ancient insignia of the former Emperors of Germany, including the sceptre, the orb, and the sword of state, are in the possession of Emperor Francis-Joseph at Vienna, and are comprised in the imperial Austrian regalia. Indeed, at the time when King William of Prussia was proclaimed German Emperor at the palace of Versailles, in 1871, the Emperor of Austria wrote to the then widowed Queen Marie of Bavaria, that he protested, "from the very bottom of his heart, against the dignity and crown of his father being vested in persons without a shadow of right thereto, and that he had placed his rights in the hands of Providence." Although he entertains the friendliest sentiments towards Emperor William, there is no reason to believe that either he or the members of his house have modified their resentment in connection with this quasi-usurpation of the dignity of Emperor of Germany by the Prussian family of Hohenzollern.
There is no more restless man in all Europe than the kaiser. It is related of him at the Court of Berlin that when on one occasion he inquired of his brother, Prince Henry, if he could suggest to him anything new wherewith to startle both his own subjects and the world in general, the sailor prince, with a merry laugh, proposed that his majesty should remain perfectly quiet, without saying or doing anything, for an entire week! That, he assured his imperial brother, would amaze and dumbfound the entire universe more than anything else that could possibly be conceived.
While this lack of repose on the part of William is the source of a good deal of fun both at home and abroad, there is no doubt that it has had the effect of strengthening the monarchial system in Prussia to a far greater degree than in any previous reign. It is not that the kaiser is more popular than his predecessors on the throne. On the contrary, it may be doubted whether he holds the same place in the affections of the German people as did his father and grandfather. But while it is possible to imagine a Prussia without either of them, it is difficult to picture to oneself a Germany without William! It seems as if he were indispensable to the existence of the nation, and that if anything untoward were to happen to him, everything in Germany would suddenly stop working, precisely as if the mainspring of a watch were to break. He conveys the impression of being the source from which proceeds every action, every phase of activity and every enterprise, no matter what its character. To such an extent is this the case, that practically nothing seems to be done throughout the length and breadth of his dominions without his influence in the matter being both felt and apparent. There is nothing so trivial that it does not interest him. He will turn from the greatest and most important matters of state to the most petty question concerning court etiquette or domestic mismanagement, and will not hesitate to interrupt an interview with the chancellor of the empire, or with some foreign ambassador, to spank one of his youngsters if he happens to have been misbehaving himself!
He keeps absolute personal control over the army, the navy, the state administration, and his court, and yet finds time to supervise his children's lessons and amusements. He attends even to the pulling out of the milk teeth of his little ones and permits no one else to do it, as the following little anecdote, concerning Prince Oscar, his fifth son, will illustrate.
The boys had, and I believe still have, an English governess, who is very strict and independent with them, and who just on that account, probably, is highly esteemed and liked by her young pupils, as well as by their parents. On the occasion of her last anniversary, the empress with her usual kindness prepared a pretty birthday table for her, decked out with all kinds of presents from the imperial couple, and from each of the children. Prince Oscar's gift, which he had carefully done up himself in ribbons and tinted paper, and inscribed with his name, turned out to be a small and empty cardboard box. On being taken to task by his mother as to what he meant by this, he informed her that the box was destined to hold the first tooth, which he was about to lose, and which his father, the emperor, was to pull for him with a string that very afternoon, at the conclusion of a "Kronrath," or council of the crown, at which his majesty was to preside. The little prince regarding that tooth as the greatest treasure at his disposal, was convinced that he could bestow upon his governess no more acceptable gift. She now wears it in a gold bangle presented to her by the empress.
Among other domestic affairs which have occupied the kaiser's attention, has been the tendency of his boys to dyspepsia and digestive troubles, owing to their habit of eating too rapidly, a fault which they have certainly inherited from their father, for he has subjected them to the same process that was adopted in his case when a child, to make him eat slowly; to wit, whenever apples or pears are given to the boys they are not permitted to get them whole, and to munch them, like any ordinary boy, but only to receive them cut into quarters, each bit being wrapped in a number of pieces of tissue paper, the unfolding of which requires time, thus preventing the young princes from eating too fast! The kaiser often alludes to the fact that he was subjected to the same formalities and will add:
"You see nothing was made easy for me in my youth. Even the matter of eating an apple was rendered as difficult for me as possible!"
The kaiser is followed wherever he goes by an extremely clever stenographer, Dr. Weiss, who was formerly official shorthand writer to the imperial parliament. He now forms part of the emperor's household, and accompanies his majesty on all his numerous travels. It is the doctor's duty to place on record and preserve all the pearls that drop from the imperial lips, or perhaps, to put it more correctly, to give the emperor and his advisers an opportunity of editing and revising his public utterances before they find their way into print. Dr. Weiss has several assistants who help him in the transcription of his shorthand notes, and none of the emperor's public speeches or casual remarks find their way into print nowadays except through Dr. Weiss. Thanks to the tact of this precious secretary, there exists, very often, a considerable diversity between what the emperor says, and what he is represented as having said, and it is in consequence of this wise provision that the imperial speeches appear to have become so much more discreet, and at the same time less sensational, than was the case during the early part of his reign.
Quick-tempered, passionate, generous-hearted, and extremely impulsive, the emperor, often speaking on the spur of the moment, frequently said more than he intended to say, and thus laid himself open to both domestic and foreign criticism and abuse. He has not yet outgrown this fault, although he has become much more cautious than formerly, and moreover, with Dr. Weiss at his elbow, and with the care that is observed by the authorities to let none of the imperial utterances reach the public in print, save through Dr. Weiss, after being duly edited by him, most of the former perils have been averted. The emperor is very particular, indeed, about having Dr. Weiss by his side, and frequently at public functions himself directs the doctor where to stand and where to sit, so that he may not lose a word of what his imperial master says.
Like the aged pontiff at Rome, William manifests a great predilection for the telephone. There are telephonic instruments in his library, in his workroom, and even in his bed-chamber, and quite a considerable portion of the day is spent talking over the wires to his ministers, government officials, relatives, courtiers or mere friends. He seems to find the same pleasure in calling up the various government departments that he does in alarming the various garrisons at night time, being evidently under the impression that by so doing he keeps the officials strictly attentive to their duties, and convinced that if not the eye, at any rate the ear of the emperor is on the qui vive! Nor are the government offices safe from being rung up by his majesty over the wires even at night time. For the past two or three years he has insisted that at the ministry of foreign affairs, at the ministry of the interior, and at the war and naval departments, at least one of the divisional chiefs and half a dozen clerks should be kept on duty all night long, in order to attend to any business or to communicate to him without delay anything that they may regard as needing his immediate attention.
Berlin is the only capital where the principal government offices are thus kept open for official business all night long, and the circumstance serves to furnish another illustration of the extraordinary activity, energy, and impatience of delay that distinguish the emperor, who wants everything done right away, without a moment's waiting!
Emperor William gives the telephone companies at Berlin and at Potsdam far more trouble than any other of their subscribers, for when he telephones to any of the government departments, or to dignitaries or officials of high rank, the operators at the central office are under the strictest orders to abstain from listening to the conversation, and are forced to rise from their seats and remove to a distance from the wires. Anyone caught disobeying in this particular is subject not only to dismissal, but to serious unpleasantness on the part of the police.
When the emperor rings up anybody, he does not announce his identity, taking it for granted that the tones of his voice are sufficiently well known to reveal it. It has been noted, moreover, that he commences all his conversations over the wire with the pronoun "I," while the verb "command," either in the past or in the present tense, almost invariably follows. This is quite sufficient to show who is talking.
William is the first sovereign of his line to accept the hospitality of his subjects. Prior to his advent to the throne, such a thing as the monarch attending any private entertainment or dinner given by one of his lieges was altogether unknown. Neither King Frederick-William III., King Frederick-William IV., nor old Emperor William, whose reigns extended over nearly ninety years of the nineteenth century, ever once honored any member of the nobility, no matter how high in rank, with their presence for a single evening or night, except during the course of the annual manoeuvres, when the monarch, as commander-in-chief of the army, was quartered in some chateau, much in the same manner as the officers of minor rank and the soldiers. Emperor William, however, following the example of his British relatives, and greatly to the dismay of all the old-fashioned authorities on the etiquette of the Court of Berlin, has adopted the practice of inviting himself out to dinner in town, and to shooting-parties in the country, in a manner that is absolutely startling, even to his English relatives; for whereas the latter never dine out anywhere, unless the list of guests invited to meet them is previously submitted to them for consideration and revision, in order to avoid being brought into contact with people that are not congenial, the kaiser, on the other hand, when he hears that a dinner is about to be given by one of his friends or followers, frequently invites himself either at the last moment, an hour or two before the time fixed for the meal, or else arrives unannounced and uninvited, knowing full well that he will always be welcome, since his coming can only be regarded as a particular mark of imperial regard and favor toward the giver of the entertainment.
Thus, while Count Shuvaloff was still Russian ambassador at Berlin, the emperor was in the habit of dropping in unannounced about luncheon time, and of sitting down with the count and countess, the latter being as often as not in the negligee of a mere tea-gown, and more than once when he had sat with them longer than he intended, and found that there was no time left to return to the palace before proceeding to the railroad station to take his departure for Potsdam or some other place, he would ask leave of the count to use his telephone, ring up the empress, and not only bid her adieu, but also dispatch her a kiss over the wires, in the most charmingly domestic fashion.
William prides himself in no small degree on his descent through Queen Victoria in an unbroken line from the Biblical King David, and claims that he, therefore, belongs to the same family as the founder of Christianity. Hanging in a conspicuous position in his workroom in the "Neues-Palais" at Potsdam, is a copy of the royal family tree, showing the name of King David engrossed at the root of it, with that of Emperor William at the top. According to this tree, the reigning house of England is descended from King David through the eldest daughter of Zedekiah, who, with her sister, fled to Ireland in charge of the prophet Jeremiah,—then an old man,—to be married to Heremon, the king of Ulster of the period.
Curiously enough, a Mr. Glover, a clergyman of the Church of England, who had devoted the greater portion of his life to the study of genealogy, wrote to Queen Victoria a letter in 1869, informing her that he had discovered her to be descended in an unbroken line from King David. Her majesty sent for him to come to Windsor, and to his astonishment informed him that what he thought he had been the first to discover had been known to herself and to the prince consort for many years.
Naturally, William, with his religious ideas, has always been deeply interested in this family tree, and soon after his accession to the throne requested his grandmother to let him have a copy thereof, which was sent to him most handsomely engrossed and magnificently framed. Its contemplation has, of course, tended to increase his belief in the divine origin of his authority, since, if he does not, like the old kings of France, describe himself as "first cousin of the Almighty," he can at any rate claim to be a near kinsman of the founder of Christianity.
Notwithstanding all the emperor's manifest desire to render himself agreeable to the French, and his evident eagerness to assuage by gracious and chivalrous courtesy the bitterness resulting from the war of 1870 and the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, he has absolutely declined since he ascended the throne to permit France's national hymn, "The Marseillaise," to be played at his court, at any of the imperial and royal theatres, or by any German military or naval band. When he entertains the French ambassador at dinner or receives him in state and wishes to pay him musical honors, he causes the old "March of St. Denis," in use at Versailles prior to the great revolution, which is in every sense of the word a Bourbon hymn, to be played.
The ambassador who now represents France is the Marquis de Noailles, a scion of one of the oldest ducal houses of the French nobility, whose origin dates back to the crusades. This being the case, the envoy naturally offers no objection to the attitude of the emperor with regard to the "Marseillaise."
The kaiser, after all, acts in the matter with a far greater degree of logic and reason than any of his fellow-sovereigns, for the strains of the "Marseillaise" are familiar in the palace of the czar at St. Petersburg, at Windsor Castle, in the royal palace of Madrid, in the imperial Hofburg at Vienna, and even at the Vatican, and it is difficult to conceive anything more paradoxical than a royal band of music playing for the delectation of royal and imperial ears a national hymn, the words of which passionately call upon the people to rise up and to put to death all kings and emperors, queens and empresses, denounced as bloodthirsty tyrants.
Emperor William, even before his accession to the throne, manifested such a pronounced hostility towards the practice of gambling at cards, which is one of the curses of the corps of officers of the German army, that a very widespread impression prevails to the effect that he objects to card games in any shape or form. This is a mistake. It is the gambling and not the game itself to which the kaiser is opposed. In fact, he is very fond of a game of cards, provided the stakes are merely nominal, and I have known him to play an entire evening after a dinner at the castle of Kuckelna, which marked the close of a great pheasant "drive" organized in his honor by Prince Lichnowski. The game which the emperor played was the German one called Skat, and the point was a German penny. The emperor was the principal loser, having had poor hands dealt to him throughout the entire game, and when he arose from the table he was out of pocket exactly six cents. In thus limiting the stakes to a merely nominal amount he has followed the example of his old friend and adviser, the veteran King of Saxony, who is accustomed to play every night his game of skat after dinner, his stakes, like those of the kaiser, never exceeding one penny.
I have often wished that I could see the face of the kaiser's uncle, the Prince of Wales, were such truly regal stakes as these proposed to him. His ordinary points and stakes are any sum from five guineas to fifty, and even a hundred, and the only time that I can recollect his having played for less than a guinea was at Hughenden when on a visit to the Earl of Beaconsfield. Bernal Osborne, father of the Duchess of St. Albans, was one of the party when the prince proposed a game of whist at five-guinea points. Lord Beaconsfield was a poor man, obliged to count every penny, and Bernal Osborne caught sight of the manner in which his face fell when the proposal was made. Grasping the situation, and remembering that Lord Beaconsfield had but a few weeks previously added the imperial crown of India to the British regalia, by causing Queen Victoria to be proclaimed Empress of India, he turned to the prince and remarked:
"Would it not be more appropriate, sir, to play for crown stakes?" The prince grasped the situation at once, made a flattering reference to the old premier, and the points played for were, as suggested, five shillings instead of five guineas!
Apropos of this question of cards, William has done everything in his power to check gambling, especially among the army officers, and before succeeding to the throne, while still only Prince of Prussia, he actually went to the length of issuing a stringent order to the officers of the Hussar regiment, of which he was colonel, forbidding them to cross the threshold of the Union Club, on account of the high play for which that institution was notorious. The club deeply resented being thus placed under a ban, and sent its president, the late Duke of Ratibor, to the aged emperor to entreat him to rescind his grandson's order, on the ground that it was a reflection upon the most aristocratic and exclusive club of all Germany, besides being unjust to the officers of the regiment, some of whom were among the most brilliant and popular members of that institution. Old Emperor William, after inquiring whether Prince William had really issued such an order, shook his head rather seriously for a few minutes, and then told the duke that he would see what he could do, but that knowing his grandson well, he feared that there would be a good deal of difficulty about the matter. On the following morning, when young Prince William came to pay his daily visit to his grandfather, the latter broached the subject to him with the utmost caution, and with manifest expectation of encountering a refusal. Nor was he disappointed. For no sooner had he mentioned the matter than the young prince declared in the most positive manner that nothing would induce him to rescind his order, and that rather than give way, he would resign command of the regiment, arguing that in such a matter especially he could brook no interference. The old emperor admitted in a rather shame-faced way that his grandson was in the right, excused himself for having mentioned the matter, did all that he could to soothe what he believed to be the ruffled feelings of the prince, and on the following day told the Duke of Ratibor that he was very sorry, but that, in spite of all his efforts, he had been unable to accomplish anything with his grandson in the way desired.
Immediately after he came to the throne he requested the resignation of a number of officers, some of them bearing the greatest names in the empire, for instance, the late Prince Fuerstenberg and Prince George Radziwill, for no other reason than their fondness for cards, and in consequence of the large sums of money which they were accustomed to stake. All the princes and nobles thus forced to leave the army also quitted Berlin, in token of their disapproval of an emperor who took upon himself to interfere with what they were pleased to regard as their private amusements, and there is no doubt that for a time the brilliancy of the Berlin Court and the prosperity of trade in the Prussian capital suffered through the closing of so many princely palaces and grand houses.
It is strange that in spite of all that the emperor has done to stop gambling, the play has been higher, and the card-scandals more frequent since he became emperor than during any previous reign, with the exception of that of his grand-uncle, King Frederick-William IV. The latter's crusade against gambling culminated in the tragic death of his chief of police, and most intimate friend and crony, Baron von Hinkelday, whose spectre he was wont to see before him during his moments of temporary dementia, previous to his becoming entirely insane.
Emperor William's reign has been saddened much in the same way through the suicide of his young cousin, Prince Alfred of Coburg; the self-destruction of the young prince, who had been placed under the immediate care and guardianship of his majesty, having been due, as I have intimated, to enormous losses at the card tables of Berlin and Potsdam. In spite of all the well-meant efforts of the kaiser, and notwithstanding all his threats and disciplinary measures, gambling is more rampant to-day among the officers of the German army, and overwhelming a greater number of illustrious names with ruin and disgrace than ever before.
With all his keen sense of dignity, his shortness of temper, and his impulsiveness, the emperor is nevertheless more easily diverted from anger to good humor by means of a piece of wit than most of his fellow sovereigns. Some time ago, when old Baron Boetticher, secretary of state for the interior, was discussing with his majesty the most suitable nominations to be made in the case of a number of vacant offices, the latter became greatly irritated by the old statesman's unanswerable objections to the candidate for whom he himself desired to obtain a certain post, his anger grew quite violent, and when the baron inquired if there were no other person upon whom he would like to confer the appointment, William replied, curtly, "Oh, confer it on the devil if you like!"
"Very well," replied the old minister, with a twinkle in his eye, but in his most suave and courtly manner, and with a most unruffled demeanor: "And shall I allow the patent signed by your majesty in that case to go out in the usual form, 'To my trusted and well-beloved cousin and counsellor?'"
The kaiser saw the joke at once, burst into a loud peal of laughter, his ill-temper having vanished in a moment.
Another amusing incident in which the devil was called upon to play a part occurred on the occasion of the emperor's inspection of a number of newly-joined recruits for the first regiment of Foot Guards. In accordance with his invariable custom, he was examining-them as to what they would do in this or that emergency. Addressing one burly Pomeranian grenadier, he inquired what he would say to a man who annoyed him while on sentry duty.
"Go to the devil! Get out! your majesty," responded the man.
"All right, my friend," exclaimed the emperor, laughing, "I'll get out; but I'll be hanged if I'll go to the devil," and with that he turned to the next man.
Military inspections very often furnish the occasion for amusing and sometimes rather disconcerting episodes. I can recall as an illustration an inspection of recruits for the navy at Kiel. On that day the emperor had been holding forth, as he so often does, about the duty of sailors as well as soldiers to defend the crown against the foes beyond the frontiers of the empire, as well as against the enemies within the boundaries of the latter. He then singled out a stolid-looking recruit, and having ascertained that he was the son of a Bavarian farmer, with a strongly developed taste for the sea, he proceeded to question him with regard to the address which he had just delivered.
"And who are our foreign foes, my good fellow?" he inquired.
"The Russians and the French, your majesty," replied the recruit.
"And who are the enemies within the empire?" proceeded the emperor, expecting of course that the sailor would say that they were the socialists.
"The Prussians, your majesty," answered the Jack-tar that was to be, without apparently realizing that he had said anything wrong or impolite, and merely giving a frank utterance to the sentiment in which he, like all his countrymen in Bavaria, had been brought up.
One of the most pleasing features about Emperor William is his readiness to forgive and forget, and his inability to bear a grudge for any length of time against those who have either insulted or injured him. No more striking instance of this can be given than his treatment of General Baron von Krosick, who expected to be dismissed from the army, possibly even banished, when William ascended the throne, but who instead has been overwhelmed by his sovereign with every conceivable honor, having received not merely his promotion from the rank of brigadier-general to that of inspector-general of the army, but also investiture with the exceedingly rare distinction of the Order of the Black Eagle, which, as I have already stated before, is the Prussian equivalent to the English Order of the Garter, and the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece. The baron enjoys the well-deserved reputation of being the most phenomenally rude and rough-spoken man in the German army, and was at one time colonel in command of the hussar regiment in which William, prior to becoming emperor, received his cavalry training.
On one occasion an almost incredible scene took place. It was at a regimental mess banquet, to which William, at that time only a captain, had invited Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, then on a visit at Berlin. During the course of the dinner, the conversation turned upon some projected reforms in cavalry drill and movements, which ultimately turned out to be impracticable and were not carried into effect. William, in his impulsive, impetuous, and somewhat arrogant way, declaimed in a loud tone of voice on their superlative merits, declared himself in their favor, and added that he would do his utmost to see them carried through, as he regarded them as indispensable to raise the standard and tone of the German cavalry.
Colonel von Krosick, like the remainder of the officers, had drunk his fair share of wine. He never liked his royal subaltern, and took no pains to conceal his sentiments. The arrogance of the prince's utterances, as well as his assumption of superiority, exasperated him beyond measure, and, breaking into the conversation, he exclaimed in tones that were heard throughout the apartment:
"Aber das ist ja der bloedste Unsinn [But that is the most ridiculous nonsense];" and then proceeded to contemptuously ridicule William's arguments.
Much nettled, and quite as short-tempered as his colonel, William called out, half jokingly, half bitterly:
"That is all very well, colonel. You are my superior officer at present, and I am bound to defer to your opinion. But our positions may change one of these days, and then you will see."
Perfectly frantic and purple in the face, Colonel von Krosick thundered forth:
"When that day comes to pass, prince, I will rather break my sabre across my knee than serve under your command."
Immediately the whole place was in an uproar. The Austrian crown prince being the first to jump from his seat, and a minute later both princes had left the mess-room and the barracks. Contrary to general expectation, Prince William made no report about the matter, either to his father or grandfather, and Colonel von Krosick heard nothing more about the affair.
Of course he expected to receive his discharge when William ascended the throne. But to his amazement, he has ever since been made the object of the most signal favor, kindliness and respect: the respect that is frequently entertained by a man after he has grown up toward the head master who caned him when he was at school. Indeed, William seems never to be able to forget that he was for several years under the old martinet's direct command.
In spite of Emperor William being at the present moment over forty years of age, he still retains a great store of boyishness, and in particular, a liking for practical jokes, though never when they are at his own expense! It is not so very long ago that he had notified a number of generals and military dignitaries to meet him at the railroad station at Potsdam, at half-past eleven in the evening, in order to accompany him to manoeuvres that were to be held at a place several hours' distance on the following day. Leaving the palace on foot shortly after eleven, he entered the railroad station by a back door, and managed to slip in without being recognized.
Shielded by the darkness, he made his way unobserved to the special train, which was in waiting, got into his carriage by the door on the opposite side from the platform. For at least half an hour he amused himself by peeping at the officers on the platform, whose faces expressed surprise and vexation that his majesty, ordinarily so punctual, should be so long in coming. Suddenly he raised the blind, opened the window, and intimated by loud and prolonged laughter his presence in the carriage, and the success of his little trick. The astonishment and the dismay depicted on the visages of those on the platform can be more easily imagined than described.
Emperor William is not fond of the press, and has never taken any trouble to conceal his dislike for that branch of the literary profession. It is true that he has been subjected to a good deal of abuse at its hands, and that he has been made the object of calumny sufficient to drive a man so hypersensitive to public comment into a lunatic asylum. Many of the most intricate troubles and most annoying episodes of his life and his reign have been in a large measure due to the press, inasmuch as they were either originated or envenomed by the newspapers. William is as nervous about what the papers will say as a young debutante on the stage. Not only does he keep an anxious watch upon the utterances of all German editors, but he ordains a vigilant scrutiny of the articles printed in foreign countries from the pens of correspondents stationed in Berlin, who, if any unfriendly mention of his name is brought home to them, are ultimately driven out of the country.
One of the first acts of Emperor William's reign was the expulsion from Berlin of a number of foreign journalists, whose criticisms and comments on his attitude towards his mother, as well as on his opposition to the political views of his dead father, had been distasteful to the imperial eye. A year later he caused a new series of press laws to be presented to the Reichstag, which contained such arbitrary provisions for stamping out the remaining liberties of the press that even the Cologne Gazette denounced it as "putting a frightful weapon into the hands of the government for suppressing freedom of speech and silencing opposition." This measure did not pass, in spite of all the efforts of his majesty, and its rejection merely served to embitter the emperor still further against the press.
As far as the German press is concerned William manages to get even with it by insisting upon the strict execution of the laws concerning the crime of Lese majeste with a severity that savors of the middle ages rather than of modern times. Indeed, while there are few prominent journalists in Germany who have not undergone imprisonment since he ascended the throne, for writing of him in a manner that he considered disrespectful, there are some newspapers that are literally obliged to employ distinguished members of their staff for no other purpose than doing time in jail, as the penalty of too free utterances of the sheet with which they are connected.
Of course, William has no such means of dealing with the foreign press, which being more fearless, thanks to its immunity, has naturally subjected him to worse treatment than that of Germany. Occasionally though, he gets even with some of his foreign assailants, and the following story is told of the manner in which he dealt with a newspaper proprietor in New York, who after rendering his journal conspicuous above all others for its personal attacks on his majesty, had the audacity to write him a letter, asking him for a brief article from his, the kaiser's, pen.
The editor in question gave as a pretext for his request, the alleged existence of a widespread belief in the United States that his majesty was not quite right in his mind, and suggested that a brief message, for which a check of five thousand dollars was enclosed, might relieve the anxiety of millions of Germans in America, and convince them that the kaiser was quite sane. Some weeks later the enterprising editor received a visit from the German consul-general in New York. On being admitted to the august presence of the editor the consul-general extracted an envelope from his pocket, and from the envelope the five-thousand-dollar check, to the order of his majesty, the German emperor, and bearing the signature of the editor; the consul-general then made a bow to the latter, handed him the check, made another bow, and withdrew without having said a single word, or opened his mouth, even to greet him!
Emperor William, like his brother monarch at Vienna, is seldom seen out of uniform. Soldiers above everything else by profession, it constitutes the garb to which they have been accustomed from their boyhood, and both look ill at ease and uncomfortable in civilian clothes.
Francis-Joseph, in fact, never wears "mufti" except when abroad, and it is doubtful whether anyone in Switzerland or in the South of France would have recognized the Emperor of Austro-Hungary in the elderly gentleman who was there on several occasions, and who wore a black round hat, and a rather badly-fitting morning or sack suit of dark cloth, had it not been for the striking appearance of the beautiful and slender black-garbed empress by his side. In the same way, Emperor William, although he gets his civilian clothes from some of the leading London tailors, invariably looks by no means to advantage in them, and suggests the French description of endimanche, that is to say, like a young man in his Sunday, go-to-meeting attire.
The uniforms ordinarily affected by Francis-Joseph are the undress regimentals of an Austrian general, the blue-gray short tunic, faced with scarlet and gold, trousers with broad red stripes, and that peculiar, oval-shaped, rather high-crowned soft cap, with a small vizor, which constitutes the undress headgear of officers belonging to every rank of the Austrian army. The only token of his imperial rank is the small badge of the Order of the Golden Fleece peeping forth from between the first and second buttons of his tunic, the cross of Maria-Theresa, and the medal accorded to every officer and soldier who has served fifty years in the army attached to his breast. On state occasions at Vienna the emperor dons the full-dress uniform of an Austrian general, consisting of a white short tunic or "Atilla," faced with gold and scarlet, scarlet trousers, with broad gold stripes, and a general's three-cornered chapeau, surmounted by a big tuft of green plumes.
When Francis-Joseph is in Hungary he invariably wears either the undress or full-dress uniform of a Hungarian general, and it must be confessed that, in spite of the somewhat theatrical appearance of the gold embroidered, tight-fitting scarlet pantaloons and gold-topped high boots, the scarlet gold-laced tunic of the full dress, with the heron-plumed kalpak, or the slightly less gorgeous "shako," and blue-grey, gold-laced tunic of the undress uniform, he looks remarkably well, thanks to the extraordinary elasticity and elegance which he has retained in spite of his three-score years and ten.
Emperor William's ordinary garb is the familiar undress uniform of a Prussian general, the dark-blue long frock coat, with its double row of silver buttons, its scarlet collar, and its silver shoulder-straps. The trousers are of the same hue as the coat, with broad scarlet stripes, the latter being worn only by generals. Hanging from the collar is usually the cross of the Brandenburg Langue of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, while on the breast is fastened a sort of star, consisting of the letter "W" encircled by gold laurel leaves, which has been accorded to all the officers who formed part of the household of Old Emperor William. The cap is the ordinary flat, black vizored undress headgear of all the officers of the German army.
The uniforms which the emperor wears on state occasions are either the full-dress uniform of a Prussian general, richly-embroidered, dark-blue tunic, and epaulets, with a helmet surmounted by the white plumes of a field officer, or else the regimentals of a colonel-in-chief of the gardes-du-corps. In the latter, the emperor looks exceedingly well, especially on horseback. The helmet is surmounted by a silver eagle with outstretched wings, the white tunic is partly concealed by a silver cuirass, adorned with a gold sun, and with the white, tight-fitting knee-breeches are worn high jack-boots. In fact, it is no flattery to Emperor William to declare that his appearance in this uniform invariably suggests "Lohengrin." At court entertainments, in the evening, he frequently wears the so-called gala, or court dress of this regiment. The coat is scarlet instead of white, while the cuirass is abandoned. Sometimes the emperor attires himself in the uniform of a colonel of the Hussar regiment which he commanded at the time of his accession to the throne. It is scarlet, gold-laced, and the tight-fitting scarlet pantaloons are worn with knee-boots, topped with gold.
The emperor is likewise very fond of donning naval attire, being particularly proud of his connection with the fleet of Germany and those of a number of foreign countries. Indeed, it may be safely asserted that if there is any one foreign dignity which he cherishes extremely, it is that of admiral of the fleet in the British navy, conferred upon him by his grandmother, Queen Victoria.
Emperor William was only a brigadier-general at the time of his accession to the throne. It was not until several months after becoming emperor that he assumed the insignia of a general of division. Inasmuch as some curiosity exists as to how a monarch can promote himself, it may be stated that old Field Marshal Moltke, who was then possessed of the highest rank in the German army, called one day upon William, and, presenting him with a pair of silver shoulder-straps, adorned with the insignia of a general of division, entreated his majesty in the name of the entire army, and in particular on behalf of the corps of officers, to assume the rank of a full general.
The same request was presented to the present czar at the time of his coronation, but met with a refusal on the part of his Muscovite majesty, for he pointed out that Peter the Great had throughout his entire reign contented himself with the rank of colonel. There is also another reason which Nicholas did not mention officially, but which is well known to the members of his immediate entourage. At the present moment his name figures on the army list as the principal orderly officer and personal adjutant of the late czar. This is an office which can only be held by military men below the rank of general. The moment young Nicholas acquires that rank his name ipso-facto disappears from the list of his dead father's adjutants, and he is far too attached to his memory to desire this, preferring the minor rank of colonel and the association with his beloved predecessor, to all the pomp and glory of a generalissimo.
Of all the other sovereigns in Europe there is not one who travels with such an immense amount of luggage as Emperor William. He seldom undertakes a trip without taking along at least one hundred huge trunks of the so-called Saratoga pattern, which fill several wagons of the imperial train; indeed, an entire special train is not infrequently chartered solely for the conveyance of his luggage. Like some French elegantes at a fashionable seaside resort, he changes his garb five, six, and even seven times a day. The consequence is that it is necessary to have at hand not only a vast number of naval and military uniforms, but also a diversity of shooting suits, hunting suits, civilian clothes, Tyrolese jaeger costumes, and even the kilt, sporran and tartan of a Highlander, for he is very proud of the fact that Stuart blood flows in his veins, and considers that he is quite as much entitled to wear the Stuart tartan as his uncle, the Prince of Wales.
All these clothes are not under the charge of a mere valet, but of a grand dignitary of the Court of Berlin,—Count Perponcher-Sedlinzky,—who holds the rank of privy councillor, and who is addressed as "your excellency." The count has a perfect army of dressers and valets under his orders, but it is he who is responsible, not only for the uniforms being in good trim, but likewise for their being on hand whenever the emperor happens to need them.
In order to understand what this entails, it must be remembered that the kaiser is not only colonel of some hundred or more German regiments, but also of a very great many foreign corps, belonging to every country in Europe, except Turkey, Bulgaria and France. Now for each regiment, there are sometimes six, sometimes eight different uniforms—one each for parade, fatigue duty, court wear, an undress uniform, and others too numerous to mention.
When the emperor travels and is likely to be brought into contact with English princes, with Russians or with Austrians, it is necessary that he should have within his reach, not merely one of his English, Austrian or Russian uniforms, but all of them—that is to say, thirty or forty at least, in addition to his German uniforms and ordinary clothes.
An immense amount of importance is attached to these sumptuary questions by the reigning families of Europe. On one occasion an imperial meeting between the kaiser and the late czar was delayed for three whole days, while government stocks all over the world declined in value, and the utmost apprehension prevailed on the score of peace, merely because the prince who held the office of grand-master of the czar's wardrobe had neglected to bring with him the German uniforms of his master. It may be added that he lost his office in consequence.
This peculiar form of royal and imperial courtesy, consisting in the sovereign and royal princes of one country donning the uniforms or livery of the foreign monarch whom they wish to compliment, originated with Frederick the Great. In 1770, he had to pay a visit to the Emperor of Austria at the castle of Neustadt, in Moravia. Only seven years before, Prussia had been engaged in her great struggle with the empire, and had thoroughly beaten Austria. Frederick feared that the too familiar blue Prussian uniform might awaken unpleasant memories on the part of the emperor and his court. So, with the utmost delicacy, he and all his staff appeared at Neustadt in the white Austrian uniforms, an act of courtesy on the part of the victor to the vanquished which was warmly appreciated both by Emperor Joseph and all his Austrian entourage. The fashion thus inaugurated has remained in existence ever since, being facilitated by the fact that every sovereign in Europe, including even Queen Victoria, the Queen Regent of Spain, and the two Queens of Holland, holds honorary commands in a number of foreign regiments.
During the reign of Old Emperor William, those who did not possess the right to wear any civil or military uniform were permitted to make their appearance at court in ordinary evening dress, which ultimately had the effect of giving a sort of bourgeois flavor to imperial entertainments. The present kaiser, however, proceeded to change all this before he had been very long on the throne, and having noticed that at the court of his English grandmother, no one is allowed to appear at any of the state entertainments or functions in ordinary evening dress,—the only exception made being in favor of the United States embassy,—he inaugurated similar regulations at Berlin.
According to these sumptuary decrees gentlemen who are invited to entertainments at court, and who for any reason have no right to military, naval or civil service uniform, are compelled to appear in a species of court dress, consisting of a coat cut after the fashion of the last, rather than of the present century. Its color is black, or dark blue, as are also the revers, the collar and the cuffs; with it are worn black, tight fitting knee breeches, black silk stockings, and low patent leather shoes with gold buckles. A three-cornered chapeau, without feathers, and a court sword, complete this costume.
The emperor likewise directed that all officials of the court and the civil service, namely, every man who did not happen to belong either to the army or to the navy, should wear at court balls and at all great state entertainments, white knee breeches, and white silk stockings, with low, gold-buckled shoes, in lieu of the blue, black, or white gold-laced trousers that had until then been habitually worn with the gold-embroidered swallow-tail coat, which constitutes the uniform of the German civil service, and of court officialdom. Until that time, the only European court at which knee breeches had been insisted upon at court and state entertainments, was that of Great Britain. They were likewise de rigueur at the Tuileries during the reign of Napoleon III. The kaiser, however, came to the conclusion that continuations of this kind gave a more brilliant and dressy appearance to court functions than long trousers, and accordingly the latter are barred, save in the case of officers of the army and navy.
At the imperial court of Berlin there are four types of receptions or cours, the latter being the French word which has clung to these state functions ever since the reign of Frederick the Great. They are the "Defiler-Cour," the "Spiel-Cour," the "Sprech-Cour" and the "Trauer-Cour." The first, namely, the "defiler cour"—from the French word defiler, to file past—is the Berlin counterpart of Queen Victoria's drawing-rooms at Buckingham Palace in London, and is held once a year for the purpose of presenting debutantes, brides and ladies whose husbands have recently been promoted, or raised to the rank of nobility. They pass one by one before the throne, curtsy profoundly to each of their majesties, while the grand chamberlain mentions their names, and then leave the imperial presence by a side exit. No one kisses the empress's hand, as is the case with Queen Victoria in England, nor are the presentees compelled to back out of the imperial presence, as at Buckingham Palace. The court dress of debutantes at Berlin is not necessarily white, though that is the hue most affected. The long court train may be of an entirely different material and color from the dress itself, if the wearer pleases, the only stipulation made being that the richness and splendor of the fabric must be beyond question. An indispensable feature of the toilette is the so-called "barbe," a sort of tiny lace veil, suspended on each side of the coiffure, about two inches in width. The lace of course must be real, though the kind is left to the wearer's choice. It is generally white Spanish point, Alencon, or Point d'Angleterre.
The "defiler-cour" almost invariably takes place on New Year's Day, immediately after Divine service. This service begins at ten o'clock, the men being in full uniform, and during the benediction a battery of artillery, stationed in the "Lust-Garten," fires a royal salute of one hundred and one guns.
As soon as the last gun has been fired, the royal and imperial procession forms, headed by the grand marshal of the court, Count Augustus Eulenburg, bearing his wand of office, and leaves the court chapel. When it reaches the "Weisse-Saal"—one of the grandest apartments of this ancient palace—the band stationed in the gallery commences to play, generally the Hohenzollern march. The emperor and empress thereupon take their places on the dais beneath the great escutcheoned golden canopy, and in front of the two chairs of state that represent the thrones. At the right and left are grouped the various royal and imperial personages present, while at the foot of the dais stands the grand master of the ceremonies for the purpose of mentioning to their majesties the names of those who pass before them. At the back of the royal and imperial party are ranged the palace guard in their quaint, old-fashioned, and exceedingly picturesque uniforms. The first to pass before the throne is invariably the chancellor of the empire, and while the emperor and empress merely respond with an inclination of the head to the salutations of those of minor rank, they invariably approach to the edge of the dais in order to give their hands to be kissed by the octogenarian Prince of Hohenlohe, who has held the office of chancellor ever since the retirement of General Count Caprivi. The band plays throughout the entire ceremony, which is a most magnificent affair.
The so-called "spiel-cour" still keeps its name, implying card playing, although, as a matter of fact, cards are never played at court now. In former times they constituted a very important feature of court entertainment, and the "spiel-cour," or "le jeu de leurs majestes," was the function to which those whom the anointed of the Lord desired to honor were most frequently bidden. In earlier days, as soon as the guests had made their bows to the sovereign and to the princes and princesses of the blood, card-tables were set out, and gambling commenced, those to whom their majesties wished to accord special distinction and honor receiving royal commands, through the chamberlains-in-waiting to take their places at the card-tables of the king, or of the queen, as the case might be.
It was these royal games of cards at the Court of Versailles which contributed in no small measure to the downfall of the old French monarchy, and to the outbreak of the great revolution in Paris a hundred years ago. The ill-fated Queen Marie-Antoinette of France became an inveterate gambler. It was her craze for high play that led her to admit not only to her court, but also to her card-table, parvenus of doubtful reputation and of questionable antecedents, such as the infamous Cagliostro, soi-disant Count of St. Germain, and others of his class, whose only merit in her eyes was that they were rich and willing to lose their money without counting it. Indeed, the celebrated diamond necklace scandal, which compromised to such a terrible degree the reputation of this French queen, and precipitated the overthrow of the throne, would have been impossible had it not been for her gambling propensities.
The "spiel-cour" only takes place on the eve of the wedding of a member of the Hohenzollern family. It is held in the weisse-saal of the Berlin schloss, or palace. The kaiser and the kaiserin, with the bridal pair, seat themselves at a card table under a canopy of gold brocade, adorned with the imperial arms. The other royal personages sit at card-tables lower down on the dais on each side. The invited guests then pass before their majesties, precisely as at the "defiler-cour."
The "sprech-cour" is, as its name signifies, a kind of conversazione. The persons invited are partitioned off, according to their ranks, in different rooms, through which their majesties promenade. Those not personally known to the emperor and empress are introduced by the masters of ceremonies in attendance, and others with whom their majesties are already acquainted are honored by a short conversation.
"Trauer-cours," or mourning levees, are held immediately after the death of the reigning sovereign, and are exceedingly impressive, mainly by reason of the flowing robes and peculiar sable-hued attire which the ladies of the royal family of Prussia and of their courts are compelled by tradition and etiquette to adopt. Moreover, all the apartments are draped in black, the gilded ornaments being shrouded in crape. The last of these mourning courts was held by Empress Frederick, in the place of her dying husband, on the demise of old Emperor William, and so painful and depressing was this occasion, that at her urgent request, no ceremony of the kind was held when "Unser Fritz" in his turn, was gathered to his fathers.
Very stately are the court balls, of which a number are given in the early part of each year, between the First of January and the beginning of Lent. In fact, court balls at Berlin are infinitely less amusing, at any rate to young people, than are analogous entertainments at the Hofburg, at Vienna, or at Buckingham Palace, in London. This is due partly to the fact that Hohenzollern tradition and etiquette require that the proceedings should be inaugurated with the Polonaise, and furthermore, because the waltz has, for nearly forty years, been denied a place in the programme of terpsichorean entertainments at court.
In fact, waltzes have been forbidden ever since an accident which happened to Empress Frederick at a court ball not long after her marriage. She was waltzing with a young nobleman, when suddenly she was tripped up inadvertently by her partner, and precipitated to the floor at the very feet of old Empress Augusta, her mother-in-law. The latter, who was a terrible despot on the score of etiquette, could not bear the idea of a dance which could have the effect of placing a princess of the blood in such an undignified position, and turning a deaf ear to all arguments about the mishap being due to the awkwardness of the dancers, rather than to the dance itself, she vetoed the inclusion of waltzes thenceforth in all programmes of court balls.
Fortunately, no such regulation prevails at the Court of Vienna, where Strauss's waltzes invariably form the most attractive feature of the so-called "hofball" and "ball-bei-hof." There is a great difference in the character of these two state balls at Vienna. To the first, all sorts of people are commanded who are entitled solely by virtue of their official position to appear at court. The second, and far more brilliant one, is restricted to what is known as the court circle, or the elite,—the old blue-blooded aristocracy,—alone.
So far Emperor William has resisted all the pressure brought to bear upon him by the princesses and ladies of his court to revive the waltz, taking the ground that it is more conducive than any other dance to ridiculous mishaps on the highly polished and parqueted floors of the royal and imperial palaces. Even with the polka, the schottische and the mazurka, to which the round dances are now limited, there are so many accidents that some time ago the kaiser summoned the generals commanding the various troops stationed in and around Berlin, and instructed them to direct those officers who were not able to dance properly, to abstain from attempting to do so at the imperial entertainments. The result is that young officers are now put through their paces by their seniors, and have to display a certain proficiency in dances around the billiard or mess table before they are allowed to dance at court.
I remember on one occasion at a court ball at Berlin when a young subaltern incurred the anger of the late Prince Frederick-Charles by tripping up his partner. The Red Prince assailed the young officer so bitterly that the crown prince was obliged to intervene.
At a Viennese court ball I once saw the young secretary of a foreign embassy fall so unfortunately while dancing with one of the archduchesses that he actually came down in a sitting position on her face, and caused her nose to bleed. It need scarcely be added that he left Vienna the next day, and a week later obtained his transfer to another post.
A short time before the tragedy of Mayerling, Crown Princess Stephanie had a very nasty fall, owing to the gaucherie of a cavalry officer with whom she was waltzing. The emperor was terribly annoyed, and Crown Prince Rudolph spoke his mind in no measured tones to the offender.
Far more polite was Emperor Napoleon III. when at a Tuileries ball a middle-aged officer and his fair partner came to grief. As the mortified warrior scrambled to his feet, the emperor extended a hand to help him, and turning to the lady, remarked:
"Madame, c'est la deuxieme fois que j'ai vu tomber monsieur le colonel. La premiere fois c'etait sur le champ de bataille de Magenta." (Madame, this is the second time I have seen the colonel fall. The first time was on the battlefield of Magenta.)
In order to see the Polonaise danced in all its glory, it must be witnessed on the occasion of the wedding of some princess of the reigning house of Prussia, when the dance is headed by a procession of cabinet ministers, bearing candles or torches, whence it is styled the "Fackel-tanz," (Torch-dance).
On such an occasion the emperor, the empress and the royal guests having taken up their places on the dais, under the baldaquin, and immediately in front of the throne, the less exalted guests ranging themselves to the right and left of the great white hall, according to rank and precedence, the court marshal receives orders from his majesty for the dance to begin. The count thereupon approaches the royal bride and bridegroom, and bowing low to them, invites them to take part in the dance. The bridegroom extends his hand to his consort, and to the sound of a very slow and stately march conducts her around the hall, preceded by the twelve ministers of state, walking two by two, those highest in rank coming last. Each, minister bears in his hand a lighted torch of white perfumed wax. When the procession returns to the point from which it started, in front of the throne, the bride approaches the emperor, and with a curtsy invites his majesty to take part in the dance, and is conducted around the room by him, the bridegroom going through the same formality with the empress. As soon as these first three rounds are concluded, the twelve ministers hand over their wax torches to twelve pages of honor, each lad being of noble birth, and the bridegroom then similarly invites the remaining princesses of the blood, two at a time, leading one with each hand, while the bride goes through the same procedure with two princes of the blood, until the total list of royal personages has been exhausted. When the number of royal guests is very large this dance sometimes lasts nearly two hours.
On ordinary cases, of course, the torches are dispensed with, and the polonaise only continues long enough to enable the emperor and empress to march once round, the hall with those guests whom they wish particularly to honor. On such occasions they are preceded by the court marshal bearing the wand of grand marshal, by several masters of the ceremonies, and by picturesquely attired pages of honor.
Court ceremonies have been few and far between during the last ten or twelve years at Vienna owing to the circumstance that the imperial family have been almost uninterruptedly in mourning, consequent upon the successive deaths of Crown Prince Rudolph, Archduke Charles-Louis and Empress Elizabeth, in addition to a number of less important members of the imperial family. The ceremonial is very different from that which prevails at Berlin, and it must be confessed that the guests are more select, since the Court of Vienna is infinitely more exclusive than that of Berlin, and requires much more stringent genealogical qualifications on the part of women admitted to the honor of presentation. Indeed, there Is no court in Europe more exclusive than that of Emperor Francis-Joseph, and the threshold of the Hofburg may be regarded as barred without hope of admission to any lady who is not endowed with the necessary ancestry, free from all plebeian strain for at least eight generations on both the father's and the mother's side.
The presentation of debutantes and of brides ordinarily takes place prior to the commencement of court balls, and there are no such things as state concerts or "defiler-cours," as at Berlin, and in England, at which latter court guests receive their invitations to state balls by means of large lithographed cards emblazoned with the royal or imperial arms, on which it is stated that the grand-master of the Court at Berlin, or the lord chamberlain in London, has been directed by their majesties, or her majesty, as the case may be, to "command" the attendance of such and such a person to a ball at court. These commands are usually sent out about a week or more in advance: but in Vienna, where it is taken for granted that all the people having a right to invitations belong to the same intimate circle, cards are dispensed with, and on the day before the entertainment, sometimes on the very morning on which it is given, one of the court messengers, or so-called Hofcouriers, calls at the residence of invited guests with a long sheet of paper, on which is inscribed the list of invites. On this list, opposite his or her name, the invited person writes yes or no, indicating thereby acceptance of the imperial command or prevention by some grave event.
The guests are already assembled in the Hall of Ceremonies before the imperial party makes its appearance. The ladies all wear court trains, and in almost every case the bodice of their dress is adorned with the insignia of the "Sternkreutz" [star cross], an order restricted exclusively to women, of which the late empress was grand-mistress, and to possess which even still greater ancestral qualifications are needed than for presentation at court. The men are all in uniform, either civilian, military or naval. Indeed it is impossible to find in Austria any man that has the right to appear at court who does not possess some sort of uniform. If he happens to be a Hungarian, he wears the picturesque dress of the great Magyar kingdom, bordered with priceless furs, adorned with jewels and composed of costly velvets and silks.
Shortly before the arrival of the imperial procession the grand-master of ceremonies taps on the floor with his ivory wand of office to attract attention, and the guests thereupon range themselves along the two sides of the hall, the ladies to the right and the gentlemen to the left. Suddenly the folding-doors at the further end of the hall are flung open, and to the sound of the most inspiriting march that the conductor of the court orchestra, Edouard Strauss, can devise, the imperial cortege makes its appearance, preceded by Count Hunyadi, in his uniform of a cavalry general, and Prince Rudolph Leichtenstein, each armed with a wand of office. Since the disappearance of the empress from court life—a disappearance which may be said to have preceded her death by several years—the emperor has been in the habit on these occasions of offering his arm to the Duchess of Cumberland, daughter of King Christian of Denmark, and de jure sovereign duchess of Brunswick, as the principal foreign royal lady present. Immediately after him follows the archduke next in the line of succession, now Francis-Ferdinand, or, failing him, Otto, leading the archduchess designated to take the place of the first lady of the land, and who at the present time is Archduchess Maria-Josepha, wife of Archduke Otto.
The imperial procession, consisting of all the archdukes and archduchesses—there are nearly one hundred of them—and of the principal members of their households, marches along the avenue thus formed by the guests, and are welcomed by low curtsies on the part of the women, and by profound bows on the part of the men. The brilliant pageant then disappears in the room set apart for the imperial party, and thereupon the emperor and Archduchess Maria-Josepha return, and while the emperor passes along in front of the male guests, preceded by one of the principal dignitaries of his court, either Count Kalman Hunyadi or Prince Montenuovo, the archduchess, escorted by the grand-mistress of her court, makes her way along the front rank of the ladies, bowing to some, extending her hand to be kissed by others, and chatting familiarly to those who are old friends.
As soon as the emperor and the archduchess reach the end of the line the emperor passes over to the ladies' side, while the archduchess in her turn passes along the front rank of the men. The archduchess then proceeds to the so-called "Rittersaal," and taking her seat on a sofa, sends her ladies-in-waiting and her chamberlains to bring to her presence ladies who have presentations to make. With each debutante the archduchess converses for a few seconds before dismissing her, the wives of the foreign ambassadors being on these occasions invited to take a seat beside the archduchess on her sofa while presenting their countrywomen.
Meanwhile the ball has commenced in the Hall of Ceremonies, and is usually opened with a waltz. While the dancing is in progress the emperor strolls about, talking from time to time to some guest. Foreign ambassadors and envoys usually avail themselves of this opportunity to present their countrymen to his majesty.
Of course no one is permitted to invite any of the archduchesses or foreign princesses of the blood who may happen to be present to dance. It is they who have the privilege of taking the first step in the matter. Whenever they desire to dance with any man they cause him to be notified of their wish by their chamberlain in attendance. The cavalier thus honored is obliged to consider this intimation in the nature of a command, and all engagements with fair partners of a less exalted rank, are annulled thereby.
Refreshments are served for the ordinary guests in the "Pietra-Dura" room, where a superb buffet is set, the tables glittering with gold plate and Venetian glass. For the imperial princes and princesses the Hall of Mirrors is generally reserved, and there the scene is even still more magnificent. By midnight all is over. The court has retired with the same ceremonial that marked its arrival, and the guests are looking for their wraps and cloaks. All court entertainments at Vienna begin early and end early, so as not to interfere unduly with the emperor's practice of rising at about five o'clock in the morning.
One of the features of the great court functions at Berlin, as well as at Vienna, which excites the greatest surprise of Americans visiting Europe for the first time, is that particular form of homage accorded to royalty which consists in the kissing of the hand or "handkuss." Not only the hands of the royal and imperial ladies are required by etiquette to be kissed when offered to gentlemen, but it is also considered necessary for both men and women to kiss the hand of the sovereign when he condescends to extend it for the purpose. This seems, perhaps, less odd at Vienna, as the emperor is a septuagenarian with snow-white hair and a sad and kindly face, inspiring feelings of sympathy and loyal affection. Indeed there is nothing out of the way in a young girl, and even a man of mature years, kissing the hand of a veteran of the age of Francis-Joseph, just as if he were their father. But it certainly does appear strange to those from across the Atlantic who are obtaining their first insight into European court life, to see not only grey-haired generals, and white-whiskered statesmen, but also venerable ladies,—grandmothers perhaps—and belonging to the highest ranks of the nobility kissing the hand of Emperor William.
It has always seemed to me that William must have realized for the first time his altered rank when old Field-Marshal Moltke, and the late Prince Bismarck, on hailing him as emperor within a few hours after his father's death, bent down to kiss his hand. This took place more or less in private. But shortly afterwards, when he opened the imperial parliament for the first time as emperor, in the presence of most of the German sovereigns who had come to Berlin for the purpose, and had finished reading his speech, and handed it to the chancellor of the empire, old Bismarck, as he took it, bent almost double to kiss the hand that was tendering the document to him, in the presence of the princes and representatives of the entire German empire.
Kissing, it may be added, forms a great feature of court etiquette in Germany and Austria. It is, for instance, de rigueur that two sovereigns of equal rank visiting each other, should embrace at least thrice, no matter how deeply they may detest each other privately! A petty sovereign will have to content himself with being embraced merely twice by a monarch such as Francis-Joseph or Emperor William, while a crown prince or heir apparent will receive only one hug. Mere princes of the blood receive no kisses at all, but only a hearty hand-shake, with which they have to be satisfied, and which is, after all, perhaps the most sensible fashion of greeting.
All royal and imperial people are more or less superstitious, and neither Emperor William nor his brother monarch at Vienna are exceptions to the rule. Striking evidence thereof is furnished by the presence of a large horseshoe cemented into the wall just outside the fourth window of the first story of Empress Frederick's palace at Berlin. One day, some time before his accession to the throne, and before his father was seized with that terrible malady to which he eventually succumbed, William was invited to dine with his parents. Finding that he was very late, and knowing the strictness of his father and mother on the score of punctuality, William directed his coachman to drive as fast as he could, and the carriage positively raced up the incline to the portal.
Suddenly one of the big Mecklenburg horses lost his shoe, which in some extraordinary manner, flew up into the air, dashed through the first-story window and fell upon the dinner table, right in front of Frederick and the then crown princess, who, declining to wait any longer, had just sat down to table. The shoe is reported to have grazed the nose of the late emperor. At any rate, the fact that it should have failed to seriously injure anyone is a miracle. It was so regarded by Frederick, his wife and his children, who deemed the queer advent of the shoe, and the escape of everybody from injury, as an indication of good luck. At the suggestion of the present kaiser, it was thereupon cemented into the wall just outside the window through which it had come, and was fastened upside down, in order to prevent the luck from dropping out.
It is not altogether astonishing that royal personages should be prone to superstition, for in almost every case they are compelled to make their homes in palaces and castles that have been stained with the blood of one or more of their ancestors. Ordinary people experience an uncanny feeling when forced by circumstances to live in houses which have been the scene of suicide or murder, even when the victims of the tragedy, or the perpetrators thereof are in no way, even the most remotely, connected with them. What wonder, then, that royal and imperial personages should entertain the same kind of superstition and sentiments with regard to their palaces, when it is borne in mind that the participants in the drama have been members of their own families!