Two

A MEDICI ON THE SPREE

WILHELM II, king and kaiser, was also the first citizen of his realm, a private man with a variety of interests that sometimes threatened to eclipse the responsibilities that weighed on him as a sovereign. He spent much of every year away from Berlin, as much in pursuit of pleasure as in his role as Germany's ruler, and even when in the capital, he often applied his energy to matters that had little to do with affairs of state. Wilhelm was a lifelong dilettante, rushing from place to place, from friend to friend, from enthusiasm to enthusiasm, all the while failing to develop a real expertise in anything he touched. He liked to complain that the titanic efforts necessary to execute his royal responsibilities left him breathless, and he even claimed that his life might serve, for the benefit of his subjects, as an example of indefatigable industry. 1 The Kaiser, who for two decades had left Berlin for weeks on end, could with complete imperturbability declare in 1907 that he had finally taken his first vacation after nineteen years of wearing his heavy crown. 2 But his friend and admirer Philipp Eulenburg, himself no paragon of energy, declared : "[Wilhelm] never worked as I and thousands of Prussian officials labored. He has no idea what work is." 3 Some things that Wilhelm appeared to do, including most of the books that he allegedly wrote as well as a portion of his personal correspondence, were in fact executed by others, and the innumerable, feverish marginal comments that he did scribble on documents were not taken seriously by his officials or even, in fact, by the Kaiser himself. 4

Wilhelm's greatest love was travel, a passion that led his subjects to complain that imperial Germany had had three kaisers: der Greise, der Weise, und der Reise the old graybeard (Wilhelm I), the wise one (Friedrich III), and the last, the traveling Kaiser. Should not the royal anthem, "Hail Be to Thee in Thy Laurelled Crown of Victory" (Heil Dir im Siegerkranz), be amended to "Hail Be to Thee in Thy Private Railroad Car" (Heil Dir im Sonderzug)? Wilhelm II, I. R. (for immer reisefähig and ich reise as well as Imperator Rex), was aware of these aspersions. He found

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Wilhelm II - Vol. 2
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