Wilhelm II: Prince and Emperor, 1859-1900

By Lamar Cecil | Go to book overview

ing because at the time he took office Germany's relationship with the other European powers, and especially with Russia, were in an unsettled state. Bismarck's fall inevitably created suspicions throughout Europe that, in spite of the Kaiser's assurances, Germany could no longer be depended on to follow the former chancellor's policies. Wilhelm, however, did not anticipate any problems with his new chancellor, for he was convinced that Caprivi would very quickly master his new responsibilities.4

Unfortunately, Caprivi was wary about seeking guidance in diplomatic affairs, and he never established a satisfactory footing in the Foreign Office.5 The chancellor's only real confidant there was Friedrich von Holstein, the senior counsellor, who was enormously influential but also quite eccentric. A reclusive bachelor, Holstein was by nature mistrustful and easily offended. To his favorites, he was a source of privileged information as well as malicious tittle-tattle, for he delighted in innuendo and perversely sowed many a suspicion among his diplomatic colleagues. It was Holstein, more than anyone else, who reduced the Wilhelmstrasse 76 to a "poisonous den" (Giftbude), as Philipp Eulenburg, with whom Holstein was first an intimate but later an implacable enemy, once described it.6 Moreover, immediately after Caprivi took office, the state secretaryship of the Foreign Office fell vacant when, on 21 March, Herbert Bismarck resigned and a few days later followed his father into exile, yielding his position to Baron Adolf Marschall von Bieberstein, the representative of the grand duchy of Baden to the Federal Council. Marschall was not the chancellor's choice, for Caprivi had argued that an experienced Prussian diplomat should be appointed. He persuaded the Kaiser to offer the post to Count Friedrich von Alvensleben, the Prussian envoy at Brussels, but Alvensleben declined. Wilhelm thereupon decided on Marschall, and Caprivi acquiesced in this choice. He was not acquainted with Marschall, but after their first conversation Caprivi admitted that while his new state secretary "knows nothing he will do nicely, for he has pluck [Schneid]."7

Marschall was a curious choice. He was not a Prussian, such familiarity as he had in foreign policy lay in the affairs between the German states rather than in the larger sphere of international relations, and he had a gruff personality that seemed inappropriate in one whose function was diplomacy. Bismarck expressed contempt for his son's successor by archly observing that the inexperienced Marschall's new title should properly be "ministre étranger aux affaires," a clever pun but one perhaps lost on the new state secretary, whose knowledge of French was

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Wilhelm II: Prince and Emperor, 1859-1900
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xi
  • Names Appearing in Text and Notes xvii
  • One - The Heir 1
  • Two - The Education of A Prince 30
  • Three - A Potsdam Lieutenant 55
  • Four - The End of A Reign 88
  • Five - The Ninety-Nine Days of Kaiser Friedrich III 110
  • Six - Bismarck in Trouble 125
  • Seven - 1890 147
  • Eight - Caprivi, Eulenburg, and the Fall of Waldersee 172
  • Nine - Caprivi and the "New Course" 189
  • Ten - Uncle Chlodwig 212
  • Twelve - Our Arrogant Cousin, Albion 263
  • Thirteen - Rule Germania 291
  • Fourteen - Greatness and Eternal Glory 319
  • Notes 341
  • Bibliography of Manuscript Sources 441
  • Index 453
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