The Other Victoria: The Princess Royal and the Great Game of Europe

By Andrew Sinclair | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER NINE
How Long, O Lord, How Long?

BISMARCK WAS CREATED a Prince and was given an enormous estate. He seemed, now, to be the embodiment of the whole German Empire. He controlled the Reichstag through the National Liberals, and national communications through his agents and with the aid of the 'Reptile Fund'. The new Emperor was little more than the ceremonial head of state, while Bismarck ran all the business of the country. After a long visit to England to recover from the hardships of the war, the Crown Prince found himself again excluded from the Council of State and the War Cabinet. The only formidable opposition to Bismarck came from the General Staff, always jealous of its military powers and privileges, from the Junker reactionaries he was deserting, and from the Catholic aristocrats clustering round the implacable Empress Augusta. As for the German princes, most had been reduced to pensioned figureheads. 'They no longer want to govern,' Bismarck told Busch, 'and are glad when some one relieves them of the trouble.'1

Even the liberals and the middle classes, who once had looked to the ideals of the Crown Prince and his wife, now made Bismarck their idol because he was enriching them. France managed to pay off her war indemnity of five billion francs within three years. The flow of money into Berlin provoked a speculative boom there, which spread throughout the Empire. Money was so abundant, the British representative reported from Leipzig in 1871, that people did not know what to do with it.2 In Berlin itself, the excessive liquidity led to enormous stock and property speculation, as great as that of London's South Sea Bubble or the Panama Scheme of Paris. 'The market had bullish orgies,' a contemporary wrote.

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