L'ALLEMAGNE, C'EST L'ENNEMI
IN 1900, when Bernhard von Bülow succeeded Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe as chancellor, the relationship between London and Berlin was not at all cordial. Since the I870s, Germany had begun to confront Britain with growing economic competition in European as well as in world markets, and the British regarded the construction of a massive German navy, begun in 1898, as a threat to their security. Wilhelm II's congratulatory telegram in 1896 to President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal Republic, the enemy of the British in what would soon become the Boer War, had led to a serious diplomatic crisis that left a residual hostility between London and Berlin. Moreover, there was an unhealthy friction between Wilhelm II and his Hanoverian relations in England, especially his grandmother Queen Victoria and her eldest son, the Prince of Wales. In spite of all these contretemps, both powers recognized that in Russia and France, they had potential enemies of formidable strength, and therefore, since the end of the nineteenth century, statesmen in both London and Berlin had been engaged in trying to determine if there was a possibility of some sort of diplomatic association between Britain and Germany.
Bülow was uninterested in these aspirations for accommodation. He could speak English well, but he was virtually ignorant of the country, visiting it only once. 1 Like Wilhelm II, Bülow had nursed a prejudice against the British, in the chancellor's case since his teenage years in the I860s, when his ancestors had lost their property in Denmark as a result of an unsuccessful war by King Christian IX against Prussia. Bülow was always convinced that the defeat had been due to Britain's treacherous failure to come to Denmark's aid. The chancellor's frequent protestations about the desirability of Anglo-German accord ill concealed his antipathy for England, and those German diplomats who believed in the need for, and worked to promote, good relations between the two nations therefore rightly regarded him with suspicion. 2 Bülow's well-known distaste for England, together with his facile manner, meant that he was also looked upon askance in London. Sir Frank Lascelles, the popular British ambas