Wilhelm II: Prince and Emperor, 1859-1900

By Lamar Cecil | Go to book overview

Thirteen
RULE GERMANIA

FROM HIS EARLY CHILDHOOD, the last Kaiser took the greatest delight in ships and the sea, among his first toys being miniature vessels that he set afloat on the many lakes near Berlin. As a boy Willy learned how to sail, and this remained one of his great passions as a man. He read with consuming interest adventure stories set on the oceans and maritime histories, encouraging his young friends to do the same. There was little in Germany's past that could sustain Willy's interest in the sea, for the military glory of Prussia belonged almost exclusively to the army. The Prussian navy had been a tiny affair, designed more to prevent smuggling than to defend the nation from seaborne enemies, and its successor, the imperial German navy, formed in the 1870s, was also insignificant when compared to the navies of France or Britain, both of which were vast in size and proud of illustrious victories. Even so, the Prusso-German navy had had its occasional heroes and successful engagements, and Willy knew them all. When a student in Cassel, his favorite book had been a popular history of the Prussian navy by Admiral Reinhard Werner, a volume that Willy delighted in reading to his friends and that he declared that he knew by heart.1

On concluding his university career in Bonn in 1879, the army duties in Potsdam and in the field that Wilhelm pursued so arduously consumed almost all of his time. In the next decade he did not, however, abandon his childhood interest in naval affairs and often was heard to declare that Germany's future lay on the water.2 He occasionally spoke to his fellow lieutenants about sea warfare, probably basing his remarks on Janes's Naval History. This enormous compendium constituted Wilhelm's everung reading, a habit dating from 1886, when a British admiral presented him with a copy. Brassey's Naval Annual also claimed a place on Wilhelm's bedside table, and he boasted, apparently with little exaggeration, that he had committed it to memory.3 His reading resulted in an eclectic knowledge of nautical design and technology, one which often impressed observers. "I am speechless," the managing director of the

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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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