To Win, To Lose
'YOU ARE AMBITIOUS to be a king,' the Crown Princess mocked Bismarck in 1866, 'or at least President of a republic.'
She was half-joking, half-serious. Her so amiable and condescending manner irritated the Prussian minister. She had that touch of ironical superiority which Bismarck remembered from his one meeting with Queen Victoria at Versailles. The English Queen and her daughter seemed reluctant to be unfriendly to a man they clearly found unsympathetic and eccentric.
So Bismarck replied in the same semi-jocular tone. He was more confident now, and even more powerful, for he had achieved his war with Austria, and the Crown Prince had helped him to win it. Yet he still feared the potential influence of the alien Crown Princess who was so intelligent and provocative that she could dare to fence with him.
'I am personally spoilt for a republican,' Bismarck told her. He had need of a monarchy for his well-being on earth. He thanked God he did not have to live like a king, constantly on show. Until his death, he was fated to be the King's faithful subject.
The Crown Princess continued to look mockingly at him as he protested his loyalty. He was forced to change tack. He said that not everyone thought, as he did, that the monarchy would last. There would never be a shortage of royalists, but there might be a shortage of kings. 'To make a stew, a hare is needed. To make a monarchy, a king.' The next generation might be republican, if there were no king who wanted to be king. The heir to the throne made him anxious; he did not seem to respect monarchic traditions.