37 Followers
50 Following
markk

markk

Reading progress update: I've read 452 out of 1016 pages.

Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser's Early Life, 1859-1888 - John C. G. Röhl

Röhl's focus in the latest chapter focuses to foreign policy, and boy does it sound familiar. From his description of Wilhelm's first trip to Russia, in 1884:

Wilhelm's trip to Russia was to be a pivotal event in his life. It was here that he discovered that peculiar transcendental emperor ideology which satisfied his narcissistic needs and which he stressed to such an alarming degree throughout his reign.

His connection with his Russian counterparts led to an astounding degree of indiscretion, too:

Herbert Bismarck had expressly advised the Prince 'not to bring up relations with Austria, England & France' in his conversations with the Tsar, and afterwards Wilhelm assured him that he had not done so. . . Only later did he discover the astonishing fact that while Wilhelm was still in Russia, he had begun a highly political private correspondence with the Tsar, which in many respects foreshadowed the notorious 'Willy-Nicky' letters of later years. The Chancellor's son explicitly recorded that he had 'never seen these letters, which were addressed to the Tsar personally'. He had heard only later from the Russian Foreign Minister that Wilhelm's letters to the Tsar were 'at times decidedly forthright', although their unusual style amused the Russian monarch.

And Röhl concludes the chapter with this:

The Anglo-Russian crisis of spring 1885 was indeed acute, and there was great danger of war, but the vision entertained by Wilhelm and Waldersee that the British would empire was on the brink of collapse, that a rebellion in India would lead to the gradual loss of all its colonies and finally to an upheaval within the country itself — was completely unrealistic, and can only be explained as wishful thinking fired by hate. But Wilhelm's propensity for losing a grasp on reality also augured grave dangers for the future. As Eulenburg wrote to Holstein in the summer of 1886: 'I have made use of the friendship with which he [Wilhelm] has blessed me for the purpose of fighting like a lion against his English antipathies. If he is not thoroughly worked upon in this sense it may become extremely unpleasant politically for us someday.'

The similarities really are striking.