'Willy-Nicky' Letters VI - XX (26 November 1895-13 June 1901)

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Dearest Nicky

With a suddenness wholly unexpected to me am I placed before a grave decision which is of vital importance to my country, and which is so far reaching that I cannot foresee the ultimate consequences. The traditions in which I was reared by my beloved Grandfather of blessed memory as regards our two houses and countries, have as you will own allways been kept up by me as a holy bequest from him, and my loyalty to you and your family is, I flatter myself, above any suspicion. I therefore come to you as my friend and "confident" to lay the affairs before you as one who expects a frank and loyal answer to a frank and loyal question.

In the beginning of April the attacks on my country and person, till then showered on us by the British Press and people, suddenly fell off, and there was, as you will have perceived a momentary lull. This rather astonished us at home and we were at loss for an explanation. In a private inquiry I found out that H. M.the Queen herself through a friend of hers had sent word to the British Papers, that she wished this unnoble and false game to cease. This in the Land of the "Free Press"! Such an unwonted step naturally led us to the conclusion that something was in the air. About Easter a Celebrated Politician1 propriomotu suddenly sent for my Ambassador and à brûle pour point2 offered him a treaty of Alliance with England!3 Count Hatzfeld4 utterly astonished said he could not quite make out how that could be after all that had passed between us since '95? The answer was that the offer was made in real earnest and was sincerely ment. My Ambassador said he would report, but that he doubted very much wether Parliament would ever ratify such a treaty, England till now allways having made clear to anybody who wished to hear it, that it never by any means would make an Alliance with any Continental Power whoever it may be! Because it wished to keep its liberty of action. In 1897 (Jubilee Year) this Principle was even put into verse, saying that England needed no Allies, that le cas échèant it could fight the whole world alone, with the refrain: "We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too"! -- The Answer was that the prospect had completely changed and that this offer was the consequence. After Easter the request was urgently renewed but by my commands cooly and dilatorily answered in a colourless manner. I thought the affair had ended. Now however the Request has been renewed for the third time in such an unmistakable manner putting a certain short term to my definite answer and accompanied by such enormous offers showing a wide and great future opening for my country that I think it my duty to Germany duly to reflect before I answer. Now before I do it I frankly and openly come to you my esteemed friend and cousin to inform you, as I feel that it is a question so to say of life and death. We two have the same opinions, we want peace, and we have sustained and upheld it till now! What the tendence of the Alliance is, you will well understand, as I am informed that the Alliance is to be with the Triple Alliance and with the addition of Japan and America with whom pourparlers have allready been opened! What the chances are for us in refusing or accepting you may calculate yourself! Now as my old and trusted friend I beg you to tell me what you can offer me and will do if I refuse? Before I take my final decision and send my answer, in this difficult position I must be able to see clearly, and clear and open without any backthoughts must your proposal be, so that I can judge and weigh in my mind and before God, as I should, what is for the good of the Peace of my fatherland and of the world. You need not fear for your Ally in any Proposal you make should she be placed in a combination wished by you. With this letter dearest Nicky I place my whole faith in your silence and discretion to everybody, and write as in old times my Grandfather would have written to your Grandfather Nicholas I!5 May God help you to find the right solution and decision! It is for the next generation! But time is pressing so please answer soon!

Your devoted friend
Willy

P.S. Should you like to meet me anywhere to arrange by mouth I am ready every moment at sea or on land to meet!


Notes
1. Almost certainly Joseph Chamberlain, who more than once indicated his leaning toward a closer understanding between the British Empire and Germany. There were rumors in Europe in 1898 of a German-British agreement. The idea was at the time by no means popular in Germany. In November, 1899, a year after this letter was written, Mr. Chamberlain in his famous Leicester speech openly expressed his desire for an alliance with the United States and Germany. He said: "We should not remain permanently isolated from the continent of Europe and I think this, that the moment that aspiration was formed it must have appeared evident to everybody that the natural alliance was between ourselves and the great German Empire."
2. Without ado.
3. According to Freiherr von Eckardstein, Counsellor of the German Embassy in London in 1896, steps to such an alliance were first taken by Lord Salisbury, who made a proposal to the Kaiser when the latter was attending the Cowes regatta on August 5th, 1895. According to Eckardstein, Lord Salisbury proposed that Turkey be divided between England, Germany and Austria. The Kaiser spurned the offer.
4. Count von Hatzfeldt-Wildenburg, German ambassador in London, from 1885 until his death in 1901.
5. The Kaiser made a mistake. Nicholas I. was the great-grandfather of Nicholas II. The reference is to Alexander II., who was an enthusiastic Germanophil.


XVI
Wilhelmshöhe 18/VIII 98


Dearest Nicky

Your kind permission allowing me to send dear old Werder to Moskau as my "representant" for the ceremony of the unveiling of your dear Grandfathers1 statue gives me the opportunity to send you these lines through him. It is really an affair of sentiment which prompted me to send him and not a mere form of courtessy. Through Grandpapa I had often heard of Alexander II and when I had the honour to be presented to him I soon fell under his "charme" as happened to everybody who was honoured by his presence. To his kindness I am indebted that I wear the uniform of the splendid Grenadier Regiment, whose day it is to day, and which is a firm bond uniting me with your fine army, which I shall value and cherish to my dying day.

Your diplomacy has just scored another great success in China,2 to which I take the liberty of congratulating you the more so as it was done without the firing of a single shot and without any unnecessary noise or bluster. The effect will be a great impetus given to your trade and the industrial establishments of your country. Henry has just telegraphed to me how kindly your authorities have received him, and are doing everything in their power to make his stay as agreeable as possible for him, which gives me the gratifying opportunity to thank you most heartily! I am most astonished at the amount of bosh and blarney that is beeing ventilated in the newspapers of Europe about my visit to Jerusalem! It is most discouraging to note that the sentiment of real faith, which propels a Christian to seek the Country in which our Saviour lived and suffered, is nearly quite extinct in the so called better classes of the XIXth Century, so that they must explain the Pilgrimage forcibly by Political motives. What is right for thousands even of your lowest peasants is right for me too! Since I communicated to you this June, England has still now and then reopened negotiations with us but has never quite uncovered its hand; they are trying hard, as far as I can make out, to find a continental army to fight for their interests! But I fancy they wont easily find one, at least not mine! Their newest move is the wish to gain France over from you, and they in consequence have suddenly decided to send the Duke of Connaught to the French Army Maneuvres a nice little plan of Courcelles,3 I think, who is ardently at work between Paris and London. I allready once warned your people of him! Now good bye dearest Nicky, how I envy, Werder seeing you and talking with you! Best love to Alix. Are you going to reintroduce the former uniforms again and buttons? --Believe me

Ever
Your most aff-ate friend and cousin
Willy

Notes
1. Alexander II., the emancipator of the serfs.
2. Germany and Great Britain having acquired interests in the Far East, Russia saw her terminals of the new Siberian railway menaced. On March 8th, 1898, Russia made peremptory demand for the cession of Port Arthur and Talienwan. Control of the Gulf of Pechili was virtually given Russia by the concessions.
3. Baron de Courcel, French ambassador in London, 1894 to 1898.


XVII
Yacht Loreley Stamboul 20/X 98.


Dearest Nicky

During my stay at Stamboul I gave audiences to the Ambassadors. I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mr. Sinoview.1 I found in him a most accomplished diplomatist, a man with a very clear head. An energetic character, in all what one calls a powerful man. I congratulate you on such an excellent choice. We had a long conversation and of course his opinion about Oriental Matters was of the greatest value to me, it was a pleasure to listen to him. His going to see you gives me an opportunity to send these lines through him. The conversation also turned on Cretan matters and on the latest events that happened there. The source from which the latest excesses spring, was doubtless not a clear one, and surely not the usual so called "mussulman fanaticism" generally talked of in the European press. I venture to suppose that, intrigues of a certain meddlesome Power2 have had something to do with them. In the course of our conversation Sinoview openly told me that the situation was far from reassuring, and that the only possibility for getting out of the "impasse" was to make the Turks leave Crete bag and baggage! Wether that must be so I of course do not know, but as I had the opportunity of pointing out to you at Peterhof,3 the question of Crete must be solved in a manner, that no general imbroglio comes from it which those scoundrels of Cretans are not worth. I have talked with many old and prominent Turks who have all asured me that the whole People had made Crete a question of National honour! That an evacuation pure and simple if acceded to by the Sultan would cost him authority, Crown, even perhaps his life, and that they were all deeply concerned and afflicted. I therefore venture to make this known to you with hopes that in your wisdom you will kindly be able to find a solution, which is apt to save the Sultan's position vis à vis of his army and as Kalif vis à vis of the whole Mahometan world. You know by Osten Sackens reports which motives made me "lay down my fleet on the table."4 Because I felt and saw that a certain Power was using us all others as catspaw to get us to help her to take Crete or Suda bay, and I would not be of the party who are expected to appear with bread and salt and on the top the keys5 of Crete praying the said Power to kindly look after the wellfare of those poor darling "Cretans! who may one and all rost in hell"! The recent events have shown me that my suspicions were right and that this certain Power means mischief and to use force. That is: they want to expel the Mussulmen, who are born and Natives of Crete like the Christian insurgents, only converted of Islamism, who are the landed proprietors, after these have lost everything they have, and give the property to the Christians who were till now their own paid tenants and their labourers and who revolted against their masters. That is the Cretan question in a nutshell! and that is what I call downright robbery! What an effect this act of pillage has had on the Mahometan world you have no idea, but I feel and see and hear it, what a terrible blow to the prestige of the Christian in general in the eyes of the Mussulman and renewal of hatred you can hardly imagine! The Powers concerned in Crete have played a foolish and most dangerous game, and that is what compels me to call your kind attention to the matter! Remember what you and I agreed upon at Peterhof never to forget that the Mahometans were a tremendous card in our game in case you or I were suddenly confronted by a war with the certain meddlesome Power. You as the master of millions of Mahometans must be the best judge of this. If you quietly go on following the lead of the other Power in Crete as has been done till now, the effect will (be) deplorable upon your own Mahometan subjects and on Turky, and you will lose a most precious cè tout out of your play! Therefore I implore you to give this matter once more your most serious attention and if possible find means by which you can save the Sultan from a dangerous and compromising situation envers ses sujets6 and solve the Cretan question in a manner acceptable to him. Dont forget that his Army fought valiantly and victoriously for Crete at Larissa and Domokos7 and reconquered the Province. It would never forget or forgive another power the expulsion of their brothers in Aras and their Master from a rleconquered Province! What a splendid opportunity for you to step in and to save the Sultan from disgrace, the world from bloody war and gain the gratitude of all Mahometansl Otherwise revolution may come, and the Sultan's blood may one day be at your door!

I beg your pardon for intruding like this in your time and repose, but the situation is too serious, the interests at stake are too manifold, and I should not wish to see Russia lose her fine position she still now has retained here; all hoping eyes are turned to the great Emperor of the East, will he bring the hoped for solution? My perhaps rather rough oppeness may show you how great and intense my love for you is. Best love to Alix.

Your aff-ate cousin and friend
Willy


Notes
I. Russian ambassador in Constantinople.
2. Great Britain.
3. August, 1897.
4. In the Cretan question Germany had, in the words of Bulow "laid down her flute and left the concert room." The German troops were withdrawn from Crete on March 16th.
5. Quays.
6. With regard to his subjects
7. Greeks defeated at Larisse April 23rd, 1897; at Domoko May 17th, 1897.


XVIII
Damascus 9/XI 98.


Dearest Nicky

By the kind telegram you sent me to Jerusalem1 you intimate that you follow our journey with interest; this encourages me to send you a few lines at the end of our tour with some of my impressions. They are so manifold that it is rather difficult to fix them.

In the first place Jerusalem has of course occupied our attention on account of the many places filled with reminiscences of our Saviour. The thought that His eyes rested on the same hills, that His feet trod the same ground is most stirring to ones heart, and makes it beat faster and more fervently. But I must frankly own that not all one sees relating to the Christian faith is exactly adopted for the promotion of this feeling. The manifold and different confessions and sects of our Common Christian faith have done too much in the way of church-building, the erection of monastries, chapels etc. on so called "Traditional Holy Places." Which has led to a sort of concurrence or race for the highest towers or biggest churches, which do not at all harmonise with the sites they are erected on. In fact one could call it an exhibition of Church-models! 2 This has also affected the clergies of the different churches, who have a pleasure in intrigues and political designs fostering hatred instead of love, and leading to free fights and battles in the churches instead of Psalms and friendly intercourse. But what is worse still they have created a worship of stones and wood, foribdden in the 2nd of the X Commandments, instead of the Divinity itself. A Frenchman characteristically said to me: "C'est l'adoration de la Pierre aux lieux 'soit disant Saints,' dont la Sainteté ne peut être garantie, et la Divité n'est pour Rien!"3 Very true but most distressing to our Christian feeling. Very naturally this -- I beg your pardon -- Fetish adoration has created a supreme contempt for the Christians with the Moslems. My personal feeling in leaving the Holy City was that I felt profondly ashamed before the Moslems and that if I had come there without any Religion at all I certainly would have turned Mahommetan! The way Religion is understood in Jerusalem, it will never lead to the conversion of a single Moslem, or the growth of a single tree or the digging of a single new well. I am afraid that Religion in Jerusalem is often used by the Clergies as a cover for political devices and designs and that is very wrong and does Christianity a very great harm as the Moslems have long ago perceived this and treat us accordingly. I return home with feelings of great disillusion and with the firm convictions that our Saviours grave quite certainly is not beneath that church of the Saint Sepulchre, which in its appearance and decoration compares very badly with the Mosque of Omar in its simple and awe inspiring grandeur! -- Alas! -- The most interesting and the finest town from the oriental point of view is no doubt Damascus. Beirut with its lovely villas gardens and glades reminding one more of a town in the south of Italy or in Sicily. The Holy Land is simply terrible in its arid dryness and utter want of trees and water. But here everything is changed as if by magic! The great River Barader4 gives life and coolness and fosters vegetation of the finest description. The town is situated in the midst of vast gardens and shady glades all watered by small rivulets giving them the aspect when seen from above -- of a large fasanarie of the circumference of 2 square miles! The quiet lovely courtyards with their Arabian Masonry, their shady nooks and murmuring fountains with fresh water in marble basins, are simply unique, like in a dream! You would be delighted to be here as you understand so much about the East! -- Our reception5 here is simply astounding never has a Christian -- Giaur -- Monarch been so fêted and received with such unbounded enthusiasm. It is because I am a friend of their Sultan and Kaliph and because I allways pursued an open and loyal Policy toward him; the same I so often advocated for you too. The hatred of the English is strong and growing more and more intense -- no wonder -- whilst in the same time apace with it grows the open contempt of France, which has lost all the respect it once possessed of old! That is the unavoidable consequence of the terrible quagmire the French are now floundering about in their interior affairs,6 splashing the dirt right and left till the whole of Europe reeks with the stench! Showing how far the corruption lying and dishounour has allready gained in the nation and before all in the army! Here people look upon them as on a dying nation, especially since the last and most ignominious retreat of the French from Faschoda!7 What on earth has possessed them? After such a first rate well arranged and plucky expedition of poor and brave Marchand? They were in a first rate position and able to help us others all in Africa who are sorely in need of strong help! The news here have come like a thunderbolt on the Eastern People, nobody would believe them! at all events if it is true, what the Papers say, that count Mouravioff8 France to take this foolish step he was singularily and exceptionally ill advised, as it has given your "friends and allies" a mortal blow here and brought down their ancient prestige here never to rise again! The Moslems call it Frances second Sedan, and the poor french Consul I spoke to was in tears saying that all was crumbling to dust around him! France will never forget that piece of friendship nor will she ever feel very grateful for them. These my dear Nicky are the most interesting of my observations, which I openly and without backthought refer to after having seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears what is going on in this most interesting country. I found all my suppositions and combinations I so often laid before you absolutely confirmed; Turky is very much alive and not a dying man. Beware of the Musulmen if you touch their National honour or their Khalif! Best love to Alix.

Ever your most devoted friend and cousin
Willy

Notes
1. The Kaiser and Kaiserin entered Jerusalem in the afternoon of October 28th. The ostensible object of the Kaiser's visit was the consecration of the Church of the Redeemer.
2. The Kaiser considered himself an expert in ecclesiastical architecture, and took a prominent part in encouraging the building of churches throughout Germany.
3. It is the worship of stone of so-called holy places of which the holiness cannot be guaranteed and the Divinity of which stands for nothing.
4. The River Barada which runs through Damascus and converts the desert into a fruitful paradise.
5. The Kaiser was welcomed by the Ulema of Damascus, who invoked Heaven's richest blessing on him, and was entertained at a banquet at the municipal hall.
6. The Dreyfuss case was at its height at this time. It had been referred for revision to the Cour de Cassation on September 26th.
7. On July 10th, 1898, Fashoda, an Egyptian military post, was occupied by a small French force coming from the Congo, commanded by Major Marchand. The incident created acute tension between France and Great Britain. The French Government was eventually compelled to recall Major Marchand, which was done on November 4th, 1898.
8. Michael Mouravioff was Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1898.


XIX
Berlin 6/V I900


Dearest Nicky

In haste I just manage to write these few lines to thank you from the depth of my heart for your kind and dear letter you so kindly sent me through Costia1. Indeed I do so well remember the events of your coming of age and the ceremonies which accompanied it! How bravely you spoke your oath and how deeply moved your dear father was when he embraced you afterwards! How time has gone by! Now you too are ruler of a Great Empire and have children, and I have a grown up son! What a very kind idea it was of you to send Costia and dear old Richter2 as well as the Gentlemen of your suite to be present at the coming of the age of my boy.3 It makes me thankful and proud that you kindly take such an interest in the events which take place in our house, which is again a proof of the firm bond of friendship which we have inherited from our fathers and which, with Gods Will and help may never cease to exist! The ceremony of his taking the oath4 on the old colours of the I Rgt. of the Guards was most impressive and very touching, the boy behaving most naturally and also very bravely before the great assembly of Princes etc. With thousand thanks and kind much love to dear Alix and the wishes for a good summer I remain

Ever your most aff-ate cousin and friend
Willy

P.S. Our grand maneuvres this year between Guards and II A.5 Corps are near Stettin;6 should you care to see some of it you could come with your yacht to Swinemunde and from there I could take you straight up the river to the town. W.

Notes
1. Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovitch, the.Czar's cousin
2. General von Richter, chief of the German Imperial Household.
3. The Crown Prince was eighteen years old on May 6th, 1900. His birthday was celebrated with unprecedented ceremony, the Austrian Emperor being present.
4. After the service in the Chapel of the Royal Palace, the Crown Prince repeated the oath of fealty to the colors as recited by General von Plessen, who had placed his own helmet on the Crown Prince's head.
5. Second Army Corps.
6. The maneuvres between the Guard Corps and the Second Army Corps took place in Pomerania during the first two weeks of September, 1900. The Czar did not accept the Kaiser's invitation.


XX
Swinemünde 8/VI 1901


Dearest Nicky

I send you this lines through my son Adalbert1 to whom I trust you will kindly extend your grace. It is the first foreign country which he visits, and as he is still only a middy I beg you will not make too much of him officially. He is young and steady and I rely upon you that you will kindly see that he does not get into wrong or bad company.

With best love to Alix and her times I remain, with great pleasure anticipating our meeting on the sea

Ever your most aff-ate cousin and friend
Willy

Notes
1. Prince Adalbert arrived off Petrograd on July 19th in the German training ship "Charlotte." On July 23rd the Czar wearing the German Naval Uniform paid him a visit on board.


XXI
13/VI 1901 Kiel


Dearest Nicky

My best and warmest thanks for your kind messages through Paulis.1 Everything shall be arranged as you wish. The fleet is to be anchored according to the wind, where the anchorage offers most cover. Boyes marked with Russian flags will be laid for your vessels. Aviso and torpedoboats will meet you and guide you to your berth. Am not going to bring any diplomatist with me; not even the chancellor2 excepting your wanting to see him.

Waldersee3 will be there to "melden"4 himself. Dear old Schouwaloff is in Berlin and the whole garrison is making its pilgrimage to him; in the streets every soldier makes "front" and in passing his window the bands play your Hymn.

With greatest pleasure I look forward to meet you! Weidmannsheil5 for Alix.

Willy

Notes
1.Count Pauli, Russian Naval Attaché in Berlin.
2. Count Bulow had succeeded Prince Hohenlohe as Chancellor October 18th, 1900.
3. Field-Marshal Count von Waldersee was then on his way back from China. He had taken command of the Allied forces in China on September 27th, 1900. He left Peking on June 3rd, 1901, and arrived at Hamburg on August 8th. The proposed arrangements for meeting between Czar and Kaiser must refer to the Danzig meeting of September 11th.
4. Report.
5. Sportsman's greeting.


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