'Willy-Nicky' Letters VI - XX (26 November 1895-13 June 1901)
Jagdhaus Rominten 1 26/IX/95.
My Uncle the Chancellor referring to the kind and sympathetic way with which you received him, has owned himself quite won by your manner, and was profoundly impressed by your knowledge about the political situation and the quiet and calm manner with which you judged the questions of interest. He also told me that you expressed a wish that I should continue the custom, which we have begun, of writing to you if I thought there was occasion for it, I do this with pleasure. The situation in the Far East has given you the opportunity of discussing it with my uncle. I thank you for the way in which you kindly alluded to my cooperation with Russia and the coaling station question. The development of the Far East, especially its danger to Europe and our Christian Faith is a matter which has been greatly on my mind ever since we made our first move together in Spring. At last my thoughts developed into a certain form and this I sketched on paper. I worked it out with an Artist3 -- a first class draughtsman and after it was finished had it engraved for public use. It shows the Powers of Europe represented by their respective Genii called together by the Arch-Angel Michael, sent from Heaven, to unite in resisting the inroad of Buddhism, heathenism and barbarism for the Defence of the Cross.
Stress is especially laid on the united resistance of all European Powers, which is just as necessary also against our common internal foes, anarchism, republicanism, nihilism. I venture to send you an engraving begging you to accept it as a token of my warm and sincere friendship to you and Russia. In the midst of these peaceful occupations and of the quiet hunting fell the astounding news I got from Paris that the French Chamber's Budget Committee -- in discussing the Military Budget propose to recall the XIX Corps (Algiers and Tunis) and to form a new continental Corps on my Western Frontier! This, recall has only been done once before in 1870 when France made war on us, such a project in the deepest times of Peace, has fallen like a thunderbolt on Germany and has created a deep feeling of alarm. This has been deepened by the fact that the proposal became publicly known the moment after Prince Lobanoff5 and Gen. Dragomiroff had officially assisted the Review of the French "Border Army" on the Lorraine Frontier amidst the energetic enthusiasm of the "Border People." This Army which the French Papers are telling us since weeks is meant for the first rush on our "Border Land" is the Revanche War! It is already 4 Corps strong against my 2 (XV, XVI). The proposed new Corps would increase the allready overwhelming French forces to 5 Corps, and constitutes a threat as well as a serious danger to my country. Of course upon this I must now began to take matters seriously. For this event happening in the moment your officers are being decorated and Lobanoff feted, whilst my attache's ears were greeted with not over agreeable remarks, has made people uneasy here and given affairs an ugly look, as if Russia would like France to be offensive against Germany with the hopes of help from the first named. Such a serious danger will cause me to strongly increase my army, to be able to cope with such fearful odds. Heavy as the financial strain would weigh on us, my People would never waver a moment to guarantee their security should this be necessary. I perfectly know that you personally do not dream of attacking us, but still you cannot be astonished that the European Powers get alarmed seeing how the presence of your officers and high officials in official way in France fans the inflamable Frenchmen into a white heated passion and strengthens the cause of Chauvinism and Revanchism.
God knows that I have done all in my power to preserve the European Peace, but if France goes on openly or secretly encouraged like this to violate all rules of international courtesy and Peace in peacetimes, one fine day my dearest Nicky you will find yourself nolens volens suddenly embroiled in the most horrible of wars Europe ever saw! Which will by the masses and by history perhaps be fixed on you as the cause of it. Pray don't be angry, if I perhaps hurt you quite unintentionally, but I think it my duty to our two countries and to you as my friend to write openly. As the seclusion and retirement the deep mourning has imposed upon you, debars you from seeing people and following in detail what is happening -- behind the scenes.
I have some experience of Politics, and see certain unmistakable symptoms, so I hasten to you, my friend, to plead in the name of the Peace of Europe; if you are allied "for better, for worse" with the French, well then, keep those damned rascals in order and make them sit still, if not then don't let your Men who go to France make the French believe that you are allied and get reckless and turn their heads till they lose them, and we have to fight in Europe instead for it against the East. I think of the awful responsibility for the shocking bloodshed! Now Goodbye dearest Nicky, best love to dear Alix and believe me
Ever your most devoted and faithful friend and Cousin
1. In East Prussia, near the Russian frontier, where the Kaiser had a shooting box.
2. Prince von Hohenlohe, who succeeded Caprivi on October 28th, 1894. He had come to Petrograd on September l0th.
3. The artist was Professor Knackfuss of Cassel.
4. The Committee was at this time considering the formation of a Colonial Army.
5. Minister for Foreign Affairs, who was sent together with Dragomiroff by the Czar to the French Army maneuvers in the neighborhood of Mirecourt in September, 1895.
6. Imperator Rex.
Neues Palais Potsdam 25/X/95.
Uncle Micha's1 most joyful and unexpected arrival who just lunched with us, gives me an agreeable opportunity to warmly thank you for your kind letter Moltke brought home. He is still quite full of all your kindness and quite enraptured by your whole person and your ways. Your ideas about the press in general are exactly the same as mine, it has done and still continues to do a deal of harm and we must bear with a great amount of spite, lying and nonsense. Still the influence it horribile dictu has must be judged from the spirit of the People of the different races are brought up and read it. Your subjects and mine are slower at thought, sober and quieter in their conclusions they draw as for instance Southerners or the French. The Roman or Gallic races are more easily roused, incensed and more ready to jump to conclusions, and once having flared up are more dangerous to peace than the Teutonic or Russian Race. Again in England the Press is more the mouthpiece of Public opinion than on the Continent and goes in more for the interests of its Country.
Lobanows visit2 was most interesting to me, he is no doubt a very able Diplomatist and a splendid causeur, and what he told me was "sehr berahigend"3 about France. I thought it right to talk quite openly about France with him as he told me you had communicated with him. In one respect I took pains to show him that I did not wish to be misunderstood. That it is not a fact of the "Rapport" or friendship between Russia and France that makes one uneasy -- every Sovereign is sole master of his country's interests and he shapes his policy accordingly -- but the danger which is brought to our Principle of Monarchism through the lifting up the Republic on a pedestal by the form under which the friendship is shown. The constant appearance of Princes, Granddukes, statesmen, generals in "full fig" at reviews, burials, dinners, races with the head of the Republic or in his entourage makes Republicains -- as such -- believe that they are quite honest excellent people, with whom Princes can consort and feel at home. Now what is the consequence at home in our different countries were the Republicans are Revolutionists de natura and treated -- rightly too -- as people who must be shot or hung, they tell our other loyal subjects: "Oh we are not dangerous bad men, look at France! There you see the Royalties hobnobbing with the Revolutionairesl Why should it not be the same with us?" The R.F.4 is from the source of the great Revolution and propagates and is bound to do so, the ideas of it. Don't forget that Faure -- not his personal fault -- sits on the throne of the King and Queen of France "by the Grace of God" whose heads Frenchmen Republicans cut off. The Blood of their Majesties is still on that country! Look at it, has it since then ever been happy or quiet again? Has it not staggered from bloodshed to bloodshed? And in its great moments did it not go from war to war? till it soused all Europe and Russia in streams of blood? Till at last it had the Commune over again? Nicky take my word on it the curse of God has stricken that People for everl We Christian Kings and Emperors have one holy duty imposed on us by Heaven, that is to uphold the Principle "von Gottes Gnaden"5 we can have good relations with the R. F. but never be intime with her! I always fear that in frequent and long visits in France people without feeling it imbibe Republican ideas. Here I must tell you an example! I remember a few years ago a gentleman -- no German -- telling me full of horror that when he was at a fashionable salon in Paris he heard a Russian General answer a French ones question whether Russia would smash the German Army, answer "Oh nous serons battu à plate couture, mais quesque ça fait - Nous aurons alors,aussi la Republique"!6 That is what I am afraid of for you my dear Nickyl Dont forget Skobelew7 and his plan for carrying off the Imperial family at a dinner once? Therefore take care that your Generals don't like the R. F. too much. Please forgive my being so open but I want you to see how warmly I feel for you and how anxious I am about you, and that you should fully know what my motives are.
The next point of interest was the news Lobanow told me about Turkey; that he had cause to suspect England was after the Dardanells and therefore had revived the Armenian question.8 I confess that I was utterly stupefied at this piece of news. No doubt since Salisbury's advancement England's foreign policy has become most mysterious and unintelligible, and the quaint way in which the Fleet sulks around the Dardanells indicates that it means something there. But if they do that they violate the Treaty of Berlin and this they cannot be allowed to do without the permission of all the other signatory Powers; which they never will do. But it seems that they have some Idea or other of changing their Policy in the Mediterranean, for two days ago Malet9 on paying his farewell visit to our Foreign Office used very blustering words, about Germany behaving badly to England in Africa, that it would not stand it any longer and that after buying off the French by concessions in Egypt they were at liberty to look after us. He even was so undiplomatic to utter the word "war." Saying that even England would not shrink from making war upon me if we did not knock down in Africa. 10 I have made an answer to the effect that the British were making themselves ridiculous in this case, but obnoxious to everybody, and if they got into trouble with anybody else I would not move a Pomeranian Grenadier11 to help them. I suppose that will cool them. It is the same thing I told Lobanow. I told him besides that if Russia should be seriously engaged in the Far East I looked upon it as my duty to keep your back free from anybody in Europe and to see that all kept quiet, and that nothing would happen from me also to France, provided I was not attacked. He warmly thanked me for this. I share his fear that Japan has some sort of understanding with England and that is why it is so stiffbacked.
Before concluding let me express my most heartfelt sympathy for the I of November12 now approaching. God alone can soother the pangs of sorrow that will rend your hart on mourning such a kind father and such an excellent and good man, so like my poor Papa. May I propose something to you which I have at heart ? Considering our near relations and the constant exchange of letters and messages, which would unecessarily always put the Embassy machines in motion, would not you like to renew the old custom our Forefathers had for nearly a century and have again a personal aide de camp attached to our respective staffs? The more private and "intime" affairs could as in olden times go directly by them, which makes matters much simpler? I shall take with pleasure anybody whom you really trust into my Maison militaire, would you like Moltke? Now I shan't trouble you any longerl
Goodbye dearest Nicky, my best love to Alix and the "future," and believe me allways
Your most devoted and aff-ate friend and cousin
1. Grand Duke Michael.
2. Lobanow or Lobanoff, the Russian Foreign Minister. He visited the Kaiser at Hubertusstock on October 13th, 1895.
3. Very reassuring.
4. Republique Française.
5. By the grace of God.
6. Oh, we will be smashed to pieces, but what does that matter? We will then also have a republic.
7. The famous Russian General who before his sudden death in 1882 was reported to be the author of a plot to arrest the Czar and proclaim a constitution.
8. Frightful Armenian massacres occurred in 1895.
9. Sir Edward Malet, British ambassador at Berlin; had a special audience with the Kaiser on October 21st in order to present his letters of recall after eleven years in Berlin.
10. At this time it was believed that German agents were trying to obtain a footing in Matabeleland. Another source of friction was Germany's persistence in maintaining direct relations with the Transvaal.
11. This is a reference to Bismarck's declaration that the Eastern Question, so far as Germany was concerned, was not worth "the sound bones of a single Pomeranian Grenadier."
12. The anniversary of the death of Czar Alexander III.
Neues Palais 2/I/96.
Radolin's return to Petersburg gives me the opportunity of sending you a few lines. Please let me thank you most sincerely for the many signs of kindness and friendship you have given me and my country, which has given a sense of quietness and security, and which I beg you will continue to bestow on us in the following year.
With my warmest congratulations for the New Year and a merry Xmas I join my prayers that the Lord may bless and protect you, dear Alix, your sweet child1 and all your family from all Evil, sorrow or sickness. May your reign be prosperous and may you see the realisation of many a scheme you have elaborated for the welfare of your subjects. May our countries be able as before to join in the strengthening and upholding of Peace and in the defence of their faith and interests against any outward or inward foe.
The political horizon is peculiar just now. Armenia and Venezuela2 are open questions England brought up, and now suddenly the Transval Republic3 has been attacked in a most foul way as it seems without Englands knowledge. I have used very severe language in London, and have opened communications with Paris for common defence of our endangered interests, as French and German colonists have immediately joined hands of their own accords to help the outraged boers. I hope you will also kindly consider the question, as it is one of principle of upholding treaties once concluded. I hope that all will come right but come what may I never shall allow the British to stamp out the Transvaal! I hope you have better news for your poor brother4 who has arrived as I see at the Riviera!
Please give my best love to dear Alix and once more thanking you for all kindness to Strantz and his men believe me dear Nicky
Your most aff-ate cousin and friend
I. Grand Duchess Olga, born November 3rd, 1895.
2. In October, 1895, Great Britain presented an ultimatum to the Venezuelan Government in the Guiana-Venezuela dispute. Diplomatic relations between Great Britain and Venezuela were suspended in 1887 and not restored until 1897.
3. The Jameson Raid began on December 29th, 1895, and ended with the unconditional surrender of the raiders on January and, 1896, the day this letter was written to the Czar. At the same time the Kaiser sent his famous telegram to President Krüger, which read as follows: "I express my sincere congratulations that, supported by your people and without appealing for the help of friendly Powers, you have succeeded by your own energetic action against armed bands which invaded your country as disturbers of the peace, and have thus been able to restore peace and safeguard the independence of the country against attacks from outside.--William."
4. Grand Duke George, the second son of Alexander III., who was suffering from consumption and who died in the Crimea in 1899
IX Berlin 20/11 96
General Werder has the great pleasure and honour to be your guest and so I entrust this letter to his care. Let me once more thank you with all my heart for the picture and the letter you sent me for my birthday.1 The attention was most kind and gracious at the same time, as the opening of the Canal was indeed something which I had very much at heart and which really was a success. I have sent the picture to Kiel where it is to be hung in my private apartments, the same in which your dear lamented father lived the last time he met me at Kiel. Werder will also be the bearer of two photographs. One for you, as a little souvenir of mine and one for Alix, to give her an idea of what my girl2 looks like. She is a real piece of living quicksilver and tyrannises her papa tremendously.
Your Embassy has enquired about my beeing represented at the Coronation3 at Moskau and I have named Henry as my representant. I should be very thankful if you would kindly see that the question of his rank is made out clearly, as I heard that your Master of Ceremonies has hinted to Radolin that he would have to follow all the Hereditary German Granddukes and Princes, even the son of the Prince of Montenegro. This is of course out of the question. My house as the reigning one in Germany is the first, and the Princes belonging to it go before the sons of the Reigning Princes in Germany. I asked Wladimir4 about this when he was here, and he was of quite the same opinion, and told me he would mention the matter to you. Besides he is your brother in law,5 and as such he counts as one of your family, just as your Papa did for the Duke of Edinbourgh6 at his coronation.
I saw Aunt Sanny7 at Oldenburg and on her passage here. She is very much affected by the slow and harrassing death of her poor sister, and suffers much from sleeplessness, poor thingl
The Blue Book8 in Parliament in London has once more proved how right your policy was in Oriental matters and how England has tried to get you and us others into trouble. In Transvaal their Coup de Bourse was miscarried by the will of Providence, and though some lives were lost, yet revolution, bloodshed and general pillage have been stopped. They have behaved very improperly to me, but that leaves me untouched, whereas their mobilising their celebrated Flying Squadron9 against us, who have hardly anything to speak of, made them supremely ridiculous.
Now good by dearest Nicky, best love to Alix. and believe me
Your most devoted Cousin and friend
1. On the Kaiser's birthday, January 27th, the Russian ambassador in Berlin, Count Osten-Sacken, presented him with an autograph letter from the Czar and an oil painting representing Kiel Harbor at the moment of the opening of the Canal. The German Imperial yacht "Hohenzollern" was shown passing the Russian flagship "Alexander II."
2. The Kaiser's youngest child, Princess Victoria Louise, born September 13th, 1892, and married to Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick, in 1913.
3. The Czar was crowned on May 26th, 1896.
4. Grand Duke Wladimir, the Czar's uncle.
5. Prince Henry of Prussia married Princess Irene of Hesse, elder sister of the Czarina.
6. When the Czar Alexander III. was crowned on May 27th, 1883, the Duke of Edinburgh, who had married the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, the Czar's sister, followed immediately after the members of the Imperial family.
7. Grand Duchess Alexandra Josefovna, Princess of Saxe-Altenborg, married to the Grand Duke Constantine Nicholaevitch.
8. A Blue Book on the Armenian question was issued in London on February 17th, 1896. A Blue Book on the Transvaal was issued on February 12th.
9. The squadron, commissioned on January 9th, 1896, consisted of two first-class battleships, two first-class cruisers, and two second-class cruisers.
Coburg 19/iv 96.
The merry wedding1 which is taking place here and the faces of many of the guests remind me of two years ago when it was my good fortune to be able to help you to secure that charming and accomplished angel who is now Yours wife. The reminiscaises of april 1894 2 were also felt by the others and from that cause they all agreed that we should send You the telegram You will have got. I venture to trust that I did not say or promise then anything that You have not afterwards found in Your matrimonial life. May Gods blessing be on You both especially in the next month when You are going to be crowned under the admiring assisstance of the world. I thank You most heartily for Yours kind letter You sent me through Werder the day I left for the Mediterranean, he was so happy over his stay in Petersburg, having seen so many well known faces. I quite agree with what You say in the end of Yours letter about the Britishers, there fanfarronades against us make them supremly ridiculous, and no impression on me. The worse they are hampered in Afrika, the better for us in Asia. Now good bye dear Nicky, best love to Alix and Godspeed from your aff-ate cousin and friend
[Editor's Note: The string of possessives in the letter above, along with the capitalisation, form part of the printed original. AJP]
1. That of Princess Alexandra of Coburg to the Hereditary Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.
2. April 1895.--The engagement of the Czar, then Czarevitch, to Princess Alix of Hesse took place at Coburg in April, 1894, where she and the Czarevitch were staying for the wedding of Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and the Grand Duke of Hesse.
Letzlingen 12/xi 96.
Wladimir1 is so kind as to take this lines with him to hand them over to you and will also be the bearer of my warmest "Grusse."2 I am glad you are safe home again and that the brilliant tour3 you made through Europe has not tired you too much.
I am deeply sorry for the awful Bismarkian behaviour4 which though it is a "coup" solely aimed against me personally nevertheless represents a breach of loyalty to your Government, and casts a slur on the memories of my beloved grandfather as well as on that of your beloved father. I have allready instructed my uncle the Chancellor how to speak in Parliament5 and hope you will be satisfied with the manner in which the whole treasonable affair is treated. I suppose that by this last stroke of the Prince and by the shameless way he is treating me in his press-- especially trying to make the people believe that I was and still am under "English" influence -- the clearer heads will begin to understand that I had reasons to send this unruly man with his mean caracter out of office. I place implicit faith in the hopes that you will kindly trust me as you did till now and that nothing has or can change between us two since we arranged our line of action at Breslau.6 Wladimir has come from Paris with the best of impression that all is quiet there, which I can corroborate from the reports of my ambassador7 who is on the best of terms with the Government and is quite full of admiration for the capabilities and sang froid of Hanotaux.8 The latter I hear is rather nervous about Turky, but as I have heard nothing alarming from there I suppose there is no real cause, he, I hear, is strongly opposed to any conference about Turky and in that is perfectly right.
On our frontier in Lithuania we have discovered and lokalised several cases of leprosy. Some people have brought the infection over from the next places in the Baltic Provinces. I consequently have ordered a hospital to be built at Memel to place the poor wretches in it. The illness is a terrible one, and very catching, and I propose to you wether our frontier Provincial authorities could not combine in watching and looking for cases, by combining some Doctors for medicine supervision?
We have had magnificent sport and fine weather and were very glad to see Wladimir here in his old place. With best love to Alix.
Your affectionnate friend and cousin
1. A dinner was given in honor of the Grand Duke Wladimir at the New Palace, Potsdam, on November 11th. On the following day the Grand Duke accompanied the Kaiser on a shooting expedition to Letzlingen where this letter was written.
3. The Czar and Czarina had visited Austria, Germany, Denmark, England and France, returning to Petrograd on October 31st, 1896. The Czar met the Kaiser at Breslau on September 5th and again on his return journey at Wiesbaden on October 29th.
4. Bismarck was at the time asserting in his press that under his guidance the relations between Russia and Germany were friendly and that his successors were responsible for the deterioration of these relations.
5. The debate on the Secret Reinsurance Treaty took place in the Reichstag on November r6th, four days after this letter was written. The Chancellor, Prince Hohenlohe, took refuge behind the pledge of absolute secrecy given with regard to the Russo-German negotiations between 1887 and 1890, until which year there was an understanding between the two Powers that if one of them were attacked the other would preserve a benevolent neutrality. The Chancellor expressed the conviction that since 1890 when the secret treaty was said to have lapsed there had been no unfavorable modification in Russo-German relations.
6. It was believed at the time of the Breslau meeting that the Kaiser and Czar had reached complete accord concerning the Eastern Question and decided to maintain the status quo in Turkey.
7. Count von Munster-Ledenburg, German ambassador in Paris since 1885.
8. Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Méline Cabinet.
Berlin 3/III 97.
My dear Nicky
As you kindly permitted, Col. v. Moltke will in a few days have the great honour to be able to pay his respects to his Imperial chef. This gives me the opportunity of sending you a few lines of warm friendship in these trying times. I am most deeply grateful for the loyal, clear and statesmanlike way in which you grasped this most unfortunate Cretan affair,1 and feel justly proud that our views on this subject are exactly alike. From the "Family"2 point of view you must have gone through moments which may have taxed your affections to the utmost, and the resolve to do as you did must have been come to after many an internal pang. But you are perfectly right! And you see by the result that your "démarche" has rallied all the Powers, willingly or not, to a common demonstration, which will I hope, make the Peace of Europe an undisturbed one. You have shown the world once more that if the 3 great Empires "marchent d'accord" and are joined by the other great Continental Powers, i.e., if the whole Continent keeps together in an unbroken front, the rest of the world must follow us, even the strongest! The King of Greece must be clean mad if he does not stop in his mad attempt to set the world on fire "pour y allumer sa pipe."3 I am glad the Turks behaved so soberly and place strong troops into Macedonia! there lies the greatest danger and that must be kept quiet by all means.
I send you with Moltke some instant photographs taken of the Parade after your cravats had been fastened to the colours of the Alexander Regiment. He is also to place into your hands the work which has been written about my dear Grandfather4 and which is published for the Centenary of his birthday. His fine letters and speeches are the best characteristic of him I know. Our ball5 went off very well and the effect was simply magical, like a dream of old days gone past!
The cravats which I am going to present my Grenadiers are finished and I should be very thankful for a hint from you wether I can present them myself, or wether you think it better to send our officers with them. Now best love to Alix who I hope will be soon allright and believe me
Ever your most aff-ate cousin and friend
Notes 1. This letter was written before the outbreak of war between Greece and Turkey. Greece landed troops in Crete and the Powers demanded their recall. Russia and Germany were particularly against Greece's aggression.
2. King George of Greece married the Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna, the second daughter of the Grand Duke Constantine, the Czar's great-uncle.
3. To light his pipe.
4. Probably "The Military Documents of His Majesty Emperor William the Great," published under the auspices of the German war office on March 21st.
5. A fancy dress ball was given. by the Emperor on February 27th, all guests being required to wear costumes of the year 1797. The Kaiser appeared in the uniform of a colonel of the Ist Guards Regiment of that period.
Neues Palais 4/I 1898.
Go to holograph copy of Letter XIII
The new year has just opened and the old year has closed. But I cannot let it close without a glance at those lovely and brilliant days of August,1 when I was able to embrace you and Alix, and without thanking you for your kind, splendid even lavish hospitality to Victoria and me. With deep feelings of gratitude do I remember the pleasant hours I was able to spend with you, exchanging intercourse showing that we were of one opinion in the principles we follow in the fullfillment of the task, which has been set us by the Lord of all Lords. Each of us tries to do his best for his country's development and wellfare as is his duty! But in community we seek to procure to our countries the blessings of Peace!
May this New Year be a happy one for you dear Alix and the whole of your house and country. May the plans, which you mature be fullfilled for the wellfare of your people. Henry's mission2 is one of the steps I have taken for the help and countenance of your lofty ideals without which no sovereign can existin promoting civilisation i.e. Christianity in the Far East! Will you kindly accept a drawing I have sketched for you, showing the Symbolising figures of Russia and Germany as sentinels at the Yellow Sea for the proclaiming of the Gospel of Truth and Light in the East. I drew the sketch in the Xmas week under the blaze of the lights of the Xmas trees!
Also an album of photographs representing the review on your birthday3 at Wiesbaden before the new Standard of your Hussar Regiment and the Swearing in of the Recruits of your fine Alexander Regiment as well as a scene from its barrack-ground. A book of memoirs of the father on my Chief of the Horse Count Wedel will follow shortly as the binding is not quite finished yet. He served under Napoleon I in 1812 in Russia, was made prisoner by your troops and makes very interesting description of the campaign and of his captivity.Victoria4 send her best wishes, she was in bed for a long time and suffered much from nerves and a bad throat and only got up today for the first time. She had much worry on account of the two youngest ones5 who suffered from a bad attack of influenza which is raging here, and were laid up for nearly a month.
Now good bye dearest Nicky best love to Alix and my most respectful compliments to your dear mama from Your most
devoted and faithful friend and cousin
1. The Kaiser and Kaiserin visited Petrograd, August 7-13, 1897.
2. This mission was defined on December 16 by Prince Henry of Prussia at a banquet at Kiel just before he left in his flagship the "Deutschland" in command of the German squadron for China. In his speech Prince Henry said: "I am only animated by one desire, to proclaim and preach abroad to all who will hear as well as those who will not the Gospel of Your Majesty's Sacred Person."
3. May 6th.
4. The Kaiserin had been suffering from a diphtheritic indisposition
5. Princess Victoria Louise and Prince Joachim.
Reproduction of holograph Letter XIII
Berlin 28/III 98.
General von Werder brought me your and Alix'es kind messages from Petersburg and was beaming with delight at the souvenirs of his stay which as usual you managed to render so nice and agreeable to him. I thank you most sincerely for all he transmitted to me from you, and need not add that I heartily reciprocate your wishes. The dear old General is not only a relic of the past, but firmly and by conviction deeply attached to you and your house; and he therefore is in my eyes a living piece of the old tradition which allways united our families for the benefit of our countries and by that for the whole world.
I must congratulate you most heartily at the successful issue of your action at Port Arthur;1 we two will make a good pair of sentinels at the entrance of the gulf of Petchili, who will be duly respected especially by the Yellow Ones! I think the way you managed to soothe the feelings of the "fretful Japs" by the masterly arrangement at Korea2 a remarkably fine piece of diplomacy and a great show of foresight; which is apt to show what a boon it was that by your great journey,3 you were able to study the Question of the Far East locally and are now morally speaking the Master of Peking!
Radolin reported to me your very interesting conversation about China and your wishes about the Instructors in the Governments assumed as under the Russian sphere of influence. I have prepared an order to the German officers, but could not yet emanate it because it was impossible to fix a certain limit of territory without an indication on the map -- A small pencil line on any piece of paper from you would, put my mind to rest; because I would be most unhappy if by any misunderstanding the Officers, without their fault, trespassed on Russian territory from want of a real well recognized boundary line. The idea which was beginning to be ventilated from over the Channel in the Press that Chinese affairs were to be decided by an international Conference has been sharply repudiated here by me, for the reason that I soon found that it was a masked attempt to tie your hands in the Far East, the relations to whom I think are after all your own affair and not other peoples! The news from Henry are good, he is at Hongkong refitting his ship. He made good friends with Saissoy Weliky and Navarin4 at Colombo and they sailed together in perfect harmony for some days to the great astonishment of other people! Ahem! Which amuses me much as at the same time it gives me pleasure as Russian Admiral. Colonel v. Moltke my Aide-de-Camp and Commander of your "Alexanderiner" is the bearer of this letter and at the same time of a box with two hunting rifles of small bore calibre of exceedingly good hitting qualities and a most stretched trajectory -- I hope they will be of good use to you and enable you to kill many a good "Capital Hirsch." Now good by dearest Nicky best love to Alix and Weidmannsheil from
Ever Your most aff-ate and devoted friend
1. Russian warships arrived at Port Arthur "to pass the winter" on December 18th, 1897.
2. A treatu was signed between Russia and Japan on February 24th, 1897, for the maintenance of the independence of Korea under their military protection. On March 18th, 1898, Russia announced that she would abstain for the future from taking any active part in Korean affairs.
3. Reference to the Czar's tour which he made as Czarevitch in 1891. He visited China and Japan in April and May of that year.
4. Russian warships sent to reenforce the Russian Pacific squadron.
Berlin 30/V 98
Private & very confidential
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
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.
Wilhelmshöhe 18/VIII 98
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
Your most aff-ate friend and cousin
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.
Yacht Loreley Stamboul 20/X 98.
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
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.
6. With regard to his subjects
7. Greeks defeated at Larisse April 23rd, 1897; at Domoko May 17th, 1897.
Damascus 9/XI 98.
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
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.
Berlin 6/V I900
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
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.
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.
Swinemünde 8/VI 1901
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
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.
13/VI 1901 Kiel
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.
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.
5. Sportsman's greeting.
Return to WWI Document Archive Main Index Page