XV Berlin 30/V/98.

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Berlin 30/V/98
Private & very confidential

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 Politician[1] propriomotu suddenly sent for my Ambassador and à brûle pour point[2] offered him a treaty of Alliance with England![3] Count Hatzfeld[4] 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!


  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.

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