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  #61  
Old 05-12-2008, 05:21 AM
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I can't quite put my finger on why it was Willy loved the military so much. Perhaps he was ADHD, as we discussed earlier, and the routine and structure of the military calmed him. It could be because Prussia had always been known for its formidable army and he felt great pride in that. It might even have been due to his father being a great "war hero". The author doesn't really give enough information for me to come to a valid conclusion.
It seems to me that the military gave Willy a place to belong - to be the leader, that he might not have got at home or in his extended family. He had, what appears to be, a large circle of friends there, who he ended up putting in various political offices as time went on.
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Old 05-12-2008, 05:44 AM
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Just as a sidenote (now we are discussing Wilhelm and his friends in the army), wasn' t it rumoured that Willy and the militairy group he was surrounded by were practicing what the french called ' german disease' (homosexuality). I am not sure, but I think there was some scandal around Prince Eulenburg in 1907, when he was trialed for this (and he was one of the best friends of the Kaiser). And I remember reading some jokes about the kaiser patting or pinching some militairy friends on/in the behind.
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  #63  
Old 05-12-2008, 06:57 AM
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Yes the author maintains Eulenberg was Wilhelm's most influential advisor and he was brought down by a trial for homosexuality but we haven't gotten as far as the trial in the book yet.
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  #64  
Old 05-12-2008, 10:00 AM
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If he really was a homosexual, that would almost certainly be a reason why he felt so much more at home in the Army among all his male friends than at court where he'd have to be facing all the pressures of prospective brides and so on, and where his behaviour would have to be much more socially conventional, at least on the surface. Not that he seemed to be reluctant to marry.
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Old 05-12-2008, 09:26 PM
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Yes, though it doesn't explain the obsession he got about Ella.

I'm not getting a sense of Willy's relations to Bavaria or Austria, two countries that later played a big part in developments. The book does mention that the Prussian ambassadorships in Munich and Vienna were very important posts though so they must have been on Willy's radar. However Franz Joseph of Austria was Catholic as were the Kings of Bavaria. If you remember, Germany was the site of the 30 Years War two hundred years earlier that was fought between Protestants and Catholics and the two groups didn't always get along. Austria and Bavaria were the big German powers outside of Prussia and here religion made Willy on the outs so he seems hard pressed to find a really firm ally.
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  #66  
Old 05-12-2008, 09:51 PM
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I suppose she has to be restrictive with the subject matter because when you're dealing with all three rulers - Britain, Germany, and Russia - you could end up with a very large book and not get it all in. I guess the omissions weren't so obvious from the British point of view because Georgie was still very much on the periphery of things, but I did get the sense that the Prussian/German part had been rather abbreviated.

One thing that struck me, even this early in the book, was how much the attitudes and prejudices of Willy and his group of confidants had infiltrated the German psyche - the business with suspicion and hatred of Jews, the obsession with racial purity, and the feeling of entitlement about having all the Germanic people under one unified umbrella. I mean, I knew all this poison didn't start with Hitler, but sometimes I was wondering if I was reading about the lead-up to the second world war rather than the first.
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Old 05-12-2008, 10:19 PM
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I suppose she has to be restrictive with the subject matter because when you're dealing with all three rulers - Britain, Germany, and Russia - you could end up with a very large book and not get it all in. I guess the omissions weren't so obvious from the British point of view because Georgie was still very much on the periphery of things, but I did get the sense that the Prussian/German part had been rather abbreviated.

One thing that struck me, even this early in the book, was how much the attitudes and prejudices of Willy and his group of confidants had infiltrated the German psyche - the business with suspicion and hatred of Jews, the obsession with racial purity, and the feeling of entitlement about having all the Germanic people under one unified umbrella. I mean, I knew all this poison didn't start with Hitler, but sometimes I was wondering if I was reading about the lead-up to the second world war rather than the first.
Well we don't know how much it did infiltrate the German psyche at this point because the author really doesn't paint a convincing portrait of what was going on in Germany and what opinions were outside of Willy's circle up to this time. For all I know, it could be just his small circle at this point. So far I'm not getting a feel for how much his circle influenced everyday public opinion in Germany. Maybe later in the book she shall.

As far as I can tell, what Germany was going through with getting all German people under one umbrella was what Alfred the Great took the English through to make a single England a thousand years before and what Ferdinand and Isabella did in Spain 300 years before, coincidentally along with persecuting the Moors and the Jews with the Inquisition. The Holy Roman Empire and the Hanseatic League appeared to be the strongest powers in Europe but their very power induced the duchies to remain split up and semi-autonomous long after the peoples of the other ethnic groups had consolidated their peoples into single nations. While in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the power and prestige of the Holy Roman Empire seemed to be boundless, it had an unintended side effect of making all the Imperial lands split up and hard to consolidate which in the end seemed to weaken them more. The writing was on the wall I think with the 30 Years War but the advent of Napoleon and the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in the early 1800s made the precarious situation especially clear.
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  #68  
Old 05-12-2008, 10:24 PM
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I think there's a difference between uniting all the individual German grand duchies and principalities under Prussia as the leader; however, going to war with Denmark and France to grab parts of their countries because they contained majority ethnic German populations is more of a stretch. That reminded me a lot of the land grabs that went on before the second world war, especially the Sudetenland. I've been more familiar with the run-up to the first world war from the British viewpoint, and reading about the situation and the justifications in Germany, I was seeing a lot of parallels between the two wars.
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Old 05-12-2008, 10:59 PM
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Well I think it would have had to have been done by force either way whether Prussia took the other grand duchies as a whole or parts of Denmark and France.

Bismarck was probably enboldened when the German population in Schleswig-Holstein started threatening revolt around the time of Christian IXs succession. I thought Marie Antoinette's father Franz of Lorraine (Holy Roman Emperor) brought Lorraine under Austrian control but then it was taken back by Napoleon. Those territories at the edge of France seemed to go back and forth quite a lot. I'm not sure about Alsace.
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  #70  
Old 05-13-2008, 07:19 AM
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I also think that Vicky and Fritz would have been better off if they had taken Minnie and Sasha's approach and hidden their true tendencies so long as the old Kaiser was alive. Sasha and Minnie were much better at hiding their absolutist tendencies in the court of liberal Alexander II and as a result neither suffered the loss of power, popularity or esteem that Vicky and Fritz did.
I agree with this, Ysbel. This would have been the astute thing to do. I wonder if the Kaiser would have been the same belligerent, Germanic character then. He probably would have because Bismark's influence over him was so strong.

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Old 05-13-2008, 10:22 PM
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I'm not sure that Sasha and Minnie didn't lean more to absolute rule due to the brutal assassination of Alexander II, rather than hiding the fact until after the assassination. Wasn't it the tutor, Pobedonostev, who actually found and destroyed the document Alexander II had signed the day of his death offering consultative assembly, and replaced it with something else? Since he was Sasha's former tutor perhaps he had been, or was able to after AII's death, "educating" Sasha on the dangers of Democracy.

I'm not sure I agree that Vicky and Fritz would have been better off to hide their more liberal tendencies until the old Kaiser died. Since Fritz was Kaiser for all of 96 days (IIRC) it wouldn't have mattered much either way. And with Willy enamored with Bismark and his autocratic grandfather I'm not sure it would have made any difference at all in the end. Upon finding out three months before he became Kaiser that his parents were liberally inclined might have incited Willy to do something very drastic to his parents, or his mother after Fritz died.

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  #72  
Old 05-13-2008, 10:46 PM
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Part of the problem with Willy is that he was so conflicted at home, with his mother apparently making it fairly clear that she didn't care for him much compared with his dead younger brother and being so stridently outspoken in a setting where that sort of behaviour in a woman was considered inappropriate. So it's not surprising, especially given his apparently ambiguous sexual tendencies, that he felt so much more at home in his military life with his soldier friends. That would have played right into the hands of Bismarck and his grandfather. I'm not sure there's anything Vicky and Fritz could have done other than for Vicky to be somewhat more unconditional in her love for her son and for Fritz to have inherited sooner and lived longer.
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Old 05-13-2008, 10:59 PM
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I think it boils down to the simple fact that, while Willy might have been born to rule, he was not cut out for it. Victoria and Albert had a point in wanting Germany to become a constitutional monarchy -- in a constitutional monarchy it doesn't really matter what type personality inherits the throne, they can't do much damage except in the court of public opinion. And in the early 1900's it was a lot easier to hide from the press than in today's world. Willie might have done okay as a head of state, but Willy as Kaiser was courting disaster!

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Old 05-14-2008, 08:28 AM
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I'm not sure that Sasha and Minnie didn't lean more to absolute rule due to the brutal assassination of Alexander II, rather than hiding the fact until after the assassination. Wasn't it the tutor, Pobedonostev, who actually found and destroyed the document Alexander II had signed the day of his death offering consultative assembly, and replaced it with something else? Since he was Sasha's former tutor perhaps he had been, or was able to after AII's death, "educating" Sasha on the dangers of Democracy.
Well Cat, I think that this wasn't the first assassination attempt on Alexander IIs life, there was considerable unrest and upheaval in Russia long before his assassination. But the main reason I think that Sasha just didn't have a change of heart upon his father's assassination was that he was already a grown man in his mid-thirties with pre-teenage children and at that age one's personality and outlook on life is rather set and not easy to change so drastically. He certainly proved not easy to change after the assassination whereas if he had been at heart of a more democratic nature yet overreacted to that one event, I would have expected him to moderate some of his harsher tendencies in the later part of his reign and let his true democratic tendencies come out which he didn't. It does seem where his true tendencies were absolutist rather than democratic but it seems also clear that he was successful at making an appearance for whatever was accepted in the society he was with. A Danish tutor noted the difference in Sasha's behavior in Denmark where he was just the son-in-law and his behavior in Russia where he was the Tsar. The tutor noted that Sasha in Denmark acted merely as the beloved son-in-law and didn't have airs - he was down to earth, familair, not haughty, rather pleasant and not standing on ceremony and took part in the fun and games that were loved by the Danish royals. However the Tsar in Russia was definitely overbearing, aloof, and a bit autocratic and got touchy when the proper respect wasn't shown to him. This led me to believe that Sasha excelled at being able to make an appearance that was pleasing to the society he was with without it changing his true nature underneath. Willy, like his parents, couldn't do that.

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I'm not sure I agree that Vicky and Fritz would have been better off to hide their more liberal tendencies until the old Kaiser died. Since Fritz was Kaiser for all of 96 days (IIRC) it wouldn't have mattered much either way. And with Willy enamored with Bismark and his autocratic grandfather I'm not sure it would have made any difference at all in the end. Upon finding out three months before he became Kaiser that his parents were liberally inclined might have incited Willy to do something very drastic to his parents, or his mother after Fritz died.

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Well hindsight is 20/20; they didn't know at that time that Fritz would only reign 90 days and in truth he may have reigned longer if Vicky had not been so pigheaded to insist on an English doctor who countered the diagnosis of the German doctors who had found the cancer and recommended an operation. I still believe that the English doctor wasn't making a true diagnosis but was pandering to what he thought Vicky wanted. He changed his diagnosis quick enough when the writing was on the wall.

But I think that Fritz' loss of esteem in Germany was a main factor in Willy's idolization of Bismarck and we see that Willy's idolization of Bismarck wasn't that profound; he overthrew Bismarck later. Willy, unlike Sasha, and indeed unlike his English relatives, seemed to me to place great importance on a person's esteem in the society they are in. Fritz despite his many good qualities seemed to conduct his life so that everyone focused on his worse qualities rather than his best. In Germany, he was an accomplished military leader, and that should have gotten him some respect and esteem there but it didn't; Bismarck and the government focused on his political statments and ridiculed him to the point where he lost respect in his own country.

On the other hand, his armies tearing through Darmstadt would have not been welcome to his sister in law Princess Alice who had to barricade herself and her children against the onslaught and it served to make him look the bad guy in Victorian Britain despite the very democratic and British loving tendencies he had. So despite having characteristics that were amenable to the British and to the Germans, he managed to lose respect in both countries and Willy seemed from an early age to be obsessed with making a good appearance in society. I think this is the difference between the German outlook which is more focused on gaining respect of one's peers and one's society and the English outlook which is much more individualistic and independent. Vicky certainly didn't mind being a contrary opinion in Germany but I think her son minded his parent's outcast status tremendously and that could have caused him to seek someone like Bismarck who was seen as a giant in Germany at the time.

What does this have to do with Vicky's and Fritz behavior under the old Kaiser? Well I believe that if Vicky and Fritz had not lost their esteem in Prussia, they would have had a better chance to hold onto their son's love and respect and would have had a better chance to influence Willy to their point of view. But to influence Willy I think they had to prove that they could gain and keep esteem in society first.
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  #75  
Old 05-15-2008, 02:54 PM
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One thing that struck me, even this early in the book, was how much the attitudes and prejudices of Willy and his group of confidants had infiltrated the German psyche - the business with suspicion and hatred of Jews, the obsession with racial purity, and the feeling of entitlement about having all the Germanic people under one unified umbrella. I mean, I knew all this poison didn't start with Hitler, but sometimes I was wondering if I was reading about the lead-up to the second world war rather than the first.
The lead-up to WW2 is based upon the failed revolution of 1918/1919. When Ludendorff asked the Social Democratic Party (bref: SPD) to take over power on September 29, 1918, he did it with the purpose to blame them for the defeat. The upcoming revolution could have helped the SPD to get out of this entrapment. However, it were the very socialist leaders, in particular Ebert and Scheidemann, being satisfied to be finally "in charge" and respected by the old establishment, they did whatever necessary to destroy the revolution of their very own party members! Ebert in particular betrayed the revolution and paid for this betrayel lateron.

But as a result the fighting spirit of the SPD basis was lost forever. And when it was needed most - 15 years later against Hitler - the German working class would have neither courage nor will.

On the other handside the old establishment was able to pursue their goals.
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Old 05-15-2008, 08:36 PM
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...What does this have to do with Vicky's and Fritz behavior under the old Kaiser? Well I believe that if Vicky and Fritz had not lost their esteem in Prussia, they would have had a better chance to hold onto their son's love and respect and would have had a better chance to influence Willy to their point of view. But to influence Willy I think they had to prove that they could gain and keep esteem in society first.
Fritz tried in the beginning. Vicky did not properly show him love and affection so it was too late once he reached adulthood. One other important factor not mentioned is that Willy had "allies" within his immediate family festering a love-hate relationship towards his mother and her homeland. Charlotte and Henry despised everything English to include their mother.
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Old 05-15-2008, 09:17 PM
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Fritz tried in the beginning. Vicky did not properly show him love and affection so it was too late once he reached adulthood. One other important factor not mentioned is that Willy had "allies" within his immediate family festering a love-hate relationship towards his mother and her homeland. Charlotte and Henry despised everything English to include their mother.
Well this is certainly interesting. If both Charlotte and Heinrich turned out to be anti-English then there had to be a severe breakdown between Vicky and ALL her children regardless of the state of Wilhelm's bad arm.

The book so far hasn't mentioned too much about Heinrich and Charlotte except for Willy sending Heinrich in his place.

Its possible for Vicky, I suppose to have kept some modicum of her children's affections if she had endeavored to be close to them; however, with Willy's emphasis on keeping up appearances, I just cannot see either Vicky or Fritz being able to keep up in their son's esteem with the downfall in public opinion that they faced both in Germany and England. They were really persona non grata in both countries.

I'm a bit confused though by what you meant when you said that Fritz tried at first. What do you mean? That he tried to get his son's affection? Or that he tried to preserve his reputation in Germany?
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Old 05-15-2008, 11:03 PM
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Henry accepted Willy "as he was" from the beginning unlike Vicky who wanted a perfect child. Vicky stated that she was very proud of him and very proud of being a mama. However, she wanted a perfect child like everyone else. Which really isn't selfish at all since what person wouldn't want that. But the ARM caused her so much stress that Willy wasn't pretty and she neglected him. When Charlotte was born Vicky said that she was 1000 nicer and prettier than Willy ever was. Not to mention that Sigi was actually her favorite child. Oh, let us not forget Waldie who was the favorite after Sigi. Were the last two labeled favorites only in death? Willy received more attention from Fritz in his childhood than from his mother. But what good did it really do for either parent? None it seems.


As far as how Henry and Charlotte felt, let me skim through Born to Rule which is up in my attic. KKT is, afterall, about Willy, Georgy, and Nicky. But...After Sigi's death in KKT, Vicky refers to them as dull and idle (Henry), fat (Charlotte), and loud and rough (Willy). But the eldest siblings adapted to Willy's idealogy.
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Old 05-17-2008, 10:06 AM
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Henry accepted Willy "as he was" from the beginning unlike Vicky who wanted a perfect child.
Ah, thanks for explaining. You mean Fritz and not Heinrich (or Henry), right?

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Willy received more attention from Fritz in his childhood than from his mother. But what good did it really do for either parent? None it seems.
Good point, Kerry. That's why I think that Vicky just pouring on more love and affection to Willy wouldn't have made much of a difference in their relationship and her influence on Willy. It would be intriguing yet impossible to know how Fritz' reputation went down in Germany while Wilhelm grew up and what if any effect Fritz' loss of esteem in public opinion meant to Willy.

The tutors, the servants around Willy had to have been cognizant of Fritz' situation and they may have colored their actions and their attitudes around their royal boss accordingly. If they did, Willy, being the sensitive child that he was, would have definitely picked up on a lack of respect towards his father and made a reaction.
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Old 05-17-2008, 11:08 AM
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I also think its curious though that Willy didn't react in defense of his parents but the frisson between Fritz and Willy could have been as normal as that of other kings and their heirs. British kings always had an uneasy relationship with their heirs as have other monarchies. Ludwig II, the mad King of Bavaria, commissioner of the fairytale castle Neuschwanstein and a contemporary of Vicky and Fritz, had a much closer relationship to his colorful grandfather Ludwig I, than he did to his father Maximilian II.

Oddly enough, I think Vicky's parenting style was more common in these times than Alix's and Minny's doting care and love over their children. It seemed more normal at that time for parents to choose favorites and openly despise some of their children. We see it in Victoria's treatment of Bertie. I also remember reading in a Victoria biography that in the age of high child mortality, parents actually gave less love to a sickly child because they did not want to get too emotionally attached to a child that was not going to make it. It seemed that the high chance of losing your children before they were grown in the era of diptheria and smallpox caused young parents in general not to get close to any of their children until they reached young adulthood.
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