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Title: Emperor William First, the Great War and Peace Hero

Author: A. Walter

Translator: George P. Upton

Release date: June 22, 2020 [eBook #62451]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by D A Alexander, Stephen Hutcheson, and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
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Emperor William First, The Great War and Peace Hero


Life Stories for Young People


Translated from the German of
A. Walter

Translator of “Memories,” “Immensee,” etc.




A. C. McClurg & Co.
Published August 21, 1909



Translator’s Preface

Upon the titlepage of the original of this little volume stands inscribed, “A life picture for German youth and the German people.” It might, with equal pertinency, have been written, “A life picture for all youth and all people.” Emperor William First was a delicate child, but was so carefully nurtured and trained that he became one of the most vigorous men in Germany. At an early age he manifested a passionate interest in everything pertaining to war. In his youth he received the Iron Cross for bravery. He served under his father in the final wars of the Napoleonic campaign, and in his twenty-third year mastered not only the military system of Germany, but those of other European countries. During the revolutionary period of 1848 he was cordially hated by the Prussian people, who believed that he was wedded to the policy of absolutism, but before many years he was the idol of all his kingdom, and in the great war with France (1870), all Germans rallied round him.


After the close of this war he returned to Berlin and spent the remainder of his days in peace, the administration of internal affairs being left largely to his great coadjutor, Prince Bismarck. In connection with Von Moltke, these two, the Iron Emperor and the Iron Chancellor, made Germany the leading power of Europe. In simpleness of life, honesty of character, devotion to duty, love of country, and splendor of achievement, the Emperor William’s life is a study for all youth and all people.

G. P. U.

Chicago, May 10, 1909.



Chapter Page
I Early Life 11
II A Hard School 19
III Years of Peace 36
IV Troublous Times 42
V In Trust 49
VI The Austro-Prussian War 56
VII The Franco-Prussian War 64
VIII Sedan 73
IX Army Anecdotes 88
X Family Life of the Emperor 101
XI The Emperor’s Death 112
  Appendix 128


Emperor William FirstFrontispiece
The cornflower wreaths22
The two Emperors68
The Emperor’s deathbed116

Emperor William First

Chapter I
Early Life

King Frederick William Second was still upon the throne of Prussia when his son and successor, afterward Frederick William Third, was married to the lovely Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The memory of this noble pair is treasured in every Prussian heart, and their self-sacrificing devotion to the people, their benevolence and piety, will serve as a shining example for all time.


On the fifteenth of October, 1795, a son was born to them, the future King Frederick William Fourth, and on the twenty-second of March, 1797, the Crown Princess gave birth to a second son, whose name was destined to be inscribed in golden letters in the book of the world’s history. Although a handsome boy, his health was so delicate as to cause his parents much anxiety, and it seems almost like a special dispensation of Providence that he should have lived to an age far beyond that usually allotted to the fate of mortals.

On the third of April the christening took place in the Crown Prince’s palace. Chief Councillor of the Consistory Sack stood before the altar, which was ablaze with lighted tapers, and ranged before him in a wide semicircle were the priests, the Crown Prince, and the godparents. Others present were the King and Queen; the widowed Princess Louise, a sister of the Crown Princess and afterward Queen of Hanover; Princes Henry and Ferdinand of Prussia, brothers of Frederick the Great, with their wives; Princes Henry and William, brothers of the Crown Prince; their sister, the Electress of Hesse-Cassel; Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, and the hereditary prince Frederick William of Orange. Proxies had been sent by the Czar and Czarina of Russia, Prince William of Nassau, the Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, and the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. The principal governess, Countess Voss, handed the child to the King, who held him during the ceremony. He received the names Frederick William Louis, with the understanding that William was the one by which he should be known.


On the sixteenth of November of that same year Frederick William Second was gathered to his forefathers, and the father of our hero ascended the throne of Prussia. Their assumption of royal honors made no change in the simplicity of the august pair’s affection for each other or their devotion to their children, and whenever time and opportunity permitted, they gladly laid aside the oppressive form and ceremony of the court for the pure and simple pleasures of home life. Every morning and evening they went hand in hand to the nursery to enjoy the growth and development of their children, or, bending with loving caresses over their cradles, committed them to the fatherly care of the Almighty. The simple cradle with its little green curtains in which Prince William dreamed away his infancy is still preserved in the Hohenzollern Museum at the Monbijou Palace, a touching reminder of the delicate child who was afterward to be so famous and to serve as an instrument for the fulfilment of the mighty decrees of Providence for the welfare of his people.


The early years of Prince William’s life passed happily and peacefully by. Watched over with tenderest love and care by his noble parents, their devotion and piety, their readiness to sacrifice themselves for each other or for their people, their prompt and cheerful fulfilment of duty, and the courage that never failed them even in the darkest hours, all made a deep impression on the child’s sensitive nature and helped to form the character that distinguished the heroic Emperor up to the last days and hours of his life.

There was little prospect at that time of William’s ever wielding the sceptre, for his elder brother was a strong, healthy lad, and the crown seemed in all human probability likely to descend to him and his heirs. It was important, therefore, for the younger son to choose some vocation which would enable him to be of use to the Fatherland and prove himself worthy of his illustrious ancestors.


The Prince’s devoted tutor, Johann Friedrich Gottlieb Delbrück, carefully fed his mind with the history and glories of the house of Brandenburg, a study of which he never tired and to which he applied himself with untiring zeal. Learning from this that a well-disciplined standing army, firmly supported by public sentiment, was the first and most important requisite for the advancement and maintenance of the monarchy, he determined to devote himself to a military career and use all his energy to fit himself for that high and difficult calling, that he might furnish a stout support to his brother’s throne. But he had shown a natural fondness for soldiers at an early age, long before arriving at this maturer resolution, an inclination which his father had carefully encouraged. The two little Princes, with their cousin Frederick, son of the deceased Prince Louis, received their first military instruction in Potsdam from a noncommissioned officer of the first Battalion of the Guard, named Bennstein, and in Berlin from Sergeant Major Cleri of the Möllendorf Regiment. The King was often present at these exercises to note their progress, praise or criticise, and as a reward for their industry, arranged a delightful surprise for them.


It was Christmas Eve of the year 1803. In the royal palace at Berlin the lighted Christmas-tree glittered and sparkled, its branches bending with the weight of gifts provided by the royal parents for their children. All was silent, for the family were still at divine service, with which they always began the celebration of the holy festival. Suddenly the clear stroke of a bell sounded through the quiet room, the great doors flew open as if of their own accord, and the King and Queen entered with their excited children. A perfect sea of light streamed toward them from the huge tree that towered almost to the ceiling and filled the air with its spicy fragrance, while red-cheeked apples and gilded nuts nodded a friendly greeting from its branches. Here the beautiful Louise, Prussia’s beloved Queen, reigned supreme, gayly distributing gifts and enjoying the delight of her precious children, while the King stood quietly by, his eyes shining with fatherly happiness. All at once the six-year-old William gave a shout of joy. Before him, carefully tucked away under the boughs of the tree, he saw a gay little uniform. What joy! what bliss! The red dolman with its white cords and lacings, the blue furred jacket, the bearskin cap, and the sabre filled his cup of happiness to overflowing, and the happy little fellow could find no words to thank the kind parents who had so unexpectedly granted his heart’s desire. It was the uniform of the Rudorff Regiment, now the Ziethen Hussars, and the Christ-child had brought his brother, the Crown Prince, that of the body-guard, and his cousin Frederick that of a dragoon. The next morning the three boys dressed up in their new costumes and the delighted father presented them to the Queen as the youngest recruits in his army. But none of them was so proud as William, and very fine he looked in his first soldierly dress.


Two years later he saw the uhlan regiment Towarczysz, at that time the only one in Prussia, and was so charmed with its singular uniform that he begged his father for one like it. The King, always ready to encourage his military tastes, granted his wish, and from that time he alternated between a uhlan and a hussar. That year he also saw the famous old dragoon regiment Ansbach-Baireuth of which the Queen was commander, and the sight of his mother in her regimental colors made a deep impression upon him.


Though he was passionately devoted to soldiering, childish sports and games were not neglected, especially during the Summer, when the royal family went for a few weeks to their country place at Paretz. Here the King and Queen encouraged their children to associate freely with all classes—from the village children to future army officers at military schools. It was naturally among the latter that the Princes found most of their playmates. The knowledge of the people he gained in this way proved a great and lasting benefit to Prince William.

Thus happily and peacefully, surrounded by luxury and splendor, watched over with tenderest care, our hero’s life slipped by till the end of his eighth year, when a storm burst over the country that shook the Prussian throne to its foundations.


Chapter II
A Hard School

The throne of France was occupied at that time by the insatiable Napoleon I. Born on the island of Corsica, the son of an advocate, he entered the French army during the Revolution and rose step by step until by his remarkable talents and ability he attained the highest honors of state. His ambition was to make France mistress of the world, and aided by the blind devotion of the people he seemed in a fair way of realizing this dream, for one country after another succumbed with astonishing rapidity to his victorious legions.


Prussia was spared for some time, but in 1806 King Frederick William Third, unable for his own honor or that of his country longer to endure Napoleon’s aggressions, was reluctantly forced to declare war, and the country’s doom was sealed. Deluded by the traditions of former glories under the great Frederick, the army and its leaders thought it would prove an easy task for the battalions that had once withstood the onset of half Europe to protect the frontiers of the Fatherland against the Corsican conqueror, but disaster followed swiftly. The guns of Jena and Auerstädt scattered those golden mists of self-delusion and betrayed with startling clearness the degeneracy of the military organization, which, like the machine of government, bore little trace of Frederick the Great’s influence save in outward forms.

The defeat of October 14, 1806, decided the fate of Prussia. Like a roaring sea the French swept over the country, and two days later it became necessary for the safety of the royal children to remove them from Berlin. Their nearest refuge was the castle at Schwedt on the Oder, where their mother joined them, prepared to share with her darlings the cruel fate that had befallen them. Sitting with her two eldest sons and their tutor Delbrück that evening, she spoke those stirring words that proved such a help and inspiration to Emperor William in after years.


“In one day,” she said, “I have seen destroyed a structure which great and good men have labored for two hundred years to build up. There is no longer a Prussian kingdom, no longer an army, nor a national honor. Ah, my sons, you are already old enough to appreciate the calamity that has overtaken us. In days to come, when your mother is no longer living, think of these unhappy times and weep in memory of the tears I now am shedding. But do not weep only! Work, work with all your strength! You yet may prove the good geniuses of your country. Wipe out its shame and humiliation, restore the tarnished glory of your house as your ancestor, the great Elector, avenged at Fehrbellin his father’s disgraceful defeat in Sweden! Do not allow yourselves to be influenced by the degeneracy of the age! Be men, and strive to attain the glorious fame of heroes! Without such aims you would be unworthy the name of Prussian princes, successors of the great Frederick; but if all your efforts are powerless to uplift your fallen country, then seek death as Prince Louis Ferdinand sought it!”


Their stay in Schwedt was but a short one. The rapid advance of the French army, driving the retreating Prussians before them, compelled the Queen and her children to flee to Dantzig and Königsberg, where they would be safe for a time at least. But what a journey it was! There was no time to make any preparations for their comfort. Day and night they pressed on, without stopping to rest, in any kind of a vehicle that could be obtained, over rough roads and through a strange part of the country, often suffering from hunger and thirst, their hearts full of sorrow and anxiety for the beloved Fatherland.

Emperor William used to relate an incident connected with this journey which makes a touching picture of those dark days. “While my mother was fleeing with us from the French in that time of tribulation,” he said, “we had the misfortune to break one of the wheels of our coach, in the middle of an open field. There was no place for us to go, and we sat on the bank of a ditch while the damage was being repaired as well as possible. My brother and I were tired and hungry, and much put out by the delay. I remember that I especially, being rather a puny lad, troubled my dear mother greatly with my complaints. To divert our minds, she arose and, pointing to the quantities of pretty blue flowers with which the field was covered, told us to pick some and bring them to her. Then she wove them into wreaths as we eagerly watched her dexterous fingers. As she worked, overcome with thoughts of her country’s sorrowful plight and her own danger and anxiety for the future of her sons, the tears began to drop slowly from her beautiful eyes upon the cornflower wreaths. Smitten to the heart by her distress and completely forgetting my own childish troubles, I flung my arms about her neck and tried to comfort her, till she smiled and placed the wreath upon my head. Though I was only ten years old at the time, this scene remains undimmed in my memory, and after all these years I can still see those blossoms all sparkling with my mother’s tears, and that is why I love the cornflower better than any other flower.”

The cornflower wreaths


At Königsberg the Queen was attacked with a fever, but this did not prevent her from continuing her flight to Memel with her children in January, 1807. It seemed doubtful at one time if she would live to get there, but she insisted upon pressing on, through cold and storm, ill as she was. Once, almost at the point of death, she was forced to spend the night in a poor peasant’s hut, without proper food or covering, the freezing wind blowing through the broken windowpanes and scattering snowflakes on her wretched cot. But God did not forsake the heroic Queen, and she succeeded at last in reaching Memel, there to await the no longer doubtful issue of the war, which cost Frederick William Third half of his kingdom. This sudden change from peace and prosperity to deepest humiliation was the anvil on which Providence forged the sword that was one day to make Germany a united and powerful nation, and some words of the Queen’s, written at this time to her father, are significant and memorable.


“It may be well for our children to have learned the serious side of life while they are young. Had they grown up surrounded by ease and luxury, they would have accepted such things as a matter of course; that must always be so. But alas! their father’s anxious face and their mother’s tears have taught them otherwise.”


Our hero was ten years old when the King was forced to sign the disastrous peace of Tilsit, and according to the usual custom he was raised at this age to the rank of officer. The great event should properly have taken place March 22, 1807, but owing to the unsettled state of the country his father presented him with his appointment on New Years’ Day, just before the royal family left Königsberg for Memel, and he was made ensign in the newly formed regiment of foot-guards. At Christmas he was advanced to a second-lieutenantship, and on June 21, 1808, marched with his regiment back to Königsberg. A report made about this time states: “Prince William, during his first two years of service with the Prussian infantry, has become familiar with every detail of army life and is already heart and soul a soldier,”—a tribute well deserved by the young officer, for he was faithful and industrious and devoted to his profession. The two following years that the royal family remained in Königsberg were an important period in the life of Prince William. The sole tuition of Delbrück no longer satisfied the Queen, and on the advice of Baron von Stein, she appointed General Diericke and Colonel Gaudy as governors for the Crown Prince, and Major von Pirch and Professor Reimann for Prince William. At the same time Karl August Zeller, a pupil of the Queen’s honored Swiss teacher Pestalozzi, was summoned to Königsberg and given charge of the school system. He also assisted in the education of Prince William, whose untiring zeal and industry caused him to make steady and rapid progress in all branches of learning. His best efforts, however, were given to his military duties, and he eagerly treasured up everything that was said at court of famous generals and heroes.


On November 12, 1808, he paraded for the first time with his regiment. In September of the following year he was present at the placing of the memorial tablets to the first East Prussian Infantry in the palace chapel at Königsberg, and after the court had returned to Berlin, he entered that city with his regiment on his parents’ wedding anniversary, December 24, 1809. It was a melancholy home-coming, and never again did our hero make so sad an entry into his capital, for in spite of the joy with which the citizens welcomed the return of their beloved sovereigns once more, the country’s shameful bondage under the yoke of Napoleon lay heavily on all hearts. No one felt the disgrace more keenly than Queen Louise, however: it rankled in her bosom and gradually consumed her strength till her health began to give way under it.


In the Summer of 1810 she visited her father at Strelitz, whither the King soon followed her, and it was decided to make a long stay at the ducal castle of Hohenzieritz, hoping the change and rest might benefit the Queen. Soon after her arrival, she was taken seriously ill with an acute attack of asthma, but recovered sufficiently by the first of July for the King to return to Charlottenburg, where the royal family were then in the habit of spending the Summer. For some days she seemed much better, but the attacks of pain and suffocation soon returned, and on the nineteenth of July the King hastened back to Hohenzieritz, where he found his wife fully conscious but so altered in appearance that he was forced to leave the room, weeping aloud. As soon as he had recovered his self-control he returned to the Queen, who laid her hand in his with the question:

“Did you bring any one with you?”

“Yes, Fritz and William,” replied the King.

“Ah, God! what joy!” she cried. “Let them be brought to me.”

The two boys came in and knelt beside their mother’s bed. “My Fritz, my William!” she murmured repeatedly. Soon the paroxysms seized her again, the children were led away weeping bitterly, and soon afterward the King closed forever those eyes that had been the light of his life’s dark pathway.


The death of their beloved Queen turned all Prussia into a house of mourning, so deeply did the sorrowful news affect the hearts of her subjects. Still deeper and more lasting, however, was the impression made upon Prince William by the early loss of his adored mother. All through his life her memory was treasured as a holy image in his heart, and to his latest days he never forgot her devotion and self-sacrifice, or that nineteenth of July which deprived him of a mother’s care, his father of the best of wives, and the nation of a noble sovereign and benefactress.


The years passed on, but Prussia did not remain in her deep humiliation, prostrate and powerless. A new spirit began to awake, and through the efforts of such men as Stein and Hardenberg, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, who nobly and without hope of reward devoted themselves to the redemption of the Fatherland, a feeling began to stir throughout the country that the day of deliverance must come. And it did come. Arrogant with his successes and thirsting for fresh conquests, Napoleon in the year 1812 aspired to seize the mighty Russian Empire and add it to his dependencies, but there a check was placed on his victorious career. To be sure he penetrated as far as Moscow, expecting to winter there, but the Russians sacrificed their ancient capital and Napoleon with his troops was driven from the burning city out into the open country in the depth of Winter. The Lord of Hosts seemed to have allied himself with the Russians to destroy the disturber of the peace of Europe, for the Winter was an early and unusually severe one and Napoleon was forced to order a retreat. And what a retreat it was! Day after day, through the heavy snows and the bitter cold, plodded the exhausted soldiers, pursued and harried by the Russians like hunted animals. Of the five hundred thousand men who set out in all the proud assurance of victory, only a few thousands returned again to France. It was a bitter blow to the aspiring conqueror—God himself had dealt out judgment to him! He hastily collected together a new army, it is true, but now all Germany was allied with Russia to defeat the tyrant’s schemes. The glorious war of 1813-1815 was about to begin.

Among those great men who had labored untiringly to emancipate Prussia from the yoke of France, the work of reorganizing the army had fallen chiefly to Scharnhorst.


It had been his idea to train the whole population of the smaller outlying States in the use of arms, and thus continually to introduce fresh forces into the army of forty thousand men which Prussia was allowed to support, to take the place of older and well-disciplined regiments which were dismissed. The news of Napoleon’s disastrous experience in Russia filled the Prussians with new hope and enthusiasm, but the King was slow to determine on any decisive action. Napoleon still had powerful resources at his command, and if the struggle for which the people clamored were to go against them, the ruin of Prussia would be complete. Further delay, however, became at last impossible, and on January 22, 1813, Frederick William left Berlin, where his personal safety was still menaced by French troops, and removed the court to Breslau. An alliance was concluded, February 28, between Russia and Prussia, and on March 17 war was declared against Napoleon. That same day General Scharnhorst’s ordinance in regard to the militia was carried into effect and the large body of well-drilled men which he had been quietly training for so long, took their place in the newly formed army.


Shortly before this, on his deceased wife’s birthday, March 10, the King established the order of the Iron Cross.

“With God for King and Fatherland!” was the watchword with which Prussia entered the struggle that was to lift her to her old position of power and independence or end in hopeless ruin. The King issued a call for troops and the whole nation responded. Not a man but would gladly die rather than longer endure the shame of subjection. The lofty spirit of their departed Queen seemed still to inspire the hearts of the people, for they arrayed themselves against the conqueror who had chosen the heroes of Pagan antiquity for his models, with a Christian faith and devotion rarely equalled in the history of the world. Prince William too longed with all his heart to take part in the liberation of Prussia and with tears in his eyes besought his father to allow him to take the field, but out of regard for his son’s health the King was obliged to refuse his prayer, and he remained in Breslau, in bitter discontent, anxiously waiting and hoping for news from the seat of war, at that time so difficult to obtain and so slow in arriving. Even his advance to a first-lieutenantship in the course of the summer failed to cheer him, for he felt that he had done nothing to deserve it. But after the battle of Leipzic, in which the French were routed and driven back across the Rhine, the King returned to Breslau and, handing the Prince a captain’s commission, placed on his shoulders with his own hands the epaulettes then just introduced for army officers, and told him to prepare to join the army. This was joyful news indeed! On to France, on against the foe that so long had held the Fatherland in bondage and sent his adored mother to a premature grave! His heart beat high with pride and courage, and he could hardly wait for the day of departure, which was finally set for November 8.


The French were already driven out of Germany at that time and the victorious allies had pursued them into their own country. On January 1, 1814, the King and his son reached Mannheim, on the Rhine, and were soon across the borders and in the midst of the seat of war. From Brienne and Rosny sounded the thunder of cannon, and at Bar-sur-Aube on February 27 Prince William was permitted for the first time to take part in active service.


Early on the morning of that day the King sent for his two sons (the Crown Prince had been with the army from the beginning of the war) and said to them: “There will be a battle to-day. We have taken the offensive and there may be hot work. You shall watch it. Ride on and I will follow, but do not expose yourselves to danger unnecessarily. Do you understand?”

The brothers dashed off to General Prince Wittgenstein, where their father joined them, and they were soon in the middle of the fight and in constant danger of their lives. Suddenly the King turned to Prince William. “Ride back and find out what regiment it is over yonder that is losing so many men,” he ordered. Like a flash William was off, followed by admiring glances from the soldiers as he galloped calmly through the hail of bullets, obtained the desired information, and rode slowly back. The King made no comment, but General Wittgenstein, who had watched the Prince with apprehension, gave him a kindly glance and shook him warmly by the hand, William himself seeming quite unconscious that he had been in such danger and had just received his baptism of fire.


On March 10, his mother’s birthday, he received from his father’s hand the Iron Cross, and a few days before this the royal allies of Prussia and Russia had bestowed on him the fourth class of the Order of Saint George for his bravery. These two decorations, which can only be won under fire, made the Prince realize for the first time the real meaning of the incident at Bar-sur-Aube.

“Now I know,” he said, “why Herr von Jagow and Herr von Luck pressed my hand and why the others smiled so significantly.”

The Emperor wore these two little crosses to the end of his life, with special pride, as the first honors he ever won, and would never have them replaced by new ones. They were precious relics of his baptism of fire at Bar-sur-Aube.

Swiftly the tide of war rolled on. Battle after battle was won. Napoleon was dethroned and banished to the island of Elba, and on March 31, 1814, Prince William made his first victorious entry into the enemy’s proud capital. Here he took up his quarters in the Hotel of the Legion of Honor and on May 30 received the rank of Major in the army. After visiting England and Switzerland with his father in the course of the Summer, our hero returned to Potsdam on the King’s birthday (August 3), where he was joyously welcomed by his sisters. The following year Napoleon escaped from Elba and regained possession of the throne of France, only to exchange it after a sovereignty of one hundred days for the lonely island of Saint Helena in the Atlantic Ocean.


On June 8 of this year (1815) the confirmation of Prince William took place, having been postponed till that date on account of the war. In the palace chapel at Charlottenburg he took the usual vows and laid down for himself at the same time those principles of life and conduct that are a splendid witness to his nobility of mind, his seriousness of purpose, his sincere piety and faith in the Almighty, and his lofty conception of the duties of his high calling.


Chapter III
Years of Peace

After his confirmation Prince William was hastening back to the seat of war when the news of Napoleon’s defeat and banishment reached him. Nevertheless he kept on and entered Paris again with the army. During the three months that he remained there this time he suffered from a sharp attack of pleurisy, from which he quickly recovered, however. This was the last evidence of his early delicacy, for henceforth he enjoyed the most robust health and was able to endure all the hardships of a soldier’s life, devoting himself to his chosen profession with the greatest energy and enthusiasm and striving earnestly to advance the military power and standing of Prussia to a place among the great nations of Europe.


Even during his father’s reign, as well as that of his brother, he was considered the soul of the army and looked upon by the troops as a pattern of all the military virtues, while with his indefatigable activity in all branches of the service he rose rapidly to the highest commands. Frederick William Third was not slow to recognize his son’s abilities, for when in 1818 he made a journey to Russia with the Crown Prince, he intrusted the entire management of military affairs to him during his absence. The following year the Prince received a seat and voice in the ministry of war, thus enabling him to acquire as thorough a knowledge of army organization and administration as he had already gained in practical experience. Thereafter he took part in all military conferences, while special details and commissions of inspection familiarized him by personal observation with army affairs in general.


The close family ties between the royal houses of Prussia and Russia, brought about by the marriage of the Princess Charlotte, William’s sister, to the Grand Duke Nicholas, afterwards Czar, caused our hero to be drawn into active intercourse with St. Petersburg. At the time of the wedding, which took place in Berlin, it fell to his share to accompany his sister to her future home and represent the Prussian throne at the festivities there. He was received with great honors in St. Petersburg and improved the occasion by attending the military manœuvres which were held there and at Moscow. His personal relations with the Russian court were very intimate and were the cause of frequent visits thither in the ensuing years.

The routine of his professional duties was often varied by journeys and visits required by the service—such as that to Italy in 1822, and a long one made in 1826 with his younger brother Charles to the court of Weimar, from which the two Princes carried away the most delightful recollections, especially of the Princesses Marie and Augusta, whose acquaintance they had made on that occasion. Nor was it to end in memories, for Prince Charles’s betrothal to the Princess Marie was soon announced, and on May 26, 1827, the young couple were married. As for William, several visits to the hospitable grand-ducal court convinced him that no other princess possessed to such a degree the qualities necessary to his life’s happiness as the modest and amiable Princess Augusta, and they became betrothed in February, 1829, the marriage following on June 11 of that year.


In May Prince William journeyed to St. Petersburg to invite his sister and her husband to the wedding, and on his return went directly to Weimar to escort his fair bride to Berlin. On June 7 the Princess Augusta bade farewell to her beloved home; two days later the bridal party reached Potsdam, and on the tenth the state entry from Charlottenburg took place. The Prussian capital had not failed to prepare a royal welcome for Prince William’s bride, the fame of whose virtues had preceded her, and all Berlin was agog to see and greet the lovely Princess and the happy bridegroom. The magnificent wedding lasted for three days, after which the royal pair took possession of the so-called Tauenziensche House which had been assigned to the Prince as his official residence. Later it was bought by him and rebuilt by the architect Langhaus in substantially the form in which the present palace at the entrance of the Linden has become familiar to every German as the residence of the Emperor William First.


The home life of the Prince and Princess was charmingly simple and domestic and their marriage a singularly happy one, founded on mutual love and respect. Both were distinguished for deep religious feeling, a strong sense of duty and the responsibilities of their position, as well as a deep-rooted love of the Fatherland. On October 18, 1831, the anniversary of the battle of Leipzic, the Princess Augusta presented her husband with a son, afterward the beloved Emperor Frederick, whose untimely death was so deeply deplored; and on December 3, 1838, she gave birth to a daughter, Louise Marie Elizabeth, the present Grand Duchess of Baden. These new joys brought also new duties into the lives of the royal parents in the education of their children, to which they devoted themselves with the most loving care. While the father endeavoured to develop in his son the qualities requisite to make a good soldier, the clever mother saw to it that his education should not be military only. She was a constant patroness of art and learning and was determined that her Fritz should have a thorough knowledge of science and be a lover of the fine arts, while her daughter Louise was early taught to employ her time usefully and to become accustomed to serious work under her mother’s guidance.


After 1835 the family began to spend the Summer months at the Schloss Babelsberg on the Havel, the site of which had been discovered by Prince William at the time of some army manœuvres in that neighborhood in 1821. After their marriage the artistic young wife had drawn the plans for a country residence there, which was afterward enlarged considerably, and thus arose the Babelsberg palace. The surroundings were soon converted by expert hands into gardens and a magnificent park, and it became the favorite residence of the Emperor in his later years. He used to spend much time there, and far from wishing to hide its beauties from his subjects, he loved to have people come and wander through the beautiful grounds. The minister of war, Van Roon, indeed, tells how the old Emperor once left his work to permit his study to be shown to some visitors who had come a long distance to gaze on the abode of their beloved sovereign.


Chapter IV
Troublous Times

On June 7, 1840, that sorely tried monarch Frederick William Third, who had borne so much with and for his people, breathed his last, and the Crown Prince ascended the throne as Frederick William Fourth, William receiving the title of Prince of Prussia as had that brother of Frederick the Great who afterward succeeded him, thus being raised to the rank and dignity of a Crown Prince, for the marriage of Frederick William Fourth was childless.


On June 11 the body of the deceased King was laid to rest in the mausoleum at Charlottenburg beside that of his noble and much-lamented Queen. And now began a period of ferment, difficult to understand by those not directly concerned in it or its after effects. Even at the time of the War of Liberation a feeling of discontent had begun to show itself among the people of Germany at the condition of affairs created by the allies at the so-called Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815. There was an ever-increasing demand for popular representation in the legislature, what is now called the Diet or House of Deputies, and also a closer consolidation of the national strength and resources, such as would be afforded by a German Confederation for the purpose of restoring the Empire to its old power and importance. These ideas, as yet but half-formed and visionary, were agitated, especially by the youth of Germany, with a spirit and enthusiasm that appeared so dangerous to the existing order of things as to require suppression. At the time of the French Revolution of 1830, they began to assume more definite form, though under the paternal rule of Frederick William Third no general movement was attempted by his subjects. With the accession of Frederick William Fourth, however, the time seemed to have come to demand the exchange of an absolute monarchy for a constitutional form of government, and also, perhaps, the reëstablishment of the German Empire; but in both respects their hopes were doomed to disappointment. The King’s refusal to grant the people a voice in the government was as firm as his rejection of the offer of an imperial throne. His action aroused a deep feeling of dissatisfaction throughout the country, which was increased by several years of bad crops and famine, until at last the French Revolution of 1848 lighted the torch of insurrection in Germany also.


Frederick William Fourth had already assigned to his brother, the Prince of Prussia, the responsible post of guardian of the Rhine, and at the outbreak of these disturbances he made him Governor General of the Rhenish provinces and Westphalia. Before the Prince had left Berlin, however, the uprising had spread to that city also, so he remained in close attendance upon the King, taking a leading part in his councils as first Minister of State. Frederick William Fourth was much disturbed by such an unheard-of state of affairs in Prussia, and possibly failed to appreciate the significance of the outbreak, but rather than come to open conflict with his people he had all the troops sent away from Berlin. Bitter as the recollection must be, it remains a lasting honor to the Prussian army that this trying order was obeyed without a murmur or complaint, and adds another laurel to those since won on many a hard-fought field. The removal of the troops gave the insurgents free scope for a time, and the efforts of the leaders to direct the anger of the deluded populace against the army, that stanch and loyal bulwark of the throne, resulted in setting the turbulent masses against the Prince of Prussia likewise, who was well known as the army’s most zealous friend and patron. They even went so far as to threaten to set fire to his palace, but a few patriotic citizens succeeded in restraining them at the critical moment. To avoid any further occasion for such excesses, the King sent his brother away to England, where he remained until the storm had subsided, returning in May, 1848, to Babelsberg, where he spent several months in retirement. The King was finally forced to recall the troops, then under the command of General von Wrangel, to quell the tumult in Berlin, and shortly afterwards Prussia was given its present constitution, by which the people were granted a chamber of representatives.


The insurrection of 1848, meanwhile, had spread throughout the country and led to a revolution in Baden, which overthrew the existing government and assumed such serious proportions that the Grand Duke besought the help of King Frederick William Fourth, who at once despatched his brother, the Prince of Prussia, to Baden with an army. It was William’s first experience as a commander.


In June, 1849, he proceeded from Mainz to the Palatinate of Bavaria, where he was welcomed with open arms by the inhabitants. With the assistance of his gallant young nephew Frederick Charles, he soon quickly crushed the insurgents who were besieging the Palatinate and pushed on across the Rhine to Baden, where in a succession of engagements he proved an inspiring example of coolness and courage to his enthusiastic troops. After the fight at Durlach, the townspeople brought out bread and wine for the victorious Prussians. The Prince was also offered a piece of bread, which he was about to eat with relish when he saw a hungry soldier watching him with longing glances. Quickly breaking it in two he held out half to the man, saying kindly, “Here, comrade, take some too!”


It was by such acts as this that he won the devotion of his soldiers. On June 25 he entered the capital, Carlsruhe, and was hailed with joy by the citizens, while the leader of the rebellion retired to the castle of Rastall, where, after a few more unsuccessful resistances, the greater part of the insurgents also took refuge. The Prince immediately laid siege to the place, and with such good results that on July 23 it surrendered at discretion, and the Prussians took possession the same day. On August 18 the Grand Duke of Baden returned to his capital, accompanied by the Prince of Prussia, to whom he gave public thanks as the restorer of order in the country, and soon after William set out on his return to Berlin, where he was welcomed with enthusiasm by his family, the populace, and above all by the army.


His duties as military governor of Westphalia and the provinces of the Rhine required him to take up his residence at Coblentz, where he remained till 1857, with occasional journeys made in the interest of the service or for the government. These were unsettled and not very pleasant times, for Austria was perpetually seeking to undermine the power of Prussia and more than once the sword was loosened in its sheath. But there were bright spots also in the lives of the princely pair, such as the marriage of their daughter Louise to the Grand Duke of Baden. Another favorite wish was gratified by the alliance of Prince Frederick with the Princess Royal, Victoria of England, in 1857. Fresh troubles occurred in this year also, for on the occasion of some army manœuvres at Giebichenstein, King Frederick William Fourth was stricken with apoplexy and his brother was appointed to represent him at the head of the government. At first it was hoped that the trouble might be relieved, and the arrangement was made for three months only; but the apoplectic fits continued at intervals, and at the end of a year, finding his condition worse rather than improved, the King was forced to make the Prince of Prussia Regent of the kingdom. Four years later Frederick William Fourth was released from his sufferings, and his brother ascended the throne of Prussia as William First.


Chapter V
In Trust

Our hero was nearly sixty-four years old when he was called by Providence to assume this exalted position, an age at which men usually begin to look about for a quiet spot wherein to end their days in peace and freedom from care. But for King William, though already on the threshold of age, this was out of the question. This Nestor among German princes had been chosen as an instrument for the restoration of national unity and power. It was his task, as head of the “Holy German Empire,” to overthrow all her enemies and crown her arms with victory and fame. And nobly did the venerable monarch fulfil this trust, keeping a watchful eye on the interests and welfare of the Fatherland for more than twenty-seven years.


The aims and hopes with which he began his reign are set forth in the proclamation issued to his people at that time. It hints too at the serious struggle he saw approaching, in which Prussia would have to fight for her existence against the neighboring countries, jealous of her growing power. It had been the labor of his life to provide the country with a strong, well-disciplined army; his task now as sovereign was to make it equal in size to any demand that might be made upon it. During his regency he had tried to secure the consent of the Diet to a large increase in the standing army, and preliminary measures had already been taken to this effect, but after the Prince’s accession to the throne the House of Deputies withdrew its consent and absolutely refused to grant the necessary appropriation. This was a hard blow to the King, but he felt that his duty to the country required him to persist in his demands, a decision in which he was loyally upheld by his recently appointed councillor, Otto von Bismarck, a man of remarkable talents and ability, to whom might well be applied the poet’s words:

“He was a man, take him for all in all,

I shall not look upon his like again.”


For a time, however, their efforts met with no results, the Diet remaining firm in its refusal, and finally disclaiming any participation in the policy of the government, domestic or foreign. Not until great events had occurred, not until splendid proofs had been furnished of the wisdom of the King’s judgment, were the representatives convinced that the aims of the government were for the country’s best good. Nor was it long before an opportunity for such proofs was offered.

For many years the Kings of Denmark had appropriated to themselves the title of Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, though more as a matter of form than of real sovereignty, for the two sea-girt duchies had retained their own constitution, their laws, and their language. Within the space of ten years, however, it had become more and more apparent that Denmark was aiming at complete absorption and suppression of their nationality. In 1840, and again in 1850, they had struggled to retain their independence, but in vain, being too weak themselves and meeting with insufficient support from their German brethren, who at that time had all they could manage with their own affairs. When, however, on November 15, 1863, King Frederick Seventh of Denmark died and Christian Ninth ascended the throne, Germany decided to interfere in behalf of the duchies. As the various States could come to no agreement, Prussia and Austria, as the two leading powers, took matters into their own hands. The Danish King was called upon to evacuate Holstein within forty-eight hours and to withdraw the form of government introduced into Schleswig, and on his refusal to comply with these demands Schleswig was at once invaded. The general command of the expedition was given to Von Wrangel, Prince Frederick Charles leading the Prussian troops, Field Marshal Lieutenant von Gablenz the Austrians who had come on through Silesia and Brandenburg.


On February 1, 1864, Wrangel gave the order to advance “in God’s name!”—an order which proved the signal for a succession of heroic deeds that covered the German army with glory, for from the Danish War sprang that between Prussia and Austria two years later, and in 1870 the Franco-Prussian War. The first of February, 1864, therefore, surely deserves a place in the pages of history as the starting point of the glorious achievements of the German army and the victorious career of its royal commander.


King William himself took no active part in the Danish War. Only about one and a half army corps were mobilized, too small a force to be under the command of the sovereign of so powerful a nation as Prussia. But when after a number of victorious engagements Prince Frederick Charles succeeded in storming Düppel and capturing all the supposedly impregnable intrenchments, thus proving that Prussia’s old valor still survived in a younger generation, King William could no longer keep away from his victorious troops. His arrival in Schleswig was hailed with joy by the people as well as the army, and at Grevenstein he held a review of the columns that had fought so brilliantly at the storming of Düppel, praising and thanking them personally for their bravery. He also visited the hospitals, encouraging the wounded with his presence and kindly words of cheer. The people of Schleswig were assured that their affairs would be brought to a happy issue, and a feeling of confidence in the speedy liberation of their brethren from the power of Denmark spread throughout Germany.


And so it proved, for on June 28 the enemy’s defeat was completed by the capture of the island of Alsen, used by the Danes as a storehouse for arms and provisions. A truce was proclaimed, and on October 30, 1864, the Peace of Vienna was concluded, by which the King of Denmark renounced all his rights to the duchies of Schleswig, Holstein, and Lauenburg in favor of the King of Prussia and the Emperor of Austria, and agreed to recognize whatever disposition the allies should make of the three States. This treaty, by completely freeing the duchies from the power of Denmark, realized one of the dearest wishes of the people, a wish that had long been cherished in the hearts of patriots; while to Germany it gave a greater increase of territory and influence than had fallen to her share for many years.

In spite of this fact, however, the idea of German unity still seemed far from realization owing to the conflicting interests of the several States, of which there were more than thirty, each jealous of the slightest supremacy of the others. When Prussia proposed, therefore, that the three duchies should be governed by their liberators rather than be added to the German States, of which there were already too many, the plan was bitterly opposed by the majority of the Confederation. But Prussia was determined not to yield, and with the coöperation of Austria succeeded in carrying her point. By the treaty of Gastein it was agreed that Austria should assume the provisional administration of Holstein, and Prussia that of Schleswig, while Lauenburg was made over to the Prussian government for the sum of seven and a half million marks.


It would seem that the army’s splendid achievements might have inclined the Diet to withdraw its long-standing opposition to the plans and wishes of the government, but such was not the case. Not only did the majority of representatives refuse as before to grant any appropriation for increasing the army, but also failed to make provision for the cost of the recent victorious campaign, expecting in this way to force the government to yield. Nothing was farther, however, from the intentions of King William and his trusty councillor, Bismarck. Firmly convinced that they were in the right, it would have seemed treachery to the Fatherland to abandon their purpose. Recognition of their efforts must come some time, and as it proved, that day was not far distant.


Chapter VI
The Austro-Prussian War

At Gastein, as has already been stated, the Schleswig-Holstein affair had been brought to a settlement, but it was only a preliminary one. Fresh disputes soon broke out between the two powers. Austria, already regretting her compliance, inclined more and more to the side of the enemies of Prussia, who wished to restore the independence of Schleswig and Holstein and make them part of the Confederation. The old jealousy broke forth anew, and, unable to reconcile herself to any real increase of Prussian power, Austria attempted to force King William to yield to the wishes of the Confederation. Laying before the Diet the danger of permitting Prussia to have its way, she succeeded in having a motion carried to oppose that power. Convinced that war was again inevitable, King William declared all former negotiations off, and urged Saxony, Hanover, and electoral Hesse to form an alliance preserving their neutrality. But here, too, meeting with a repulse, he was forced to put his whole army in the field and enter the struggle alone. His real feelings on the subject are evident from his parting words to Prince Frederick Charles after war had been declared and the march of troops into the enemy’s country had begun:


“I am an old man to be making war again, and well know that I must answer for it to God and to my conscience. Yet I can truthfully declare that I have done all in my power to avert it. I have made every concession to the Emperor that is consistent with the honor of Prussia, but Austria is bent on our humiliation and nothing short of war will satisfy her.”


Thus with a firm faith in God’s help and the righteousness of his cause the aged monarch placed himself at the head of his army, resolved to perish with it rather than yield in this vital question. Nor did he trust in vain. By forced marches Generals Vogel von Falkenstein and von Manteuffel invaded northern Germany, took possession of Hanover, and forced King George, after a gallant resistance at Langensalza, to capitulate, abdicate his throne, and abandon the country permanently. The main army, divided into three parts, commanded respectively by the Crown Prince, Prince Frederick Charles, and General Herwarth von Bittenfeld, speedily overran the enemy’s country, and before the King had left for the seat of war he was informed by telegraph of the victories of Skalitz and Münchengrätz, of Nachod and Trautenau. The first decisive results had been accomplished by the Crown Prince, and on the morning of June 29 the King joyfully shouted to the people from the open window of the palace: “My son has won a victory—good news from all quarters! All is well—my brave army!” The next day he left Berlin, and on July 2 reached Gitschin in Bohemia, where he was welcomed with joy by Prince Frederick Charles and his victorious troops. On the following day occurred one of the most famous battles of history—that of Königgrätz.


The King had just lain down to rest the previous night on the plain iron camp cot that accompanied him everywhere, when Lieutenant General von Voigts-Rhetz reached Gitschin with the news that the Austrians were stationed between the Prussian army and the Elbe. King William at once summoned his great strategist, General von Moltke, and Adjutant Count von Finkenstein was hastily despatched to the Crown Prince with orders to bring up his army, which was then in the mountains of Silesia. The guns were already booming from the neighboring heights and the smoke of battle beginning to fill the valleys like a mist when the King mounted his favorite mare Sadowa at the little village of Kleinitz, early on the morning of July 3, and dashed into the thick of the fray. The fire was so sharp that his staff, large enough to have been easily taken for a regiment of cavalry, was forced to scatter, but finally reached a position on the Roscoberg, where Count Finkenstein soon appeared with word that the Crown Prince was already on the march. Hour after hour passed, however, and nothing was to be seen of him. The issue was critical, and King William’s anxiety grew more and more intense, until at last, about two o’clock in the afternoon, the guns of the Crown Prince were heard in the enemy’s rear and the day was won. The Austrians were soon in full flight and were pursued as far as the Elbe by the victorious foe.


Soon after the Crown Prince’s arrival the King left the Roscoberg and, followed by his staff, rode down into the battle-field, urging the men to fresh valor by his inspiring presence, and disregard of danger from the enemy’s fire. None of his escort dared remonstrate with him, until at length the faithful Bismarck summoned courage and, riding up beside the King, begged him not to place his life in such jeopardy. Kindly but earnestly he answered: “You have done right, my friend. But when these brave fellows are under fire, the King’s place is with them. How can I retire?”

The results of this splendid victory were decisive, but the chief glory rests with the Crown Prince, whose troops after a long and exhausting march arrived just in time to save the day. It was a touching moment when the father and son met upon the field of battle, and all eyes were wet as the King, embracing Prince Frederick with fatherly pride, pinned on his breast the Order of Merit. The crushing defeat of Königgrätz effectually broke the enemy’s resistance, and the Prussians had advanced almost within sight of Vienna when the announcement of a truce put an end to hostilities.


In southern Germany the army of the Main under General Vogel von Falkenstein had also ended the struggle by a series of successful engagements, and on August 23 a treaty of peace was signed at Prague, by which Austria agreed to withdraw from the German Confederation; and Schleswig-Holstein, Hanover, electoral Hesse, Nassau, and the free city of Frankfort-on-the-Main were permanently incorporated with Prussia. Thus were King William’s labors at last crowned with success. Alone and almost without a friend in Germany he had gone forth to battle against a powerful enemy, and victory had been his. Beyond the Alps, however, he had found a friend in need in King Victor Emmanuel of Italy, who had aided him by attacking Austria at the same time from the south, thus dividing her forces. Covered with laurels, the victorious troops returned, meeting with ovations everywhere, but especially in Berlin. The whole city was en fête to welcome them. Triumphal arches were erected. Countless wreaths, banners, and garlands of flowers decorated the streets. Strains of music, pealing of bells, thunder of cannon proclaimed the arrival of the army, as it entered the city gates, headed by the heroic monarch and greeted with tumultuous shouts by the populace. An altar had been erected in the Lustgarten, where a praise service was held, the troops and people joining in singing “Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott.” The eleventh of November was appointed as a day of general thanksgiving throughout the country, and trees were planted everywhere in commemoration of the joyful occasion.


The results of this war did even more than those of the preceding one with Denmark to prove the wisdom of the King’s position in regard to the army, besides the large increase of territory it brought to Prussia. By far the most important issue of the campaign, however, was the establishment of the North German Confederation and the conclusion of an offensive and defensive alliance between this and the South German States, by which both agreed to respect the inviolability of each other’s territory and bound themselves in time of war to place their whole military force at the other’s disposal, the chief command of the united armies to be intrusted in such case to King William of Prussia. Thus did our august hero advance slowly but surely toward the realization of his hopes and aims, and visions of a restoration of the glories of the ancient holy German Empire already thrilled the hearts of patriots with a promise of the final fulfilment of their long-cherished dreams, as the King in his magnificent speech before the Imperial Diet on February 24, 1867, painted in glowing terms the future of a united Fatherland. Even the Prussian House of Deputies were weary of the long contention, and in the face of the universal recognition and admiration awarded their sovereign’s achievements, it abandoned its opposition to the government, and the King’s courage and perseverance were at last rewarded.


Chapter VII
The Franco-Prussian War

The period immediately following the Austro-Prussian War was a comparatively peaceful one, but the gradual increase of national strength and power in Germany had long since aroused the jealousy of France, and there was little hope of bringing about the unification of the country until the opposition of this hereditary enemy had been ended by a final and decisive struggle. And for this France herself soon furnished a pretext, though without any just cause.


The throne which Napoleon Third had seized by force was weak and crumbling, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that he was able to keep up an appearance of the magnificence for which his court had been famous. Nor was it founded on patriotism and love of liberty, those firm supports of sovereignty; on the contrary, the present occupant of the throne of France had aroused much dislike and condemnation among his subjects, and not without cause. Public dissatisfaction throughout the country increased daily, and the Emperor, alarmed for the future, determined at length that the only resource left him was to occupy the attention of the people by a great war, and give them something else to think of. Should it prove successful, his sinking star would doubtless rise once more to dazzling heights, while if defeated, no worse fate could overtake him than that which now threatened. As to whom the war should involve in order to make the strongest appeal to the sentiments and prejudices of the French, there could be no doubt, for from the earliest times there has been no nation so hated by them as Germany. Ever since the battle of Königgrätz King William and his ministers had felt sure that France would not view Prussia’s increase of power without a protest, though they had been careful to avoid giving her any pretext for making trouble. But there is an English saying, “Where there is a will there is a way,” the truth of which was proved by the French.


After the revolution which had deposed Queen Isabella the Spaniards were looking about for a King, and of the many candidates who offered themselves their choice fell on Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern. This was cause enough for grievance on the part of France, and King William, as head of the house of Hohenzollern, was requested through the French ambassador Benedetti to forbid his kinsman’s acceptance of the Spanish crown. To this our hero replied by refusing to put any constraint on the Prince’s decision; but Leopold, finding that his acquiescence in the wishes of Spain was likely to cause serious complications between France and Prussia, voluntarily withdrew his candidacy, thus, it would seem, removing any cause for trouble between the two powers. France, however, whose chief desire was to humiliate Prussia, had no intention of allowing this opportunity to slip through her fingers. Benedetti was ordered to obtain from King William, who was then staying at Ems, a written declaration that he regretted the annoyance this matter had caused Napoleon and would never again permit Prince Leopold to be a candidate for the throne of Spain.


The King’s behavior on receipt of this insulting demand was worthy of so great a sovereign. Calmly turning his back on the obtrusive Benedetti, he refused to have anything more to say to him and referred him to the ministry in Berlin for further discussion of the subject. This was on the thirteenth of July, 1870, and a stone now marks the spot on the promenade at Ems where this brief conference took place.


War was declared on the following day in Paris, and King William responded by issuing an order for the immediate mobilization of the entire army. The news was hailed with joy throughout the country. Napoleon had already brought about the very thing he most wished to prevent—the unification of all the German-speaking peoples. The whole nation rose in indignation at the insult that had been offered to the aged King, and his return to Berlin was like a triumphal progress. Everywhere crowds assembled to greet him, eager to express their admiration of the dignified way in which he had met the insolence and presumption of France. His appearance in the capital was hailed with wildest enthusiasm by his loyal subjects, and, deeply moved by their devotion, the King turned to his companions, saying: “This is as it was in 1813!” What most gratified him, however, was the despatch that promptly arrived from South Germany, which, but a short time since in arms against Prussia, now that a common enemy threatened the Fatherland, hastened to enroll her whole forces under the banner of the commander-in-chief. Little did France know the people or the spirit of Germany when she counted on the support of the South German States, expecting them to hail her with joy as their deliverer from the yoke of Prussia! Events now crowded fast on one another, yet there was little commotion in the country. Thanks to King William’s splendid organization, even this sudden mobilization of the whole army proceeded quietly and steadily, as if it were no more than the execution of some long-prepared-for manœuvre,—a state of things that served to calm and encourage both army and people. The German forces were divided into three great armies: the first, commanded by General von Steinmetz, stationed along the Moselle; the second, under Prince Frederick Charles, at the Rhine Palatinate; while the third, consisting chiefly of the South German troops under the Crown Prince, occupied the upper Rhine country.

The Two Emperors


The King left Berlin July 31 to take command of the united forces. At half-past five in the afternoon the iron gates of the side entrance to the palace were flung open and the King and Queen drove out in an open carriage drawn by two horses. A roar of welcome greeted the vigorous old hero, who in military cloak and cap sat bowing acknowledgment to the rousing cheers of his enthusiastic subjects, while the Queen at his side seemed deeply affected. The royal carriage could scarcely make its way through the weeping and rejoicing throngs that swarmed about it all the way to the railway station, eager to bid farewell to their beloved sovereign and wish him a happy return. Banners floated from the roofs of houses and handkerchiefs fluttered from open windows,—a scene which was only typical of the feeling that pervaded the whole land. At the station the King’s companions were already awaiting him, his brother Prince Charles, General of Ordnance, and that great trio who had so ably assisted him in the previous war, Bismarck, von Moltke, and Minister of War van Roon, surrounded by a group of other generals. After the Queen had departed, King William entered the waiting train and moved off westward toward the seat of war, followed by the unanimous shout “With God!”


And truly God was “with King and Fatherland,” for in seemingly endless succession the telegraph brought news to the astonished people of one great victory after another. The French were wildly enthusiastic when with two entire army corps they finally forced a single Prussian battalion of infantry and three squadrons of uhlans to retreat after the latter had held out for fourteen days, and then with more than twenty guns bombarded the unprotected town of Saarbrücken; but it was to be their only occasion for rejoicing.

On the fourth of August Queen Augusta received the following message:

“A splendid but bloody victory won by Fritz at the storming of Weissenberg. God be praised for this first glorious achievement.”

The news quickly spread throughout the country, bringing joy and renewed confidence to all hearts. Two days later word came of a second victory for the Crown Prince. He had completely defeated the great Marshal MacMahon at Wörth, August 6, and King William in his despatch to his wife might with just pride send word to Berlin that “it should be in love with Victoria!”


A series of engagements followed, in the neighborhood of Metz, on the fourteenth, sixteenth, and eighteenth of August, which changed the general plans of the German army. The French Marshal Bazaine had attempted to invade the enemy’s territory from that place, but without success, while MacMahon, who had advanced from Châlons to the borders of the Palatinate and Baden, had suffered such losses at Weissenberg and Wörth that he was forced to fall back to his former position. It was therefore decided that the two French armies should unite in the neighborhood of Châlons and, thus strengthened, offer battle to the enemy. To prevent this, the Germans at once attacked Bazaine, cutting off his retreat to Châlons and occupying him until the arrival of some of their delayed corps. The manœuvre was successful, and after two days of hard fighting at Courcelles on the fourteenth, and Mars la Tour on the sixteenth, the struggle culminated two days later in the great battle of Gravelotte. It was for life or death; the desperate struggle of a brave army—the best, perhaps, that France ever sent into the field. But all in vain. Closer and closer about them drew the iron ring. German courage and tenacity permitted no escape.


At nine o’clock that evening King William sent his wife this despatch from the camp at Rezonville:

“The French army attacked to-day in strong position west of Metz. Completely defeated in nine hours’ battle, cut off from communication with Paris, and driven back towards Metz.


In the letter that followed he says:

“It was half-past eight in the evening before the firing ceased.... Our troops accomplished wonders of bravery against an equally gallant enemy who disputed every step. I have not dared to ask what our losses are. I would have camped here, but after several hours found a room where I could rest. We brought no baggage from Pont-à-Mousson, so I have not had my clothes off for thirty hours. Thank God for our victory!”


Chapter VIII

Bazaine was now shut up in Metz and closely surrounded by the first, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth corps, under the command of Prince Frederick Charles; MacMahon’s diminished army had retreated to Châlons, where it was met by the Garde Mobile. Except for this the road to Paris was open. It was therefore determined by the Germans to mass all their available forces and advance upon the capital without delay. It was fully expected at headquarters that MacMahon would dispute their way and that another battle must first be fought in the neighborhood of Châlons. Great was the surprise, therefore, when news was brought by scouts that the enemy had abandoned this important post and retired northward. This was inexplicable. Why not have gone to the westward in the direction of Paris? The commander-in-chief was not easily deceived, however, and as for Moltke, one must indeed rise betimes to get the better of him in strategy. MacMahon’s purpose soon became apparent. By a wide circuit from Châlons northeast to the Belgian frontier, and then southward again, he hoped to annihilate the besieging forces at Metz, release Bazaine, and thus reinforced to attack the rear of the army that was advancing on Paris,—a fine plan, but not fine enough to succeed against King William and his generals. A flank movement by the combined German forces to the right was ordered and a series of forced marches made to intercept MacMahon before he could reach Metz. It was a bold and exciting chase, led by the Crown Prince, Frederick William.


The French struggled desperately to gain their end, but all in vain; on the first of September they found themselves completely surrounded at Sedan, a fortress on the Belgian frontier, and forced to a decisive battle. King William himself was in command, and what a battle it was! Prussians, Bavarians, Würtembergers, Saxons vied with one another in deeds of daring and contempt of death against an enemy who, with the courage of despair, accomplished marvels of valor; yet when the day was ended MacMahon’s army had surrendered, and with it the author of all the trouble,—Napoleon himself.


Great were the rejoicings over this victory! King William and his gallant son were hailed on all sides with the wildest enthusiasm, their praises sounded far and wide. The Crown Prince and his cousin Prince Frederick Charles were rewarded for their services to the Fatherland by being made field marshals immediately after the fall of Metz, an event that had never before occurred in the history of the house of Hohenzollern.

The first telegram sent by the King to the Queen after this latest victory ran as follows:

“Before Sedan, September 2, 2.30 P.M.: The capitulation of the entire army in Sedan has just been arranged with General Wimpffen commanding in place of MacMahon, who was wounded. The Emperor only surrendered himself to me personally, since he is not in command, and has left everything to the Regency in Paris. I will decide on his place of residence after the interview which I am to have with him at once. What a fortunate turn of affairs has been vouchsafed by Providence!”

On the third of September this despatch was followed by a letter, from which we quote:


Vendresse, September 3, 1870.

“By this time you have learned from my telegram the extent of the great historical event that has just happened. It is like a dream, even though one has seen it unroll itself hour by hour.”

Then follows a brief and concise description of the battle and its results:

“On the night of the thirty-first the army took up its prearranged positions about Sedan, and early in the morning firing began in spite of a dense fog. When I arrived at the front about eight o’clock, the large batteries had already opened fire on the fortifications, and a hot fight soon developed at all points, lasting almost the entire day, during which our side gained ground. A number of deep wooded defiles hindered the advance of the infantry and favored the defence, but village after village was captured and a circle of fire gradually closed in about Sedan. It was a magnificent sight from our position on a height behind one of the batteries.

“At last the enemy’s resistance began to weaken, as we could perceive from the broken battalions that were driven back from the woods and villages. Gradually their retreat was turned into a flight in many places, infantry, cavalry, and artillery all crowding together into the town and its environments; but as they gave no intimation of relieving their desperate situation by surrendering, there was nothing left for us but to bombard the town. After twenty minutes it was burning in several places, and with the flaming villages all about the field of battle the spectacle was a terrible one. I therefore had the firing slackened and sent Lieutenant von Bronsart of the general staff with a flag of truce to demand the surrender of the army and citadel. On inquiring for the commander-in-chief, he was unexpectedly taken before the Emperor, who had a letter he wished delivered to me. The Emperor asked his errand, and on learning it replied that he should have to refer him to General von Wimpffen, who had assumed command after MacMahon was wounded, and that he would send his Adjutant General Reille with the letter to me. It was seven o’clock when the two officers arrived; Bronsart was a little in advance, and from him we first learned with certainty that the Emperor was in Sedan. You can imagine the sensation this news caused! Reille then sprang from his horse and delivered to me his Emperor’s letter, adding that he had no other commission. It began as follows: ‘Not having been able to die at the head of my troops, it only remains for me to place my sword in the hands of Your Majesty.’ All other details were left to me.

“My answer was that I regretted the manner of our meeting and requested him to appoint a commission to arrange for a capitulation. After I had handed my letter to General Reille, I spoke a few words with him as an old acquaintance, and he took his departure. On my side I named Moltke with Bismarck to fall back upon in case any political questions should arise, then rode to my carriage and came here, greeted everywhere with thundering shouts by the marching troops that filled the streets, cheering and singing folk-songs. It was most thrilling! Many carried lighted candles, so that at times it was like being escorted by an improvised torchlight procession. I arrived here about eleven o’clock and drank with my staff to the army which had achieved such glorious results. The next morning, as I had heard nothing from Moltke of the negotiations which were to take place at Donchery, I drove as agreed to the battle-field about eight o’clock and met Moltke, who was coming to obtain my consent to the proposed surrender. He told me that the Emperor had left Sedan as early as five o’clock and had come to Donchery. As he wished to speak to me and there was a small château in the neighborhood, I chose this for our meeting.

“At ten o’clock I arrived on the heights before Sedan; at twelve Moltke and Bismarck appeared with the signed articles of capitulation, and at one I started, without Fritz, escorted by the cavalry staff. I alighted before the château, where the Emperor met me. The interview lasted a quarter of an hour; we were both much moved at meeting again under such circumstances. What my feelings were, after having seen Napoleon only three years before at the summit of his power, I cannot describe. [King William had been in Paris in 1867 on the occasion of the World’s Exposition there.]

“After this interview I reviewed all the troops before Sedan; their welcome to me, the sight of their ranks so terribly thinned—all of this I cannot write of to-day. I was deeply touched by so many proofs of loyalty and devotion, and it is with a full heart that I close this long letter. Farewell.”


Hurrah! du grosse Zeit!” It was indeed a glorious but also a solemn and heart-stirring time. Men, women, and children of all classes stood breathlessly about the public bulletin-boards, and when the news of Sedan was received, an irrepressible storm of enthusiasm swept over the country, even to the remotest solitudes. Men whose hearts had long been hardened by the cares and troubles of life burst into tears of joy; the hands of enemies were clasped in reconciliation, and mothers rejoiced that their sons had been so fortunate as to take part in this great event. Napoleon a captive at Wilhelmshöhe in Cassel, MacMahon’s army prisoners of war in Germany, Marshal Bazaine shut up in Metz, and France, imperial France, prostrated at the feet of the foe she had so wantonly injured! But King William had said to Count Bismarck after the capture of Sedan, “Great and glorious as is this victory, it will not bring us peace as yet”; and he was right. It is true that with Napoleon’s surrender and the subsequent flight from Paris of the Empress Eugénie, who had been appointed regent, the Empire fell, but hard on its heels followed the Republic, the “Government for the National Defence,” headed by General Trochu as Governor of Paris, the most important members of which were Jules Favre and Gambetta. In what spirit these men undertook to conduct the government is evident from a circular letter to the French ambassadors in foreign courts which was full of lies and calumnies of over-weaning pride and self-deception. Had they really wanted peace, they might have easily availed themselves of the opportunity offered by the ensuing negotiations for a truce. But unwilling to own herself defeated, France would only agree to peace on terms which were impossible for King William, as guardian of Germany’s honor, to accept. This high-sounding letter, therefore, had no more influence with Germany than with the other powers, and the war pursued its bloody course.


All the available forces of Germany now advanced on Paris, and soon the great city was completely invested. Attempt after attempt was made by the new Republic to place new armies in the field. The imprisoned forces in Paris, Metz, and Strassburg harassed and struggled against the encircling enemy, but all in vain. Battle after battle was won by the invincible Germans. Orleans, Coulmiers, Armiens, Le Mans, St. Quentin, La Bourget, Belfort, and many others testified to their valor. Fortress after fortress capitulated,—Strassburg, Toul, Metz, and finally Paris, after a terrific bombardment. In the midst of all these conquests, however, a great and solemn act was quietly consummated,—the fulfilment of the dream of thousands of patriots, the restoration of the glories of the old Empire in the final unification of Germany. In the palace of Louis Fourteenth, that Prince whose whole aim and endeavor had been to bring about the destruction and humiliation of Germany, King William First of Prussia was proclaimed German Emperor January 18, 1871, the same day on which, one hundred and seventy years before, his ancestor, the Elector Frederick Third of Brandenburg, had been crowned King of Prussia. The grand salon of Versailles was chosen as the scene of the ceremony, and amid all the splendor that had surrounded the Kings of France a modest altar was erected, covered with red velvet and adorned with two lighted golden candelabra. Before it stood a Prussian divine in his plain black robes, and on either side troops were stationed, consisting of men chosen from each of the regiments encamped about Paris. The banners of these regiments, each supported by a non-commissioned officer, were placed on a dais at the end of the hall, in which about six hundred officers were assembled, their gay and varied uniforms making a brilliant scene.


Just at noon the King entered with the Crown Prince, followed by a train of royal and noble guests, and took his place before the altar, Bismarck and von Moltke standing near by. The service opened with the chorale, “Praise the Lord, all the World,” sung by a chorus of soldiers with trombone accompaniment; then the liturgy, followed by another hymn, and a sermon by Rogge, the court chaplain from Potsdam, from the twenty-first Psalm, concluding with an exultant “Now all thank God.”


The King then rose and, followed by all the princes and Count Bismarck, walked over to the dais where the standard-bearers stood, and halted at the edge of the platform, the Crown Prince on his right, to the left the Chancellor of the Confederacy, the princes ranging themselves behind the King. In a voice shaken by emotion the aged monarch declared his acceptance of the imperial throne that had been offered him by the unanimous voice of the princes of Germany and the free imperial cities and representatives of the North German Confederation. Count Bismarck then read aloud a proclamation prepared by the King for this occasion, which ran as follows:

To the People of Germany:

“We, William, by God’s grace King of Prussia, hereby announce that the German princes and Free Towns having addressed to us a unanimous call to renew and undertake, with the reëstablishment of the German Empire, the dignity of Emperor, which now for sixty years has been in abeyance, and the requisite provisions having been inserted in the constitution of the German Confederation, we regard it as a duty we owe to the entire Fatherland to comply with this call and to accept the dignity of Emperor.

“Accordingly, we and our successors to the crown of Prussia henceforth shall use the imperial title in all our relations and affairs of the German Empire; and we hope under God it may be vouchsafed to the German nation to lead the Fatherland on to a blessed future under the auspices of its ancient splendor. We undertake the imperial dignity, conscious of the duty to protect, with German loyalty, the rights of the Empire and its members, to preserve peace, to maintain the independence of Germany, and to strengthen the power of the people. We accept it in the hope that it will be granted to the German people to enjoy in lasting peace the reward of its arduous and heroic struggles within boundaries which will give to the Fatherland that security against renewed French attacks which it has lacked for centuries.

“May God grant to us and our successors to the imperial crown, that we may be the defenders of the German Empire at all times, not in martial conquests, but in works of peace in the sphere of natural prosperity, freedom, and civilization.

“Given at Headquarters, Versailles, the eighteenth of January, 1871.



After the reading of this proclamation the Grand Duke of Baden stepped forward and cried in a loud voice, “Long live King William, the German Emperor!” and an exultant shout burst from the great assembly. Tears rolled down the cheeks of the aged sovereign and his stately form was visibly shaken with emotion. The Crown Prince was the first to do homage to the newly made Emperor by kissing his hand, but the father clasped his son in his arms and kissed him repeatedly. He also embraced his brother Charles and his cousin, Admiral Adalbert, his brother-in-law, the Grand Duke of Weimar, and his son-in-law the Grand Duke of Baden, after which he was saluted in turn by the other princes and the rest of the assemblage, for each of whom he had a kindly word. As the Emperor departed from the royal palace of the Bourbons the banner of the Hohenzollerns was lowered and the German Imperial ensign floated out upon the breeze. Thus was this great act consummated amid the thunder of guns that shook the capital of France and woke so mighty an echo in the heart of the Fatherland.

The war was continued for a time, but after the destruction of the armies of the Loire and of the north the guns about Paris were silent, and on January 29, 1871, the Emperor sent the following telegram to his wife from Versailles:


“Last night a three weeks’ truce was signed. All troops in Paris are prisoners of war. The Provisional Government guarantees to maintain order. We occupy all forts. Paris remains in a state of siege and must provide for itself. All arms to be surrendered. A Constituent Assembly will be elected to meet at Bordeaux in fourteen days. This is the reward of our people for their patriotism, their sacrifices and heroic courage. I thank God for all His mercies. May peace soon follow!”

The Emperor’s prayer was soon to be granted, for on the twenty-fifth of February the Empress received the following message:

“With a glad and thankful heart I am able to inform you that the preliminaries of peace have just been arranged. Now there is only the consent of the National Assembly at Bordeaux to be obtained.


In a letter dated March 2, 1871, he writes:

“I have just ratified the treaty of peace. Thus far the great work is finished which seven months of victorious warfare has made possible, thanks to the bravery and endurance of the army in all its branches and the willing sacrifices of the Fatherland. The Lord of Hosts has blessed our undertaking and led to this honorable peace. To Him be the glory! To the army and the Fatherland my deepest and most heart-felt thanks!”


It was indeed an honorable peace, won by a series of victories unparalleled in the world’s history. Alsace and Lorraine, formerly torn by France from Germany when enfeebled by internal warfare, were restored to her, Strassburg once more mirrored her cathedral spires in the waters of a German Rhine, and five milliards of francs were also to be paid by France as indemnity for the expenses of the war.

On the sixteenth of June the victorious troops made their entry into Berlin amid celebrations even more imposing than those of 1866. The whole length of the Sieges strasse, through which the troops passed, a distance of almost a mile, was bordered with cannon captured from the French, while non-commissioned officers from each regiment, decorated with the Iron Cross, carried eighty-one French eagles and standards. A continuous ovation greeted the Emperor, his generals, and the troops all along the line of march. The celebration of the victory found a fitting climax in the unveiling of the monument to Frederick William Third in the Lustgarten, at the foot of which his son could lay the trophies of a glorious and successful war, and as the head of a newly restored and powerful German Empire consecrate the fulfilment of his trust.


Chapter IX
Army Anecdotes

Innumerable anecdotes are told of the personal relations between the Emperor William and his soldiers, a few of which may be given as helping to throw light on the portrait of this great yet kindly sovereign.

After the battle of Mars-la-Tour, the country all about was strewn with dead and wounded soldiers. It was only with the greatest difficulty that a small room was found for the King’s use, containing a bed, a table, and a chair. As he entered it he asked:

“Where are Bismarck and Moltke lodged?”

“Nowhere as yet,” replied the adjutant, well knowing how needful rest was to them also.


“Then ask them to come and camp here with me,” said the King. “You may take away the bed—it will be needed by the wounded—and have some straw and blankets brought here; they will do very well for us.”


And so it chanced that the three old comrades spent a rainy night together on the straw; nor was it the only time during this hard and cruel war.

* * * * * * * *

The day after the victory of Gravelotte, as King William was returning to Pont-à-Mousson, he passed through the village of Gorze. The Commander-in-chief was greeted everywhere with the wildest enthusiasm, even by the wounded, with whom the little town was filled. Among the latter was Captain von Zedtwitz. He was lodged with an old soldier Antoine, who had lost a leg at Magenta and who with his little daughter nursed and cared for the desperately wounded officer as well as he was able. When the captain heard the shouts outside, and learned that King William was passing through Gorze, he insisted on sending a greeting to his sovereign likewise. He asked one of the musicians to deliver to the Commander-in-chief a pure white rose with the message: “A wounded officer who can scarcely live through another day, sends this rose to Your Majesty, in memory of Gravelotte!” The King bade his coachman stop. Deeply moved, he took the rose and fastened it in his buttonhole. Then, after asking the name of the thoughtful donor and sending his hearty thanks with wishes for a speedy recovery, went on his way. After a long and tedious illness the captain finally recovered, but was no longer fit for active service. In recognition of his services to the Fatherland he was given the position of district commander in Halberstadt. He had long since forgotten the rose of Gorze, but the Emperor had a good memory where his faithful soldiers were concerned, as Captain von Zedtwitz was to discover. On Christmas Day, 1871, he received a box containing a magnificent oil painting depicting a monument on which were inscribed the words “Gorze, August 19, 1870.” A German flag half covered the monument, at the foot of which was an infantry helmet decorated with an Iron Cross and encircled by a laurel leaf. At the top of the heavy gold frame gleamed a massive silver rose. Accompanying this gift was the following note in the Emperor’s own handwriting:


“In grateful remembrance of that never-to-be-forgotten day in Gorze when you, desperately wounded, sent me a rose from your couch of pain as I, unknowing, was passing by. May the accompanying picture serve as a lasting token of your devotion to your sovereign and his gratitude to you. Christmas, 1871.

William I. R.

“December 22, 1871.”

* * * * * * * *

After the battle of Sedan the King’s headquarters were at Clermont, with a regiment of Bavarian cavalry in guard. The men had had a long, hard march in the rain that day, and their commanding officer, feeling ill, despatched his orderly in search of some wine. It was forbidden to ask for supplies at headquarters, so the colonel gave him a thaler and charged him to buy it somewhere. On reaching the marketplace the trooper discovered a large tavern, before the door of which stood two Prussian staff orderlies who, as he approached, motioned him to pass on. With the thaler in his hand, however, the Bavarian felt himself as good as any one, so he marched boldly up to the door of the inn and knocked loudly. For some time there was no response, but at length it was opened by an elderly officer, who asked him what he wanted.

“My colonel is sick and must have a flask of wine,” replied the orderly.


“In just a moment, my son!” said the old man with a kindly smile, and disappeared within the house, but soon returned with a flask which he handed to the other, saying, “Here is what your colonel needs. I hope it will do him good.”

The Bavarian took the wine in his left hand, still grasping the thaler in his right. What should he do? He was not allowed to accept anything without paying for it, neither could he offer money to an officer. At length the old man, perceiving his embarrassment, inquired whether his colonel had given him any other commission. Whereupon the honest fellow explained his difficulty, at the same time attempting to thrust the thaler into the old man’s hand. But the latter only waved him away, saying:

“Never mind that, my good man, but hurry back to your colonel with the wine, and say the King of Prussia sends it to him with wishes for a speedy recovery.”

“The King of Prussia!” repeated the Bavarian in bewilderment. “Where is the King of Prussia, then?”

“I am he,” replied the old man, and shut the door.


The colonel was anxiously waiting his orderly’s return, but looked very grave when he laid the thaler on the table beside the flask.

“You fool!” he cried angrily, “did I not tell you not to make any requisition?”

“But I did not, sir,” replied the fellow with a grin. “There was an old man at the tavern who said he was the King of Prussia; he gave me the flask and wished you a quick recovery.”

“What is that!” cried the colonel in great excitement. “From the King of Prussia, did you say?” and he gazed with astonishment at the good monarch’s gift. With awe he lifted the first glass to his thirsty lips, thinking to himself, “This is from the King of Prussia,” but as the last drop disappeared he shouted aloud in a burst of enthusiasm, “Long live King William!”

* * * * * * * *

One day during the siege of Paris, as the King was visiting the outposts, he discovered a fusileer deeply absorbed in a letter, his weapon on the ground at his feet and apparently quite oblivious to his duties. Roused by the sound of hoofs and recognizing his commander-in-chief, he hastily dropped the letter, took up his gun, and presented arms. The King rode up to him and said, smiling:


“A letter from the sweetheart at home, no doubt, my son!”

“No, sire,” replied the terrified soldier; “it is from my mother.”

Somewhat doubtful of the truth of these words, the King looked sternly at him and asked to see it.

“Certainly, Your Majesty,” replied the soldier, and quickly picking up the letter he handed it to his chief. The King read it through, glanced kindly at the fusileer, and told his adjutant to take the man’s name, then rode on. The letter was from the man’s mother, telling of his sister’s approaching marriage and the sorrow of all there that he could not be present.


The next day the fusileer was ordered to appear before his captain, and he obeyed the summons with an anxious heart, thinking to himself, “Now I am undone! This means at least eight days’ arrest for neglect of duty.” Great was his surprise, therefore, when the captain informed him that by the King’s orders he had been granted fourteen days’ leave to attend his sister’s wedding, and that free transportation there and back would be furnished him. The overjoyed soldier was soon on the train bound for his distant home, where a joyous welcome waited his unexpected arrival. When the wedding guests heard the story of the letter, they all clinked glasses joyfully and drank to the King’s health with a rousing cheer.

* * * * * * * *

A grenadier of the First Regiment of Guards was also one of the gardeners at Babelsberg. The Emperor arriving there unexpectedly one day, this man was sent to accompany him about the park to point out the various improvements. The Emperor was much pleased with his intelligent conversation, but presently noticed that he began to be very uneasy and even looked at the time, which was not considered proper in the presence of the sovereign.

“What is the matter, young man?” he asked.

“Well, Your Majesty,” replied the other, “this is my first year of volunteer service, in the First Regiment of Guards, and my captain is very strict. I am due at the barracks in three-quarters of an hour, and it is impossible for me to get there now except with the utmost haste. I shall be late unless Your Majesty will be so gracious as to release me.”


Much pleased with his gardener’s punctuality, the Emperor sent him to don his uniform with all speed and ordered his carriage to be brought around immediately. Then motioning to the grenadier to take the seat beside him, they set off for the town with a gallop. The company was already in line as the carriage drew up at the barracks, but the Emperor spoke to the captain in person, explaining that it was his fault that the man was late and asking that he should not be punished.

* * * * * * * *

Still another instance of King William’s unfailing kindness and consideration to all classes is shown in the following incident. At a grand review held on the field of Tempelhof, the Emperor’s sharp eyes suddenly discovered a sergeant-major who could scarcely stand upright and whose deathly pallor betrayed either serious illness or some violent emotion. He rode up at once to the man and asked what ailed him.

“It is nothing, Your Majesty, I am better already,” was the answer; but the tears in the eyes of the bearded soldier belied his words. The Emperor’s gaze rested on his pale face with fatherly kindness and he said encouragingly,


“Do not try to conceal anything from me, sergeant; you too wear the Iron Cross, so we are brothers in arms, and comrades should have no secrets from each other.”

Unable to resist this exhortation, the sergeant responded,

“Alas, Your Majesty, just now as we were marching out here, my only child, a promising boy of six, was run over by a wagon, and I do not know what has become of him.”

The Emperor immediately sent an adjutant to appropriate one of the near-by conveyances occupied by spectators for the use of the sergeant, whom he excused for the rest of the day, and the anxious father with tears of gratitude in his eyes hastened home to his family.

* * * * * * * *

A touching trait of the Emperor’s character is shown in his habit of making the rounds of the hospitals in time of war to assure himself personally that his wounded subjects were receiving the necessary care, and cheer them with a kindly word of encouragement or some slight gift. In the bloody year of 1866 the Woman’s Aid Society built a private hospital in Berlin, which King William frequently honored with his presence. Among the patients was a musketeer who had lost his left arm.


“Your Majesty,” said this man one day to the King, “I am twenty-four years old to-day. To have had the happiness of seeing the King on my birthday—I shall never forget it, sire!”

“Nor shall I, my brave fellow,” replied the King, giving his hand to the soldier, who kissed it with deep emotion. The King passed on from bed to bed, but just as he was about to leave he said to his suite, “I must see that man again whose birthday it is,” and returning to the musketeer’s cot he talked with him for some time. That night, after the invalid was asleep and dreaming of his sovereign, one of the royal huntsmen appeared with a gold watch and chain, sent by the King as a remembrance of the day. The lucky man was often asked where he got this fine watch.

“Guess!” he would always say, and after the inquisitive questioner had tried in vain to solve the riddle, he would shout with a beaming face: “It is from my King, my good King William!”

* * * * * * * *

Once while the King was visiting the hospital at Versailles with the Crown Prince and several of his generals, they came to the cot of a Silesian militiaman who had had his right leg amputated and been shot in the right shoulder also. When asked what his injuries were, he replied:


“I have lost my right leg, Your Majesty, which troubles me much, for now I shall not be able to go on to Paris with the rest of the army. And besides that the churls have shot me here in the shoulder.”

Every one laughed, and the King said: “Cheer up, my son! You shall have a new leg and enter Paris with us yet.”

“That may be, sire,” declared the simple-hearted Silesian, “but I can never win the Iron Cross now.”

Again there was a laugh; but the Crown Prince laid his hand on the brave fellow’s head, saying,


“You shall have that too, my man,” and the King quietly nodded assent and passed on, his eyes moist with tears.

* * * * * * * *

On another cot at this same hospital lay a pale young infantryman. The physician had given him a sleeping potion which had brought temporary forgetfulness of his sufferings. As the Emperor stood quietly looking down at him, his eye fell on an album which the invalid had evidently been reading when sleep overtook him. He picked it up and wrote in pencil on one of the pages, “My son, always remember your King,” then laid it back on the bed and passed on. When the wounded man awoke and found his sovereign’s greeting, tears of joy streamed down his cheeks and he pressed the precious writing to his lips, sobbing. On the Emperor’s next visit he saw, by the deathly pallor of the wounded infantryman, that death was near and the poor fellow was past all aid or comfort. But the soul had not yet left the body, a gleam of consciousness still lingered in the fast-glazing eyes, and he recognized the Emperor standing beside him. The half-closed eyelids opened wide, and with a last supreme effort the dying man lifted himself and cried out,

“Yes, I will remember Your Majesty, even up above!” then fell back lifeless on his cot.

“Amen!” murmured the Emperor, and he gently closed the eyes of the young hero who had died so true a soldier’s death.


Chapter X
Family Life of the Emperor

We have already had glimpses of Emperor William’s domestic affairs at the time of his marriage and when the birth and education of their children brought new duties to the august parents. After the wars were over and our hero had more time and opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of home, he took the greatest delight in his grandchildren, the sons and daughters of the Crown Prince. Of these his special favorite was the eldest, who in turn had the greatest affection and reverence for his grandfather. In this Prince Frederick William—or William, as he was called after reaching his majority, by the Emperor’s express command—the latter beheld the future heir to the throne, and watched over his education, therefore, with the greatest care; inculcating in him, above all things, the true German spirit of devotion to the Fatherland, a deep appreciation of the army, which had been so largely his own creation, and lastly a boundless faith in that Providence which had so often proved his best help in time of need.


On the ninth of February, 1877, he placed his grandson in the First Regiment of Foot Guards. “Now go on and do your duty!” was the conclusion of his address to the Prince on that occasion, and these few words expressed the ruling purpose of his own life,—a career that offered such a noble example to the young soldiers. Without fear or hesitation he had always done his duty faithfully, and thereby won fame and greatness for his house, his people, and all Germany.

His grandfather’s injunctions proved a powerful incentive to Prince William. A true Hohenzollern from head to heel, he has devoted himself heart and soul to the army, following in the footsteps of the two heroic figures that were so near and dear to him. Both father and grandfather watched with deepest pride and interest the quick advancement of the young officer, whose military career must often have reminded the Emperor of his own youth.


It was a great satisfaction to the aged monarch that he was spared to witness his favorite’s marriage to the charming Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, which took place February 27, 1881; and still greater was his happiness when on May 6, 1882, a son was born to the young couple. This was God’s crowning mercy! Four generations,—the patriarch whose eighty-five years had indeed bleached his hair and furrowed his brow, but with bodily and mental vigor still unimpaired; the noble grandfather, a magnificent figure in the nation’s history, sound of heart and ripe in experience; the young father, in the first flush of manly vigor, with a long and brilliant future before him; and last, the infant son, grandson, and great-grandson just opening his eyes to a conscious existence. It is not hard to understand the feeling of exultation in which, at news of the happy event, the Emperor shouted, “Hurrah! four Kings!”


But, alas! this bright promise of a smiling future was soon to be darkened by a cloud so thick and heavy that it threatened to overwhelm the stanch old hero who had stood fast through so many of the storms of life. Early in the year 1887 symptoms of an alarming throat trouble began to show themselves in the Crown Prince. At first it was considered merely an obstinate attack of hoarseness, but it soon became evident that a much worse and more dangerous malady was to be reckoned with. All that was within human power and skill to accomplish was resorted to. The most celebrated authorities on diseases of the throat were consulted, the most healthful resorts of Europe tried, but in vain. All possible measures for relief were powerless. The whole country was grief-stricken, nor was the public sorrow confined to Germany alone. All seemed to see the noble figure of the Crown Prince shouting to his men at Königgrätz, “Forward, in God’s name, or all is lost!” or leading his army from victory to victory in the war with France, and now stricken with an insidious disease that slowly but surely sapped away his life. Nor did they feel less for the afflicted father, waiting anxiously for news from San Remo of his beloved son and heir. It was indeed a dark shadow on our hero’s otherwise bright evening of life!


In these days the Emperor clung more fondly than ever to his daughter, the Grand Duchess of Baden, and her devoted husband. At least once a year when visiting the springs at Ems or Gastein he had always been in the habit of spending a few days with them, and these visits were bright spots in the old man’s life. Here for a brief time he was “off duty”; free from the daily burden and pressing cares of state, among his loved ones, and surrounded by that tender care that only a loving daughter can bestow. He was always happy at these times, chatting in his friendly way with great and small, and rejoicing at any opportunity of giving pleasure to others.

Once, soon after the war, when he was staying at Ems, a bookseller there had his show window decorated with pictures of the Emperor. As the latter was passing the shop one day, he saw a crowd of boys gathered about the window. Stepping up to them he asked, “What is here, children? What do you like best of all these pretty things? Which would you rather have? Tell me.”

The boys looked at him and at one another in confusion and did not know what to answer, till at last one lively urchin helped them out of their dilemma by shouting, “I will buy the German Emperor!”

“Good!” replied the Emperor, “you shall all have him. How many are there of you?” He counted the boys, then went into the shop and bought a number of the pictures, which he distributed among them.


Another favorite diversion of Emperor William was hunting, and he often went in the fall or winter to shoot at Letzlingen, Hubertsstock, or elsewhere. Once at the Count von Stolberg-Wernigerode’s, they had had a successful day, and the Emperor had distinguished himself, for he was an excellent marksman. When the game was counted, it was announced that the sovereign’s share was twenty-eight, whereat His Majesty smiled roguishly and remarked to his companions:

“These results remind me of the quotation ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy’—for is it not a marvel that I should have shot twenty-eight pieces of game and only fired twenty-five cartridges?”


All the Emperor’s servants had the deepest respect and affection for him, and with good reason, for never was there a more kind and generous master, continually making them presents and never forgetting to bring back some little gift when he went on a journey. His dependents were always treated with the greatest kindness and indulgence and never received a harsh word, yet they never failed to feel that he was the master. One evening he went to the Victoria Theatre alone, accompanied only by the coachman and a jäger, the latter of whom betook himself to a restaurant across the street as soon as his master had alighted. Whether the play did not please His Majesty, or what the reason was, does not signify, but he left the theatre again after about a quarter of an hour. The carriage was there, but no jäger. The Emperor must wait. At a sign from the coachman one of the theatre attendants ran to fetch the delinquent, who, terrified, began to stammer out excuses with trembling lips. But the Emperor only remarked quietly, “Why make so much of the matter? You must often have been obliged to wait for me, now for once I have waited for you; so we are quits. Open the carriage door for me!”


At another time, when he was suffering from a severe cold, his physician, Dr. von Lauer, had carefully prepared, besides the necessary medicines, a tea for use during the night to allay his cough, and shown the attendant exactly how much of the liquid should be warmed and given to the patient at each coughing-spell. When he made his morning visit, he was joyfully informed by the faithful old servant that his master had had a quiet night. Much relieved, the physician entered his patient’s sleeping chamber, but a glance at the worn face and another at the empty teapot made him doubt the accuracy of the information he had just received. The Emperor answered the unspoken question himself, however.

“I have coughed a great deal, doctor,” he said, “and slept but little”; then added, in answer to the physician’s glance, “I took the tea several times but did not ring for my valet. The old man needs his sleep, so I warmed the drink myself over the spirit lamp.”

It was this same old servant who once declared, “I have been for forty years with my royal master and have yet to hear him give an order or speak a harsh word. With His Majesty it is always ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you,’ never anything else.”


This very regard and consideration for others may have proved fatal to himself, for on the night of March 3, 1888, when obliged to leave his bed for a short time, instead of summoning his servant, as Dr. von Lauer had repeatedly charged him to do on such occasions, he let the old man sleep and attempted to get up by himself; but a sudden faintness seized him and he sank helpless on the floor. By the time the valet had come to his assistance the Emperor was chilled through and unable, so says the Berlin “Court Chronicle,” to show himself at the window the following day. He begged the valet, however, to say nothing of this to the physician.

Yet in spite of his leniency, the Emperor was too thorough a soldier not to be a strict disciplinarian also. His slightest nod was equivalent to a command with his dependents, and a reproof therefore was seldom necessary. If anything went wrong he would merely say quietly, “That is not the way I care to have things done,” and this simple remark was more effective than a string of oaths would have proved from another. But if their royal master’s admonition was “This shall not be done,” then the whole household trembled.

It was also characteristic of the Emperor that he never remembered a fault or laid it up against the offender. If the kindly expression gave place to sternness for the time, it was never long until his usual cheerful serenity returned; while if he himself had erred or given an undeserved rebuke, he was quick to acknowledge it and ask pardon.


Once in the seventies, while staying at the grand-ducal court of Schwerin, a visit had been planned to the Court Theatre, at that time under the direction of the Intendant Baron von Wolzogen, and the Grand Duke had ordered a special armchair to be placed in the royal box for the august guest. As expected, the Emperor made his appearance that evening at the theatre. It was devoted to light comedy, of which he was especially fond; but as he seated himself, sitting down somewhat heavily, as was his custom, the chair that had been provided for him gave way, and he found himself for a moment on the floor, though fortunately unhurt. In the audience the accident was scarcely noticed; but to the Intendant, who anxiously hastened to the box, His Majesty said shortly and coldly:

“In future, when you receive guests, see to it that at least they are not given disabled chairs,” and turned quickly away without giving the mortified Intendant any opportunity for excuses. As it chanced, however, the providing of the chair had not been intrusted to him, but to the Court Chamberlain. During the next intermission, therefore, the Emperor sent for the Intendant and greeted him kindly with the words:


“My dear Baron, I did you an injustice just now; my reprimand was directed to the wrong address, as I have learned in the meantime. I am sorry and wanted to tell you so this evening, so we should both sleep the better.”


Chapter XI
The Emperor’s Death

“The days of our years are threescore and ten years; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore, yet is their strength labor and sorrow.” So sings the Psalmist, and thus it was with the life of Emperor William,—a ceaseless round of toil and weariness, of care and struggle, that reached its climax in those astounding victories that strengthened the throne of Prussia and brought about the unification of Germany. Even in his old age he was not permitted to end his days quietly, as we have seen, but still devoted his whole time and strength to the welfare of the Fatherland, nobly striving to maintain peace both at home and abroad. He had lived to see Germany a free and united Empire once more, with a position among the nations of the earth she had never before attained, and might well say with Simeon, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,” were it not for the war clouds that still hung about the horizon, and had the Crown Prince stood beside him in all his old health and vigor, ready to take the reins of government from his hands. This was the great sorrow that clouded his declining years and caused him painful anxiety as to the future in view of his own death, which could not now be far distant. The Emperor naturally possessed a powerful constitution, strengthened by the regular life he led and his freedom from early excesses of all kinds. An occasional cold, or attack of a painful but not at all serious ailment to which he had been subject for many years, would confine him to his room or bed for a short time, but except for this he had enjoyed excellent health. But having reached an age far beyond that usually allotted to mortals, it was not strange that during his latter years, whenever it was announced that His Majesty was ill, the physicians’ daily reports were anxiously awaited, or that when the aged monarch again appeared at the familiar corner window of his palace he was greeted with cheers by the assembled crowds, while the solemn tones of the “Heil Dir, im Siegerkranz,” swelled up into the sky.


It was on Friday, March 2, 1888, that the Emperor drove out for the last time. There was an icy north wind blowing in Berlin that day, and he contracted a cold which, in his already somewhat enfeebled health, he was unable to throw off. His physical condition was aggravated, too, by anxiety over the political situation and his son’s illness; and when in addition to this news was received of the sudden death of a favorite grandson, Prince Louis of Baden, the shock was too great for the old man to recover from. On Monday, March 5, his condition was far from encouraging, and on the following day it became even more critical. A sleepless night greatly reduced the patient’s strength, and on Thursday, toward evening, he sank into a death-like stupor, from which, except for one or two brief intervals of consciousness, he never rallied. At half-past eight the following morning, March 9, the soul of the aged hero, the father of the Fatherland, passed quietly away into the land of eternal peace.


During the Emperor’s last hours the members of his family, together with some of the highest court officials, were gathered round his bedside. On Thursday afternoon, at the suggestion of Prince William, the dying man was asked if he would like to see the Court Chaplain, Dr. Kögel, and on his assenting the divine was sent for. After a few words of greeting to his royal master, in which he expressed the sympathy of the whole people, he recited some passages of Scripture, and at the sick man’s request a few verses of some of his favorite hymns, followed by a prayer, the Emperor now and then responding clearly, with an expression of satisfaction or assent. From seven till ten o’clock that evening there seemed a marked improvement, during which the august patient conversed cheerfully with Prince William. The greater part of the family, feeling much encouraged, permitted themselves a few hours of sleep. Toward four o’clock in the morning, however, symptoms of collapse showed themselves. He became unconscious again, and it was evident that death was near. The family and watchers were hastily summoned and Dr. Kögel again sent for. He recited the Lord’s Prayer, Her Majesty the Empress joining in, and then read the twenty-seventh Psalm, beginning “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” When he had finished, the Grand Duchess of Baden, who had hastened to her father’s bedside at the first news of his illness, leaned over and asked: “Did you understand, Papa?”


The Emperor answered clearly, “It was beautiful.”

She then asked: “Do you know that Mamma is sitting here beside you, holding your hand?”

The dying man’s eyes opened and he looked long at the Empress, then closed them for the last time. His parting look was for her, but his last sigh for the beloved son, stricken unto death and in a foreign land, as was evident from the touching cry, “Alas, my poor Fritz!”

When life was extinct, all present knelt while Dr. Kögel offered a prayer, concluding with the supplication, “O Lord, have mercy on our royal house, our people, and our country, and in the death of the Emperor may Thy words be fulfilled, ‘I will bless thee, and thou shalt prove a blessing.’ Amen.”

The excitement throughout the country at the news of Emperor William’s death was tremendous. Bells were tolled from every church spire, flags hung at half mast or were wrapped in crape, while hundreds of sad-faced people wandered into the churches to pray or seek comfort in the words of the priests.

The Emperor’s deathbed


On the night of March 11 the earthly remains of the deceased Emperor were taken from the palace to the cathedral, where they were to lie in state. In spite of a heavy wind and snowstorm the Unter den Linden was so thronged with people that progress was impossible, and the police had hard work to keep the way clear, yet the most solemn stillness prevailed. At five minutes before twelve the regular tramp of marching troops was heard and torchbearers were seen issuing from the palace. The soldiers took their places, Colonel von Bredow with a squadron of the body-guard being in charge of the arrangements, and formed a solid wall on both sides of the street from the palace to the cathedral, long crape streamers falling from the plumes on their helmets.


At midnight the bells of the cathedral began to toll, and an hour later the head of the procession appeared, advancing slowly between a double line of torches, led by the first division of the body-guard under Colonel von Bredow. Behind these at some distance was a battalion of foot guards, followed by all the Emperor’s servants in a body, including his own coachman, jäger, and valet. Then came thirty non-commissioned officers with snow-white plumes, bearing on their shoulders the coffin of the deceased Emperor, covered with a plain black pall. Immediately behind it rode the Crown Prince and Prince Henry, followed by all the generals and foreign military attachés, among them Count Moltke. Then another division of mounted body-guards clattered by, and the procession ended in a long line of carriages.


The interior of the cathedral was an impressive sight. The chancel had been converted into a grove of palms and laurels, in the centre of which, on a black catafalque, rested the casket of purple velvet heavily decorated with gold. On either side stood huge candelabra from which countless tapers shed their soft radiance, while close beside were placed white satin stools embroidered in gold. At the foot of the coffin were laid the rarest and costliest wreaths. After it had been lifted on to the catafalque the Emperor’s own valet, who had always attended to His Majesty’s personal wants during his lifetime, approached and lifted the pall. Even in death the monarch’s features wore the same expression of noble serenity that had characterized them in life. Upon the venerable head was placed the military forage cap. The body was clothed in the uniform of the First Foot Guards, the historic gray cloak drawn carefully about the shoulders. His only decorations were the Star of the Order of the Black Eagle, the collar of the Order of Merit, and the Grand Cross of the Order of the Iron Cross. At his feet lay a single wreath of green laurel. Keeping watch on the right side of the bier stood two of the palace guards with arms lowered, on the left two artillerymen with raised arms, this honorary service being shared in turn by all the guard regiments. From this time until the day of the funeral the cathedral became the centre of attraction, not only to the people of Berlin but to the thousands of strangers who thronged the capital anxious to obtain one more last look at the beloved Emperor. From early morning till far into the night a vast multitude surrounded the cathedral, waiting and hoping to gain entrance; but although an average of seventy-five hundred people passed through the edifice every hour, there were still hundreds left outside, unable to gratify their desire.


Meanwhile Unter den Linden, through which the funeral procession was to pass on its way to the mausoleum at Charlottenburg, had been transformed into a street of mourning. Art and patriotism combined to achieve the highest results of the decorator’s skill, and the wide thoroughfare presented an appearance of gloomy magnificence impossible to describe here in detail. All the public buildings were draped in black and elaborately decorated; the streets were lined with Venetian masts connected with festoons of black and surmounted by the royal golden eagle, while many ornamental structures of various kinds had been erected, some enclosing statues of allegorical figures. The Brandenburg Gate was most imposing, and well might it be, for the sovereign who had entered it so often as a conqueror was now to pass out of it for the last time. All along the Siegesallee also were displayed signs of mourning, while at Charlottenburg the public grief found touching expression in the crape-wreathed banners and sable-hung houses and monuments.


The funeral obsequies were held on Friday, March 16. On the stroke of eleven the brazen tongues of the cathedral bells gave the signal, which was answered by those of all the churches in Berlin tolling at intervals all during the ceremonies. At the same time the doors of the cathedral were opened; the various officers took their appointed places at the head and foot of the coffin. The Minister of State and the Lord Chamberlain stepped behind the tabourets on which lay the imperial insignia,—crown, sword, orb, sceptre, etc.,—the generals and military deputies present grouping themselves on the lower step of the estrade. The invited guests, knights of the Black Eagle, members of the diplomatic corps, heads of noble houses, and others who had assembled in the outer part of the church, were then shown to their places, and last of all the Empress Victoria, Queen Elizabeth of Roumania, and the royal princesses entered and took the seats placed for them in a semicircle before the altar, the other foreign princesses occupying an enclosure to the left. The foreign ambassadors had places reserved for them in the body of the church immediately behind the most illustrious guests.


The funeral services, which at the Emperor’s own request were conducted by the Court Chaplain, Dr. Kögel, assisted by the cathedral clergy, began shortly after noon. While the mourners were assembling the organist had been playing soft preludes into which Emperor William’s favorite tunes were skilfully woven, but when all had arrived its deep tones died away and the service began with the reading of portions of the ninetieth Psalm and of the eleventh chapter of the Epistle of Saint John. Then came the singing of “I know that my Redeemer liveth” by the cathedral choir and the funeral sermon by Dr. Kögel. He had chosen as his text the verses from Saint Luke, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,” and the trembling tones of the great preacher betrayed his deep emotion as he spoke of the dead monarch, to whom, as spiritual adviser, he had stood so close. After a short prayer, followed by other selections from the choir, the congregation joined in singing a hymn, and the service concluded with the pronouncing of a benediction over the departed Emperor.


It was a quarter before two when a salvo of artillery announced that the funeral procession was about to start. First came a squad of mounted police trotting briskly through the centre of the Linden, followed in a moment by another. Then through the cold snow-laden air sounded the strains of Beethoven’s Funeral March and the trumpeters of the First Hussars appeared on their white horses, leading the musicians. In seemingly endless array followed squadrons of the First and Second Dragoons, the First, Second, and Third Uhlans, the body-guard in their gorgeous uniforms, and cuirassiers; then six battalions of infantry and regiment after regiment of artillery, all with crape-wound banners and muffled drums. The mournful strains of the funeral marches with the slow tramp of the marching columns was unspeakably melancholy and impressive in its effect, and the vast throng of spectators, held back by a barrier formed of seventeen thousand members of Berlin guilds and societies, stood in awed silence, not a voice raised or a sign of impatience visible all during the hour that the procession required in passing.


Behind the troops, at a short distance, came a group of twelve divines headed by Dr. Kögel; then a long line of court officials, gentlemen-in-waiting, and pages, their brilliant costumes forming a startling contrast to the prevailing gloom. Following these, and uniformed in accordance with their military rank, were the Emperor’s two physicians, Dr. Leutbold and Dr. Tiemann, Dr. von Lauer having been kept away by illness. The gorgeously embroidered uniforms of the chamberlains and gentlemen of the bedchamber next appeared, and behind them the ministers, bearing the imperial insignia on purple velvet cushions, preceded by four marshals whose hereditary titles recalled the days of Germany’s ancient splendor,—the Lord High Cup Bearer Prince Hatzfeld, the Grand Master of the Hunt Prince Pless, the Grand Master of the Kitchens Prince Putbus, and the Lord High Marshal Prince Salm.

Then came the imperial hearse, a sort of catafalque on wheels, drawn by eight horses, each led by a staff officer, and over it a yellow silk canopy adorned with the eagle and emblems of mourning, supported by twelve major-generals. The ends of the purple velvet pall that covered the bier were held by Generals von Blumenthal, von der Goltz, von Treskow, and von Oberwitz, and on either side of it walked the twelve officers who served as pallbearers. Immediately following the hearse was the deceased Emperor’s favorite saddle horse, with bridle and housings of black, led by an equerry.


And now appeared an array of princes and dignitaries such as the world has seldom seen assembled. General Pape, flanked by Count Lehndorff and Prince Radziwill, bore the imperial standard in advance of the Crown Prince William, who walked alone, wrapped in a military cloak and deeply affected. About five paces behind him followed the Kings of Saxony, Belgium, and Roumania, then Princes Henry, Leopold, George, and Alexander with the Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Meiningen, and after them fully a hundred illustrious mourners walking four, six, and even eight abreast, Russian grand dukes, Austrian archdukes, royal representatives from Italy, England, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Denmark,—princes from all the sovereign houses of Europe, reigning or deposed, envoys and deputies from every State and Republic in the world.

But there was no attempt at display; enveloped for the most part in cloaks and furs they quietly and humbly followed the earthly remains of him who in life had been the greatest of them all, and behind them came the military deputies of foreign powers,—generals from France, pashas from the Golden Horn, princes from the north and the south, even the venerable Cardinal Galimberti, representing Pope Leo Thirteen. Conspicuous by their absence from this assembly, however, were the two pillars of the Empire, Prince Bismarck and Count von Moltke, whom the inclement weather and their state of health had kept at home. Following these personages was a vast number of mourners of all ranks, while two battalions of infantry brought up the rear.


On arriving at the Siegesallee, the procession halted while the princes and dignitaries walking behind the bier entered the equipages that were waiting to convey them to Charlottenburg, and the royal insignia was taken back to the palace in Berlin by eight officers under escort of the bodyguard. The cortege then resumed its march to Charlottenburg, where from the window of the palace the Emperor Frederick watched with streaming eyes his beloved father’s last royal progress.


At the Luisenplatz another halt was made to permit the mourners to descend from the carriages and escort the remains to the mausoleum, where the Emperor’s own company of the First Foot Guards was waiting to receive them. The coffin was borne in and placed temporarily between the two stone slabs that mark the resting place of Frederick William Third “The Just,” as he was called by his people, and his wife, Queen Louise of blessed memory. The court chaplain offered a short prayer, a parting salute of a hundred and one guns was fired, and the last solemn rites were ended. Under the cypress boughs that shade the national sanctuary, at the feet of the parents he had honored all his life with so childlike a devotion, the remains of the heroic sovereign were laid to their eternal rest.



The following is a chronological statement of the principal events in German history connected with the narrative:

1797Birth of William First.
1807Received officer’s patent.
1813Appointed Captain.
1814-1815Served in Napoleonic campaign.
1829Married Augusta of Saxe-Weimar.
1840Heir presumptive.
1848German revolution.
1849Suppressed the insurrection in Baden and the Palatinate.
1854Field Marshal and Governor at Mainz.
1858Regency for his brother Frederick William.
1861Ascended the throne of Prussia.
1862Appointed Bismarck Minister of Foreign Affairs.
1864War with Denmark.
1866Austro-Prussian War.
1867President of the North German Confederation.
1870-1871Franco-Prussian War.
1871Proclaimed German Emperor at Versailles.
1871Returned with the army to Berlin.
1888Died at Berlin.


Translated from the German by

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