History of Germany - H. E. Marshall

Frederick the Noble and William II

William I was seventy-four when he became German Emperor. And having reconstituted the German Empire and united all the scattered states under his rule, it might seem as if his work was done. But he was a hale old man, and he ruled for seventeen years longer. He indeed left much to this great chancellor, Bismarck, but he was no mere figure-head. He died on March 9, 1888, greatly to the sorrow of his people.

The Emperor William I was succeeded by his son Frederick. He is known to us as Frederick the Noble, but it is more for what he was as a man than for what he did as an Emperor that he earned the name. For his reign was one of the shortest on record, lasting little more than three months.

Already, during his father's lifetime, Prince Frederick had become ill, and he had gone to spend the winter in Italy in the hope of finding relief there from his suffering.

There one day a telegram was brought to him. He looked at the address and read, "To His Majesty, the German Emperor." Without opening the envelope he turned away in tears, for he knew that his dearly-loved father was dead.

The new Emperor was so ill that it seemed doubtful if he were strong enough to take the long journey to Berlin. But he would hear of no delay, and early on the morning after he received the news of his father's death, he set out for his own land.

All his life, Frederick had been making himself ready for the time when he should be a ruler. He had meant to do great things for his people, and be indeed a father to them. Now he came to the throne only to die. All his short reign was full of suffering, but he bore it nobly. "His courage was indeed something heroic," said Bismarck. "To his last breath he was an Emperor every inch." At length, on June 15, 1888, he died, and on the anniversary of Waterloo he was laid to rest.

"He was a frank, honest man, of pure mind and warm feeling," says one who knew him well, "with a heart full of kindliness, and able to rejoice over everything good or great." He stands out as one of the finest figures in German history, a great soldier, a true patriot, and a good man. When he died there was grief throughout all Germany.

There was grief, too, in Great Britain, for Frederick had married Victoria, the daughter of our Queen. And for his wife's sake, Frederick had a kindly liking for the British people. Indeed, because of it, the Germans sometimes call him not Frederick der Dritte (the Third), but der Britte. And the British people returned that liking, and many a British heart mourned with the widowed Empress.

Frederick III was succeeded by his son William II. He was twenty-nine when he came to the throne, and he still rules over his vast Empire. Under him, Germany has continued to be prosperous and united, and at peace with all Europe.

In this time of peace and unity Germany has grown great. In commerce and manufactures it is now among the foremost countries in the world. In learning and science it has no equal. Peace has done for Germany far more than all the wars and conquests of the Holy Roman Emperors, and the Germans who love their country well know the value of that peace, and pray that it may long continue.