Emperor William First - George Upton

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 Koniggratz, "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 jager, 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 jager. 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."