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Messages - HerrKaiser

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To be fair. I don't see there is another point in WII as a person. While the blame on WWI can be shared, WII role in bringing it forward cannot be diluted in any way balanced or not. It is like saying Hilter is a nice person because he is good to his dog. Individual aspects did not play that much into the character of a certain person in this case WII. I would disagree and argue that John Rohl did a balance and fair portrait of WII. His instability of moods and contradicting actions left his relatives in the UK baffled, while his cruelty and unbending towards his family (especially mother & sisters) did not leave a good legacy to his character. 

Precisely plays into my point. You think it's "fair" to take Rohl's opinions, in spite of the emotion that his commentaries are diluted with, at face value. I find that as unfair as well as unreliable.

To suggest that a less negative view of WII is analogous to an apology for Hitler because of Hitler's dog is exemplary of how emotionality distorts reason. Did Herr Rohl make the same comparative?

I think we should bear in mind that having Vicky for a mother was very difficult for Wilhelm, since she set him standards which were quite impossible to achieve and never gave him credit for anything he did. Rohl quotes one rather sad episode when Wilhelm, aged about 19, sent his mother a photograph (inevitably showing him in uniform) and got a lengthy reply exhorting him to clean his teeth better. She was nothing like as demanding with the three younger girls, and they, inevitably, got on better with her.

It is a recognised phenomenon that parents tend to apply strict standards to first-borns, who bear the weight of expectations and ambitions, as well as rules. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries we can also see this with heirs apparent - look at the way Victoria and Albert treated the future Edward VII!


While it would take further and deep psycho analysis, Vicky may well have resented that her first born was a boy who automatically inherited the wealth and power. She was first born but had no such position yet had to have seen how much more capable she was than her brother. Wilhelm was the second time in her life that she got trumped by a less inspiring youngster.

One last comment before this chat closes down and/or moves to another location.

Of course, Roehl is commended on his years of effort going through all the archives and available material in order to produce his volumes of biographical insights on WII. But while his efforts earn him an A+, his analysis pales in comparison, and it's the analysis that is key. Over and over in his dialogue, he presents quotes and situations then makes deductions that, to me, could have been absolutely the opposite, all without solid reasoning why he chose the roads he went down. I think his largest works on WII clearly show that he set out to prove WII was a disruptive threat to peace from the time he was crown prince. When an author begins his work to prove a point, rather than attempting to re-look and re-evaluate the subject, it is almost impossible to be fair and balanced.

Thanks JA, very interesting insights/commentary. It seems history and biographical works are more of an art than a science and hence the subjectivity of the authors are, rightfully, part of the process and outcome. While I also agree that "some characters in history deserve the anger of posterity", it's interesting how even this can or does or should change over time. In the case of Nickolas and Alexandra, their memory has been skewed positively and glamorized by Hollywood and sympathetic biographies all of which has cast them in a very different light than those of 1915, for example. It's interesting to me, about them specifically, how much different their story/history would be today if they were an unattractive, unloving couple with frumpy, mean children. Theirs is a story for commercialism amongst the romantic masses, and Wilhelm certainly has not had the same advantage as history has crafted/established his persona.

I think Willy's high handed ways in dealing with the arms race did make countries uneasy. 

Including his own.

And, the high handed manners in which Russia to the east, France to the west, and England all over the seas dealt with the arms race made Germany uneasy.

Anyone read Niall Ferguson's "The Pity of War". A must read, in my opinion, to have a clearer, post 20th century view of WWI.

One must also remember that Willy wasn't a favorite in the Press in England after the Kruger telegram. When you built up a great military strength, it can also be a forestall of war. King Edward VII hoped to circle Germany by diplomatic strategic alliances and force it to think twice before using that arsenal.

The arms race was a "race" because all great powers were in the running, not just Germany. In fact, from 1905-1914 GB built 38 dreadnoughts and dreadnought cruisers to only 24 build by Germany. While Germany had a larger army in manpower, its personnel as a percent of population was about the same as GB during the same pre war period.

None of the great powers before 1914 can claim the moral high ground of not participating in the same high stakes game of growing its military strength.

Philip Ziegler is another biographer who came to have very mixed feelings about his subject, to say the least. In his biography of Mountbatten he says he felt obliged to put a notice on his desk, saying 'Remember, he was a great man.'

I wonder what he came to think about the Duke of Windsor?


That would be a nice fireside chat! Ziegler is still alive so he could provide background.

The extent to which a historian or historical biographer goes down the path of "mixed feelings" about their subject is my concern. When that path turns their dissertations into an emotional perspective, it becomes a commercial piece and of questionable verisimilitude.

It's astounding to me how a man, John Rohl, could spend most of his life researching and writing about a person he loathed and makes no apologies about his deep-seated dislike for Wilhelm II. In spite of his credentials as a historian, I find it implausible that his biography is untainted with his negative bias. It's unfortunate that such a pivotal figure in 20th century history as WII was remains largely cast in the shadows of the great war and the post period Anglo American spin on history.

It seems his deep-seated dislike is the consequence of the years of study - he's said as much in things he's written. I don't think he's the only biographer that's happened too; I can think of several examples of people who'e discovered they didn't really like their subjects (think of Nicolson and George V). I can also find that I am able to start studying someone with a neutral attitude or an inclination to be sympathetic, and found my feelings turn strongly to dislike when I know more.

Rohl is Anglo-German, so I don't think I'd characterise his approach as being in some way "Anglo-American". After all, the harshest critic of Germany's war aims was Fritz Fischer. Christopher Clark, who is selling far more books than Rohl at present, is notably more sympathetic to Wilhelm. In that sense, I don't think anyone who disagrees with Rohl has any reason to feel that Wilhelm is "overshadowed" by negative spin.

What I meant by the "Anglo American spin on history" was the well-seated so-called victors view of the period up to 1918. I've found many of his commentaries to be transparently biased in ways similar to Massey's (particularly in Dreadnought).

Even the tone of Rohl's works on WII progress in angst and anger as one plods through the lengthy study. I agree with you that Rohl may have grown in his dislike, but that's his own emotion, not necessarily historical. And when we see this emotion skew his thinking, it suggests to me that he may well be putting forth false impressions.

It's astounding to me how a man, John Rohl, could spend most of his life researching and writing about a person he loathed and makes no apologies about his deep-seated dislike for Wilhelm II. In spite of his credentials as a historian, I find it implausible that his biography is untainted with his negative bias. It's unfortunate that such a pivotal figure in 20th century history as WII was remains largely cast in the shadows of the great war and the post period Anglo American spin on history.

Willy was a very complicated character to understand. He loved his mother, but he was also angry with her for demanding so much from him (he also secretly blamed her for his stiff arm and English Doctors). He allowed himself to be seduced by Bismark (too late when the old man found out he helped to create a monster) and the like based on the past military grandeur of the Prussian Royal House. He loved Ella, but rather than being turned down by her (she did not encourage his efforts to court her in any fashion and made it clear to him that she wasn't interested), he reached out for the lowest hanging fruit in Dona. The plain and awkward girl with a possible unequal background. She did his bidding even though there are times Willy did not appreciate it (her later rudeness to Vicky was not appreciated by Willy when he sought to please his mother). He got blamed for WWI even though Franz Joesf of Austria, The Serbs and Tsar Nicholas II was equally to blame for starting it.

There you go again, disrespecting Empress Augusta. She was clearly not the 'lowest hanging fruit'; far from it. While she may have been "plain" in her youth few among the royal houses weren't plain by today's standards. But she did emerge as queen and empress into a grand and impressive appearing woman of high rank, equal or more so to any of her noble peers.

Wilhelm was not an "old man" when he rejected Bismarck.

Yes, Wilhelm got blamed for WWI, but in addition to Austria, Serbia, and Russia, Great Britain and France shoulder equal blame for the catastrophe that left all of European/western culture in a shambles from which a complete recovery has yet to be realized. 

Msge 593
Where was Wilhelm going? In 1865 he was only six - interesting that he was already enamoured of soldiers.


Boys of that age, even younger, are fully enamored by soldiers, firemen, policemen, Superman and other male images of strength and prowess. In Wilhelm's case, he was surrounded by uniformed men and talk of war, battles, and things military. I suspect it was fairly easy for him to adopt a fascination with such.


BTW her French reader Jules Laforgue was a poet who introduced the clitoris as a literary topos. (Probably unbeknownst to Her Majesty!)
... Et votre clitoris qui vous tordrait pâmée
En de longs spasmes de langueur....

Augusta would have clutched her pearls and fainted, in spite of her liberal persuasions. :)

It is strange that William I and Augusta would have raised their two children in more liberal fashion/ideals, then convert to disallowing and/or interfering with such direction for their grandchildren. I wonder if Fritz and Vicky were just not very good at following through with their principles (as Augusta was before them?) in face of pressure to allow other agendas to take control? Vicky was a very young mother in a very different environment, both of which could have made her less "pushy" than she may have wanted to be.

Very interesting indeed. What's most interesting is how Fritz emerged as a young man with ideals and beliefs more in line with Vicky than his parents. He was not raised in the style of QV's household, yet he apparently on his own and in spite of his surroundings became a more worldly and open-minded adult.

Nice summary, Gillian. I think unlike most German households, particularly amongst the nobility, Vicky took a more dominant role, compared to Fritz, in raising their children. As a result, I suspect Wilhelm and his siblings tended to view their father from a distance and with greater admiration. He really seemed to be the quintessential Mr. Nice Guy and children react to that well.

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