1.1Queen Victoria’s Legacy
The new century in Britain was marked by the death of Queen Victoria (see Fig.1), the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Empress of India. She was born on May 24, 1819 as the only child of Edward, Duke of Kent and Victoria Maria Louisa of Saxe-Coburg Saafeld. She was crowned in 1838 and remains the longest reigning monarch in British history. Queen Victoria married her husband Prince Francis Charles Augustus Albert Emmanuel of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, who was her first cousin, in 1840. They had nine children and forty-two grandchildren and most of them married into reigning European royal families. This is the reason why Queen Victoria is often referred to as the Grandmother of Europe. (Victoria, r.1837-1901, n.d.).
Her role as a monarch stays disputable. She is known for her very lengthy reign and for the fact that Britain was the world´s most powerful nation and a world superpower. By the end of her reign the British Empire consisted of one-fifth of the world´s surface. On the other hand, Queen Victoria is renowned for being a long-lasting grieving widow after losing the Prince Consort and for her inability to rule due to her perpetual sadness. Two Prime Ministers, Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, were the main figures when those years of sadness were limiting her ability to reign.
“Her long reign had demonstrated that not even most determined monarch could prevent the draining away of direct political power”. During her reign the monarchy´s power was converted into a new type of control, one of public appeal in which “monarchy became a rock of stability and security in a world of constant and bewildering change”. (Cannon, Griffiths, 1998, p.577- 578).
The main conflicts during Queen Victoria´s reign were the Irish uprising (1848), the Crimean War (1853-6), the Indian rebellion (1857) and the Boer Wars in South Africa (1881 and 1899-1902). She believed that peace is a necessary condition for prosperity and ensured her extensive family spreads all over Europe by intermarrying them to other ruling monarchies.
As already noted, Queen Victoria had eight children who were born between 1840 and 1857. It is important to stress that Queen Victoria´s self-preservation, by way of planning marriages for her children, who then sat on most of the European thrones, succeeded.
The first child of Queen Victoria was Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, born in 1840. She married Prince Frederick William of Prussia and later became The German Empress and Queen of Prussia. Their first son Wilhelm became the German Kaiser after the death of his father in 1888 and their daughter Sophia became the Queen of Greece.
Queen Victoria´s first son was Albert Edward, who became King Edward VII in 1901. He married Princess Alexandra of Denmark and had six children; future King Edward VIII and King George V included.
The third child was Alice Maud Mary who married Prince Louis of Hesse, became Grand Duchess of Hesse and had seven children. When she died in 1878, Queen Victoria took an important role in the upbringing of Alice´s children. The sixth child of Alice was Alix, who by her marriage to Tsar Nicholas II, became The Empress of Russia.
The fourth child of Queen Victoria was Alfred Ernest Albert who married Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia. Their second child, Princess Marie (called Missy), became the Queen of Romania.
The other children of Queen Victoria were Princess Helena Augusta, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, Arthur William Patrick Albert, Leopold George Duncan Albert and the last child was Beatrice Mary Victoria Feodore. (Johnson Lewis, n.d.).
This clearly indicates that Queen Victoria´s descendants were important figures either as sovereigns of the European countries, their consorts or as a part of European aristocracy (see Fig. 2). She died on January 22, 1901 at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Her son Albert Edward and the oldest grandson Wilhelm were present at the moment of her death. (Queen Victoria Dies, 2007).
Through her legacy Europe became interspersed with relationships on most of the European thrones. Despite the dereliction of her role as a ruling monarch after her husband´s death, her legacy in self-preservation remains.
1.2King Edward VII´s Reign
King Edward VII (see Fig.3) was born on November 9, 1841 at Buckingham Palace. He succeeded his mother on the throne after her death in 1901 at the age of fifty-nine. Just as Queen Victoria was considered to be the Grandmother of Europe, Edward VII was often referred to as the Uncle of Europe. After his mother´s reign, who after the death of her husband drew back, not only from the actual ruling but from her subjects too, the King´s public appearances represented a completely different approach. He was well known for his leisure activities such as racing horses, theatres, food, drinking, smoking and travelling. (Donoghue, 2008). During his reign he visited many countries such as Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, India, Tibet, Denmark, Norway and Austria to strengthen his connections and relations. “He was a supreme man of the world, shrewd and benign, though quick to approve or condemn. He had friends in almost every country in the world, not least in his own country.” (Lee, 1927, p.3). In 1863 he married Princess Alexandra of Denmark. They had six children, but only five reached their adult age. They lived in Marlboro House in London and used Sandringham House as their country residency.
1.2.1Edward VII and His Political Influence
It is very hard to define the exact power and function of a constitutional monarch, especially when the Constitution of United Kingdom is not written. Lee (1927, p. 32) claims that „The constitutional monarch reigns, but does not govern; he has little power although great influence; and he respects the laws and customs which deprive him of arbitrary power of action“.1 King Edward VII realized and accepted that the policies were the functions of ministers and not his, but this certainly did not mean that he was not politically active. The sovereigns of other states, such as Greece, Portugal or Denmark were often asking for his advice and it was also his mother, Queen Victoria, who finally demonstrated great interest in his opinions at the end of her reign. He reserved the right to be consulted regarding political affairs and to express his assessments and intended on asserting his authority in certain branches of the government and wisely did so via the proposal of names of possible candidates to their offices. In case of disagreement of any appointment, he never created obstructions or a deadlock. Forty years prior to his accession to the throne he closely followed European events and made personal contact with a lot of influential rulers and statesmen. He usually stood by his ministers and did not agree with any sort of criticism regarding their actions. He closely observed their performances and openly demonstrated his disapproval in case of his discontent; he followed his mother´s decisions and wanted to be informed about home and foreign affairs. (Lee, 1927, p.36-38).
Hibbert (1976, p. 207) declares that Edward VII was not prepared to limit himself only to public speeches and ceremonial matters. Domestic or colonial interests were not of much concern to him and he also hated talking about free trade, yet he was always interested in the army, the navy and above all, in foreign affairs. He cites the Italian Foreign Minister´s comments regarding the King´s prodigious reputation in that field: “He [Edward VII] is, and this one cannot deny, the arbiter of Europe´s destiny, the most powerful personal factor in word´s policy and as he is for peace, his overall approach will serve above all to maintain harmony between the nations.” (Hibbert, 1976, p.247)
Edward VII also insisted on maintaining the royal prerogatives, the discretionary powers in the hand of the Crown. Lee (1927, p.39-47) describes that the King refused to be only “a mere signing machine” and was particularly attracted by the prerogative of mercy. On several occasions he directed an instantaneous release of prisoners or changed their sentence.2 But during his reign most of his prerogatives were challenged by the Prime Minister and ironically it was the Conservative Party that made the most significant attacks – the cession of territory and the dissolution of Parliament. The only one that was never tested was the prerogative of the declaration of war. He was determined to reassert the royal functions over which Queen Victoria had lost control. Namely, he opened the Parliament on February 14, 1901 and did so every year of his reign. He requested that the King´s Speech be submitted to him for corrections and strongly opposed the speech being distributed to the Press before the actual opening of the Parliament. Edward VII demonstrated his determination to be an active part in the affairs concerning his country and despite of the government´s restrictions, he tried to maintain his power.
1.2.2The King and the Army
The King as an official head of the army took great interest in the course of events regarding the army. During his reign three significant changes took place. The first one concerned reforms in the army, the second one reforms in the navy and the third change was the actual creation of the Territorial Army. They seemed to be money consuming and unnecessary at that time but soon history showed how critically substantial these measures became during the next decade and his son´s reign.
After the Boer Wars3 Edward VII realized the army is in need of changes. In October 1903 he wrote to Lord Roberts, the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, to make sure that efficiency would be secured in case of the troops were sent on active service as he saw some deficiencies in the training. For the administrative reforms of the War Office, the King suggested to the Prime Minister, Arthur Balfour to appoint the Committee for reorganisation4. It was decided that a new system consisting of the Defence Committee and an Army Council would be formed to replace the previous dual control of the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State for War. The chairman of the Secretary for War would directly answer to Parliament. “At the same time the disappearance of the Commander-in-Chief would leave unquestioned the position of the sovereign as nominal head of the army.” (Lee, 1927, p.193-196)
Edward VII was frequently putting forward his suggestion for appointments of senior army officers and expected to be consulted before any of them were made official. He, for instance, urged Mr. Haldane to apppoint his brother, the Duke of Connaught, Field-Marshal Commander-In-Chief and High Commissioner in the Mediterranean. The Duke resigned only two years later claiming his position to be „unnecessary and a mistake“. The King persuaded Lord Kitchener to accept this post.(Lee, 1927, p.496-497). He took great interest in the Army Order, sending his questions to the Secretary for War and expecting prompt answers and was also extremely concerned about a new scheme suggesting a dual system based on men enlisting for nine years in the general army service and three years in the reserve forces. (Lee, 1927, p.205).
In 1904 the Admiralty was viewing the reforms in their field, for instance the plan for new fleet bases5. These and other changes were early pressed on the King´s notice by Lord Fisher, First Sea Lord. When the Liberal party came to power in 1905, the tendencies to reduce this plan became obvious. One dreadnought, three destroyers and four submarines were eliminated from the project and the King commented: “Evidently the cheese-paring policy of the Government is also to be extended to the navy” (Lee, p.330). But before the Conservative government left the office, the decision to construct the first Dreadnought was approved. The King and the Prince of Wales were present at its launch and the scheme to build another two was agreed. With his disturbing observation of the German army enlargement, Fisher decided to concentrate the Channel, Mediterranean and Atlantic fleets into the North Sea to be close to Germany, their potential enemy. The King agreed and backed Fisher in later opposition against the Foreign Office. (Lee, 1927, p.328-333).
Mr. R. B. Haldane became the new Secretary of State for War in 1905. “From the moment of his taking office to the inception and development of his territorial scheme, Mr. Haldane found a firm friend, if at times a critical one, in the King, who was as anxious as the Secretary of State for War to see the army at the highest pitch of efficiency.” (Lee, 1927, p.495). Both of them shared this determination of the Territorial Army formation. When Mr. Haldane proposed to the King an outline of the Bill of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, he received his approval and was promised further support on this matter.6 The Bill, despite some criticism, passed through the Parliament. On the contrary, the King did not hesitate to express his disapproval, for example when he found out that no special training was planned for the Territorial Artillery in case of mobilization. When he received the reply from Mr. Haldane supported by reports of the senior military experts7 and replied that if these soldiers were not perfectly trained, their value would vanish. (Lee, 1927, p.505)
The King proved that his intentions were directed towards having strong armed services and was constantly pleading for new weaponry and equipment. He maintained his great interest in this area and these above mentioned measures, in spite of their economic demands, proved crucially important in the war that lay ahead.
1.2.3 Foreign Affairs
At the moment of his succession, Britain followed the policy of so called splendid isolation. This meant avoiding any kind of entanglement. Reasons for this kind of policy were the fact that Britain, being an island, has always felt isolated enough from continental Europe; its interests were focused predominantly on overseas expansion and overall the country was considered to be an industrial, military and naval super-power. Britain´s Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury expressed his devotion to protect Britain´s interests and its position in the world without unnecessary effort such as through alliances or secret agreements. (MacMillan, 2013, p.42). “Great Britain stood practically alone in the world. British isolation was rather enforced than voluntary, and as powerful hostile coalitions directed against this country were always possible, and sometimes actually threatening, there was nothing splendid about this isolation.” (Pike, 2012). But as Britain kept remote, Mr. Chamberlain8 pointed out in his speech:
No far-seeing statesmen could be content with England´s permanent isolation on the continent of Europe… The natural alliance is between ourselves and the German Empire. Both interest and racial sentiment united the two peoples, and a new Triple Alliance between Germany, England, and the United States would correspond with the sentimental tie… (Lee, 1927, p.117).
But Chamberlain´s idea of an alliance with Germany was not to be fulfilled. MacMillan (2013, p.18) also points out the concern over Britain´s Naval Forces as they were involved in Britain’s colonial interests. It seemed that the British Isles were not sufficiently protected. By the end of the nineteenth century the European states were close to war due to their imperial rivalries and this was a time when Britain had to start considering other options than its splendid isolation.
18.104.22.168 Anglo-French Relations
These two countries were historically considered enemies due to their past conflicts. In 1903 the King visited France and despite the unwelcoming comments regarding the Fashoda crisis9 and other past disagreements, he turned the visit around in his favour. In his public speech he pointed out that these two countries, despite their former disputes, should become allies as their prosperity depended on their close friendship and cooperation. Over the next few days in Paris the public warmed to him also due to his chivalrous manners. Four months later French President Émile Loubet visited the King in London where they continued to discuss the importance of their mutual collaboration. Negotiations started immediately after the visit and the main discussion was related to their territorial and colonial interests, such as Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Siam, Madagascar, Newfoundland and Nigeria. (Lee, 1927, p.245). On April 8, 1904 British Foreign Secretary Lord Lansdowne and the French Ambassador in London Paul Cambon signed the Entente Cordiale. (Embry, n.d.). In England, public opinion regarding the entente was very suspicious and it took many years before this distrust disappeared. It was Edward VII who eased this suspicion. There was no doubt that the King was not a sole originator, but his charm and personality contributed to making the entente reality. (Hibbert, 1976, p.258).
Anglo-French relations were tested in 1905-6 by Germany in the First Moroccan Crisis. The German Kaiser landed in Morocco and recognized the Sultan as official head of the country and declared Morocco´s independence despite the fact that agreement between Spain and France over their power in Morocco. (Moroccan crisis, n.d.) This German move was perceived as a threat and for some time it looked as France and Germany would go to war. After this emergency passed, the joint military plans were formed where British General Henry Wilson and French General Foch were the main figures. When Foch came to London, Wilson commented in front of Haldane and the others at the War Office in 1909 that he believed that Foch would become commander of the Allied Armies in case of a large war. Wilson was convinced that war with Germany was inevitable and started preparing the schedule for transporting British sources over the Channel. This schedule was tested during the Second Moroccan Crisis10. Wilson came to Paris and together with French General Dubail signed the memorandum on July 20, 1911 stating the total number of forces in case of British intervention would be 150,000 men and 67,000 horses arriving between the 4th and 12th day of mobilization. (Tuchman, p.57-60)
The following year the naval agreement with France was reached as a reaction to a new German Naval Law planning for fleet increases. Haldane was sent to Berlin to talk to the Kaiser and other senior staff but his attempt to reach some arrangements failed as Germany required a promise that in case of war between Germany and France, Britain would stay neutral, which was refused. The outcome was the naval pact between France and Britain, binding the British fleet to guard the Channel and the French would focus on the Mediterranean. By spring 1914 the complete plan for Franco-British joint military action – including details regarding transport, nourishment, codes and ciphers, was completed. (Tuchman, p.63 - 66). These measures leading from Britain´s Splendid Isolation to Entente Cordiale and other agreements such as the naval pact of 1912 established the alliance of these two countries. That proved vital with respect to their bilateral support in oncoming events as France, as the old enemy, became less of an impact on national affairs also due to the Kings approach to state visits.
“In the nine short years of his reign England´s splendid isolation had given away, under pressure, to a series of “understandings” or attachments, but not quite alliance – for England dislikes the definitive – with two old enemies, France and Russia, and one promising new power, Japan.” (Tuchman, 1962, p.5).
At the beginning of the 20th century Britain was still involved in a conflict in South Africa, the Boer Wars. It resulted in an aversion against England as for instance mentioned in the private letter to Edward VII sent by his nephew Russian Tsar Nicholas II.
Pray forgive me for writing to you upon a very delicate subject which I have been thinking over for months, but my conscience obliges me at last to speak openly. It is about the South Africa War, and what I say is only said by your loving nephew. You remember, of course, at the time when the War broke out what a strong feeling of animosity against England arose throughout the world. In Russia the indignation of the people was similar to that of the other countries. (Lee, 1927, p.73)
The relationship between Russia and Britain went through some tension in 1904 when war between Russia and Japan broke out. It was a very awkward situation for Britain as it was historically Japan´s ally. The Tsar warned Britain that Russia would not tolerate any kind of intervention (Lee, 1927, p.287) and the King assured him of no such intention. During the war between Russia and Japan the Dogger Bank incident occurred on October 21, 1904 when the Russian Baltic fleet mistook a few British trawlers fishing in the Baltic area of the North Sea for Japanese vessels. They killed three men, wounded some other members of the crew, sank one trawler and damaged the other. Four days later the King received a telegram from the Tsar expressing his regrets. The King´s reply suggested that the Russian side had taken this matter very lightly and required a punishment of the Russian Admiral responsible for the act. The King pointed out that it would be a disaster for both countries to go to war over it. The meeting of the International Commission of Inquiry took place in Paris in February 1905 and ordered Russia to pay compensation of £65,000. (Lee, 1927, p.301-304).
Historically Russia had an agreement with France that was signed in 1894, but one story illustrates that the Tsar was not very stable regarding his opinion of who Russia would ally with. On July 23, 1905 his yacht Poljarnaja Zvezda [the Polar Star] came to the harbour of Björkö to meet the German Kaiser. During their lunch on the Kaiser´s yacht Hohenzollern, they signed the concept of the treaty between Russia and Germany. It was only after the Tsar arrived back to his country that his advisors pointed out that those commitments could not be fulfilled due to Russia’s alliance with France and the agreement annulled. (Clark, 2012, p.175).
When the Entente Cordiale with France was signed, it became obvious that Britain will be in need of another ally. Russia became a clear choice as it already had an alliance with France. On August 31, 1907 the Anglo-Russian Convention was drafted and on September 23 signed by King Edward VII and Tsar Nicholas II. It dealt with disputable areas of Tibet, Afghanistan and Persia. This Convention brought together three countries, Russia, France and England, known as the Triple Entente. The Entente did not bind these countries to go to war on the side of the others, but it did oblige them to support each other when needed. It served as a balance to the growing power of Germany. (The Road To War: The Triple Entente, n.d.).
The personal relationships between the two sovereigns of Britain and Russia were closely related. The Tsar´s mother was a sister of the King´s wife and Nicholas II held a huge respect for his British uncle. In 1904 after his only son was born, the Tsar asked King Edward VII to be his son´s godfather. The Tsar´s wife, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, originally Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, was coincidentally also the King´s niece. There was a significant visit between the British royal family and that of the Tsar on August 2, 1909 on the Isle of Wight during the week of the Cowes Regatta when the whole family of the Russian Tsar was heartily welcomed by Edward VII and his two sons, where the Tsar appeared in his uniform of a British Admiral to mark the bilateral relationship between their countries. (Cavendish, 2009). The King´s aim was to promote a good relationship between his country and the rest of Europe. By signing the treaty with Russia and creating the Triple Entente, Britain gained another ally which would stand on its side in the event of war.
During the late nineteenth century it appeared that Britain and Germany were close to an alliance as the negotiations were taking place, but already in 1902 it became probable that the treaty between Britain and Germany would not be signed. On the contrary, in 1904 the Entente Cordiale with France was sealed. When this treaty was ratified, Germany became very anxious about it. The German Kaiser wrote an entry “Beginning of the English encircling policy against Germany” (Lee, 1927, p.257). Germany´s opinion of British foreign policy was that it was becoming hostile and held it responsible for the outbreak of the war in 1914. Clark (2012, p.160) posts the view that the Entente Cordiale was a document that was not focused against Germany but its aim was to limit a colonial tension with France and to gain, at least partially, indirect influence on Russia. On the other side Germany had an agreement with Austria called The Dual Alliance Treaty, signed in 1879, binding both countries to support each other in case of a war. Three years later a treaty with Italy was ratified and the so called Triple Alliance was formed as a counterweight to Franco-Russian coalition. (Triple Alliance, n.d.).
In 1898 and 1900 Germany ratified new Navy Laws that verified the number of warships. To justify the high costs, the potential foe had to be named; in this case – England. A massive fleet has been agreed by the Kaiser and his political advisors. (Cruickshank, 2011)
Although the German Kaiser Wilhelm II denied this was his empire’s aim, Germany hungered for colonies and a greater martial reputation, and ordered large shipbuilding initiatives, such as those found in the 1898 and 1900 acts. Germany didn’t necessarily want war, but to browbeat Britain into giving colonial concessions, as well as boosting their industry and uniting some parts of the German nation - who were alienated by the elitist army - behind a new military project everyone could feel part of. An arms race began. (Wilde, n.d.).
Wilde (n.d.) adds that because Britain was an island this navy expansion was understandable, but as Germany was a landlocked country, the reasons for this naval contest were very confusing.
German Kaiser Wilhelm II (see Fig.4) succeeded his father Frederick III in 1888 at the age of twenty-nine. He believed in the growing strength of the German army and navy, as the above mentioned naval race illustrates. His attitude toward Britain was contradictory. He antagonized Britain with his naval expansion, aggressive colonial expansion and also supported the Boers in their fight against the British. However, he was related to the British royal family and sincerely respected his grandmother, Queen Victoria (Wilhelm II ,1859-1941, n.d.). Wilhelm II was affected by the English family relationships and wished for an Anglo-German alliance by claiming to his uncle Edward VII: “Not a mouse could stir in Europe without our [his and Edward VII´s] permission.” (Tuchman, 1962, p.6). Despite their close family relationship, Edward VII made plenty of comments suggesting the Kaiser was not his most popular family member. As Lee (1927, p.153) depicts after the Kaiser´s visit to Britain in 1902, the King was heard to say “Thank God he is gone”. There are a number of stories that suggest the Kaiser´s pompous and egoistic side did not go well with Edward VII’s character of a gentleman, as demonstrated during an annual regatta in Cowes in 1895. The Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) as Commodore of the Yacht Squadron enjoyed the race with his yacht Britannia that won several times but the Kaiser spoiled this when he used Cowes as a showplace where he appeared on several occasions with new vessels (Meteor I, Hohenzollern, Wörh and Weissenburg) and inappropriately commented about the Prince having never been in active service. The Prince sold Britannia and never took part in this race again. “The regatta at Cowes was once a pleasant holiday for me,” he complained. “But now that the Kaiser has taken command it is nothing but a nuisance… [with] that perpetual firing of salutes, cheering and other tiresome disturbances.” (Hibbert, 1976, p.268 -269). In contrast, the Kaiser was notoriously considered to be fascinated by Britain. After one of his visits in England, his Chancellor, Count von Bülow, wrote:
I found him completely under the spell of his English impressions. As a rule he could not change his military uniform often enough, but now he wore civilian clothes as he had done in England. He wore a tie-pin with his deceased grandmother´s initials on it. The officers who were summoned…to dine with him…did not seem very pleased by his constant enthusiastic allusions to England and everything English.(Hibbert, 1976, p.271).
This demonstrates the Kaiser´s very confusing attitude towards to Britain, but what occurs very clear is King Edward´s dislike towards to his nephew. Shortly after the death of Queen Victoria, in February 1901, King Edward VII visited his older sister Victoria in Friedrichshof. As she was dying of cancer, he decided to travel without any retinue and was met by his nephew in Homburg. “The meeting between the two sovereigns was outwardly cordial, but below the surface there lurked a difference that was soon to cause difficulty.” (Lee, p.118-119).
Hibbert (1976, p.271-272) describes that when Edward VII visited Germany again in August 1901 he was too upset by the death of his sister, by the Kaiser´s recent comment about his ministers as unmitigated noodles and by long letters of advice on how to conduct the Boer Wars sent to him by the Kaiser, that he changed his mind about discussing the prospect of an Anglo-German alliance. The next year the Kaiser´s visit in England was an utter failure. Whenever he wanted to discuss Anglo-German relations, the King´s ministers were non-committal and the King did not want to be involved at all. Many of the guests at Sandringham found the Kaiser and his suite members irritating and the connections between the Kaiser and his uncle deteriorated.
What did not contribute to their mutual trust was the Kaiser´s scandalous interview for The Daily Telegraph on October 28, 1908 where he stated:
You English are mad, mad, mad as March hares. What has come over you that you are so completely given over to suspicions quite unworthy of a great nation? … I repeat that I am a friend of England, but you make things difficult for me. My task is not the easiest. The prevailing sentiment among large sections of the middle and lower classes of my own people is not friendly to England. (Bezhani, H., 2009)
And worse was still to come. Only a fortnight later, The New York World published an interview with the Kaiser for The New York Times where he claimed that “the war between England and Germany was inevitable, that the sooner it came, the better, that Great Britain was degenerate and her King corrupt.”(Hibbert, 1976, p.275)
Kaiser Wilhelm II is often portrayed as an impatient, short-tempered, intolerant and unstable character. Events only proved these allegations to be right. Regarding real power, his position was different to that of the King´s.
Wilhelm was absolutely determined to transform the monarchical fiction…into actual reality. He was determined to govern in person and to order his ministers to execute his will…Great Britain, too, the greatest empire in the world, would now have to direct its policy in such a way as to take the impulsive young Kaiser's sensibilities into account. (Rohl, 1996).
It is also important to mention two members of European royal families who demonstrated a great deal of hatred for Germany. The first one was Princess Alexandra of Denmark, the wife of King Edward VII, and her sister Princess Dagmar of Denmark, who was married to Russian Tsar Alexander III. The reason was Denmark´s loss of Schleswig-Holstein to Germany due to the Prussian War in 1864. (Mullen, 1981).
Regarding the Kaiser´s assumption of encirclement, there was no proof of this theory found in the King´s state papers. His intention was to maintain the peace and to avoid involvement. On the other hand the exactly opposite opinions about the King´s involvement appeared as for instance in 1909 of the editor of The Clarence, Robert Blatchford, who stated: ““The king and his councilors have strained every nerve to establish Ententes with Russia and with Italy; and have formed an Entente with France, and as well with Japan. Why? To isolate Germany.” (Farrer, 1922, p. 261).
It was not until 1909 that the possibility of a conflict came to his mind after Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina but by then Britain’s alliance with France, Russia and Japan had already been signed (Lee, 1927, p.543).
Despite a number of attempts to sign a treaty between Britain and Germany no alliance was ever reached. The naval rivalry and the two Moroccan crises only deepened their distrust and regardless of the family ties between the sovereigns of these two countries, the relationships worsened.
22.214.171.124Connections with Other Heads of States
King Edward VII always demonstrated his good intentions towards the other sovereigns by visiting their countries. During his reign he visited the King of Portugal Carlos I, King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III in Rome and during this visit he used the opportunity to meet Pope Leo XIII, the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph and Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria. He had close relationships with the Spanish King Alfonso XIII, Romanian King Carol I, Greek King George I and Swedish King Oscar II.. (Farrer, 1922, p.65-84). On the contrary, there were also European sovereigns that the King was not so close to, for example Belgium King Leopold. His scandalous personal life and his arguments with his daughters that had become public were bitterly viewed by the King, who (through Lord Salisbury) warned King Leopold against coming to England. (Lee, 1927, p.256). Paradoxically their successors, Princes Albert I and George V, held a great deal of respect for each other.
The King´s strong relationships with other countries were not limited only to Europe. In January 1902 the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was officially signed in London by Baron Hayashi and Lord Landsdowne, focusing mainly on their understanding of the neutrality of Korea and China. Four years later after the visit of the Japanese Prince and Princess Arisugawa to Buckingham Palace the negotiations between Japan and Britain resulted in renewing the Anglo-Japanese Treaty. This time it focused on maintaining peace in Eastern Asia and India. (Lee, 1927, p. 311). The legacy of Queen Victoria as the Grandmother of Europe impacted this period and Edward VII extended the relationship of Britain to even more distant monarchies.