WILHELM II, GERMAN EMPEROR
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Emperor Wilhelm II, circa 1890
German Emperor; King of Prussia
Reign: 15 June 1888 – 9 November 1918
Predecessor: Frederick III
Successor: Monarchy abolished
Spouse: Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein
Hermine Reuss of Greiz
Issue: Wilhelm, German Crown Prince; Prince Eitel Friedrich; Prince Adalbert; Prince August Wilhelm; Prince Oskar; Prince Joachim; Princess Viktoria Luise
Full name: German: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht
English: Frederick William Victor Albert
House: House of Hohenzollern
Father: Frederick III, German Emperor
Mother: Victoria, Princess Royal
Born: 27 January 1859 (1859-01-27), Berlin, Prussia
Died: 4 June 1941(1941-06-04) (aged 82), Doorn, Netherlands
Religion: Evangelical Christian Church
Wilhelm II (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen; English: Frederick William Victor Albert of Prussia) (27 January 1859 – 4 June 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. He was a grandson of the British Queen Victoria and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe. Crowned in 1888, he dismissed the Chancellor, Prince Otto von Bismarck, in 1890 and launched Germany on a bellicose "New Course" in foreign affairs that culminated in his support for Austria-Hungary in the crisis of July 1914 that led to World War I. Bombastic and impetuous, he sometimes made tactless pronouncements on sensitive topics without consulting his ministers, and allowed his generals to dictate policy during World War I with little regard for the civilian government. An ineffective war leader, he lost the support of the army, abdicated in November 1918, and fled to exile in the Netherlands.
Wilhelm was born on 27 January 1859 in Berlin to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (the future Frederick III) and his wife, Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom. He was the first grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, but more importantly, as the first son of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Wilhelm was (from 1861) the second in the line of succession to Prussia, and also, after 1871, to the German Empire, which, according to the constitution of the German Empire, was ruled by the Prussian King. He was related to many royal figures across Europe, and as war loomed in 1914, Wilhelm was on friendly terms with his cousins the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and King George V of the United Kingdom. He often tried to bully his royal relatives.
A traumatic breech birth left him with a withered left arm due to Erb's palsy, which he tried with some success to conceal. In many photos he carries a pair of white gloves in his left hand to make the arm seem longer, holds his left hand with his right, or has his crippled arm on the hilt of a sword or holding a cane to give the effect of a useful limb posed at a dignified angle. Historians have suggested that this disability affected his emotional development.
Wilhelm, beginning at age 6, was tutored and heavily influenced by the 39-year old teacher Georg Hinzpeter. As a teenager he was educated at Kassel at the Friedrichsgymnasium and the University of Bonn, where he became a member of Corps Borussia Bonn. Wilhelm possessed a quick intelligence, but unfortunately this was often overshadowed by a cantankerous temper.
Wilhelm with his father in 1862
House of Hohenzollern
As a scion of the Royal house of Hohenzollern, Wilhelm was exposed from an early age to the military society of the Prussian aristocracy. This had a major impact on him and, in maturity, Wilhelm was seldom seen out of uniform. The hyper-masculine military culture of Prussia in this period did much to frame his political ideals and personal relationships.
Crown Prince Frederick was viewed by his son with a deeply felt love and respect. His father's status as a hero of the wars of unification was largely responsible for the young Wilhelm's attitude, as in the circumstances in which he was raised; close emotional contact between father and son was not encouraged. Later, as he came into contact with the Crown Prince's political opponents, Wilhelm came to adopt more ambivalent feelings toward his father, given the perceived influence of Wilhelm's mother over a figure who should have been possessed of masculine independence and strength. Wilhelm also idolised his grandfather, Wilhelm I, and he was instrumental in later attempts to foster a cult of the first German Emperor as "Wilhelm the Great".
In many ways, Wilhelm was a victim of his inheritance and of Otto von Bismarck's machinations. Both sides of his family had suffered from mental illness, and this may explain his emotional instability. When Wilhelm was in his early twenties, Bismarck tried to separate him from his parents (who opposed Bismarck and his policies) with some success. Bismarck planned to use the young prince as a weapon against his parents in order to retain his own political dominance. Wilhelm thus developed a dysfunctional relationship with his parents, but especially with his English mother. In an outburst in April 1889, Wilhelm angrily implied that “an English doctor killed my father, and an English doctor crippled my arm – which is the fault of my mother” who allowed no German physicians to attend to herself or her immediate family.
Next to the throne
The German Emperor Wilhelm I died in Berlin on 9 March 1888, and Prince Wilhelm's father was proclaimed Emperor as Frederick III. He was already suffering from an incurable throat cancer and spent all 99 days of his reign fighting the disease before dying. On 15 June of that same year, his 29-year-old son succeeded him as German Emperor and King of Prussia.
Although in his youth he had been a great admirer of Otto von Bismarck, Wilhelm's characteristic impatience soon brought him into conflict with the "Iron Chancellor", the dominant figure in the foundation of his empire. The new Emperor opposed Bismarck's careful foreign policy, preferring vigorous and rapid expansion to protect Germany's "place in the sun." Furthermore, the young Emperor had come to the throne with the determination that he was going to rule as well as reign, unlike his grandfather, who had largely been content to leave day-to-day administration to Bismarck.
Early conflicts between Wilhelm II and his chancellor soon poisoned the relationship between the two men. Bismarck believed that Wilhelm was a lightweight who could be dominated, and he showed scant respect for Wilhelm's policies in the late 1880s. The final split between monarch and statesman occurred soon after an attempt by Bismarck to implement a far-reaching anti-Socialist law in early 1890.
Break with Bismarck on labor policy
In this photo of Wilhelm, his right hand is holding his left hand, which was affected by Erb's palsy.
"Dropping the Pilot"
It was during this time that Bismarck, after gaining an absolute majority in favor of his policies in the Reichstag, decided to make the anti-Socialist laws permanent. His Kartell, the majority of the amalgamated Conservative Party and the National Liberal Party, favored making the laws permanent, with one exception: the police power to expel Socialist agitators from their homes. This power had been used excessively at times against political opponents, and the National Liberal Party was unwilling to pass the expulsion clause in the first place. Bismarck would not give his assent to a modified bill, so the Kartell split over this issue. The Conservatives would support the bill only in its entirety, and threatened to, and eventually did, veto the entire bill.
As the debate continued, Wilhelm became increasingly interested in social problems, especially the treatment of mine workers who went on strike in 1889. Following his policy of active participation in government, he routinely interrupted Bismarck in Council to make clear where he stood on social policy. Bismarck sharply disagreed with Wilhelm's policy and worked to circumvent it. Even though Wilhelm supported the altered anti-Socialist bill, Bismarck pushed for his support to veto the bill in its entirety, but when Bismarck's arguments didn't convince Wilhelm, the Chancellor (uncharacteristically) blurted out his motive for having the bill fail: he wanted the Socialists to agitate until a violent clash occurred that could be used as a pretext to crush them. Wilhelm replied that he wasn't willing to open his reign with a bloody campaign against his subjects.
The next day, after realising his blunder, Bismarck attempted to reach a compromise with Wilhelm by agreeing to his social policy towards industrial workers, and even suggested a European council to discuss working conditions, presided over by the German Emperor.
Wilhelm II, German Emperor
Despite this, a turn of events eventually led to his distance from Wilhelm. Bismarck, feeling pressured and unappreciated by the Emperor and undermined by ambitious advisors, refused to sign a proclamation regarding the protection of workers along with Wilhelm, as was required by the German Constitution, to protest Wilhelm's ever-increasing interference with Bismarck's previously unquestioned authority. Bismarck also worked behind the scenes to break the Continental Labour Council Wilhelm held so dear. The final break came as Bismarck searched for a new parliamentary majority, with his Kartell voted from power due to the anti-Socialist bill fiasco. The remaining powers in the Reichstag were the Catholic Centre Party and the Conservative Party. Bismarck wished to form a new bloc with the Centre Party, and invited Ludwig Windthorst, the party's parliamentary leader, to discuss a coalition. Wilhelm was furious to hear about Windthorst's visit. In a parliamentary state, the head of government depends on the confidence of the parliamentary majority, and certainly has the right to form coalitions to ensure his policies a majority, but in Germany, the Chancellor had to depend on the confidence of the Emperor, and Wilhelm believed that the Emperor had the right to be informed before his ministers' meeting. After a heated argument at Bismarck's estate over Imperial authority, Wilhelm stormed out. Bismarck, forced for the first time into a situation he could not use to his advantage, wrote a blistering letter of resignation, decrying Wilhelm's interference in foreign and domestic policy, which was only published after Bismarck's death. When Bismarck realised that his dismissal was imminent:
All Bismarck’s resources were deployed; he even asked Empress Victoria to use her influence at her son on his behalf. But the wizard had lost his magic; his spells were powerless because they were exerted on people who did not respect them, and he who had so signally disregarded Kant’s command to use people as ends in themselves had too small a stock of loyalty to draw on. As Lord Salisbury told Queen Victoria: 'The very qualities which Bismarck fostered in the Emperor in order to strengthen himself when the Emperor Frederick should come to the throne have been the qualities by which he has been overthrown.' The Empress, with what must have been a mixture of pity and triumph, told him that her influence with her son could not save him for he himself had destroyed it.
Although Bismarck had sponsored landmark social security legislation, by 1889–90 he had become disillusioned with the attitude of workers. In particular, he was opposed to wage increases, improving working conditions, and regulating labour relations. Moreover the Kartell, the shifting political coalition that Bismarck had been able to forge since 1867, had lost a working majority in the Reichstag. Bismarck also attempted to sabotage the Labour Conference that the Kaiser was organising. In March 1890, the dismissal of Bismarck coincided with the Kaiser's opening of the Labour Conference in Berlin. Subsequently at the opening of the Reichstag on 6 May 1890, the Kaiser stated that the most pressing issue was the further enlargement of the bill concerning the protection of the labourer.  In 1891, the Reichstag passed the Workers Protection Acts, which improved working conditions, protected women and children and regulated labour relations.
Wilhelm in control
Dismissal of Bismarck
Bismarck resigned at Wilhelm II's insistence in 1890, at age 75, to be succeeded as Chancellor of Germany and Minister-President of Prussia by Leo von Caprivi, who in turn was replaced by Chlodwig, Prince of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst in 1894. Following the dismissal of Hohenlohe in 1900, Wilhelm appointed the man whom he regarded as "his own Bismarck", Bernhard von Bülow.
In foreign policy Bismarck had achieved a fragile balance of interests between Germany, France and Russia—peace was at hand and Bismarck tried to keep it that way despite growing popular sentiment against Britain (regarding colonies) and especially against Russia. With Bismarck's dismissal the Russians now expected a reversal of policy in Berlin, so they quickly came to terms with France, beginning the process that by 1914 largely isolated Germany.
Monarchical styles of German Emperor Wilhelm II, King of Prussia
In appointing Caprivi and then Hohenlohe, Wilhelm was embarking upon what is known to history as "the New Course", in which he hoped to exert decisive influence in the government of the empire. There is debate amongst historians as to the precise degree to which Wilhelm succeeded in implementing "personal rule" in this era, but what is clear is the very different dynamic which existed between the Crown and its chief political servant (the Chancellor) in the "Wilhelmine Era". These chancellors were senior civil servants and not seasoned politician-statesmen like Bismarck. Wilhelm wanted to preclude the emergence of another Iron Chancellor, whom he ultimately detested as being "a boorish old killjoy" who had not permitted any minister to see the Emperor except in his presence, keeping a stranglehold on effective political power. Upon his enforced retirement and until his dying day, Bismarck was to become a bitter critic of Wilhelm's policies, but without the support of the supreme arbiter of all political appointments (the Emperor) there was little chance of Bismarck exerting a decisive influence on policy.
Silver 5-mark coin of Wilhelm II.
Something which Bismarck was able to effect was the creation of the "Bismarck myth". This was a view—which some would argue was confirmed by subsequent events—that, with the dismissal of the Iron Chancellor, Wilhelm II effectively destroyed any chance Germany had of stable and effective government. In this view, Wilhelm's "New Course" was characterised far more as the German ship of state going out of control, eventually leading through a series of crises to the carnage of the First and Second World Wars.
In the early twentieth century Wilhelm began to concentrate upon his real agenda; the creation of a German navy that would rival that of Britain and enable Germany to declare itself a world power. He ordered his military leaders to read Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan's book, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, and spent hours drawing sketches of the ships that he wanted built. Bülow and Bethmann Hollweg, his loyal chancellors, looked after domestic affairs and Wilhelm began to spread alarm in the chancellories of Europe with his increasingly eccentric views on foreign affairs.
Promoter of arts and sciences
Wilhelm II was an enthusiastic promoter of the arts and sciences, as well as public education and social welfare. He sponsored the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, for the promotion of scientific research; it was funded by wealthy private donors and the state and comprised a number of research institutes in both pure and applied sciences. The Prussian Academy of Sciences, however, was unable to avoid the Kaiser's pressure and lost some of its autonomy when it was forced to incorporate new programs in engineering, and award new fellowships in engineering sciences as a gift from the Kaiser in 1900.
Wilhelm II supported the modernisers as they tried to reform the Prussian system of secondary education, which was rigidly traditional, elitist, politically authoritarian, and unchanged by the progress in the natural sciences. As hereditary Protector of the Order of Saint John, he offered encouragement to the Christian order's attempts to place German medicine at the forefront of modern medical through its system of hospitals, nursing sisterhood and nursing schools, and nursing homes throughout the German Empire.
Historians have frequently stressed the role of Wilhelm's personality in shaping his reign. Thus, Thomas Nipperdey concludes he was: "gifted, with a quick understanding, sometimes brilliant, with a taste for the modern,—technology, industry, science—but at the same time superficial, hasty, restless, unable to relax, without any deeper level of seriousness, without any desire for hard work or drive to see things through to the end, without any sense of sobriety, for balance and boundaries, or even for reality and real problems, uncontrollable and scarcely capable of learning from experience, desperate for applause and success,—as Bismarck said early on in his life, he wanted every day to be his birthday—romantic, sentimental and theatrical, unsure and arrogant, with an immeasurably exaggerated self-confidence and desire to show off, a juvenile cadet, who never took the tone of the officers’ mess out of his voice, and brashly wanted to play the part of the supreme warlord, full of panicky fear of a monotonous life without any diversions, and yet aimless, pathological in his hatred against his English mother."
Langer et al. (1968) emphasize the negative international consequences of his erratic personality:
He believed in force, and the 'survival of the fittest' in domestic as well as foreign politics ... William was not lacking in intelligence, but he did lack stability, disguising his deep insecurities by swagger and tough talk. He frequently fell into depressions and hysterics ... William's personal instability was reflected in vacillations of policy. His actions, at home as well as abroad, lacked guidance, and therefore often bewildered or infuriated public opinion. He was not so much concerned with gaining specific objectives, as had been the case with Bismarck, as with asserting his will. This trait in the ruler of the leading Continental power was one of the main causes of the uneasiness prevailing in Europe at the turn-of-the-century.
1898 China imperialism cartoon-while a Mandarin official helplessly looks on, China as a pie is about to be carved up by Queen Victoria (British Empire), Wilhelm II (German Empire), Nicolas II (Russian Empire), Marianne (France), and a samurai (Japanese Empire)
A 1904 German cartoon commenting on the Entente cordiale: John Bull walking off with Marianne, turning his back on Wilhelm II/Germany.
Wilhelm II with Nicholas II of Russia in 1905, wearing the military uniforms of each other's nations
German foreign policy under Wilhelm II was faced with a number of significant problems. Perhaps the most apparent was that Wilhelm was an impatient man, subjective in his reactions and affected strongly by sentiment and impulse. He was personally ill-equipped to steer German foreign policy along a rational course. It is now widely recognised that the various spectacular acts which Wilhelm undertook in the international sphere were often partially encouraged by the German foreign policy elite. There were a number of key exceptions, such as the famous Kruger telegram of 1896 in which Wilhelm congratulated President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal Republic on the suppression of the Jameson Raid, thus alienating British public opinion.
Wilhelm invented and spread fears of a yellow peril trying to interest other European rulers in the perils they faced by invading Chinese; few other leaders paid attention. German troops were sent to fight in the Boxer Rebellion.
Under Wilhelm Germany attempted to develop its colonies in Africa and the Pacific, but few became self-supporting and all were lost during World War I. In Namibia a native revolt against German rule led to the Herero and Namaqua Genocide, although Wilhelm eventually ordered it be stopped.
One of the few times Wilhelm succeeded in personal "diplomacy" was when he supported Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in marrying Sophie Chotek in 1900 against the wishes of Emperor Franz Joseph.
One "domestic" triumph for Wilhelm was when his daughter Victoria Louise married the Duke of Brunswick in 1913; this helped heal the rift between the House of Hanover and the House of Hohenzollern after the 1866 annexation of Hanover by Prussia.
One of Wilhelm II's diplomatic blunders sparked the Moroccan Crisis of 1905, when Wilhelm made a spectacular visit to Tangier, in Morocco. Wilhelm's presence was seen as an assertion of German interests in Morocco, in opposition to France. In his speech he even made certain remarks in favour of Moroccan independence. This led to friction with France, which had expanding colonial interests in Morocco, and led to the Algeciras Conference, which served largely to further isolate Germany in Europe.
Daily Telegraph affair
Perhaps Wilhelm's most damaging personal blunder in the arena of foreign policy had a far greater impact in Germany than internationally. The Daily Telegraph Affair of 1908 stemmed from the publication of some of Wilhelm's opinions in edited form in the British daily newspaper of that name. Wilhelm saw it as an opportunity to promote his views and ideas on Anglo-German friendship, but instead, due to his emotional outbursts during the course of the interview, Wilhelm ended up further alienating not only the British people, but also the French, Russians, and Japanese all in one fell swoop by implying, among other things, that the Germans cared nothing for the British; that the French and Russians had attempted to incite Germany to intervene in the Second Boer War; and that the German naval buildup was targeted against the Japanese, not Britain. (One memorable quotation from the interview was, "You English are mad, mad, mad as March hares.") The effect in Germany was quite significant, with serious calls for his abdication being mentioned in the press. Not surprisingly, Wilhelm kept a very low profile for many months after the Daily Telegraph fiasco, and later exacted his revenge by forcing the resignation of Prince Bülow, who had abandoned the Emperor to public criticism by publicly accepting some responsibility for not having edited the transcript of the interview before its publication.
The Daily Telegraph crisis deeply wounded Wilhelm's previously unimpaired self-confidence, so much so that he soon suffered a severe bout of depression from which he never really recovered (photographs of Wilhelm in the post-1908 period show a man with far more haggard features and greying hair), and he lost much of the influence he had previously exercised in domestic and foreign policy. British public opinion had been quite favourable toward the Kaiser in his first 12 years in office, but turned sour in the late 1890s. During the World War, however, he became the central target of British anti-German propaganda as the personification of a hated enemy.
Nothing Wilhelm II did in the international arena was of more influence than his decision to pursue a policy of massive naval construction. A powerful navy was Wilhelm's pet project. He had inherited, from his mother, a love of the British Royal Navy, which was at that time the world's largest. He once confided to his uncle, Edward VII, that his dream was to have a "fleet of my own some day". Wilhelm's frustration over his fleet's poor showing at the Fleet Review at his grandmother Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, combined with his inability to exert German influence in South Africa following the dispatch of the Kruger telegram, led to Wilhelm taking definitive steps toward the construction of a fleet to rival that of his British cousins. Wilhelm was fortunate to be able to call on the services of the dynamic naval officer Alfred von Tirpitz, whom he appointed to the head of the Imperial Naval Office in 1897.
The new admiral had conceived of what came to be known as the "Risk Theory" or the Tirpitz Plan, by which Germany could force Britain to accede to German demands in the international arena through the threat posed by a powerful battlefleet concentrated in the North Sea. Tirpitz enjoyed Wilhelm's full support in his advocacy of successive naval bills of 1897 and 1900, by which the German navy was built up to contend with that of the United Kingdom. Naval expansion under the Fleet Acts eventually led to severe financial strains in Germany by 1914, as by 1906 Wilhelm had committed his navy to construction of the much larger, more expensive dreadnought type of battleship.
In 1889 Wilhelm II reorganised top level control of the navy by creating a Navy Cabinet (Marine-Kabinett) equivalent to the German Imperial Military Cabinet which had previously functioned in the same capacity for both the army and navy. The Head of the navy cabinet was responsible for promotions, appointments, administration and issuing orders to naval forces. Captain Gustav von Senden-Bibran was appointed as its first head and remained so until 1906. The existing Imperial admiralty was abolished and its responsibilities divided between two organisations. A new position (equivalent to the supreme commander of the army) was created, chief of the high command of the admiralty (Oberkommando der Marine), being responsible for ship deployments, strategy and tactics. Vice Admiral Max von der Goltz was appointed in 1889 and remained in post until 1895. Construction and maintenance of ships and obtaining supplies was the responsibility of the State Secretary of the Imperial Navy Office (Reichsmarineamt), responsible to the Chancellor and advising the Reichstag on naval matters. The first appointee was Rear Admiral Eduard Heusner, followed shortly by Rear Admiral Friedrich von Hollmann from 1890 to 1897. Each of these three heads of department reported separately to Wilhelm II.
In addition to the expansion of the fleet the Kiel Canal was opened in 1895 enabling faster movements between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.
World War I
Emperor Wilhelm with other German top politicians at a pre-war military training in autumn 1909
A composite image of Wilhelm II with German generals
The Sarajevo crisis
Wilhelm was a friend of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Este, and he was deeply shocked by his assassination on 28 June 1914. Wilhelm offered to support Austria-Hungary in crushing the Black Hand, the secret organisation that had plotted the killing, and even sanctioned the use of force by Austria against the perceived source of the movement—Serbia (this is often called "the blank cheque"). He wanted to remain in Berlin until the crisis was resolved, but his courtiers persuaded him instead to go on his annual cruise of the North Sea on 6 July 1914. Wilhelm made erratic attempts to stay on top of the crisis via telegram, and when the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum was delivered to Serbia, he hurried back to Berlin. He reached Berlin on 28 July, read a copy of the Serbian reply, and wrote on it:
A brilliant solution—and in barely 48 hours! This is more than could have been expected. A great moral victory for Vienna; but with it every pretext for war falls to the ground, and [the Ambassador] Giesl had better have stayed quietly at Belgrade. On this document, I should never have given orders for mobilisation.
Unknown to the Emperor, Austro-Hungarian ministers and generals had already convinced the 84-year-old Francis Joseph I of Austria to sign a declaration of war against Serbia. As a direct consequence, Russia began a general mobilization to attack Austria in defense of Serbia.
Emperor Wilhelm in conversation with the victor of Liège, General Otto von Emmich; in the background the generals Hans von Plessen (middle) and Moriz von Lyncker (right).
On the night of 30 July, when handed a document stating that Russia would not cancel its mobilization, Wilhelm wrote a lengthy commentary containing these observations:
For I no longer have any doubt that England, Russia and France have agreed among themselves—knowing that our treaty obligations compel us to support Austria—to use the Austro-Serb conflict as a pretext for waging a war of annihilation against us ... Our dilemma over keeping faith with the old and honourable Emperor has been exploited to create a situation which gives England the excuse she has been seeking to annihilate us with a spurious appearance of justice on the pretext that she is helping France and maintaining the well-known Balance of Power in Europe, i.e. playing off all European States for her own benefit against us.
More recent British authors state that Wilhelm II actually declared "Ruthlessness and weakness will start the most terrifying war of the world, whose purpose is to destroy Germany. Because there can no longer be any doubts, England, France and Russia have conspired them selves together to fight an annihilation war against us".
When it became clear that Germany would experience a war on two fronts, and that the United Kingdom would enter the war if Germany attacked France through neutral Belgium, the panic-stricken Wilhelm attempted to redirect the main attack against Russia. When Helmuth von Moltke (the younger) (who had chosen the old plan from 1905, made by the former German general von Schlieffen for the possibility of German war on two fronts) told him that this was impossible, Wilhelm said: "Your uncle would have given me a different answer!" Wilhelm is also reported to have said: "To think that George and Nicky should have played me false! If my grandmother had been alive, she would never have allowed it." In the original Schlieffen plan Germany should attack the (supposed) weaker enemy first, meaning France. The plan supposed that it would take a long time before Russia was ready for war. And defeating France had not been a hard task for Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. At the 1914 border between France and Germany, an attack at this more southern part of France could be stopped by the French fortress along the border. However Wilhelm II got Helmuth Moltke (the younger) to also not invade the Netherlands.
French Propaganda Postcard from the World War I era showing a caricature of Wilhelm II biting into the world. The text reads "The glutton – too hard."