Wednesday, January 22, 2014

JANUARY 22 = Queen Victoria Dies

On January 22 in 1901, Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the British Dominions beyond the seas, Empress of India, and the longest reigning sovereign in British history died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Present at her bedside were members of her family, including her heir, the Prince of Wales (who would shortly take the title of King Edward VII). Victoria gave her name to an age in Great Britain. But she was more than merely a figurehead.  She was truly a formidable woman. Enough so that when Germany's mighty "Iron Chancellor" Otto von Bismarck was due to meet her, he was reportedly sweating bullets at the thought.  But oddly enough when she died on either side of the bed, lifting up her pillow so she could see who was there were her other surviving son, Prince Arthur, and of all people, Germany's Kaiser William II, who was her oldest grandchild.

Kaiser William II Invites Himself

The German Emperor had not been invited, but upon the hearing news that his grandmother was, after a long life nearing her end, he took the liberty of inviting himself. History tends to remember Kaiser as a kind of boastful, swaggering charlatan. And while most of the time, he was indeed just that, he also had it in his character to behave with the utmost tact, and even charm when he chose to. And by all accounts, his behavior at the time of Queen Victoria's death was one such time. In his 1991 book "Dreadnought - Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War", historian Robert K. Massie asserts that it was the Kaiser for whom Queen Victoria's death held the most significance:

The Effect of Victoria's Death on the Kaiser

"Queen Victoria had reigned for almost sixty-four years, only subjects nearing seventy could remember another monarch. More than a sovereign, she was an institution, and most of her people thought of her as permanent, like the Houses of Parliament, or the Bank of England..... the sense of loss was many-sided: loss of permanence, loss of authority, loss of security. On no one -- not even on her heir --did this loss have a greater impact than on the Kaiser. In spite of all, the emotional link between them had never been broken. He was her eldest grandchild, she was his august, but also warmhearted Grandmama. The happiest days of his youth had been spent in the relatively informal atmosphere of Osborne and Windsor, an atmosphere dominated by the personality of the Queen. As the years went by, he never gave up his feeling of tenderness for his aging grandmother, and respect for the Queen-Empress. She scolded him, but she also showed him affection and understanding. She criticized him to her ministers, but she also stood up for him, advising Lord Salisbury and others on how to deal with him. In many ways, she was like him: both were sentimental, subject to strong likes and dislikes, capable of gushiness and sharp anger in writing to subordinates. Because Victoria had had (her late husband, Prince) Albert and a series of independent prime ministers, she had learned to discipline her feelings and language as William never had. As long as she lived, she posed for William a model of how an Imperial sovereign should behave. When she died, that model vanished. His Uncle, King Edward, could not replace her; for too long, Bertie (the name by which Edward VII had been known to his family) in William's eyes had been the frivolous Prince of Wales. And so, at forty-two, the Kaiser was left alone to follow his own path, bereft of the presence, the counsel, and the affection of the one human he admired as well as loved."

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"Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War"
by Robert K. Massie, Random House Publ. Group Inc., New York, 1991.

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1 comment:

  1. Some comments made on the previous publishing of this of this posting:

    MicheleJanuary 24, 2013 at 10:48 AM
    I never knew this about "Cousin Willy." Thanks for an interesting post.


    Brian T. BoltenJanuary 24, 2013 at 11:45 AM
    Yeah, "Cousin Willy" was a surprising fellow. But you're quite welcome Michele! keep on reading and commenting!!