I’m currently reading (nearly finished) Christopher Hibbert’s biography of Queen Victoria. Victoria was Queen of England from 1837 until 1901, making her (as of this writing) the longest reigning monarch in British history. (If you’re interested, the second runner-up is George III (apparently the Brits had fewer issues with him than we did), and the current third runner-up (but closing fast!) is Elizabeth II.)*
Victoria had nine children and 37 grandchildren, several of whom became (or married) kings and queens of Europe. One of those grandchildren was Kaiser Wilhem II, he who ruled Germany during the First World War. In a footnote in Hibbert’s book, I was tickled to find the following:
He [Wilhelm] had never made any secret of his dislike of the English. As a twenty-year-old lieutenant in the Guards, he had declared after a heavy nosebleed that it was ‘good to be rid of this damned English blood’. The antagonism was, no doubt, exacerbated by his mother [Victoria’s eldest child] who, yearning for her ‘own beloved England’, thanking God that she was a ‘regular John Bull’ and hating her ‘odious’ life in Berlin, had urged him to remember that her own country was ‘the most progressive, advanced, & liberal & the most developed race in the world, also the richest’, as well as the greatest naval power with the ‘largest & most powerful Empire in the world in which the sun never sets’, obviously more ‘suited than any other to civilize other countries’. As General Count Alfred von Waldersee observed, this constant praise of England and belittling of Germany was counter-productive. ‘If his parents intended to bring up a constitutional monarch who would obediently bow before the sovereignty of a parliamentary majority, they have been disappointed,’ Count Waldersee said. ‘It looks as if precisely the opposite has come about … It is quite amazing that the Prince bears such a prejudice against England; to a great extent this is a very natural reaction to his mother’s endeavours to make anglomaniacs out of the children.’ The Crown Princess [Victoria’s daughter, Wilhelm’s mother] was eventually forced to recognize this herself and decided to ‘keep silent on such issues’. ‘Willy’, she concluded, ‘is chauvinistic and ultra Prussian to a degree & with a violence wh[ich] is often very painful to me … Prussian princes have a certain “genre” & it runs in the blood’ (John C. G. Röhl, Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser’s Early Life, 1859-1888, Cambridge, 1998, 115, 267, 395, 409, 441).†
A hint of things to come, no?
* Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_longest-reigning_British_monarchs August 29, 2010.
† Hibbert, Christopher, Queen Victoria: A Personal History (Da Capo Press, 2000), 389-390.