Of all the European monarchs at the turn of the century, with the possible exception of Sultan Abdul Hamid ll of the Ottoman Empire, none was a bigger asshole than Kaiser Wilhelm ll of Germany. To give but one example of the late emperor’s lack of regard for his fellow man, Robert K. Massie writes in The Last Courts of Europe, that Wilhelm’s favorite form of greeting male strangers was to crush their hands in the grip of his unusually strong right hand, made all the more unbearable owing to him turning the rings he wore on that hand inward so they’d grind into the flesh of his victims. This leads the author to speculate upon whether or not, as so many previous biographers have, that one of the reasons why he was such an unapologetic dick was the same reason why he’d developed the strength of his right arm to such a monstrous extent in the first place: he was overcompensating for having been born with a withered, misshapen, and virtually useless left arm, the cause of which has been hypothesized to have been either the result of his mother’s obstetrician having misused a pair of forceps during his delivery, or Wilhelm ll having been born with a minor form of palsy. Regardless of the probably manifold reasons why he grew up to be the man he became, the bottom line is that he was a bastard with an inferiority complex, and his handshake serves as but one of many examples by which he tried to overcompensate for it.
Anyway, while he undoubtedly played a role in the German war mongering that helped lead to World War l, most historians agree that his decision making was too quixotic in nature, and his work ethic too blatantly nonexistent, for “Kaiser Bill” to have decisively contributed to the final build up to the great conflict. Instead, his government ministers more often than not placated his vanity while carefully working around him. A bigoted, spoiled, self indulgent, posturing buffoon as egomaniacal as he was ignorant, he was personally convinced of being the rightful heir to the glorious military legacy of his self proclaimed “ancestor” Frederick the Great, who in reality was a distant great uncle. Declaring himself “The All Highest,” a moniker he often used when issuing commands or signing off on letters, his rule as the third and final emperor of the Second Reich can best be described as a pantomime in which he pretended to be Frederick Nietzsche’s embodiment of the superman. During his tenure on the imperial throne, however, all those closest to him knew better.
One such courtier who knew the truth about Wilhelm, and then exposed it to the public at the turn of the century, was a former lady-in-waiting to his empress, Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, known to history only by the pseudonym of Ursula, Countess von Eppinghoven. Having served at the Imperial Court from the late 1870s until 1894, she met the German American journalist, Henry Fischer, at the coronation of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas ll shortly after leaving the Kaiser’s employ. In addition to her years of service at court, she was also maintaining a lively correspondence with her fellow courtiers that remained at the Neus Palais, the emperor’s official residence, in Potsdam. Thoroughly enjoying her account of life at Berlin’s imperial court, Fischer convinced Eppinghoven to lend him her private papers so that he could write a memoir on the condition that he disguise her identity. To this day no one is certain who this woman really was. The fruit of Herr. Fischer’s labor was first published in English in 1904 under the title, Secret Memoirs Of The Court of Berlin Under William ll. Despite the three volume tome’s most salacious revelations having been expunged before the book’s publication, what was left in the memoir was considered damaging enough by the Kaiser’s regime so that all it’s copies in Germany were confiscated.
Nonetheless, a subsequent American edition, entitled Private Lives Of Kaiser William ll And His Consort, with missing chapters included, was published in 1909, and then again in 1913. Despite some critics initially dismissing it as a collection of idle, unsubstantiated, backstairs gossip of the lowest kind and nothing more, it has long been proven by the research of all biographers of Wilhelm ll throughout the last century that virtually all the revelations written about in this memoir were completely true. It’s been cited by no less than Anna Pakula, whose biography of the Kaiser’s mother, Empress Frederick, An Uncommon Woman, has long been considered the definitive biography of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, as a source of primary, first hand account material. In fact, many of the more unsavory aspects of Wilhelm ll’s character, that are often the first things one reads about when researching his private life, were initially brought to the world’s attention through this memoir. Much of what the author revealed concerning the Kaiser’s personality in the first two paragraphs came directly from this three volume set.
While “the countess” reveals much concerning Wilhelm ll’s unapologetically dilettantish attitude toward his political role, she also writes that when it came to His Imperial Majesty’s sex life, and specifically the sexual initiation of his oldest son, heir and namesake, Willy, as he was sometimes called by his wife and closest relatives, was far more decisive. By the time the Crown Prince turned 21, his father was shocked, repulsed and embarrassed by fact that he was still a virgin. Despite having previously exchanged love letters with English aristocrat, Gladys Deacon, which Wilhelm ll had ordered confiscated, by 1903 Crown Prince Wilhelm was displaying what Eppinghoven describes as a haughty disdain for the fair sex that some were beginning to speculate might be the result of something “perverse” in his character. It was well known within court circle’s at the time that his tutor, Count Wilhelm Hohenau, was a closeted homosexual and friend to the also secretively man loving Prince Philip von Eulenberg, the court chamberlain and BFF to Wilhelm ll. Just four years hence Eulenberg and his high powered gay clique would be exposed, disgraced and thrown into prison for their shared proclivity, which was a crime in Germany at the time. All that, however, was years into the future when the Kaiser was pondering how best to solve the vexing problem of his eldest son’s lingering virginity.
While never the sexually addicted man whore his English uncle, King Edward Vll, unashamedly was, Wilhelm nonetheless frequently availed himself of the conjugal companionship of women other than his wife and unlike his uncle, who often took great pains to conceal his mistresses from his consort, Alexandra, Willy thought nothing of exploiting his extramarital amours directly in front of his empress consort, Augusta Victoria’s, face. From adorning his office desk with the portraits of the various women he fancied at any given time, including a topless photo of the late 19th century Duchess of Aosta; to boasting about his sexual exploits with other women to his wife over breakfast; to ordering Augusta Victoria, his nickname for her was Dona, to accompany him to royal command performances at the theatre in which the starring actress, Rosa Poppe, was her husband’s primary mistress at the moment, the Kaiser thought nothing of his Kaiserin’s feelings while engaging in his pursuit of sexual pleasure outside the marriage bed. Through it all, Augusta Victoria, whose passionate, evangelical Christian faith was borderline fanatical, remained as loving, devoted, and masochistically hero worshipping a spouse to Wilhelm as he could’ve ever hoped for.
One should add, however, Eppinghoven and Fischer state in their memoir there was one quid pro quo to Augusta Victoria’s spousal tolerance and devotion: she demanded Wilhelm have sex with her virtually every night they slept under the same roof. Even during her several pregnancies, reports “the countess”, the Kaiserin insisted upon sharing a bedchamber with Willy until the last possible moment, which was often the actual birth of the child. While their marriage was a typically arranged royal affair, specifically orchestrated by Chancellor von Bismarck, and there’s no indication he was genuinely in love with her, Willy nonetheless felt it his bound duty as the head of the imperial House of Hohenzollern to conjugally service his wife as often as possible, if for no other reason than to propagate as many heirs to the throne as he could. Once Dona started menopause, he continued to bang her on the regular, lest she compromise Willy’s self purported reputation as the best lover in the Second Reich. But back to their eldest son.
Once the Kaiser found out his grown heir was still a virgin, and according to the authors he was the last at court to realize this, he broached the topic with Dona one morning in order to convince her to summon the Crown Prince and remind him, as his mother, of the dynastic obligation of Wilhelm jr. to spread his Hohenzollern man seed far and wide, lest the men of the imperial family’s reputation for virility be compromised. When she balked at the suggestion, Willy demanded she inform their son he’d never disappointed her in the bedroom, or any other woman for that matter, and that the Crown Prince’s ongoing chastity was their family’s greatest shame. When she still refused, the Kaiser stood up in a huff, yelled at Dona that if she couldn’t persuade their son to lose his virginity then he’d take it upon himself to arrange the boy’s first assignation, and that his current maitresse en titre, Rosa Poppe, would do just fine. Then he stormed off.
It just so happened later that evening Willy dragged Dona to yet another royal command performance at the theatre where the star was none other than her husband’s primary side chick for the previous six years, Mademoiselle Poppe. Also accompanying His Imperial Majesty was the king of Wurttemberg, who was negotiating a treaty with Wilhelm’s government at the moment. During intermission both Majesties went backstage for a tete a tete with the biblical drama’s star. Meeting her in front of her dressing room, Willy made it a point to refer to Rosa as “Baby,” himself as “Daddy,” and asked her to inform his royal colleague how good “Daddy” had been to “Baby”. Mortified at her royal lover blatantly showing her off in front of his fellow monarch, but nonetheless politely agreeing that her regal sugar daddy had indeed been good to her, Rosa pardoned herself from her lover’s august presence as she needed to change costumes for her next scene. For the record, Eppinghoven clarifies that, had the actress answered Willy’s entreaty truthfully, she doubts the response would’ve been in the affirmative. For the parsimonious amounts of sugar Wilhelm ll regularly bestowed upon this mistress in the form of salary increases at the imperial theatre were scarcely enough to keep her in the latest Paris fashions, perfumes, cigars and other accoutrements necessary for entertaining him during their assignations.
Despairing Miss Poppe was perhaps too prudish to deflower the Crown Prince, the morning after the Kaiser humiliated her backstage he poured his dilemma out to his best friend and court chamberlain, Prince Philip(Phili)von Eulenberg, during a morning horseback ride. Ever since conducting a brief liaison with Katherine Clemmens Gould, daughter-in-law of New York industrialist Jay Gould, Wilhelm had developed a fondness for what he considered the sexually brazen nature of American women. Eppinghoven then writes that Wilhelm’s little brother, Prince Henry, could hardly make a trip to New York without His Imperial Majesty ordering him to seduce which ever American debutante from a prominent family that had recently taken Wilhelm’s fancy, so that he might report back to his brother concerning the girl’s sexual talents.
By that morning Willy had determined that a damsel from the land of opportunity was precisely the sort of wench needed to indoctrinate his oldest son sexually. The question he posed to Eulenberg was who the lucky(sic) Yankee should be. Initially, the Kaiser inquired as to the whereabouts of Lona Barinson, an American stage actress and courtesan who was the toast of Berlin until she beat a hasty exit after being blamed for the attempted suicide of Prince Alfred of Edinburgh, only son and heir to Queen Victoria’s second son, the Duke of Edinburgh. While assuring his imperial master that Miss Barinson could easily be sniffed out by the secret police, Eulenberg suggested that another, younger, more respectable, more virginal, discrete American maiden might be better for the job. Seizing upon yet another opportunity to further ingratiate himself to the House of Hohenzollern, the court chamberlain then recommended a certain teenaged American soprano newly arrived to the Berlin Opera House, who would no doubt be eternally grateful for the career advancement her concubinage to the Crown Prince would undoubtedly result in. While Eppinghoven insists within the memoir upon not divulging this opera diva’s name, subsequent biographers have revealed her to have most likely been Geraldine Farrar, arguably the most celebrated of American sopranos of the early 20th century. She played her first starring role in Berlin around the time this scheme was hatched, and it appears unlikely these two incidents were just a coincidence. Needless to write, the Kaiser was utterly delighted, and perhaps turned on, by this proposal, and an assignation between his heir and the aspiring singer was duly arranged.
Far from being a latent homosexual, it turned out Crown Prince Wilhelm was more than pleased with his father’s choice for his first mistress, and duly banged a bastard into her. Eppinghoven then writes the imperial court waited with baited breath to see what sex the child would be. If a girl, the Crown Prince’s masculinity would once again be questioned, for no Hohenzollern male worth his heritage could possibly hold his head up in the parlors of Berlin unless his first secret bastard was born with a penis. After having made the necessary financial arrangements to ensure the comfort of both mother and child, Willy and Willy jr. were initially relieved when this little bundle of joy turned out indeed to be masculine, and they were further delighted when he proved sickly and died in infancy. For the Kaiser and his heir were loath to fork out the money necessary to provide for this unfortunate child, though they were nominally willing to do so. The Crown Prince and Mademoiselle Farrar continued their affair, which his eventual arranged marriage did nothing to abate, and soon Wilhelm ll found his eldest son’s mistress so enticing he began bedding her as well. In a curious role reversal, this sexual indoctrination turned Crown Prince Wilhelm into a far dirtier and more prolific stomp around than his father had ever been, and soon a leading source of friction between father and son became Willy jr.’s constant amorous entanglements with various women.
As we Americans are now on the eve of watching a posturing buffoon take office as our 45th president, who curiously enough is of half German extraction, it’s instructive to analyze history’s previous leaders whose behaviors parallel President- Elect Donald Trump. Like the Donald, Germany’s last kaiser was a spoiled son of privilege convinced of his own inmate superiority. Like Trump, he was largely an imposter scarcely possessing an iota of the brilliance he was desperate for the world to think he had, owing his status primarily to his accident of birth and the far more intelligent advisors surrounding him, who did the real work while he only pretended to be in charge. Both leaders’ sons, also, were and are even bigger losers than their fathers, and are so innately stupid and feeble that they can’t even maintain the pantomime of being worthy successors to their family’s dubious legacies. And Wilhelm ll and Donald Trump, if the reader hasn’t already noticed, had a lot in common regarding their vile, primordial, and utterly psychotic attitude toward women. While the German empire certainly wasn’t a carbon copy of the current United States, and there certainly are vast differences between the last Kaiser and America’s next president, their similarities beg the question concerning exactly how much damage might a Trump presidency inflict upon the U.S. of A.? Wilhelm ll presided over the collapse of the power structure that his ancestors forged, which began the domino affect leading to the rise of Adolf Hitler, i.e. the most destructively barbaric world leader history’s ever known. Let’s hope the same fate doesn’t befall the U.S.A.!