In the World War
by Count Ottokar Czernin
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But he anxiously concealed all his good qualities and took an obstinate pleasure in being hard and disagreeable. I will not endeavour here to excuse certain traits in his character. His strongly pronounced egotism cannot be denied any more than the hardness of character, which made him insensible to the sufferings of all who were not closely connected with him. He also made himself hated by his severe financial proceedings and his inexorable judgment on any subordinate whom he suspected of the slightest dishonesty. In this connection there are hundreds of anecdotes, some true, some false. These petty traits in his character injured him in the eyes of the great public, while the really great and manly qualities he possessed were unknown to them, and were not weighed in the balance in his favour. For those who knew him well his great and good qualities outweighed the bad ones a hundredfold.

The Emperor was always very perturbed concerning the Archduke's plans for the future. There was a stern trait also in the old monarch's character, and in the interests of the Monarchy he feared the impetuosity and obstinacy of his nephew. Nevertheless, he often took a very magnanimous view of the matter. For instance, Count Stuergkh, the murdered Prime Minister, gave me details respecting my nomination to the Herrenhaus which are very characteristic of the old monarch. It was Franz Ferdinand's wish that I should be in the Herrenhaus, as he was anxious for me to be one of a delegation and also to profit by my extensive training in the province of foreign policy. I must mention here that it had been impressed on the Emperor on all sides that the Archduke's friends and trusted men were working against him; a version of affairs which to a certain degree he obviously believed, owing to his numerous disputes with Franz Ferdinand. On Stuergkh mentioning my name as a candidate for the Herrenhaus, the Emperor hesitated a moment and then said: "Ah, yes. That is the man who is to be Minister for Foreign Affairs when I am dead. Let him go to the Herrenhaus that he may learn a little more."

Political discussions with the Emperor Francis Joseph were often very difficult, as he kept strictly to the Government department in question and only discussed what referred thereto. While I was ambassador the Emperor would discourse to me on Roumania and the Balkans, but on nothing else. Meanwhile, the different questions were often so closely interwoven that it was impossible to separate them. I remember at one audience where I submitted to the Emperor the Roumanian plans for a closer connection with the Monarchy—plans which I shall allude to in a later chapter—and in doing so I was naturally bound to state what the Roumanians proposed respecting the closer connection with Hungary, and also what changes would be necessitated thereby in the Hungarian administration. The Emperor at once broke off the conversation, saying that it was a matter of Hungarian internal policy.

The old Emperor was almost invariably kind and friendly, and to the very last his knowledge of the smallest details was astonishing. He never spoke of the different Roumanian Ministers as the Minister of Agriculture, of Trade, or whatever it might be, but mentioned them all by name and never made a mistake.

I saw him for the last time in October, 1916, after my definite return from Roumania, and found him then quite clear and sound mentally, though failing in bodily health.

The Emperor Francis Joseph was a "Grand Seigneur" in the true sense of the word. He was an Emperor and remained always unapproachable. Everyone left his presence feeling he had stood before an Emperor. His dignity in representing the monarchical idea was unsurpassed by any sovereign in Europe.

He was borne to his grave at a time of great military successes for the Central Powers. He lies now in the Imperial vault, and a century seems to have elapsed since his death; the world is changed.

Day by day streams of people pass by the little church, but no one probably gives a thought to him who lies in peace and forgotten, and yet he, through many long years, embodied Austria, and his person was a common centre for the State that so rapidly was falling asunder.

He is now at rest, free from all care and sorrow; he saw his wife, his son, his friends all die, but Fate spared him the sight of his expiring Empire.

* * * * *

Franz Ferdinand's character held many sharply defined corners and edges; judging him objectively, no one can deny his great faults. Though the circumstances of his death were so tragic, it may well be that for him it was a blessing. It is hardly conceivable that, once on the throne, the Archduke would have been able to carry out his plans. The structure of the Monarchy which he was so anxious to strengthen and support was already so rotten that it could not have stood any great innovations, and if not the war, then probably the Revolution, would have shattered it. On the other hand, there seems to be no doubt that the Archduke, with all the vehemence and impulsiveness of his character, would have made the attempt to rebuild the entire structure of the Monarchy. It is futile to comment on the chances of his success, but according to human foresight the experiment would not have succeeded, and he would have succumbed beneath the ruins of the falling Monarchy.

It is also futile to conjecture how the Archduke would have acted had he lived to see the war and the upheaval. I think that in two respects his attitude would have differed from that taken. In the first place, he never would have agreed to our army being under German control. It would not have been consistent with his strongly developed autocratic tendencies, and he was too clever politically not to see that we should thereby lose all political freedom of action. In the second place, he would not, like the Emperor Charles, have yielded to revolution. He would have gathered his faithful followers round him and would have fallen fighting, sword in hand. He would have fallen as did his greatest and most dangerous enemy, Stephen Tisza.

But he died the death of a hero on the field of honour, valiantly and in harness. The golden rays of the martyr's crown surrounded his dying head. Many there were who breathed more freely on hearing the news of his death. At the court in Vienna and in society at Budapest there was more joy than sorrow, the former having rightly foreseen that he would have dealt hardly with them. None of them could guess that the fall of the strong man would carry them all with it and engulf them in a world catastrophe.

Franz Ferdinand will remain portrayed in history as a man who either loved or hated. But his tragic end at the side of his wife, who would not allow death to separate them, throws a mild and conciliatory light on the whole life of this extraordinary man, whose warm heart to the very last was devoted to his Fatherland and duty.


There was a widely-spread but entirely wrongful idea in the Monarchy that the Archduke had drawn up a programme of his future activities. This was not the case. He had very definite and pronounced ideas for the reorganisation of the Monarchy, but the ideas never developed into a concrete plan—they were more like the outline of a programme that never was completed in detail. The Archduke was in touch with experts from the different departments; he expounded the fundamental views of his future programme to prominent military and political officials, receiving from them hints on how to materialise these views; but a really finished and thought-out programme was never actually produced. The ground lines of his programme were, as already mentioned, the abolition of the dualism and the reorganisation of the Monarchy to form a federative state. He was not clear himself into how many states the Habsburg Monarchy should be converted, but the principle was the rebuilding of the Monarchy on a national basis. Having always in view that prosperity depended on the weakening of the Magyar influence, the Archduke was in favour of a strong preference for the different nationalities living in Hungary, the Roumanians in particular. Not until my return to Bucharest and following on my reports did the Archduke conceive the plan of ceding Transylvania to Roumania and thus adding Greater Roumania to the Habsburg Empire.

His idea was to make of Austria separate German, Czech, Southern Slav and Polish states, which in some respects would be autonomous; in others, would be dependent on Vienna as the centre. But, so far as I know, his programme was never quite clearly defined, and was subject to various modifications.

The Archduke had a great dislike for the Germans, especially the northern Bohemians, who were partisans of the Pan-Germanic tendencies, and he never forgave the attitude of the Deputy Schoenerer. He had a decided preference for all Germans in the Alpine countries, and generally his views were very similar to those of the Christian Socialists. His political ideal was Lueger. When Lueger was lying ill the Archduke said to me: "If God will only spare this man, no better Prime Minister could be found." Franz Ferdinand had a keen desire for a more centralised army. He was a violent opponent of the endeavours of the Magyars whose aim was an independent Hungarian army, and the question of rank, word of command, and other incidental matters could never be settled as long as he lived, because he violently resisted all Hungarian advances.

The Archduke had a special fondness for the navy. His frequent visits to Brioni brought him into close touch with our navy. He was always anxious to transform the Austrian Navy into one worthy of a Great Power. In regard to foreign policy, the Archduke was always in favour of a Triple Alliance of the three Emperors. The chief motive of this idea must have been that, in the three then apparently so powerful monarchs at Petersburg, Berlin and Vienna, he saw the strongest support against revolution, and wished thereby to build up a strong barrier against disorganisation. He saw great danger to the friendly relations between Russia and ourselves in the rivalry between Vienna and Petersburg in the Balkans, and contrary to the reports that have been spread about him, he was rather a partisan than an opposer of Serbia. He was in favour of the Serbians because he felt assured that the petty agrarian policy of the Magyars was responsible for the constant annoyance of the Serbians. He favoured meeting Serbia half-way, because he considered that the Serbian question was a source of discord between Vienna and Petersburg. Another reason was that he was no friend of King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, who constantly pursued an anti-Serbian policy. I believe that if those who were responsible for the organisation of the assassination of the Archduke had known what little justification there was for supposing him to be the man they thought him, they would have desisted.

Franz Ferdinand had a very pronounced feeling that in spite of all alliances the Monarchy must remain independent. He was opposed to any closer combine with Germany, not wishing to be bound to Germany more than to Russia, and the plan that was formulated later as "Central Europe" was always far removed from his wishes and endeavours.

His plans for the future were not worked out, not complete, but they were sound. This, however, is not sufficient to enable one to say that they could have been successfully carried out. In certain circumstances more harm than good will result from energy devoid of the necessary calm prudence, wisdom and, above all, patience.




The Emperor William has been for so long the centre of historic events, so much has been written about him, that apparently he should be known to all the world; and yet I believe he has often been misrepresented.

It is well known that the scarlet thread running through the whole character of William II. was his firm conviction that he was the "elect of God," and that the dynasty was inextricably bound to the German people. Bismarck also believed in the dynastic fidelity of the Germans. It seems to me that there is just as little dynastic as republican spirit in nations—just as little in the Germans as in others. There is merely a feeling of content or discontent which manifests itself either for or against the dynasty and the form of government. Bismarck himself was a proof of the justice of this argument. As he himself always maintained, he was thoroughly dynastic—but only during the lifetime of the Emperor William I. He had no love for William II., who had treated him badly, and made no secret of his feelings. He hung the picture of the "young man" in the scullery and wrote a book about him which, owing to its contents, could not be published.

The Monarchists who derive benefit from their attachment to the reigning monarch deceive themselves as to their true feelings. They are Monarchists because they consider that form of government the most satisfactory one. The Republicans, who apparently glorify the majesty of the people, really mean themselves. But in the long run a people will always recognise that form of government which soonest can give it order, work, prosperity and contentment. In ninety-nine per cent. of the population the patriotism and enthusiasm for one or other form of government is nothing but a matter of material considerations. They prefer a good king to a bad republic, and vice versa; the form of government is the means to the end, but the end is the contentment of the people governed. Nor has the liberty of those governed anything to do with the form of government. Monarchical England is just as free as Republican America, and the Bolshevists have demonstrated ad oculus to the whole world that the proletariat exercises the greatest tyranny.

The war that was lost swept away the monarchs, but the Republics will only be maintained if they can convince the people that they are more successful in satisfying the masses than the monarchs were, a proof which—it seems to me—the German-Austrian Republic, at any rate, has hitherto failed to give.

The conviction that these questionable statements not only are false but also objectionable and criminal errors; that the Divine Will has placed the monarch at his post and keeps him there—this conviction was systematically imprinted in the German people, and formed an integral part of the views attributed to the Emperor. All his pretensions are based on this; they all breathe the same idea. Every individual, however, is the product of his birth, his education and his experience. In judging William II. it must be borne in mind that from his youth upwards he was deceived and shown a world which never existed. All monarchs should be taught that their people do not love them; that they are quite indifferent to them; that it is not love that makes them follow them and look up to them, but merely curiosity; that they do not acclaim them from enthusiasm, but for their own amusement, and would as soon hiss at them as cheer them. The loyalty of subjects can never be depended on; it is not their intention to be loyal, but only contented; they only tolerate the monarchs as long as they themselves are contented, or as long as they have not enough strength to abolish them. That is the truth, a knowledge of which would prevent monarchs from arriving at unavoidably false conclusions.

The Emperor William is an example of this. I do not think there is another ruler who had better intentions than he had. He lived only for his calling—as he viewed it. All his thoughts and longings were centred round Germany. His relations, pleasures and amusements were all subservient to the one idea of making and keeping the German people great and happy, and if good will were sufficient to achieve great things William II. would have achieved them. From the very beginning he was misunderstood. He made statements and gestures intended not only to win his listeners but the whole world, which had just the contrary effect. But he never was conscious of the practical effect of his actions, because he was systematically misled, not only by those in his immediate presence, but by the entire German people. How many millions, who to-day fling curses at him, could not bow low enough when he appeared on the horizon in all his splendour; how many felt overjoyed if the Imperial glance fell on them!—and none of them realise that they themselves are to blame for having shown the Emperor a world which never existed, and driven him into a course which he otherwise would never have taken. It certainly cannot be denied that the whole nature of the Emperor was peculiarly susceptible to this characteristically German attitude, and that monarchs less talented, less keen, less ready, and above all, less impregnated with the idea of self-sufficiency, are not so exposed to the poison of popularity as he was.

I once had the opportunity of studying the Emperor William in a very important phase of his life. I met him at the house of a friend in the celebrated days of November, 1908, when great demonstrations against the Emperor occurred in the Reichstag, and when the then Imperial Chancellor, Prince Buelow, exposed him. Although he did not allude to the matter to us with whom he was not familiar, the powerful impression made upon him by these events in Berlin was very obvious, and I felt that in William II. I saw a man who, for the first time in his life, with horror-stricken eyes, looked upon the world as it really was. He saw brutal reality in close proximity. For the first time in his life, perhaps, he felt his position on his throne to be a little insecure. He forgot his lesson too quickly. Had the overwhelming impression which prevailed for several days been a lasting one it might perhaps have induced him to descend from the clouds to which his courtiers and his people had raised him, and once more feel firm ground beneath his feet. On the other hand, had the German people often treated the German Emperor as they did then it might have cured him.

A remarkable incident which occurred on this occasion is characteristic of the way in which the Emperor was treated by many of the gentlemen of his suite. I had opportunity, while waiting at a German station restaurant for the arrival of the next train, to watch and study the excitement of the population at the events in Berlin, which bore signs of a revolutionary character. The densely crowded restaurant re-echoed with discussion and criticisms of the Emperor, when suddenly one of the men stood up on a table and delivered a fiery speech against the head of the Government. With the impression of this scene fresh in my mind, I described it to the members of the Emperor's suite, who were just as disagreeably affected by the episode, and it was suggested that nothing should be said about it to the Emperor. One of them, however, protested most energetically and declared that, on the contrary, every detail should be told to the Emperor, and, so far as I know, he himself probably undertook this disagreeable task. This case is characteristic of the desire to keep all unpleasantness from the Emperor and to spare him even the most well-founded criticisms; to praise and exalt him, but never to show that he was being blamed. This systematic putting forward of the Emperor's divine attributes, which in reality was neither due to love of his personality nor any other dynastic cause, but to the purely egotistical wish not to get into disfavour themselves or expose themselves to unpleasantness; this unwholesome state must in the long run act on mind and body as an enervating poison. I readily believe that the Emperor William, unaccustomed to so great an extent to all criticism, did not make it easy for those about him to be open and frank. It was, nevertheless, true that the enervating atmosphere by which he was surrounded was the cause of all the evil at his court. In his youth the Emperor William did not always adhere strictly to the laws of the Constitution; he subsequently cured himself of this failing and never acted independently of his counsellors. At the time when I had official dealings with him he might have served as a model of constitutional conduct.

In the case of so young and inexperienced a man as the Emperor Charles it was doubly necessary to uphold the principle of ministerial responsibility to the fullest extent. As according to our Constitution the Emperor is not responsible to the law, it was of the greatest importance to carry out the principle that he could undertake no administrative act without the cognisance and sanction of the responsible Ministers, and the Emperor Francis Joseph adhered to this principle as though it were gospel.

The Emperor Charles, though full of good intentions, was devoid of all political training and experience, and ought to have been brought up to understand the principles of the Constitution. This, however, had never been taken into consideration.

After my resignation in April, 1918, a deputation from the Constitutional and Central Party in the Herrenhaus waited on the Prime Minister, Dr. von Seidler, and pointed out the importance of a severely constitutional regime, whereupon Dr. von Seidler declared that he took upon himself the full responsibility of the "letter incident."

This was quite preposterous. Dr. von Seidler could not be responsible for events that had occurred a year before—at a time when he was not Minister—apart from its being an established fact that during his tenure of office he was not aware of what had happened, and not until after my resignation did he learn the Imperial views on the situation. He might just as well have accepted responsibility for the Seven Years War or for the battle of Koeniggraetz.

In 1917 and '18, when I had certain official dealings with the Emperor William, his horror of an unpleasant discussion was so great that it was a matter of extreme difficulty to impart the necessary information to him. I recollect how once, at the cost of the consideration due to an Emperor, I was compelled to extract a direct statement from him. I was with the Emperor Charles on the Eastern front, but left him at Lemberg and, joining the Emperor William in his train, travelled with him for a couple of hours. I had certain things to submit to him, none of which was of an unpleasant nature. I do not know why it was, but it was obvious that the Emperor was expecting to hear some disagreeable statements, and offered a passive resistance to the request for a private interview. He invited me to breakfast with him in his dining-car, where he sat in the company of ten other gentlemen, and there was no possibility of beginning the desired conversation. Breakfast had been over some time, but the Emperor made no sign of moving. I was several times obliged to request him to grant me a private interview before he rose from the table, and even then he took with him an official from the Foreign Ministry to be present at our conversation as though to have some protection against anticipated troubles. The Emperor William was never rude to strangers, though he often was so to his own people.

With regard to the Emperor Charles, the situation was very different. He was never anything but friendly; in fact I never saw him angry or vexed. There was no need for any special courage in making an unpleasant statement to him, as there was no danger of receiving a violent answer or any other disagreeable consequences. And yet the desire to believe only what was agreeable and to put from him anything disagreeable was very strong in the Emperor Charles, and neither criticism nor blame made any lasting impression on him. But in his case, too, the atmosphere that surrounded him rendered it impossible to convince him of the brutal realities prevailing. On one occasion, when I returned from the front, I had a long conversation with him. I reproached him for some act of administration and asserted that not only on me but on the whole Monarchy his action had made a most unfavourable impression. I told him in the course of the conversation that he must remember how, when he came to the throne, the whole Monarchy had looked to him with great hopes, but that now he had already lost 80 per cent. of his popularity. The interview ended without incident; the Emperor preserved, as usual, a friendly demeanour, though my remarks must have affected him unpleasantly. Some hours later we passed through a town where not only the station but all buildings were black with people, standing even on the roofs, waving handkerchiefs and loudly welcoming the Imperial train as it passed through. The same scenes were repeated again and again at other stations that we passed. The Emperor turned to me with a smile and a look that showed me he was firmly convinced everything I had told him as to his dwindling popularity was false, the living picture before our eyes proving the contrary.

When I was at Brest-Litovsk disturbances began in Vienna owing to the lack of food. In view of the whole situation, we did not know what dimensions they would assume, and it was considered that they were of a threatening nature. When discussing the situation with the Emperor, he remarked with a smile: "The only person who has nothing to fear is myself. If it happens again I will go out among the people and you will see the welcome they will give me." Some few months later this same Emperor disappeared silently and utterly out of the picture, and among all the thousands who had acclaimed him, and whose enthusiasm he had thought genuine, not one would have lifted a little finger on his behalf. I have witnessed scenes of enthusiasm which would have deceived the boldest and most sceptical judge of the populace. I saw the Emperor and the Empress surrounded by weeping women and men wellnigh smothered in a rain of flowers; I saw the people on their knees with uplifted hands, as though worshipping a Divinity; and I cannot wonder that the objects of such enthusiastic homage should have taken dross for pure gold in the firm belief that they personally were beloved of the people, even as children love their own parents. It is easy to understand that after such scenes the Emperor and Empress looked upon all the criticism of themselves and the discontent among the people as idle talk, and held firmly to the belief that grave disturbances might occur elsewhere but not in their own country. Any simple citizen who has held for a time a higher position experiences something of the kind, though in a lesser degree. I could mention names of many men who could not bow low enough as long as I was in power, but after my resignation would cross the street to avoid a bow, fearing that Imperial disfavour might react on them. But years before his rise the simple citizen has an opportunity of learning to know the world, and, if he be a man of normal temperament, will feel the same contempt for the servility shown during his time in office as for the behaviour he meets with afterwards. Monarchs are without training in the school of life, and therefore usually make a false estimate of the psychology of humanity. But in this tragi-comedy it is they who are led astray.

It is less easy, however, to understand that responsible advisers, who are bound to distinguish between reality and comedy, should also allow themselves to be deceived and draw false political conclusions from such events. In 1918 the Emperor, accompanied by the Prime Minister, Dr. von Seidler, went to the South Slav provinces to investigate matters there. He found, of course, the same welcome there as everywhere, curiosity brought the people out to see him; pressure from the authorities on the one hand, and hope of Imperial favours on the other, brought about ovations similar to those in the undoubtedly dynastic provinces. And not only the Emperor, but von Seidler returned in triumph, firmly convinced that everything stated in Parliament or written in the papers respecting the separatist tendencies of the South Slavs was pure invention and nonsense, and that they would never agree to a separation from the Habsburg Empire.

The objects of these demonstrations of enthusiasm and dynastic loyalty were deceived by them, but I repeat that those who were to blame were not the monarchs, but those who were the instigators and organisers of such scenes and who omitted to enlighten the monarchs on the matter. But any such explanation could only be effectual if all those in the immediate neighbourhood of the ruler concurred in a similar reckless disregard of truth. For if one out of ten people declares such scenes to be not genuine and the others contradict him and assert that the demonstrations of the "love of the people" are overwhelming, the monarch will always be more inclined to listen to the many pleasant rather than to the few unpleasant counsels. Willingly or unwillingly, all monarchs try, very humanly, to resist awakening out of this hypnotic complacency. Naturally, there were men in the entourage of the German Emperor whose pride kept them from making too large an offering to the throne, but as a rule their suffering in the Byzantine atmosphere of Germany was greater than their enjoyment. I always considered that the greatest sycophants were not those living at court, but generals, admirals, professors, officials, representatives of the people and men of learning—people whom the Emperor met infrequently.

During the second half of the war, however, the leading men around the Kaiser were not Byzantine—Ludendorff certainly was not. His whole nature was devoid of Byzantine characteristics. Energetic, brave, sure of himself and his aims, he brooked no opposition and was not fastidious in his choice of language. To him it was a matter of indifference whether he was confronted by his Emperor or anyone else—he spoke unrestrainedly to all who came in his way.

The numerous burgomasters, town councillors, professors of the universities, deputies—in short, men of the people and of science—had for years prostrated themselves before the Emperor William; a word from him intoxicated them—but how many of them are there now amongst those who condemn the former regime with its abuses and, above all, the Emperor himself!

His political advisers experienced great difficulty in their business dealings with the Emperor William during the war, as he was generally at Headquarters and seldom in Berlin. The Emperor Charles's absence from Vienna was also at times most inconvenient.

In the summer of 1917, for instance, he was at Reichenau, which necessitated a two hours' motor drive; I had to go there twice or three times a week, thus losing five or six hours which had to be made good by prolonged night work. On no account would he come to Vienna, in spite of the efforts made by his advisers to persuade him to do so. From certain remarks the Emperor let fall I gathered that the reason of this persistent refusal was anxiety concerning the health of the children. He himself was so entirely free from pretensions that it cannot have been a question of his own comfort that prevented his coming.

The Emperor's desire to restore the Archduke Joseph Ferdinand to a post of command was for me a source of much unpleasantness. The Archduke is said to have been to blame for the Luck failure. I cannot judge whether wrongly—as the Emperor maintained—or rightly; but the fact remains that the public no longer had confidence in him. Quite accidentally I learnt that his reinstatement was imminent. As a matter of fact, this purely military proceeding in no way concerned me, but I had to reckon with the feeling of the populace, who were in no mood for further burdens, and also with the fact that, since Conrad had gone, none of those in the Emperor's entourage showed the slightest disposition to acquaint him with the truth. The only general who, to my personal knowledge, was in the habit of speaking frankly to the Emperor, was Alvis Schonburg, and he was at this time somewhere on the Italian front. I therefore told the Emperor that the reinstatement was an impossibility, giving as my reason the fact that the Archduke had forfeited the confidence of the country, and that no mother could be expected to give up her son to serve under a general whom everyone held to be guilty of the Luck catastrophe. The Emperor insisted that this view was unjust, and that the Archduke was not culpable. I replied that, even so, the Archduke would have to submit. Everyone had lost confidence in him, and the most strenuous exertions of the people could neither be expected nor obtained if the command were handed to generals who were unanimously regarded as unworthy of the confidence placed in them.

My efforts were vain.

I then adopted another course. I sent an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Archduke with the request that he would resign voluntarily.

It must be admitted that Joseph Ferdinand took both a loyal and a dignified attitude, as he himself notified the Emperor that he would relinquish his command at the front. A short correspondence followed between the Archduke and myself, which on his side was couched in an indignant and not over-polite tone; this, however, I did not take amiss, as my interference had been successful in preventing his resuming the command.

His subsequent appointment as Chief of the Air Force was made without my knowledge; but this was of no importance when compared to the previous plans.

* * * * *

There is no doubt that the Byzantine atmosphere of Berlin took a more objectionable form than ever was the case in Vienna. The very idea of high dignitaries kissing the Emperor's hand, as they did in Berlin, would have been impossible in Vienna. I never heard of anyone, even among the keenest sycophants, who demeaned themselves by such an act, which in Berlin, as I know from personal observation, was an everyday occurrence. For instance, after a trip on the Meteor, during the "Kiel Week," the Emperor presented two German officials with scarf-pins as a souvenir. He handed the pins to them himself, and great was my surprise to see them kiss his hand as they thanked him.

Many foreigners were in the habit of coming for the Kiel Week: Americans, French, and English. The Emperor paid them much attention, and they nearly always succumbed to the charm of his personality. Apparently William II. had a preference for America; on the subject of his feelings regarding England it is difficult to express an opinion. My impression always was that the Emperor resented the scant sympathy shown him in England; he strove to make himself beloved, and the failure of his efforts caused him a certain annoyance. He was quite aware that the extent of his popularity in England would proportionately influence Anglo-German relations, and his desire to find favour in England did not proceed from personal vanity, but from political interests.

King Edward was known to be one of the best judges of men in all Europe, and his interest in foreign policy was predominant. He would have been an ideal ambassador. There was never a very good understanding between uncle and nephew. When the nephew was already Emperor, and his much older uncle still only a prince, the difference in their positions was characterised by the satirical Kiderlen-Waechter in the following terms: "The Prince of Wales cannot forgive his nephew, eighteen years younger than himself, for making a more brilliant career than has fallen to his lot."

Personal sympathy and personal differences in leading circles are capable of influencing the world's history. Politics are, and always will be, made by men, and individual personal relations will always play a certain part in their development. Who can to-day assert that the course of the world might not have been different had the monarchs of Germany and England been more alike in temperament? The encircling policy of King Edward was not brought into play until he was persuaded that an understanding with the Emperor William was impossible.

The difficulty the Emperor experienced in adapting himself to the ideas and views of others increased as the years went by, a state of things largely the fault of his entourage.

The atmosphere in which he lived would have killed the hardiest plant. Whatever the Emperor said or did, whether it was right or wrong, was received with enthusiastic praise and admiration. Dozens of people were always at hand to laud him to the skies.

For instance, a book was published during the war entitled, "Der Kaiser im Felde," by Dr. Bogdan Kriegen. The Emperor presented me with a copy when at Kreuznach in May, 1917, and wrote a suitable inscription inside. The book contained an accurate account of all the Emperor had done during the campaign—but it was entirely superficial matter; where he had driven to, where breakfasted, with whom he had spoken, the jokes he had made, what clothes he wore, the shining light in his eyes, etc., etc. It also recorded his speeches to the troops; dull and uninteresting words that he addressed to individual soldiers, and much more in the same strain. The whole book is impregnated and permeated with boundless admiration and unqualified praise. The Emperor gave me the book when I was leaving, and I read it through when in the train.

I was asked a few weeks later by a German officer what I thought of the book. I replied that it was trash and could only harm the Emperor, and that it should be confiscated. The officer shared my opinion, but said that the Emperor had been assured on all sides that the book was a splendid work and helped to fire the spirit of the army; he therefore had it widely distributed. Once, at a dinner at Count Hertling's, I called his attention to the book and advised him to suppress it, as such a production could only be detrimental to the Emperor. The old gentleman was very angry, and declared: "That was always the way; people who wished to ingratiate themselves with the Emperor invariably presented him with such things." A professor from the University had warmly praised the book to me, but he went on to say: "The Emperor had, of course, no time to read such stuff and repudiate the flattery; neither had he himself found time to read it, but would make a point of doing so now." I did not know much of that professor, but he certainly was not in frequent touch with the Emperor, nor was the author of the book.

In this instance, as in many others, I concluded that many of the members of the Emperor's suite were far from being in sympathy with such tendencies. The court was not the principal offender, but was carried away by the current of sycophancy.

During my period of office Prince Hohenlohe, the ambassador, had numerous interviews with the Emperor William, and invariably spoke most freely and openly to him, and yet always was on the best footing with him. This was, of course, an easier matter for a foreign ambassador than for a German of the Empire, but it proves that the Emperor accepted it when done in proper form.

In his own country the Emperor was either glorified and exalted to the skies or else scorned and scoffed at by a minority of the Press in a prejudicial manner. In the latter case it bore so evidently the stamp of personal enmity that it was discredited a priori. Had there existed earnest papers and organs that would, in dignified fashion, have discussed and criticised the Emperor's faults and failings, while recognising all his great and good qualities, it would have been much more satisfactory. Had there been more books written about him showing that the real man is quite different from what he is made to appear to be; that he is full of the best intentions and inspired with a passionate love of Germany; that in a true and profound religious sense he often wrestles with himself and his God, asking himself if he has chosen the right way; that his love for his people is far more genuine than that of many of the Germans for him; that he never has deceived them, but was constantly deceived by them—such literature would have been more efficacious and, above all, nearer the truth.

Undoubtedly the German Emperor's gifts and talents were above the average, and had he been an ordinary mortal would certainly have become a very competent officer, architect, engineer, or politician. But for lack of criticism he lost his bearings, and it caused his undoing. According to all the records the Emperor William I. was of a very different nature. Yet Bismarck often had a hard task in dealing with him, though Bismarck's loyalty and subservience to the dynastic idea made him curb his characteristically ruthless frankness. But William I. was a self-made man. When he came to the throne and began to govern his kingdom was tottering. Assisted by the very capable men he was able to find and to retain, he upheld it, and by means of Koeniggraetz and Sedan created the great German Empire. William II. came to the throne when Germany had reached the zenith of her power. He had not acquired what he possessed by his own work, as his grandfather had; it came to him without any effort on his part; a fact which had a great and far from favourable influence on his whole mental development.

The Emperor William was an entertaining and interesting causeur. One could listen to him for hours without wearying. Emperors usually enjoy the privilege of finding a ready audience, but even had the Emperor William been an ordinary citizen he would always have spoken to a crowded house. He could discourse on art, science, politics, music, religion, and astronomy in a most animated manner. What he said was not always quite correct; indeed, he often lost himself in very questionable conclusions; but the fault of boring others, the greatest of social faults, was not his.

Although the Emperor was always very powerful in speech and gesture, still, during the war he was much less independent in his actions than is usually assumed, and, in my opinion, this is one of the principal reasons that gave rise to a mistaken understanding of all the Emperor's administrative activities. Far more than the public imagine he was a driven rather than a driving factor, and if the Entente to-day claims the right of being prosecutor and judge combined in order to bring the Emperor to his trial, it is unjust and an error, as, both preceding and during the war, the Emperor William never played the part attributed to him by the Entente.

The unfortunate man has gone through much, and more is, perhaps, in store for him. He has been carried too high and cannot escape a terrible fall. Fate seems to have chosen him to expiate a sin which, if it exists at all, is not so much his as that of his country and his times. The Byzantine atmosphere in Germany was the ruin of Emperor William; it enveloped him and clung to him like a creeper to a tree; a vast crowd of flatterers and fortune-seekers who deserted him in the hour of trial. The Emperor William was merely a particularly distinctive representative of his class. All modern monarchs suffer from the disease; but it was more highly developed in the Emperor William and, therefore, more obvious than in others. Accustomed from his youth to the subtle poison of flattery, at the head of one of the greatest and mightiest states in the world, possessing almost unlimited power, he succumbed to the fatal lot that awaits men who feel the earth recede from under their feet, and who begin to believe in their Divine semblance.

He is expiating a crime which was not of his making. He can take with him in his solitude the consolation that his only desire was for the best. And notwithstanding all that is said and written about William II. in these days, the beautiful words of the text may be applied to him: "Peace on earth to men of goodwill."[4]

In his retirement from the world his good conscience will be his most precious possession.

Perhaps in the evening of his days William II. will acknowledge that there is neither happiness nor unhappiness in mortal life, but only a difference in the strength to endure one's fate.


War was never in William II.'s programme. I am not able to say where, in his own mind, he had fixed the limits he proposed for Germany and whether it was justifiable to reproach him with having gone too far in his ambition for the Fatherland. He certainly never thought of a unified German world dominion; he was not so simple as to think he could achieve that without a war, but his plan undoubtedly was permanently to establish Germany among the first Powers of the world. I know for certain that the Emperor's ideal plan was to come to a world agreement with England and, in a certain sense, to divide the world with her. In this projected division of the world a certain part was to be played by Russia and Japan, but he paid little heed to the other states, especially to France, convinced that they were all nations of declining power. To maintain that William intentionally prepared and started this war is in direct opposition to his long years of peaceful government. Helfferich, in his work "Die Vorgeschichte des Weltkrieges," speaks of the Emperor's attitude during the Balkan troubles, and says:

A telegram sent by William II. at that time to the Imperial Chancellor explains the attitude of the German Emperor in this critical position for German politics, being similar to the situation in July, 1914. The contents of the telegram are as follows: "The Alliance with Austria-Hungary compels us to take action should Austria-Hungary be attacked by Russia. In that case France would also be involved, and in those circumstances England would not long remain quiescent. The present prevailing questions of dispute cannot be compared with that danger. It cannot be the intention of the Alliance that we, the life interest of our ally not being endangered, should enter upon a life-and-death conflict for a caprice of that ally. Should it become evident that the other side intend to attack, the danger must then be faced."

This calm and decided standpoint which alone could maintain peace was also the German policy observed in further developments. It was upheld when confronted by strong pressure from Russia, as also against other tendencies and a certain transitory ill-feeling in Vienna.

Whether such feeling did exist in Vienna or not I cannot say, but I believe the account is correct.

It has already been mentioned that all the warlike speeches flung into the world by the Emperor were due to a mistaken understanding of their effect. I allow that the Emperor wished to create a sensation, even to terrify people, but he also wished to act on the principle of si vis pacem para bellum, and by emphasising the military power of Germany he endeavoured to prevent the many envious enemies of his Empire from declaring war on him.

It cannot be denied that this attitude was often both unfortunate and mistaken, and that it contributed to the outbreak of war; but it is asserted that the Emperor was devoid of the dolus of making war; that he said and did things by which he unintentionally stirred up war.

Had there been men in Germany ready to point out to the Emperor the injurious effects of his behaviour and to make him feel the growing mistrust of him throughout the world, had there been not one or two but dozens of such men, it would assuredly have made an impression on the Emperor. It is quite true that of all the inhabitants of the earth, the German is the one the least capable of adapting himself to the mentality of other people, and, as a matter of fact, there were perhaps but few in the immediate entourage of the Emperor who recognised the growing anxiety of the world. Perhaps many of those who so continuously extolled the Emperor were really honestly of opinion that his behaviour was quite correct. It is, nevertheless, impossible not to believe that among the many clever German politicians of the last decade there were some who had a clear grasp of the situation, and the fact remains that, in order to spare the Emperor and themselves, they had not the courage to be harsh with him and tell him the truth to his face. These are not reproaches, but reminiscences which should not be superfluous at a time when the Emperor is to be made the scapegoat of the whole world. Certainly, the Emperor, being such as he is, the experiment would not have passed off without there being opposition to encounter and overcome. The first among his subjects to attempt the task of enlightening the Emperor would have been looked upon with the greatest surprise; hence no one would undertake it. Had there, however, been men who, regardless of themselves, would have undertaken to do it, it would certainly have succeeded, as not only was the Emperor full of good intentions, but he was also impressionable, and consistent purposefulness on a basis of fearless honesty would have impressed him. Besides, the Emperor was a thoroughly kind and good man. It was a genuine pleasure for him to be able to do good, neither did he hate his enemies. In the summer of 1917 he spoke to me about the fate of the deposed Tsar and of his desire to help him and subsequently bring him to Germany, a desire due not to dynastic but to human motives. He stated repeatedly that he had no desire for revenge, but "only to succour his fallen adversary."

I firmly believe that the Emperor clearly saw the clouds grow blacker and blacker on the political horizon, but he was sincerely and honestly persuaded that it was not through any fault of his that they had accumulated, that they were caused by envy and jealousy, and that there was no other way of keeping the threatening war danger at bay than by an ostentatious attitude of strength and fearlessness. "Germany's power and might must daily be proclaimed to the world, for as long as they fear us they will do us no harm"—that was the doctrine that obtained on the Spree. And the echo came back from the world, "This continued boasting of German power and the perpetual attempts at intimidation prove that Germany seeks to tyrannise the world."

When war broke out the Emperor was firmly convinced that a war of defence was being forced on him, which conviction was shared by the great majority of the German people. I draw these conclusions solely from my knowledge of the Emperor and his entourage and from other information obtained indirectly. As I have already mentioned, I had not had the slightest connection with Berlin for some years previous to the war, and certainly not for two years after it broke out.

In the winter of 1917, when I met the Emperor again in my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I thought he had aged, but was still full of his former vivacity. In spite of marked demonstrations of the certainty of victory, I believe that William II. even then had begun to doubt the result of the war and that his earnest wish was to bring it to an honourable end. When in the course of one of our first conversations I urged him to spare no sacrifice to bring it to an end, he interrupted me, exclaiming: "What would you have me do? Nobody longs for peace more intensely than I do. But every day we are told that the others will not hear a word about peace until Germany has been crushed." It was a true answer, for all statements made by England culminated in the one sentence Germanium esse delendam. I endeavoured, nevertheless, to induce the Emperor to consent to the sacrifice of Alsace-Lorraine, persuaded that if France had obtained all that she looked upon in the light of a national idea she would not be inclined to continue the war. I think that, had the Emperor been positively certain that it would have ended the war, and had he not been afraid that so distressing an offer would have been considered unbearable by Germany, he would personally have agreed to it. But he was dominated by the fear that a peace involving such a loss, and after the sacrifices already made, would have driven the German people to despair. Whether he was justified in this fear or not cannot now be confirmed. In 1917, and 1918 as well, the belief in a victorious end was still so strong in Germany that it is at least doubtful whether the German people would have consented to give up Alsace-Lorraine. All the parties in the Reichstag were opposed to it, including the Social Democrats.

A German official of high standing said to me in the spring of 1918: "I had two sons; one of them fell on the field of battle, but I would rather part with the other one too than give up Alsace-Lorraine," and many were of the same opinion.

In the course of the year and a half when I had frequent opportunities of meeting the Emperor, his frame of mind had naturally gone through many different phases. Following on any great military success, and after the collapse of Russia and Roumania, his generals were always able to enrol him on their programme of victory, and it is quite a mistake to imagine that William II. unceasingly clung to the idea of "Peace above all." He wavered, was sometimes pessimistic, sometimes optimistic, and his peace aims changed in like manner. Humanly speaking, it is very comprehensible that the varying situation in the theatre of war must have influenced the individual mind, and everyone in Europe experienced such fluctuations.

Early in September, 1917, he wrote to the Emperor Charles on the subject of an impending attack on the Italian front, and in this letter was the following passage: "I trust that the possibility of a common offensive of our allied armies will raise the spirits of your Foreign Minister. In my opinion, and in view of the general situation, there is no reason to be anything but confident." Other letters and statements prove the Emperor's fluctuating frame of mind. He, as well as the diplomats in the Wilhelmstrasse, made use, with regard to the "war-weary Austria-Hungary," of such tactics as demonstrated a pronounced certainty of victory in order to strengthen our powers of resistance.

* * * * *

The Archduke Friedrich deserves the greatest praise for having kept up the friendly relations between Vienna and Berlin. It was not always easy to settle the delicate questions relating to the conduct of the war without giving offence. The honest and straightforward nature of the Archduke and his ever friendly and modest behaviour saved many a difficult situation.

After our collapse and overthrow, and when the Imperial family could be abused with impunity, certain newspapers took a delight in covering the Archduke Friedrich with contumely. It left him quite indifferent. The Prince is a distinguished character, of faultless integrity and always ready to put down abuse. He prevented many disasters, and it was not his fault if he did not succeed every time.

When I saw the Crown Prince Wilhelm again after several years, in the summer of 1917, I found him very tired of war and most anxious for peace. I had gone to the French front on purpose to meet him and to try if it were possible through him to exercise some conciliatory pressure, above all, on the military leaders. A long conversation that I had with him showed me very clearly that he—if he had ever been of warlike nature—was then a pronounced pacifist.

Extract from my Diary.

"On the Western front, 1917. We drove to the Camp des Romains, but in detachments in order not to attract the attention of the enemy artillery to our cars, for in some places the road was visible to the enemy. I drove together with Bethmann. When discussing the military leaders, he remarked: 'The generals will probably throw hand grenades at me when they see me.'

"An enemy flier cruised high up in the clouds over our heads. He circled around, paying little heed to the shrapnel bursting on all sides. The firing ceased, and the human bird soared into unapproachable heights. The artillery fire a long way off sounded like distant thunder.

"The French lines are not more than a couple of hundred metres distant from the camp. A shot fell here and there and a shell was heard to whistle; otherwise all was quiet. It was still early. The firing usually begins at ten and ceases at noon—interval for lunch—and begins again in the afternoon.

"Poincare's villa is visible on the horizon in the green landscape. A gun has been brought to bear on the house—they mean to destroy it before leaving—they call this the extreme unction.

"The daily artillery duel began on our return drive, and kept up an incessant roar.

"St. Mihiel.

"We stopped at St. Mihiel, where many French people still remain. They were detained as hostages to prevent the town from being fired at. People were standing about in the streets watching the cars go by.

"I spoke to an old woman, who sat by herself on her house-steps. She said: 'This disaster can never be made good, and it cannot well be worse than it is now. It is quite the same to me what happens. I do not belong here; my only son has been killed and my house is burnt. Nothing is left me but my hatred of the Germans, and I bequeath that to France.' And she gazed past me into vacancy. She spoke quite without passion, but was terribly sad.

"This terrible hatred! Generations will go to their graves before the flood of hatred is abated. Would a settlement, a peace of understanding, be possible with this spirit of the nations? Will it not end by one of them being felled to earth and annihilated?

"St. Privat.

"We passed through St. Privat on our way to Metz. Monuments that tell the tale of 1870 stand along the road. Everywhere the soil is historic, soaked in blood. Every spot, every stone, is reminiscent of past great times. It was here that the seed was sown that brought forth the plan of revenge that is being fought for now.

"Bethmann seemed to divine my thoughts. 'Yes,' he said, 'that sacrifice would be easier for Germany to bear than to part with Alsace-Lorraine, which would close one of the most brilliant episodes in her history.'


"On the way to the Crown Prince's quarters. There stands the little house where the historic meeting between Napoleon III. and Bismarck took place. The woman who lived there at the time died only a few weeks ago. For the second time she saw the Germans arrive, bringing a Moltke but no Bismarck with them, a detail, however, that cannot deeply have interested the old lady.

"With the Crown Prince.

"A pretty little house outside the town. I found a message from the Crown Prince asking me to proceed there immediately, where I had almost an hour's private conversation with him before supper.

"I do not know if the Crown Prince ever was of a warlike disposition, as people say, but he is so no longer. He longs for peace, but does not know how to secure it. He spoke very quietly and sensibly. He was also in favour of territorial sacrifices, but seemed to think that Germany would not allow it. The great difficulty lay in the contrast between the actual military situation, the confident expectations of the generals, and the fears entertained by the military laymen. Besides, it is not only Alsace-Lorraine. The suppression of German militarism spoken of in London means the one-sided disarmament of Germany. Can an army far advanced on enemy soil whose generals are confident of final victory, can a people still undefeated tolerate that?

"I advised the Crown Prince to speak to his father on the question of abdication, in which he fully agreed. I then invited him to come to Vienna on behalf of the Emperor, which he promised to do as soon as he could get leave."

On my return the Emperor wrote him a letter, drawn up by me, which contained the following passage:

My Minister for Foreign Affairs has informed me of the interesting conversation he had the honour to have with you, and it has been a great pleasure to me to hear all your statements, which so exactly reflect my own views of the situation. Notwithstanding the superhuman exertions of our troops, the situation throughout the country demands that a stop be put to the war before winter, in Germany as well as here. Turkey will not be with us much longer, and with her we shall also lose Bulgaria; we two will then be alone, and next spring will bring America and a still stronger Entente. From other sources there are distinct signs that we could win over France if Germany could make up her mind to certain territorial sacrifices in Alsace-Lorraine. With France secured to us we are the conquerors, and Germany will obtain elsewhere ample compensation. But I cannot allow Germany to be the only one to make a sacrifice. I too will take the lion's share of sacrifice, and have informed His Majesty your father that under the above conditions I am prepared not only to dispense with the whole of Poland, but to cede Galicia to her and to assist in combining that state with Germany, who would thus acquire a state in the East while yielding up a portion of her soil in the West. In 1915, at the request of Germany and in the interests of our Alliance, we offered the Trentino to faithless Italy without asking for compensation in order to avert war. Germany is now in a similar situation, though with far better prospects. You, as heir to the German Imperial crown, are privileged to have a say in the matter, and I know that His Majesty your father entirely shares this view respecting your co-operation. I beg of you, therefore, in this decisive hour for Germany and Austria-Hungary, to consider the whole situation and to unite your efforts with mine to bring the war to a rapid and honourable end. If Germany persists in her standpoint of refusal and thus wrecks the hope of a possible peace the situation in Austria-Hungary will become extremely critical.

I should be very glad to have a talk with you as soon as possible, and your promise conveyed through Count Czernin soon to pay us a visit gives me the greatest pleasure.

The Crown Prince's answer was very friendly and full of anxiety to help, though it was also obvious that the German military leaders had succeeded in nipping his efforts in the bud. When I met Ludendorff some time afterwards in Berlin this was fully confirmed by the words he flung at me: "What have you been doing to our Crown Prince? He had turned very slack, but we have stiffened him up again."

The game remained the same. The last war period in Germany was controlled by one will only, and that was Ludendorff's. His thoughts were centred on fighting, his soul on victory.


[4] This is a literal rendering of the famous text from the German.




My appointment as ambassador to Bucharest in the autumn of 1913 came as a complete surprise to me, and was much against my wishes. The initiative in the matter came from the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I had never had any doubt that sooner or later the Archduke would take part in politics, but it took me by surprise that he should do so in the Emperor Francis Joseph's lifetime.

A great difference of opinion prevailed then in Vienna on the Roumanian question, a pro-Roumanian spirit fighting against an anti-Roumanian one. The head of the former party was the Archduke Franz, and with him, though in less marked degree, was Berchtold. Tisza was the leader on the other side, and carried with him almost the entire Hungarian Parliament. The pro-Roumanians wished Roumania to be more closely linked to the Monarchy; the others, to replace that alliance by one with Bulgaria; but both were unanimous in seeking for a clear knowledge of how matters stood with the alliance, and whether we had a friend or a foe on the other side of the Carpathians. My predecessor, Karl Fuerstenberg, had sent in a very clear and correct report on the subject, but he shared the fate of so many ambassadors: his word was not believed.

The actual task assigned to me was, first of all to find out whether this alliance was of any practical value, and if I thought not to suggest ways and means of justifying its existence.

I must mention in this connection that my appointment as ambassador to Bucharest had raised a perfect storm in the Hungarian Parliament. The reason for this widely spread indignation in Hungary at my selection for the post was owing to a pamphlet I had written some years previously, in which I certainly had attacked the Magyar policy somewhat vehemently. I maintained the standpoint that a policy of suppression of the nations was not tenable in the long run, and that no future was in store for Hungary unless she definitely abolished that policy and allowed the nations equal rights. This pamphlet gave serious displeasure in Budapest, and representatives in the Hungarian Parliament were afraid I should introduce that policy in Roumania, which, following the spirit of the pamphlet, was directed against the official policy of Vienna and Budapest. It was at this period that I made Tisza's acquaintance. I had a long and very frank conversation with him on the whole subject, and explained to him that I must uphold the standpoint I put forward in my pamphlet, as it tallied with my convictions, but that I clearly saw that from the moment I accepted the post of ambassador I was bound to consider myself as a part of the great state machinery, and loyally support the policy emanating from the Ballplatz. I still maintain that my standpoint is perfectly justifiable. A unified policy would be utterly impossible if every subordinate official were to publish his own views, whether right or wrong, and I for my part would never, as Minister, have tolerated an ambassador who attempted to pursue an independent policy of his own. Tisza begged me to give my word of honour that I would make no attempt to introduce a policy opposed to that of Vienna and Budapest, to which I readily agreed, provided that the Archduke was agreeable to such decision. I then had a conversation with the latter, and found that he quite agreed with my action, his argument being that as long as he was the heir to the throne he would never attempt to introduce a policy opposed to that of the Emperor; consequently he would not expect it from me either. But should he come to the throne he would certainly make an effort to carry out his own views, in which case I should no longer be at Bucharest, but probably in some post where I would be in a position to support his efforts. The Archduke begged me for the sake of my friendship for him to accept the post, which I finally decided to do after I obtained a promise from Berchtold that, at the end of two years as the longest term, he would put no obstacle in the way of my retirement.

The Archduke Franz drew his pro-Roumanian proclivities from a very unreliable source. He hardly knew Roumania at all. So far as I know, he had only once been in the country, and paid a short visit to King Carol at Sinaia; but the friendly welcome accorded to himself and his wife by the old King and Queen entirely took his warm heart by storm, and he mistook King Carol for Roumania. This is again a proof how greatly the individual relations of great personalities can influence the policy of nations. The royal couple met the Archduke at the station; the Queen embraced and kissed the duchess and, placing her at her right side, drove with her to the castle. In short, it was the first time that the Duchess of Hohenberg had been treated as enjoying equal privileges with her husband. During his short stay in Roumania the Archduke had the pleasure of seeing his wife treated as his equal and not as a person of slight importance, always relegated to the background. At the court balls in Vienna the duchess was always obliged to walk behind all the archduchesses, and never had any gentleman allotted to her whose arm she could take. In Roumania she was his wife, and etiquette was not concerned with her birth. The Archduke valued this proof of friendly tactfulness on the part of the King very highly, and always afterwards Roumania, in his eyes, was endowed with a special charm. Besides which he very correctly estimated that a change in certain political relations would effect a closer alliance between Roumania and ourselves. He felt, rather than knew, that the Transylvanian question lay like a huge obstacle between Vienna and Bucharest, and that this obstacle once removed would alter the entire situation.

To find out the real condition of the alliance was my first task, and it was not difficult, as the first lengthy conferences I had with King Carol left no doubt in my mind that the old King himself considered the alliance very unsafe. King Carol was an exceptionally clever man, very cautious and deliberate, and it was not easy to make him talk if he intended to be silent. The question of the vitality of the alliance was settled by my suggesting to the King that the alliance should receive pragmatic sanction, i.e. be ratified by the Parliaments at Vienna, Budapest, and Bucharest. The alarm evinced by the King at the suggestion, the very idea that the carefully guarded secret of the existence of an alliance should be divulged, proved to me how totally impossible it would be, in the circumstances, to infuse fresh life into such dead matter.

My reports sent to the Ballplatz leave no doubt that I answered this first question by declaring in categorical fashion that the alliance with Roumania was, under the existing conditions, nothing but a scrap of paper.

The second question, as to whether there were ways and means of restoring vitality to the alliance, and what they were, was theoretically just as easy to answer as difficult to carry out in practice. As already mentioned, the real obstacle in the way of closer relations between Bucharest and Vienna was the question of Great Roumania; in other words, the Roumanian desire for national union with her "brothers in Transylvania." This was naturally quite opposed to the Hungarian standpoint. It is interesting, as well as characteristic of the then situation, that shortly after my taking up office in Roumania, Nikolai Filippescu (known later as a war fanatic) proposed that Roumania should join with Transylvania and the whole of united Great Roumania enter into relations with the Monarchy similar to the relation of Bavaria to the German Empire. I admit that I welcomed the idea warmly, for if it were launched by a party which justly was held to be antagonistic to the Monarchy there can be no doubt that the moderate element in Roumania would have accepted it with still greater satisfaction. I still believe that had this plan been carried out it would have led to a real linking of Roumania to the Monarchy, that the notification would have met with no opposition, and consequently the outbreak of war would have found us very differently situated. Unfortunately the plan failed at its very first stage owing to Tisza's strong and obstinate resistance. The Emperor Francis Joseph held the same standpoint as Tisza, and it was out of the question to achieve anything by arguing. On the other hand, nobody had any idea then that the great war, and with it the testing of the alliance, was so imminent, and I consoled myself for my unsuccessful efforts in the firm hope that this grand plan, as it seemed to me both then and now, would be realised one day under the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

When I arrived in Roumania a change was proceeding in the Government. Majorescu's Conservative Ministry gave way to the Liberal Ministry of Bratianu. King Carol's policy of government was very peculiar. From the very first his principle was never to proceed with violence or even much energy against injurious tendencies in his own country; but, on the contrary, always to yield to the numerous claims made by extortioners. He knew his people thoroughly, and knew that both parties, Conservatives and Liberals, must alternately have access to the manger until thoroughly satisfied and ready to make room the one for the other. Almost every change in the Government was accomplished in that manner: the Opposition, desirous of coming into power, began with threats and hints at revolution. Some highly unreasonable claim would be put forward and vehemently insisted upon and the people incited to follow it up; the Government would retire, unable to accede to the demands, and the Opposition, once in power, would show no further signs of keeping their promise. The old King was well versed in the game; he allowed the opposition tide to rise to the highest possible limit, when he effected the necessary change of individuals and looked on until the game began again. It is the custom in Roumania, when a new party comes into power, to change the whole personnel, even down to the lowest officials. This arrangement, obviously, has its drawbacks, though on the other hand it cannot be denied that it is a practical one.

In this manner the Bratianu Ministry came into office in 1913. Majorescu's Government gave entire satisfaction to the King and the moderate elements in the country. In the eyes of the Roumanians he had just achieved a great diplomatic success by the Peace of Bucharest and the acquisition of the Dobrudsha, when Bratianu came forward with a demand for vast agrarian reforms. These reforms are one of the hobby-horses of Roumanian policy which is always mounted when it is a question of making use of the poor unfortunate peasants, and the manoeuvre invariably succeeds, largely owing to the lack of intelligence prevailing among the peasant population of Roumania, who are constantly made the tools of one or other party, and simply pushed on one side when the object has been obtained. Bratianu also, once he was in office, gave no thought to the fulfilment of his promises, but calmly proceeded on the lines Majorescu had laid down in his time.

Still, it was more difficult to arrive at a satisfactory settlement in foreign affairs with Bratianu than it had been with Majorescu, as the former was thoroughly conversant with all West European matters, and at the bottom of his heart was anti-German. One of the distinctions to be made between Liberals and Conservatives was that the Liberals had enjoyed a Parisian education: they spoke no German, only French; while the Conservatives, taking Carp and Majorescu as models, were offshoots of Berlin. As it was impossible to carry out the plan of firmly and definitely linking Roumania to us by a change of Hungarian internal policy, the idea naturally, almost automatically, arose to substitute Bulgaria for Roumania. This idea, which found special favour with Count Tisza, could be carried out, both because, since the Bucharest peace of 1913, it was out of the question to bring Roumania and Bulgaria under one roof, and because an alliance with Sofia would have driven Roumania straight into the enemy camp. But Berchtold, as well as the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was opposed to this latter eventuality, nor would the Emperor Francis Joseph have approved of such proceedings. Hence no change was made; Roumania was not won, nor was Bulgaria substituted for her, and they were content in Vienna to leave everything to the future.

In a social sense the year that I spent in Roumania before the war was not an unpleasant one. The relations of an Austrian-Hungarian Ambassador with the court, as with the numerous Bojars, were pleasant and friendly, and nobody could then have imagined what torrents of hatred were so soon to be launched against the Austro-Hungarian frontiers.

Social life became less pleasant during the war, as will be seen from the following instance. There lived at Bucharest a certain Lieut.-Colonel Prince Sturdza, who was a noted braggart and brawler and an inveterate enemy of Austria-Hungary. I did not know him personally, and there was no personal reason for him to begin one day to abuse me publicly in the papers as being an advocate of the Monarchy. I naturally took not the slightest notice of his article, whereupon he addressed an open letter to me in the Adeverul, in which he informed me that he would box my ears at the first opportunity. I telegraphed to Berchtold and asked the Emperor's permission to challenge this individual, as, being an officer, he was, according to our ideas, entitled to satisfaction. The Emperor sent word that it was out of the question for an ambassador to fight a duel in the country to which he was accredited, and that I was to complain to the Roumanian Government. I accordingly went to Bratianu, who declared that he was totally unable to move in the matter. According to the laws and regulations of the country it was impossible to protect a foreign ambassador against such abuse. If Sturdza carried out his threats he would be arrested. Until then nothing could be done.

Upon this I assured Bratianu that if such were the case I would in future arm myself with a revolver, and if he attacked me shoot the man; if one lived in a country where the habits of the Wild West obtained, one must act accordingly. I sent word to the lieutenant-colonel that each day, at one o'clock, I could be found at the Hotel Boulevard, where he would find a bullet awaiting him.

The next time I saw the Emperor Francis Joseph he asked for further information concerning the episode, and I told him of my conversation with Bratianu and of my firm intention to be my own helper. The Emperor rejoined: "Naturally you cannot allow yourself to be beaten. You are quite right; if he lays hands on you, shoot him."

I afterwards met Sturdza several times in restaurants and drawing-rooms without his attempting to carry out his threats. This man, whose nature was that of a daring adventurer, afterwards deserted to the Russian army, and fought against us at a time when Roumania still was neutral. I then completely lost sight of him.

The absolute freedom of the Press in the Balkan States, combined with the brutality of the prevailing customs, produced the most varied results, even going so far as abuse of their own kings. In this connection King Carol gave me many drastic instances. While King Ferdinand was still neutral, one of the comic papers contained a picture of the King taking aim at a hare, while underneath were these words, supposed to come from the hare: "My friend, you have long ears, I have long ears; you are a coward, I am a coward. Wherefore would my brother shoot me?"

On the day when war broke out this freedom of the Press was diverted into a different channel and replaced by the severest control and censorship.

Roumania is a land of contrasts, both as regards the landscape, the climate, and social conditions. The mountainous north, with the wonderful Carpathians, is one of the most beautiful districts. Then there are the endless, unspeakably monotonous, but fertile plains of Wallachia, leading into the valley of the Danube, which is a very Paradise. In spring particularly, when the Danube each year overflows its banks, the beauty of the landscape baffles description. It is reminiscent of the tropics, with virgin forests standing in the water, and islands covered with luxuriant growth scattered here and there. It is an ideal country for the sportsman. All kinds of birds, herons, ducks, pelicans, and others, are to be met with, besides wolves and wild cats, and days may be spent in rowing and walking in this Paradise without wearying of it.

The Roumanians usually care but little for sport, being averse to physical exertion. Whenever they can they leave the country and spend their time in Paris or on the Riviera. This love of travel is so strong in them that a law was passed compelling them to spend a certain portion of the year in their own country or else pay the penalty of a higher tax. The country people, in their sad poverty, form a great contrast to the enormously wealthy Bojars. Although very backward in everything relating to culture, the Roumanian peasant is a busy, quiet, and easily satisfied type, unpretentious to a touching degree when compared with the upper classes.

Social conditions among the upper ten thousand have been greatly complicated owing to the abolition of nobility, whereby the question of titles plays a part unequalled anywhere else in the world. Almost every Roumanian has a title derived from one or other source; he values it highly, and takes it much amiss when a foreigner betrays his ignorance on the subject. As a rule, it is safer to adopt the plan of addressing everyone as "Mon prince." Another matter difficult for a foreigner to grasp is the real status of Roumanian society, owing to the incessant divorce and subsequent remarriages. Nearly every woman has been divorced at least once and married again, the result being, on the one hand, the most complicated questions of relationship, and, on the other, so many breaches of personal relations as to make it the most difficult task to invite twenty Roumanians, particularly ladies, to dinner without giving offence in some quarter.

In the days of the old regime it was one of the duties of the younger members of the Embassy to develop their budding diplomatic talents by a clever compilation of the list for such a dinner and a wise avoidance of any dangerous rock ahead. But as the question of rank in Roumania is taken just as seriously as though it were authorised, every lady claims to have first rank—the correct allotment of places at a dinner is really a question for the most efficient diplomatic capacities. There were about a dozen ladies in Bucharest who would actually not accept an invitation unless they were quite sure the place of honour would be given to them.

My predecessor cut the Gordian knot of these difficulties by arranging to have dinner served at small separate tables, thus securing several places of honour, but not even by these means could he satisfy the ambition of all.


While at Sinaia I received the news of the assassination of the Archduke from Bratianu. I was confined to bed, suffering from influenza, when Bratianu telephoned to ask if I had heard that there had been an accident to the Archduke's train in Bosnia, and that both he and the duchess were killed. Soon after this first alarm came further news, leaving no doubt as to the gravity of the catastrophe. The first impression in Roumania was one of profound and sincere sympathy and genuine consternation. Roumania never expected by means of war to succeed in realising her national ambitions; she only indulged in the hope that a friendly agreement with the Monarchy would lead to the union of all Roumanians, and in that connection Bucharest centred all its hopes in the Archduke and heir to the throne. His death seemed to end the dream of a Greater Roumania, and the genuine grief displayed in all circles in Roumania was the outcome of that feeling. Take Jonescu, on learning the news while in my wife's drawing-room, wept bitterly; and the condolences that I received were not of the usual nature of such messages, but were expressions of the most genuine sorrow. Poklewski, the Russian Ambassador, is said to have remarked very brutally that there was no reason to make so much out of the event, and the general indignation that his words aroused proved how strong was the sympathy felt in the country for the murdered Archduke.

When the ultimatum was made known the entire situation changed at once. I never had any illusions respecting the Roumanian psychology, and was quite clear in my own mind that the sincere regret at the Archduke's death was due to egotistical motives and to the fear of being compelled now to abandon the national ambition. The ultimatum and the danger of war threatening on the horizon completely altered the Roumanian attitude, and it was suddenly recognised that Roumania could achieve its object by other means, not by peace, but by war—not with, but against the Monarchy. I would never have believed it possible that such a rapid and total change could have occurred practically within a few hours. Genuine and simulated indignation at the tone of the ultimatum was the order of the day, and the universal conclusion arrived at was: L'Autriche est devenue folle. Men and women with whom I had been on a perfectly friendly footing for the last year suddenly became bitter enemies. Everywhere I noticed a mixture of indignation and growing eagerness to realise at last their heart's dearest wish. The feeling in certain circles fluctuated for some days. Roumanians had a great respect for Germany's military power, and the year 1870 was still fresh in the memory of many of them. When England, however, joined the ranks of our adversaries their fears vanished, and from that moment it became obvious to the large majority of the Roumanians that the realisation of their aspirations was merely a question of time and of diplomatic efficiency. The wave of hatred and lust of conquest that broke over us in the first stage of the war was much stronger than in later stages, because the Roumanians made the mistake we all have committed of reckoning on too short a duration of the war, and therefore imagined the decision to be nearer at hand than it actually was. After the great German successes in the West, after Goerlitz and the downfall of Serbia, certain tendencies pointing to a policy of delay became noticeable among the Roumanians. With the exception of Carp and his little group all were more or less ready at the very first to fling themselves upon us.

Like a rock standing in the angry sea of hatred, poor old King Carol was alone with his German sympathies. I had been instructed to read the ultimatum to him the moment it was sent to Belgrade, and never shall I forget the impression it made on the old King when he heard it. He, wise old politician that he was, recognised at once the immeasurable possibilities of such a step, and before I had finished reading the document he interrupted me, exclaiming: "It will be a world war." It was long before he could collect himself and begin to devise ways and means by which a peaceful solution might still be found. I may mention here that a short time previously the Tsar, with Sassonoff, had been in Constanza for a meeting with the Roumanian royal family. The day after the Tsar left I went to Constanza myself to thank the King for having conferred the Grand Cross of one of the Roumanian orders on me, obviously as a proof that the Russian visit had not made him forget our alliance, and he gave me some interesting details of the said visit. Most interesting of all was his account of the conversations with the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs. On asking whether Sassonoff considered the situation in Europe to be as safe as he (the King) did, Sassonoff answered in the affirmative, "pourvu que l'Autriche ne touche pas a la Serbie." I at once, of course, reported this momentous statement to Vienna; but neither by the King nor by myself, nor yet in Vienna, was the train of thought then fully understood. The relations between Serbia and the Monarchy were at that time no worse than usual; indeed, they were rather better, and there was not the slightest intention on our part to injure the Serbians. But the suspicion that Sassonoff already then was aware that the Serbians were planning something against us cannot be got rid of.

When the King asked me whether I had reported Sassonoff's important remark to Vienna, I replied that I had done so, and added that this remark was another reason to make me believe that the assassination was a crime long since prepared and carried out under Russian patronage.

The crime that was enacted at Debruzin, which made such a sensation at the time, gave rise to suspicions of a Russo-Roumanian attempt at assassination.

On February 24, 1914, the Hungarian Correspondence Bureau published the following piece of news:

A terrible explosion took place this morning in the official premises of the newly-instituted Greek-Catholic Hungarian bishopric, which are on the second floor of the Ministry of Trade and Commerce in the Franz Deak Street. It occurred in the office of the bishop's representative, the Vicar Michael Jaczkovics, whose secretary, Johann Slapowszky, was also present in the room. Both of them were blown to pieces. The Greek-Catholic bishop, Stephan Miklossy, was in a neighbouring room, but had a most marvellous escape. Alexander Csatth, advocate and solicitor to the bishopric, who was in another room, was mortally wounded by the explosion. In a third room the bishop's servant with his wife were both killed. All the walls in the office premises fell in, and the whole building is very much damaged. The explosion caused such a panic in the house that all the inhabitants took flight and vanished. All the windows of the neighbouring Town Hall in the Verboczy Street were shattered by the concussion. Loose tiles were hurled into the street and many passers-by were injured. The four dead bodies and the wounded were taken to the hospital. The bishop, greatly distressed, left the building and went to a friend's house. The daughter of the Vicar Jaczkovics went out of her mind on hearing of her father's tragic death. The cause of the explosion has not yet been discovered.

I soon became involved in the affair when Hungary and Roumania began mutually to blame one another as originators of the outrage. This led to numerous interventions and adjustments, and my task was intensified because a presumed accomplice of the murderer Catarau was arrested in Bucharest, and his extradition to Hungary had to be effected by me. This man, of the name of Mandazescu, was accused of having obtained a false passport for Catarau.

Catarau, who was a Roumanian Russian from Bessarabia, vanished completely after the murder and left no trace. News came, now from Serbia, then from Albania, that he had been found, but the rumours were always false. I chanced to hear something about the matter in this way. I was on board a Roumanian vessel bound from Constanza to Constantinople, when I accidentally overheard two Roumanian naval officers talking together. One of them said: "That was on the day when the police brought Catarau on board to help him to get away secretly."

Catarau was heard of later at Cairo, which he appears to have reached with the aid of Roumanian friends.

It cannot be asserted that the Roumanian Government was implicated in the plot—but the Roumanian authorities certainly were, for in the Balkans, as in Russia, there are many bands like the Cerna Ruka, the Narodna Odbrena, etc., etc., who carry on their activities alongside the Government.

It was a crime committed by some Russian or Roumanian secret society, and the Governments of both countries showed surprisingly little interest in investigating the matter and delivering the culprits up to justice.

On June 15 I heard from a reliable source that Catarau had been seen in Bucharest. He walked about the streets quite openly in broad daylight, and no one interfered with him; then he disappeared.

To return, however, to my interview with the old King. Filled with alarm, he dispatched that same evening two telegrams, one to Belgrade and one to Petersburg, urging that the ultimatum be accepted without fail.

The terrible distress of mind felt by the King when, like a sudden flash of lightning from the clouds, he saw before him a picture of the world war may be accounted for because he felt certain that the conflict between his personal convictions and his people's attitude would suddenly be known to all. The poor old King fought the fight to the best of his ability, but it killed him. King Carol's death was caused by the war. The last weeks of his life were a torture to him; each message that I had to deliver he felt as the lash of a whip. I was enjoined to do all I could to secure Roumania's prompt co-operation, according to the terms of the Alliance, and I was even obliged to go so far as to remind him that "a promise given allows of no prevarication: that a treaty is a treaty, and his honour obliged him to unsheathe his sword." I recollect one particularly painful scene, where the King, weeping bitterly, flung himself across his writing-table and with trembling hands tried to wrench from his neck his order Pour le Merite. I can affirm without any exaggeration that I could see him wasting away under the ceaseless moral blows dealt to him, and that the mental torment he went through undoubtedly shortened his life.

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