THE KAISER by Virginia Cowles
Kirkus Star


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He was a royal clown of some talents constantly in costume change: affectionate and autocratic, mystical and martial, playful and priggish, overbearing and oversensitive, he strutted about in a spit and polish court addressing the world. ""I think I have a mission to destroy Gaul,"" he said, ""like Julius Caesar"". He had a crippled arm and a somewhat crippled spirit. His mother, Queen Victoria's daughter, ""felt like a hen who had hatched an ugly duckling"". He came to the throne at 29 and entered into conflicts and crises: he dismissed Bismarck, fostered both imperialist and nationalist interests, built up the Navy, flirted with diplomacy-from-the-top, alienating first England, then Russia. At the Wilhelmstrasse his advisers ran round like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; his best friend, Count Eulenburg, he left in the lurch; over the Moroccan and Balkan fracas he sought to keep cool, but as an ""instrument of the Divine Will"" meddling was his middle name. He wanted (as his subjects suspected) ""to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral"". He was William II, the head of the House of Hohenzollern, the Kaiser who led the German people during WWI and who went down to disgrace and defeat. A tale told by Virginia Cowles with just the right coolness of approach, closeness in observation and tactfully trenchant discussion of psychological, political and historical details. It is also a cunningly impersonal characterization of the man who called himself the ""most misused man on earth"". While there has been a resurgence of interest in World War I, this is the first biography of ""Willie"" in some years- a fascinating book about a fascinating historical/psychological case.

Publisher: Harper & Row