Kaiser and Winston Churchill
Churchill’s interest in military affairs continued throughout his life. This 1909 photograph shows him attending German Army maneuvers with Kaiser Wilhelm. Churchill explained the Kaiser’s restlessness: “All he wished was to feel like Napoleon, and be like him without having had to fight his battles…If you are the summit of a volcano, the least you can do is to smoke. So he smoked, a pillar of cloud by day and the gleam of fire by night, to all who gazed from afar; and slowly and surely these perturbed observers gathered and joined themselves together for mutual protection.” Yet, Churchill observed with an eagle eye Germany’s ever increasing military preparations. Through their mutual friend, Sir Ernest Cassel, Churchill and Kaiser Wilhelm II even exchanged naval laws and other important military details in the days leading to WWI. This is against the words of King Edward VII who noted that Churchill should not be “too communicative and frank with his nephew”, the Kaiser.
The desk on which the Kaiser signed the declaration of war was made out of wood from HMS Victory and is carved in the form of Nelson’s ship Victory. Along the back of the desk are flags forming Nelson’s signal: “England expects this day that every man will do his duty.” In 1930, Churchill would pay the Kaiser a compliment which was also a somber comment on the 20th Century: “Time has brought him a surprising and paradoxical revenge upon his conquerors…The greater part of Europe…would regard the Hohenzollern restoration…as a comparatively hopeful event…This is not because his own personal light burns the brighter…but because of the increasing darkness around. The victorious democracies in driving out hereditary sovereigns supposed they were moving on the path of progress. They have in fact gone further and fared worse.”
[See Churchill’s appraisal of Kaiser Wilhelm in his Great Contemporaries.]