‘Dropping the Pilot’ — Kaiser Wilhelm II and the New Course

  • Richard Scully
Part of the Britain and the World book series (BAW)


The rapid transitions between the dignified monarchy of Wilhelm I, to the brief, tragic reign of Friedrich, followed by the accession of the much younger Wilhelm II, produced a wide variety of reactions from cartoonists of the comic weeklies.1 While the response to the death of Wilhelm I was uniformly respectful (and that towards the cancer-stricken Friedrich similarly courteous), the advent of the impetuous, energetic Wilhelm II was met with expressions ranging from ridicule or outright suspicion of the young monarch’s military pretensions, to a quiet willingness to await the outcome of events before passing judgement on the new regime.2 Just as in the Bismarckian, so too in the Wilhelmine period, the image of Germany itself became subsumed under representations of a single individual, and ideas about his personal character as well as political standing. But even more so than Bismarck (or the other monarchs who acted as ‘deputies’ (Stellvertreter) for their respective cartoon nations), Wilhelm II seemed not only a representative, but the very incarnation of the ‘waxing vigour’ of his nation; his upturned moustache and preference for personal display all but ensuring that he would become a favourite of cartoonists of all persuasions.3 The very youth of the Kaiser himself (he was only 29 when he ascended the throne), combined with his insistence upon inaugurating a ‘Personal Regime’ in Germany, and his status as the grandson of Queen Victoria, were all combined to form an ironic image of a child-Kaiser.4


Cartoon Image German Trade British Trade British Attitude German Press 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 7.
    Lord Salisbury, Letter to Queen Victoria, 13 October 1888, in Cecil, ‘History as family chronicle’, p. 101.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    G. Saunders, Letter to W. Bell (Managing Director, The Times), 14 June 1902, quoted in The History of the Times: Volume 3 – The Twentieth Century Test, 1884–1912, London: Times Books, 1947, p. 365.Google Scholar
  3. 10.
    Cecil, Wilhelm II, 1989, pp. 128–30.Google Scholar
  4. 17.
    R. C. G. Price, A History of ‘Punch’, London: Collins, 1957, p. 130.Google Scholar
  5. 22.
    Wilhelm II, speech to the Brandenburger Landtag, quoted in ‘The German Emperor on Grumbling’, The Times, 25 February 1892, p. 5; E. Ludwig, Kaiser Wilhelm II, E. Colburn Mayne (trans.), London: G. P. Putnam & Sons, 1928, p. 282.Google Scholar
  6. 25.
    ‘Germany’, The Times, 5 March 1892, p. 11; M. H. Spielmann, The History of ‘Punch’, London: Cassell & Company, 1895, p. 192.Google Scholar
  7. 26.
    R. Scully, ‘Mr Punch versus the Kaiser, 1892–1898: Flashpoints of a Complex Relationship’, International Journal of Comic Art, 13: 2, Fall 2011, pp. 553–78.Google Scholar
  8. 34.
    MacDonough, The Last Kaiser, Figure 13 (between pp. 212–13); J. C. G. Röhl, Wilhelm II: The Kaiser’s Personal Monarchy, 1888–1900, S. de Bellaigue (trans.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 504–17.Google Scholar
  9. 40.
    L. Reinermann, Der Kaiser in England: Wilhelm II und sein Bild in der britischen öffentlichkeit, Paderborn: Fedinand Schöningh, 2001, pp. 193–206; J. C. G. Röhl, ‘The Kaiser and England’, in Birke, Brechtken and Searle (eds), An Anglo-German Dialogue, pp. 97–113.Google Scholar
  10. 55.
    Frank Hardie, The Political Influence of Queen Victoria, 1861–1901, London: Frank Cass & Co., 1963, p. 197.Google Scholar
  11. 57.
    Sir Theodore Martin, Letter to Queen Victoria, 13 January 1898, in G. E. Buckle (ed.), The Letters of Queen Victoria, Third Series: A Selection from Her Majesty’s correspondence and journal between the years 1886 and 1901, Volume III: 1896–1901. London: John Murray, 1932, p. 224.Google Scholar
  12. 69.
    See Bender, Der Burenkrieg und die deutschsprachige Presse, pp. 232ff; William Mulligan, The Origins of the First World War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 144.Google Scholar
  13. 70.
    J. L. Garvin, The Life of Joseph Chamberlain, Volume III: 1895–1900, Empire and World Policy, London: Macmillan & Co., 1934, p. 504.Google Scholar
  14. 73.
    Hale, Publicity and Diplomacy, pp. 211–16; P. T. Marsh, Joseph Chamberlain: Entrepreneur in Politics, New Haven: Yale University press, 1994, pp. 479–80; Kennedy, Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism, p. 242.Google Scholar
  15. 74.
    Kennedy, Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism, 239–41; Salisbury, Memorandum of 29 May 1901, in J. Joll (ed.), Britain and Europe: Pitt to Churchill, 1793–1940, London: Black, 1961, p. 200.Google Scholar
  16. 84.
    ‘One Who Knows’, Punch, 13 February 1901, p. 127; T. Rennell, Last Days of Glory: the Death of Queen Victoria, London: Viking, 2000, p. 219.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Scully 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Scully
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New EnglandAustralia

Personalised recommendations