William II, Emperor of Germany (the Kaiser) came on a visit to England in 1908, and stayed for a while with Colonel Stuart-Wortley. After one of their conversations the latter wrote a letter/ article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper revealing what the Kaiser had said to him, no doubt after a fulfilling luncheon.
William the Kaiser had said (according to Wortley) that most Germans were anti-British, and that he had personally stayed neutral during the South-African War (1899 – 1902), though he knew Germans were pro-Afrikaner. He boasted that he had prevented the creation of an anti-British coalition at the time, but he also told Wortley that he was supervising great additions to the German Navy.
The article was published and caused a sensation in both countries. Many Germans wrote to the Telegraph expressing their undying love for Britain, and vice-versa. William himself protested that he had handed a copy of the original letter to Chancellor von Bülow for approval. That gentleman admitted that he had been too involved with the Bosnian Question (there is always a ‘Bosnian Question’) to read it and had passed it without reading.
This piece of news encouraged the opposition parties in the Reichstag to attack von Bülow for allowing the letter to be sent, and everybody criticised the Emperor for writing it in the first place, thus involving himself needlessly in government affairs. This criticism incensed William (who suffered from an excess of pride) but he did promise to sign a statement showing that he respected the Constitution.
William was very upset by all the outrage, and naturally furious with the British colonel for leaking his comments in what was obviously a private conversation. After a while he recovered from the blow, though he talked often of resignation, which, if it had happened, might possibly have helped avoid the First World War. He forgave neither Búlow or Stuart-Wortley, Bülow for what he considered to be disloyalty, and Wortley for taking advantage of a private chat.
Typically, the affair provided an opportunity for the Reichstag to demand an increase in its powers at the expense of the Emperor’s. Nothing was done however, as the political parties had no intention of uniting, which would have been necessary.
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