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THE KING (Frederick III) LIVES!

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  • THE KING (Frederick III) LIVES!

    (Willy is nonplussed )

    Frederick III of Prussia/Imperial Germany survives his bout with
    throat cancer (or alternately, in an alternate world, doesn't get
    cancer). He and his British wife Victoria implement their dreamed
    of project of creating a more liberal Germany (sorry, Glenn Beck )
    within the limits of a conservative Imperial Germany. The office of
    chancellor is replaced with a British style cabinet, albeit with a
    much stronger kaiser then British reigning monarchs. He lives to
    1916 at age 83. This is quite plausible since his father lived to 90
    and his son to age 83 (of course, they were both Wilhelms... ).

    Does this change European history? I'm not sure myself. On the one hand the arms race and alliances might still be intact, but on the other a
    real rapproachmont with the U.K. is possible. It was only quite late
    in the game in reality that the British and French began reconciling.
    Simply by deemphasizing the German naval buildup- a fetish of Willy's- might have been enough, combined with some judicious pr by Queen Victoria (The German!)
    and Queen Victoria's son (the PoW!) might do the trick.
    Last edited by Tuor; 24 Feb 10, 16:16.

  • #2
    Lots there to ponder. Good one.

    Whether Frederick III (FIII) keeps Bismarck around a bit longer or not (or whether Bismarck stays around if FIII trying to liberlize too fast), the key to me is FIII's attitude toward renewing the Reinsurance Treaty. The Russians IIRC were willing to renew it but Caprivi and WilliamII didn't do it - hence pushing Russia into the Entente with France.

    If the Reinsurance treaty is renewed, Maybe France looks elsewhere for a friend because Russia isn't willing. And since the UK isn't interested at that point, and the US wasn't the kind of friend France was looking for, maybe the French try to pry apart Germany and Austria-Hungary. Indeed, maybe Germany realizes its better off allied to Russia than AH.

    On the other hand, if FIII is unwilling to renew the treaty, then I see things playing out pretty much as historically. Russia and France don't want to be alone, so they join together. Then both sides court the UK. Maybe FIII is more successful than WilliamII. Even if he can't convince the UK to join with the Triple Alliance, he would do better than the OTL if he could prevent the rapproachment between the UK and France and Russia.

    That of course would depend on lots of things like Germany's colonial policy, ambitions etc. FIII wasn't on the throne long enough to know how it would all play out. There is a good bit of speculation FIII wasn't as "liberal" as he is sometimes made out to be and that he could have been bullied by Bismarck. Well if the latter is the case, I think my first hypothetical might be more likely than the second.

    But this is really wild guessing now, so who knows?
    Last edited by The Ibis; 24 Feb 10, 16:59.

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    • #3
      Fredricks choices for men to run the forgien office are likely to reflect his political outlook. That greatly reduces the sort of blundering that lined Germany up against five major nations with only two as allies. A major war might be voided entirely. Particularly if better men are appointed as chief of the Army, or at least they are better directed.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
        Fredricks choices for men to run the forgien office are likely to reflect his political outlook. That greatly reduces the sort of blundering that lined Germany up against five major nations with only two as allies. A major war might be voided entirely. Particularly if better men are appointed as chief of the Army, or at least they are better directed.
        Fair points Carl. FIII kept Bismarck in office, but since FIII was on the throne for such a short period of time, its hard to know what might have transpired later or what, in fact, his political outlook would have been. Its also possible FIII could have blundered just as WilliamII did in his appointments. The inner circle was a pretty tight one, and William went through a lot of people. I had to read the first part of Dreadnaught a few times before I could keep track of them all.

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        • #5
          Yes but he could not live forever and his unstable son would have become Kaiser at a latter date. I do not think that Bismack and the Germen establishment, would have allowed Frederick to change the Germen State into a truely liberal democracy.
          War is less costly than servitude

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          • #6
            Originally posted by kendrick View Post
            I do not think that Bismack and the Germen establishment, would have allowed Frederick to change the Germen State into a truely liberal democracy.
            This is an interesting point. On some level, the even the Wilhemine German state was very liberal, at least for its time. I'm thinking specifically of social welfare and things like that. Also, the franchise in Germany was at least as extensive, or greater than, contemporary powers. Further still, the Reichstag had significant budgetary powers - perhaps as extensive as the House of Commons (until such time as the House of Lords gave up veto power over legislation in 1911 IIRC). Thus, as it was, WilliamII and his cabinet were constrained in how far they could go in things like the size of the army or the number of ships that could be built since the money would have to come from the Reichstag - at the expense of the aforementioned social programs.

            Given that, I agree with you that there would have been a real fight by the Junker class to preserve what power they had left. How much further the reforms could have gone would have depended on how well FIII could persuade this group to go along. From what I know of FIII, which I'll concde isn't that much, he probably wasn't going to be as strong an arm-twister as Asquith in forcing through constitutional change. And the thought of what happened to Czar Alexander II wouldn't be too far from his mind.

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            • #7
              Even if Frederick III turned out to be a Fredo in
              failing to convert Germany to a British-style polity, just
              damping down the naval arms race would go far
              in easing increasing British concerns with Germany's
              increasing military and political clout. One can envisage
              Young Winston evoking his ancestor's military
              exploits with Hapsburg Prince Eugene (perhaps
              arranging a diplomatic British/Teutonic tet-a-tet at Blenheim)?

              Comment


              • #8
                I'm surprised Purist has shown up to tell us how the German ruling class were all really, really, bad people even before Hitler and how Britain would have been forced into siding with France because it could never ally with the dastardly, undemocratic Reich, which was SO much worse than the Third Republic. Or something like that; I had a really trying conversation him like that I'm not sure I want to re-open.

                Anyway, the point of the relatively liberal, and god forbid democratic Wilhelmine Germany has been made, and I don't want to harp on it any more except to say that up till the outbreak of WWII, functioning democracy as we now conceive of it was a luxury only Western Europe, the Dominions (save South Africa) and the US enjoyed. The Spanish speaking world was on paper democratic, but totally non-functional, anywhere from Buenos Aires to Madrid. Austria Hungry was liberalizing and Russia fought any change to the Czar's absolutism tooth and nail. The guy who set up the Online Atlas of the 20th century called no one, not even the US was anything but partially democratized. I can't remember if it was women's suffrage or direct votes on Senators that got the US bumped to full democracy.

                Anyway, I am wondering what powers the Junkers still had at Freddie's ascension that could be taken from them? Land reform could be one thing: Germany had most people living in the rural ares until quite a bit after WWI. But I doubt a classical liberal would force the Junkers to sell.

                Maybe, just maybe a liberalizing Fred could have blunted the rise of the social democrats by pursuing policies that brought the worker into the liberal way of thinking, which is kinda what happened in the US. The way we did it was the rags-to-riches narrative. Encourage people to dream of getting out of the factory by pluck and hard work and become established middle classers. That seems the obvious thing, Germany did have the largest SD party in Europe prior to WWI.

                Foreign policy is another issue. Wilhelm II, though not guilty of most of the ineptness described to him (so far as I can tell), made two major blunders: he let the Russians out of the Emperor's alliance and then refused to ally with Britain early in the 20th century. With either one changed, Germany could not be stopped, or rather any alliance against it would fail. France needs someone to ally with. Britain was not interested in an Entente until after the alliance with Germany fell through. The Emperor's alliance would make Germany's back safe, as Russia would have little reason to challenge the Germans and AH would not DARE to stand against both Russia and Germany. The alliance with England removes the thrust of the naval power struggle and ensures German overseas supply lines in the event of Continental war. France, the fulcrum of any anti-German alliance has no one to turn to except an aloof Britain on one hand, or only has Russia and possibly Italy to ally with. And I don't think Italy was particularly keen on allying with France anyway, and then their WWI performance indicates they wouldn't have helped much.

                The tricky part is the Balkans. A wise management of the Ottoman disintegration could lead to a more stable Europe as AH and Russia could count on Germany to broker between them if the Emperor's alliance holds. Not always a nice relationship, but better than the nothing of our world. But even with WWI, if Britain joins or even stays out, Germany will be able to import anything it wishes, and in a war of attrition, Germany will beat France, with or without Russian aid.

                So that's my take: the only thing Frederick could do to make the world better would be two foreign policy moves (Imagine and Emperor's League AND Britain in alliance or Entente! ). To make the world worse, well, it's always easier to make the world worse, but who knows?
                How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
                275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Wolery View Post
                  Anyway, I am wondering what powers the Junkers still had at Freddie's ascension that could be taken from them? Land reform could be one thing: Germany had most people living in the rural ares until quite a bit after WWI. But I doubt a classical liberal would force the Junkers to sell.
                  Ever notice the "von" in the name of almost every important German military and political figure up until 1918? Minimize the influence of the Junker class and surely that would have changed. Many of the Junkers weren't wealthy landholders and their access to political and military status (and to high society - army officers were the "belles of the ball" so to speak) was determined a great deal by their class. Liberalization would mean greater competition for this access, which the Junkers might not want to give up without a fight.

                  On the other hand, it "merely" took alot of arm twisting along with a threat that the King would create something like 500 additional peers to convince the House of Lords to vote for the 1911 Parliament Act. So maybe it wouldn't be such a big deal after all?

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                  • #10
                    As Ibis rightly said germany was very liberal in certain areas. Its a bit rooted in prussian liberalism. To bring two examples from the time of Frederick the Great:

                    There was a cuirassier that ... liked his horse a bit too much. In a time when that would have meant absolutely everywhere sure death and torture the king had the judgement:

                    Man sende das Schwein zur Infantrie.

                    Send the pig to the Infantry.
                    Also, theres a saying "The prussians dont shoot that fast" (So schnell schießen die Preußen nicht) which obviously does not mean their fine battle performance but the fact that prussia did beat its soldiers near dead often (as other countries did then) but it nearly never actually killed them. They were taken care of and reintegrated into the ranks.

                    This kind of liberalism was because of the prussian virtue of Frugality and the fact that prussia indeed was a state very keen on its military (had to be in that position). The thought was not that the death was too brutal but that it was a waste of perfectly good meat grinder material.

                    The other kind of liberalism in prussia was the right wing kind of liberalism. The state did simply not care. As long as you did your duty to prussia/germany and did nothing that was contrary to national interest the state could not care less about you. Abortion would be unthinkable in prussia. The state needs workers and soldiers. The problem of ethics, is it ok to kill unbrn life, when does life start etc.... that would have been of no interest at all to prussia.

                    Prussia was after France and Austria the third state to abolish the death penalty on sodomy. Even when the German Reich in 1871 reafirmed that sodomy was indeed a crime the formulation was that it was not a crime because of logical reasons or health reasons but only because the people demanded it to be a crime. The national interest was absolutely unaffected by it and only that the people of that time (not only in germany) thought of it as a crime made it a crime, the government could not care less about it.

                    I think it would have been difficult because Empress Victoria was actually educated in Britain for her future task of making germany "more liberal". However she was not educated in germany or even the german language. There is a tremendous arrogance in the whole thing that "liberalism" means "english". The idea that prussia actually was pretty liberal, that germans might be different to the english, that germany was a federation where the Kaiser had pretty few to decide in domestic matters outside of the country of prussia... That seems to have been missed entirely by the British.
                    But then, they were the most powerful country in the world at that time so I guess its at least understandable.

                    As for Kaiser Frederick himself... He would have fired Bismark. Bismark was rather popular with the people but Wilhelm I didnt really like him and Frederick I would not have liked him either. Prussian Kings always ruled by themselfes. yes, they listened to advice and took into account the wishes of their subjects but the ultimate decision was made by the Kings and only them. Bismark was the only exception from that rule and the constant fights he had with his King - whom he from all his heart accepted as his King - nearly drove him into suicide.
                    Ha, wie so stolz und hehr
                    Wirft über Land und Meer
                    Weithin der deutsche Aar
                    Flammenden Blick.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Kimi, thanks for your insights. I'm relatively aware of who the actual "movers and shakers" were under WilliamII in the late 19th Century (for example Caprivi, Hohenloe, Holstein, Bulow, Waldersee and Tirpitz). Was there a group of "liberals" (in the British sense) among the contemporaries of these men that might have been acceptable to FIII, assuming he were more "liberal" (in the British sense). Or was the class as a whole too reactionary, in which case FIII would have been forced to pull from the Reichstag or the business "class"?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Tuor View Post
                        Even if Frederick III turned out to be a Fredo in
                        failing to convert Germany to a British-style polity, just
                        damping down the naval arms race would go far
                        in easing increasing British concerns with Germany's
                        increasing military and political clout. One can envisage
                        Young Winston evoking his ancestor's military
                        exploits with Hapsburg Prince Eugene (perhaps
                        arranging a diplomatic British/Teutonic tet-a-tet at Blenheim)?
                        Fredo? As in Corleone?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
                          Kimi, thanks for your insights. I'm relatively aware of who the actual "movers and shakers" were under WilliamII in the late 19th Century (for example Caprivi, Hohenloe, Holstein, Bulow, Waldersee and Tirpitz). Was there a group of "liberals" (in the British sense) among the contemporaries of these men that might have been acceptable to FIII, assuming he were more "liberal" (in the British sense). Or was the class as a whole too reactionary, in which case FIII would have been forced to pull from the Reichstag or the business "class"?
                          You're looking at the problem from an american angle. The british have accepted the idea that a noble can very well be a good leader. But they seem to give that acknowledgement only to their own nobles.

                          The german nobles were certainly reactionary but only to a certain degree. Take a man like Bismark who did not even like germany. He loved prussia and only courted german nationalism because he knew that if he didnt austria would win. The King asked him once "are you no also to some degree a german?!" when Bismark was talking about austria and the likely war. He did not really care about the fact that he went to war with "fellow germans" because he felt prussian.

                          Still he reunited germany. Because he knew that nationalism was too strong an idea to resist. He gave us social healthcare and a pension system because he knew that only doing this would allow monarchy to go on without rebellions. What germany needed was not english liberals, it needed german liberals. As Bismarck once said "In Prussia only the King makes revolutions."

                          Our liberties were always demanded from below, the people threatened and sometimes even revolted and the King and Nobles would eventually give in. But the liberties were always "granted" from above. Thats pretty much a constant in german history.

                          I recommend you read something about the "romanticist on the throne" Frederick William IV who was the King in the time of the revolts in 1848/49. He deeply believed that he was king due to gods will but he was also a very gentle man who tried to resolve conflicts by going towards his enemies. (Actually if not for Russia and Austria he'd nearly created a germany without Bavaria, Würtemberg and Austria back then.)
                          Ha, wie so stolz und hehr
                          Wirft über Land und Meer
                          Weithin der deutsche Aar
                          Flammenden Blick.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Kimi View Post
                            You're looking at the problem from an american angle. The british have accepted the idea that a noble can very well be a good leader. But they seem to give that acknowledgement only to their own nobles.

                            The german nobles were certainly reactionary but only to a certain degree. Take a man like Bismark who did not even like germany. He loved prussia and only courted german nationalism because he knew that if he didnt austria would win. The King asked him once "are you no also to some degree a german?!" when Bismark was talking about austria and the likely war. He did not really care about the fact that he went to war with "fellow germans" because he felt prussian.

                            Still he reunited germany. Because he knew that nationalism was too strong an idea to resist. He gave us social healthcare and a pension system because he knew that only doing this would allow monarchy to go on without rebellions. What germany needed was not english liberals, it needed german liberals. As Bismarck once said "In Prussia only the King makes revolutions."

                            Our liberties were always demanded from below, the people threatened and sometimes even revolted and the King and Nobles would eventually give in. But the liberties were always "granted" from above. Thats pretty much a constant in german history.

                            I recommend you read something about the "romanticist on the throne" Frederick William IV who was the King in the time of the revolts in 1848/49. He deeply believed that he was king due to gods will but he was also a very gentle man who tried to resolve conflicts by going towards his enemies. (Actually if not for Russia and Austria he'd nearly created a germany without Bavaria, Würtemberg and Austria back then.)
                            Thanks again for your insight. I will look to do so after I get through all the other books people have already told me I need to read.

                            And you're right. I do tend to look at things from an American angle. I guess its because I've lived here all my life and haven't travelled enough.

                            Am I reading you correctly to say that further "liberalization," (the point raised by the thread - whatever it means), if demanded by the Emperor, would have been aceded to and implemented by the same very people (Caprivi, Hohenloe, etc.) who served WilliamII?

                            Or was your point that the British have understood that nobels could be good leaders intended to suggest that it would have been a different group of nobels who implemented this "liberalization?"

                            Or am I just missing your point entirely.
                            Thanks
                            Last edited by The Ibis; 25 Feb 10, 17:04.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by The Ibis
                              Fredo? As in Corleone?
                              Yup. Of course, I guess that would make Willy III
                              Sonny. I'm sure more then one pre-World War I
                              European diplomat commented "You can't do
                              business with that hothead." (Unlike the guy
                              in Miami)

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