July 10, 1914

Yacht_Hohenzollern_1906

“…Despite her gold and white paintwork (“gleaming swan plumage,” one passenger called it), the top-heavy Hohenzollern, with her ram bow and bell-mouthed funnels, was the unloveliest Royal yacht in Europe. Her navigation officer, Erich Raeder, described her as a “lumbering monstrosity . . . [that] rolled in rough weather to a point uncomfortable even for old sailors. Her watertight integrity would not have met the safety requirements of even an ordinary passenger ship.” None of this troubled the Kaiser, who used her only in the Baltic, the North Sea, and the Mediterranean, never in the heavier seas of the North Atlantic. In any case, his cruises to Norway were spent mostly at anchor in a spectacular fjord. There, surrounded by sparkling blue water, granite cliffs and dark green forests, plunging waterfalls wreathed in mist, and patches of sloping meadow dotted with farmhouses, William felt completely at ease. Some rules were always observed—no one ever spoke to the Kaiser unless he had spoken first—but now, at fifty-five, he was more mature and composed than the youthful Prince Hal of a quarter century before. When he embarked on the first of his all-male yachting trips to Norway, taking with him a dozen friends whom he referred to as his “brother officers,” the atmosphere resembled that of a rowdy junior officers’ mess. By 1914, the atmosphere had become more correct, but the guest list remained all male. William’s wife, Empress Augusta, whom he called Dona, remained in Berlin. “I don’t care for women,” he said. “Women should stay home and look after their children.”

‘The Kaiser’s day on the yacht was rigidly scheduled: mild exercises before breakfast; in good weather, an hour in his small sailboat; in the afternoons, shore excursions or rowing contests between the crews of the Hohenzollern and the escorting cruiser Rostock. These activities, however, were not allowed to interfere with the Kaiser’s afternoon nap. To get the most from this hour and a half of rest, William always removed all of his clothing and got into bed. “There’s nothing like getting in between two clean, cold sheets,” he declared. At seven, the company sat down to dinner, where the Kaiser drank only orange juice sipped from a silver goblet. Every evening after dinner, the party gathered in the smoking room. This summer [1914], along with songs and card games, William and his guests listened to lectures on the American Civil War…”

Castles Of Steel
Robert Massie


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