Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German emperor, visited Portsmouth twice – the first time in November 1899, the second in 1907.
The Prussian warlike tendencies of this grandson of Queen Victoria caused angst across Europe. And, as things later turned out, with just cause.
Jean Riley, of Marmion Avenue, Southsea, discovered this rather verbose report in the Daily Mail of November 20, 1899, of the Kaiser’s arrival in the city.
It appears to have been written with tongue firmly in cheek as the Royal Navy seemed determined to put on an impressive show of strength to welcome the Kaiser’s yacht, Hohenzollen, and escorting warships.
He was on his way to visit his grandmother at Windsor Castle and the Special Correspondent reported: ‘Not with banners and paper roses has Portsmouth decorated itself for the reception of the German Emperor and Empress and the two young Princes, August Wilhelm and Oscar to-day.
‘But there are one of two little gewgaws [baubles] on exhibition which have a decorative value of their own.
‘They are laid out in a double line on the face of the water at Spithead and they comprise the Particular Service Squadron and four battleships detached from port guard duty.
‘There are the Howe, Trafalgar, Collingwood, and Sans Pareil, the Australia, Juno, St George, Cambrian, and Minerva – not many of them, and not the most expensive things in this class of goods. But they look pretty good samples for shop-window purposes, and the illustrious visitor, coming as he does on a visit of amity and goodwill, cannot but think they make a very pretty picture.’
In less flowery prose, The Hampshire Telegraph (forerunner of The News) reported that 3,000 soldiers, sailors and marines, packed South Railway Jetty in the dockyard to form a guard of honour to welcome the emperor who was met by Prince Arthur, the Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria’s seventh child.
The report added: ‘The scene on the jetty and in the harbour was a particularly striking one. Extra rigging had been put up on the Victory’s masts so that Nelson’s old ship had somewhat the appearance she must have presented in her fighting days.’
Eight years later, as the picture above from our files shows, the Kaiser returned to Britain. This time he was met at South Railway Jetty by the Prince of Wales, later King George V and the current Queen’s grandfather.
In a speech during that visit, at the Guildhall in London, in a report of which the Hampshire Telegraph called him ‘Germany’s warlord’, he said: ‘My aim is peace. The main base for the peace of the world is the maintenance of the good relations between our two countries and I shall further strengthen them as far as lies in my power. The German nation’s wishes coincide with mine.’
Seven years later we were at war.