During the past couple of years, I have been reading and rereading AN UNCOMMON WOMAN – THE EMPRESS FREDERICK by Hannah Pakula. This is the biography of the Empress Frederick in Prussia (VICTORIA, THE PRINCESS ROYAL in England). The Empress was the oldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She had been very carefully educated by her father Prince Albert and understood her father’s ideas for a peaceful Europe. The Empress married Emperor Frederick of Prussia who shared Prince Albert’s ideas for peace in Europe; the marriage was a great success, and the relationship between the couple and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was close. When Prince Albert died, the German Empress–the Queen’s daughter–grew very close to her mother, and they exchanged letters almost daily. As I read AN UNCOMMON WOMAN, there are several references to this correspondence. I have tried over the past two years to find this correspondence. Tonight, as I have been wandering around in the Internet, I stumbled onto this correspondence which was published in 1928 by The Honourable Sir Frederick Ponsonby, Queen Victoria and King Edward VII’s private secretary. It is now 11:00 PM, and I have been reading the German Empress’s letters and the Queen of England’s responses to her daughter for three hours, and I am as happy as I can be. Let me tell you a bit about what I have found. King Edward VII went to Germany to see his dying sister, the Dowager Empress. He was accompanied by his private secretary Sir Frederick Ponsonby. It was clear the Empress was dying, but one evening, a page in the Dowager Empress’s household asked Lord Ponsonby to come to the dying Empress’s room; she wished to talk with him. Lord Ponsonby was very close to the Empress because he had handled Queen Victoria’s correspondence and shared Victoria’s affection for her daughter. When he arrived in the room, she asked him to do a great favor for her which he agreed to do. She had packed up all her personal correspondence between the Empress and her mother, Queen Victoria, and asked Ponsonby to return it secretly to England where she believed it would be safe. Ponsonby agreed. Then she asked him to publish the correspondence after her death. During the years the Empress was in Germany, Bismarck and William II, her son, vilified the Empress’s husband and the Empress, calling her “the English Lady.” She detested Bismarck because of his military plans and his intentions to challenge British liberal, constitutional monarchy which was much the design of Prince Albert. William II was aware that there was a great deal of correspondence between his mother and Queen Victoria, and he was intent on seeing that this correspondence was destroyed to prevent the Empress’s views being published. He knew that the correspondence would reveal the Empress’s confrontation with Bismarck and her son about their intent to rearm a united Germany. Edward VII returned to England after visiting his dying sister, and Ponsonby accompanied him with the Empress’s correspondence carefully concealed in the King’s luggage. The King returned to Germany for his sister’s funeral, and Ponsonby accompanied the King. William II had closed off his mother’s home and searched room by room, searching for her personal papers and correspondence to no avail. He realized that they must have been returned to England before his mother’s death, and he intended to confront Ponsonby about the matter. The occasion never arose, and Ponsonby returned to England with the secret. Because of the growing tensions between Britain and Germany, Ponsonby did not publish the Empress’s letters because he realized that the contents would further inflame the tensions between the two countries. But in 1928, after King Edward VII’s death, after World War I, and after Kaiser William II’s defeat and abdication, Ponsonby published the correspondence which is one of the most important publications explaining the tensions which led up to World War I. The correspondence gives credence to the saying that World War I was a family argument. I wonder what the defeated Kaiser thought after World War I, living in exile in Holland, reading Ponsonby’s publication, revelations, and trickery. Poor Kaiser!
I don’t imagine I will have a lot of readers who will be as excited about this discovery as I am. In fact, I am so excited about this, I find myself actually almost ecstatic. I have requested a copy of the entire publication so I can have a hard copy and mark it full of notes. I love this kind of pursuit, and when I have a serendipity like this, I say to myself: LONG LIVE WONDERFUL TRIVIA. It isn’t trivia to me, but it might be to others. Hopefully, there will be a few of my readers who will be as excited as I am. Let me publish the introduction of Ponsonby’s publication which will give a very good idea of the contents of his important work. THANK YOU, SIR FREDERICK PONSONBY, personal secretary to the Queen and King!
Let me show you where you can find the document as well:
Interesting IMAGE of King Edward VII at the funeral of his sister in 1901. Imagine, in a few years, Germany and England would be at war–just exactly what the Empress Frederick feared and predicted.
The tomb of the Empress Frederick with her husband Emperor Frederick
I am really thrilled about this information. I hope my readers might be tempted to read AN UNCOMMON WOMAN by Hannah Pakula. And then, I hope I can tempt you to read the Empress’s correspondence. World War I will be much more understandable after reading these documents. FABULOUS. Goodness, aren’t we having fun!
Here is a picture of Queen Victoria with the Empress Frederick seated next to her and her sister the Princess Beatrice standing. Valuable photograph.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918