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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Since the successor of Ludwig II



The almost miraculous rise of a united Germany, and its wonderful inner growth, had its reverses in the tragical events that took place in the royal houses of Bavaria and Prussia, during 1886 and 1888. King Ludwig II. of Bavaria, a man of superior intellectual qualities and gifted with great charms, had been a victim of late years to mental hallucinations, which at last began to endanger the finances and constitutional rights of the country. It became necessary to declare him insane and to establish a regency in his name. This and his confinement to his lonely castle of Berg led the king to drown himself in the lake bordering the grounds. His corpse and that of his attendant physician were found where the gravel bottom of the shallow water gave evidence of a struggle having taken place. Since the successor of Ludwig II., his younger brother, Otto, was a confirmed maniac, the regency still remained with Prince Luitpold, the uncle of both these unfortunate kings. He was imbued with the national idea of German unity, and continued the same wise and liberal policy that governed the actions of Ludwig II. in his best days--a policy which earned for him the fame of being called one of the founders of a united German Empire.

Early in 1888 the Emperor, nearly ninety-one years old, showed signs of declining vitality, and in March the end was at hand. It was peaceful, though clouded by a great sorrow which filled

the last months of his life. There was a vacant place among the members of his family who surrounded his death-bed. His son, the Crown-Prince, now fifty-six years of age, was detained by a fatal disease at San Remo, in Italy. William I., beloved by the German people as no sovereign before him had been, died on the 9th of March, and his son and heir, Frederick III., began his reign of ninety-nine days. Sick as he was, and deprived of speech in consequence of his cruel disease, his inborn sense of duty caused him to set out for Berlin as soon as the news of the old Emperor's death reached him. His proclamation to the people and his rescript to Prince Bismarck are evidences of the noble and patriotic spirit that animated him; but he was too ill, and his reign was too short, to determine what he would have been to Germany had he lived. He died on the 15th of June, 1888, and almost his last words to his son and successor were: "Learn to suffer without complaint."

[Sidenote: 1888. WILLIAM II.]

William II., born on the 27th of January, 1859, now became Emperor of Germany. Many were the doubts with which he was seen to succeed to the throne. He was young in years, in view of the heavy responsibilities awaiting him; impulsive, where a steady head was required; and a soldier with all his heart. Nevertheless, there was nothing to indicate during the first years of his reign that the "old course" had been abandoned. The first important event took place in March, 1890, when the startling news was heard that Prince Bismarck had sent his resignation to the Emperor, and that it had been accepted. For a moment the fate of Germany seemed to hang in suspense; but the public mind soon recovered from the shock it had received, and the most thoughtful of people realized that a young ruler, imbued with modern ideas, and with an individuality all his own, could not be expected to remain in harmony with or to be guided by a statesman who, however great and wise, was growing old and in a measure incapable of seeing a new light in affairs of internal policy. On March 29th the ex-Chancellor left Berlin to retire to his estates. Along his drive to the railway station he received the spontaneous ovations of an immense concourse of people, who by their enthusiastic cheers showed their appreciation for the creator of the new Germany.

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