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Drawing the Line

Chapter 4.
‘A Pettish Little Emperor’

Images Kaiser Wilhem II In Punch, 1888–1901

Richard Scully, University of New England

This chapter deals with one of the perennial favourite characters of British cartooning in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century: ‘Kaiser Bill’. Despite the work of W. A. Coupe and Jost Rebentisch, there remains a common misconception that Wilhelm II was characterised in a highly negative fashion in Britain from as early the late 1880s, akin to the ‘Horrible Hun’ image which British cartoonists actually adopted much later, during the First World War. In fact, the Kaiser was presented in a much more complex form (displaying both positive and negative attributes), and this complexity of feeling towards Wilhelm can best be gauged by referring to his portrayal in Punch in the last years of the nineteenth century. The chapter argues that Wilhelm’s family relationships (with Queen Victoria, King Edward VII etc.) and political/diplomatic position need to be taken into account when exploring the basis for such a complex and often contradictory series of cartoon images.

The ‘large cuts’ of Punch, or the London Charivari are among the most widely-used of political cartoons in historical scholarship. Their ubiquity in libraries and archives worldwide has ensured their status as the pre-eminent cartoon sources for nineteenth and twentieth century British history; and they positively litter serious academic works, as well as textbooks given to higher-school students and undergraduates alike.1 Yet despite the relative ease with which academics and students can access the dusty, well-thumbed volumes, like other cartoons their use is often limited to the simplest or no real analysis; and are commonly used in a highly selective fashion. The highly complex, dynamic political arguments penned over time by Punch cartoonists John Tenniel, (Edward) Linley Sambourne and Bernard Partridge are often smoothed-over in favour of a limited sample of cartoons, selected to show the consistency of their attitudes across a given period. As noted in the introduction to this volume, this issue of the ‘sample’ is one which plagues the use of cartoons in historical scholarship, and one which produces a skewed reading of past attitudes and ideas. As with the use of more conventional written sources, the use of cartoons requires the historian to examine a broad sample of the evidence, keeping an eye out for the inconsistencies and complexities as well as the continuities of thought expressed within those cartoons.

This chapter deals specifically with this issue of selectivity as it relates to Punch cartoons of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Germany’s last Kaiser was seemingly made for the cartoonist, appearing in over 160 pre-war cartoons and other ‘cuts’ in Punch alone, and almost twice that number again during the five years of the Great War. Just as his propensity for personal display, his trademark diplomatic style and his position as ruler of Europe’s most dynamic military and economic power fascinated (and continues to fascinate) cartoonists and historians alike, so too his moustachioed features were a positive gift for those seeking to depict him. Yet while Wilhelm’s image as ‘the epitome of the horrible Hun’ is familiar to the modern observer, the more positive images created during Wilhelm’s long reign have long since given up their place in edited collections to those which display continuity with those negatively-themed examples from the war years.2 This desire to show only the negative images of the Kaiser is understandable in the earliest collections, coming as they do in the wake of the Great War, but unfortunately, the biases of wartime have largely remained in the public gaze.3 The example of Wilhelm II therefore not only serves to illustrate the importance of examining a wide sample of cartoons, but also the importance of returning to the archive, and not relying upon edited collections of cartoons for evidence.

Surprisingly, there has been only one published scholarly treatment of cartoons of Wilhelm II: that of Jost Rebentisch, whose work appeared as late as 2000 (this inestimably valuable work has not been translated, thus no studies exist in English, excepting the brief contribution by the distinguished William A. Coupe more than a quarter of a century ago).4 This is a considerable omission, given the continued debates within German historiography regarding the Kaiser’s importance in the history of his times, and Rebentisch noted with some astonishment that his was the first contribution of its kind to the ‘otherwise facet-rich picture’ [ohnehin facettenreich … Bild] of Wilhelm II.5 As Rebentisch recognised, though with a different emphasis than is presented here, British cartoon representations of the Kaiser were constructed with a ‘multicoloured palette’ [bunten Palette], his image changing rapidly from a ‘sabre-rattling warmonger’ [säbelrasselnden Kriegshetzers] to the most trusted of allies; presenting the historian with something akin to a Janus-like image, and not the consistently negative image presented by a cursory glance at those selective anthologies referred to above.6 Moreover, examining the cartoons of Punch in particular (the comic journal with the widest circulation and greatest pre-war readership), demonstrates just how multifaceted wider British impressions of the Kaiser were, before the outbreak of war forever changed his image (and that of his nation) to the ‘World’s Enemy’: a ‘Satanic’, Attila-like warmonger (Figure 4.1).7

Figure 4.1. Bernard Partridge, The World’s Enemy.

Punch, CXLVI, 19 August 1914: 167.

For reasons of space, in this chapter I have limited myself to a discussion of the key cartoon representations of Wilhelm II which appeared in Punch between his accession in 1888 and the turn of the twentieth century.8 This enables me to explore in some depth several other of the key issues outlined in the introduction to Drawing the Line; namely the question of authorial voice, and certain aspects of symbolism essential to the understanding of any cartoon. The Punch cartoon of the late nineteenth century was something of a collaborative creation, in which the idea for a ‘large-cut’ often came from a ‘suggester-in-chief’, which was then discussed by the literary and artistic staff over the table of the legendary, Wednesday-night Punch editorial dinner.9 Given that the editorial committee contained men (and they were all men) of Liberal, Conservative and Liberal-Unionist persuasions (for a time, even Radicals were represented), what eventually resulted from the cartoonist’s pen, the engraver’s stylus and the printer’s plate was a highly-complex and broadly-based impression of current affairs. John Tenniel’s own ‘courteous highmindedness’ contributed to this sense of universalism (it was he who, as chief cartoonist inevitably had the final say in such matters) seemingly making his cartoons ‘Olympian and impartial, requiring the consent of all fair-minded men’.10 Tenniel and his colleagues were thus able to sum-up contemporary feeling on a given issue with an often uncanny precision, and in their impressions of Wilhelm II were just as adept at giving voice to the public mood as their images of the ‘Rhodes Colossus’ (Cecil Rhodes’ imperial ambitions), or ‘The Nemesis of Neglect’ (crime in the East end at the time of the Whitechapel ‘Ripper’ murders).11 In two cases explored here – ‘Dropping the Pilot’ and the ‘Modern Alexander’s Feast’ controversy – evidence exists which gives an insight into the collaborative process which eventually resulted in classic images such as ‘Dropping the Pilot’.

In terms of symbolism, it is important to note that all cartoons contain different levels of meaning. Like many of those appearing in the magazine’s first decades, the Punch cartoons explored here are often heavily allegorical in form, requiring more than superficial attention to detail. Thus, while the depiction of Wilhelm II as a churlish youth may seem a straightforward instance of the ‘child-as-despot’ allegory, other factors contributed to making this image effective. The Kaiser’s own youth (he was only 29 when he succeeded his father – comparatively young, given the venerable age of his contemporary fellow-sovereigns); his perceived desire to head a ‘personal regime’; and his position as Queen Victoria’s grandson dominated the manner in which he was characterised by Tenniel (Sir John Tenniel, from 1892) and his subordinates. Additionally, the apparent ‘youth’ of Germany as a nation and world power (compared with Great Britain) lent itself easily to Wilhelm as an immature figure. To many, the Kaiser seemed to embody the very youth, energy and ‘waxing vigour’ of his nation – a feature which could be portrayed in either positive or negative fashion.12 This was therefore a period in which attitudes towards the man underwent significant peaks of amity and troughs of disapproval, his appearance from cartoon to cartoon depending on a variety of factors from Wilhelm’s conduct in internal German politics, to his overly-theatrical manner when strutting the stage of international diplomacy.

Wilhelm II’s first appearance in Punch came in the edition which appeared on the newsstands of London a mere eight days after the death of his father, the late Kaiser Friedrich.13 In contrast to the alarmist sentiments appearing in Punch’s great rival Judy, John Tenniel and his colleagues saw fit to depict the new Kaiser not as a harbinger of war, but simply kneeling in silent vigil beside the tomb of his father, and to hint at the great responsibility resting on the young man’s shoulders.14 That Wilhelm’s accession should prompt such a wide disparity of views is indicative not only of the great sense of loss at Friedrich’s passing, but also an uncertainty regarding the soundness of the new Kaiser. It was perhaps the British who felt most keenly the loss of Kaiser Friedrich, the husband of their Queen’s eldest daughter Victoria, and seen by many as the last best hope for a liberal Germany on the British model.15 In Germany, the ‘English party’ led by Friedrich and Victoria, had been regarded as an unpatriotic and divisive element almost since the couple had been wed in 1858, and men of the stamp of Reichskanzler Otto von Bismarck suspected the royal couple of having designs on the empire’s constitution. Wilhelm II, who had at Bismarck’s instigation become the leader of the opposition to the ‘English party’, was thus suspected in Britain of being a pawn of the Junker class who dominated German politics and worse, a disloyal son to their beloved ‘Vicky’. Nevertheless, Wilhelm was Queen Victoria’s grandson (reputedly her favourite), and from the outset Tenniel tapped into a great sense of ambivalence in the wider British public regarding Wilhelm, that was to remain strong down to the outbreak of war in 1914.

Wilhelm’s position as the grandson of Queen Victoria and one of the youngest of the European monarchs soon became a feature of his portrayal in Punch.16 In these years, cartoonists established an image of the young Wilhelm as what a later critic called ‘a flashy schoolboy of an Emperor’, seemingly the embodiment of ‘a new crude, ambitious, radically unsound Power’ (Germany), which would threaten to overturn the delicate European balance of power.17 While papers like Fun took up the image of the child-Kaiser immediately Wilhelm ascended the throne, Tenniel and Punch had initially spared him the rod of out of a sense of fairness.18 Gradually though, Wilhelm’s own words and actions made him the subject of ‘Mr Punch’s’ ire. The youthful, chivalrous knight of ‘The Vigil’ soon became the ambitious Icarus of ‘A Wise Warning’: in which Daedalus-Bismarck cautions the younger man against flying too close to the sun of ‘Caesarism’ through his devotion to military matters.19 Wilhelm’s ardour for the Prussian army had been given full vent shortly after his accession, with a series of regimental exercises, parades and other such activities.20 This love of military spectacle, combined with his rather precipitous conduct whilst visiting St. Petersburg less than a month after his accession, and the recent ‘reckless, unfeeling behaviour’ shown towards his uncle the Prince of Wales, prompted the unknown author of the poem accompanying ‘A Wise Warning’ (Figure 4.2) to place in the mouth of Bismarck directives for ‘cautious flight’: in directing his middle course, neither ‘on the bear [Russia], nor on Böotes gaze, nor on the sword-arm’d Orion’s dangerous rays’.21 If Wilhelm were to accomplish this method of ‘flying’, then Mr Punch’s editors expressed their rather patronising confidence that the ‘first part of [the] old fable’ of Daedalus and Icarus would never have a sequel, with Icarus plummeting to his doom.22

Figure 4.2. John Tenniel, A Wise Warning.

Punch, XCV, 6 October 1888: 162–163.

Wilhelm’s behaviour towards his uncle and extended family only strengthened the caricature which Tenniel and his colleagues next employed, and which reversed the Kaiser’s cartoon ageing process by a good many more years than had occurred between his previous appearances – in fact regressing him to childhood. While the Kaiser’s relations with his grandmother had thawed sufficiently to allow him to make a state visit to Britain in 1889, Punch was not quite ready to forgive the slights against its beloved royal family quite yet. ‘Visiting Grandmamma’ (Figure 4.3) duly featured a spoilt ‘brat’-like Wilhelm, told to behave himself by a stern Queen Victoria, and to leave off playing at war and play instead with his ‘pretty ships’.23 Tenniel and the Punch table had elected to target Lord Salisbury’s suggestion that Wilhelm II be made an Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal Navy, a means of placating the enthusiastic navalist Kaiser, who was thrilled at the thought: ‘Fancy wearing the same uniform as St. Vincent and Nelson … It is enough to make one giddy’.24 While the Prime Minister saw the move as an important symbolic gesture which could mollify the ‘cantankerous [and] unstable’ Kaiser at little real cost, Queen Victoria took some convincing before agreeing to the idea, and the editors of Punch were at least as sceptical.25 Even the most casual student of Anglo-German relations will no doubt revel in the irony of the sentiments expressed in ‘Visiting Grandmamma’, as in later years the real Kaiser decided (like all spoiled children) that he would continue to play with both his soldiers and his ships, constructing a navy second only to the British by 1914: a major cause of the diplomatic estrangement between the two powers.

Figure 4.3. John Tenniel, Visiting Grandmamma.

Punch, XCVII, 3 August 1889: 55.

Despite the patronising attitude displayed in ‘Visiting Grandmamma’, the Kaiser’s visit to Britain that summer occasioned a considerable turnaround in attitudes publicly expressed towards him, not least because Salisbury’s plan had worked: Queen Victoria had relented, treating Wilhelm with the utmost generosity, and Wilhelm was besotted by his gift of an admiralty. Even Wilhelm’s frosty relationship with the Prince of Wales thawed noticeably, and at Punch John Tenniel’s talented ‘understudy’ Linley Sambourne chose to commemorate the turn towards better relations between the two in the remarkably titled ‘The United Services; or, L’Entente Cordiale’.26 Still wryly ironic, the large-cut drawing is nevertheless almost as fascinating to the historian of subsequent events as ‘Visiting Grandmamma’, in that Sambourne unknowingly elected to utilise the phrase which would later (1904) come to describe Anglo-French rapprochement. More importantly for the present discussion, gone is the spoilt brat of only two weeks earlier, replaced instead by a fine-looking youth, amiably sharing a cigar with his uncle – a clear indication that attitudes had altered in the interim.

This pattern, of highly critical depictions of Wilhelm II as a petulant child, followed soon after by representations of a much more laudatory (even sycophantic) kind, was to recur throughout Punch’s relationship with the Kaiser. Indeed, it was to be only a few months after ‘The United Services’ that, courtesy of Tenniel’s pen, Wilhelm again reverted to an ill-tempered brat in ‘L’Enfant Terrible!’ of May 1890, only to re-emerge as the noblest of the ‘valiant-young’ in ‘A Triple Alliance’, and the perfect grandson in ‘Goodbye, Grandmamma!’ (Figure 4.8) at the time of his next visit to Britain in July of the following year.27 The famous ‘Dropping the Pilot’ is notable for the lack of any overt judgment of the respective figures, and Tenniel’s commemoration of the dismissal of Bismarck is little more than ‘polite comment’ on great event, rather than containing any real sense of the fault or otherwise of Wilhelm’s actions.28 The ‘L’Enfant Terrible!’ cartoon is of considerable interest not simply for the manner in which Wilhelm II is depicted personally, but also because Tenniel intended for the young Kaiser to be representative of his entire nation. In the rowing-boat which Wilhelm is threatening to overturn, are seated figures representative of the Kaiser Franz-Josef of Austria-Hungary, King Umberto of Italy, and Queen-Regent Maria Christina of Spain (with the infant King Alfonso XIII on her shoulder); but in the listing stern of the boat is the figure of ‘Marianne’, representative not of a real ruler but of the French Republic – Tenniel was therefore commenting as much on the instability of ‘young’ Germany as on its ruler. The reference in the cartoon is to Wilhelm’s early enthusiasm for a form of imperial-sponsored socialism, and harkens back to a Punch cartoon of 1848, in which the monarchs and nations of that fateful year are shown being tossed about on stormy seas of revolution.29 The inference here is that Wilhelm (and by extension Germany), by his reckless courting of the Socialists, is needlessly endangering European stability at a moment when the seas are otherwise as calm as a millpond.

The image of Wilhelm II as a little mustachioed monster was to recur many times following his appearance as ‘L’Enfant Terrible!’, often in response to events within Germany itself. Following a particularly bombastic speech at Erfurt in late October of 1891, Sambourne depicted the adolescent Kaiser prodding dangerously at the dogs of war, and the ‘Pettish Little Emperor’ reappeared in Sambourne’s version of Joseph Tabrar’s song (still sung by children today) ‘Nana Would not Give Me a Bow-Wow!’, in which ‘Wilful Wilhelm’ throws a tantrum at the Reichstag’s refusal to pass his latest army bill.30 Showing the durability of the caricature of Wilhelm II as a spoilt brat of a child, Sambourne was to draw on it again for ‘The Story of Fidgety Wilhelm’ (Figure 4.4), which appeared as late as 1896 with the controversy surrounding Wilhelm’s ‘lame and illogical’ telegram to President Kruger of the Transvaal, congratulating him on the repulse of the Jameson Raid.31 ‘The Story of Fidgety Wilhelm’ is of note as more than simply the culmination of a continuing theme in Punch’s depiction of the Kaiser. The theme which Sambourne selected for the cartoon – a new version of the classic German tale, Struwwelpeter – actually derives from an earlier incident of 1892 in which Punch itself became the focus of tension between the British and German royal families.

Figure 4.4. E. Linley Sambourne, The Story of Fidgety Wilhelm.

Punch, CX, 1 February 1896: 50.

From the beginning of his reign, Wilhelm II had undertaken to give an annual address to the Brandenburg Landtag at their annual banquet at the Kaiserhof Hotel, (the Kaiser usually ascending to near-despotic flights of rhetoric in the process). However in 1892, during the fifth such speech to the assembly (and during serious Socialist-inspired rioting in Berlin), Wilhelm truly surpassed himself in the heights of his overblown oratory, approaching the prophetic intonation more usually associated with his successor as self-appointed saviour of the German people, Adolf Hitler. One of the earliest English translations of Wilhelm’s concluding crescendo was necessarily of Biblical proportions, as in addressing his ‘brave men of the Mark’ the Kaiser assured them that:

[t]he firm conviction of your sympathy in my labours gives me new strength to persist in my work and to press forward on the path which Heaven has laid out for me. I am helped thereto … by the Ruler of all … Brandenburgers, we are called to greatness, and to glorious days will I lead you!32

Numerous German papers responded in overtly negative fashion to such pretensions, the Freisinnige Zeitung going so far as insinuating that Germany had a child for a ruler.33 Such ‘disobedience’ inspired Wilhelm to launch a number of prosecutions for lèse Majesté against his German critics and in the wake of this Punch sought to offer some response of its own.34 Commenting on the speech in a cartoon entitled ‘The Modern Alexander’s Feast’ (Figure 4.5), John Tenniel presented to his readership an inspired image of the Jovian Wilhelm toasting himself on Olympus, equipped with lightning-bolt speeches. The quiet cynicism of Tenniel was perfectly adapted to the words of the poet Dryden:

With ravished ears, the monarch hears,

assumes the god;

Affects to nod,

and seems to shake the spheres!35

Figure 4.5. John Tenniel, The Modern Alexander’s Feast.

Punch, CII, 5 March 1892: 110.

While as I have noted, the German press freely expressed their dismay at their Kaiser’s words (his own mother expressed a wish to be able to ‘put a padlock on his mouth’), it was the British response which led Wilhelm to paroxysms of fury.36 Lampooned as a pretentious demi-god, Wilhelm was affronted by Tenniel’s representation of him as ridiculous rather than regal, and this cartoon prompted the irate Wilhelm to ban Punch from all imperial palaces, the Prussian court, and his yacht, Hohenzollern, for several months. When commenting on the impact of the cartoon only three years later, Punch historian Marion H. Spielmann noted dryly that when it came to his perception of himself, ‘the Monarch had no mind for trivialities’.37

Given his origins as a prince of England as well of Prussia, the Kaiser sought constant approval from his English relatives, and aped English sensibilities. As part of this enthusiastic affectation, Wilhelm was, to the end of his life, a fervent reader of Punch, and had become especially ‘sensitive to its sallies’.38 Anne Topham, the one-time governess to Wilhelm’s only daughter, Princess Victoria Louise, recalled later in her memoirs that she ‘always tried to hide Punch when [she] was downstairs’ because of the effect it had on her Imperial employer.39 According to Topham,

His Majesty liked to thrust those embarrassing pictures under my nose. ‘What d’you think of that?’ he would say. ‘Nice, isn’t it? Good likeness, eh?’ It was difficult to find a suitable answer on the spur of the moment.40

Wilhelm saw this unprovoked (in his opinion) attack as a deliberate attempt to destroy his standing with the people he most desired to impress. The Kaiser took the extraordinary step of making a personal request to his grandmother that Punch’s publication be halted immediately; showing a misunderstanding the workings of the British press, which he assumed to be a mere tool of powerful factions within the British elite, just as aspects of its German counterpart were dominated by Bismarck and others.41 The Queen replied to her grandson that she did not believe such action ‘quite within her province’, but did request that her old friend Sir Theodore Martin should consult with the editors of the various papers and periodicals in order to make known the negative effect such barbs were having on Anglo-German relations.42 Martin spoke with the editor and reported to Her Majesty that had had some success in getting Punch to drop its caricatures, which he regarded as being ‘much more mischievous than newspaper paragraphs’.43 Unfortunately for Wilhelm, a response to both the initial imperial ban on Punch and this extraordinary request was apparently too good an opportunity for the comic weekly to miss. Though it was Tenniel’s original cartoon which had produced all the fuss, it was to Linley Sambourne that the editorial staff turned to make the magazine’s reply. In a conversation of 15 March, Sambourne and his editor – Tom Taylor – had already determined upon Wilhelm’s banning of Punch as the subject for a large cut which would appear in a forthcoming issue and Sambourne recorded in his diary the fact that he began work almost immediately.44

Having already sketched-out his ‘German Emperor cut’, Sambourne then received word from Punch’s editor of Sir Theodore Martin’s request in a ‘special letter’ of 17 March.45 It is unclear whether Sambourne then chose to alter his existing sketches, but apparently the knowledge of his cut’s growing importance spurred Sambourne on to new efforts, as he rose early the next day and worked ‘hard and fast’ on his drawing. Sambourne spent over a week perfecting his cartoon of the Kaiser ‘as a v. small boy’ (often working so ‘hard and fast’ as to miss meals, a major sacrifice for the already rather rotund ‘Sammy’).46 Such was the effort expended on the cut, the finished product (arguably one of Sambourne’s best) did not appear until the edition of 26 March. Entitled ‘Wilful Wilhelm’ (Figure 4.6), the extremely detailed cartoon was the most damning portrait of the Kaiser yet to appear in Punch, as the short-trousered little monster tears up the periodicals which dare to criticise him, breaking the glass in which the cartoons are framed, and tellingly, threatening even to upset the globe of the world in his rantings.47 Notable among the shredded documents are the offending ‘Modern Alexander’s Feast’, and even so originally-neutral a cartoon as ‘Dropping the Pilot’, by which Wilhelm, despite its naval metaphor, had also felt somewhat affronted.48 The lengthy verse which accompanied ‘Wilful Wilhelm’ addressed the Kaiser directly, in the most patronising of tones:

My Wilful Wilhlem, you’ll not win,

By dit of mere despotic din;

By kicking everybody over

In whom a critic you discover,

Or shouting in your furious way,

‘Oh! take the nasty Punch away!

I won’t have any Punch today!’49

Figure 4.6. E. Linley Sambourne, Wilful Wilhelm.

Punch, CII, 26 March 1892: 146–147.

Heinrich Hoffman’s Struwwelpeter – to which Sambourne referred in both ‘Wilful Wilhelm’ and the later ‘Fidgety Wilhelm’ – was first translated into English in 1848, and so by the time ‘Wilful Wilhelm’ was composed was well known as a collection of cautionary tales for youngsters. Sambourne could be confident that, as in the case of Tenniel’s earlier allusion to the Classically-inspired ‘unfortunate sequel’ of Daedalus and Icarus, his readership would be aware of the story’s implied ending. As in all the tales of Hoffman, the subject of ‘Wilful Wilhelm’ – an amalgam of ‘The Tale of Cruel Frederick’ (Die Geschichte vom bösen Friederich) and ‘The Story of Fidgety Philip’ (Die Geschichte vom Zappel-Philipp) – would come to a sticky end if his behaviour did not improve.

While certainly illustrating very effectively the convention of depicting the Kaiser as a spoiled child (because of his own youth and that of his nation), what the incident between Punch and Wilhelm II also serves to illuminate is the notion that the German monarch also possessed real autocratic tendencies. Just as ‘The Modern Alexander’s Feast’ quite obviously referred to Wilhelm’s pretension to possess a God-given absolute power, the use of the device of the spoiled child to characterise the Kaiser also served to reinforce this. The child as a representative figure is by nature autocratic, expecting the world to revolve around his or her every whim and desire, and as Rebentisch noted, this version is the epitome of a ‘an impulsive, disputatious, deliberate and despotic infant’ [‘ein impulsives, rechthaberisches, mutwilliges und despotisches kleinkind’].50 The unknown author of the doggerel which accompanied Sambourne’s ‘Wilful Wilhelm’ also made this association in referring to a ‘despotic din’ thrown up by the child-Kaiser when he finds that he is not the centre of the universe and the idol of all.51 Already in an earlier number of Punch, Sambourne had made the connection between childhood autocracy and Kaiser’s pretensions to the same equally clear, as Wilhelm appeared as ‘The Imperial Jack-in-the-Box’: a brilliant satire of his propensity to interfere in any and all aspects of national life, in the form of a child’s toy.52 According to Sambourne, the force of the Imperial will is felt in the navy, at balls, in the church, and even in schools and universities, and not surprisingly: the Kaiser in fact had power ‘over all appointments to the government, the bureaucracy, the Army and Navy, and the diplomatic corps’, from the highest minister of state to the lowliest gymnasium teacher, regardless of the advice of the Reichstag.53

Other representations of Wilhelm II which appeared in Punch in this period also emphasised his absolutist ambitions, and the perceived flaws of the German constitution, notably in response to Wilhelm’s very public gaffe in inscribing the Golden Book of the City of Munich with the legend

Suprema lex Regis voluntas!

(‘The Royal will is the supreme law!’)54

John Tenniel alluded to this unfortunate assertion of unconstitutional power in ‘The Little Germania Magnate’, in which the allegorical figure of ‘Socialism’, together with a now civilian-clothed Bismarck struggle to prise the sceptre from the Kaiser’s hands, who stands before a banner emblazoned with the motto.55 Punch was illustrating a deeply-held British suspicion of Continental absolutism and semi-absolutism which contrasted sharply with a strong upper and middle class admiration for the limited monarchy of Queen Victoria and her immediate predecessors. Though Wilhelm II was known to be bound by the constitution which Bismarck had forged twenty years earlier, it was also recognised that those constitutional milestones which had shaped the British system – Magna Carta, the execution of Charles I, the Glorious Revolution – had no equivalents in Germany, and that parliamentary government was both less powerful and less well-established there. That Wilhelm possessed the power to suspend the constitution itself and declare martial law only served to illustrate further the precariousness of German parliamentarianism in the minds of many.56

The Kaiser’s firm attachment to the military aspects of his position was reflected heavily in the way Punch’s cartoonists depicted him, and the resonance of their representations was strengthened by the very fact that Wilhelm was scarcely seen out of uniform on any public occasion, even when visiting his relatives in Britain. From the earliest depictions of Wilhelm II in Punch, he was most often shown in the white tunic, polished breastplate and regalia of a Prussian cuirassier of the Gard du Corps regiment, a particular favourite of the uniform-obsessed Kaiser (though he possessed a great many others).57 Punch was particularly merciless in later years when it lampooned the Kaiser’s own pride in his uniform collection, notably in a short article entitled ‘The Kaiser’s Clothes Reserve’, which reputedly described the existence of a ‘hat-Room’, ‘Central Suit Court’ and ‘Imperial Bootstore’.58

For the cartoonists Tenniel and Sambourne, for whom the influence of the stage was central to the way they framed their work, Wilhelm’s possession of an seemingly endless stream of costumes made him well suited for portrayal as another kind of self-centred character, in addition to his spoiled-child and autocratic personas: an actor or misunderstood artist.59 Sambourne in particular relished such a characterisation, chronicling Wilhelm’s theatrical excursions into the world of diplomacy and travel with evident delight. In ‘The Imperial Crummles’, Wilhelm made his first appearance as the ‘Manager-Actor’ of his own one-man show, feigning outrage at news of his Christmas gifts to his sons having been leaked to the press, (though as the eponymous Mr Crummles had in Dickens’ Nicholas Nickelby, it was apparent that Wilhelm himself had been responsible for the publicity).60 In ‘A New Rôle’, later that same January, and in response to the more weighty matter of Germany’s acquisition of Kiao-Chiao from the Chinese, Sambourne presented the ‘Manager-Actor’ Wilhelm again, though this time musing to himself in front of a mirror at his ‘first-rate impression’ of an Emperor of China, bedecked in stereotypical Mandarin dress.61 The device of the ‘theatrical’ Kaiser did not diminish rapidly in its usefulness, for later that same year, recalling that the Kaiser had called upon Thomas Cook’s travel agency to organise a ‘gigantic imperial expedition’ of 3,000 notaries and staff to the Holy Land, Sambourne drew Wilhelm clad in the armour of a twelfth-century paladin in ‘Cook’s Crusader’ (Figure 4.7).62 Visiting Jerusalem, Wilhelm had taken the opportunity to indulge his egotistical view of his place as a great historical figure by entering the city, not through one of the many gates, but through a specially-opened breach in the wall: evidently in imitation of his nominal predecessor and fellow Stupor Mundi (‘wonder of the world’), Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich II (1194–1250).63

Figure 4.7. E. Linley Sambourne, Cook’s Crusader.

Punch, CXV, 5 October 1898: 170.

The Kaiser’s embarrassing propensity for ‘theatrical’ personal display crops up in a number of other Punch cartoons of the 1890s, the first being calculated to raise at least a snigger from its readers: ‘The Gifted Amateur’ coincided with the publication of a short song by none other that Wilhelm himself.64 The looks of horror on the faces of his prospective cartoon audience speak for themselves, and it is worth noting that further forays by Wilhelm II into the realm of high culture, such as his painting in 1895 of a ‘sea piece’, were met with a similarly cynical reception in Punch; so much so that in the latter, Sambourne made no effort to conceal his opinion that in painting his picture, the Kaiser was merely indulging in publicising ‘His Favourite Subject’: himself.65 Of the smaller cartoon cuts in Punch, ‘Meteor II dazzles the yachting world’ referred to the record-breaking run by Wilhelm’s own yacht Meteor II in the season of 1896.66 Yachting was a favourite pastime of the Kaiser’s English cousins, and Wilhelm maintained a deep interest in the sport, hoping not only to ingratiate himself with the British aristocrats into whose ranks he so craved acceptance, but also to out-shine his relatives, particularly his despised uncle, the Prince of Wales.67 During 1889–1895, Wilhelm was a regular at the Cowes Regatta, and in imitation of the racing on the Solent, inaugurated ‘Kiel Week’ off the northern coast of Germany. The British attitude towards Wilhelm as a parvenu was not helped by this perceived need to ape British customs, and though the Prince of Wales was to visit Wilhelm’s regatta, legitimacy was never to be attained. That Wilhelm appears as a meteor – the ultimate show-off – speaks volumes.

Wilhelm II’s enjoyment of the high society of Cowes was cut short in 1896 by his foolish telegram of congratulations to Britain’s ever more worrisome bugbear, President Kruger of the South African Republic, the effects of which were chronicled by Linley Sambourne in ‘The Story of Fidgety Wilhelm’ (and more explicitly for his loss of face in high society in ‘The Maid of Cowes’).68 After this new nadir of Wilhelm’s unpopularity in Britain – and with the readers and editors of Punch – it might be assumed that the subsequent representations of him were to begin to show the negative features which were to culminate in the dark, war-time imagery reproduced in so many textbooks and academic tomes. But such is the nature of the cartoon, and of the peculiar relationship between the Kaiser and Punch, that despite the tension over his Kruger Telegram together with that over vocal German press support for the Boer cause in the South African War, the representation of Wilhelm II actually improved in its tone after 1899. This was due in no small measure to the presence of the Kaiser in Britain for the first time since his banishment in 1896, and which heralded a return to the kind of imagery associated with ‘Goodbye, Grandmamma!’ (Figure 4.8) and ‘A Triple Alliance’, almost a decade earlier.

Figure 4.8. John Tenniel, Goodbye, Grandmamma!

Punch, CI, 18 July 1891: 15.

In ‘A Fresh Start’ (Figure 4.9), for instance, the beginnings of Anglo-German negotiations over China were commemorated by Wilhelm and John Bull, arm-in-arm, walking towards the future, with nothing less than courting doves flying overhead (a somewhat ‘over-the-top’ image to say the least).69 Almost eighteen months later, and in the midst of the South African War, Sambourne depicted Mr Punch welcoming the Kaiser back to Britain: a clear indication of the magazine’s own change of heart towards a man who, for all his faults, was still capable of inspiring admiration and fascination in equal measures the Great British public.70 In a subsequent number of Punch the feeling of warmth towards the Kaiser was made even clearer, as the pickelhaube – so often the epitome of Prussian militarism in cartoons from this and wartime periods – is comically altered so as to appear in the likeness of Wilhelm himself. The captions below the cartoon read as follows:

This is a notable headpiece of the finest modern German work, and is very popular in England, where its sterling qualities have always been recognised.

It has many points of resemblance to some British Royal headpieces, and Mr Punch, with becoming loyalty, is proud to rank it among his most cherished possessions.71

Figure 4.9. E. Linley Sambourne, A Fresh Start.

Punch, CXIV, 23 April 1898: 182.

Despite such gushing sentiments, the high-point of Wilhelm II’s popularity in Britain, and with Punch readers, was yet to come. When, in January 1901, Wilhelm II rushed from Berlin (then in the midst of the bicentenary celebrations of Friedrich I’s self-coronation as ‘King in Prussia’) to be by the side of his dying grandmother Queen Victoria, the reaction in Britain was universally and overwhelmingly favourable. The Times applauded the ‘intense personal devotion’ of Wilhelm to his royal grandmother, ‘the august ancestress of so many royal and imperial lines’, and nearly two decades later, the Kaiser himself recalled that the mourning Londoners took care to let him know just how much his sharing of their grief really meant, his uncle (now King Edward VII) confirming that ‘they w[ould] never forget’ his visit.72

Punch, in its special, black-bordered number, acknowledged the debt of gratitude owed to Wilhelm by having Leonard Raven Hill pen ‘Appreciation, 1901’ (Figure 4.10), in which a Kaiser still clad in his travelling clothes steps forward to clasp his uncle’s hands in a gesture of support.73 Tellingly, this cartoon was the only original composition to appear in that Royal Funeral Number, and by design it was placed on the page facing a reprinted ‘Goodbye, Grandmamma!’ to demonstrate that despite all the enmity that had passed between Punch and the Kaiser, they were now enjoying a period of genuine goodwill. In the months and even years following the return of Wilhelm II to Germany (he lingered in Britain until February 4), it is interesting to note the absence of any negative depictions of the Kaiser in the pages of Punch. When the Germans were criticised for their stand on support for the Boers, it was in the form of a stereotypical ‘German Michael’ – crouched over a journalist’s desk, writing scurrilous tracts against British ‘atrocities’ in South Africa – that Bernard Partridge elected to draw them, and not in the form of the German monarch.74 Even Wilhelm’s appointment as a British Field Marshal (just as he had been appointed Admiral of the Fleet by his grandmother) was treated with some amused approval, as Partridge wondered aloud whether the British army’s newest ranking officer might be able to offer some advice on the conduct of a seemingly interminable war.75

Figure 4.10. Leonard Raven Hill, Appreciation, 1901.

Punch, CXX, 30 January 1901: 99.

The alteration in British feeling that such cartoons help reveal was, of course, not to last, and as Britain and Germany gradually drifted apart in the new century – largely because of Wilhelm II’s own passion for a powerful navy, and his regime’s reckless pursuit of ‘a place in the sun’ – so too the images of the Kaiser which Punch presented again became more negative. However what cartoons such as these, and the ones discussed throughout this chapter illustrate, is that British images of Wilhelm II and the country he represented are far more complex than often imagined by professional historians and other students of history alike. The attitudes of cartoonists such as John Tenniel, Linley Sambourne, Leonard Raven Hill and Bernard Partridge were varied and multifaceted, and depended upon a greater variety of factors than simply the perceived growth of Anglo-German diplomatic tension for their resonance. They also indicate that though elements of what was later to become the caricature of the ‘horrible Hun’ existed well before the outbreak of war, the British path towards feelings of absolute antagonism towards Germany was not a straightforward one. Individuals reading Punch in 1889, and seeing a little brat of a Kaiser being told to play quietly with his ships would have had no inkling of the mighty Kaiserliche marine which would one day challenge Britain’s cherished dominance of the seas; nor would those sympathising with the sentiments of ‘Goodbye, Grandmamma!’ two years later, have possessed dark portents of Passchendaele or the Somme.

It was only with the coming of the Great War and the impact of hindsight that such images either took on more negative connotations, or disappeared from popular memory altogether. Punch was itself partly responsible for this process, as it took the opportunity in the autumn of 1914 to collect its most prescient cartoons in two supplements, entitled ‘The New Rake’s Progress’ and ‘Punch and the Prussian Bully’.76 Therein, as images like ‘The Modern Alexander’s Feast’ and ‘A New Rôle’ appeared not ten years but merely ten pages apart, Wilhelm’s infringements on the stability of world peace seemed much more concentrated and threatening than in their original form; and indeed in their reader’s minds, such images helped fuel a new image of Wilhelm II and his nation as a threat of Napoleonic proportions, seemingly bent on world domination since long before 1914. These images were in turn reproduced on postcards for use by the men actively resisting such nefariousness on the Western Front, and it is their negativity which has most readily come down to twenty-first century audiences.77 It is important not to down-play the longstanding criminality and mismanagement which drove Germany into the Great War, but this is equally true of the ‘counter-currents’ of that same history, in which Wilhelm II could be seen as a threat one week, and the best of sorts the next. In seeking to better- illuminate the opinions and attitudes of past societies, the historian who utilises cartoons as evidence should be careful to account for representations which are at odds with the dominant narrative. Wherever possible, cartoons should be consulted in their original form, and should be analysed closely and with a clear sense of the multifaceted nature of the symbols and allegories within. Of the importance of addressing these key scholarly issues, the images which arose from the complex relationship between ‘Mr Punch’ and the Kaiser serve as but one set of illustrations.


Thanks to the trustees and staff of the British Library; the National Library of Scotland; and the Local Studies Department of Kensington Central Library. Thanks are also due to Andre Gailani, archivist at Picture Research & Permissions, Punch Ltd; Professor Barbara Caine, Dr Michael Hau and Professor Marian Quartly of Monash University for their comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this paper. Volume numbers for Punch and other comic weeklies are rendered in Roman numerals.


1    Select examples relevant to this discussion include: Carlton J. Hayes & M. Faissler, 1969, Modern Times – From the French Revolution to the Present, New York: Macmillan Press: 250; Thomas Pakenham, 1994, The Scramble for Africa, London: Abacus: 9, 141, 257, 583; Panikos Panayi, 1991, The Enemy in Our Midst, New York: Berg: cover illustration; Barbara W. Tuchman, 1997, The Guns of August, London: The Folio Society: 294; Niall Ferguson, 1998, The Pity of War, London: Penguin: 5-6; Hew Strachan, 1998, editor. The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 206, 214; Giles MacDonogh, 2000, The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous, London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson: Figure 14 (between: 212–213); M. Adas, P. Stearns & S. Schwartz, 2005, editors. Turbulent Passage: A Global History of the Twentieth Century, New York: Longman: 102; Gisela Argyle, 2002, Germany as Model and Monster, London: McGill-Queens University Press: 129, 157, 159.

2   Tuchman, Guns of August: 294.

3    [C. L. Graves], 1919, Mr Punch’s History of the Great War, New York: Frederick A. Stokes, Co.; Friedrich Wendel, 1922, Wilhelm II in der Karikatur, Dresden: Artemis Verlag.

4    Jost Rebentisch, 2000, Die vielen Gesichter des Kaisers: Wilhelm II. in der deutschen und britischen Karikatur (1888–1918), Berlin: Duncker & Humblot; W. A. Coupe, 1980, ‘Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Cartoonists’, History Today, 30 (11): 16–22. My own BA (Hons) dissertation – R. Scully, 2003, ‘Punch and the Kaiser: Complexity and Continuity in Cartoons of Wilhelm II, 1888–1914’, Monash University – represents in part a further attempt to fill the gap in the scholarship, as does: R. Scully, 2008, ‘Admiration, Antagonism, Ambivalence: British Images of Germany, 1860–1914’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Monash University: chapter 4. As this chapter was going to press, an excellent survey article appeared placing the image of Wilhelm within the British press as a whole: Lothar Reinermann, 2008, ‘Fleet Street and the Kaiser: British Public Opinion and Wilhelm II’, German History, 26 (4): 469–485.

5    Rebentisch, Die vielen Gesichter des Kaisers: 21. He goes on to discuss the lack of secondary material (29–30), describing that which does exist as ‘feuilletonistischen’, a superb description deriving from the French practice of printing very short, critical pieces at the base of a journal page (i.e. printed in the ‘feuilleton’). Though related specifically to Wendel’s Wilhelm II in der Karikatur, this is a description with universal application. For the key historiography of the ‘personal regime’ of Wilhelm II, see: John C. G. Röhl, Introduction, John C. G. Röhl & Nicolaus Sombart, 1982, editors. Kaiser Wilhelm II: New Interpretations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1–22; Annika Mombauer & Wilhelm Deist, Introduction, in Annika Mombauer & Wilhelm Deist, 2003, editors. The Kaiser: New Research on Wilhelm II’s Role in Imperial Germany, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1–5. Also: John C. G. Röhl, 1994, The Kaiser and His Court: Wilhelm II and the Government of Germany, Terence F. Cole, translator, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; J. C. G. Röhl, 2004, Wilhelm II: The Kaiser’s Personal Monarchy, 1888–1900, Sheila de Bellaigue, translator, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

6    Rebentisch, Die vielen Gesichter des Kaisers: 35–36.

7    Bernard Partridge, ‘The World’s Enemy’, Punch, CXLVI, 19 August 1914: 167; The Morning Post, 12 May 1915: 9. From a very respectable 40,000 in 1870, Punch’s circulation reached a pre-war peak of 119,000 at the end of 1913 (figures courtesy Andre Gailani, Picture Research & Permissions, Punch Ltd., email correspondence with the author, 31 October 2007).

8    Though a comparative study would be ideal, a broader exploration of the cartoons appearing in Punch’s chief rivals – including Moonshine, Fun and Judy – is made impossible by limitations on space. Rebentisch’s Die vielen Gesichter des Kaisers deals with these images, as does my own PhD dissertation (see endnote 5 above).

9    Frankie Morris, 2005, Artist of Wonderland: The Life, Political Cartoons, and Illustrations of Tenniel, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press: 226–227; M. H. Spielmann, 1895, ‘The Punch Dinner’, The Magazine of Art, 18: 89–94.

10  M. H. Spielmann, 1895, The History of ‘Punch’, London: Cassell & Co.: 101; Mark Bryant & Simon Heneage, 1994, Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists, 1730–1980, Aldershot: Scolar: 215.

11  Edward Linley Sambourne, ‘The Rhodes Colossus’, Punch, CIII, 10 December 1892: 266; John Tenniel, ‘The Nemesis of Neglect’, Punch, XCV, 29 September 1888: 154. Also available online at: ‘The Rhodes Colossus’, ; and ‘Casebook: Jack the Ripper’, respectively.

12  Hew Strachan, 2001, The First World War, Volume I: To Arms, Oxford: Oxford University Press:6.

13  Friedrich is sometimes known as ‘Friedrich III’, giving him the numerical appellation he enjoyed as the third King of Prussia by that name. However, I have opted instead to refer to him by his title as German Emperor, of which he was the first (and last) to be called Friedrich. For an interesting discussion on the issue of the title, see: MacDonogh, The Last Kaiser: 115.

14  Matthew Morgan, ‘The Lost Hero’, Judy, XLII, 27 June 1888: 306–307; John Tenniel, ‘The Vigil’, Punch, XCIV, 23 June 1888: 294–295.

15  For an interesting view, see: Patricia Kollander, 1999, ‘Empress Frederick: The Last Hope for a Liberal Germany?’, The Historian, 62 (1): 47–63.

16  Here I differ from Rebentisch, whose interpretation of the figure of Wilhelm II as a youth rests on the representative image of the child as despotic figure (discussed further below), rather than on his actual youth and filial relationship to the British monarchy. See: Rebentisch, Die vielen Gesichter des Kaisers: 172–174.

17  George Saunders to William Bell (Managing Director, The Times), 14 June 1902, quoted in: The Times, 1947, The History of the Times: Volume 3 – The Twentieth Century Test, 1884–1912, London: Times Books: 365.

18  J. Gilbert, ‘The New Emperor’, Fun, XLVII, 23 June 1888: 278. This was the first image of the child-Kaiser to appear, effectively establishing a long trend of representation.

19  John Tenniel, ‘A Wise Warning’, Punch, XCV, 6 October 1888: 162–163.

20  Lamar Cecil, 1989, Wilhelm II: Prince and Emperor, 1859–1900, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press: 128–130

21  Queen Victoria to Lord Salisbury [n.d.], cited in Cecil, 1989, Wilhelm II: 268; Tenniel, ‘A Wise Warning’: 162.

22  Tenniel, ‘A Wise Warning’: 162.

23  John Tenniel, ‘Visiting Grandmamma’, Punch, XCVII, 3 August 1889: 55.

24  Wilhelm II to Edward Malet [n.d.], quoted in Sir Sidney Lee, 1927, King Edward VII, Volume I, New York: Macmillan: 654.

25  Lamar Cecil, 1982, ‘History as Family Chronicle’, in Röhl & Sombart, editors. Kaiser Wilhelm II: New Interpretations: 101–102.

26  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘The United Services; or, L’Entente Cordiale’, Punch, XCVII, 17 August 1889: 73–74.

27  John Tenniel, ‘L’Enfant Terrible!’, Punch, XCIX, 10 May 1890: 223; John Tenniel, ‘A Triple Alliance’, Punch, CI, 11 July 1891: 19; John Tenniel, ‘Goodbye, Grandmamma!’, Punch, CI, 18 July 1891: 15.

28  John Tenniel, ‘Dropping the Pilot’, Punch, XCVIII, 29 March 1890: 50–51; Richard G. Price, 1957, A History of Punch, London: Collins: 130. It is from the composition of this cartoon that the ‘committee’ nature of Punch’s cartooning is most evident. Punch cartoonist Linley Sambourne, whose diary-entries are seldom filled with anything other than references to dinners, the development of photographs and occasional mention of his work, made a point of printing in thick, underlined ink ‘Prince Bismarck Resigned’ at the head of the entry for 19 March, 1890. The editorial staff of Punch was particularly lucky in the timing of this event, as it coincided with its Wednesday dinner, at which the subjects of the coming week’s cartoons and cuts were decided. Sambourne and others record that it was Gilbert a’Beckett who suggested Tenniel immortalize the dismissal with the naval metaphor of ‘Dropping the Pilot’, though Sambourne claims that it was he who suggested the chancellor be seen walking down a ladder at the side of the ship. See: E. Linley Sambourne, Diary entry: 19 March 1890, Local Studies Dept., Kensington Central Library, London.

29  Mark Lemon, ‘The Kings in their Cock-Boats’, Punch, XIV, [undated – 1848]: 146.

30  John Tenniel, ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’, Punch, CI, 3 October 1891: 158; E. Linley Sambourne, ‘Nana Wouldn’t Give Me a Bow-Wow!’, Punch, CIV, 20 May 1893: 230–231.

31  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘The Story of Fidgety Wilhelm’, Punch, CX, 1 February 1896: 50; Queen Victoria to Lord Salisbury, 10 January 1896, in G. E. Buckle, 1932, editor. The Letters of Queen Victoria, III (III), London: John Murray: 17–18.

32  Wilhelm II, 24 February 1892, speech to the Brandenburger Landtag, quoted in ‘The German Emperor on Grumbling’, The Times, 25 February 1892: 5. For an even more overblown translation of the same, see Emil Ludwig, 1928, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Ethel Colburn Mayne, translator, London: G. P. Putnam & Sons: 282.

33  Editorial, Freisinnige Zeitung, quoted in The Times, 25 February 1892: 5.

34  ‘Germany’, The Times, 5 March 1892: 11.

35  John Tenniel, ‘The Modern Alexander’s Feast’, Punch, CII, 5 March 1892: 110; John Dryden, ‘Alexander’s Feast (1697)’, Selected Poems, London: Penguin, 2001, p. 392.

36  Empress Victoria to Queen Victoria, 27 February 1892, in Sir F. Ponsonby, 1928, editor. Letters of the Empress Frederick, London: Macmillan: 434. Also see: ‘The German Emperor’s Speech’, in The Times, 27 February 1892: 7.

37  Spielmann, History of Punch: 192.

38  MacDonogh, The Last Kaiser: 165.

39  Anne Topham, 1992, A Distant Thunder – Intimate Recollections of the Kaiser’s Court, New York: New Chapter Press: 56.

40  Topham, A Distant Thunder: 56.

41  E. F. Benson, 1936, The Kaiser and English Relations, London: Longmans, Green & Co.: 146.

42  Benson, The Kaiser and English Relations: 146.

43  Sir Theodore Martin to Queen Victoria [n.d.], in G. E. Buckle, 1932, editor. The Letters of Queen Victoria, III (III): 224–225.

44  Sambourne, Diary entries: 15–16 March 1892.

45  Sambourne, Diary entry: 17 March 1892.

46  Sambourne, Diary entry: 19 March 1890.

47  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘Wilful Wilhelm’, Punch, CII, 26 March 1892: 146–147.

48  MacDonogh, The Last Kaiser: 165.

49  Sambourne, ‘Wilful Wilhelm’: 147.

50  Rebentisch, Die vielen Gesichter des Kaisers: 174.

51  Sambourne, ‘Wilful Wilhelm’: 147.

52  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘The Imperial Jack-in-the-Box’, Punch, CII, 30 January 1892: 50.

53  Röhl, Introduction to Röhl & Sombart, editors. Kaiser Wilhelm II: 15; ‘Constitution of the German Empire (1871)’, in Reports of the American Legation at Berlin, 1871, Washington: U. S. Government: articles 17 [law], 15–18 [appointment of officials], 50 [post office], 53 [navy], 56 [consular affairs], 63–64 [army].

54  A photograph of the inscription (still visible today) appears in MacDonogh, The Last Kaiser: figure 13 (between: 212–213).

55  John Tenniel, ‘The Little Germania Magnate’, Punch, CI, 28 November 1891: 259.

56  ‘Constitution of the German Empire’: article 68.

57  ‘Our Mutual Friend’, Punch, XCV, 14 July 1888: 19; John Tenniel, ‘The Rival Pets; or, Fondling and Feeding’, Punch, XCVII, 2 November 1889: 211. Rebentisch estimated that of the 2400 cartoons he found across British and German sources, 20% depicted Wilhelm II in Gard du Corps uniform (Rebentisch, Die vielen Gesichter des Kaisers: 162).

58  ‘The Imperial Clothes Reserve’, Punch, CXXVII, 5 April 1905: 242.

59  Morris, Artist of Wonderland: 155–181.

60  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘The Imperial Crummles’, Punch, CXIV, 8 January 1898: 2; Charles Dickens, 1839, Nicholas Nickleby, London: Chapman & Hall: 474.

61  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘A New Rôle’, Punch, CXIV, 15 January 1898: 14.

62  J. Pudney, 1954, The Thomas Cook Story, London: Non-Fiction Book Club: 190–192; Jill Hamilton, 2005, Thomas Cook: The Holiday-Maker, Stroud: Sutton: 227; E. Linley Sambourne, ‘Cook’s Crusader’, Punch, CXV, 5 October 1898: 170.

63  Alan Palmer, 1997, The Kaiser: Warlord of the Second Reich, London: Phoenix: 91–92.

64  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘The Gifted Amateur’, Punch, CVII, 13 October 1894: 179.

65  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘His Favourite Subject’,

66  [No author], ‘Meteor II dazzles the yachting world, and wins the blue riband of the surf’, Punch, XIX, 20 June 1896: 300.

67  Robert K. Massie, 2002, Dreadnought – Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War, London: Pimlico: 154–159.

68  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘The Milkmaid of Cowes’, Punch, XVIII, 9 May 1896: 218

69  E. Linley Sambourne, ‘A Fresh Start’, Punch, CXIV, 23 April 1898: 182.

70  E. Linley Sambourne, [Untitled], Punch, CXVII, 8 November 8 1899: 218.

71  [No author], ‘An Imperial Helmet’, Punch, CXVII, 15 November 1899: 237.

72  ‘Visit of the German Emperor to England’, The Times, 21 January 1901: 5; Wilhelm II, 1922, My Memoirs, 1878–1918, London: Cassell & Co.: 99.

73  Leonard Raven Hill, ‘Appreciation, 1901’, Punch, CXX, 30 January 1901: 99.

74  Bernard Partridge, ‘A Short Memory’, Punch, CXXI, 11 September 1901: 183. Also: Bernard Partridge, ‘Out of Drawing’, Punch, CXXI, 11 December 1901: 417. ‘German Michael’ or ‘Deutsche Michel’ was a stock character used from the early nineteenth century to epitomise the German nation (like John Bull in the case of Britain). He was used by both German and British cartoonists, but in Britain, his trademark sleeping-cap was often replaced by a peaked cap of military style. See: Mark Bryant, 2006, World War I in Cartoons, London: Grub Street: 16–17.

75  Bernard Partridge, ‘One Who Knows’, Punch, CXX, 13 February 1901: 127. Partridge’s image in intended to be ironic, attacking the army over its failure to win a swift victory in South Africa, rather than and only half-seriously suggests the involvement of Wilhelm II.

76  ‘The New Rake’s Progress: Cartoons from Punch Illustrating the Kaiser’s Career, 1888–1914’ special supplement to Punch: CXLVI, 16 September 1914: 1–16; ‘Punch and the Prussian Bully, 1857–1914’, special supplement to Punch, CXLVI, 14 October 1914: 1–24.

77  J. Kosanovich & P. Hagemann, ‘Punch cards’. Accessed: 7 November 2006. Available at:

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The Times, 1947, The History of the Times: Volume 3 – The Twentieth Century Test, 1884–1912, London: Times Books.

Tuchman, Barbara W., 1997, The Guns of August, London: The Folio Society.


Cite this chapter as: Scully, Richard. 2009. ‘“A pettish little emperor”: Images of Kaiser Wilhelm II in Punch, 1888–1901’. Drawing the Line: Using Cartoons as Historical Evidence, edited by Scully, Richard; Quartly, Marian. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 4.1 to 4.28.

© Copyright 2009 Richard Scully

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Drawing the Line

   by Richard Scully, Marian Quartly