Monday, November 13, 2023

Princess Viktoria dies "lonely and alone"

November 13, 1929

Princess Viktoria of Prussia died today at her residence in Bonn. She was 63 years old, reported the New York Times.  She was "destitute and entirely alone."

Princess Viktoria was taken to the hospital on November 6 in "critical condition after a doctor had forced his way into a dingy room she had shared with a former servant." She was suffering from a high fever.

Her sister, Margarete, the Landgravine of Hesse, was in Bonn, "but was not allowed to see the patient," in Viktoria's final hours. Kaiser Wilhelm, in exile in Doorn, is said to have telephoned the hospital twice a day "during the crisis for news of his favorite sister, "whose recent moral and physical suffering wiped out the imperial anger of her last matrimonial venture."

Viktoria had suffered "a severe attack of influenza, complicated by a previous organic trouble," which "developed into acute inflammation of the lungs." Her doctors stated that the princess did not try to fight the disease, "realizing she had nothing left to live for."

She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, daughter of Friedrich III of Germany, and sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the widow of Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe.

Princess Friederike Amalia Wilhelmine Viktoria of Prussia was born on April 12, 1866, at the Neues Palais in Potsdam. She was the fifth child of Friedrich III and his wife, Victoria, the Princess Royal, and the eldest child of Queen Victoria. She was baptized on her grandmother’s birthday, May 24, in Potsdam, where the infant princess “was held during the ceremony by the King of Prussia and the Princess Marie of Hohenzollern.” She was named after her mother and grandmother.
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Viktoria was known by several nicknames, including Moretta, Vicky, or Vicksey.
The princess "gave up all her princely rank and German citizenship," when she married a Russian emigre, Alexander Zoubkhoff, in November 1927. She "disregarded social conventions, and particularly added to the agitations" of her brother.

Not a single member of her family was present when she married the "former waiter, dishwasher, professional dancer, and movie 'extra,' in a civil ceremony at Bonn's town hall.”

She told the press that she was "seeking to exchange the title of 'princess' for that of a 'happy woman.'"

As a young woman, Princess Viktoria of Prussia was in love with Prince Alexander of Battenberg, who was the sovereign prince of Bulgaria. Her parents approved the marriage, but after her father died of throat cancer in 1888, and her brother succeeded to the throne, Viktoria was forced to end her romance.  Kaiser Wilhelm II and Otto von Bismarck were in strict opposition to a marriage (due to the concerns of Russia, as Sandro, the Sovereign Prince of Bulgaria, was closely allied with Russia - and the Tsar was his first cousin.  (Sandro was not close to Alexander III, and support for the young Prince waned, and he abdicated as Prince of Bulgaria in 1889.)

Wilhelm II and von Bismarck considered other marital options.

 Bismarck objected to Vicky’s “English influence” on her husband. He saw “great advantages” in having Moretta marry the Crown Prince of Portugal. In 1885, King Luiz of Portugal asked Moretta to convert to Roman Catholicism and marry his son, Crown Prince Carlos. She and her parents refused this offer. A year later, Carlos married a more suitable Roman Catholic princess, Princess Amelie of Orléans.

Young Viktoria's heart was broken, and she was sent to England to spend time with her grandmother, Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria and Windsor and Balmoral (Allen and Unwin: 1959) is a series of 27 letters that Princess Viktoria wrote to her mother, during her stay with Granny. Her romance with Alexander of Battenberg lasted for seven years, and it has been said that she never got over this disappointment. The late James Pope-Hennessy, who edited the letters, wrote: “It seems clear that the factor which spoiled her early adult life, and ruined her old age, was a simple and sympathetic one: Princess Victoria was a romantic. She could not marry “the handsome and dashing Battenberg, who seemed a hero in her eyes”, Viktoria was driven into a “humdrum marriage.”

She was described as a woman of “immense charm”, courageous, original, and the tallest of Empress Friedrich’s daughters. Her own mother once described her as “a lively skittish girlie ...often so difficult to guide and manage.” She was her father’s favorite daughter, and Fritz allowed her “to do as she liked.” The first rumors of marriage with Prince Alexander appeared in 1884. A year later, Moretta “was so much in love ” with Alexander that she told her mother that if “anything happened to him she would throw herself into a canal.” The family was visiting Venice at the time.

Viktoria's mother confided about her own daughter's disappointment and asked for the queen's help: "You would indeed make me most happy and do me the greatest favour if you could induce Moretta not to be foolish about her food. Her one craze is to be thin. She starves completely, touches no milk, no sugar, no bread, no sweets, no soup, no butter, nothing but a scrap of meat and apples which is not enough. She will ruin her health. She has a fine strong constitution. She goes to bed too late and takes almost no exercise. I have begged and prayed, ordered, threatened, all to no effect." In the same letter, which was dated May 30, 1889, Vicky also mentions to her mother several prospects of marriage for Moretta.

"As for her prospects, should it fail with this young Grand Duke (which is possible, but of which I trust I may hear more from you), I hear much of this Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe (Adolf) -- in a regiment in Berlin. He is nice and good-looking, but of course, it is nothing as to position. Should it not be possible for her to meet the young Russian which I still hope might be arranged, I am anxious for her to see this young Prince Adolf and this could be arranged when she comes back from England. I have also thought of the third Anhalt (Edward), a nice good young man with a nice fortune and not ill-looking, who would be sure to make a kind, nice husband and who has an amiable, cheerful disposition, and is a favourite everywhere. I think the young Russian would be far more to her taste, whereas either of the two others I should feel she could be quite safe with from all I hear and I have enquired very carefully. If only she would make up her mind to consider the possibility and not reject the thought altogether if other things fail. Please note to tell Moretta that I have written this."

Certainly, Queen Victoria, who had also approved of the Battenberg alliance, was able to assist in finding a husband for her granddaughter.

The Grand Duke in question was "young Grand Duke Alexander," as Queen Victoria noted, acknowledging that the Duchess of Edinburgh and the Princess of Leiningen "would do anything to help you" in regard to finding a husband for Moretta. Alexander Mikhailovich was the Princess of Leiningen’s nephew.

The Duchess of Edinburgh, who was the daughter of Alexander II, also had a recommendation: Grand Duke Peter, the son of Grand Duke Nicholas.

Queen Victoria responded to her daughter with the news that "Moretta has expressed a strong wish not to marry now and I own I think you should let it alone for the present. Let her see people, but pray do not force it on, for if she has no inclination if she doesn't like anyone, it would never do." The Queen also cautioned Vicky: "But don't force or press her to marry for marrying's sake: that is dreadful. And I think it is hardly right or dignified for you to go about trying to marry your daughter and getting refusals. I had something of that kind to go through with Louise and suffered and it was very painful." She also informed Vicky that there was no chance for marriage between Grand Duke Alexander and Moretta, "for he does not think of marrying for some time to come and no prospect is held out of it in the future."

Kaiser Wilhelm informed Viktoria that she was to marry -- for reasons of the state -- Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe, although it is difficult to understand how a marriage between the fourth son of the Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe and the daughter of the late German emperor could be described as "reasons of state."

 But the Kaiser was determined to find a husband for his sister, “not least to pre-empt his mother’s active efforts in this direction,” according to Wilhelm’s biographer, John Röhl.

In early 1889, Wilhelm entrusted his close friend, Philipp zu Eulenberg with a “secret mission to investigate the private circumstances of Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe.” Wilhelm received the favorable report in February, and he thanked his friend “with all his heart.”

Prince Adolf, born in the same year as the Kaiser, “was good looking and not without means,” and in Wilhelm’s mind, the perfect match for his sister. Toward the end of that year, zu Eulenberg was sent once again to Bückeburg on another secret mission, where “after protracted negotiations” with the Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe, he succeeded in planning for Adolf to pay a “discreet call” on Empress Friedrich and her two daughters, Viktoria and Margarete, who were in Italy.

Adolf proposed on June 11, 1890. Empress Friedrich wrote to her mother. "Now I have a piece of news to impart which is that yesterday the Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe proposed to Vicky and she has accepted. In her depression and discouragement, feeling that the happiness she had hoped for is not to be hers, she accepts this. I hope it is a wise step, but it made my heart ache to think it is not what she dreamt of....William wishes this marriage particularly. I have cried so much I feel quite ill. But I think the young man is thoroughly trustworthy and good and I am sure he will try to make her happy, and she will try her utmost to do her duty...This has all come about rather suddenly. Prince Adolf came here to see me....He has seen very little of the world and has not travelled. I think it would do him an immense deal of good to go about little....I dare not think of parting with her as it will be dreadful and yet I am glad she should have a house of her own and someone to protect her in case I die, and I am also thankful to think she will not live very far off."

Queen Victoria noted that Adolf was a first cousin of the Duchess of Albany.

Wilhelm II announced Viktoria's engagement to all the members of his family at a grand luncheon in the Marble Hall at Sansouci on June 17, 1890. The princess wore a "cream-colored dress and a hat trimmed with white flowers." The newly engaged couple sat between the Emperor and Empress. Wilhelm offered a toast to his sister and her fiancé.

(On the same day, Viktoria's family denied  that her sister, Margarete was engaged to marry Prince Wilhelm of Nassau.)

In her autobiography, My Memoirs, Princess Viktoria described how the engagement came about: "It was at Seegenhaus, near Neuwied, the residence of the Princess of Wied, the mother of the well-known Queen Carmen Sylva of Rumania, that I first met Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe. We were mutually attracted to each other, and I believe it as a case of love at first sight; for at Court I had met many good-looking and clever men, who had nevertheless failed to interest me in that particular way."

In July 1890, Viktoria and Adolf went to Berlin, where Adolf was presented to the Kaiser and Kaiserin. "He's a capital fellow," was the Kaiser's comment, "which quite amused me," Moretta noted.

A week later, Princess Viktoria, accompanied by her mother, Empress Friedrich, and her sister, Margarete, traveled to Schloss Bückeburg en route to England. Prince Adolf had gone on ahead to be able to welcome his fiancee and her family.

The widowed empress, however, was not completely convinced that Adolf was the right candidate. The only other candidate was Philipp of Württemberg, although he was a Roman Catholic. Vicky continued to work in secret to "find what she considered a more suitable husband for her favourite daughter." This continued even after the announcement of the engagement, and only months before the wedding. In the summer of 1890, Vicky introduced her daughter to the Hereditary Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who was the grandson of Queen Victoria’s older half-sister, Feodora. She was thwarted once again by her eldest son, who was determined to “stick to his decision,” according to Röhl.

In a letter to Ernst’s father, Hermann, Vicky wrote bitterly: “My son has chosen this alliance.”

[In 1896, Ernst married Viktoria’s first cousin, Princess Alexandra of Edinburgh.]

The situation between Vicky, Moretta, and the Kaiser grew even tenser after he received a letter from his wife, Dona. Wilhelm and Dona had been “fully informed” about Moretta’s “new infatuation and the machinations of her mother and Queen Victoria.”

There was another suitor, certainly in Moretta’s eyes. In fact, all three of the Victorias “had the greatest hopes” for an English naval office, Captain the Hon. Maurice Archibald Bourke, the son of the 6th Earl of Mayo. It was clear to everyone concerned that Moretta “was still in love” with Captain Bourke. Dona, who may have been aware of her husband’s plans for his sister, confided to her husband that she had recently heard from his eldest sister, Charlotte – an inveterate mischief-maker – who had received a letter from the Duchess of Edinburgh. Charlotte shared this letter with her sister-in-law.

“I must tell you that very disagreeable things are going on, for poor Granny (Queen Victoria) has got once more completely bamboozled by your Mama,” the Duchess of Edinburgh wrote to Charlotte, “and the whole of the Bourke story was discussed with the most disastrous results.”

Queen Victoria, according to the Duchess of Edinburgh, “scolded” Moretta, who said that the relationship was not serious. “But when she talked it over with your Mama, who told her a very different story: that Moretta was still madly in love with the gallant Captain, would have waited for him five or six years in necessary, followed him to the end of the world, and more of that sort of bosh and nonsense adding that when Bourke broke it off it nearly broke Moretta’s heart.

“Whereupon dear ...Granny shed romantic tears of real sorrow over the sad episode telling your Mama that if she had known it before this new engagement with Adolph ... she (Granny) would have certainly helped Moretta to accomplish this match!!! Good heavens!....Moretta was obliged to accept this new partie but would never forget her love for Bourke.”

The Duchess of Edinburgh noted that they were right “to stop the whole thing” and tell Wilhelm about Moretta’s romance with Captain Bourke. The Duchess was certainly concerned about the scandal. “God preserve us from further scandals, but somehow, I do not feel reassurance yet, that Moretta will really marry that very nice Adolphe, so good looking, I think.” Marie also mentioned to Charlotte that she thought it a “bad thing” that Empress Friedrich and her daughters traveled to Greece for Princess Sophie’s wedding on the Surprise, “the very ship in which Captain Bourke was serving.”

Dona was indignant. She asked her husband, who was going to England to see Queen Victoria, “to give your Grandmamma a good talking to, for this is really going too far, for when a girl, particularly a princess, is engaged, that her own mother is probably trying to break it off!!!”

She also asked Wilhelm to make sure that Moretta did not return on the Surprise, “for the constant contact with the man, when someone like Vicky (Moretta) if she gets worked up, she might well do something quite frightful and then tell you that there were reasons which compelled her to marry the fellow.”
In August, Kaiser Wilhelm was at Balmoral, where he was able to convince his grandmother “of the advantages of the match.”

Young Moretta remained depressed. Her mother wrote to Queen Victoria: “The nearer the wedding approaches the more cast down she is.”

The date of the wedding and the gala events were announced on October 30. The date was set for November 19. On November 17, the bridal party and their families attended a gala performance at the Opera. The next day, Empress Friedrich hosted a banquet at her palace, and on the 20th, the bride and groom would host a lunch at the Schloss in Potsdam, before leaving for Schloss Bückeburg, en route to Malta and Egypt.

They also spent three days in Constantinople in February 1891, where they "visited the places of interest," and dined with the Sultan before boarding the Orient Express to Vienna.

The Lutheran wedding took place in the chapel at Berlin's Alte Schloss. The Duke of Connaught represented Queen Victoria, and the Prince of Wales was represented by his elder son, the Duke of Clarence. Empress Friedrich, the bride's mother, and Empress Auguste Viktoria placed a crown on the bride's head before she entered the chapel. Her gown was of "cream satin, brocaded and trimmed with wild roses and silver." Her veil was "of tulle interwoven with silver and surmounted with a wreath of orange blossoms and myrtles."

The chapel was filled with "nearly sixty members of royal families."

The bride "looking majestic in her bridal robe, which was borne by four bridesmaids, assisted by as many pages."

In the bridal procession, Kaiser Wilhelm II followed, escorting his mother, who "had put off her widow's weeds on this occasion and donned a most becoming dress of pale lilac." Empress Auguste Viktoria was on the arm of the Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe and Prince Henry of Prussia escorted the Princess of Schaumburg-Lippe, who was followed by the Crown Princess of Greece between the Grand Duke of Hesse and the Duke of Connaught, Princess Margarete of Prussia with the Crown Prince of Greece and Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Meiningen, Princess Henry of Prussia between Princes Leopold and Albrecht of Prussia, the Duke of Clarence with Princesses Leopold and Friedrich Karl of Prussia, Princess Albrecht of Prussia with Prince Alexander of Prussia and the Prince of Roumania, the Duchess of Connaught with the Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse and the Duchess of Edinburgh, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein with the Grand Duke of Oldenburg, Prince Maximilian of Baden, the Hereditary Princess of Hohenzollern, Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse, "and several other princely groups - 20 in all," according to the Times of London.

A banquet was held after the wedding, where Kaiser Wilhelm II offered toasts in honor of the bride and bridegroom.

Empress Friedrich, in a letter to her mother, noted that there would be no Fackeltanz (torchlight dance). "There are difficulties about rank and so on and on account of Dona's health (she was pregnant) it was wished to curtail the ceremony as much as possible." Princess Viktoria was a royal highness. Her new husband was a mere Serene Highness, albeit the son of a sovereign prince.
On the day of the wedding, Count Alfred von Waldersee, a member of the Kaiser’s coterie, wrote: “I am quite sure that the couple do not suit each other, and that the marriage can never be a happy one.”

After their honeymoon, the newlyweds settled in Bonn, where Adolf took up his military duties. Princess Viktoria noted in her memoirs that Adolf "was with me very little; but, as he was an able and conscientious office, I soon came to realize what military work meant, and appreciated his devotion to duty."

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Viktoria's autobiography was published in 1929, the year of her death. She was writing for an audience, and for a paycheck. This is certainly obvious in her commentary about Adolf. "My husband was one of the kindest, noblest and best of husbands imaginable, chivalrous, courageous, and humane. No better husband could a woman have."

This was far from the truth. Viktoria was certainly unfaithful to Adolf and wanted out of the marriage.

Princess Viktoria suffered a miscarriage early in the marriage. She and her husband had no further children. For two years, Prince Adolf served as regent for the Principality, but despite his brother-in-law's support, the succession to Lippe was eventually passed to another member of the family.

The Prince of Lippe died in 1895 without male issue. He stipulated in his will that Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe, who was the fourth son of the reigning Prince, should act as regent until Adolfe's son reached his majority.
Moretta's mother wrote in a letter to Queen Victoria (May 4, 1895): "Vicky and Adolf make their solemn entry into Detmold [capital of Lippe] today. They will remain there for the present."

Queen Victoria was furious with her grandson-in-law after he demanded Moretta end her stay with her mother in September 1895. "I am so provoked at Adolf hurrying off Moretta before the time (far too short as that was) that she agreed to stay. If one of my sons-in-law was to behave that way I should be furious and protest. A daughter has her duties to her mother, who has no child living with her and is a widow. It is too bad and selfish."

In 1901, the Princess celebrated her 35th birthday with a family luncheon at Schloss Friedrichshof. The 12 guests included Queen Alexandra, who earlier in the day had planted a tree in the gardens, and Viktoria's brother, Prince Henry. Earlier that year, she had gone driving in Bonn, where she was thrown from her carriage, but she did not sustain any serious injuries.

It was when she was married to Adolf that scandal was first attached to her name. Viktoria "contemplated divorcing her husband" because she was in love with his nephew and wished to marry him. After Prince Adolf died in 1916, Viktoria sought the consent of her brother to marry the nephew.

Kaiser Wilhelm II denied the request. The princess was said to "have taken the refusal calmly, but with a resolve to have more gayety in her life before she grew old."

The widowed Princess visited her brother in Doorn only once when she attended his second wedding.  Wilhelm's personal physician, Dr. Alfred Haehner,  recorded in his diary that Viktoria made an "appalling" impression at the wedding.  "The life she has led was written clearly on her face for all to see."  It was as if one had come "face to face with the madame of a brothel."

Viktoria may have suffered from porphyria. Her sister, Charlotte, had certainly inherited the disease. John Röhl noted that Viktoria had “made herself conspicuous by her behavior throughout her life – she was a nymphomaniac.” In 1893, she was treated for “pernicious anaemia,” at a clinic in Bad Schwalbach.

She left Berlin in 1915 and moved into a "luxuriously furnished castle," in Bonn. She was 50 years old at the time, "but very wealthy and young-looking."

Princess Viktoria met Zoubkoff in 1927 during a party "given at her castle to a number of students." Zoubkoff was studying law at the University of Bonn. The princess became infatuated with the young Russian, who was forty years her junior.

Their engagement was soon announced, and the couple was married in a civil ceremony, as required by German law, which was followed by a Greek Orthodox wedding, where she wore "the famous lace bridal veil" that was first worn by her mother, Princess Victoria, when she married the future Friedrich III, in 1858.

Shortly after the wedding, Zoubkoff "became mixed in many escapades," which resulted in his deportation. He went to Brussels but was asked to leave there. He returned to Germany, only to be expelled for a second time. The same "fate met him in France."

Viktoria at first "declared her faith in him" and announced she would follow him to the Belgian Congo, where Zoubkoff drifted. Not long afterward, Viktoria was forced to move from her palace into a rented room because her "wealth had been dissipated." This past October, her personal belongings were sold at public auction to pay her creditors. When the auction was over, Viktoria was found "by a loyal servant clutching the trunk of an old tree in her garden, dazed by her misfortune."

The princess believed that "at the last minute" her brother, the Kaiser, or other family members, "would come to her rescue and hold up the sale, but they failed her," reported the Chicago Daily Tribune. Earlier this month, the princess filed for divorce.

She recently told relatives: "Alexander of Battenberg's wooing was heaven; the Adolf episode was purgatory." One relative added: "Then Zoubkoff took her to hell."

Hell, however, was not how Viktoria first saw her romance with the much younger man. She recorded in her diary about their first meeting: "Baron Zoubkoff was here for dinner. He appears to be a most interesting young man -- slender, dark, and good-looking. He is very intelligent, and I shall continue to invite him."

Her diary revealed further emotions: "Baron Zoubkoff came today and we played tennis. I hope he will continue to call on me. He strikes me as an ideal companion for a lady, and I have an impression that is also fond of me. I wish there were more folks about the place, as I would not then feel myself so lonesome. I am becoming more attached to him every day, and I dread to think that he is to leave Bonn."

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But Zoubkoff never intended to leave Bonn and "egged on by his fellow emigres, who scented some easy money" -- arrived one morning at the palace wearing a "tennis kit and popped the question."

On the day she accepted Alexander's marriage proposal, she wrote in her diary: "I am entirely happy. The family's opposition to my marriage does not matter. I will overcome all obstacles. Rank, title, and money I will cheerfully give up, but my happiness I am determined to keep. He loves me, and I love him. I feel a new life opening up before me."

After the wedding, a beaming bride told reporters: "I am only too glad to have someone to protect and love me, and I shall be only too glad to fulfill the wishes of my husband and help him in every respect."

Within a few months, however, Sascha, as Viktoria called him, "was spending his nights and her money along the amusement highways that flank the Rhine."

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 The princess' fortune, which was estimated at more than 2 million dollars, "was rapidly being consumed" to cover Zoubkoff's overdrafts, "paying for his nocturnal escapades." The princess, in addition, was "brazenly being victimized by alleged legal advisers, who proved to be Zoubkoff's confederates."

In time, Viktoria was adjusted to bankruptcy, and all of her possessions were auctioned off last month. She moved into a "humble pension" near her former palace, where "she started on a life of spartan simplicity and severity."

Kaiser Wilhelm's spokesman in Berlin issued a statement regarding Viktoria's funeral. The Kaiser's attendance at the funeral was "wholly out of the question.".
My Memoirs was written before Viktoria's marriage crumbled. She concluded her autobiography with "I feel that a fresh life has opened out to me, one that, with the graciousness of Providence, will be full of happiness in my newly-found companionship. We mean to live a simple, quiet life, devoting a great deal of our time to work, and later travelling abroad and visiting friends."

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Bea said...

Marlene, this was a great post to your blog. I followed the last few entries you did on her. This is such a tragic story, to have so much and lose it all. The 2 pictures posted are very nice, I have never seen that many of Viktoria. She was definetly an elegant lady. Bea

Anonymous said...

Dear Marlene,

I agree with Bea in all that she has said.

Viktoria seems to me to be a very tragic person.

Her grandmother, Queen Victoria's comments are very insightful.

Thank you for posting this.

Sincerely, Keith.

Skenderbey said...

I've always felt that her Greek nieces bore a striking resemblance to their unfortunate aunt..

Bea said...

Marlene, thanks for adding some additional information. I wouldn't see this type of story anywhere else, you have such great knowledge of royal history, thank you for sharing. Bea

Unknown said...

Thank you. It's a very interesting articles you have written. Where did you find the quotations from Victoria's diaries?

yous sincerely

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Riccardo - in her memoirs.

Unknown said...

Fascinating indeed

Luv Lubker said...

Where did you get the information about Captain Bourke and the letters by Marie Edinburgh?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

I wrote this is 2009. Most likely the Rohr biography of Kaiser Wilhelm included this information.