How the Deposed Kings Live
Some are Unhappy in Exile—Ex-King of Greece Says Belief in Kingships is Going.
INTERESTING information with reference to the deposed kings who are now to be found in all parts of Switzerland is given by William G. Shepherd in Everybody’s Magazine. Mr. Shepherd apparently went overseas with the idea of persuading some of the better-known ex-royalties to write their experiences for Everybody’s. He did not succeed in getting any of them to the point, but he gathered in the process some information that is very readable indeed.
He intimates, in the first place, that most of the exiles are reasonably comfortable and happy. A few are consumed with vain regrets and futile ambitions, and these, of course, are very unhappy, indeed.
One of these is Sophia, ex-queen of Greece, sister of the German Kaiser. When she and her king-husband, after the Allies had removed them from Greece, took shelter in a hotel in a certain Swiss town, she decided that a certain little English church in the town would be her place of worship. She declared that the Episcopal creed came nearest to the Greek Orthodox creed, and that she and her two little daughters would therefore sit under the religious instruction of the British vicar. Some one in her entourage fixed it up with the church warden to rope off a few pews for the ex-royal family, and, on the first Sunday, the ex-queen and her entourage, including her daughters and a lady-in-waiting, entered these pews with a lowering of ropes and a considerable to-do that attracted no little attention. Now, English folk3 like certain sorts of kings; kings, for instance, who do, more or less, what folks want them to do, but the old idea of the divine right of kings has passed away in England, and any royal fuss that leads them to believe that this idea is still alive is bound to make them sit up and take notice.
This little English congregation in Switzerland did this very thing. It is. made up of gentle, God-fearing subjects of King George, but, as they themselves say, in their British way, “There was a row.” It was about the ropes. Anybody could worship with them in their little church; that wasn’t the point. The Kaiser himself, to say nothing of his sister,might step in at any time—perhaps with considerable benefit to himself—to sit under the doctrine of their good vicar. But to have a member of the Hohenzollern family rope off a set of pews in that British church and sit exclusively in these pews in royal worship, was not to be endured. The church warden got his come-uppance that very Sunday before the folks had left the church, and the next Sunday the exqueen of Greece and her entourage took their chances for seats with the other worshippers, humbly and in that now world-famous but somewhat onesided spirit commonly known as “kamaradship.”
With Madame Sophia, as with many . another royalty, the belief that royalty is royalty, whether it is enthroned or not, seems unalterable, like all the things that are pounded into our minds when we are children. In the early days of the Armistice, when the kings and queens were fresh from their courts, several of them tried to keep up court customs among themselves, even in exile. This meant that all of them tried to enter Switzerland with large followings of servants and ladies-in and gentlemen-in-waiting. The Republican Swiss Government, without the consent of which no fugitive royalty can enter Switzerland, was forced to make special rules to cover this point. The Swiss rules for royal refugees are very strict; for once in its career, royalty in Switzerland is under orders, and the household lists were scanned very carefully by the Swiss authorities before passports of admittance to Switzerland were issued. Food was not any too abundant in Switzerland, and the mouths of Swiss peasants had to be filled before foreign
Servants, who catered only to ex-royal whims and royal love of court ceremony, could be fed. It came hard on the ex-kings and ex-queens at first, but last summer, after they had spent half a year or more in a republican atmosphere, they seemed to have adjusted themselves to the new idea, and you saw them mingling in the hotel lobbies and coffee rooms.
Shepherd had an interesting visit at Amerongen. He did not see the Kaiser, of course, but he gathered some information about the broken autocrat of the Teutons:
Count Carlos Bentinck, son of the exKaiser’s host, accompanied me personally over the estate. With a nice regard for the rules of hospitality, he never once . mentioned the ex-royal guest, but, aftei we had passed several Dutch sentries, who stood about the ground and at the entrances, he sighed and said:
“This is very much like living in a prison, isn’t it?”
There spoke the son of the house, who was free to go and come as he pleased. I couldn’t feel, from what he ' said, that the Bentinck household or its guest was happy.
A long-bearded, gray-haired, broken man is the man who was Emperor of Germany. He might stand at the foot of any of his own statues in Germany and be unrecognized. His mustaches he no longer trains upward. They droop at the ends, and, between beard and mustache, his mouth is hidden. He might go on the streets of any city in the world—this man, more photographed and painted and sculptured and statued than any other man in the world—and pass unknown through the crowds. He is afraid of people. On a little separate piece of land, protected by a moat and a high wall, he spends his time in sawing logs. The Bentincks for many years have sold timber for mines. Much of it went to Belgium and Northern France. The trees which the Bentinck workmen carry to the castle grounds are sawed into mine timber by the ex-Kaiser and this timber is carried off to be sold. It is quite probable that some of it will find its way to the mines at Lens, which were destroyed by the German
In a little hotel at Amerongen, where the newspaper men were keeping watch on the ex-Kaiser, I saw also a worried-looking German officer in civilian clothes. He is the ex-Kaiser’s physician. Once before I had seen that gentleman. It was in the winter of 1914 in the Kaiser’s Palace in Berlin. I had gone there, with other correspondents, to ask about the Kaiser’s health, which at that time was bad. He came to meet us then in a splendid uniform. He alighted from a magnificent motor-car, spoke with us for over five minutes, and then disappeared into the palace. To-day, sitting on this hardwood chair in the yard of this little hotel in this little country town, reading a German newspaper of antiquated date, as newspapers go, he does not seem the same man. He would talk to correspondents in those days of security. Now he dreads them and moves from his chair when they come near. He goes several times every day to attend the wife of the ex-Kaiser, whose heart is gravely affected. After each visit he returns to the hotel, sits himself down in the yard and poras over the papers from home or spends his time thinking. The only happy, lively man I saw of the Kaiser’s suite was his cook. With a face that strangely resembles his master’s, and with his mustaches upturned in true kaiserliche fashion, he goes to the village market or moves about among the villagers with happy greetings, a hero in their eyes and in his own.
The ex-Kaiser will not talk to correspondents or to anybody but his old and trusted friends. He has sent personal notes to the correspondents, saying that he can never imagine himself talking or writing for the public.
All in all, I gather that he is the brokenest, the unhappiest, and most hopeless of all the fallen monarchs.
In a heedless mood you might, as a republican American, be inclined to gloat just a bit over some of the fallen but still life-loving royalty that you see in Switzerland. But this broken, fallen man is too miserable to excite anything but wonder at the very depths of his error and misery.
The driver of my car had driven the ex-Kaiser a few weeks before to see the country place which he was about to purchase; it was the only time that the ex-Kaiser had left the Bentinck estate.
“A very sick man ! Suffering very much! Very old and very sick!” he told me in broken English.
Later, in Italy, at Santa Margherita, I saw the Italians follow with their glances the figure of a great, tall, lanky man who walked along the country road from a suburban hotel to shop in their town. He was Grand Duke Nicholas, uncle of the Czar of Russia. He had once been commander-in-chief of the great Russian army. By his simple word and gesture, hundreds and thousands of men had gone to their death; he had held the destinies of millions of homes in his long, slender palms. Now he was bereft of all state and pomp and power. He did not even have an automobile. He might order, in thunderous tones, the most humble peasant to step off the sidewalk and let him pass, and that peasant need not obey. He paid his hotel bills like any other mortal; he had a few old friends with him at the hotel, trusty friends who had fled with him for their very lives from the Bolshevik-ridden Crimea. He came down to meals when the gong rang, like the rest of us, and he liked his coffee in the coffee-room, with folks sitting about the various tables, smoking and chatting. He could speak English. He refused an offer to write a series of articles for Everybody’s Magazine that would have put an ordinary person on Easy Street for several years. He simply said that anything he said or wrote would be construed as politics—and he was out of politics; in fact, had never been in it.
■ He was about the sixth ex-royal person who had told me he couldn’t talk for publication.
I had started out determined, if possible. to get at least one king to talk.
I had seen enough of royalty and heard enough to realize that they were all only a lot of a certain kind of folks, with a certain kind of education and certain sets of general ideas, like all the rest of us. I knew that a free and open talk with one of them would prove, more than anything else, that kings, after all, were only folks.
“Tino” did it for me; Constantine of Greece; brother-in-law of the exKaiser; husband of the ex-Kaiser’s sister, the temporarily Episcopalian Sophia; Constantine, who was run off his throne by the Allies because he prevented Greece from coming into the war; Constantine, whose second son now sits on the Athenian throne.
With a group of American correspondents who were dining at a hotel in I.uceme, I heard that ex-King Constantine was living in that same hotel. We were guests of a number of Swiss gentlemen and the dinner was going right merrily when we sent up word to the ex-king’s equerry that we would like to meet the king. Word came back shortly that Constantine would receive us at 9.45, after he himself had finished dinner. One of us mentioned the fact that we ourselves would not be through dinner until 10.45. Our Swiss hosts had some speeches to make. We sent back word that 10.45 would be a better hour for us. The equerry replied that the hour we had set would be agreeable to his majesty.
At 10.30 our republican Swiss hosts enthusiastically watched their republican American guests rise from the table and start for the elevator to go upstairs to talk with a king.
They bade us Godspeed; they were as interested as we.
“We’ll wait right here at the table until you come back,” they said.
A huge, tall, blondish, big-boned man in a Tuxedo; a bald-headed man with a fascinating depression across his head right abaft his tall brow stood
waiting for us in a reception-room. We had been informed that it was the code to address him as “majesty.” His hands were in his trousers pockets. You may not believe it, but he looked nervous. It seemed to me that he felt as if he were thrusting out his chest against a storm. After we had been presented,, or.e after the other, he put his shaking hand back into his pocket, and said :
“Well, gentlemen, is there anything you would like to ask me? I understand that you are American correspondents.”
“Yes, we are,” admitted one of us. “Well,” said the ex-king, hitting directly on the crux of what was in the minds of some of us, “I don’t want to apologize for anything I did in the war, but I do want to say that I have never been anti-Entente. I did my best to keep Greece out of the war because I thought that a little nation like Greece couldn’t gain anything by going into the struggle with the great na-
“But do you think she lost anything by coming in at last?” asked one of us.
“No,” he replied, “she didn’t. But you see, she came in too late to be badly hurt.”
That was the way the interview started. This king was very human. To speak vulgarly, like unroyal folks, he was trying to square himself with us, and, through us, with America. He talked of many things that provoked further questions on our part.
Did he like the treaty?
He was in a neutral country, he said, where politics were not discussed, but did we think the treaty would end all wars?
“I understand that there are twentyfour little wars going on in the world now,” he added, “I counted them up lately in the newspapers.”
“And,” he added, “if the League-ofNations idea is good, why is it necessary for the Americans, England and France to enter into a special alli-
We didn’t know, and we told him so. But it wasn’t politics that I really. ■Wanted to discuss. I wanted to talk about kings and their affairs. Ever sincé old King Edward referred to his profession as “the king business” and suggested that kings ought to stand together, I had cherished the perverse idea of saying to some royalty some fine day: “How is the king business getting along?”
And, before I knew it. this question was out of my mouth. I reminded the former king of what King Edward had said ; then I asked, “Have you noticed that the king business has become more difficult of late?”
He might have got angry and closed the interview; he might have refused to answer, on the grounds of impertinency. Or he might have smiled, as if it were all an American joke.
He did none of these things.
He remained earnest. He turned to me and said, slowly and seriously— this man who had sat on a European throne, whose father had been a king, and who had spent most of his life in the palaces of his relatives, who form the reigning houses of Eui-ope: “Let me tell you. I think that the monarchical idea is an exploded prin-
I think we all gasped.
After a time, one of us said:
“Do you mean that the monarchical form of government is dead? Or do you mean that the idea of the divine right of kings is exploded?”
“The divine right of kings is through with,” he answered. “I never believed in it.”
“You were personally acquainted with all the kings and queens of Europe, were you not?” I asked.
“I believe I knew them all personally.” he answered.
“Did you know any of theip who believed in the divine right of kings?”
“Yes, I did.” he replied slowly.
“Can you tell us who it was?”
“The Kaiser and the Germans,” he said. “He was the only ruler I knew who believed in the divine right of kings. None of the rest of us believed
in it. Divine right of kings is solely a German idea. It existed only in Germany, but the KaiseT believed in it, and so did all his people.”
“Did you know the Czar of Russia?” I asked, thinking that perhaps he had overlooked Russia on the divine right
“Yes, I knew him very well. He was one of the most liberal-minded men in the European courts.”
“If he was so liberal, how was it that people were so discontented?”
“The Czar never got the truth about anything. He was surrounded by men who misinformed him about everything. He was always misled.”
For a moment or two he was silent. Then he looked up at us with a mischievous smile, and said:
“I knew all the kings of Europe; that’s true. But I never have known one who had the power that is possessed by your President of the United States.”
We all agreed that might be true. We had been at the Peace Conference in Paris and seen commoners like Lloyd George and the Socialist Vandervelde speaking for kings like George V and King Albert, and we knew that what this ex-king said was true.
But we also realized that there was a catch in his statement somewhere. He was intimating that “the king business” was fairer to people than the republican form of government might be as we knew it back in the United States. At last one of us found the catch and put it into words, slowly, respectfully, and mainly in the form of simple questions.
“Yes, our President has a lot of power,” we agreed. “But what do your people in Europe do if one of their kings goes wrong in the use of power? Every four years in the United States we say whether or not we want our President to continue to handle our affairs. How' do the people in Europe express their opinion that they want a new king? Is there any way of doing it without a revolution?”
“No. There isn’t, as matters are arranged now,” answered Constantine.
But his next remark showed that he. like other kings that I have heard of recently in Europe, is looking forward to a new day for kings.
“I only hope,” he said deliberately, “that the next elections in Greece will be fair ones, and that the people will have a chance to freely express their will at the polls. Speaking plainly, the issue is between me and Venizelos-”
Wonder of wonders! A European king, member of the king-trust, going to the polls against a lawyer!
“I’m willing to abide by the decision of the Greek people. If they vote against me, I will accept their decree. But I do want to know that they will have a fair chance to vote in the elections of 1920.”
“Don’t you think the elections will be fair?” we asked.
“I have every reason to believe that they will be controlled by soldiers, and that they will be juggled,” he replied. “I wish you correspondents would make my wishes clear to the people of America. There are three hundred thousand Greeks there.”
A king in politics, at last! Out in the open, with his lightning-rod up, like a presidential candidate! A humble seeker for the mandate of the people.
Just to relieve the seriousness, and. perhaps, the shock of it, one of us told the ex-king how we republicans, at a dinner with republicans, had left our speeches and ceremonies half an hour to meet a king.
“Well,” he said, with a smile, “the right sort of kings aren’t so bad.”
And there it all is, in a nutshell. All the kings—and queens—who are tramping around the Swiss bear-pit these days are trying to figure out how, if they ever get back again, they can be the “right sort of kings.” Born to thrones, they are now quite willing to be voted to them instead.
The war has changed us all. The whole king business, so I found on my quest, has been turned as topsy-turvy as everything else.