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What If Friedrich III Had Lived?

Gary Oswald

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#3
I have to say I don't really agree with much of the article. I'll try and summarise my thoughts after work but a lot of wishful thinking.
I know you've said before that you disagree with surviving Friederich = liberal germany because it great mans him too much and ignores the structural conservatism of the state. Same with Franz Ferdinand and austria hungary.

But the articles got good traction on twitter with people outside the community. So consider this the chicken tikka massala of AH articles. maybe not for the curry connoisseur but it'll get your gran eating it.
 

Thande

The Great and Powerful Wizard, Opnohop Moy
Published by SLP
#4
I know you've said before that you disagree with surviving Friederich = liberal germany because it great mans him too much and ignores the structural conservatism of the state. Same with Franz Ferdinand and austria hungary.

But the articles got good traction on twitter with people outside the community. So consider this the chicken tikka massala of AH articles. maybe not for the curry connoisseur but it'll get your gran eating it.
I was going to make the same point, albeit perhaps not with the same metaphor. It's like how I contrast Iain's Britain Without Beeching to how York Railway Museum has a display about "we asked These Experts what the country would be like without the Beeching Axe, and they said it would be Perfectly Lovely In Every Way." But you often need the latter approach to attract an audience, a percentage of which may be interested in the former.
 

Redolegna

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#5
I know you've said before that you disagree with surviving Friederich = liberal germany because it great mans him too much and ignores the structural conservatism of the state. Same with Franz Ferdinand and austria hungary.

But the articles got good traction on twitter with people outside the community. So consider this the chicken tikka massala of AH articles. maybe not for the curry connoisseur but it'll get your gran eating it.
I think it's undeniable that Wilhelm II absolutely made Germany take a downward trajectory in the reactionary stakes and absent him, the baseline would be for a Germany less aggressive, with a less racist leader and with more control over the Chancellor from the Reichstag. But would that mean much? And would Friedrich III be all that better? I think a lot of sovereigns who were praised as liberal when crown princes, such as Charles XIV in Sweden, or George IV in the United Kingdom, governed as conservatives and reactionary once they were in power and did not have to contrast themselves with the monarch before them to get a following. And I seriously doubt Friedrich would try and break the Prussian state apparatus or the Junkers.

Germany's foreign policy would probably be more sensible and less aggressive, because a complete moron wouldn't be in charge. It'd be harder for France to pick the Three Emperors apart and get Russia with them.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#6
I know you've said before that you disagree with surviving Friederich = liberal germany because it great mans him too much and ignores the structural conservatism of the state. Same with Franz Ferdinand and austria hungary.

But the articles got good traction on twitter with people outside the community. So consider this the chicken tikka massala of AH articles. maybe not for the curry connoisseur but it'll get your gran eating it.
I think its two parts Frederick wasn't apparently that well liked by the court, government or man on the street (and indeed his noted Anglophilia actually led to rumors that he or his wife were leaking military secrets if I recall correctly) so I think he'd have very little luck swaying the politics of Germany given the left would always want more than he'd be willing to give and the right would not want to give anything he wanted to take.


Then there is putting all of the First World War onto Kaiser Bill, it takes two (or eight) to tango and you're still going to have an unstable Austria Hungary that would be an incredible headache for the Germans as friendship with Austria or the Ottomans means rivalry with Russia whilst Germany is a neighbor of Austria which has a shared history and language and the Ottoman Empire was seen as a major avenue of investment. So any German government is going to be sucked into affairs in the Balkans quips by Bismarck aside, probably on Austria's side, at best as an 'honest broker' but the French will always be waiting to woo Russia.


Then you've got Perfidious Albion waiting in the wings who really dislike any one power having hegemony in the continent. They may be less frightened of Germany under a 'reasonable' Kaiser but the moment it starts using it weight in in the Ottoman Empire or seem on a coalition course with France and Russia or starts any kind of naval build up (which it will. Fan of the Navy or not Germany is outnumbered by Russia and France at sea and its a trading nation. It needs to do some kind of major build up not to be in major trouble in the late 1800s) then the Admiralty and its many backers will be banging the war drums.



Fundementally I think the article assumes that second greatest cataclysm in modernity came down to one man or one nation, absent literally everything else in play. Yes things would be different, the war may start somewhere else over something else, the nuts and bolts being counted may be different but the fault lines that led to the world war were economic, political, strategic and yes involved quite a few Great Men doing what the breed tend to do when given Great Nations.


Putting a wannabe English Gentleman in charge seems more a change of style than any substance.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#7
I think it's undeniable that Wilhelm II absolutely made Germany take a downward trajectory in the reactionary stakes and absent him, the baseline would be for a Germany less aggressive, with a less racist leader and with more control over the Chancellor from the Reichstag. But would that mean much? And would Friedrich III be all that better? I think a lot of sovereigns who were praised as liberal when crown princes, such as Charles XIV in Sweden, or George IV in the United Kingdom, governed as conservatives and reactionary once they were in power and did not have to contrast themselves with the monarch before them to get a following. And I seriously doubt Friedrich would try and break the Prussian state apparatus or the Junkers.

Germany's foreign policy would probably be more sensible and less aggressive, because a complete moron wouldn't be in charge. It'd be harder for France to pick the Three Emperors apart and get Russia with them.
I think that a major issue is that Frederich and whatever Chancellors he ends up with will still have a bunch of vexing political questions that need real answers rather than ideal ones. So presumably there would still be the heady mix of arrogance, ignorance, paranoia and outrage that characterized the era.

Any German Foreign Policy is going to be dealing with a Russia that wants to dominate an area its got a lot of interest in, a France looking for any hint of weakness and Austria Hungary that is always a mess, an Italy that is a fair weather friend at best and a Britain that really loves stirring the pot. It may make less stupid decisions, but its also going to be rather frustrated and increasingly uneasy and a big chunk of its government is going to think war is the simplest answer.
 

Gary Oswald

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#8
Another problem with the idea of Germany not investing in the Navy is Bismarck was the man holding back German colonisation against popular demand. If the first thing Friedrich does is cripple the Chancellor then the German Empire is going to be bigger not smaller and so they'd have more need for a navy.
 

Thande

The Great and Powerful Wizard, Opnohop Moy
Published by SLP
#9
Another problem with the idea of Germany not investing in the Navy is Bismarck was the man holding back German colonisation against popular demand. If the first thing Friedrich does is cripple the Chancellor then the German Empire is going to be bigger not smaller and so they'd have more need for a navy.
Perhaps, but there is a gulf of possibility between what it was under Wilhelm I and Wilhelm II deciding it would be quite a good idea to upset the UK by trying to build a modern battleship fleet. The Dutch, Belgians or Italians could have navies capable of running a colonial empire of similar modest scale to Germany's without being seen as such an existential threat.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#10
Perhaps, but there is a gulf of possibility between what it was under Wilhelm I and Wilhelm II deciding it would be quite a good idea to upset the UK by trying to build a modern battleship fleet. The Dutch, Belgians or Italians could have navies capable of running a colonial empire of similar modest scale to Germany's without being seen as such an existential threat.
But the Dutch, Belgians and Italians did not need to fight the French or Russians, probably at the same time.

Like the Germans were going to need a battlefleet, if they even start building one. The Royal Navy and its friends in Parliament and the Press will make it out to be a new armada whatever size its planned to be. This is the era of the invasion scare mixed in with the Royal Navy having a bunch of really cool and really expensive plans it really wants to push itself.


Germany is stuck between the rock of it geopolitical position and the hard place of it only be able meet its own needs by gaining the ability to threaten other great powers in theirs.
 

Thande

The Great and Powerful Wizard, Opnohop Moy
Published by SLP
#11
But the Dutch, Belgians and Italians did not need to fight the French or Russians, probably at the same time.
Not convinced that a modern battlefleet was necessary for the kind of war Germany planned to fight, though I appreciate calculations were probably different before the Russians got clobbered at Tsushima.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#12
Not convinced that a modern battlefleet was necessary for the kind of war Germany planned to fight, though I appreciate calculations were probably different before the Russians got clobbered at Tsushima.
The Russians and French both were trying for new and modern fleets (the French just had a weird doctrine and really terrible system of ship building) and until 1912 Germany would need imports of nitrates if nothing else to keep the war material flowing. The public also wanted colonies, colonies means a navy.


And just because they are focused on the land war doesn't mean they are just going to go limp and take their punches at sea? Why would the largest and most modern economy that has pretensions towards becoming a world power just accept their enemies are going to be stronger than them in the most showy fashion possible that goes against what all the talking heads say is important?


I think it goes back to a problem with the article, a dangerous optimism towards anyone making decisions in pre war Europe's intentions or mindset.
 

Kato

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#13
Like the Germans were going to need a battlefleet, if they even start building one. The Royal Navy and its friends in Parliament and the Press will make it out to be a new armada whatever size its planned to be. This is the era of the invasion scare mixed in with the Royal Navy having a bunch of really cool and really expensive plans it really wants to push itself.
This is a very good point - contemporary British Invasion Literature seems to pivot almost immediately to primarily German antagonists from 1871. They just handwave the plausibly of the Wilhelm I coastal patrol boat navy doing anything more than sinking.

Britain was always chasing a threat of what a potential massive future German naval build up would look like. The reaction preempted the action - it just so happens that they were right in hindsight in OTL. The belligerence of Wilhelm II probably helped seal the political deal in terms of funding the Edwardian-era dreadnought navy, but the die was already cast by the 1890 Act, drafted when the new young kaiser was an broadly positively regarded unknown, and the British press were celebrating the renewal of the Triple Alliance as a wonderful thing for Britain and for peace in Europe.

Germany for her part will want an oceanic navy regardless of who is emperor in the 1890s - Mahan's theories are just too pervasive at the turn of the century. Only a totally unrelated POD - something utterly discrediting the idea of a decisive battle and naval supremacy, or else supporting the rival theory of guerre de course can shift that - and a Germany that is building hundreds of torpedo boats and cruisers is still going to course as much alarm as one building prestige battleships.

A different set of alliance blocs and a less isolated Germany feels like the likeliest outcome here. Maybe that's enough to keep the plates spinning on the long 19th century, but I'm sceptical. It feels like sooner of later, to use an academic term, shits going down.

The fascinating scenario to explore might be what internal German society and politics looks like with a Kaiser less tied to Weltpolitik, if and when this fails. Are the imperfectly democratic elements of pre-WWI Germany better established to offset the wave of reaction that comes with either German defeat or German victory on a sub-Wilhelmine platform. A better seeded Weimar might arise from a healthier civic society, but this is stumbling beyond my area of knowledge.
 

Charles EP M.

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#14
Another problem with the idea of Germany not investing in the Navy is Bismarck was the man holding back German colonisation against popular demand. If the first thing Friedrich does is cripple the Chancellor then the German Empire is going to be bigger not smaller and so they'd have more need for a navy.
That's an interesting angle for a AH story - all the hypothetical nice things happen due to Frederick, WW1 is mostly averted and Germany is more liberal, that all happens in Europe, but in Africa it's more blood and brutality (which eventually starts to sprayback on Europe, who doesn't realise that's what's happening)
 

Kato

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#15
That's an interesting angle for a AH story - all the hypothetical nice things happen due to Frederick, WW1 is mostly averted and Germany is more liberal, that all happens in Europe, but in Africa it's more blood and brutality (which eventually starts to sprayback on Europe, who doesn't realise that's what's happening)
It feels like a Liberal (in the C19th sense) Germany - assuming the handwaves to get there - might much more ably thread the needle of compromises and contradictions of late Imperial Germany as as a result be a far more formidable and powerful entity by the 1910s. One that can actually do global power projection, sink its claws deep into Africa, and fight full proxy wars in the Middle East. Which will be as horrific as the western front if not more so for everyone caught up in them.

Bonus points if its perfidious Albion encouraging these proxy wars against other colonial rivals France and Russia in the spirit of the eternal Anglo-German friendship sealed between Emperors Eddy and Freddy.
 

Gary Oswald

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#16
That's an interesting angle for a AH story - all the hypothetical nice things happen due to Frederick, WW1 is mostly averted and Germany is more liberal, that all happens in Europe, but in Africa it's more blood and brutality (which eventually starts to sprayback on Europe, who doesn't realise that's what's happening)
I'll admit my first thought when I read this was what does this do to the Herero.

In OTL when von Trotha wrote to Germany saying that he'd just given the order to kill every single member of the Herero Nation, Wilhelm went sounds good mate, keep it up. And it took six weeks for his Chancellor and Reichstag to get him to instead go 'no, you can't do that, we'll look monstrous' and then the instruction came to revoke that order. And the herero were instead used as slave labour.

But like even with a less horrifically racist guy in charge, it's difficult to see anything major changing. It's probable the death toll wouldn't be particularly different if the order was revoked quicker. The deaths mostly happened either straight away or in the slave camps.

Yes, the situation might not have arisen at all but I don't think Wilhelm himself played that big a role in the genocide.
 

Alex Richards

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#17
I'll admit my first thought when I read this was what does this do to the Herero.

In OTL when von Trotha wrote to Germany saying that he'd just given the order to kill every single member of the Herero Nation, Wilhelm went sounds good mate, keep it up. And it took six weeks for his Chancellor and Reichstag to get him to instead go 'no, you can't do that, we'll look monstrous' and then the instruction came to revoke that order. And the herero were instead used as slave labour.

But like even with a less horrifically racist guy in charge, it's difficult to see anything major changing. It's probable the death toll wouldn't be particularly different if the order was revoked quicker. The deaths mostly happened either straight away or in the slave camps.

Yes, the situation might not have arisen at all but I don't think Wilhelm himself played that big a role in the genocide.
I suppose the distinction you might see is more in the way of 'we've identified these people who were entirely responsible (pay no attention to anyone else please), they're going to get harshly prosecuted.'
 

Ciclavex

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#18
The problem of Friedrich III is that from everything we know of him, he's like the (contemporary British liberal's) dream German Emperor, being as he was an incredible Anglophile, and was willing to take active, loud and prominent stances which were extremely unpopular among his class in his day, and he was virulently anti-Bismarck for most of their joint time at court. Friedrich III, German Emperor, ruling for years or decades is going to be different than Wilhelm II was in that same time, who was as reactionary and extremist as his grandfather, but less willing to let more competent men of his ideological positioning just get on with things. It's going to change things, and it's going to change things significantly, but whether it does so significantly enough to change everything even Friedrich III himself would want to change

Even with the dream German Emperor, though, this is still the 19th German Empire, it still has already drastically and probably permanently changed the European balance of power, and there is still a large, wealthy and powerful Junker class, who have just - in their eyes - just utterly won Prussia dominion over Germany and mastery over Europe, which Friedrich III will be on some level beholden to, as even the most liberal of his Prussian predecessors always had been -- and now Crown Prince Wilhelm, who was raised by his grandfather's appointed men, having been taken away from his parents due to their liberalism, will still be the extremist reactionary waiting in the wings who will reverse course on anything his father does that he possibly can the second he gets on the throne, meaning that the conservative and reactionary Junkers will always have good reason to resist -- because they have the prospect of one of their own taking back the throne as long as they're patient and headstrong. And beyond that, it still wants for colonies -- as even many liberals do in that day and age. It's still going to want to be stronger, it's still going to want to secure its positions... Germany's geopolitical situation post-1871 doesn't change a lot just because a different man is on the throne in Berlin.

A much more interesting concept, which I think I explored in a list once but I can't find it at the moment, is if instead Wilhelm I dies much younger, with Friedrich III coming to the throne that much sooner and being in a position to shape Prussia long before there is a German Empire (if one comes at all; the German Empire as we know it is a fundamentally Bismarckian development, even if Bismarck himself didn't strictly want that development to occur as it did, and Friedrich III is not going to lend royal influence to him to build that strategy), and instead ruling a less certain Junker class not so drunk on victory and still looking over their shoulders uneasily at 1848. And, also importantly, able to shape his own son.

EDIT: If, perhaps, we go as early as possible, and Wilhelm I predeceases his brother Friedrich Wilhelm IV, with the throne slipping directly from the latter to Friedrich III, it could even be seen by TTL historians as a natural evolution of Prussia toward greater liberalism, given that Wilhelm I was far more conservative and reactionary than his (still broadly conservative) brother had been.
 
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Redolegna

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#19
And just because they are focused on the land war doesn't mean they are just going to go limp and take their punches at sea? Why would the largest and most modern economy that has pretensions towards becoming a world power just accept their enemies are going to be stronger than them in the most showy fashion possible that goes against what all the talking heads say is important?
Flowchart might go that way:

Do we plan or want to be at war with the UK? Y/N

N -> Okay, let's not ruin ourselves building a Navy, they'll keep the sea lanes open and they will chase off the French or the Russians if they interfere with our trade. We need a few cutters for Coast Guard duty, some colliers for our sparse colonies and a few gunboats to make whichever poor saps we want toe the imperial line. We'll suffer in the Baltic if the Russians are at war with us but let's see them try and destroy our trade in iron with Sweden. The British'll sink them to teach them manners. And Narvik is open anyway. As for the French, it's not like we were planning on landing troops in Algeria or Provence and troops invading Lorraine can't have maritime support. Could you imagine if a moron devised a plan that depended entirely on going through Belgium? With them needing to commit to their two-coast Navy (thank their geography for that) to maintain their colonies, they'll never catch up to us on land with their low population and financial needs elsewhere. Route our maritime fleet through north of Scotland.​
Y -> This is gonna get tricky. Do we care if they know? Y/N​
Y -> They'll pick up on it the minute we lay down some battleships. Indeed their public already thinks that. We have to run a concerted campaign of ostensibly not wanting to be at war with them and cultivate their ruling class to trick them (hey, our shiny liberal Emperor might come in handy!) while finding a way to replace the guano imports... and the copper, probably the Swedish iron... some agricultural produce too. And on the downlow. Then we'll have to hanker down and defeat their allies. The UK are notorious for giving up when their allies are beaten on land in spectacular fashion and not bothering for the next twenty years. Oh, what are our war goals in all this?​
N -> Well, they'll know. Can we challenge them significantly without any significant maritime tradition to build upon? Maybe, we'll eventually have a bigger industrial base than them. But they'd have to be stretched out to the limit, so that assumes they're facing other powerful navies as well as ours... meaning the French? ok, not happening. The Americans? ahahah, no. Italians, Austrians and Ottomans? They'd still be penned up in the Med. Bugger. The Russians? But then who are we fighting and for what?​

What benefit was there, really, other than to be able to say when it came to navies, you had a big one? I'll grant you in times of fierce nationalism such as these, it was absolutely part of the calculus but still...
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
#20
Flowchart might go that way:

Do we plan or want to be at war with the UK? Y/N

N -> Okay, let's not ruin ourselves building a Navy, they'll keep the sea lanes open and they will chase off the French or the Russians if they interfere with our trade. We need a few cutters for Coast Guard duty, some colliers for our sparse colonies and a few gunboats to make whichever poor saps we want toe the imperial line. We'll suffer in the Baltic if the Russians are at war with us but let's see them try and destroy our trade in iron with Sweden. The British'll sink them to teach them manners. And Narvik is open anyway. As for the French, it's not like we were planning on landing troops in Algeria or Provence and troops invading Lorraine can't have maritime support. Could you imagine if a moron devised a plan that depended entirely on going through Belgium? With them needing to commit to their two-coast Navy (thank their geography for that) to maintain their colonies, they'll never catch up to us on land with their low population and financial needs elsewhere. Route our maritime fleet through north of Scotland.​
Y -> This is gonna get tricky. Do we care if they know? Y/N​
Y -> They'll pick up on it the minute we lay down some battleships. Indeed their public already thinks that. We have to run a concerted campaign of ostensibly not wanting to be at war with them and cultivate their ruling class to trick them (hey, our shiny liberal Emperor might come in handy!) while finding a way to replace the guano imports... and the copper, probably the Swedish iron... some agricultural produce too. And on the downlow. Then we'll have to hanker down and defeat their allies. The UK are notorious for giving up when their allies are beaten on land in spectacular fashion and not bothering for the next twenty years. Oh, what are our war goals in all this?​
N -> Well, they'll know. Can we challenge them significantly without any significant maritime tradition to build upon? Maybe, we'll eventually have a bigger industrial base than them. But they'd have to be stretched out to the limit, so that assumes they're facing other powerful navies as well as ours... meaning the French? ok, not happening. The Americans? ahahah, no. Italians, Austrians and Ottomans? They'd still be penned up in the Med. Bugger. The Russians? But then who are we fighting and for what?​

What benefit was there, really, other than to be able to say when it came to navies, you had a big one? I'll grant you in times of fierce nationalism such as these, it was absolutely part of the calculus but still...
Is Britain going to be allied to Germany in a formal treaty that guarantees said sea lanes being open and not side with Russia or France in any war? In the age of glorious isolationism only broken by the perceived threat by Germany (which was steadily stoked on the British side as much as the German)

Would a nation notorious for self interestedly switching allegiances, fighting by proxy and abandoning treaties be trusted with the national life blood of an Empire it considers a rival in the economic and colonial sphere?


Would any sane nation just hand over crucial aspect of their national security to an at best friendly neutral with zero assurances?


What about all those German steel manufacturers and ship builders out of work?

An intensely nationalistic population that want overseas colonies and an even more nationalistic ruling class who want to be a world power?



I'm sorry but I don't think the idea has any credence outside a flowchart. We're dealing with real nations and real people in a time of serious competition between nations. If Germany wants to be a great power (and it did) its going to need to be able to defend its own trade and its own colonies. If it does have such force its going to provoke the British who for their part are simply never going to join a formal alliance that would let Germany dominate the contienent.