|The Road To War: The Triple Alliance
|How did the Triple Alliance view the members of the Triple Entente?|
Most leaders of the European empires were related to each other through Queen
Victoria's many children. Tsar Nicholas of Russia was a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. As war broke out they sent several telegrams to each other
attempting to negotiate peace and indicating their close relationship.
'...I foresee that very soon I shall be overwhelmed by the
pressure brought upon me and be forced to take extreme measures which will lead
to war. To try and avoid such a calamity as a European War, I beg you in the
name of our old friendship to do what you can to stop your allies from going
And in reply:
'With regard to the hearty and tender friendship which binds
us both from long ago with firm ties, I am exerting my utmost influence to arrive
at a satisfactory understanding with you. I confidently hope you will help me in
my efforts to smooth over difficulties that may still arise. Your very sincere
and devoted friend and cousin,
Thinking Point: How sincere do you think these telegrams were in trying to
prevent war? If they were sincere, why was war not avoided?
King George V, © IWM
For Britain, the situation was uncertain. It was just coming out of a state
of 'splendid isolation' from continental Europe. King George V was also a cousin
of the Kaiser, and the two countries retained close ethnic and cultural ties in
spite of the growing naval rivalry.
Kaiser Wilhelm II, © IWM
This challenge sparked off British involvement in the Moroccan Crisis (1906) and
the Agadir Crisis (1911), both instances when German ships were sent to threaten
the French forces in Morocco. The Anglo-French alliance became more solid when in
1912, Britain promised to defend France's northern coast from Germany's naval forces.
If a land war broke out, as the supporters of the Schlieffen Plan believed, Germany
figured Britain would stay neutral.
As far as France was concerned, Germany had beaten them in the Franco-Prussian
War of 1871 (Prussia was a part of Germany), taking the rich territories of Alsace
and Lorraine. The war was one of sweeping movement, crushing sieges and was over in
less than a year. There was no reason to expect that France would be more difficult
to beat again.