In 1871, Kaiser Wilhelm I united thirty-nine German-speaking states and created the German Empire. His son, Frederick, was married to the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of England.
Most people don’t realize that Victoria was born a German. Her father, Edward, was the eldest surviving son of George III of the House of Hanover. In 1714, the British nobility chose George’s grandfather (also named George) to rule Britain for one reason and one reason alone – he was a Protestant. They had recently beheaded a Roman Catholic king – Charles I – and they had no intention of allowing a Roman Catholic to rule their kingdom again.
George I and his son, George II, did not even bother to learn English; and while George III spoke English, it was a second language. His sons all married German princesses, and Queen Victoria’s mother did not speak English. Victoria herself did not begin learning English until after her third birthday, and even then it was as a second language.
Victoria married her first cousin, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Her children were more German than they were English. Their eldest daughter was married to the man who ultimately became the German emperor Frederick III, and their second son was the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
It was pretty clear, even if it was never directly stated, that Victoria and Albert had planned to unify Britain and Prussian into one large empire. Had Albert not died in 1861, they might have realized their dreams.
Another thing most people don’t realize is that their son, Edward VII, was sitting on the throne of Britain when their grandson Wilhelm II brought Germany into World War I. Had Albert lived, perhaps it would have been a very different situation in 1914. Sons and grandsons would have been working together for a grander vision, under the leadership of their methodical and brilliant patriarch and his equally brilliant wife.
Instead of disparate states with the alliances they had, Albert’s influence would have probably changed everything. Victoria would not have gone into a self-imposed penance after his death, and as Crown Consort, Albert would have been able to directly influence the leadership of his children and grandchildren. Rather than becoming a bitter, insular widow, Victoria would have continued to flourish as an empress beside her husband.
This is just my opinion, and of course there is room for discussion, but I think that ultimately one of their grandchildren – perhaps even Wilhelm II – would have been named ruler of a unified, Protestant Anglo-Prussian empire. The first World War would have never happened. The Anglo-Prussian empire probably would have rushed to aid their embattled relatives in Russia in 1917, and the communists would not have taken over there. (Czar Nicholas II of Russia was married to one of their granddaughters as well.) Without the model of the Soviet Union, would China have become communist under Mao Zedong?
Would Japanese militarism taken hold as it did if it were the Anglo-Germans negotiating peace in the Russian-Japanese conflicts instead of the Americans? Would India have remained as it did? Would Ghandi have been mercilessly crushed under the heels of Anglo-German boots?
Without World War I, there would not have been an embittered Germany for Hitler to march into war. There would have been no Holocaust. The British empire would have continued to hold massive sway over the world. The Ottoman Empire would have collapsed under its own weight, but the Middle East would look very different. The Suez Canal would probably have been dug by someone else. There would probably be no state of Israel. There would have been no artificial state of Iraq.
Eventually, British and American interests would have collided. Rather than a partnership between Teddy Roosevelt and Edward VII, there might have been a rivalry between them. Rather than a war between Germany and the allies, we might have seen a global war between Britain and America. Maybe that war takes place on American soil instead of in Europe?
Think of the economics of it as well. In the mid-1800’s, one-third of the materials and goods exported by ALL THE OTHER NATIONS OF THE WORLD went to British-held territories. Britain had more steamer tonnage than all the other nations of the world combined. The British Navy was the absolute power of the seas.
Think of the science. No Nazis means that Albert Einstein and Werner von Braun stay in Germany. It means all the Jewish doctors and Christian theologians who fled Germany stay put. Europe does not get ravaged as it did during the two world wars. No Eastern Bloc. No NATO. No divided Germany for decades.
The map and makeup of the entire world would be completely foreign to us.
Isn’t it amazing how the entire sway of history swings on a single event? Had one man, Prince Alfred, not died when he did, the entire would would be different. The complex sea of human history can be radically altered by a single ripple – just one moment, just one person. And the thing is that it isn’t like Alfred CHOSE to die when he did. It just happened to him.
When I start thinking about stuff like this, my brain goes in a million directions. I love it. What a different world it would have been.