Hermine: An Empress in Exile

Hermine: An Empress in Exile

By Moniek Bloks

Published by Chronos Books

What it’s about?

Hermine Reuss of Greiz is perhaps better known as the second wife of the Kaiser (Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany) whom she married shortly after the death of his first wife Auguste Viktoria and while he was in exile in the Netherlands. She was by then a widow herself with young children. She was known to be ambitious about wanting to return to power, and her husband insisted on her being called ‘Empress’.

To achieve her goal, she turned to the most powerful man in Germany at the time, Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately, her dream was not realised as Hitler refused to restore the monarchy and with the death of Wilhelm in 1941, Hermine was forced to return to her first husband’s lands. She was arrested shortly after the end of the Second World War and would die under mysterious circumstances while under house arrest by the Red Army.

What I think?

This was a frustrating read for me.

Hermine is a fascinating subject for an autobiography, and someone I did not know anything about.

A widow herself, she meets and marries Kaiser Wilhelm in 1920. Giving up her independence, she willingly joins him in exile in Holland and for nearly twenty years supports his efforts to be reinstated as Emperor of Germany, even meeting with Hitler to try and negotiate a role for the Emperor in the new German Republic.

Hermine’s childhood and first marriage are skipped over in a few chapters. This is a real shame as she has an interesting life. Her husband becomes ill with tuberculosis shortly after their marriage, and Hermine travels around Europe to spa towns and sanatorium trying to improve his health. Teaching her children, her views on how children should be taught were progressive for the age and deserved more attention.

I got the sense that the writer was more interested in Emperor Wilhelm than Hermine herself, as it is his character than is revealed more strongly for the second part of the novel.

There is clearly a lot of research go into this book as there are pages of notes, lots of factual information and primary sources in the form of letters included in the book.

I feel that their book is missing some of the narrative elements that bring biographical subjects to life. I lots of facts about Hermine’s life, but I don’t feel like I have really learnt about her as woman, a consort, a mother or a political all of which she was.

There are also so many members if various branches of the very complex German royal family with very little explanation of who they are and what they were like which do get confusing.

For me this was a taster biography and Hermine deserved more in the future.

Thank you to Chronos and Netgalley for the advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Hermine: An Empress in Exile is published in December 2020 and you can pre-order from:

Waterstones: click here

Amazon.co.uk: click here

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