Re: The Pages of Punch
1890: A Political Cartoon
Punch is also famous for its political cartoons which sometimes assumed the importance of a leading article in The Times. Dropping the Pilot is probably the most celebrated.
Bismarck had been the architect of German unity. Before the unification there had been quite a number of German sovereign states: a few relatively large and many small. In 1871 he had united them all (with the exception of Austria) into a new state of Germany and the kings of Prussia had become German Emperors.
By 1890 a new Emperor, Wilhelm, no longer accepted Bismarck as the man behind the scenes. Wilhelm was determined to run Germany without the advice of the Iron Chancellor. The cartoon shows Bismarck departing with dignity while the young emperor looks on. The ex-chancellor shows signs of his age: he needs both hands to steady himself while walking down the steps to a waiting boat. The young emperor in military uniform with his crown on his head looks on enigmatically.
As Queen Victoria’s oldest grandson Wilhelm attracted a great deal of attention in Britain and at that time not at all hostile. It is by no means clear that this cartoon is criticising the Kaiser. But the future of Germany is certainly being viewed with great interest.
As well it might have been.