Cover Image: Hermine: an Empress in Exile

Hermine: an Empress in Exile

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Member Reviews

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.
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Why haven't I heard of this interesting character before?  I truly enjoyed reading this book.  I quite liked the way it was written , though now that I've finished, I realize that I still can't decide whether Hermine was a calculating royal or a loyal loving wife.  Or is she somewhere in between?  Misunderstood or devious?  Thank you to the author for just giving the facts and allowing each reader to make up their own mind.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinion I have given was my own.  Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255.
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Book: Hermine: An Empress in Exile 
Author: Moniek Bloks
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Chronos Books, for sending me an ARC. 

I’m going to be just be honest. I have never heard of Hermine until I read this book, so that is why this book kind of ranks high for me. I like learning about new people. The events that happened in this book are also something that isn’t talked about all that much in history. I mean, we all know about Nazi Germany, but we often times don’t get to see the other figures in the government. The exile of the emperor and his family is one of those things-I don’t know about you, but our world history classes mostly just focus on Nazi Germany. I guess that what I’m getting at is that I like reading about things that just really aren’t talked about all that much. 

The book is a little lopsided. I mean, it doesn’t really give you an overall view of Hermine’s life. It focuses mainly on her later life. If you are looking for a complete life story, then this probably isn’t going to be the book for you. I was fine with this set up though. I know that childhood plays a role in a person’s life and all, but by just having a short overview of it was enough for me. If does show you how Hermine did get to the point that she did, which is what a book is supposed to do.  

The writing was very easy to get into. I found the way that the information was presented to be very accessible. It did not read like a textbook at all, which is something that I like in a book. I don’t like it whenever nonfiction reads like a textbook. This one reads like a fictional narrative over a nonfiction book. This is one thing that I really like about this publisher. Whenever I finish one of their books, I always feel like I have just finished reading a novel instead of a nonfiction book.   

The one issue I do have with this book is that the German titles really aren’t explained. Now, if you have a little bit of knowledge about World War II and nobility, you will be okay. However, if you don’t know anything about them, then I really think that you will be lost. I just wish that Moniek had taken a little bit to explain the German titles. I think it would have added a little bit more of a punch to the book. 

Anyway, this book comes out on January 1, 2021. If you are looking for a short and informational read, then I highly encourage you to pick up this title. 

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In 1922, Princess Hermine Ruess of Griez’s son sent birthday wishes to the exiled Kaiser, prompting the widowed man to invite the boy and his mother to Huis Doorn. Soon after the meeting, the 63-year-old Kaiser marries the 34-year-old widow and insists she be called ‘Empress’. But the world is changing and for an ambitious woman, exile can be a heavy burden.

My knowledge of European monarchs in history is not the strongest, so I had never realized the last German emperor had a second wife. It was even more of an astonishment when I learned of the age gap between them. I found it fascinating to read how Hermine had a childhood crush on the emperor before she married her first husband.

When the books outlined how they met and the emperor proposed, I didn’t think she was ambitious when she hesitated. I was offended on her behalf that her engagement present from the kaiser was a picture of his dead, first wife. Clearly, he was not ready for another marriage. But, as history shows through letters and her own actions, Hermine was eager for the emperor to be restored to the German throne, even currying favor with the rising Nazi power.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her when her world came crashing down. The kaiser dies, and she returns to her first husband’s lands. Then, she flees from the approaching army during World War II. Then, at the end of the war, she is held under house arrest and then dies under mysterious circumstances.

The history of Hermine is laid out in an easy-to-read way. The German names were a bit of a muddle to get through sometimes, and I couldn’t easily remember who was who. Still, it was a fascinating read.

I would recommend this to readers who enjoy reading about people from history.
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I have little knowledge of the Kaisers second wife so I looked forward to discovering more in this biography.  It is a short read that charts her life from her marriage to the Kaiser until her death after the Second World War. I was a little disappointed that her early life was not covered, the period before her marriage is barely touched upon in the early chapters which is a shame as she came from an old royal family and was a princess in her own right. I think because of this, there isn’t really an opportunity to understand or explore Hermine as a person,  her motivations or interests. The book is very linear and reads like a book of facts, for some this might be appealing but I like a biography to really go under the skin of the person. It is at times hard to remember who is who, there are various members  of the German Royal family mentioned but never really explained so they really only come across as a roll call of who was there and not really connecting Hermine and her relationships. 
As a positive, the book is well researched.
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I knew very little about the second wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II before reading this book, and learning about Hermine's character was certainly interesting (and troubling, t00). At times the narrative thread felt a little difficult to follow.
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I read Hermine with great interest, I did not know that much about the Kaiser"s second wife. It's a brief biography and much and much of the first part is a rehash of the Kaiser's first wife. The author was very brief in Hermine"s early years. I didn't know Hermine was so much younger than Wilhelm. Two things I found ironic was Hermine received a picture of the Kaiser"s first wife as her engagement present. He was buried in the Netherlands and she is buried with his first wife. It was easy to get lost with all the German titles and the information was basic, but it's a good start for a study on the second wife of Kaiser Wilhelm.
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