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Alfred von Kiderlen-Waechter

Alfred von Kiderlen-Waechter (10 July 1852 – 30 December 1912, né Alfred Kiderlen) was a German diplomat and politician, who served as Secretary of State and head of the Foreign Office from 27 June 1910 to 30 December 1912. He is best known for his reckless role in the Agadir Crisis in 1911, when France militarily expanded its control of Morocco. He demanded compensation in an aggressive, saber-rattling fashion, sending a warship to the scene and whipping up nationalist sentiment inside Germany. A compromise was reached with France whereby France took control of Morocco and gave Germany a slice of the French Congo. However, the British were angry at this aggressiveness, and talked of war. The episode, small itself, permanently soured relations between Berlin and London. [1]



The son of a banker from the Wurttemberg, Robert Kiderlen, and Baroness Marie von Waechter, he was born in Stuttgart. His father was elevated to the personal nobility in 1852. In 1868, Alfred's mother Marie Kiderlen and her children Alfred, Sarah and Johanna were elevated to the hereditary nobility with the name von Kiderlen-Waechter, combining the names and coats of arms of the Kiderlen and Waechter families. His name is occasionally spelled Kiderlen-Wächter, however, the correct spelling is Kiderlen-Waechter.

Kiderlen-Waechter fought as a volunteer in the Franco-German War (1870-1) and then studied at different universities, retaining throughout his subsequent career a good deal of the jovial manner of a German student (burschikos). Following studies of law, he joined the foreign office in 1879. Some years later, he accompanied the emperor to Russia, Sweden and Denmark. He was minister in the free town of Hamburg in 1894, and was a diplomat stationed in Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, Paris and Constantinople. He served as envoy to Copenhagen 1895-1896. Later still he was transferred to Bucharest where he spent ten years.

In Romania he gathered a deep knowledge of Eastern European politics, which led to a temporary appointment as chief at the foreign office, acting also as ambassador at Constantinople during the illness of the actual ambassador. He negotiated the construction of the Baghdad Railway. In 1908, he was appointed by von Bulow as Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and returned to Berlin. He played a central role during the Bosnia Crisis. After badly misunderstanding France, Britain and recklessly stirring up German nationalists, aggressiveness, he negotiated an agreement with France during the Second Morocco Crisis over Agadir in 1911.

After Chancellor Bulow's resignation in November 1909, Kiderlen became Secretary of State; and worked closely with Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg on the protracted negotiations with the Triple Entete. He conducted negotiations in 1911 during the Agadir Crisis and was severely criticised both at home and abroad for his provocative attitude in the Panther incident which triggered it. His attempts to reach an understanding with other great powers largely failed. He endeavored to make a friend of Russia.

Kiderlen-Waechter died in Stuttgart in 1912. His personal papers are held in the Manuscripts and Archives division of the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University.


This article is based on   "Kiderlen-Wächter, Alfred von" . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). 1922.

  1. ^ Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (2012) pp 204-13.

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