The Empress is fond of sketching, and is a clever amateur photographer. I have seen a collection of most interesting travel scenes which she photographed during her tour with the Emperor in the Holy Land. She has great taste in the arrangement of furniture and flowers, and her private apartments are among the most artistic of any Royal lady in Europe. An English photographer who was honoured by a sitting from the Empress in Berlin was surprised, and, indeed, highly gratified, to find that the Empress, with the help of the Crown Prince, had arranged the apartment in which she was to be photo-phed, and was posed at a table with a vase of her favourite flowers.
Like housewives of lesser degree, the Empress takes advantage of her husband's absence from home to add to the comfort of their apartments by the addition of some new chair or lounge, and, assisted by her ladies, occasionally does a little re-decora-tion, and, like other amateurs, has her trials with paints and varnishes which do not dry as quickly as they are expected. On one occasion the Kaiser tried the effect of a newly re-decorated chair, only to find that his robe-de-chambre was also re-decorated.
The Empress is particularly fond of china and porcelain, and the Royal apartments are full of exquisite ornaments. She takes the keenest interest in the Imperial porcelain works at Cadinen, and with the Emperor suggests new designs and patterns. It • is said that the Emperor occasionally solicits orders from wealthy friends or foreign potentates and jots down particulars on his shirt cuff with a gold pencil. However that may be, he and the Empress are very generous in their gifts of the lovely objects produced at their works, specimens of which are to be found in our own Royal palaces. Queen Alexandra has some exquisite gifts at Sandringham, notably a porcelain chandelier of great beauty.
The Empress has long been noted as an accomplished horsewoman. Riding has always been her favourite exercise, and her fine figure shows to excellent advantage in the saddle. She does not ride as much now as formerly, but her appearance in her smart white uniform, riding with the Emperor in Unter den Linden, used to be the delight of Berliners.
Though not a sportswoman herself, she takes a spirited interest in her husband's sporting expeditions and often accompanies him to the Imperial hunting box in Silesia, for the wild boar hunting in the autumn. She has taken part on occasions in the exciting "Parforcejagd" and received from the Kaiser the coveted twig of fir foliage for being in at the moment when the boar receives the mortal spear thrust. Christmas at Potsdam
At no other season does the Empress show in a more attractive light than at the Yule-tide festival, when on Holy Eve, children and grandchildren assemble at Potsdam for the celebration. It is her pretty taste which causes the Imperial apartments to look so beautiful with holly and all kinds of evergreens, and it is her loving hand which puts the finishing touches to the Christmas trees. There is one for each member of the family down to the youngest grandchild, and all are set out on tables with presents around them in that beautiful apartment, the Hall of Shells. She sees that the waxen tapers are all lighted and the tinsel ornaments and the "Angel's Hair" duly arranged, before her husband and children enter and the family festival begins.
It has been her care, also, to see that the time-honoured dish of carp graces the Christmas banquet, and that there is plenty of pepper cake ("pfeffer kuchen")for the young members of the family. Music plays an important part in the function, and at the Palace, as at every other home in the country, the beautiful old melody of the Fatherland is heard -; "Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht."
At this season, the Empress is lavish in her private charities and sends quantities of useful presents and toys for distribution in the various hospitals and kindred institutions in which she is interested, and also pays personal visits to the sick. She is, indeed, always a constant visitor at the leading hospitals in Berlin. When the Empress was last in London, she gave great pleasure to her compatriots here by visiting the German hospital, and a touching incident occurred. In one of the wards lay a young woman, Frieda Baumgart, in the last stage of consumption, but hearing that the Empress was going round the hospital, she said that she would so like to speak to her. The Matron, Sister Elise, communicated the request to the Empress, who at once hastened to the dying woman's bed, and spent some time in kindly talk with her.
The Empress has paid great attention to the study of sick nursing and is also a student of medicine. When there is illness in her family, she always helps in the nursing herself; particularly was this the case during the serious illness of Prince Eitel-fritz.
During the two months' sojourn of the Imperial family at their country villa at Cadinen, the Empress, freed from Court ceremonial, is able to indulge her housewifely instincts and to train her young daughter in domestic matters. Together they cook and dust, feed the poultry, and watch the dairy work. They also visit in the cottages of the work-people engaged at the porcelain factory, and pay special attention to the sick. The Empress is greatly loved by the people for her simple, womanly goodness.
The Empress is a charming mixture of the woman and the Imperial lady. Nothing which adds to the well-being of her husband and children is beneath her concern. In simple morning gown she will prepare the Emperor's coffee, and in the evening, attired with taste and magnificence and full of gracious manners she is every inch an Empress. She invariably wears in her hair a large, single diamond which once adorned the cocked hat of Napoleon, and is seldom seen without the diamond and enamelled bracelet which bears inset likenesses of her seven children, and a heart-shaped open locket with a portrait of her husband.
Her most cherished Order is the Hohen-zollern Swan, founded by Frederick II. in the fifteenth century. It is only allowed to be worn by the consorts of the Kaisers. In appearance the Empress is tall, of good presence, comely in face, and generally smiling, while her laugh is rippling and contagious.
She is sweet and placid in nature, leaves politics severely alone, but is much interested in social reforms. In short, the German Empress must have been the selected of the gods as helpmate for the clever, strenuous Kaiser.
The Berlin Home of the Kaiser. A View of the Royal Castle