While looking for something else in the New Age for 1912, I came across this rather splendidly vituperative paragraph, about the death of King Leopold of the Belgians:
Leopold personified all the awfulness of Belgium’s colonial policy, but two years later, with the shock of the German invasion, the nation’s sins would be forgotten, Britain would go to war in defence of Leopold’s country, and Leopold’s successor King Albert was frequently treated as a saint.
Does this turnaround show a cynical manipulation of public opinion by politicians, as some conspiracy theorists liked to believe? I think it is more likely an indication of how profoundly shocking the German actions were, and especially their deliberate policies of shooting civilian hostages and deliberately destroying historic buildings. A relevant recent comparison might be the 9/11 attack on New York, whose dramatic horror transfixed the world, and elicited sympathy even from fervent critics of American policies.
But if the Kaiser had got his act together two years earlier, and invaded Belgium before Albert the Good took over from Leopold the Horrible, might history have been significantly different?