H IS FOR DEN HAAG (THE HAGUE), NETHERLANDS

H

A LETTER OF HOPE FROM DEN HAAG (THE HAGUE), NETHERLANDS

28th July 1899, Den Haag, Netherlands

My Darling Alix,

I hope you are keeping well in my absence, and that our new arrival, Maria Nikolaevna is not giving you sleepless nights. I long to be back with you and our girls in the Motherland and write with good news: tomorrow the conference will end with the signing of the treaties we have been able to agree on and I will be free to return to be by your side and meet our new royal princess.

I must judge the Peace Conference as a success and something that I am proud to have achieved. If I cannot use my position to engender peace between our nation and others around the world, then what is the point of ruling the most powerful country in the world? Next year will be the start of a new century and we can look forward to it with the promise of peace and prosperity for years to come.

To think that a hundred years ago Europe was in the grip of the Napoleonic wars and that tyrant threatened to invade and conquer our great nation. The hardships and crimes committed by his invading army, and the cruelty enacted upon our ancestors, will never be repeated thanks to the conventions agreed in the last few weeks here in Den Haag.

I know you do not wish to be encumbered with all the political machinations I am subjected to, but the treaties we have agreed between ourselves and the attending nations will interest you. They represent my profoundest hopes and dreams that our children will be able to live in a world where the horror of war that we have witnessed in the past will be eradicated.

Firstly, and most importantly, all the major powers and smaller nations have agreed to establish a Permanent Court of Arbitration which will act as a mediator between all nations on issues such as territorial and maritime boundaries and sovereignty. Issues of disagreement will be debated, cases presented and the court’s ruling will be legally binding. In this way all disputes may be resolved in law. The downside is that some countries, most prominently Germany, have vetoed making this court compulsory and it will only exist on a voluntary basis. Still, I feel it is a major and significant step.

Secondly, two conventions were signed by all attendees that will outline the agreed behaviour of combatants in wartime. Obviously, my dear, my sincere hope is that through the first treaty, established diplomacy and closer bonds between all the powers, there will no longer be the unnecessary wars that have plagued all nations since the beginning of time. However, I must be realistic, there will always be hostility between neighbours and on occasion it will lead to conflict that no arbitration will avoid. Here though, we have established fundamental laws that will diminish the cruelty and worst excesses of war including the humane treatment of prisoners and wounded, banning the use of poisons, forbidding the killing of surrendered enemy combatants and bombing or looting undefended habitations. Hospital ships at sea will be protected under their flag and will be required to tend all shipwrecked and wounded soldiers, no matter their country of origin.

These are the main achievements. We have also gained agreement in three declarations on the type of armaments that are acceptable in wartime conflict, but unfortunately the United States refused to sign up to any of these, which will greatly damage their legitimacy among the other nations. However, it will now be a crime to use projectiles that spread asphyxiating poisonous gases, to drop explosive projectiles from the air and use ammunition bullets altered to deliberately expand or flatten inside the human body.

I know that you do not wish to think of things such as war and death, but they are a necessary part of our existence at the moment. It is my firm belief that the small achievements here in Den Haag will serve to strengthen our resolve to never again fall into the horror of war again. Imagine our daughters being able to live in a world that is no longer ruled by the threat and expectation of conflict.

I leave the Netherlands with hope that I have made a small start from which greater strides can follow in the years ahead. We leave tomorrow night after the signing ceremony and it will be a matter of days until I will be reunited with you, my love, and Olga, Tatiana and baby Maria. Tell them their father has helped to make the world a safer place for them to sleep in tonight.

Until I see you again soon,

Nikolai

*****

Letter from Tsar Nikolai II of Russia to his wife Alexandra at the end of the first International Conference of Peace held in The Hague in 1899. A further conference in 1907 built on the conventions established here.

In 1918, twenty years after this letter, the Tsar, his wife and their 5 children were murdered in the October Revolution in Russia. The conflict of World War 1, drawing to a close across Europe, had ignored and abused many of the conventions established in the Hague Conferences.

Den Haag suffered severe damage during the 2nd World War, but was rebuilt and to this day contains many International Courts and headquarters for International organisations, including the International Criminal Court, where war crimes from around the world are tried.

The Hague Conventions, later added to with the Geneva Conventions, still provide the basis for the laws of war and war crimes in international law.


Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.

Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s a fictional correspondence based on historical facts from The Hague in the Netherlands – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.

Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.

For a full list of all the stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.

The Hague Conventions: Wikipedia.

101 thoughts on “H IS FOR DEN HAAG (THE HAGUE), NETHERLANDS

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. It is depressing that we are still having the same debates and meetings over a hundred years on. You are right, the letter could easily have been written today.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is surprising that it has become such a focal point for international law and order, but then perhaps the fact it is not one of the big main cities of Europe makes it perfectly suited to that role. Thanks Keith.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s sad to see that the issues that plagued the world then continue to thrive still with no respite in sight! Admire Tsar Nikolai’s vision and thoughts for the future. Thanks for an informative read, Iain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Shilpa. He had his flaws certainly, but at least he tried to make a difference, and it is a sad state that we still debate these same issues today, over 100 years later.

      Like

  2. That mass murder of Tsar Nicholai II and his entire family never fails to enrage me. He was a very just king who strived to keep his people happy and content. Even the youngest son (I think his name was Alexei or Alexis) was not spared. After world war I they created the league of nations. The called WWI the war to end all wars. We had WWII after that and then we had the UN created. Now again there are signs of another global war with religious fundamentalism and fanaticism holding the world by the throat. History repeats itself. Excellent post as always Iain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. One of the main points of this post was to show how we have been here before, we have had these peace conferences, and look where it ended up. Have we learned our lesson yet? I hope so, but the evidence suggests otherwise, as you point out.

      Like

    1. Thanks for reading. I have found doing this theme that so many countries share conflict and war in their past, and it is interesting how different places have reacted to it.

      Like

  3. So interesting to read a different side of the tale about the Tsar. We are all so familiar with the dreadful ending and the machinations of Rasputin, so it’s truly enjoyable to see this different, visionary, aspect.

    A-Zing this year at:
    FictionCanBeFun
    Normally found at:
    DebsDespatches

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Debs, I thought that too. I was surprised to read he was involved in setting up this convention and looking to secure peace, because I too only remembered him as you did too. I’m sure he had many faults too, but a different side to him here.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s so sad, the mistakes of last century are looming large in front of us. A generation makes a mistake, few generations later everyone forgets and make the same mistakes ever again. So sad .. beautiful countries have got wiped over in last few decades just because of ego of larger than life people or that’s what I call them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We live in hope although it is difficult to have somedays. Perhaps this story should have been a story of False Hope, but I’m convinced that one day we humans could actually get it right!

      Like

  5. This beautiful letter speaks of the love of a ruler for his country and for his family. How tragically we seem to learn nothing from history and keep repeating the same mistakes. I am really enjoying this series.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Currently, I’m reading “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, a series of interrelated vignettes set in different time periods following a reincarnated soul across history. The first two stories were set in the late 19th century and early 1930s respectively and written in journal and letter form, as much fiction was back in those times. Your story reminded me of them somewhat, however, Mitchell has mastered the slang and general terminology his characters would have used, which made them seem more authentic and difficult to read at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Living in the shadows of war is such a scary thought. Hardships of and the thoughtfulness of peace loving people (likes of Tsar Nikolai II ) of the previous century/ centuries is worth thanking over and over again.
    I so wish that warring factions of this era visit the history and learn from the sacrifices, sufferings of thousands and billions of of previous generations.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have my problems with the Tsar’s Russia. He did nothing to hinder the Cossacks who terrorized Jewish people in the country. A great aunt was gang-raped and murdered by one such group (my grandmother’s sister). My grandfather was conscripted to fight in the Tsar’s army and, from any story, I heard growing up, was that the conscripted were treated horribly within the units. Both grandparents were lucky enough to emigrate to the US in the early 1900’s, long before the October Rebellion.
    Stu
    Tale Spinning
    https://stuartnager.wordpress.com/

    Like

    1. Thanks Stu, I wasn’t for a moment trying to give a full view of the Tsar (or his forebearers) and he did abhorrent things in his time. That was partly why I found his involvement in organising this peace conference an interesting snippet of history, as it went against a lot of what I had known about him. This was merely a snapshot of one particular event, which still has resonance in the world today (just look at the awful news of chemical attacks in Syria). Like most places and people in history the Tsar and Russia are a complicated mix of contradictions. There would be an interesting comparison to be made between the last Tsar and Putin today. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Effect of second world war is seen in many European countries. So sad that it needed a big brother & such a massive loss of life to come to an end. Should we take this as a lesson for why PEACE is important? May be.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was more drawn to the tragic story of the tsar and his poor family. I wonder at poor innocent Maria so brutally killed. I am learning my European history lessons on your site.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. If anyone ever asks me – ‘How to make people learn history?’ I would point towards your writing. It strikes where it should and one can remember. Not just that, since it is with emotion, compassion spreads. Hard stance are tuffer to take if taught this way.
    Loved reading through !

    Lakshmi

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The same could be applied to most nations at various times in history. Certainly in recent years the US hasn’t got a great track record, but then neither does Britain, Russia, most of the Middle East…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow. That is powerful. The history of the murder of Nikolai and his family has always stuck with me. This letter holds such tragic undertones because it sounds so hopeful … yet we know what the ultimate outcome will be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hindsight makes it all the more powerful. Nikolai was no saint, which ruler ever is, but the murder of his entire family was particularly shocking. Glad you liked it, always appreciate your comments 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. syncwithdeep nominated me and I was so surprised. I’m such a new blogger. However, your posts are so engaging and vivid. Definitely one of my favorite blogs to visit 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Like Stuart, my ancestors suffered (much the same way) under the Tsars, but we must always remember that historical figures have many sides. Reading this, as I realized who was writing the letter, gave me chills, knowing what was in store for him, his family, and his country. (And my grandfather got out, else I would never have been born).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Alana, I agree – there are no historical figures who are all bad and all good. By today’s standards, most people in history, particularly rulers, did some pretty horrible things and their views were very different from modern day standards. But the thought of what was to become of him given his wish to try and promote peace at this time I thought was a fascinating and tragic story.

      Like

  14. Thank you. I was born during the Korean War and, if you count the Cold War, there’s been something, somewhere, ever since. I’d like to see a letter like this written by a leader from the U.S., but that’s unlikely very soon. I’m tired of war.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It’s amazing how you are turning out top quality pieces at such a rate.
    And contrary to what a lot of people think – shorter is harder!
    There is nothing “old-fashioned” about the writing style of this letter.
    Only the names of the places give it away.
    Bravo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Frances, it is a bit of a slog to keep going but I am a few days ahead in writing, so I’m confident now I can make it to the end. So pleased you are still enjoying my efforts 🙂

      Like

  16. Brilliant take on the letters between Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Tsarina Alexandra (aka Nicky and Alix on Facebook). You’ve recreated the right language and style so much that this seems like an original letter. He did write to her quite a lot and these seem to be in that same style.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m kind of emotional after reading this post. As I said in one of my posts, we need to keep faith and hope.
    This was beautiful. excellent choice for letter H.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This letter is so telling of our own times today. Not much has truly changed in all these years but we still need people of vision because, without them, the war mongers would triumph. This letter show how much he loved his wife

    Liked by 1 person

  19. If only it were that easy, no? To just write a thing down like “no one will ever commit this crime again” and have it be true. Rules are only as good as the people willing to follow them.

    This was a great entry, and thank you for sharing that letter. It is very bittersweet now, from this point in history.

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. It pains me to see that so much is gambled, plundered and squandered away in the name of politics and war. Have you heard the joke where they say if all countries were ruled by women, there would just be a bunch of countries not talking to each other. I wonder if that’s such a bad thing though, as against war. But then things have improved. And the World Wars have taught a lot. Hopefully peace reigns.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. A clever device, the letter between husband and wife, for explaining such an important piece of history. It is sad, and shaming, to realise how long ago this peace conference took place, and how so much and so little has changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does correspond to the situation in Syria, although I had written this before the chemical attacks and bombings. Sad to think we are still having the same debates.

      Like

  22. You did a great deal of historic research for most of these pieces, it’s fascinating. It’s good to know that after WWI, rulers and leaders sought to “civilize” war in some respects, that the Czar and his wife, perhaps sought this goal, despite their untimely end. Interesting info at the end about this place used as a place for international war crimes too. Great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. So, is this a true document? It’s so touching, espeically knowing what happened next.

    Sorry, I’m so behind in reading blogs. This year the challange has been particularly demanding for me, due to hectic work schedule. But I aim to read all though your series, although probably in May.
    I’m loving what I’v eread 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I’m behind reading a few blogs too! This is a fictional letter, but the Tsar did help to arrange the first peace conference and the conventions they agreed to were real.

      Like

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