Queen Victoria’s grandson was too racist for BBC2 First World War drama

Kaiser Wilhelm ll's language had to be edited for 37 Days, which chronicles the countdown to the start of the war

The writer of a major new fact-based First World War drama admits he had to edit the language of the then German leader because of its racist content.


Mark Hayhurst trawled through countless historical records from both sides of the Channel to help construct his BBC2 drama 37 Days, which chronicles the countdown to the start of the war.

And he says Kaiser Wilhelm ll – the grandson of Queen Victoria – (pictured above, right, with King George V) was a meticulous note-taker, but that much of what he wrote was too offensive to form part of the script.

“The Kaiser was the most quotable of all the people,” Hayhurst said at a preview screening of the three-part drama last night. “He was a superb writer of margin notes – superb in the sense of prolific, not intelligent. A lot of the stuff was just pure racism in regard to the Serbs. If we quoted him now verbatim we’d all be done under the Race Relations Act, and justifiably so. Some of it was just too obscene.”

The drama, scheduled to be shown next month, follows the political fallout from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914, through to the outbreak of war.

The starry cast includes Tim Pigott-Smith, who plays British prime minister Herbert Asquith. He caused laughter among the audience when he described his character. “He was not really in control of any of the facts. Historically, we know that during cabinet meetings he sometimes wrote as many as five love letters. And the only other thing I found out about him was that he was a serial groper, which unfortunately didn’t find its way into the script!”