On the 31st March 1905, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany landed in the Moroccan city of Tangier and expressed his support for the Sultan’s independence from foreign powers. The diplomatic crisis that followed, now widely known as the First Moroccan Crisis, contributed to the tensions that led to the outbreak of the First World War ten years later.
The Kaiser’s speech in Tangier was a direct challenge to the French Foreign Minister, Théophile Delcassé, who had previously secured wide European support for control of Morocco. Despite initial reservations, both Spain and Britain – the latter through the signing of the Entente Cordiale – accepted French control of Morocco.
The Kaiser’s speech in Tangier promoted an ‘open-door’ policy regarding Morocco, and sought an international conference to discuss the matter. The French – who believed that their control of the country was now a foregone conclusion – opposed this suggestion, but with the threat of war growing eventually agreed.
The subsequent Algeciras Conference that took place between January and April 1906 was a diplomatic disaster for Germany. Of the thirteen nations present, only Austria-Hungary supported Germany’s position. Even Italy, who was a member of the Triple Alliance alongside Germany, sided with the French.
Although a compromise agreement was eventually reached, Kaiser Wilhelm emerged bitterly humiliated. His attempt to drive a wedge between France and Britain had failed spectacularly, and had in effect turned the Entente Cordiale into a loose military alliance. The Anglo-Russian Entente followed in 1907, combining with the Franco-Russian Alliance to form the Triple Entente. The Second Moroccan Crisis in 1911 subsequently created further tensions between Europe’s power blocs.