JUST over a century ago two men sat down to talk on the Dutch island of Wieringen.

One had been born into a life of privilege as a member of Europe’s most powerful royal families. The other had started his working life in a coal merchant’s office.

Their meeting led to an article which today gives an insight into the lives of two fascinating figures.

Ex-Crown Prince Wilhelm was the son of the Kaiser, a great grandson of Queen Victoria, and an important figure in the German military machine.

But defeated and living in exile at the end of the First World War he allowed himself to be interviewed by Sunday Pictorial editor Alexander Campbell.

Campbell’s own beginnings had been much less exalted. But he had gone on to carve out an impressive journalistic career before meeting the German royal and writing his article - disparagingly entitled My Talk with Little Willie.

After the piece was published in the Sunday Pictorial the Ilkley Gazette recorded: “Mr. Campbell belongs to Ilkley and was educated at the Ilkley National School and the Ilkley Grammar School, proceeding from the elementary school to the secondary school with a foundation scholarship.

“He received his first training in journalism under the editor of the Ilkley Gazette while employed in the office of a local coal merchant, and has since had a very varied and interesting career. He was through the Balkan Wars a war correspondent, and has fulfilled various journalistic missions in France, Norway and other countries.

“In his article Mr Campbell says the ex Crown Prince posed as a much maligned, innocent and wronged young man, stating that he had nothing whatever to do with the making of the war, and did not want war.”

Campbell’s interview was clearly something of a journalistic coup.

In the piece he says: “It was an extraordinary meeting. I had been astonished when the reputed leader of the German war party had promised to receive me. I was to be still more astonished by his tame submission to cross-examination at the hands of a journalist from the country mainly responsible for the destruction of the German Empire.”

The once powerful figure, aged 36 at the time of the interview, attempted to distance himself from what had gone before, including the “imperial confabulations”preceding the war.

“He protested that he had taken no part at all,” Campbell wrote. “He had been ‘mildly flirting’ and playing tennis when called home to take up his command. He hated war and was opposed to war and, he said, with very great conviction: ‘I should certainly not have chosen to bring about war at such an inopportune moment.’

“I watched him closely as he proceeded with his defence. His manner was that of supreme innocence and engaging candour. I could see that he had decided to submit to the world a portrait of himself as a maligned young man.”

Campbell described his subject as a “poseur.”

“This was particularly evident when he sought to create the impression that he had been a much-wronged man,” he said.

“I had the feeling that he was acting the part. He cited much “evidence” to prove that he was humane and sympathetic - how he had sat at a table in the open-air in France to listen to and redress the wrongs of the French people in the occupied territory, how he had worked for the mitigation of the sufferings of prisoners of war, how he had been snubbed by the General Staff when he had remonstrated against their policy of frightfulness. And so on and so on.”

Campbell warned that Wilhelm was “no negligible triffler to be laughed at, but one whose actions should be watched and weighed carefully.”

But nevertheless the royal presented a sorry sight as he said his goodbyes outside the house.

“He had put on a cloth cap and a greatcoat which had evidently been badly soiled due to the campaign in the field. Indeed, he looked at my coat longingly and jested about its smartness - as compared with his,” Campbell said.

“The last I saw of him was, as with an ‘au revoir’, he continued his walk alone - a solitary and somewhat forlorn figure, splashing through the mud of the country road.”