After facing a possibility of a European war in 1908-9, the great powers attempted to move away from the brink. Since the ‘balance of power’ game continued, the only thing to do was to replace the actors. New initiatives required from those who would implement them reasonable optimism and another rare commodity among politicians: freedom from rancour and suspicion. This could be best done by new men. And, indeed, the cast of actors considerably changed in 1909-10, sometimes without human intervention. Edward VII passed away, fulfilling the fervent wish of the German government for this ‘element of unrest to be removed from the English clockwork’.1 William II and Nicholas II temporarily desisted from personal diplomatic initiatives. Bülow and Iswolsky were replaced respectively by Bethmann-Hollweg and Sazonov.