Wilhelm II, German Emperor

From Kaiserreich

Current official portait of Kaiser Wilhelm II, c. 1935

Wilhelm II von Hohenzollern (born Friedrich Wilhelm Albert Viktor in Berlin, Prussia, 27 January 1859) is the third and current German Emperor (Kaiser) and ninth King of Prussia since 15 June 1888. Current head of state of Germany and of the Hohenzollern dynasty, son of the short-lived Kaiser Friedrich III, he is also the father of the Kronprinz Wilhelm, Prince Eitel Friedrich, King Adalbert of Flanders-Wallonia, Prince August Wilhelm, Prince Oskar, Prince Joachim and Princess Viktoria Luise; and the uncle of King Vladimir of White Ruthenia.

Considered as some sort of "Male Victoria" and "Father of Mitteleuropa", the old and authoritarian Kaiser is also considered as one of the symbols of German hegemony over the world, prepared by his own dreams of "Place under the Sun".

Contents

Early life

Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1870

Wilhelm II was born in Berlin, then capital of kingdom of Prussia, to prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia and his wife, Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom, on January, 27 1859. He was queen Victoria's first grandchild. Due to a complicated breech birth, the young Hohenzollern had to live with a shorter left arm, which he desperately tried to hide during his long life, like carrying a pair of white gloves to make his arm seeming longer. Educated on Kassel Friedrichgymansium and at the University of Bonn, the second in the line of succession of Prussia was noticed for his quick intelligence and interests in science and technology, unfortunately overshadowed by a cantankerous temper and a suspected megalomania, as he was believing in the monarchy by the grace of God. His exposition at a young age to the Prussian military aristocratic society also made a deep impression on the young man.

His grandfather, Wilhelm I, the first German Emperor, died on March, 9 1888, and was replaced by Wilhelm's father, the Kronprinz, ruling under the name of Friedrich III. Unfortunately, the Kaiser was already fighting against an incurable throat cancer, and he died on June, 15, after only 99 days of reign. He became Wilhelm II, King of Prussia and German Emperor, with one of his heroes as Reichskanzler, Otto von Bismarck himself.

The New Course

Wilhelm II at these times

The new Kaiser soon went into conflict with the old Iron Chancellor: the young man was impatient and dreaming of vigorous and rapid expansion for the German Empire, added to rivalry with the almighty British Empire, while Bismarck had made everything to provide friendly terms of Germany with the whole Europe as a major power. Taking advantage of a parliamentarian dispute about social laws and with the support of Bismarck's rivals, the Kaiser forced the father of the German Empire to resign in 1890.

Appointing some sort of puppet chancellors (Count Leo von Caprivi 1890-1894, Prince Chlodwig von Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst 1894-1900) to avoid to deal with a Reichskanzler powerful and popular as Bismarck, Wilhelm put in place a personal rule, promoting the naval development of Kaiserliche Marine under the authority of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz and put in place a rivalry with the United Kingdom, mostly of colonial nature. For instance, he sended a telegram to president Kruger of the Transvaal for his successes against the British army (1896), or made several and pompous visits in the Middle East. Trying to appoint stronger chancellors as Prince Bernhard von Bülow (1900-1909) and Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1909-1917), his efforts were without successes.

Asserting the German rights in Morocco in 1906 and 1911, he was about to provoke an earlier Weltkrieg, and his speech to the German colonial troops sended to put down the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, encouraging them to act as the Huns, branded him as a monarch of impolitic public utterances. His inconsistent foreign policy only encouraged Britain, upset by his declarations, to ally with France in the Entente Cordiale, and destroying efforts for Germano-Russian friendship (Björko meeting, 1905), Germany became soon isolated, his only ally being the weak Austria-Hungary and Italy.

The Shadow-Kaiser

By supporting Austria-Hungary during the Sarajevo Crisis, the Kaiser put Germany in a risky position, as being surroundered by both France and Russia, under the terms of the Triple-Entente and the application of the Schliffen Plan. Also believing that the United Kingdom, he soon discovered that he was wrong, and that Germany would face naval warface that she was not completely ready for. With the conflict stalemate and the intensive blockade put in place by the Royal Navy, Wilhelm soon proved that he was not the best man for military matters. From supreme arbiter in German military apparatus, he soon became nothing less than a puppet figurehead under the dictatorial rule of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff. Confined to visit ammunition factories or give medals, the Kaiser soon became disillusioned, seeing both victory and defeat, depending on the fortunes of the army. Forced to dismiss von Bethmann-Hollweg in 1917, he was forced to take as chancellors the straw men designated by Hindenburg and Ludendorff, as the commoner Georg Michaelis (1917) and later count Georg von Hertling.

The Place under the Sun

The post-Weltkrieg Kaiser: a peaceful old man

With the final victory of Germany in the late years of the Weltkrieg and the intervention in Russia against the Bolsheviks, Wilhelm II quickly managed to escape from his reserve and appeared to the German people as one of the makers of the final German victory: the loss of his wife in 1921, due to malnutrition caused by the British blockade, confirmed him as a true martyr. Even if Hindenburg-Ludendorff tandem managed to rule three more years in peaceful and victorious German Empire, the Kaiser quickly took advantage of the general discontent against the despotic rule of the first and the ineffective extremism of the second to get rid of them and appoint his old friend, von Tirpitz, as Reichskanzler in 1924.

During the Tirpitz Chancellorship, Wilhelm II definitely abandoned his provocative attitude and adopted instead an image of peaceful man, only wanting to live with his grandchildren, taking care of his garden and making occasional appearences to approve his "own Bismarck"'s decisions, such as the intervention in China. Why not? The Kaiser had realized all his dreams: the British Empire was totally shattered, France has felt into syndicalism, Russia into unstable democracy. German Empire was now the only superpower existing not only in Europe but also throughout the world. He had forged an empire, the Mitteleuropa, placed his relatives on the new thrones of Mitteleuropa, becoming some sort of "Male Victoria". His old dreams of "Place under the Sun" were realized. But it was only in appearence: despite his old age, after Tirpitz's death, he appointed himself Marshal Oskar von Hutier (1930-1934) and later Franz von Papen (1934-...), keeping an iron fist over German politics and getting rid of the last evolutions of German opinion. Even if he was the symbol of an era, the old Kaiser was getting further and further from the reality of the world.

Personal life

Parents

Wilhelm was the eldest child of then Prussian Kronprinz Friedrich von Hohenzollern, later Kaiser Friedrich III, son of Wilhelm I of Prussia, and of the Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, eldest daugther of queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Thus, Wilhelm II was related to many dynasties throughout Europe. Raised in the Prussian military society, Wilhelm was called by his mother, who was insisting to call his childs in her birth language, in "William". Some said it was determinant in his feelings full of conflicts towards England. Wilhelm had also a lot of admiration for his father, seeing him as a hero of the unification wars, but his feelings became more ambivalent then he came into contact with his father's political opponents. The Kaiser also tried to foster a cult to his namesake greatfather, calling him "Wilhelm the Great".

Marriages

Empress Augusta Viktoria
Empress Hermine

In February, 27 1881, Wilhelm II married the eldest daughter of Duke Friedrich VIII of Schleswig-Holstein, the Princess Auguste Viktoria Friederike Luise Feodora Jenny of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, who was known as Empress Augusta-Viktoria (born on October, 22 1858). They had seven children together, and the Empress died on April, 11 1921, in the last years of the Weltkrieg, certainly depressed by the devastating war.

Taking advantage of the Kaiser's birthday in 1922, the recently widowed Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz (born on December, 17 1887), was invited with her son to the Imperial Palace. The old Kaiser found the widow very attractive, despite the fact she was 30 years younger than him and had already five children. Despite the grumblings of his personal advisors and his children, the Kaiser married the woman on November, 9 1922, now known as Empress Hermine. They had no children.

Children

1. Kronprinz Wilhelm (born Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst on May, 6 1882), official heir to his father as German Kaiser and King of Prussia. Married Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, had six children.

2. Prince Eitel Friedrich (born Wilhelm Eitel Friedrich Christian Karl on July, 7 1883). Married Duchess Sophie Charlotte Holstein-Gottorp of Oldenburg, they had no children.

3. King Adalbert (born Adalbert Ferdinand Berengar Viktor on July, 14 1884), current king of Flanders-Wallonia. Married Adelheid Arna Karoline Marie Elisabeth of Saxe-Meiningen, had two living children. As king of another country, renounced to his rights to the Prussian throne.

The Kaiser and his sons

4. Prince August Wilhelm (born August Wilhelm Heinrich Günther on January, 29 1887), controversial due to his links to the Pan-Germanist GDVP. Married Princess Alexandra Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, had a son.

5. Prince Oskar (born Oskar Karl Gustav Adolf on July, 27 1888), married morganically Countess Ina-Marie Helene Adele Elise von Bassewitz, thus renunciating to his succession rights, had four children.

6. Prince Joachim (born Joachim Franz Humbert on December, 17 1890), king of Ireland for three months before Irish dictator Michael Collins abolished the monarchy imposed by the Germans. Diseappeared from political life after his failed tentative of suicide in 1923, due to his failed marriage. Married Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt, had one son.

7. Princess Viktoria Luise (born Viktoria Luise Adelheid Mathilde Charlotte on September, 13 1892), duchess of Braunschweig. Married Ernst August III, Duke of Braunschweig, had five children.

During his free time

Stadtschloss Palace, the Kaiser's official residence

The Kaiser lives, like all his predecessors, in the Stadtschloss Palace in Berlin. In the summer, he is used to spend his vacations near the Norwegian coasts on one of his private yachts. He has also some a certain appeal about wearing uniforms in several occasions (like wearing an admiral's uniform while visiting an aquarium), and also loves to hunt the stag in Prussian forests in company of his advisors. Despite his arm malformation, he also loves the horse ridings and always keeps a saddle in his office.

Titles

His Royal Highness Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (1859-1888)

His Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia (1888)

His Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Emperor, King of Prussia (1888-...)

Full title

His Imperial and Royal Majesty Wilhelm the Second, by the Grace of God, German Emperor and King of Prussia, Margrave of Brandenburg, Burgrave of Nuremberg, Count of Hohenzollern, Duke of Silesia and of the County of Glatz, Grand Duke of the Lower Rhine and of Posen, Duke in Saxony, of Angria, of Westphalia, of Pomerania and of Lunenburg, Duke of Schleswig, of Holstein and of Crossen, Duke of Magdeburg, of Bremen, of Guelderland and of Jülich, Cleves and Berg, Duke of the Wends and the Kashubians, of Lauenburg and of Mecklenburg, Landgrave of Hesse and in Thuringia, Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia, Prince of Orange, of Rugen, of East Friesland, of Paderborn and of Pyrmont, Prince of Halberstadt, of Münster, of Minden, of Osnabrück, of Hildesheim, of Verden, of Kammin, of Fulda, of Nassau and of Moers, Princely Count of Henneberg, Count of the Mark, of Ravensberg, of Hohenstein, of Tecklenburg and of Lingen, Count of Mansfeld, of Sigmaringen and of Veringen, Lord of Frankfurt.

Imperial Chancellors appointed during his reign

Otto von Bismarck (1888-1890)

Leo von Caprivi (1890-1894)

Chlodwig von Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (1894-1900)

Bernhard von Bülow (1900-1909)

Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1909-1917)

Georg Michaelis (1917)

Georg von Hertling (1917-1924)

Alfred von Tirpitz (1924-1930)

Oskar von Hutier (1930-1934)

Franz von Papen (1934-...)

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