Emperor Wilhelm II.

Wilhelm II was not only King of Prussia, but also Emperor of the German Empire. Under his rule, the empire flourished, but also went into one of the most terrible wars, the First World War. The abdication of Wilhelm II ended the monarchy in Germany.



Origin and teenage years:

Wilhelm was born under the full name Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert of Prussia on January 27, 1859 in Berlin as the son of Emperor Friedrich III. and Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, princess of Great Britain and Ireland. He originated thus from the line of the family Hohenzollern. At birth, however, complications occurred as a result of which Wilhelm's left arm was injured and thus shortened and paralyzed.

His mother Victoria could never completely process the birth of a disabled heir to the throne, so that the relationship between her and her son remained difficult and distant during his lifetime. Also, as usual at this time, education in the childhood days not by the parents but by the strict Calvinist. Georg Hinzpeter, influenced Wilhelm negatively. He described his time as a child as a "very unhappy childhood" and "I had no compensatory maternal love, I am one of those natures who need praise to be cheered and do good."Blame me, I never got it out of Hinzpeter's mouth Word of Appreciation"


Wilhelm II as a child


At the age of 10, the formal and, for the aristocracy, usual appointment as Lieutenant of the 1st Guards Regiment took place on foot.

In the period from 1874 to 1877 he visited, under the guidance of Dr. med. Georg Hinzpeter the bourgeois high school in Kassel where he also passes his high school diploma.


Wilhelm II with his father Friedrich Wilhelm at Balmoral Castle, Scotland (1863)


Wilhelm II. as a student in Bonn




Military service and study time:

On February 9, 1877 Wilhelm took his official military service at the 1st Guards Regiment on foot in the 6th Company under Captain von Petersdorff. On the birthday of his grandfather Kaiser Wilhelm I on March 22, 1880 he was promoted to captain. Until 1880 he served in changing regiments, including the 1st Guards Regiment on foot, then the Guards Hussars Regiment and the 1st Guards Field Artillery Regiment and was eventually promoted to Major General before becoming commander of the 2nd Guards Infantry Brigade was.

In addition to his military service Wilhelm often had to take time off to study law and political science in 4 semesters at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms- University in Bonn. In addition, he was in the civil administration, if only superficially incorporated, since at that time his grandfather was already at an old age and his father was terminally ill, so that the approachable succession of the throne of William and this should have adequate access to appropriate for the start.




Starting as German Emperor:

Wilhelm's grandfather died on March 9, 1888, his father could only reign as emperor for 99 days, as he died on June 15, 1888, and thus Wilhelm II entered the Kaiserstuhl as heir to the throne.

The initial efforts of William went to the effect that he saw himself as the emperor of all Germans, regardless of their social status or denomination and wanted to act in their favor. Opposite stood the since 1862 first as Prussian Prime Minister, from 1871 as Chancellor standing Otto von Bismarck. He already had a great influence on Wilhelm's father and grandfather and was in a position to enforce his goals and plans against them as a rule. With the desired social aspirations of William, many disputes broke out between the Kaiser and the Chancellor, at whose end Bismarck must resign in 1890.


Great coat of arms of the German Emperor until 1918


Kaiserstandarte Wilhelm II., On the Prussian motto God with us


The reign of William was the transformation of the empire from a freshly united agricultural land to one of the leading economic powers. Heavy industry and research in particular experienced a rapid upturn. In spite of this, over time the discontent of the people grew with the emperor. This displeasure was partly due to the personal existence of Wilhelm, who saw himself as a ruler by the grace of God and thus especially the liberals delivered the argument of a personal regiment. They also considered him too conservative and reactionary. In the ascending bourgeoisie and industrialists, however, Wilhelm was considered too moderate and too cautious. To find a basis to satisfy all involved was excluded.


Emperor Wilhelm II in 1902


The Kaiser experienced the first major political crisis in 1908 in the so-called Daily Telegraph Affair. It was the publication of a journalist who wrote down a private conversation between Emperor Wilhelm II and the English aristocrat Edward James Stuart-Wortley in 1907 and published in 1908. From this conversation it could be read that Wilhelm was for the majority of the population as too friendly to England. As a result of this crisis, Wilhelm Public had to promise to hold back. His reputation, however, was already badly damaged.




Foreign Policy and Armament of the Navy:

At the end of the 19th century, the German Reich also began to build a larger navy from the point of view of its strong economic development and the associated world trade.

The construction was received very positively in the population and in politics, the navy was also one of the favorite projects of the German emperor. In contrast to the widely held opinion, the main reason for the expansion of the fleet was only to protect the German merchant shipping and the German coasts, but not as a challenge to the English fleet and a supremacy of Germany.

For the construction of the fleet consisted of four main aspects from the beginning which corresponded to their defensive attitude:
1. Protection of the German fishing fleet. Before the start of the construction program, English fishermen were regularly attacked by German fishing vessels. Even in German territorial waters, the German ships were harassed and obstructed fishing.

2. The size of the English fleet enabled it to manage world trade at sea in accordance with its interests. Thus the English would have been able to prevent, restrict or otherwise impede trade. The fleet should protect merchant shipping in such a case.

3. Germany relied on the import and export of goods by sea. A sea blockade could have led to supply difficulties. In order to break a corresponding blockade, the Navy should have appropriate ships.

4. The German navy, in the event that England was at war with other maritime nations, should offer itself as an aspect of an alliance with the German Reich. The construction of the High Seas Fleet was therefore not designed for a confrontation with England.

The concept of the German Navy, which Admiral von Tirpitz aimed at, was to expand to a maximum of 60% of English strength. This was to fulfill the main aspects of the demand and to deter England as much as possible, so as not to start a war with Germany. The basis of the German fleet was thus from the beginning with a defensive character. A challenge of the English Navy was never considered, as the German Navy would have been much more extensive and also, unlike the English, has naval ports worldwide.


The rearmament of the German navy was proclaimed in England with a, well targeted propaganda, as a threat to England. It was deliberately concealed, however, that the other major powers had already begun an intensive upgrade of the naval forces before the German Reich (Great Britain had already initiated new naval construction programs in 1889 and 1894, Russia in 1890 and 1895, Japan in 1896 and the USA in 1897). In addition, the German navy was never in a position until 1914, the English Navy could really have been dangerous.
The real threat the British saw probably more in the economic strength that emanated from the German Reich. It surpassed English in many areas at the beginning of the twentieth century and is more likely to be seen as the reason for the anti-German attitude.


In terms of foreign policy, at the end of the 19th century, at the beginning of the 20th century, there were a number of crises that increasingly isolated the political situation of the German Reich in Europe and significantly worsened relations with England and France.
These included the so-called "Kruger Dispatch" of 1896, in which a congratulatory telegram was issued by Wilhelm to the President of Transvaals (now South Africa) on the victory against English volunteers, causing indignation in England.

In 1904, the dispute over influence over Morocco led to tensions between the German Reich and France and England. France tried to significantly expand its influence in the country, where against the German Reich wanted to have access for all major powers open. At the conference in Algeciras, however, the German politicians failed to shove the relationship between France and England apart, so that Germany was more politically isolated after the conference.

In 1911, tensions between France and the German Reich reoccupied Morocco, as did French troops on 21 May, the cities Fès and Rabat under the pretext of wanting to crush the insurgents there against the Sultan of Morocco. According to French sources, the Sultan had officially asked for help, which, although he was suffering from dementia, gratefully accepted the help. On the orders of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the German gunboat SMS Panther set off for Morocco. The plan was to accept the occupation of the cities if France in return would cede other territories to the German Reich. The posting of the warship, which became known as the Panther Leap to Agadir, should put corresponding pressure on France.
As a result of the Morocco-Congo Agreement between France and the German Reich, there were demonstrations in many European cities, as the fear of a war was already in circulation.




The July crisis and the outbreak of World War I:

On June 28, 1914, the Austrian-Hungarian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand was shot dead in Sarajevo by a Serb nationalist. For years, the conflict between the Serbs and the K.u.K. has been smoldering in the Balkans. Monarchy.
After the assassination, Kaiser Wilhelm II issued the Blankovollmacht to his ally, which gave Austria-Hungary a free hand for Serbia and the German Reich would fulfill its obligations if the allied with Serbia Russia opened the war. However, Wilhelm did not want a war himself. The correspondence with his cousin, the Russian tsar, proves that Wilhelm was trying to prevent Russia's entry into the war.

Through the ultimatum that Austria-Hungary put to Serbia, Russia was forced to order the mobilization on July 31st. As a result, Wilhelm was forced to order mobilization on August 1, which eventually ended in a war.


Emperor Wilhelm II in army uniform




World War I:

Already shortly after the beginning of the war Wilhelm realizes that he has little competence in the field of military leadership and leaves the implementation to the General Staff under the later direction of General Hindenburg and General Ludendorff. Although some important decisions are made by him, in practice during the war the Supreme Command was in control.


Emperor Wilhelm II. In the circle of the German generals


The increasingly difficult supply situation of the German population in the course of the war meant that responsibility was increasingly shifted to the Emperor and his sympathies in the people declined accordingly.


Kaiser Wilhelm II (center), Field Marshal von Hindenburg (left) and First Quartermaster General Ludendorff (right)




The abdication and the exile:

After 1918 failed the spring offensives on the Western Front, there threatened the complete collapse of the German front lines. Hindenburg and Ludendorff were forced to face military defeat in the first talks about peace negotiations. They relied on the 14-point plan of US President Wilson, who had been in its entirety reasonably acceptable for Germany. In this Wilson, however, demanded the abdication of the German emperor. The counter-offer for conversion into a parliamentary monarchy was rejected.

On October 29, 1918, Wilhelm traveled from Berlin to Spa in Belgium, on the one hand to get out of the hotspot Berlin to the other, as he regarded the army as loyal to him and accordingly felt safe in their vicinity. However, this changed abruptly with the Kiel sailors' uprising in the fall and the fear that in the German Reich there would be a similar revolution with the radical socialists as in 1917 in Russia. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in particular called for strikes and demanded a political overthrow. To prevent this from happening, Reich Chancellor Max von Baden announced the abdication of the Emperor on November 9, without consulting him, and urged Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann to proclaim the German Republic. A return to Germany was excluded from this point of view of Wilhelm, because he also feared to be delivered to the victorious powers.

He therefore decided to seek asylum in Holland on 10 November 1918 and to go into exile there, where he first lodged in the castle Amerongen. On November 28, 1918, his wife followed him.


Flight of William II on November 10, 1918: The Emperor (center of the picture, 4th from the left) on the platform of the Belgian-Dutch border crossing Eijsden shortly before his departure for Dutch exile


The official abdication also took place on November 28, 1918, when Emperor Wilhelm II signed the ready-made document:
"I hereby waive for all future on the rights to the crown of Prussia and the associated rights to the German imperial crown. At the same time I release all officials of the German Reich and Prussia as well as all officers, NCOs and crews of the Navy, the Prussian Army and the troops of the Federal contingents of the loyalty oath, which they have done to me as their Emperor, King and Supreme Commander. I expect them to help the holders of real violence in Germany until the reorganization of the German Reich, to protect the German people against the imminent dangers of anarchy, famine and foreign rule."

On December 3, 1918, the certificate was acknowledged by the new Chancellor Friedrich Ebert. This ended the monarchy in Germany.




The end of life:

After the capitulation of the German Empire, the victorious powers repeatedly demanded that the Dutch government be handed over to the former German Kaiser so that he could be put before a war crimes tribunal. Holland decided against it. At this time Wilhelm still lived at Castle Amerongen. Only in the spring of 1920 he moved to the house Doorn near Utrecht where he will stay until the end of his life.


Castle Amerongen

House Doorn


On April 11, 1921, his wife Empress Auguste Victoria died, but already on November 5, 1922, he married the widowed Princess Hermine of Schönaich-Carolath.

He spends his free time writing a total of nine books, including his biography of events and figures. He founds the Doorner working group and conducts cultural-historical studies with scholars. Despite the Weimar Republic, Wilhelm pursued political events in Germany in the hope that the monarchy would be restored. With the rise of the NSDAP germinated in Wilhelm, hope again, similar to Italy under Benito Mussolini, that the king remained, or was used again in Germany. With the takeover of power Adolf Hitler 1933 flew however also with William the last spark hope and he began to distance itself from the national socialism.


Wilhelm II in civilian clothes with cigarette, 1933


This distancing was also written down in his will when Wilhelm explicitly forbade swastika flags and wreaths in the event of his death. He also wrote down that his corpse is to be buried in the mausoleum in the garden of the house and this should be reburied only after Germany, there again the monarchy would be introduced.


Wilhelm II with wife Hermine, 1933


When the Second World War raged in 1940 and at the beginning of the year an attack on Holland by the Third Reich became more and more probable, the Dutch royal family Wilhelm advised to leave the country. He was also offered asylum in England, which Wilhelm refused because of his old age. After Holland was occupied, Adolf Hitler had the house Doorn first guarded by the secret field police, later by the SS. After the victory over France, Wilhelm Hitler congratulated in a telegram:
"Under the profound impression of France's arms extension, I congratulate you and the entire German Wehrmacht on the tremendous victory God has bestowed on us with the words of Kaiser Wilhelm the Great of 1870: 'What a turn of God's providence'. In all German hearts there is the chorale of Leuthen, sung by the victors of Leuthen, the Great King's soldier: 'Now thank all God'"

Wilhelm died on June 4, 1941 at 12:30 after a pulmonary embolism in his bed. According to the people present, his last words were:
"I sink, I sink ..."
Funeral services in Germany were banned by the National Socialist regime and the funeral service in the Doorn home were celebrated according to the last will of William in a small circle, which consisted mainly of delegations of the former imperial army.
The epitaph is:
"Do not praise me, for I need no praise;
Do not glorify me, for I need no glory;
Do not judge me, for I will be judged."


Mausoleum with the remains of William II.




  • February 27, 1881 Wedding with Auguste Viktoria Friederike Luise Feodora Jenny of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
  • November 5, 1922 Wedding with Princess Hermione of Schönaich-Carolath


  • Son Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst, Crown Prince of the German Reich and born of Prussia on May 6, 1882
  • Son Wilhelm Eitel Friedrich Christian Karl of Prussia born on July 7, 1883
  • Son Adalbert Ferdinand Berengar Victor of Prussia born on July 14, 1884
  • Son August Wilhelm Heinrich Günther Viktor of Prussia born on January 29, 1887
  • Son Oskar Karl Gustav Adolf Prince of Prussia born on July 27, 1888
  • Son Joachim Franz Humbert of Prussia born on 17 December 1890
  • Daughter Princess Viktoria Luise Adelheid Mathilde Charlotte of Prussia, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Princess of Hanover, Princess of Great Britain and Ireland Born on September 13, 1892






You can find the right literature here:


Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power

Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power Paperback – International Edition, July 28, 2009

Christopher Clark's Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power is a short, fascinating and accessible biography of one of the 20th century's most important figures. King of Prussia, German Emperor, war leader and defeated exile, Kaiser Wilhelm II was one of the most important - and most controversial - figures in the history of twentieth-century Europe. But how much power did he really have? Christopher Clark, winner of the Wolfson prize for his history of Prussia, Iron Kingdom, follows Kaiser Wilhelm's political career from his youth at the Hohenzollern court through the turbulent decades of the Wilhelmine era into global war and the collapse of Germany in 1918, to his last days. He asks: what was his true role in the events that led to the outbreak of the First World War? What was the nature and extent of his control? What were his political goals and his success in achieving them? How did he project authority and exercise influence? And how did his people really view him? Through original research, Clark presents a fresh new interpretation of this contentious figure, focusing on how his thirty-year reign from 1888 to 1918 affected Germany, and the rest of Europe, for years to come. 'Clark's fresh and enlightening history brings the Kaiser's life into critical and illuminating review'
German History Christopher Clark is a lecturer in Modern European History at St Catharine's College, University of Cambridge. His book Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600 to 1947 was the winner of the Wolfson Prize for History.

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Kaiser Wilhelm Ii: A Concise Life

Kaiser Wilhelm Ii: A Concise Life Paperback – October 20, 2014

Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) is one of the most fascinating figures in European history, ruling Imperial Germany from his accession in 1888 to his enforced abdication in 1918 at the end of the First World War. In one slim volume, John Röhl offers readers a concise and accessible survey of his monumental three-volume biography of the Kaiser and his reign. The book sheds new light on Wilhelm's troubled youth, his involvement in social and political scandals, and his growing thirst for glory, which, combined with his overwhelming nationalism and passion for the navy provided the impetus for a breathtaking long-term goal: the transformation of the German Reich into one of the foremost powers in the world. The volume examines the crucial role played by Wilhelm as Germany's Supreme War Lord in the policies that led to war in 1914. It concludes by describing the rabid anti-Semitism he developed in exile and his efforts to persuade Hitler to restore him to the throne.

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The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II: and the First World War

The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II: and the First World War Paperback – July 7, 2015

Almost a century after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Kaiser Wilhelm II is still viewed as either a warmonger or a madman, as the hundred-year-old propaganda posters remain fixed in the general consciousness. Was he, though, truly responsible for the catastrophe of the First World War, or was he in fact a convenient scapegoat, blamed for a conflict which he desperately tried to avoid?

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Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life From Beginning to End

Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life From Beginning to End Paperback – August 18, 2018

Kaiser Wilhelm II was the last of the German emperors who reigned over the German Empire and Prussia. He was a man who thought himself to be quite adept at foreign affairs and diplomacy. The truth was, however, that this man’s talent seemed to lie in being able to alienate entire countries after only one meeting with government officials or monarchs.

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