Wilhelm I.

During his life Wilhelm I went through some of the most important phases of German history and rose from King Prussia, through the President of the North German Confederation to the first emperor of the united German empire.




Origin and teenage years:

Wilhelm was born under the name Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig of Prussia on March 22, 1797 as the second son of Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia and Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in the noble family Hohenzollern in Berlin.

Since his parents were the crown prince couple of Prussia, William was appointed at 9 years on January 1, 1807, after Prussia had to take some defeats against Napoleon's army, appointed lieutenant of the army. From 1814 he took part in the campaigns of his father against France, where he was already awarded in his first real battle on February 26, 1814 at Bar-sur-Aube with the Iron Cross 2nd class. On June 8, 1815, the promotion to Major and he was given command of a battalion of the 1st Guards regiment.


Der dreizehnjährige Prinz Wilhelm

The thirteen-year-old Prince Wilhelm


His further promotions were mm January 1, 1816, where he was given command of the Stettiner Gardelandwehr battalion, 1818 as Major General was in command of a Guards Infantry Brigade, on 1 May 1820 the command of the 1st Guards Division where he was also promoted to Lieutenant General. On March 22, 1824, he took over the leadership of the III. Army Corps and finally he commanded from March 30, 1838 to May 22, 1848 the Guard Corps.

Even his political assessments were highly regarded by the king, so that Wilhelm was often called to the royal court for consultation.




The title of the prince and the March Revolution:

In 1840, Wilhelm's father died and his older brother accepted his title. Thus William was assigned the title of prince. He was also promoted to General of the Infantry.


Wilhelm als Prinz von Preußen, Gemälde von Franz Krüger, zwischen 1840 und 1843

Wilhelm as Prince of Prussia, painting by Franz Krüger, between 1840 and 1843


In March 1848, part of Prussia's revolutions broke out, which were attempted by the population with the intention of bringing about a political change. After uprisings had broken out in Berlin, Wilhelm tried his soldiers to withdraw from the city and then shoot them Sturmreif. After the soldiers had escaped from the city, but the public Wilhelm's plans were carried out, William had left on the advice of King Prussia and went to England.

Only in June 1848, after Wilhelm publicly and in writing for the constitutional form of government for Prussia, he returned to Potsdam to his family.

On June 8, 1849 Wilhelm was appointed commander-in-chief of the Operation Army in Baden and in the Palatinate, with the order to quell the uprisings there. After a few weeks the revolts could be ended and Wilhelm was appointed Governor General of the Rhine Province and the Province of Westphalia, later to Field Marshal and Governor of the fortress Mainz.




The time as King of Prussia:

On 2 January 1861, the older brother of Wilhelm and King of Prussia died. Wilhelm, as Prince of Prussia, now succeeded him and on October 18, 1861, ascended the Prussian throne.


Die Krönung Wilhelms I. zu Königsberg 1861, Gemälde von Adolph Menzel, 1865

The Coronation of William I of Königsberg in 1861, painting by Adolph Menzel, 1865


On September 23, 1862 Otto von Bismarck was appointed Prime Minister, which should change the political orientation of Prussia clearly and paved the way for the unification of the small German states.


König Wilhelm I. von Preußen in großer Generalsuniform, nach 1870

King Wilhelm I of Prussia in great general's uniform, after 1870




The German agreement wars:

With the appointment of Bismarck as prime minister, the preparation for the German unification took place. The first step was the German-Danish War, which involved the counties of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg. After this war, under Bismarck's leadership, a dispute with Austria was sought in order to transfer supremacy over the small German states to Prussia.

Wilhelm himself was personally against the war against Austria, but bent Bismarck and eventually took over even the supreme command of the Prussian troops and under the new military tactics of the war of aggression of Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke achieved decisive victories. The subsequent peace negotiations he handed over, albeit again reluctantly, to Bismarck, who in turn renounced high reparations payments and territorial cessions of Austria to secure peace. After the war, the North German Confederation was founded with Wilhelm as the owner of the Federal Presidency.


Schlacht bei Königgrätz, der König überreicht dem Kronprinzen den Orden „Pour le merite“, Wandbild von Emil Hünten

Battle of Königgrätz, the king hands the crown prince the order "Pour le merite", mural by Emil Hünten


In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and 1871 Wilhelm took over again the supreme command of the army and participated in several battles, so also in the case of Sedan where Napoleon III. surrendered and his army capitulated.




The coronation as Emperor of the German empre:

After the victory against France, the first German Reich was proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles. On January 18, 1871 Wilhelm was also crowned Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors. Although William now bore the Kaiser title, but the actual political threads continued to attract Bismarck.


Proklamation zum Deutschen Kaiser, Gemälde von Anton von Werner

Proclamation to the German Kaiser, painting by Anton von Werner


Die Standarte des Kaisers

The standard of the emperor




The end of life of Wilhelm:

Kaiser Wilhelm died after a short illness on March 9, 1888 in the Old Palace Unter den Linden. After being mourned for him throughout the empire, he was buried with a large commemoration march through Berlin on 16 March in the mausoleum in Charlottenburg Palace Park.


Beisetzung von Kaiser Wilhelm I. in Berlin, März 1888

Burial of Kaiser Wilhelm I in Berlin, March 1888




The family of Wilhelm:

On June 11, 1829, Wilhelm married the Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, the daughter of Grand Duke Karl Friedrich of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. With her he got 2 children:
- Friedrich Wilhelm (1831-1888)
- Luise (1838-1923)


Prinz Wilhelm (I.) von Preußen mit seiner Frau Prinzessin Augusta von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach, Lithographie um 1830

Prince Wilhelm (I.) of Prussia with his wife Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, lithographed around 1830





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