Wilhelm II, German Emperor

Wilhelm II, German Emperor
Wilhelm II
Emperor Wilhelm II, circa 1890
German Emperor; King of Prussia
Reign 15 June 1888 – 9 November 1918
Predecessor Frederick III
Spouse Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein
Hermine Reuss of Greiz
Wilhelm, German Crown Prince
Prince Eitel Friedrich
Prince Adalbert
Prince August Wilhelm
Prince Oskar
Prince Joachim
Princess Viktoria Luise
Full name
German: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht
English: Frederick William Victor Albert
House House of Hohenzollern
Father Frederick III, German Emperor
Mother Victoria, Princess Royal
Born 27 January 1859(1859-01-27)
Berlin, Prussia
Died 4 June 1941(1941-06-04) (aged 82)
Doorn, Netherlands
Religion Evangelical Christian Church

Wilhelm II (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen; English: Frederick William Victor Albert of Prussia) (27 January 1859 – 4 June 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. He was a grandson of the British Queen Victoria and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe. Crowned in 1888, he dismissed the Chancellor, Prince Otto von Bismarck, in 1890 and launched Germany on a bellicose "New Course" in foreign affairs that culminated in his support for Austria-Hungary in the crisis of July 1914 that led to World War I. Bombastic and impetuous, he sometimes made tactless pronouncements on sensitive topics without consulting his ministers, and allowed his generals to dictate policy during World War I with little regard for the civilian government. An ineffective war leader, he lost the support of the army, abdicated in November 1918, and fled to exile in the Netherlands.



Wilhelm was born on 27 January 1859 in Berlin to Prince Frederick William of Prussia (the future Frederick III) and his wife, Victoria, Princess Royal of Great Britain. He was the first grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, but more importantly, as the first son of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Wilhelm was (from 1861) the second in the line of succession to Prussia, and also, after 1871, to the German Empire, which, according to the constitution of the German Empire, was ruled by the Prussian King. He was related to many royal figures across Europe, and as war loomed in 1914, Wilhelm was on a first-name basis with his cousins the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and King George V.[1] He often tried to bully his royal relatives.[2]

Wilhelm with his father in 1862

A traumatic breech birth left him with a withered left arm due to Erb's palsy, which he tried with some success to conceal. In many photos he carries a pair of white gloves in his left hand to make the arm seem longer, holds his left hand with his right, or has his crippled arm on the hilt of a sword or holding a cane to give the effect of a useful limb posed at a dignified angle. Historians have suggested that this disability affected his emotional development.[3]

Early years

Wilhelm, beginning at age 6, was tutored and heavily influenced by the 39-year old teacher Georg Hinzpeter.[4] As a teenager he was educated at Kassel at the Friedrichsgymnasium and the University of Bonn, where he became a member of Corps Borussia Bonn. Wilhelm possessed a quick intelligence, but unfortunately this was often overshadowed by a cantankerous temper.

Prussian Royalty
House of Hohenzollern
Wappen Deutsches Reich - Reichsadler 1889.png
Wilhelm II
   William, German Crown Prince
   Prince Eitel Friedrich
   Prince Adalbert
   Prince August Wilhelm
   Prince Oskar
   Prince Joachim
   Victoria Louise, Duchess of Brunswick

As a scion of the Royal house of Hohenzollern, Wilhelm was exposed from an early age to the military society of the Prussian aristocracy. This had a major impact on him and, in maturity, Wilhelm was seldom seen out of uniform. The hyper-masculine military culture of Prussia in this period did much to frame his political ideals and personal relationships.

Crown Prince Frederick was viewed by his son with a deeply felt love and respect. His father's status as a hero of the wars of unification was largely responsible for the young Wilhelm's attitude, as in the circumstances in which he was raised; close emotional contact between father and son was not encouraged. Later, as he came into contact with the Crown Prince's political opponents, Wilhelm came to adopt more ambivalent feelings toward his father, given the perceived influence of Wilhelm's mother over a figure who should have been possessed of masculine independence and strength. Wilhelm also idolised his grandfather, Wilhelm I, and he was instrumental in later attempts to foster a cult of the first German Emperor as "Wilhelm the Great".[5]

In many ways, Wilhelm was a victim of his inheritance and of Otto von Bismarck's machinations. Both sides of his family had suffered from mental illness, and this may explain his emotional instability. The Emperor's parents, Frederick and Victoria, were great admirers of the Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, Victoria's father. They planned to rule as consorts, like Albert and Queen Victoria, and they planned to reform the fatal flaws in the executive branch that Bismarck had created for himself. The office of Chancellor responsible to the Emperor would be replaced with a British-style cabinet, with ministers responsible to the Reichstag. Government policy would be based on the consensus of the cabinet. Frederick described the Imperial Constitution as "ingeniously contrived chaos."[6]

The Crown Prince and Princess shared the outlook of the Progressive Party, and Bismarck was haunted by the fear that should the old Emperor die—and he was now in his seventies—they would call on one of the Progressive leaders to become Chancellor. He sought to guard against such a turn by keeping the Crown Prince from a position of any influence and by using foul means as well as fair to make him unpopular.[7]

When Wilhelm was in his early twenties, Bismarck tried to separate him from his liberal parents with some success. Bismarck planned to use the young prince as a weapon against his parents in order to retain his own political dominance. Wilhelm thus developed a dysfunctional relationship with his parents, but especially with his English mother. In an outburst in April 1889, which the Empress Victoria conveyed in a letter to her mother, Queen Victoria, Wilhelm angrily implied that “an English doctor killed my father, and an English doctor crippled my arm – which is the fault of my mother” who allowed no German physicians to attend to herself or her immediate family.[8]

Next to the throne

The German Emperor Wilhelm I died in Berlin on 9 March 1888, and Prince Wilhelm's father was proclaimed Emperor as Frederick III. He was already suffering from an incurable throat cancer and spent all 99 days of his reign fighting the disease before dying. On 15 June of that same year, his 29-year-old son succeeded him as German Emperor and King of Prussia.

Although in his youth he had been a great admirer of Otto von Bismarck, Wilhelm's characteristic impatience soon brought him into conflict with the "Iron Chancellor", the dominant figure in the foundation of his empire. The new Emperor opposed Bismarck's careful foreign policy, preferring vigorous and rapid expansion to protect Germany's "place in the sun." Furthermore, the young Emperor had come to the throne with the determination that he was going to rule as well as reign, unlike his grandfather, who had largely been content to leave day-to-day administration to Bismarck.

Early conflicts between Wilhelm II and his chancellor soon poisoned the relationship between the two men. Bismarck believed that Wilhelm was a lightweight who could be dominated, and he showed scant respect for Wilhelm's policies in the late 1880s. The final split between monarch and statesman occurred soon after an attempt by Bismarck to implement a far-reaching anti-Socialist law in early 1890.

Break with Bismarck on labor policy

In this photo of Wilhelm, his right hand is holding his left hand, which was affected by Erb's palsy.

It was during this time that Bismarck, after gaining an absolute majority in favor of his policies in the Reichstag, decided to make the anti-Socialist laws permanent. His Kartell, the majority of the amalgamated Conservative Party and the National Liberal Party, favored making the laws permanent, with one exception: the police power to expel Socialist agitators from their homes. This power had been used excessively at times against political opponents, and the National Liberal Party was unwilling to pass the expulsion clause in the first place. Bismarck would not give his assent to a modified bill, so the Kartell split over this issue. The Conservatives would support the bill only in its entirety, and threatened to, and eventually did, veto the entire bill.

As the debate continued, Wilhelm became increasingly interested in social problems, especially the treatment of mine workers who went on strike in 1889. Following his policy of active participation in government, he routinely interrupted Bismarck in Council to make clear where he stood on social policy. Bismarck sharply disagreed with Wilhelm's policy and worked to circumvent it. Even though Wilhelm supported the altered anti-Socialist bill, Bismarck pushed for his support to veto the bill in its entirety, but when Bismarck's arguments didn't convince Wilhelm, the Chancellor (uncharacteristically) blurted out his motive for having the bill fail: he wanted the Socialists to agitate until a violent clash occurred that could be used as a pretext to crush them. Wilhelm replied that he wasn't willing to open his reign with a bloody campaign against his subjects.

The next day, after realising his blunder, Bismarck attempted to reach a compromise with Wilhelm by agreeing to his social policy towards industrial workers, and even suggested a European council to discuss working conditions, presided over by the German Emperor.

Wilhelm II, German Emperor

Despite this, a turn of events eventually led to his distance from Wilhelm. Bismarck, feeling pressured and unappreciated by the Emperor and undermined by ambitious advisors, refused to sign a proclamation regarding the protection of workers along with Wilhelm, as was required by the German Constitution, to protest Wilhelm's ever-increasing interference with Bismarck's previously unquestioned authority. Bismarck also worked behind the scenes to break the Continental Labour Council Wilhelm held so dear. The final break came as Bismarck searched for a new parliamentary majority, with his Kartell voted from power due to the anti-Socialist bill fiasco. The remaining powers in the Reichstag were the Catholic Centre Party and the Conservative Party. Bismarck wished to form a new bloc with the Centre Party, and invited Ludwig Windthorst, the party's parliamentary leader, to discuss a coalition. Wilhelm was furious to hear about Windthorst's visit. In a parliamentary state, the head of government depends on the confidence of the parliamentary majority, and certainly has the right to form coalitions to ensure his policies a majority, but in Germany, the Chancellor had to depend on the confidence of the Emperor, and Wilhelm believed that the Emperor had the right to be informed before his ministers' meeting. After a heated argument at Bismarck's estate over Imperial authority, Wilhelm stormed out. Bismarck, forced for the first time into a situation he could not use to his advantage, wrote a blistering letter of resignation, decrying Wilhelm's interference in foreign and domestic policy, which was only published after Bismarck's death. When Bismarck realised that his dismissal was imminent:

All Bismarck’s resources were deployed; he even asked Empress Frederick to use her influence at her son on his behalf. But the wizard had lost his magic; his spells were powerless because they were exerted on people who did not respect them, and he who had so signally disregarded Kant’s command to use people as ends in themselves had too small a stock of loyalty to draw on. As Lord Salisbury told Queen Victoria: 'The very qualities which Bismarck fostered in the Emperor in order to strengthen himself when the Emperor Frederick should come to the throne have been the qualities by which he has been overthrown.' The Empress, with what must have been a mixture of pity and triumph, told him that her influence with her son could not save him for he himself had destroyed it.[9]

Although Bismarck had sponsored landmark social security legislation, by 1889–90 he had become disillusioned with the attitude of workers. In particular, he was opposed to wage increases, improving working conditions, and regulating labour relations. Moreover the Kartell, the shifting political coalition that Bismarck had been able to forge since 1867, had lost a working majority in the Reichstag. Bismarck also attempted to sabotage the Labour Conference that the Kaiser was organising. In March 1890, the dismissal of Bismarck coincided with the Kaiser's opening of the Labour Conference in Berlin.[10][11] Subsequently at the opening of the Reichstag on 6 May 1890, the Kaiser stated that the most pressing issue was the further enlargement of the bill concerning the protection of the labourer. [12] In 1891, the Reichstag passed the Workers Protection Acts, which improved working conditions, protected women and children and regulated labour relations.

Wilhelm in control

Bismarck resigned at Wilhelm II's insistence in 1890, at age 75, to be succeeded as Chancellor of Germany and Minister-President of Prussia by Leo von Caprivi, who in turn was replaced by Chlodwig, Prince of Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst in 1894. In foreign policy Bismarck had achieved a fragile balance of interests between Germany, France and Russia--peace was at hand and Bismarck tried to keep it that way despite growing popular sentiment against Britain (regarding colonies) and especially against Russia. With Bismarck's dismissal the Russians now expected a reversal of policy in Berlin, so they quickly came to terms with France, beginning the process that by 1914 largely isolated Germany.[13]

However Louis Ferdinand, the Kaiser's grandson and heir, offered a different perspective on the role of Bismarck leading up to his departure:

Had Bismarck stayed he would not have helped. He already wanted to abolish all the reforms that had been introduced. He was aspiring to establish a kind of shogunate and hoped to treat our family in the same way the Japanese shoguns treated the Japanese emperors isolated in Kyoto. My grandfather had no other choice but to dismiss him.[14]

Monarchical styles of
German Emperor Wilhelm II, King of Prussia
Imperial Monogram of Kaiser Wilhelm II.svg
Reference style His Imperial and Royal Majesty
Spoken style Your Imperial and Royal Majesty
Alternative style Sire

In appointing Caprivi and then Hohenlohe, Wilhelm was embarking upon what is known to history as "the New Course", in which he hoped to exert decisive influence in the government of the empire. There is debate amongst historians as to the precise degree to which Wilhelm succeeded in implementing "personal rule" in this era, but what is clear is the very different dynamic which existed between the Crown and its chief political servant (the Chancellor) in the "Wilhelmine Era". These chancellors were senior civil servants and not seasoned politician-statesmen like Bismarck. Wilhelm wanted to preclude the emergence of another Iron Chancellor, whom he ultimately detested as being "a boorish old killjoy" who had not permitted any minister to see the Emperor except in his presence, keeping a stranglehold on effective political power. Upon his enforced retirement and until his dying day, Bismarck was to become a bitter critic of Wilhelm's policies, but without the support of the supreme arbiter of all political appointments (the Emperor) there was little chance of Bismarck exerting a decisive influence on policy.

Silver 5-mark coin of Wilhelm II.

Something which Bismarck was able to effect was the creation of the "Bismarck myth". This was a view—which some would argue was confirmed by subsequent events—that, with the dismissal of the Iron Chancellor, Wilhelm II effectively destroyed any chance Germany had of stable and effective government. In this view, Wilhelm's "New Course" was characterised far more as the German ship of state going out of control, eventually leading through a series of crises to the carnage of the First and Second World Wars.

The strong chancellors

Following the dismissal of Hohenlohe in 1900, Wilhelm appointed the man whom he regarded as "his own Bismarck", Bernhard von Bülow.

In the early twentieth century Wilhelm began to concentrate upon his real agenda; the creation of a German navy that would rival that of Britain and enable Germany to declare itself a world power. He ordered his military leaders to read Admiral Mahan's book on naval power and spent hours drawing sketches of the ships that he wanted built. Bülow and Bethmann Hollweg, his loyal chancellors, looked after domestic affairs and Wilhelm began to spread alarm in the chancellories of Europe with his increasingly eccentric views on foreign affairs.


Historians have frequently stressed the role of Wilhelm's personality in shaping his reign. Thus, Thomas Nipperdey concludes he was: "gifted, with a quick understanding, sometimes brilliant, with a taste for the modern,—technology, industry, science—but at the same time superficial, hasty, restless, unable to relax, without any deeper level of seriousness, without any desire for hard work or drive to see things through to the end, without any sense of sobriety, for balance and boundaries, or even for reality and real problems, uncontrollable and scarcely capable of learning from experience, desperate for applause and success,—as Bismarck said early on in his life, he wanted every day to be his birthday—romantic, sentimental and theatrical, unsure and arrogant, with an immeasurably exaggerated self-confidence and desire to show off, a juvenile cadet, who never took the tone of the officers’ mess out of his voice, and brashly wanted to play the part of the supreme warlord, full of panicky fear of a monotonous life without any diversions, and yet aimless, pathological in his hatred against his English mother."[15]

Langer et al. (1968) emphasize the negative international consequences of his erratic personality:

He believed in force, and the 'survival of the fittest' in domestic as well as foreign politics....William was not lacking in intelligence, but he did lack stability, disguising his deep insecurities by swagger and tough talk. He frequently fell into depressions and hysterics....William's personal instability was reflected in vacillations of policy. His actions, at home as well as abroad, lacked guidance, and therefore often bewildered or infuriated public opinion. He was not so much concerned with gaining specific objectives, as had been the case with Bismarck, as with asserting his will. This trait in the ruler of the leading Continental power was one of the main causes of the uneasiness prevailing in Europe at the turn-of-the-century.[16]

Foreign affairs

1898 China imperialism cartoon-while a Mandarin official helplessly looks on, China as a pie is about to be carved up by Queen Victoria (British Empire), Wilhelm II (German Empire), Nicolas II (Russian Empire), Marianne (France), and a samurai (Japanese Empire)
A 1904 German cartoon commenting on the Entente cordiale: John Bull walking off with Marianne, turning his back on Wilhelm II/Germany.
Wilhelm II with Nicholas II of Russia in 1905, wearing the military uniforms of each other's nations

German foreign policy under Wilhelm II was faced with a number of significant problems. Perhaps the most apparent was that Wilhelm was an impatient man, subjective in his reactions and affected strongly by sentiment and impulse. He was personally ill-equipped to steer German foreign policy along a rational course. It is now widely recognised that the various spectacular acts which Wilhelm undertook in the international sphere were often partially encouraged by the German foreign policy elite. There were a number of key exceptions, such as the famous Kruger telegram of 1896 in which Wilhelm congratulated President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal Republic on the suppression of the Jameson Raid, thus alienating British public opinion.

Wilhelm invented and spread fears of a yellow peril trying to interest other European rulers in the perils they faced by invading Chinese; few other leaders paid attention.[17] German troops were sent to fight in the Boxer Rebellion.

Under Wilhelm Germany attempted to develop its colonies in Africa and the Pacific, but few became self-supporting and all were lost during World War I. In Namibia a native revolt against German rule led to the Herero and Namaqua Genocide, although Wilhelm eventually ordered it be stopped.

One of the few times Wilhelm succeeded in personal "diplomacy" was when he supported Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in marrying Sophie Chotek in 1900 against the wishes of Emperor Franz Joseph.[18]

One "domestic" triumph for Wilhelm was when his daughter Victoria Louise married the Duke of Brunswick in 1913; this helped heal the rift between the House of Hanover and the House of Hohenzollern after the 1866 annexation of Hanover by Prussia.[19]

Moroccan Crisis

One of Wilhelm II's diplomatic blunders sparked the Moroccan Crisis of 1905, when Wilhelm made a spectacular visit to Tangier, in Morocco. Wilhelm's presence was seen as an assertion of German interests in Morocco, in opposition to France. In his speech he even made certain remarks in favour of Moroccan independence. This led to friction with France, which had expanding colonial interests in Morocco, and led to the Algeciras Conference, which served largely to further isolate Germany in Europe.[20]

Daily Telegraph affair

Perhaps Wilhelm's most damaging personal blunder in the arena of foreign policy had a far greater impact in Germany than internationally. The Daily Telegraph Affair of 1908 stemmed from the publication of some of Wilhelm's opinions in edited form in the British daily newspaper of that name. Wilhelm saw it as an opportunity to promote his views and ideas on Anglo-German friendship, but instead, due to his emotional outbursts during the course of the interview, Wilhelm ended up further alienating not only the British people, but also the French, Russians, and Japanese all in one fell swoop by implying, among other things, that the Germans cared nothing for the British; that the French and Russians had attempted to incite Germany to intervene in the Second Boer War; and that the German naval buildup was targeted against the Japanese, not Britain. (One memorable quotation from the interview was, "You English are mad, mad, mad as March hares."[21]) The effect in Germany was quite significant, with serious calls for his abdication being mentioned in the press. Not surprisingly, Wilhelm kept a very low profile for many months after the Daily Telegraph fiasco, and later exacted his revenge by forcing the resignation of Prince Bülow, who had abandoned the Emperor to public criticism by publicly accepting some responsibility for not having edited the transcript of the interview before its publication.[22]

The Daily Telegraph crisis deeply wounded Wilhelm's previously unimpaired self-confidence, so much so that he soon suffered a severe bout of depression from which he never really recovered (photographs of Wilhelm in the post-1908 period show a man with far more haggard features and greying hair), and he lost much of the influence he had previously exercised in domestic and foreign policy.

Promoter of arts and science

Wilhelm II was an enthusiastic promoter of the arts and sciences, as well as public education and social welfare. He sponsored the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, for the promotion of scientific research; it was funded by wealthy private donors and the state and comprised a number of research institutes in both pure and applied sciences. The Prussian Academy of Sciences, however, was unable to avoid the Kaiser's pressure and lost some of its autonomy when it was forced to incorporate new programs in engineering, and award new fellowships in engineering sciences as a gift from the Kaiser in 1900.[23]

Wilhelm II supported the modernisers as they tried to reform the Prussian system of secondary education, which was rigidly traditional, elitist, politically authoritarian, and unchanged by the progress in the natural sciences. As hereditary Protector of the Order of Saint John, he offered encouragement to the Christian order's attempts to place German medicine at the forefront of modern medical through its system of hospitals, nursing sisterhood and nursing schools, and nursing homes throughout the German empire.[24]

Naval expansion

Nothing Wilhelm II did in the international arena was of more influence than his decision to pursue a policy of massive naval construction. A powerful navy was Wilhelm's pet project. He had inherited, from his mother, a love of the British Royal Navy, which was at that time the world's largest. He once confided to his uncle, Edward VII, that his dream was to have a "fleet of my own some day". Wilhelm's frustration over his fleet's poor showing at the Fleet Review at his grandmother Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, combined with his inability to exert German influence in South Africa following the dispatch of the Kruger telegram, led to Wilhelm taking definitive steps toward the construction of a fleet to rival that of his British cousins. Wilhelm was fortunate to be able to call on the services of the dynamic naval officer Alfred von Tirpitz, whom he appointed to the head of the Imperial Naval Office in 1897.

The new admiral had conceived of what came to be known as the "Risk Theory" or the Tirpitz Plan, by which Germany could force Britain to accede to German demands in the international arena through the threat posed by a powerful battlefleet concentrated in the North Sea. Tirpitz enjoyed Wilhelm's full support in his advocacy of successive naval bills of 1897 and 1900, by which the German navy was built up to contend with that of the United Kingdom. Naval expansion under the Fleet Acts eventually led to severe financial strains in Germany by 1914, as by 1906 Wilhelm had committed his navy to construction of the much larger, more expensive dreadnought type of battleship.

In 1889 Wilhelm II reorganised top level control of the navy by creating a Navy Cabinet (Marine-Kabinett) equivalent to the German Imperial Military Cabinet which had previously functioned in the same capacity for both the army and navy. The Head of the navy cabinet was responsible for promotions, appointments, administration and issuing orders to naval forces. Captain Gustav von Senden-Bibran was appointed as its first head and remained so until 1906. The existing Imperial admiralty was abolished and its responsibilities divided between two organisations. A new position (equivalent to the supreme commander of the army) was created, chief of the high command of the admiralty (Oberkommando der Marine), being responsible for ship deployments, strategy and tactics. Vice Admiral Max von der Goltz was appointed in 1889 and remained in post until 1895. Construction and maintenance of ships and obtaining supplies was the responsibility of the State Secretary of the Imperial Navy Office (Reichsmarineamt), responsible to the Chancellor and advising the Reichstag on naval matters. The first appointee was Rear Admiral Eduard Heusner, followed shortly by Rear Admiral Friedrich von Hollmann from 1890 to 1897. Each of these three heads of department reported separately to Wilhelm II.[25]

In addition to the expansion of the fleet the Kiel Canal was opened in 1895 enabling faster movements between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

World War I

Emperor Wilhelm with other German top politicians at a pre-war military training in autumn 1909
A composite image of Wilhelm II with German generals

The Sarajevo crisis

Wilhelm was a friend of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Este, and he was deeply shocked by his assassination on 28 June 1914. Wilhelm offered to support Austria-Hungary in crushing the Black Hand, the secret organisation that had plotted the killing, and even sanctioned the use of force by Austria against the perceived source of the movement—Serbia (this is often called "the blank cheque"). He wanted to remain in Berlin until the crisis was resolved, but his courtiers persuaded him instead to go on his annual cruise of the North Sea on 6 July 1914. Wilhelm made erratic attempts to stay on top of the crisis via telegram, and when the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum was delivered to Serbia, he hurried back to Berlin. He reached Berlin on 28 July, read a copy of the Serbian reply, and wrote on it:

A brilliant solution—and in barely 48 hours! This is more than could have been expected. A great moral victory for Vienna; but with it every pretext for war falls to the ground, and [the Ambassador] Giesl had better have stayed quietly at Belgrade. On this document, I should never have given orders for mobilisation.[26]

Unknown to the Emperor, Austro-Hungarian ministers and generals had already convinced the 84-year-old Francis Joseph I of Austria to sign a declaration of war against Serbia. As a direct consequence, Russia began a general mobilization to attack Austria in defense of Serbia.

July 1914

Emperor Wilhelm in conversation with the victor of Liège, General Otto von Emmich; in the background the generals Hans von Plessen (middle) and Moriz von Lyncker (right).

On the night of 30 July, when handed a document stating that Russia would not cancel its mobilization, Wilhelm wrote a lengthy commentary containing the startling observations:

"For I no longer have any doubt that England, Russia and France have agreed among themselves—knowing that our treaty obligations compel us to support Austria—to use the Austro-Serb conflict as a pretext for waging a war of annihilation against us ... Our dilemma over keeping faith with the old and honourable Emperor has been exploited to create a situation which gives England the excuse she has been seeking to annihilate us with a spurious appearance of justice on the pretext that she is helping France and maintaining the well-known Balance of Power in Europe, i.e. playing off all European States for her own benefit against us."[27]

More recent British authors state that Wilhelm II actually declared "Ruthlessness and weakness will start the most terrifying war of the world, whose purpose is to destroy Germany. Because there can no longer be any doubts, England, France and Russia have conspired them selves together to fight an annihilation war against us" [28]

When it became clear that Germany would experience a war on two fronts, and that the United Kingdom would enter the war if Germany attacked France through neutral Belgium, the panic-stricken Wilhelm attempted to redirect the main attack against Russia. When Helmuth von Moltke (the younger) (who had chosen the old plan from 1905, made by the former German general von Schlieffen for the possibility of Germany war on two fronts) told him that this was impossible, Wilhelm said: "Your uncle would have given me a different answer!"[29] Wilhelm is also reported to have said: "To think that George and Nicky should have played me false! If my grandmother had been alive, she would never have allowed it."[30] In the original Schlieffen plan Germany should attack the (supposed) weaker enemy first, meaning France. The plan supposed that it would take a long time before Russia was ready for war. And defeating France had not been a hard task for Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. At the 1914 border between France and Germany, an attack at this more southern part of France could be stopped by the French fortress along the border. However Wilhelm II got Helmuth Moltke (the younger) to also not invade the Netherlands.

French Propaganda Postcard from the World War I era showing a caricature of Wilhelm II biting into the world. The text reads "The glutton – too hard."


Hindenburg, Wilhelm II, and Ludendorff in January 1917

Upon hearing that his cousin George V had changed the name of the British royal house to Windsor, Wilhelm remarked that he planned to see Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Wilhelm's role in wartime was of ever-decreasing significance. The high command continued with their strategy even when it was clear that the Schlieffen plan had failed. Moltke suffered a nervous breakdown and the fearsome duo of Hindenburg and Ludendorff took effective control of all military affairs. By 1916 the Empire had effectively become a military dictatorship under the control of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff.[31] Increasingly cut off from reality and the political decision-making process, Wilhelm vacillated between defeatism and dreams of victory, depending upon the fortunes of his armies, but his role as supreme leader was adopted by the elderly Hindenburg, whose wooden features and unshakable nerves endeared him to nobody but which upheld the illusion of a German victory until long after the war was lost on the battlefields. Nevertheless, Wilhelm still retained the ultimate authority in matters of political appointment, and it was only after his consent had been gained that major changes to the high command could be effected. Wilhelm was in favour of the dismissal of Helmuth von Moltke the Younger in September 1914 and his replacement by Erich von Falkenhayn. In 1917, Hindenburg and Ludendorff decided that Bethman-Hollweg was no longer acceptable to them as Chancellor and called upon the Kaiser to appoint somebody else. When asked whom they would accept, Ludendorff recommended Michaelis, a nonentity who had made a visit to GHQ a few weeks earlier. Wilhelm did not even know the man, but accepted the suggestion. His role as Kaiser was at an end. The Kaiser's support collapsed completely in October–November 1918 in the army, the civilian government, and German public opinion, as President Wilson made clear the Kaiser could no longer be a party to peace negotiations.[32][33]

Abdication and flight

Wilhelm was at the Imperial Army headquarters in Spa, Belgium, when the uprisings in Berlin and other centres took him by surprise in late 1918. Mutiny among the ranks of his beloved Kaiserliche Marine, the imperial navy, profoundly shocked him. After the outbreak of the German Revolution, Wilhelm could not make up his mind whether or not to abdicate. Up to that point, he was confident that even if he were obliged to vacate the German throne, he would still retain the Prussian kingship. The unreality of this belief was revealed when, in the hope of preserving the monarchy in the face of growing revolutionary unrest, Wilhelm's abdication both as German Emperor and King of Prussia was abruptly announced by the Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, on 9 November 1918. (Prince Max himself was forced to resign later the same day, when it became clear that only Friedrich Ebert, leader of the SPD could effectively exert control.)

Wilhelm consented to the abdication only after Ludendorff's replacement, General Wilhelm Groener, had informed him that the officers and men of the army would march back in good order under Paul von Hindenburg's command, but would certainly not fight for Wilhelm's throne on the home front. The monarchy's last and strongest support had been broken, and finally even Hindenburg, himself a lifelong royalist, was obliged, with some embarrassment, to advise the Emperor to give up the crown, thus ending the dynasty's rule.[34]

The Huis Doorn in 1925

On November 10 Wilhelm Hohenzollern, private citizen, crossed the border by train and went into exile in the Netherlands, which had remained neutral throughout the war.[35] Upon the conclusion of the Treaty of Versailles in early 1919, Article 227 expressly provided for the prosecution of Wilhelm "for a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties", but Queen Wilhelmina refused to extradite him, despite appeals from the Allies. King George V wrote that he looked on his cousin as "the greatest criminal in history", but opposed Prime Minister David Lloyd George's proposal to "hang the Kaiser". President Wilson rejected extradition, arguing that punishing Wilhelm for waging war would destabilize international order and lose the peace.[36]

The erstwhile Emperor first settled in Amerongen, and then subsequently purchased a country house in the municipality of Doorn on 16 August 1919 and moved in on 15 May 1920.[37] This was to be his home for the remainder of his life. From this residence, Huis Doorn, Wilhelm absolved his officers and servants of their oath of loyalty to him; however, he himself never formally relinquished his titles, and hoped to return to Germany in the future. The Weimar Republic allowed Wilhelm to remove twenty-three railway wagons of furniture, twenty-seven containing packages of all sorts, one bearing a car and another a boat, from the New Palace at Potsdam.[38]

Life in exile

Wilhelm in 1933

On 2 December 1919, Wilhelm wrote to Field Marshal August von Mackensen, denouncing his abdication as the "deepest, most disgusting shame ever perpetrated by a person in history, the Germans have done to themselves", "egged on and misled by the tribe of Judah ... Let no German ever forget this, nor rest until these parasites have been destroyed and exterminated from German soil!"[39] He advocated a "regular international all-worlds pogrom à la Russe" as "the best cure" and further believed that Jews were a "nuisance that humanity must get rid of some way or other. I believe the best would be gas!"[40]

In 1922, Wilhelm published the first volume of his memoirs—a very slim volume that insisted he was not guilty of initiating the Great War, and defended his conduct throughout his reign, especially in matters of foreign policy. For the remaining twenty years of his life, the former Emperor regularly entertained guests (often of some standing) and kept himself updated on events in Europe. He grew a beard and allowed his famous moustache to droop. He also learned the Dutch language. Wilhelm developed a penchant for archaeology during his vacations on Corfu, a passion he retained in his exile. He had bought the former Greek residence of Empress Elisabeth after her murder in 1898. He also sketched plans for grand buildings and battleships when he was bored. In exile, one of Wilhelm's greatest passions was hunting, and he bagged thousands of animals, both beast and bird. Much of his time was spent chopping wood and thousands of trees were chopped down during his stay at Doorn.[41]

Huis Doorn in the Netherlands

In the early 1930s, Wilhelm apparently hoped that the successes of the German Nazi Party would stimulate interest in the revival of the monarchy. His second wife, Hermine (see below), actively petitioned the Nazi government on her husband's behalf, but the scorn which Adolf Hitler felt for the man who he believed contributed to Germany's greatest defeat, and his own desire for power, would prevent Wilhelm's restoration. Though he hosted Hermann Göring at Doorn on at least one occasion, Wilhelm grew to mistrust Hitler. He heard about the Night of the Long Knives of 30 June 1934 by wireless and said of it, "What would people have said if I had done such a thing?"[42] and hearing of the murder of the wife of former Chancellor Schleicher, "We have ceased to live under the rule of law and everyone must be prepared for the possibility that the Nazis will push their way in and put them up against the wall!"[43] Wilhelm was also appalled at the Kristallnacht of 9–10 November 1938 saying, "I have just made my views clear to Auwi [Wilhelm's fourth son] in the presence of his brothers. He had the nerve to say that he agreed with the Jewish pogroms and understood why they had come about. When I told him that any decent man would describe these actions as gangsterisms, he appeared totally indifferent. He is completely lost to our family ..."[44] He also stated, "For the first time, I am ashamed to be a German."[45]

In the wake of the German victory over Poland in September 1939, Wilhelm's adjutant, General von Dommes, wrote on his behalf to Hitler, stating that the House of Hohenzollern "remained loyal" and noted that nine Prussian Princes (one son and eight grandchildren) were stationed at the front, concluding "because of the special circumstances that require residence in a neutral foreign country, His Majesty must personally decline to make the aforementioned comment. The Emperor has therefore charged me with making a communication." Wilhelm stayed in regular contact with Hitler through General von Dommes, who represented the family in Germany.[46] Wilhelm greatly admired the success which Hitler was able to achieve in the opening months of the Second World War, and personally sent a congratulatory telegram on the fall of Paris stating "Congratulations, you have won using my troops." In a letter to his daughter Victoria Louise, the Duchess of Brunswick, he wrote triumphantly, "Thus is the pernicious entente cordial of Uncle Edward VII brought to nought."[47] Nevertheless, after the Nazi conquest of the Netherlands in 1940, the aging Wilhelm retired completely from public life. In May 1940, when Hitler invaded Holland, Wilhelm declined an offer from Churchill for asylum in the UK, preferring to die at Huis Doorn.[48]

During his last year at Doorn, Wilhelm believed that Germany was the land of monarchy and therefore of Christ and that England was the land of Liberalism and therefore of Satan and the Anti-Christ. He argued that the English ruling classes were "Freemasons thoroughly infected by Juda". Wilhelm asserted that the "British people must be liberated from Antichrist Juda. We must drive Juda out of England just as he has been chased out of the Continent."[49] He believed the Freemasons and Jews had caused the two world wars, aiming at a world Jewish empire with British and American gold, but that "Juda's plan has been smashed to pieces and they themselves swept out of the European Continent!" Continental Europe was now, Wilhelm wrote, "consolidating and closing itself off from British influences after the elimination of the British and the Jews!" The end result would be a "U.S. of Europe!"[49] In a letter to his sister Princess Margaret in 1940, Wilhelm wrote: "The hand of God is creating a new world & working miracles ... We are becoming the U.S. of Europe under German leadership, a united European Continent." He added: "The Jews [are] being thrust out of their nefarious positions in all countries, whom they have driven to hostility for centuries."[46] Also in 1940 came what would have been his mother's 100th birthday, of which he ironically wrote to a friend "Today the 100th birthday of my mother! No notice is taken of it at home! No 'Memorial Service' or... committee to remember her marvellous work for the...welfare of our German people... Nobody of the new generation knows anything about her."[50] This sympathy for his mother is in sharp contrast to the intense animosity he expressed for her during most of her life.


Wilhelm II's tomb in Doorn, Netherlands

Wilhelm II died of a pulmonary embolus in Doorn, Netherlands on 3 June 1941 aged 82, just weeks before the German invasion of the Soviet Union. German soldiers had been guarding his estate. Adolf Hitler, however, was reportedly angry that the former monarch had an honor guard of German troops and nearly fired the general who ordered them there when he found out. Despite his personal animosity toward Wilhelm, Hitler wanted to bring Wilhelm's body back to Berlin for a state funeral, as Wilhelm was a symbol of Germany and Germans during World War I. Hitler felt this would demonstrate to Germans the direct succession of the Third Reich from the old Kaiserreich.[51] However, Wilhelm's wishes of never returning to Germany until the restoration of the monarchy were respected, and the Nazi occupation authorities granted a small military funeral with a few hundred people present, the mourners including August von Mackensen, along with a few other military advisers. Wilhelm's request that the swastika and other Nazi regalia not be displayed at the final rites was ignored, however, and they are featured in the photos of the funeral that were taken by a Dutch photographer.[52]

He was buried in a mausoleum in the grounds of Huis Doorn, which has since become a place of pilgrimage for German monarchists. To this day, small but enthusiastic and faithful numbers of them gather at Huis Doorn every year on the anniversary of his death to pay their homage to the last German Emperor.[53]

Legacy and memory

Three trends have characterized the writing about Wilhelm. First, the court-inspired writers who considered him a martyr and a hero. Often they uncritically accepted the justifications provided in the Kaiser's memoirs. Second, those who judged Wilhelm as completely unable to handle the great responsibilities of his office and one who was too reckless to deal with power. Third, after 1950, scholars sought to transcend the passions of the 1910s and attempted objective portrayal of William II and his rule.[54]

Until the late 1950s the Kaiser was depicted by most historians as man of considerable influence. Partly that was a deception by German officials. For example, President Theodore Roosevelt believed the Kaiser was in control of German foreign policy because Hermann Speck von Sternburg, the German ambassador in Washington and personal friend of Roosevelt, presented messages of Chancellor von Bülow to the president as messages from the Kaiser. Then historians downplayed his role, arguing senior officials learned to work around him. More recently historian John C. G. Röhl has portrayed Wilhelm II as the key figure in understanding the recklessness and downfall of Imperial Germany.[55] Thus the argument is made that the Kaiser played a major role in promoting the policies of naval and colonial expansion that caused the sharp deterioration in Germany's relations with Britain before 1914.[56][57]

First marriage and issue

Wilhelm and his first wife Augusta Viktoria

Wilhelm and his first wife, Princess Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein, were married on 27 February 1881. They had seven children:

  1. Crown Prince Wilhelm (1882–1951). On 6 June 1905, he married Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (20 September 1886 – 6 May 1954) in Berlin. Cecilie was the daughter of Frederick Francis III, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1851–1897) and Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia (1860–1922). They had six children. Their eldest son Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (1906–1940) was killed in World War II.
  2. Prince Eitel Friedrich (1883–1942). On 27 February 1906, he married Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Oldenburg (2 February 1879 Oldenburg, Germany – 29 March 1964 Westerstede, Germany) in Berlin, Germany. They were divorced 20 October 1926 and had no children.
  3. Prince Adalbert (1884–1948). On 3 August 1914, he married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (16 August 1891 – 25 April 1971) in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. They had three children.
  4. Prince August Wilhelm (1887–1949). On 22 October 1908, he married Princess Alexandra Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (21 April 1887 Germany – 15 April 1957 France). They had one child.
  5. Prince Oskar (1888–1958). On 31 July 1914, he married Countess Ina Marie von Bassewitz (27 January 1888 – 17 September 1973). It was a morganatic marriage, so Ina-Marie was created Countess von Ruppin. In 1920, she and her children were granted the rank of Prince/ss of Prussia with the style Royal Highness. They had four children. His eldest son Prince Oskar Wilhelm Karl Hans Kuno of Prussia was killed in 1939 in World War II.
  6. Prince Joachim (1890–1920). On 11 March 1916, he married Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt (10 June 1898 – 22 May 1983). They had one son. Joachim's great grandson Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia, Prince of Prussia (born 1981) is a pretender to the Russian throne.
  7. Princess Viktoria Luise (1892–1980). In 1913, she married Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick (1887–1953). They had five children.

Princess Augusta, known affectionately as "Dona", was a constant companion to Wilhelm; and her death on 11 April 1921 was a devastating blow. It also came less than a year after their son Joachim committed suicide—unable to accept his lot after the abdication of his father, the failure of his own marriage to Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt, and the severe depression felt after his service in the Great War.


With second wife, Hermine, and her daughter, Princess Henriette.

The following January, Wilhelm received a birthday greeting from a son of the late Prince Johann George Ludwig Ferdinand August Wilhelm of Schönaich-Carolath. The 63-year-old Wilhelm invited the boy and his mother, Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz, to Doorn. Wilhelm found Hermine very attractive, and greatly enjoyed her company. The couple were wed on 9 November 1922, despite the objections of Wilhelm's monarchist supporters and his children. Hermine's daughter, Princess Henriette, married the late Prince Joachim's son, Karl Franz Josef, in 1940, but divorced in 1946. Hermine remained a constant companion to the aging Emperor until his death.

Titles and styles

Wilhelm II by Max Koner 1890
  • 27 January 1859 – 9 March 1888: His Royal Highness Prince Wilhelm of Prussia
  • 9 March 1888 – 15 June 1888: His Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia
  • 15 June 1888 – 18 November 1918: His Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Emperor, King of Prussia

Full title as German Emperor

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 of 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.[58]



  • William II. – The last days of the German Monarchy. (Original Title: "Wilhelm II. – Die letzten Tage des Deutschen Kaiserreichs") Documentary film about the abdication and flight of the last German Kaiser. Germany/Belgium, 2007. Produced by seelmannfilm and German Television. Written and directed by Christoph Weinert.[59]

In popular culture

See also


  1. ^ Miranda Carter, George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I (2010) passim
  2. ^ Roderick R. McLean, "Kaiser Wilhelm II and the British Royal Family: Anglo-German Dynastic Relations in Political Context, 1890-1914." History 2001 86(284): 478-502. Issn: 0018-2648 in Ebsco
  3. ^ William L. Putnam, -The Kaiser's merchant ships in World War I (2001) p. 33
  4. ^ Catrine Clay, King, Kaiser, Tsar: three royal cousins who led the world to war (2007) p. 14
  5. ^ Isabel V. Hull, The Entourage of Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1888-1918 (2004) p. 31
  6. ^ Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and his Times, Houghton Mifflin (1964) p. 69
  7. ^ Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and his Times, Houghton Mifflin (1964) p. 70
  8. ^ John C. G. Röhl, Young Wilhelm: the Kaiser's early life, 1859-1888 (1998) p. 12
  9. ^ Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and his Times, Houghton Mifflin (1964) p. 132
  10. ^ "Labor's Cause In Europe - The Kaiser's Conference And The English Strike. Vast Interests The Strike Involves - French Vandalism, Not German, Spoken From Necessity - Tirard's Fall. - Front Page". New York Times. 2011-03-02. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E04E7DB153BE533A25755C1A9659C94619ED7CF. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  11. ^ "The Kaiser's Conference - Trying To Solve The Workingmen's Problem. Formal Organization Of The Delegates In Berlin - Seeking A New Government Combination.". New York Times. 2011-03-02. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B00E6DB153BE533A25755C1A9659C94619ED7CF. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  12. ^ "''The German Emperor as shown in his public utterances'', p. 55". Archive.org. http://www.archive.org/details/germanemperorass00gausuoft. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  13. ^ A. J. P. Taylor, Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman (1967) pp 238-39
  14. ^ C. L. Sulzberger, The Fall of Eagles, Crown (1977) p. 391
  15. ^ Nipperdey, Deutsche Geschichte 1866-1918. vol. 2: Machtstaat vor der Demokratie (1992) p 421, translated in Richard J. Evans, Rereading German History: From Unification to Reunification, 1800-1996 (Routledge, 1997) p 39
  16. ^ William L. Langer et al. Western Civilization (1968) p. 528
  17. ^ John C. G. Röhl, The Kaiser and his court: Wilhelm II and the government of Germany (1996) p 203
  18. ^ Lamar Cecil, Wilhelm II: Emperor and exile, 1900-1941 (1996) p 14
  19. ^ Lamar Cecil, Wilhelm II: Emperor and exile, 1900-1941 (1996) pp 9,
  20. ^ Cecil, Wilhelm II: Emperor and exile, 1900-1941 pp 91-102
  21. ^ The interview of the Emperor Wilhelm II on 28 October 1908 (excerpt), London Daily Telegraph, 28 October 1908
  22. ^ Lamar Cecil, Wilhelm II. Volume: 2. (1996) p. 136-7
  23. ^ Wolfgang König, "The Academy and the Engineering Sciences: an Unwelcome Royal Gift." Minerva: a Review of Science, Learning and Policy 2004 42(4): 359–377. Issn: 0026-4695
  24. ^ Wilhelm continued as Protector of the Order even after 1918, as the position was in essence attached to the head of the House of Hohenzollern. Robert M. Clark, Jr., The Evangelical Knights of Saint John; Dallas, Texas: 2003; pages 38-40, 44. Guy Stair Sainty, The Orders of Saint John; New York: The American Society of The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John in Jerusalem, 1991; page 91.
  25. ^ Herwig p. 21–23
  26. ^ Ludwig (1927), p. 444
  27. ^ Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and his Times, Houghton Mifflin (1964) pp. 350–51
  28. ^ H.P. Wilmott (British author), The First Word War, page 11, copyright 2003, Dorling-Kindersley Ltd, London.
  29. ^ Emil Ludwig, Wilhelm Hohenzollern: The Last of the Kaisers, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York (1927) p. 453
  30. ^ Balfour (1964) p. 355
  31. ^ Gordon A. Craig, Germany 1866–1945, pages 374, 377–378 and page 393
  32. ^ Cecil, Wilhelm II: Emperor and exile, 1900-1941 (1996) p. 283
  33. ^ Klaus Schwabe, Woodrow Wilson, Revolutionary Germany, and peacemaking, 1918-1919 (1985) p 107
  34. ^ Lamar Cecil, Wilhelm II (1996) vol. 2 p 292.
  35. ^ Lamar Cecil, Wilhelm II (1996) vol. 2 p 294.
  36. ^ Nigel J. Ashton, and Duco Hellema, "Hanging the Kaiser: Anglo-Dutch Relations and the Fate of Wilhelm II, 1918–20". Diplomacy & Statecraft 2000 11(2): 53–78. Issn: 0959-2296
  37. ^ The Last Kaiser, p.426
  38. ^ The Last Kaiser, p. 425
  39. ^ John Röhl, The Kaiser and His Court: Wilhelm II and the Government of Germany (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 210.
  40. ^ Röhl (1994) p. 210.
  41. ^ The Last Kaiser, 457.
  42. ^ The Last Kaiser, p.452
  43. ^ The Last Kaiser, pp. 452–452
  44. ^ The Last Kaiser, p. 456
  45. ^ Michael Balfour, The Kaiser and his Times, Houghton Mifflin (1964) p. 419
  46. ^ a b Jonathan Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, Oxford University Press (2006) p. 170
  47. ^ Alan Palmer, The Kaiser: Warlord of the Second Reich, Charles Scribner's Sons (1978), page 226
  48. ^ Gilbert, Martin First World War (1994) p. 523
  49. ^ a b Röhl, p. 211.[clarification needed]
  50. ^ Hannah Pakula, "The Empress Frederick", Touchstone (1995) p. 602
  51. ^ Jack Sweetman, The Unforgotten Crowns: The German Monarchist Movements, 1918–1945 (Emory University dissertation, 1973), 654–655.
  52. ^ The Last Kaiser, p. 459
  53. ^ Rob Ruggenberg. ""How A German Soldier Still Loves His Dead Kaiser":". Greatwar.nl. http://www.greatwar.nl/frames/default-kaiser.html. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  54. ^ Walter Goetz, "Kaiser Wilhelm II. und die Deutsche Geschichtsschreibung" [Kaiser William II and German historiography Historische Zeitschrift, Feb 1955, Vol. 179 Issue 1, pp 21-44
  55. ^ Röhl (1994), p. 10
  56. ^ Roderick R. McLean, "Kaiser Wilhelm II and the British Royal Family: Anglo-German Dynastic Relations in Political Context, 1890–1914," History, Oct 2001, Vol. 86 Issue 284, pp 478-502
  57. ^ see Volker Berghahn, "Structure and Agency in Wilhelmine Germany: The history of the German Empire, Past, present and Future," in Annika Mombauer and Wilhelm Deist, eds. The Kaiser: New Research on Wilhelm II's Role in Imperial Germany (2003) pp 281-93
  58. ^ "Titles and styles of William II". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2007-03-14. http://web.archive.org/web/20070314063126/http://regiments.org/biography/royals/1859wilG.htm. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  59. ^ Wilhelm II. – Die letzten Tage des Deutschen Kaiserreichs (German), 3sat
  • Cecil, Lamar. Wilhelm II: Prince and Emperor, 1859–1900, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. ISBN 0807818283 online edition
  • Cecil, Lamar. Wilhelm II: Emperor and Exile, 1900–1941, (1996). ISBN 0807822833 online edition,
  • McLean, Roderick R. "Kaiser Wilhelm II and the British Royal Family: Anglo-German Dynastic Relations in Political Context, 1890–1914." History 2001 86(284): 478–502. Issn: 0018-2648
  • Röhl, John C. G., and Nicholaus Sombart, eds. Kaiser Wilhelm II: New Interpretations − the Corfu Papers, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982 (reprinted 2005).
  • Röhl, John C. G. Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser's Early Life, 1859–1888, (Cambridge University Press, 1998)
  • Röhl, John C. G. The Kaiser's Personal Monarchy, 1888–1900, (Cambridge University Press, 2004); 1310pp excerpt and text search ISBN 9780521819206
  • Röhl, John C. G.. The Kaiser and His Court: Wilhelm II and the Government of Germany, (Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-521-40223-9

Further reading

  • Carter, Miranda. George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I (2010)
  • Clark, Christopher M. Kaiser Wilhelm II. (2000) 271 pp. short biography by scholar
  • Clay, Catrine., King Kaiser Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War. (2007). 432 pp. popular narrative
  • Eley, Geoff. "The View From The Throne: The Personal Rule of Kaiser Wilhelm II," Historical Journal, June 1985, Vol. 28 Issue 2, pp 469–485
  • Hull, Isabel V. The Entourage of Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1888–1918, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982. ISBN 9780521236652
  • Kohut, Thomas A. Wilhelm II and the Germans: A Study in Leadership, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0195061727
  • Ludwig, Emil. Wilhelm Hohenzollern: The Last of the Kaisers, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1927 ISBN 0-404-04067-5.
  • Macdonogh, Giles. The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001. ISBN 9781842124789
  • Mombauer, Annika, and Wilhelm Deist, eds. The Kaiser: New Research on Wilhelm II's Role in Imperial Germany, (Cambridge University Press, 2003) 299pp; 12 essays by scholars ISBN 9780521824088
  • Mommsen, Wolfgang J. "Kaiser Wilhelm II and German Politics." Journal of Contemporary History 1990 25(2–3): 289–316. Issn: 0022-0094 in Jstor
  • Retallack, James. Germany in the Age of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Basingstoke: St. Martin's Press, 1996. ISBN 9780333592427
  • Van der Kiste, John. Kaiser Wilhelm II: Germany's Last Emperor, Sutton Publishing, 1999. ISBN 9780750919418
  • Waite, Robert G. L. Kaiser and Führer: A Comparative Study of Personality and Politics. (1998). 511 pp. Psychohistory that compares him with Adolf Hitler

External links

Wilhelm II, German Emperor
Born: 27 January 1859 Died: 4 June 1941
German nobility
Preceded by
Frederick III
German Emperor
King of Prussia

15 June 1888 – 9 November 1918
Monarchy abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Frederick III
as German Emperor
and King of Prussia
German Head of State
Prussian Head of State

15 June 1888 – 9 November 1918
Succeeded by
Friedrich Ebert
as President of Germany
and Prime Minister of Prussia
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
German Emperor
King of Prussia

9 November 1918 – 4 June 1941
Reason for succession failure:
German Revolution
Succeeded by
Wilhelm III

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