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".
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 27th, 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 has tried to hide his whole life, taking measures like carrying a pair of white gloves to make his arm seeming longer. Educated at Friedrichgymansium Kassel and at the University of Bonn, the second in the line to the throne 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 believed the monarchy ruled by the grace of God. His immersion from a young age in Prussia's militaristic and aristocratic society also made a deep impression on the young man.
His grandfather, Wilhelm I, the first German Emperor, died on March 9th, 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 15th, 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
The new Kaiser soon began conflicting with the old Iron Chancellor. The young man was impatient and dreamed of vigorous and rapid expansion for the German Empire, plus a rivalry with the almighty British Empire, while von Bismarck had taken every step possible to put Germany on friendly terms with all of Europe's major powers. Taking advantage of a parliamentary dispute about social laws and with the support of von Bismarck's rivals, the Kaiser forced the father of the German Empire to resign in 1890.
Appointing some puppet chancellors (Count Leo von Caprivi 1890-1894, Prince Chlodwig von Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst 1894-1900) to avoid dealing with a Reichskanzler powerful and popular as von Bismarck again, Wilhelm began ruling directly, promoting the development of the Kaiserliche Marine under the authority of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz and began a rivalry with the United Kingdom, mostly of a colonial nature. For instance, he sent a telegram to President Kruger of the Transvaal congratulating his victory against the British Army (1896), and made several pompous visits in the Middle East. Despite appointing stronger Reichskanzlers like Prince Bernhard von Bülow (1900-1909) and Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1909-1917) to carry out his policies, his efforts were without success.
Asserting German rights in Morocco in 1906 and 1911 nearly provoked an earlier Weltkrieg, and his speech to the German colonial troops sent to put down the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, encouraging them to act as the Huns and commit atrocities, branded him a monarch of gaffes. His inconsistent foreign policy only encouraged Britain, upset by his declarations, to ally with France in the Entente Cordiale, and destroyed any efforts for German-Russian friendship. Germany became soon isolated, its only allies being the weak Austria-Hungary and unreliable Italy.
The Kaiser's diplomacy put Germany in a risky position, being surrounded by both France and Russia, and facing the Royal Navy at sea. When the Weltkrieg began after the July Crisis, his hope of the Schlieffen Plan delivering a knockout blow to France was dashed. With the conflict entering a stalemate and the Royal Navy blockade intensifying, Wilhelm soon proved that he was not the best man for military matters. While de jure the supreme arbiter in the German military apparatus, he became a figurehead and rubberstamp for the junta of Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff. Confined to visiting ammunition factories and awarding medals, the Kaiser soon became disillusioned and depressed, seeing both victory and defeat depending on the fortunes of the army. Forced to dismiss von Bethmann-Hollweg in 1917, he first appointed Georg Michaelis chancellor in 1917 as an obvious strawman for the Ludendorff-Hindenburg regime, followed by von Hindenburg himself in 1919.
The Place in the Sun
With the final victory of Germany in 1921 and indirectly supporting the Whites against the Bolsheviks in Russia, Wilhelm II quickly managed to escape from the junta's shadow and appeared to the German people as one of the architects of said victory. Even if the junta managed to rule almost two more years, the Kaiser quickly took advantage of the general discontent against the despotic rule of Ludendorff following the Osthilfeskandal to appoint his old friend Alfred von Tirpitz chancellor in 1923.
During the Tirpitz Chancellorship, Wilhelm II definitely abandoned his provocative attitude and instead adopted the image of a peaceful old man, only wanting to live with his grandchildren, taking care of his garden and making occasional appearances to approve the decisions of "Der Neue Bismarck", such as the intervention in China. While the loss of his wife to the influenza pandemic of the late war contributed to this, the main reason was that the Kaiser had accomplished his goals in life. The British Empire was totally shattered, France had been humiliated for a second time and given up even greater amounts of territory, and what was left of Russia was an unstable republic barely capable of waging war. His old dreams of a "Place in the Sun" had been realized.
Red Storm Rising
Wilhelm was the eldest child of then Prussian Kronprinz Friedrich von Hohenzollern, later Kaiser Friedrich III, son of Wilhelm I of Prussia, and Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Thus, Wilhelm II was related to many dynasties throughout Europe. Raised in Prussia's militarized society, Wilhelm was called William by his mother, who insisted on talking to her children in her birth language. Some say it was determinant in his feelings of animosity 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 when he came into contact with his father's political opponents. The Kaiser also tried to foster a cult of his namesake grandfather, calling him "Wilhelm the Great".
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 October 22nd, 1858). They had seven children together, but the Empress died on April 11th, 1921, from complications of influenza.
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.
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.
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
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.
Title and styles
- 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 – present: His Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Emperor, King of Prussia
Full title and style
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 (1917-1919)
- Paul von Hindenburg (1919-1923)
- Alfred von Tirpitz (1923-1930)
- Franz von Papen (1930-...)