Birthday: January 27, 1859
Died At Age: 82
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Also Known As: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert
Born in: Kronprinzenpalais
Famous as: Emperor of Germany
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, Hermine Reuss of Greiz
father: Frederick III, German Emperor
mother: Victoria, Princess Royal
siblings: Prince Henry of Prussia, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, Princess Margaret of Prussia, Princess Viktoria of Prussia, Sophia of Prussia
children: German Crown Prince, Prince Adalbert of Prussia, Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia, Prince Eitel Friedrich of Prussia, Prince Joachim of Prussia, Prince Oskar of Prussia, Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia, William
Died on: June 4, 1941
place of death: Doorn
education: University of Bonn
Who was Wilhelm II?
Wilhelm II was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia. His reckless policies resulted in World War I. Born in Germany, as the son of the Crown Prince of Prussia and the daughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain, Wilhelm served as the Emperor of Germany from 1888 to 1918, until the end of World War I. While growing up, Wilhelm resisted attempts by his parents to raise him with liberal ideology and gradually became a supporter of autocratic rule. Upon the death of his father, Wilhelm inherited the crown of German emperor (Kaiser) as well as the King of Prussia, at the age of 29. Wilhelm was a strong supporter of increasing the strength of the German armed forces and although he was closely related to the British royal family, he alienated Britain with his naval expansion and also enraged several other countries with his highly inappropriate remarks. Without realizing the chain reaction his actions would trigger, which eventually led to World War I, he encouraged the Austrians to adopt a firm line against Serbia, ensuring Austria the German support in the event of war. Subsequently, Russia and its allies, France and Great Britain, entered the war against Germany and Austria. The German military soon collapsed and upon realizing that he would be captured almost immediately, Wilhelm abdicated the throne and then went into exile to the Netherlands, where he died after some years.
Childhood & Early Life
Wilhelm II was born Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert on January 27, 1859, in Potsdam, Germany, to Prince Frederick III of Germany, the Crown Prince of Prussia, and his wife, Victoria, the eldest daughter of England's Queen Victoria. He had seven siblings, of which five survived it to the adulthood.
In a difficult breech birth, Wilhelm was born with a withered arm due to Erb’s palsy. His left arm was about 6 inches shorter than his right arm.
Wilhelm’s mother tried to bring him up as a liberal thinker but he did not shared any of his parent’s ideologies which created a rift between them and the relations between them were strained throughout their lives.
After being tutored at the palace in his early years, he received education at Kassel at the Friedrichsgymnasium. In January 1877, Wilhelm completed high school and was then admitted to the University of Bonn where he studied law and politics.
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Accession & Reign
In early 1888, Wilhelm I died and Frederick III was crowned the emperor of Germany. But Emperor Frederick III died of throat cancer in June 1888. Thereafter, Wilhelm II inherited the throne from his father and became the Kaiser of Germany, at the age of 29.
Within two years of succeeding the throne, Wilhelm II forced the resignation of his chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, who tried to dominate him and showed little respect for Wilhelm. Thereafter, Wilhelm himself took charge of domestic and foreign policy.
Wilhelm dreamed of building Germany into a major naval, colonial and economic power. Determined to fulfill it, he took a series of inept political moves which created friction between Germany and other countries and eventually led to World War I.
In 1896, Wilhelm sent a message congratulating the Boer leader, Paul Kruger, following Boer’s victory in a British raid into Boer territory. Being the grand child of Queen Victoria, this action of Wilhelm applauding the English defeat infuriated the British government. Over the years, he enraged several countries with his likewise inappropriate behavior at various international meetings and conferences.
In 1908, an interview of Wilhelm with a British daily newspaper was published which included his diplomatically hurtful remarks. Due to his rough statements and widely inappropriate comments, Wilhelm ended up alienating not only the British, but also the French, Russians, and Japanese.
In 1914, after the assassination of his friend, Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Este, in Sarajevo. Serbia, Wilhelm offered to support Austria-Hungary in crushing the secret organization that had plotted the killing. He also guaranteed the support of German forces to Austria against Serbia in the event of war.
Unknown to Wilhelm, Austrian government declared war against Serbia and as a direct consequence, Russia started a general mobilization to attack Austria in defense of Serbia. Thus, an attempt to save Austria-Hungary from collapse transformed into World War I because of German interference.
During the war, he allowed his military advisers to dictate German policy and further implement mobilization measures. As the war progressed, he was denied to be a part of the political decision-making process and was left wondering about the result of the war.
Soon, France and Great Britain united with their ally, Russia, and joined the war against Germany. After realizing that Germany would eventually lose the war, Wilhelm abdicated the throne on November 9, 1918, and fled to exile to the Netherlands, where he spent the rest of his life.
Personal Life & Legacy
On February 27, 1881, Wilhelm II married Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, the eldest daughter of Frederick VIII, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein. The couple had seven children together; six sons and a daughter.
Augusta’s death in 1921 was a devastating blow for Wilhelm II as she provided constant support to the King. The following year, Wilhelm married Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz, a royal widow who remained with him until his death.
Wilhelm II died of a pulmonary embolus on June 4, 1941, in Doorn, Netherlands, at the age of 82. He was buried in a mausoleum in the grounds of Huis Doorn.