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Kaiser Wilhelm II is the German Emperor and King of Prussia. He is the oldest and longest-reigning monarch of the German Empire.

Wilhelm was born in Berlin as the first child of Prince Frederick William of Prussia and Victoria, Princess Royal. His father was the son of Wilhelm I, German Emperor, and his mother was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. He ascended the throne upon the death of his father on 15 June 1888 during the Year of the Three Emperors.

In March 1890, Wilhelm dismissed the longtime Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and embarked upon an aggressive “New Course”, assuming direct control of his nation’s policies in order to cement Germany’s emerging status as a world power. While Germany managed to acquire new territories in China and the Pacific, Wilhelm’s often irrational and unpredictable behaviour undermined diplomatic relations and isolated Germany internationally.

Wilhelm backed Austria-Hungary during the July Crisis of 1914 and subsequently entered Germany into the Weltkrieg. Over the course of the war, Wilhelm and the civilian government gradually lost power to the Army’s General Staff, culminating in the Ludendorff dictatorship in 1916. However, following the German victory in 1921 and the Eastern Aid Scandal in 1923, Wilhelm managed to wrest control of the government from the Army and appointed Alfred von Tirpitz as Chancellor, beginning the Golden Age of Germany.

Wilhelm is the Head of the House of Hohenzollern and the father of Crown Prince Wilhelm, Adalbert I of Flanders-Wallonia, August IV of Poland and Viktoria Luise, Duchess of Brunswick, among others. He is related to several current and former European monarchs, including George V of the United Kingdom, the deceased Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his wife, Alix of Hesse, Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse, and Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. His extensive relations to European royalty and nobility have earned him the sobriquets “the Male Victoria" and “the Father of Mitteleuropa". The aging Kaiser is seen as the central symbol of German hegemony over the world and of his nation's aspirations for “a place in the sun”.

Biography

Early Life

Young Prince Wilhelm in 1877

Wilhelm II was born Prince Wilhelm of Prussia at the Crown Prince's Palace in Berlin on 27 January 1859 to Prince Freidrich Wilhelm of Prussia and his wife Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom. He was the first grandchild of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, but more importantly, the first son of the Crown Prince of Prussia. The infant Wilhelm developed Erb's palsy as a result of a complicated breech birth, which left him with a withered left arm six inches shorter than his right. After the death of his granduncle Frederick William IV in January 1861, Wilhelm's paternal grandfather Wilhelm I became king and the two-year-old Wilhelm became second in the line of succession to the throne of Prussia, and after 1871, the throne of the German Empire.

Four generations of German emperors in 1888: Kaiser Wilhelm I (1797-1888), Kaiser Friedrich III (1831-1888), Kaiser Wilhelm II (born 1859) and Crown Prince Wilhelm (born 1882).

As a son of the royal House of Hohenzollern, Wilhelm was deeply immersed in the militaristic society of the Prussian aristocracy from a young age. In 1869 he was enrolled in the army as a second lieutenant and in 1874 entered the Friedrichsgymnasium Kassel. Three years later, he was admitted to the University of Bonn as first lieutenant, where he remained until 1879, his principal studies being political science and law. While in school, he was noted for a quick intelligence often overshadowed by capricious mood swings.

Wilhelm actively resisted the attempts of his parents, especially his mother, to educate him in the spirit of British liberalism, siding instead with his autocratic-minded tutor Georg Ernst Hinzpeter. When Wilhelm was in his early twenties, Reichskanzler Otto von Bismarck tried to separate him from his parents with some success. He planned to use the young prince as a weapon against his parents to retain his own political dominance at a time when support for Bismarck's policies had begun to dwindle. Under the influence of Bismarck and Hinzpeter, Wilhelm became thoroughly ‘Prussianized’, as well as alienated from his more liberal-minded parents.

In 1880 Wilhelm entered the Gardekorps after Emperor Wilhelm I decided it was time for his grandson to begin the military phase of his preparation for the throne. He was assigned as a lieutenant to the First Foot Guards Regiment in Potsdam. "In the Guards," Wilhelm later recalled, "I really found my family, my friends, my interests—everything of which I had up to that time had to do without." As a boy and a student, his manners had been polite and agreeable; as an officer, he began to strut and speak brusquely in the tone he deemed appropriate for a Prussian officer. In an outburst in April 1889, Wilhelm angrily declared 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.

Young Kaiser Wilhelm (right) at the deathbed of his father Friedrich, June 1888

Accession and Break with Bismarck

On 9 March 1888 Kaiser Wilhelm I died in Berlin and was succeeded by his son as Frederick III. Frederick, already suffering from an incurable form of throat cancer, spent all 99 days of his reign fighting the disease before finally succumbing on 15 June. The twenty-nine-year-old Crown Prince ascended the throne as Emperor Wilhelm II the same day, concluding the tumultuous Dreikaiserjahr (Year of the Three Emperors).

Portrait of the young Kaiser Wilhelm and old Reichskanzler Bismarck.

While Wilhelm had greatly admired Reichskanzler Bismarck in his youth, his characteristic impatience soon brought him into conflict with the respected "Iron Chancellor”. The new Emperor was opposed Bismarck's carefully calculated foreign policy, preferring instead a vigorous and rapid expansion in order to protect Germany's "place in the sun". While the imperial constitution vested executive power in the emperor, Emperor Wilhelm I had been content to leave day-to-day administration to Bismarck. Unlike his grandfather, however, Wilhelm had come to the throne determined to rule as well as reign.

"Dropping the Pilot", Punch Political cartoon depicting the pilot Bismarck being forced to leave the ship of state by the Kaiser, 1890.

After gaining an absolute majority in the Reichstag, Bismarck decided to push through legislation making his recent anti-Socialist laws permanent. Although Bismarck had previously sponsored landmark social security legislation, by 1889 he had become violently opposed to the rise of organized labor in Germany.  As debate continued in the Reichstag, Wilhelm became more and more interested in social problems and frequently argued with Bismarck to make clear his position on social policy. Bismarck, feeling pressured by the young Emperor and undermined by his advisors, refused to sign a proclamation regarding the protection of workers along with Wilhelm, as was required by the German Constitution.

The final rift came when Bismarck searched for a new parliamentary majority after his Kartell was voted from power following the anti-Socialist bill fiasco. Bismarck decided to start coalition talks with the Catholic Centre Party and invited the party's leader in the Reichstag, Baron Ludwig von Windthorst, to meet with him to begin the negotiations. Wilhelm was furious to hear about von Windthorst's visit to Bismarck only after it had occurred, as he believed that, as the Kaiser, the Reichskanzler was required to inform him before beginning coalition talks with the Opposition. After a heated argument at Bismarck’s estate over his alleged disrespect for the monarchy, Bismarck resigned at Wilhelm’s insistence on 20 March 1890.

Pamphlet portraying Wilhelm as the saviour of the working class, 1890.

Personal Rule and New Course

Freed of Bismarck’s effective stranglehold on political power, Wilhelm sought to embark Germany upon a “New Course” whereby he would exert direct influence in government affairs. To this end, he appointed Leo von Caprvi, a military general with little political experience, to replace Bismarck as Reichskanzler. At the opening of the Reichstag on 6 May 1890, the Kaiser declared that the most important issue facing the body was “the further enlargement of the bill concerning the protection of the laborer”. In 1891 the Reichstag passed the Workers Protection Acts, which improved working conditions, protected women and children, and regulated labour relations. By introducing social reforms himself, Wilhelm hoped to undercut the rising Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD), which had grown increasingly popular among the working-class population of Germany. Despite these reforms however, the SPD remained firmly entrenched in the Opposition, and within a few years, the Kaiser had ceased his attempts at cooperation with the SPD and instead called upon his people to “fight for religion, tradition, and order against the parties of revolution”.

Portrait of Emperor Wilhelm II by Max Koner, depicting the Kaiser in the neo-absolutist style of Louis XIV, 1890.

The Kaiser soon actively concerned himself with every department of German life, and his sway was qualified only by the limitations of the Constitution and of public opinion. He enthusiastically promoted the arts and sciences as well as public education and social welfare, eventually founding the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, one of the world's most renowned scientific institutions. As hereditary Protector of the Order of Saint John, he offered encouragement to its attempts to place German medicine at the forefront of modern medical practice through its system of hospitals, nursing sisterhood and nursing schools, and nursing homes throughout the Empire. Bismarck's Kulturkampf and the decades-long discrimination against Poles within the Empire were ended, a liberal tax reform was introduced, and ambitious building projects were initiated all around the Empire. Berlin was turned into one of the most cosmopolitan capital cities in the world, Kiel and Wilhelmshaven became major naval bases for the Imperial Navy, and construction on the Wilhelm Canal was completed. His domestic political course was backed mostly by the Conservatives and National Liberals, but at times also by the Catholics and Social Liberals.

Weltpolitik

In foreign policy Bismarck had achieved a fragile balance between the interests of Germany, France, and Russia, maintaining a delicate peace on the European continent despite growing popular sentiment against Britain and Russia at home. After Bismarck's dismissal, von Caprivi declined to renew the Reinsurance Treaty between Russia and Germany, forcing Russia to quickly come to terms with republican France and beginning a process that by 1914 had largely isolated Germany. Caprivi was dismissed in 1894 and replaced by Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, who was himself replaced by Bernhard von Bülow in 1900.

"Only William's Way", Punch political cartoon depicting Britain and France (represented as John Bull and Marianne) turning their backs on the Kaiser, 1904.

Nothing Wilhelm did in the international arena was of more influence or importance than his decision to pursue a policy of massive naval armament. The inability of Germany to project its influence abroad led Wilhelm to appoint the dynamic naval officer Alfred von Tirpitz as head of the Imperial Naval Office in 1898 to begin construction of a new naval fleet to rival that of the British Empire. Tirpitz enjoyed the Kaiser’s full support in his advocacy for the successive naval bills of 1897 and 1900, through which the Kaiserliche Marine was built up to contend with the Royal Navy. In 1889 Wilhelm reorganised top-level control of the navy by creating a Marine-Kabinett (Naval Cabinet) equivalent to the Imperial Military Cabinet, which had previously functioned as the advisory body for both the army and navy. A new position was created equivalent to the supreme commander of the army called the Oberkommando der Marine (Chief of the High Command of the Admiralty), and the existing Imperial admiralty was abolished and its responsibilities were divided between two new organizations.

Cover of French newspaper Le Petit Journal showing Wilhelm's voyage to the Ottoman Empire, 1898.

German foreign policy under Wilhelm encountered considerable difficulties due to the Kaiser’s impatience and impulsivity in diplomatic affairs. His irrational and unpredictable behaviour first became apparent in 1896, when he personally sent a congratulatory telegram to President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal Republic after the suppression of the British Jameson raid, a move which alienated him from British public opinion. He expanded imperial influence to Asia Minor with two state visits to the Ottoman Empire in 1889 and 1898, and invested in strengthening German colonies in Africa and the Pacific, acquiring the Kiautschou Bay in China in 1898. During the Boxer Rebellion, Wilhelm’s infamous “Hun Speech'' in which he exhorted his army to fight mercilessly in the spirit of Atilla caused outrage not only internationally, but domestically in the Reichstag as well. During a dazzling visit to Tangier, Morocco in March 1905, Wilhelm sparked the First Morocco Crisis when he declared his intention to support the sovereignty of the Sultan—a statement which challenged the French sphere of influence in Morocco. The subsequent Algeciras Conference called to solve the crisis humiliated the Kaiser and greatly worsened tensions between the Great Powers.

French newspaper satirizing Wilhelm II's alledged homosexual tendencies following the Harden-Eulenburg Affair of 1906-09.

Domestic Scandals and Compounding Crises

Wilhelm’s ability to direct his country’s policy was seriously hampered both by his diplomatic blunders abroad and political scandals at home. A public controversy surrounding a series of courts-martial and civil trials regarding accusations of homosexuality called the Eulenburg Scandal severely damaged the reputation of the reigning Hohenzollern dynasty as well as several high-ranking aristocrats, most prominently the future King of Finland Friedrich Karl von Hessen-Kassel. Wilhelm's most damaging gaffe came in 1908, when the publication of an interview with the Daily Telegraph sparked an outcry both internationally and domestically. Wilhelm had hoped to use the interview to promote his views on Anglo-German friendship, but due to his emotional outbursts over the course of the interview he ended up further alienating not only the British (He infamously said, “You English are mad, mad, mad as March hares”), but also the French, Russians, and Japanese. The interview had even greater consequences at home, where there were serious calls for the Kaiser’s resignation and he lost much of his previous influence on domestic and foreign policy.

"Different Points of View", British political cartoon satirizing the conflicting British-German heritage of the Kaiser.

Wilhelm would later exact his revenge in 1909 by forcing the resignation of Reichskanzler Bülow, whom he blamed for having abandoned him to public scorn by not having the transcript of the interview edited before its German publication, and replacing him with Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg. Bethmann-Hollweg’s attempts to reach a compromise with Britain failed as the British refused to promise neutrality should a war between Germany and France break out unless Germany agreed to limit the size of its fleet, a demand to which Wilhelm refused to acquiesce. While Germany and Britain eventually signed an agreement about a potential future partition of the Portuguese African colonies and worked closely together to establish peace in the Balkans at the London Peace Conference, underlying tensions could not be resolved and the naval arms race continued.

On 6 November 1913 political unrest broke out in the town of Zabern in Alsace-Lorraine after a second-lieutenant insulted the local population. The situation escalated on 28 November when a crowd of protesters outside the local barracks was forcibly dispersed, leading to the arrests of several dozens without legal basis, including the president, two judges, and a prosecuting attorney of the Zabern court, who had accidentally gotten into the crowd while leaving the court building. Wilhelm was hunting on the estate of Max Egon Fürst zu Fürstenberg in Donaueschingen at the time, and although the trip had been organized long before the events in Zabern, the Kaiser’s perceived lack of interest left a bad impression. After a heated debate in the Reichstag, the parliament made use of the vote-of-no-confidence for the first time in its history, voting 293-4-54 to declare the government’s behavior as being “not in the view of the Reichstag”. The vote had no effect, however, as Bethmann-Hollweg refused to resign and asserted that his position depended only on the confidence of the Kaiser.

Outbreak of the Weltkrieg and Ludendorff Dictatorship

On 28 June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand I, the heir presumptive to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated by Bosnian Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip while being driven through Sarajevo, sparking an international diplomatic crisis that would ultimately lead to the deadliest conflict in human history. The Chef de Cabinet of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Ministry Count Alexander von Hoyos and Ambassador to Germany Count Ladislaus de Szögyény-Marich arrived in Berlin on 5 July with several letters addressed to the Kaiser outlining the challenges in the Balkans and how to deal with them. After convening with Szögyény, Wilhelm informed him that Austria-Hungary could "count on Germany's full support" and advised him "to march at once" against Serbia. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Arthur Zimmerman and Reichskanzler Bethmann-Hollweg met with Hoyos and Szögyény on 6 July and officially gave Austria-Hungary their "blank cheque" commitment. Wilhelm had wanted to remain in Berlin until the crisis was resolved, but his courtiers persuaded him instead to go on his annual cruise in the North Sea.

Crowds cheer outside the Berlin Stadtschloss as the Kaiser announces the declaration of war with Russia, 1 August 1914.

Having decided upon war with German support, Austria was slow to act publicly and did not deliver its critical ultimatum to Serbia until 23 July. Confronted with the ultimatum and lacking support from other European powers, the Serbian cabinet proposed a compromise which accepted some, but not all, of Austria’s terms. Wilhelm made erratic attempts to stay on top of the crisis via telegram, and when the ultimatum was delivered to Serbia he hurried back to Berlin. After reading the Serbian reply on 26 July, he reversed course and appealed to Emperor Franz Joseph I to accept mediation from Britain. Wilhelm's sudden change of mind about war enraged Bethmann-Hollweg, the military, and the diplomatic service, who proceeded to sabotage Wilhelm's offer.  General Erich von Falkenhayn warned the Kaiser that he "no longer had control of the affair in his own hands” and implied that the military would stage a coup d'état if he continued to work for peace.

On 30 July, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia sent a message to Wilhelm informing him that he had ordered for a partial mobilization against Austria and asking him to do his utmost for a peaceful solution. Upon hearing of Russia's partial mobilization, Wilhelm responded, "Then I must mobilize, too." Nicholas neither desired to abandon Serbia to the ultimatum nor to provoke a continental war, and exchanged a series of letters with his cousin in which the two proclaimed their desire for peace and each attempted to get the other to back down. On 31 July, however, Nicholas took the fateful step of confirming the order for general mobilization despite being strongly advised against it, as Russian estimates had concluded they would not be fully prepared for war until 1917.

Kaiser Wilhelm with Hindenburg and Ludendorff, 1918.

When news reached Berlin of the Russian general mobilization, Wilhelm agreed to sign orders for German mobilization and troops began preparations to enter Luxembourg and Belgium as a preliminary to the invasion of France. On 1 August, however, a British offer to guarantee French neutrality was sent out and promptly accepted by Wilhelm, who demanded his generals shift the mobilization to the east against Russia. A furious Chief of General Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger told him that this would be impossible, to which the Kaiser angrily retorted, “Your uncle would have given me a different answer!” Moltke managed to sway Wilhelm to proceed with the western invasion, and Bethmann-Hollweg delivered the ultimatum to France to renounce its alliance with Russia or face German reprisal. French mobilization was subsequently authorized, and by 7:00 p.m. on 1 August German troops had advanced into Luxembourg, while simultaneously a state of war was declared against Russia.

The German High Command continued with its strategy even when it became apparent that the Schlieffen plan had failed. Wilhelm's role in wartime became one of ever-diminishing power as he was increasingly relegated to handling awards ceremonies and honorific duties. By 1916 the German Empire had effectively become a military dictatorship under the control of Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff. In 1917 Hindenburg and Ludendorff decided that Bethman-Hollweg was no longer acceptable as Reichskanzler and forced Wilhelm to appoint Georg Michaelis, a nonentity and obvious pawn of the Ludendorff-Hindenburg regime. This was followed by Georg von Hertling later that year and finally by Hindenburg himself in 1918, cementing the duo’s grip on power. Isolated from the political decision-making process, Wilhelm vacillated between defeatism and hopefulness depending on the fortunes of his armies. However, he still retained ultimate authority in matters of political appointment and it was only after his consent had been given that major changes in the high command were allowed to proceed. He suffered from a bout of American flu during that year, which he survived.

Reassertion and the Golden Age of Germany

Despite the signing of the Tsingtao Accord in 1921 marking the official end of the Weltkrieg, Field Marshal Hindenburg and General Ludendorff managed to remain in power for almost two years after the conclusion of the war. Popular discontent with corruption in the military government following the failure of the Polish Frontier Strip scheme would eventually culminate in the Osthilfeskandal (Eastern Aid Scandal) in 1923, allowing Wilhelm to wrest control of the civilian government from the military.

On 10 July 1923 the liberal newspaper Berliner Tageblatt published a lengthy expose on the misuse of funds for the Osthilfe, a government policy implemented after the Weltkrieg to relieve bankrupt Junkers estates in East Prussia that had been damaged during the 1914 Russian invasion. Most explosively, the article named Wilhelm Breucker, Ludendorff’s adjutant, as one of the main culprits, and suggested that Ludendorff was aware and perhaps even accessory to the embezzlement. That afternoon, garrison Heer units confiscated all unsold copies of the paper and occupied the Tageblatt's offices. Chief Editor Theodor Wolff began calling every possible friendly newspaper and asked them to run his story to prevent its suppression, and on the morning of 11 July Die Post, Die Frankfurter Zeitung and Die Allgemeine Zeitung all carried the story.

Kaiser Wilhelm II on the cover of Time Magazine, 1926.

On 13 July Wilhelm summoned Wolff and his longtime friend and ally Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz to his residence, and the next day he abruptly cancelled his scheduled vacation and returned to Berlin, holding a conference with Hindenburg that lasted into the morning. Ludendorff attempted to meet with the Kaiser but was rebuffed, leading him to call a meeting of friendly officers at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin on 17 July. When he arrived at the hotel, he was arrested by police and taken to Kaiser Wilhelm at the Berliner Stadtschloss. There, in front of a crowd that included former allies, generals, political leaders, and journalists, Wilhelm stripped Ludendorff of his command and ordered him to retire. He made a short public announcement which proclaimed that the forced resignation was "to provide our most loyal and selfless defender with an opportunity for rest", announced the reconvening of the Reichstag, and that its first election in over a decade was to take place in one week's time. A week after Ludendorf’s resignation, Wilhelm ousted Reichskanzler Hindenburg and replaced him with von Tirpitz.

During the Tirpitz Chancellorship, Wilhelm II abandoned his provocative attitude in foreign affairs and instead adopted the image of a peaceful old man, desiring only to live out the rest of his days with his grandchildren and tend to his garden. He made occasional appearances in the Reichstag to approve the decisions of "Der Neue Bismarck", such as the 1927 intervention in China. While the loss of his wife to the influenza pandemic of the late war contributed to his retreat from public life, the main reason was that Wilhelm had accomplished his primary goals in life. With the British Empire totally shattered, France humiliated for a second time and forced to cede even greater amounts of territory, and Russia an unstable republic barely capable of waging war, the Kaiser’s dreams of a "place in the sun" had finally been realized.

Personal life

Immediate Family

WIlhelm II is the eldest child of Frederick III, son of Wilhelm I, and his wife Victoria, Princess Royal, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. He has four sisters and three brothers, although most have passed and some died tragically young: Charlotte (d. 1919), Henry (d. 1929), Sigismund (d. 1866), Viktoria (d. 1929), Waldemar (d. 1879), Sophia (d. 1932), and Margaret.

Marriages

Wilhelm married his second cousin Auguste Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, daughter of Frederick VIII of Schleswig-Holstein and Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, on 27 February 1881. Together they had seven children and remained married until her death of influenza on 11 April 1921. Wilhelm married a second time to Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz (b. 17 December 1887) on 9 November 1921 despite their age difference and her previous marriage. They have no children.

Children

  1. Crown Prince Wilhelm (b. 6 May 1882). Heir apparent to his father as King of Prussia and German Emperor. Married Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, has six children.
  2. Prince Eitel Friedrich (b. 7 July 1883). Married Duchess Sophie Charlotte Holstein-Gottorp of Oldenburg, has no children.
  3. King Adalbert I (b. 14 July 1884). King of Flanders-Wallonia. Married Adelheid Arna Karoline Marie Elisabeth of Saxe-Meiningen, has two surviving children. As King of Flanders-Wallonia, he has renounced his rights to the German and Prussian thrones.
  4. King August IV (b. 29 January 1887). King of Poland. Married Princess Alexandra Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, has one child. As King of Poland, he has renounced his rights to the German and Prussian thrones.
  5. Prince Oskar Karl (b. 27 July 1888). Married morganatically to Countess Ina-Marie Helene Adele Elise von Bassewitz, thus renouncing his succession rights; has four children.
  6. Prince Joachim Franz (b. 17 December 1890). Handled in Georgian royalist circles as a possible candidate for the Georgian throne. Married Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt, has one child.
  7. Princess Viktoria Luise (b. 13 September 1892). Duchess of Braunschweig. Married Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick, has five children.

Other Activities

Kaiser Wilhelm II lives, like all his predecessors, in the Königliches Schloss in the Mitte area of Berlin. He spends his summers vacationing on the Norwegian coast, usually in one of his many private yachts. Being raised in the highly militarized Prussian culture, the Kaiser is rarely seen out of uniform, and once even visited an aquarium in full naval regalia. His hobbies include horseback-riding and stag-hunting with his advisors on the estate of his friend Prince Maximilian Egon II of Fürstenberg in the Black Forest, and he is known to keep 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 Lüneburg, Duke of Schleswig, of Holstein and of Crossen, Duke of Magdeburg, of Bremen, of Guelderland, of Limburg 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 during his reign

Portrait Name Party Tenure Events during his reign
Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) Non-partisan 1867-1890 Unification of Germany, Kulturkampf, Anti-Socialist Laws & State Socialism, Long Depression, Protectionism, Prussian deportations, early Colonialism, Bismarckian alliance system
Leo von Caprivi (1831-1899) Non-partisan 1890-1894 "New Course": Rapproachment with Britain, repeal of anti-Polish, anti-Catholic and anti-Socialist laws, non-extension of the Bismarckian Reinsurance Treaty with Russia, progressive tax & labour law reforms, repeal of protectionist policies & conclusion of trade agreements with Austria-Hungary, Russia, Romania, Italy, Belgium, Serbia, Spain & Switzerland
Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (1819-1901) Non-partisan 1894-1900 Known as the "Shadow Chancellor" due to his high age, delegated lots of his powers to his state secretaries. Begin of the Kaiser's "Personal Rule" & German Weltpolitik (an attempt to reach internal stability via imperialist expansion), even though Hohenlohe was opposed to that. Military & civil code reforms, failed cooperation attempt with the Catholic Zentrumspartei
Bernhard von Bülow.png
Bernhard von Bülow (1849-1929) Non-partisan 1900-1909 Known as "Wilhelm II's own Bismarck". Heyday of German Weltpolitik, massive fleet expansion under Alfred von Tirpitz & Anglo-German naval arms race, isolation of Germany in Europe after the formation of the Entente, colonial unrest ( Herero Wars & Maji Maji Rebellion), constant international crises (Boxer Rebellion, Venezuelan Crisis, First Morocco Crisis, Bosnian Crisis), internal scandals (Harden-Eulenburg Affair, Daily Telegraph Affair), reluctant domestic reforms
Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg (1856-1921) Non-partisan 1909-1917 Failed détente attempts with Britain & Russia and efforts to keep the peace in Europe, simultaneously however occasional foreign political crises (Agadir Cisis, Liman von Sanders Crisis, friction over the Baghdad Railway) and therefore further isolation, colonial humiliation, successful arbitration during the Balkan Wars, social reforms yet social unrest, massive army expansion, constitutional reform in Alsace-Lorraine, Zabern Affair, July Crisis, blank cheque to Austria-Hungary and beginning of the Weltkrieg, Septemberprogramm and war aims discussion, Burgfriedenspolitik, semi-successful suffrage reform attempts, fight against unrestricted submarine warfare proponents, failed efforts for a compromise peace with the Allies via neutral President Woodrow Wilson
Georg Michaelis (born 8 September 1857) Non-partisan 1917 Crises at home and at the front: Kerensky Offensive, Battle of Passchendaele, first German general strike, High Seas Fleet mutinies, the failed Reichstag Peace Resolution & Papal peace efforts, foundation of the far-right German Fatherland Party, heavy discussions about the reformation of the Prussian three-class franchise. Puppet of the OHL
Hertling2.jpg
Georg von Hertling (1843-1918) Zentrum 1917-1918 First reluctant steps towards parlamentarization due to appointing a cabinet with some party politicians (Friedrich von Payer & Robert Friedberg as well as Hertling himself), but overall a puppet of the OHL. Far-reaching peace agreements in the East (Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Treaty of Bucharest, Treaty of Poti) and increasing socialist violence at home due to war-weariness (Strike of January 1918, September Insurrections)
Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934) Non-Partisan 1918-1923 Passed a tax reform that created new taxes and centralized tax collecting, removing privileges from constituent states. Gradual decline in popularity along with Erich Ludendorff, end of the Weltkrieg and signing of the Treaty of Versailles, and the Eastern Aid Scandal was exposed and caused the retirement of Ludendorff and Hindenburg himself.
Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930) DVLP 1923-1930 Beginning of the Golden Twenties, characterized by massive economic growth, a shift in German society and culture, and notable technological developments.
Kuno von Westarp (born 12 August 1864) DkP since 1930 Slow economic recession after the end of the Golden Twenties, reformation of the DkP into a conservative tent party, and political standstill.
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