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Kaiser Wilhelm II is the current German Emperor and King of Prussia. Son of the short-lived Kaiser Friedrich III, Wilhelm has been reigning since 15 June 1888, and therefore is currently the oldest and longest-reigning prince of the German Empire. Head of the House of Hohenzollern, he is the father of, among others, Crown Prince Wilhelm, Adalbert I of Flanders-Wallonia, August IV of Poland and Viktoria Luise, Duchess of Brunswick.

Wilhelm is related to many European monarchs; His cousins include George V of the United Kingdom, now deceased Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and the latter's wife, Alix of Hesse, Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Therefore, he is considered a kind of "Male Victoria", in reference to his famous grandmother, and as the "Father of Mitteleuropa". The now old Kaiser is seen as the key symbol of German hegemony over the world and of his nation's dreams of finally having a place under the sun.


Early Life

Young Prince Wilhelm in 1877

Wilhelm II was born as Prince Wilhelm of Prussia in the Crown Prince's Palace in Berlin, the son of Prince Friedrich of Prussia (who would become Crown Prince of Prussia in 1861, when King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia died and Friedrich's father, the later first German Emperor Wilhelm I, ascended to the Prussian throne) and his wife, Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom, on January 27th, 1859. He was the first grandchild of Queen Victoria. Due to a complicated breech birth, the young Prince had to live with a shorter left arm, a handicap that would burden for the rest of his life. Educated at Friedrichsgymnasium Kassel and at the University of Bonn, Wilhelm, who would soon become the second in the line to the throne of Prussia, was noticed for his intelligence and keen interest in science and technology, unfortunately overshadowed by a cantankerous temper and a suspected megalomania, as he firmly believed in the old monarchical principle and the divine right of a king. His immersion from a young age in Prussia's militaristic and aristocratic society also made a deep impression on the young man.

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).

Much different to the Prussian political establishment, Wilhelm's parents however were both openly pro-British liberals with not a very high regard for Reichskanzler Otto von Bismarck's conservative ruling style and his extremely complex, intransparent and ingenious network of alliances and agreements, which aimed to keep the peace in Europe and to maintain Germany's economic, diplomatic and political dominance, as this prevented a German rapprochement with the British Empire. Friedrich and Victoria therefore tried to educate their son in a spirit of British liberalism, but to no avail - mainly due to the efforts of Wilhelm's conservative educators and Bismarck himself. In many ways, Wilhelm was a victim of Otto von Bismarck's political machinations: When Wilhelm was in his early twenties, Bismarck tried to separate him from his parents with some success. He planned to use the young prince as a weapon against his parents in order to retain his own political dominance at a time when support for Bismarck's policies slowly began to shrivel.

He thus became alienated from his parents, suspecting them of putting Britain's interests first. Especially with his mother he developed a more than dysfunctional relationship. When Wilhelm was nearing twenty-one, Emperor Wilhelm I decided it was time his grandson should 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 said later, "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 manner 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 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.

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

The New Course

On 9 March 1888, Emperor Wilhelm I died aged 90 and was succeeded by Crown Prince Friedrich, already 56 at the time. Celebrated by liberals all around Europe as the "Barbarossa of German liberalism", to cite British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone, but feared by the conservative elite and radical nationalist elements alike, the population's expectations of their new sovereign, who stylized himself as Friedrich III, keeping the same regnal name he had as king of Prussia on Bismarck's pressure instead of claiming continuity to the many Friedrichs of the Holy Roman Empire as he originally wanted to, were high. Unfortunately, the new Kaiser had been fighting against an incurable throat cancer for years, and he died on 15 June 1888, after only 99 days of reign. Therefore, Wilhelm would quite unexpectedly acceede to he throne as Emperor Wilhelm II, King of Prussia and German Emperor, in this eventful and fateful Dreikaiserjahr of 1888, heralding a new era for the young Empire.

Between the young Kaiser and the old Reichskanzler, tensions would soon begin to rise.

Initially, Bismarck was relieved about Friedrich's sudden death: He hoped that he could control the young Wilhelm the same way he had done it with the old for over two decades. But times had changed - especially the younger population, mostly people who had not fought in the German wars of unification, were not very content with Bismarcks foreign & domestic policies and dreamed of something bigger than ever before: Bismarck always had perceived the proclamation of the German Empire as the apotheosis of centuries of successful German history and firmly believed that Germany had achieved everything it needed and should use its hard-earned power to guarantee peace and stability in Europe - the new generation however was the opinion that the year 1871 only had been the beginning of a new golden era for Germany's greatness and that Bismarck with his old-fashioned, stubborn and cryptic foreign policy was actively hampering the German nation from reaching said greatness for the sake of good relations with the other great powers.

In March 1890, Bismarck was forced to resign - a new era not only for Germany, but for the world, began: The Wilhelmine Period. The British satrire magazine Punch shortly after published this famous caricature about the pilot Bismarck being forced to leave the ship of state by the Kaiser.

Wilhelm was the symbolic figurehead of this new generation of Germans: Young, ambitious, ruthless and full of patriotic pride. Although in his youth he had been a great admirer of Bismarck, Wilhelm's characteristic impatience soon brought him into conflict with the "Iron Chancellor": He was especially upset about Bismarck's Russian policy. One of the main goals of Bismarck had always been cordial relations with Saint Petersburg, which he deemed crucial for A) guaranteeing the peace on the Balkans by tying Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia as close together as possible and B) for isolating the revanchist French Republic in Europe: Bad German-Russian relations would drive the Russians into the arms of the French, which could lead to the famous "nightmare of coalitions". Only in 1887, Bismarck had arranged the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia. Wilhelm however, like his father, thought of the treaty as a scrap of paper that would permanently limit Germany's diplomatic leeway, make Germany a junior partner of Russia and hamper rapprochement with Britain. He believed that the Triple Alliance was everything Germany needed.

Other topics that caused frictions between the young Kaiser and the old Reichskanzler mainly concerned the Empire's domestic policy. Bismarck wanted to continue the controversial "Kulturkampf" against political Catholicism, the Kaiser was strictly against it. Bismarck wanted to further tighten the Anti-Socialist Laws, Wilhelm II wanted to abolish them entirely, stating: "I don't want to stain my first years as Kaiser with the blood of my subjects on my hands!" Tensions eventually boiled over in 1890; taking advantage of a parliamentary dispute about social laws and with the support of von Bismarck's rivals in the Foreign Office, most prominently Friedrich von Holstein, the Kaiser forced the father of the German Empire to resign, bringing the Empire onto an entirely "New Course" that would change the world forever.

The Kaiser's "Personal Rule"

One of Wilhelm's most important goals was that the emergence of another Bismarck would never happen again: All the power should remain in the hands of the monarch as the divine right of kings stipulated it. Therefore, instead of relying on seasoned statesmen like Bismarck, he would appoint unexperienced civil servants, military men & non-partisan politicians as chancellors, starting with General Leo von Caprivi, who abandoned Bismarck's military, economic, and ideological cooperation with the Russian Empire by not renewing the Reinsurance Treaty. Instead, he focused on maintaining good relations with Germany's neighbors by introducing an export-focused economy and emphasizing free trade as well as expanding the military to intimidate the French. However, the attempt to forge a close relationship with the United Kingdom failed: Caprivi's policy of ending the close cooperation with Russia can be considered the nail in the coffin for the Concert of Europe and eventually led to the formation of a new alliance in Europe over a decade later that would turn Bismarcks "nightmare of coalitions" into a bitter reality.

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

On a domestic level, Wilhelm had far-reaching plans as well. Like Bismarck, he was a firm adversary of political socialism, which, in the form of the SPD, had grown increasingly popular among the working-class population of the Empire. However, while Bismarck always had pushed for a complete ban of the party, Wilhelm, who thought that this would make the socialists only even stronger as they could present themselves as martyrs and victims of the aristocratic bourgeoise, chose a different approach: He wanted to introduce social reforms himself to take the wind out of the socialists' sails and present himself as a Kaiser of the people. With the help of Caprivi, some reforms were introduced: Child labor was limited, Bismarck's Anti-Socialist Laws repealed and the Kaiser openly proclaimed "Je veux être un roi des gueux!" (I want to be a king of the beggars!). However, despite these reform attempts, the Kaiser remained an anti-socialist autocrat at heart and the SPD remained in firm opposition to the new leadership. Already a few years later he came to the conclusion that cooperation with the SPD was impossible and called upon his people "to fight for religion, tradition and order, against the parties of revolution".

Wilhelm's conception of the monarch's position within the state was defining for the early Wilhelmine Period: While previous German Emperors had identified themselves with traditional Prussian virtues such as modesty, straightness & restraint, Wilhelm fully embraced neo-absolutist values, as this painting of him in the style of Louis XIV exemplifies

In 1894, Caprivi was dismissed and replaced with the liberal Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, who was already over 70 years old and a distant relative of Wilhelm; not a very ambitious man due to his high age, he became de facto a "puppet chancellor" of the Kaiser. The era of Wilhelm's "personal rule" (Persönliches Regiment) began, i.e. an era of around 20 years in which Wilhelm actively interfered in government affairs, pushing through his own agenda and vision for Germany's future. He enthusiastically promoted the arts and sciences, as well as public education and social welfare, modernized the healthcare system and eventually even founded the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Society, one of the world's most renowned scientific institutions. Bismarck's Kulturkampf and the decades-long discrimination of Poles within the Empire was ended, a liberal tax reform was introduced and ambitious building projects were initiated all around the Empire: Under Wilhelm II, Berlin turned into one of the most splendid capital cities in the world, Kiel and Wilhelmshaven became major naval bases for the Imperial Navy and the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal was finished. His domestic political course was mostly backed by the Conservatives and National Liberals, at some times also by the Catholics and the Social Liberals.

Germany on the global stage

Under Wilhelm II, Germany turned into one of the strongest economies on earth, even rivaling the mighty British Empire. Tied to this radical increase in prestige, a new foreign policy was introduced, just like many Germans had wished it for a long time: Germany was finally going to assert herself on the global stage, expand her sphere of influence and secure herself "a place in the sun", to quote German Secretary of Foreign Affairs Bernhard von Bülow, who would succeed Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst as Reichskanzler in 1900. However, the long-established European great powers Britain, France and Russia were more than sceptical about this sudden change of course in Germany's foreign policy. Bismarck had always stressed that Germany was a "saturated" country with no foreign political aims after the capture of Alsace-Loraine; this certainty was gone with the young ambitious Kaiser at the helm.

In Germany itself, the political establishment was not able to understand why Germany's neighbors were so hesitant in embracing Germany's new world power status. They believed that the other great powers were secretly conspiring against Germany to bring down this dangerous newcomer before it would turn too powerful: The concept of Einkreisung ("encirclement") soon became a key term in German politics - politicians of all ideologies came to the conclusion that Germany had to break out of said encirclement and save her neck from the ever-tightening noose before it was too late. What many however did not realize was that it was mainly the fault of their own Kaiser's erratic, undiplomatic and sometimes even rude behaviour on the global stage that alienated the other powers; coupled with multiple disastrous decisions of Reichskanzler von Bülow, this was the main factor that led to Germany's slow but steady isolation in Europe and eventually made all negotiation efforts impossible. Ironically. by getting completely obsessed with this fear, Einkreisung indeed turned into reality in the early 1900s - if Germany's leadership had remained calm, cautious and diplomatic, rapproachement with the other powers might have been possible.

Germany's erratic behaviour on the global stage, mostly caused by the Kaiser's unwise diplomatic moves, led to Germany's isolation in Europe and even led to the rapproachement of former enemies: Britain for instance managed to find an understanding with both France and Russia in the early 1900s

Wilhelm II's unpredictable and illogical behaviour first became apparent in 1896, when he personally sent a congratulation telegram to Paul Kruger, President of the Boer Transvaal Republic, after the latter's troops had won a crushing victory over British irregulars from the Cape Colony - an unwise move, as this worsened relations with Britain with no real gain for Germany, as South Africa was outside of their own demarcated sphere of influence. Disaster continued between 1898 and 1900: Germany's acquisition of Kiautschou Bay in China, territorial expansion in the Pacific (which triggered direct confrontation with Britain and the United States) and the new naval policy of State of Secretary Alfred von Tirpitz, leading to a drastic expansion of the Imperial High Seas Fleet to challenge Britain, radically worsened relations with the British who were enraged that Germany began to challenge them in their own sphere of influence - this eventually caused Britain to drop the policy of Splendid Isolation, reaching out for an alliance with both of their own former rivals, France (1898, 1904) and Russia (1907). British efforts to find an understanding with Germany failed as the German Foreign Office thought of it as a mere political intrigue.

Wilhelm II made several pompous visits to the Ottoman Empire, which further strained relations which most other great powers. These visits were global media spectacles and accompanied by reporters from all over the world.

In the early 1900s, the negative effects of Wilhelm's unpredictable manners were further intensified by the incompetence of Reichskanzler von Bülow (who was neither able to solve pressing domestic issues nor to find a solution against Germany's foreign political isolation), several unfortunate coincidences and the slowly increasing influence of the radical right. Another major problem was Germany's close alliance with Austria-Hungary, which was more of a burden than to Germany's benefit - especially during the Bosnian Crisis of 1908 and of course the 1914 July Crisis. A new low point of Germany's international reputation was reached in 1905/06 during the First Moroccan Crisis, which Germany had used as an occassion to assert herself on the global stage and potentially drive a wedge between France and Britain, but in the end, it strengthened the Franco-British bonds and further isolated Germany. This trend continued in 1911 after the Second Moroccan Crisis - another attempt of Germany to tear the Entente apart and secure a large colonial empire in Central Africa in return for recognizing French sovereignty over Morocco, which however ended in one of Germany's most humiliating foreign political defeats of all time - and was further worsened by Germany's close cooperation with the Ottoman Empire: By calling himself a friend of all muslims, Wilhelm II indirectly provoked all the other great powers that ruled over Islamic territories and with the construction of the German-financed Baghdad Railway as well as the dispatch of a German military mission under Otto Liman von Sanders to Constantinople, relations with the Russians were further strained.

Permanent crises & the way into the war

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

Internally, Wilhelm's reign was plagued by multiple scandals, crises and affairs as well. Both in 1891 and in 1906-09, the Imperial court was struck by two sex and homosexuality scandals (Kotze affair & Harden–Eulenburg affair), which massively tarnished the reputation of the Hohenzollern dynasty and other high-ranking aristocrats, among them most prominently Friedrich Karl von Hessen-Kassel, who would become King of Finland a few decades later. During the Boxer Rebellion, Wilhelm's infamous "Hun Speech" caused massive outrage not only abroad, but also in the Reichstag - the Kaiser had the talent to offend or embarass literally everyone including himself in his his numerous speeches and interviews without even noticing, like a bull in a china shop. This especially became apparent in 1908, during the Daily Telegraph Affair - Wilhelm had tried to present himself as a friend of England in a newspaper interview, but expressed himself so presumptuous that he caused a diplomatic crisis and even lost the support of most of his long-time supporters, including Bülow, who publicly spoke against the Kaiser. Bülow was eventually dismissed in 1909, but a lengthy discussion about limiting the Kaiser's role to a mere constitutional monarch broke out.

Wilhelm II was constantly split over his part-German, part-British identity, a problem that became more than apparent during the Daily Telegraph Affair of 1908.

It was around this time that more and more critical voices were raised about Wilhelm's mental health and if he would be able to continue his rule - not only in democratic circles, which were especially annoyed by Wilhelm's interventions in domestic affairs, like in 1902, when Wilhelm had meddled in Bavarian politics and almost caused a constitutional crisis about the federal principle, but also among far-right nationalists, who had been unconditional supporters of the Kaiser in the past. In 1909, the government of Bernhard von Bülow collapsed and he was replaced with Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg. Bethmann was known as a non-partisan progressive conservative civil servant with not much experience in foreign affairs, but many had high hopes that his level-headed, practical Northern German personality would be able to resolve the constant conflicts in the Reichstag while simultaneously finding a compromise with the other great powers, especially Britain.

Initially, this indeed worked out. Under Bethmann, negotiations with London started in 1912 via British War Secretary Richard Haldane and Foreign Secretary Edward Grey to come to some agreement that would put a halt to the two countries' ruinous naval arms race and give Germany a free hand to deal with France. However, detente was not reached due to the interference of Tirpitz and the navy and a very stubborn attitude of the Kaiser himself - while Germany and Britain eventually agreed to sign an agreement about a potential future partition of the Portuguese African colonies and closely worked together to establish peace in the Balkans at the London Conference of 1912–1913, tensions could not be resolved and the naval arms race continued. Also, under Bethmann, the autonomy of the army and navy vastly increased, as Wilhelm was not able to properly coordinate between all the different political factions within his Empire - the result was that while Bethmann was constantly trying to present Germany as a peaceful nation willing to find a compromise with her neighbors, the military leadership encouraged massive armament - this kind of interest conflict between government and military would further deteriorate during the Weltkrieg and eventually lead to one of the darkest eras of German history.


Zabern Affair

Blank cheque

"Kaiser of Peace"

The Shadow-Kaiser

Kaiser Wilhelm with Hindenburg and Ludendorff, 1918.

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 Georg von Hertling later that year and Hindenburg himself in 1918.

The Golden Era of German Weltpolitik

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 as 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

As Wilhelm and Germany sat proud at the top of the world, the powers it had defeated not ten years ago began to stir. In a worldwide shock, a small coal mining strike in Britain exploded into a revolution that sent the last shock into the British Empire. Alongside a reinvigorated France and a rising Italy, the spotlight seemed to be drifting away from Wilhelm and towards the Syndicalist International. While Reichskanzler Kuno Graf von Westarp has taken efforts to curb the alliance and the German economy is as strong as ever, the facade the Wilhelm II has pushed so hard to keep over the German machine is beginning to falter, and the vultures circle over. With Germany as high as it can go, there is always the looming question; has Icarus flown to close too the sun?

Personal life


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 of Reuss-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. Crown Prince Wilhelm (born Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst on 6 May 1882), heir apparant to his father as King of Prussia and therefore German Emperor. Married Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, had six children.
  • 2. Prince Eitel Friedrich (born Wilhelm Eitel Friedrich Christian Karl on 7 July 1883). Married Duchess Sophie Charlotte Holstein-Gottorp of Oldenburg, they had no children.
  • 3. King Adalbert I (born Adalbert Ferdinand Berengar Viktor on 14 July 1884), current King of Flanders-Wallonia. Married Adelheid Arna Karoline Marie Elisabeth of Saxe-Meiningen, had two living children. As monarch of another country, he renounced to his rights to the German and Prussian thrones.
  • 4. King August IV (born August Wilhelm Heinrich Günther on 29 January 1887), current King of Poland. Married Princess Alexandra Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, had a son. As monarch of another country, he renounced to his rights to the German and Prussian thrones.
  • 5. Prince Oskar Karl (born Oskar Karl Gustav Adolf on 27 July 1888), married morganically Countess Ina-Marie Helene Adele Elise von Bassewitz, thus renouncing his succession rights, had four children.
  • 6. Prince Joachim Franz (born Joachim Franz Humbert on 17 December 1890), handled in Georgian royalist circles as a possible candidate to the Georgian throne. Married Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt, had one son.
  • 7. Princess Viktoria Luise (born Viktoria Luise Adelheid Mathilde Charlotte on September, 13 1892) is the Duchess of Braunschweig. Married Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick, 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 or at the estate of his close friend Prince Maximilian Egon II of Fürstenberg in the Black Forest. 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 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
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
Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930) DVLP 1923-1930
Kuno von Westarp (born 12 August 1864) DkP since 1930