Emperor William First - George Upton

Years of Peace

After his confirmation Prince William was hastening back to the seat of war when the' news of Napoleon's defeat and banishment reached him. Nevertheless he kept on and entered Paris again with the army. During the three months that he remained there this time he suffered from a sharp attack of pleurisy, from which he quickly recovered, however. This was the last evidence of his early delicacy, for henceforth he enjoyed the most robust health and was able to endure all the hardships of a soldier's life, devoting himself to his chosen profession with the greatest energy and enthusiasm and striving earnestly to advance the military power and standing of Prussia to a place among the great nations of Europe.

Even during his father's reign, as well as that of his brother, he was considered the soul of the army and looked upon by the troops as a pattern of all the military virtues, while with his indefatigable activity in all branches of the service he rose rapidly to the highest commands. Frederick William Third was not slow to recognize his son's abilities, for when in 1818 he made a journey to Russia with the Crown Prince, he intrusted the entire management of military affairs to him during his absence. The following year the Prince received a seat and voice in the ministry of war, thus enabling him to acquire as thorough a knowledge of army organization and administration as he had already gained in practical experience. Thereafter he took part in all military conferences, while special details and commissions of inspection familiarized him by personal observation with army affairs in general.

The close family ties between the royal houses of Prussia and Russia, brought about by the marriage of the Princess Charlotte, William's sister, to the Grand Duke Nicholas, afterwards Czar, caused our hero to be drawn into active intercourse with St. Petersburg. At the time of the wedding, which took place in Berlin, it fell to his share to accompany his sister to her future home and represent the Prussian throne at the festivities there. He was received with great honors in St. Petersburg and improved the occasion by attending the military maneuvers which were held there and at Moscow. His personal relations with the Russian court were very intimate and were the cause of frequent visits thither in the ensuing years.

The routine of his professional duties was often varied by journeys and visits required by the service—such as that to Italy in 1822, and a long one made in 1826 with his younger brother Charles to the court of Weimar, from which the two Princes carried away the most delightful recollections, especially of the Princesses Marie and Augusta, whose acquaintance they had made on that occasion. Nor was it to end in memories, for Prince Charles's betrothal to the Princess Marie was soon announced, and on May 26, 1827, the young couple were married. As for William, several visits to the hospitable grand-ducal court convinced him that no other princess possessed to such a degree the qualities necessary to his life's happiness as the modest and amiable Princess Augusta, and they became betrothed in February, 1829, the marriage following on June 11 of that year.

In May Prince William journeyed to St. Petersburg to invite his sister and her husband to the wedding, and on his return went directly to Weimar to escort his fair bride to Berlin. On June 7 the Princess Augusta bade farewell to her beloved home; two days later the bridal party reached Potsdam, and on the tenth the state entry from Charlottenburg took place. The Prussian capital had not failed to prepare a royal welcome for Prince William's bride, the fame of whose virtues had preceded her, and all Berlin was agog to see and greet the lovely Princess and the happy bridegroom. The magnificent wedding lasted for three days, after which the royal pair took possession of the so-called Tauenziensche House which had been assigned to the Prince as his official residence. Later it was bought by him and rebuilt by the architect Langhaus in substantially the form in which the present palace at the entrance of the Linden has become familiar to every German as the residence of the Emperor William First.

The home life of the Prince and Princess was charmingly simple and domestic and their marriage a singularly happy one, founded on mutual love and respect. Both were distinguished for deep religious feeling, a strong sense of duty and the responsibilities of their position, as well as a deep-rooted love of the Fatherland. On October 18, 1831, the anniversary of the battle of Leipzig, the Princess Augusta presented her husband with a son, afterward the beloved Emperor Frederick, whose untimely death was so deeply deplored; and on December 3, 1838, she gave birth to a daughter, Louise Marie Elizabeth, the present Grand Duchess of Baden. These new joys brought also new duties into the lives of the royal parents in the education of their children, to which they devoted themselves with the most loving care. While the father endeavored to develop in his son the qualities requisite to make a good soldier, the clever mother saw to it that his education should not be military only. She was a constant patroness of art and learning and was determined that her Fritz should have a thorough knowledge of science and be a lover of the fine arts, while her daughter Louise was early taught to employ her time usefully and to become accustomed to serious work under her mother's guidance.

After 1835 the family began to spend the Summer months at the Schloss Babelsberg on the Havel, the site of which had been discovered by Prince William at the time of some army maneuvers in that neighborhood in 1821. After their marriage the artistic young wife had drawn the plans for a country residence there, which was afterward enlarged considerably, and thus arose the Babelsberg palace. The surroundings were soon converted by expert hands into gardens and a magnificent park, and it became the favorite residence of the Emperor in his later years. He used to spend much time there, and far from wishing to hide its beauties from his subjects, he loved to have people come and wander through the beautiful grounds. The minister of war, Van Roon, indeed, tells how the old Emperor once left his work to permit his study to be shown to some visitors who had come a long distance to gaze on the abode of their beloved sovereign.