Kaiser William I

(William I of Germany, Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig, Kaiser William I)


William I of Germany
Emperor William I was the leader of Prussia during the successful Schleswig-Holstein War and the Austro Prussian War, and in the aftermath of both he gained extensive territory and prestige. Not a highly political person, William preferred a backstage seat during his rule, leaving decisions to his Prime Minister and parliament. He was, however, a strong fighter and a courteous gentleman, and with the help of his ministers, he greatly increased the power of the German states.

As the second son of Frederick William III, William was not expected to succeed his father as monarch, and he therefore received only a minimal education. He left home to fight in the Prussian army against the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte, engaging both in battles on the front and in diplomatic missions. Later, in the Revolutions of 1848, he quelled a revolt aimed at his older brother, King Frederick William IV. Unfortunately, ten years later, the king suffered a stroke that left him mentally handicapped. He passed away soon after, leaving the throne open to William I. As king of Prussia, William appointed the brilliant statesman Otto von Bismarck to the office of Prime Minister, a position that answered only to the king. With Bismarck in charge of state, and the great general Helmuth von Moltke at the head of the Prussian forces, Prussia embarked on a series of successful wars with Denmark, Austria, and finally France. In each case Bismarck planned for war with the object of increasing Prussian territory, but managed to trick his opponent into declaring war, so as to avoid the appearance of aggression. After gaining the strategic territory of Alsace-Lorraine during the Franco Prussian War, William the First founded the Federation of German States and was proclaimed "German Emperor."

Not everyone appreciated the rulings of the Emperor; two assassination attempts were carried out in the same year, one by an anarchist and another by a radical socialist. The latter’s actions in particular led to the creation of the Anti-Socialist Law, laws that deprived the Social Democratic party of its legal rights, forbade all workers’ or socialist organizations, and confiscated suspicious literature. Despite these threats, however, the Socialist party only increased in influence, and following the Emperor’s death and Bismarck’s resignation, pressures from the working class led the government to repeal the new laws.

Key events during the life of William I:

Born in Berlin
Joined the army and fought in the Napoleonic Wars
Saved brother Frederick William IV from a revolt
Brother died, William became king
Proclaimed German Emperor
Two assassination attempts lead to the creation of the Anti-Socialist Laws
Anti-Socialist Laws were repealed

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
German Confederation  in  Germany: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
William I, United Germany  in  The History of Germany  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Old Empire and the New  in  Historical Tales: German  by  Charles Morris
The Expansion of Germany  in  Nations of Europe and the Great War  by  Charles Morris
Founding the German Empire  in  Growth of the British Empire  by  M. B. Synge
King William I.  in  The History of Prussia  by  John S.C. Abbott
The Germanic Empire  in  The History of Prussia  by  John S.C. Abbott

Book Links
Emperor William First  by  George Upton

Image Links

King William I of Prussia proclaimed German
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Emperor William
 in Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire

King William of Prussia proclaimed Emperor of Germany
 in Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire

Sarcophagus of Emperor William I., Charlottenburg
 in Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire

Long live his Imperial Majesty Emperor William I!'
 in The History of Germany

Emperor William First.
 in  Emperor William First

The cornflower wreaths.
 in  Emperor William First

The two Emperors.
 in  Emperor William First

The Emperor's Death Bed
 in  Emperor William First

Short Biography
Otto von Bismarck Prussian statesman and mastermind of German Unification. Strategically provoked wars against Austria and France.
Helmuth von Moltke Military mastermind of the Austro-Prussian, and Franco-Prussian Wars.
Napoleon III Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.
Elizabeth of Barvaria Empress of Austria who was influential in 19th century society and known as a free spirit.
Eugene de Beauharnais Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.
Louise of Prussia Queen of Prussia who inspired Germany to resist Napoleon. Greatly honored in Prussia.