Kaiser William II

(William II of Germany, Kaiser William II)

1859–1941

The last German Emperor, Wilhelm II of Germany is universally criticized as having driven Germany into the First World War. His dismissal of Otto von Bismarck, and his antagonizing of almost every foreign nation are seen as key factors to the outbreak of WWI. Personally, Wilhelm I is supposed to have been highly emotionally unstable and abrasive. His dislike of all things British is attributed to his bad relationship with his British mother. Otto von Bismarckís attempts to control the volatile Emperor resulted in their estrangement and the ministerís ultimate dismissal. Bismarck is also attributed with exacerbating the friction between Wilhelm II and his parents.

Wilhelm was universally seen as being despotic, arrogant, and incapable; traits that came through quite clearly in his dealings with foreign nations. He alienated four countries at one go in the affair of the Daily Telegraph, and his attempts to outdo Britain at naval superiority were viewed with alarm by the other European nations. His eventual downfall was contributed to by his reliance on other men to run the war. He was slowly pushed out of his own throne by men whose militarized running of Germany would eventually give rise to Nazi Germany, and the outbreak of WWII. He died in exile in the Netherlands, last of the Hohenzollern monarchs.


Key events during the life of William II of Germany:


Year
Event
1859
Born at Crown Prince's Palace in Berlin. Birth complications left him with a left arm 6 inches shorter than the right.
1863
Attends wedding of 'Uncle Bertie' (later Edward VII of England) and Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Bites Uncle Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, in the leg when the 18-year-old Duke tries to make him be quiet.
1877
Finishes high school at the Friedrichsgymnasium at Kassel. Recieves Order of the Garter from grandmother Queen Victoria as an eighteenth birthday present.
1878
Studies law and politics for four terms at the University of Bonn. Becomes a member of the exclusive Corps Borussia Bonn.
1880
Engaged to Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, known as 'Dona'.
1881
Married to Dona, February 27th. They would remain married for 40 years.
1882-92
Wilhelm and Dona have seven children; six sons and one daughter.
1888
Death of German Emperor Wilhelm I. Frederick III proclaimed Emperor; only rules for 99 days before dying of cancer.
1888
June 15th, succeeds his father as German Emperor and King of Prussia.
1889
Younger sister Sophia marries future Constantine I of Greece. Wilhelm attempts to ban his sister from entering Germany because she converts to Greek Orthodoxy upon her marriage.
1890
Otto von Bismarck resigns at the Emperor's insistence.
1897
Appoints Alfred von Tirpitz head of the Imperial Naval Office. Begins plans to expand Germany's navy enough to rival Britain's.
1900
Supports marriage of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria to Sophie Chotek, against the wishes of Emperor Franz Joseph.
1900
Boxer Rebellion put down. Wilhelm's farewell address to German troops (the 'Hun speech') leaves a horrible political impression on the rest of the world.
1905
Prescence in Morocco and speech in favor of Moroccan independence causes conflict with France.
1908
Daily Telegraph affair. Wilhelm's remarks alienate the British, the French, the Russians, and the Japanese.
1913
Hosts lavish wedding for daughter Victoria Louise. Most of the heads of state present disliked Wilhelm.
1914
Assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Austria declares war on Serbia. Russia mobilizes against Austria.
1916
Empire becoming a militaristic dictatorship under Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff. The Emperor is increasingly cut out of the decision-making process.
1918
Wilhelm completely loses the support of the military and the public when President Woodrow Wilson makes it clear the Kaiser can no longer be part of the peace negotiations. Survives the flu pandemic.
1918
Forced by revolts to abdicate titles as Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia. Leaves Germany for exile in the Netherlands.
1920
Takes up residence in the Netherlands as a private citizen.
1941
Dies in Doorn, Netherlands, on June 3rd.

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Modern German Empire  in  Germany: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Frederick the Noble and William II  in  The History of Germany  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
New German Empire  in  The World at War  by  M. B. Synge


Contemporary
Short Biography
Otto von Bismarck Prussian statesman and mastermind of German Unification. Strategically provoked wars against Austria and France.
Victoria I Longest reigning English Monarch. Presided over the British Empire at its height.
Kaiser William I First Kaiser of a United German Empire. With Bismarck as Chancellor, defeated Austria and France.
Alexander III Ascended to the throne of Russia after the assassination of his father, and rescinded reforms in progress.
Nicholas II Last Czar of Russia. Forced to resign during the Russian revolution, and eventually executed with his family.
Franz Joseph I Emperor of Austria during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Kaiser William I First Kaiser of a United German Empire. With Bismarck as Chancellor, defeated Austria and France.