William I or Wilhelm I : Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig; 22 March 1797 – 9 March 1888) of the House of Hohenzollern was King of Prussia from 2 January 1861 and the first German Emperor from 18 January 1871 to his death. William was the first head of state of a united Germany, and was also de facto head of state of Prussia from 1858 to 1861, serving as regent for his brother, Frederick William IV.(German
Under the leadership of William and his minister president Otto von Bismarck, Prussia achieved the unification of Germany and the establishment of the German Empire. Despite his long support of Bismarck as Minister President, William held strong reservations about some of Bismarck's more reactionary policies, including his anti-Catholicism and tough handling of subordinates. In contrast to the domineering Bismarck, William was described as polite, gentlemanly and, while staunchly conservative, more open to certain classical liberal ideas than his grandson Wilhelm II, during whose reign he was known as Wilhelm the Great.
The future king and emperor was born William Frederick Louis of Prussia (Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig von Preußen) in the Kronprinzenpalais in Berlin on 22 March 1797. As the second son of Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Prince Frederick William, himself son of King Frederick William II, William was not expected to ascend to the throne. His grandfather died the year he was born, at age 53, in 1797, and his father Frederick William III became king. He was educated from 1801 to 1809 by Johann Friedrich Gottlieb Delbrück, who was also in charge of the education of William's brother, the Crown Prince Frederick William. At age twelve, his father appointed him an officer in the Prussian army. The year 1806 saw the defeat of Prussia by France and the end of the Holy Roman Empire.
William served in the army from 1814 onward. Like his father he fought against Napoleon I of France during the part of the Napoleonic Wars known in Germany as the Befreiungskriege ("Wars of Liberation", otherwise known as the War of the Sixth Coalition), and was reportedly a very brave soldier. He was made a captain (Hauptmann) and won the Iron Cross for his actions at Bar-sur-Aube. The war and the fight against France left a lifelong impression on him, and he had a long-standing antipathy towards the French.
In 1815, William was promoted to major and commanded a battalion of the 1. Garderegiment. He fought under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battles of Ligny and Waterloo. [ citation needed ] William was a brother of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia (née Charlotte of Prussia). In 1817 he accompanied his sister to Saint Petersburg when she married Emperor Nicholas I of Russia.He became a diplomat, engaging in diplomatic missions after 1815.
In 1816, William became the commander of the Stettiner Gardelandwehrbataillon and in 1818 was promoted to Generalmajor. The next year, William was appointed inspector of the VII. and VIII. Army Corps. This made him a spokesman of the Prussian Army within the House of Hohenzollern. He argued in favour of a strong, well-trained and well-equipped army. In 1820, William became commander of the 1. Gardedivision and in 1825 was promoted to commanding general of the III. Army Corps.
In 1826 William was forced to abandon a relationship with Polish noblewoman Elisa Radziwill, his cousin whom he had been attracted to, when it was deemed an inappropriate match by his father. It is alleged that Elisa had an illegitimate daughter by William who was brought up by Joseph and Caroline Kroll, owners of the Kroll Opera House in Berlin, and was given the name Agnes Kroll. She married a Carl Friedrich Ludwig Dettman (known as "Louis") and emigrated to Sydney, Australia, in 1849. They had a family of three sons and two daughters. Agnes died in 1904.
In 1829, William married Princess Augusta, the daughter of Grand Duke Karl Friedrich of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Maria Pavlovna, the sister of Nicholas I. Their marriage was outwardly stable, but not a very happy one.
In 1840 his older brother became King of Prussia. Since he had no children, William was first in line to succeed him to the throne and thus was given the title Prinz von Preußen.Against his convictions but out of loyalty towards his brother, William signed the bill setting up a Prussian parliament (Vereinigter Landtag) in 1847 and took a seat in the upper chamber, the Herrenhaus.
During the Revolutions of 1848, William successfully crushed a revolt in Berlin that was aimed at Frederick William IV. The use of cannons made him unpopular at the time and earned him the nickname Kartätschenprinz (Prince of Grapeshot). Indeed, he had to flee to England for a while, disguised as a merchant. He returned and helped to put down an uprising in Baden, where he commanded the Prussian army. In October 1849, he became governor-general of Rhineland and Westfalia, with a seat at the Electoral Palace in Koblenz.
During their time at Koblenz, William and his wife entertained liberal scholars such as the historian Maximilian Wolfgang Duncker, August von Bethmann-Hollweg and Clemens Theodor Perthes. William's opposition to liberal ideas gradually softened.
In 1854, the prince was raised to the rank of a field-marshal and made governor of the federal fortress of Mainz.In 1857 Frederick William IV suffered a stroke and became mentally disabled for the rest of his life. In January 1858, William became Prince Regent for his brother, initially only temporarily but after October on a permanent basis. Against the advice of his brother, William swore an oath of office on the Prussian constitution and promised to preserve it "solid and inviolable". William appointed a liberal, Karl Anton von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, as Minister President and thus initiated what became known as the "New Era" in Prussia, although there were conflicts between William and the liberal majority in the Landtag on matters of reforming the armed forces.
On 2 January 1861, Frederick William IV died and William ascended the throne as William I of Prussia. In July, a student from Leipzig attempted to assassinate William, but he was only lightly injured.Like Frederick I of Prussia, William travelled to Königsberg and there crowned himself at the Schlosskirche. William chose the anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig, 18 October, for this event, which was the first Prussian crowning ceremony since 1701 and the only crowning of a German king in the 19th century. William refused to comply with his brother's wish, expressed in Frederick William's last will, that he should abrogate the constitution.
William inherited a conflict between Frederick William and the liberal Landtag. He was considered to be politically neutral as he intervened less in politics than his brother. In 1862 the Landtag refused an increase in the military budget needed to pay for the already implemented reform of the army. This involved raising the peacetime army from 150,000 to 200,000 men and boost the annual number of new recruits from 40,000 to 63,000. However, the truly controversial part was the plan to keep the length of military service (raised in 1856 from two years) at three years.When his request, backed by his Minister of War Albrecht von Roon was refused, William first considered abdicating, but his son, the Crown Prince, advised strongly against it. Then, on the advice of Roon, William appointed Otto von Bismarck to the office of Minister President in order to force through the proposals. According to the Prussian constitution, the Minister President was responsible solely to the king, not to the Landtag. Bismarck, a conservative Prussian Junker and loyal friend of the king, liked to see his working relationship with William as that of a vassal to his feudal superior. Nonetheless, it was Bismarck who effectively directed the politics, domestic as well as foreign; on several occasions he gained William's assent by threatening to resign.
During his reign, William was the commander-in-chief of the Prussian forces in the Second Schleswig War against Denmark in 1864 and the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. After the latter was won by Prussia, William wanted to march on to Vienna and annex Austria, but was dissuaded from doing so by Bismarck and Crown Prince Frederick.Bismarck wanted to end the war quickly, so as to allow Prussia to ally with Austria if it needed to at a later date; Frederick was also appalled by the casualties and wanted a speedy end to hostilities. During a heated discussion, Bismarck threatened to resign if William continued to Vienna; Bismarck got his way. William had to content himself with becoming the de facto ruler of the northern two-thirds of Germany. Prussia annexed several of Austria's allies north of the Main, as well as Schleswig-Holstein. It also forced Saxe-Lauenburg into a personal union with Prussia (which became a full union in 1878).
In 1867, the North German Confederation was created as a federation (federally organised state) of the North German and Central German states under the permanent presidency of Prussia. William assumed the Bundespräsidium , the presidium of the Confederation; the post was a hereditary office of the Prussian crown. Not expressis verbis, but in function he was the head of state. Bismarck intentionally avoided a title such as Präsident as it sounded too republican.William became also the constitutional Bundesfeldherr, the commander of all federal armed forces. Via treaties with the South German states, he also became commander of their armies in times of war. In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, William was in command of all the German forces at the crucial Battle of Sedan.
During the Franco-Prussian War, the South German states joined the North German Confederation. The country was renamed Deutsches Reich (the German Empire), and the title of Bundespräsidium was amended with the title Deutscher Kaiser (German Emperor). This was decided on by the legislative organs, the Reichstag and Bundesrat, and William agreed to this on 18 December in the presence of a Reichstag delegation. The new constitution and the title of Emperor came into effect on 1 January 1871.
William, however, hesitated to accept the constitutional title, as he feared that it would overshadow his own title as King of Prussia. He also wanted it to be Kaiser von Deutschland ("Emperor of Germany"), but Bismarck warned him that the South German princes and the Emperor of Austria might protest.William eventually—though grudgingly—relented and on 18 January, in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, he was proclaimed Kaiser Wilhelm. The date was chosen as the coronation date of the first Prussian king in 1701. In the national memory, 18 January became the day of the foundation of the Empire (Reichsgründungstag), although it did not have a constitutional significance.
To many intellectuals, the coronation of William was associated with the restoration of the Holy Roman Empire. Felix Dahn wrote a poem, "Macte senex Imperator" (Hail thee, old emperor) in which he nicknamed William Barbablanca (whitebeard), a play on the name of the medieval emperor Frederick Barbarossa (redbeard). According to the King asleep in mountain legend, Barbarossa slept under the Kyffhäuser mountain until Germany had need of him. William I was thus portrayed as a second coming of Barbarossa. The Kyffhäuser Monument portrays both emperors.
In 1872 he arbitrated a boundary dispute between Great Britain and the United States, deciding in favor of the U.S. and placing the San Juan Islands of Washington State within U.S. national territory, thus ending the 12-year bloodless Pig War.
In his memoirs, Bismarck describes William as an old-fashioned, courteous, infallibly polite gentleman and a genuine Prussian officer, whose good common sense was occasionally undermined by "female influences". This was a reference to William's wife, who had been educated by, among others Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and was intellectually superior to her husband. She was also at times very outspoken in her opposition to official policies as she was a liberal.William, however, had long been strongly opposed to liberal ideas. Despite possessing considerable power as Kaiser, William left the task of governing mostly to his chancellor, limiting himself to representing the state and approving Bismarck's every policy. In private he once remarked on his relationship with Bismarck: It is difficult to be emperor under such a chancellor.
On 11 May 1878, a plumber named Emil Max Hödel failed in an assassination attempt on William in Berlin. Hödel used a revolver to shoot at the then 81-year-old Emperor, while he and his daughter, Princess Louise, paraded in their carriage on Unter den Linden .When the bullet missed, Hödel ran across the street and fired another round which also missed. In the commotion one of the individuals who tried to apprehend Hödel suffered severe internal injuries and died two days later. Hödel was seized immediately. He was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and executed on 16 August 1878.
A second attempt to assassinate William I was made on 2 June 1878 by Dr. Karl Nobiling. As the Emperor drove past in an open carriage, the assassin fired two shots from a shotgun at him from the window of a house off the Unter den Linden. [ citation needed ]William was severely wounded and was rushed back to the palace. Nobiling shot himself in an attempt to commit suicide. While William survived this attack, the assassin died from his self-inflicted wound three months later.
Despite the fact that Hödel had been expelled from the Social Democratic Party, his actions were used as a pretext by Bismarck to ban the party. To do this, Bismarck partnered with Ludwig Bamberger, a Liberal, who had written on the subject of Socialism, "If I don't want any chickens, then I must smash the eggs." These attempts on William's life thus became the pretext for the institution of the Anti-Socialist Law, which was introduced by Bismarck's government with the support of a majority in the Reichstag on 18 October 1878, for the purpose of fighting the socialist and working-class movement. These laws deprived the Social Democratic Party of Germany of its legal status; prohibited all organizations, workers’ mass organizations and the socialist and workers’ press; decreed confiscation of socialist literature; and subjected Social-Democrats to reprisals. The laws were extended every 2–3 years. Despite the reprisals the Social Democratic Party increased its influence among the masses. Under pressure of the mass working-class movement the laws were repealed on 1 October 1890.[ citation needed ]
In August 1878, Russian Tsar Alexander II, William's nephew, wrote a letter (known as Ohrfeigenbrief) to him complaining about the treatment Russian interests had received at the Congress of Berlin. In response William, his wife Augusta, and his son the crown prince travelled to Russia (against the advice of Bismarck) to mend fences in face-to-face talks. However, by once again threatening to resign, Bismarck overcame the opposition of William to a closer alliance with Austria. In October, William agreed to the Dual Alliance (Zweibund) between Germany and Austria-Hungary, which was directed against Russia.
Another assassination attempt failed on 18 September 1883 when William unveiled the Niederwalddenkmal in Rüdesheim. A group of anarchists had prepared an attack using dynamite which failed due to the wet weather.
The Berlin Conference of 1884–85 organized by Otto von Bismarck can be seen as the formalization of the Scramble for Africa. Claiming much of the left-over territories in Africa and Oceania that were yet unclaimed, Germany managed to build the large German colonial empire.
Despite the assassination attempts and William's unpopular role in the 1848 uprising, he and his wife were very popular, especially in their later years. Many people considered them the personification of "the old Prussia" and liked their austere and simple lifestyle.William died on 9 March 1888 in Berlin after a short illness. He was buried on 16 March at the Mausoleum at Park Charlottenburg.
To honour him a large number of memorials/statues were erected all over the country over the following years. The best-known among them are the Kyffhäuser monument (1890–96) in Thuringia, the monument at Porta Westfalica (1896) and the mounted statue of William at the Deutsches Eck in Koblenz (1897). The statue next to the Stadtschloss, Berlin (1898) was melted down by the government of East Berlin in 1950.
From 1867 to 1918 more than 1,000 memorials to William I were constructed.[ citation needed ]
William and Augusta of Saxe-Weimar had two children:
|Frederick III, German Emperor and King of Prussia||18 October 1831||15 June 1888 (aged 56)||married (25 January 1858) Victoria, Princess Royal (1840–1901); eight children.|
|Princess Louise of Prussia||3 December 1838||23 April 1923 (aged 84)||married (20 September 1856) Prince Frederick of Baden (1826–1907); three children.|
William was a Lutheran member of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces. It was a United Protestant denomination, bringing together Reformed and Lutheran believers.
His Imperial and Royal Majesty William the First, by the Grace of God, German Emperor and King of Prussia; Margrave of Brandenburg, Burgrave of Nuremberg, Count of Hohenzollern; Sovereign and Supreme Duke of Silesia and of the County of Glatz; Grand Duke of the Lower Rhine and of Posen; Duke of Saxony, of Westphalia, of Angria, of Pomerania, Lüneburg, Holstein and Schleswig, of Magdeburg, of Bremen, of Guelders, Cleves, Jülich and Berg, Duke of the Wends and the Kassubes, of Crossen, Lauenburg and Mecklenburg; Landgrave of Hesse and Thuringia; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia; Prince of Orange; Prince of Rügen, of East Friesland, of Paderborn and Pyrmont, of Halberstadt, Münster, Minden, Osnabrück, Hildesheim, of Verden, Cammin, Fulda, Nassau and Moers; Princely Count of Henneberg; Count of Mark, of Ravensberg, of Hohenstein, Tecklenburg and Lingen, of Mansfeld, Sigmaringen and Veringen; Lord of Frankfurt.
|Ancestors of William I, German Emperor|
Albert was the King of Saxony and a member of the House of Wettin.
Frederick III was German Emperor and King of Prussia for ninety-nine days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Known informally as "Fritz", he was the only son of Emperor Wilhelm I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service. Although celebrated as a young man for his leadership and successes during the Second Schleswig, Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars, he nevertheless professed a hatred of warfare and was praised by friends and enemies alike for his humane conduct. Following the unification of Germany in 1871 his father, then King of Prussia, became the German Emperor. Upon Wilhelm's death at the age of ninety on 9 March 1888, the thrones passed to Frederick, who had by then been German Crown Prince for seventeen years and Crown Prince of Prussia for twenty-seven years. Frederick was suffering from cancer of the larynx when he died, aged fifty-six, following unsuccessful medical treatments for his condition.
Frederick William III was king of Prussia from 1797 to 1840. He ruled Prussia during the difficult times of the Napoleonic Wars. Steering a careful course between France and her enemies, after a major military defeat in 1806, he was humiliated by Napoleon, and Prussia was stripped of recent gains and forced to pay huge financial penalties. The king reluctantly joined the coalition against Napoleon in the Befreiungskriege. Following Napoleon's defeat, he took part in the Congress of Vienna, which assembled to settle the political questions arising from the new, post-Napoleonic order in Europe. His major interests were internal, the reform of Prussia's Protestant churches. He was determined to unify the Protestant churches, to homogenize their liturgy, their organization, and even their architecture. The long-term goal was to have fully centralized royal control of all the Protestant churches in the Prussian Union of Churches. The king was said to be extremely shy and indecisive. His wife Queen Louise (1776–1810) was his most important political advisor. She led a very powerful group that included Baron vom Stein, Prince von Hardenberg, von Scharnhorst, and Count Gneisenau. They set about reforming Prussia's administration, churches, finance and military.
Frederick William IV, the eldest son and successor of Frederick William III of Prussia, reigned as King of Prussia from 7 June 1840 to his death. Also referred to as the "romanticist on the throne", he is best remembered for the many buildings he had constructed in Berlin and Potsdam, as well as for the completion of the Gothic Cologne Cathedral.
Louis IV was the Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, reigning from 13 June 1877 until his death. Through his own and his children's marriages he was connected to the British Royal Family, to the Imperial House of Russia and to other reigning dynasties of Europe.
George V was the last King of Hanover, the only child and successor of King Ernest Augustus. George V's reign ended during the unification of Germany.
Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia was the son of Prince Charles of Prussia (1801–1883) and his wife, Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1808–1877). Prince Friedrich Karl was a grandson of King Frederick William III of Prussia and a nephew of Frederick William IV and William I. He was born in Berlin at the Royal Palace.
Prince Albert of Prussia was a Prussian general field marshal, Herrenmeister of the Order of Saint John from 1883 until his death, and regent of the Duchy of Brunswick from 1885, also until his death.
Wilhelm, German Crown Prince was the eldest child and heir of the last German Emperor, Wilhelm II, and the last Crown Prince of the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. After the death of his grandfather Emperor Frederick III, Wilhelm became crown prince at the age of six, retaining that title for more than 30 years until the fall of the empire on 9 November 1918. During World War I, he commanded the 5th Army from 1914 to 1916 and was commander of the Army Group German Crown Prince for the remainder of the war. Crown Prince Wilhelm became head of the House of Hohenzollern on 4 June 1941 following the death of his father and held the position until his own death on 20 July 1951.
Prince Albert William Henry of Prussia was a younger brother of German Emperor William II and a Prince of Prussia. He was also a grandson of Queen Victoria. A career naval officer, he held various commands in the Imperial German Navy, eventually rose to the rank of Grand Admiral and Generalinspekteur der Marine.
The Order of the Black Eagle was the highest order of chivalry in the Kingdom of Prussia. The order was founded on 17 January 1701 by Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg. In his Dutch exile after World War I, deposed Emperor Wilhelm II continued to award the order to his family. He made his second wife, Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz, a Lady in the Order of the Black Eagle.
Frederick I was the sovereign Grand Duke of Baden, reigning from 1856 to 1907.
Frederick II was the last sovereign Grand Duke of Baden, reigning from 1907 until the abolition of the German monarchies in 1918. The state of Baden originated from the area of the Grand Duchy. In 1951-1952, it became part of the new state of Baden-Württemberg.
Prince Frederick Charles Alexander of Prussia was a younger son of Frederick William III of Prussia. He served as a Prussian general for much of his adult life and became the first Herrenmeister of the Order of Saint John after its restoration as a chivalric order. Nevertheless, he is perhaps remembered more often for his patronage of art and for his sizable collections of art and armor.
Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern was the head of the Swabian branch of the House of Hohenzollern, and played a fleeting role in European power politics, in connection with the Franco-Prussian War.
Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was head of the Princely House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Hohenzollern from 1869 and Prime Minister of Prussia which made him the only Prussian Prince to hold that post. He was the son of Karl, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who abdicated in favour of his son on 27 August 1848, and his first wife Marie Antoinette Murat, niece of Joachim Murat.
Frederick Francis II was a Prussian officer and Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin from 7 March 1842 until 15 April 1883.
Karl August, Hereditary Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was a German prince and Hereditary Grand Duke (Erbgroßherzog) of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.
Adolphus Frederick V was reigning grand duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz from 1904 to 1914.
Joachim Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Leopold Prinz von Preußen was a son of Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia and Princess Maria Anna of Anhalt-Dessau, married in 1854.
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William I, German EmperorBorn: 22 March 1797 Died: 9 March 1888
Frederick William IV
| King of Prussia |
2 January 1861 – 9 March 1888
|New creation|| German Emperor |
18 January 1871 – 9 March 1888
Christian IX of Denmark
| Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg |
|Incorporated into the|
Title last held byFrederick VII of Denmark
| Duke of Schleswig and Holstein |
Adolphe of Luxembourg
as Duke of Nassau
| Prince of Nassau |
Frederick William of Hesse
as Elector of Hesse
| Landgrave of Hesse|
Prince of Fulda
as Elder Mayor of Frankfurt
| Lord of Frankfurt |
George V of Hanover
as King of Hanover
| Prince of East Friesland, Osnabrück,|
Hildesheim and Verden
Count of Lingen and Tecklenburg
Francis Joseph I of Austria
as Head of the Präsidialmacht of the German Confederation
| Holder of the Bundespräsidium of the North German Confederation |
1 July 1867 – 18 January 1871