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Prince Georg Friedrich and Princess Sophie of Prussia. 

I will now return to my series on Pretenders to the Throne. Up next is Germany.

The House of Hohenzollern which ruled as German Emperors from 1871 until the collapse of the Empire in 1918 at the end of World War I has a fascinating history. Beginning as counts of Zollern in the eleventh century the family slowly rose to power within the Holy Roman Empire. They eventually became Burgraves of Nuremberg and eventually Margarves and Imperial Electors of Brandenburg. In 1618 a branch of the Family became Dukes of Prussia (a Polish fief) and eventually Kings of Prussia in 1701. They were initially Kings in Prussia as the Prussian part of the Hohenzollern lands were outside of the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire. King Friedrich II “the Great” of Prussia changed the title to King of Prussia as he consolidated his power and lands.

With the demise of the Holy Roman Empire Prussia and Austria vied for supremacy as the question of unifying the German lands became inevitable. Through a series of wars Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark forged the German Empire to the exclusion of Austria. The Prussian kings became German Emperors of this federated state. The Empire did not last long and crumbled with the defeat of Germany at the end of the first World War. Efforts to save the monarchy also failed.

The last German Emperor, Wilhelm II, died in exile in 1941 at the age of 82. His son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, became head of the imperial and royal house, Wilhelm III to German monarchist, until his death ten years later in 1951. The eldest son of the Crown Prince, another Wilhelm, renounced his rights to the succession in 1933 when he contracted an morganatic (unequal) marriage that same year. Sadly, Prince Wilhelm was critically wounded in Valenciennes during World War II and died in a field hospital in Nivelles on May 26, 1940. This left his bother, Prince Louis Ferdinand, as successor to the headship of the imperial and royal house in 1951.

Prince Louis Ferdinand contracted an equal marriage in 1938 when he married HIH Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia the second daughter of Grand Duke Kyril Vladimirovich and Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. As noted in our series on Russian Pretenders Kira’s father was the pretender to the Russian throne. Louis Ferdinand was an ardent opponent to the Nazis and there was once talk with FDR of placing Louis Ferdinand on the German throne but this never came to fruition. The Prince became a very successful businessman, he was friends with Henry Ford, and patron of the arts. Prior to his death in 1994 at the age of 86 Louis Ferdinand appointed his grandson, Prince Georg Friedrich, as his successor and head of the imperial and royal house of Prussia. It was this decision that sparked a long and expensive battle for the right to the headship of the house.

Check back for Part II tomorrow!