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Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany and Prussia 

Today begins my Thursday segment where I focus on a prince or princess from either the present or the past. Today I will look at the life of Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany and Prussia a person I find interesting for the times in which he lived and ultimately the unfulfilled destiny which remained beyond his grasp.

He was christened HRH Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst of Prussia and was the eldest son of future German Emperor Wilhelm II and his first wife, Princess Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein (1858–1921). At the time of his birth he was third in line to the Imperial and Royal thrones of Germany and Prussia. His great-grandfather, German Emperor Wilhelm I, occupied the throne. His grandfather, Crown Prince Friedrich, was next in line followed by his own father, Wilhelm. Like his father, he was christened Friedrich Wilhelm but went by his second name. Wilhelm was also the great-grandson of Britain’s Queen Victoria through his grandmother, Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal, who was his father’s mother. By the time he was 6 in 1888 he went from being third in line to the throne to being the heir to the throne with the death of his great-grandfather, his grandfather and the accession of his father in the span of a few months.

He was raised in the traditional manner of a Prussian prince; schooled by tutors and on his tenth birthday in 1892 he entered the First Guard Regiment and was given the Order of the Black Eagle by his father. As he grew older Wilhelm enjoyed the life of a Prussian military officer who was devoted to military life. Another aspect of growing older and being heir to the throne Wilhelm became quite the ladies man and being involved with women would be a passion of his even to his detriment. One of his great loves was an American singer Geraldine Farrar but she was not of the stature for him to be allowed to marry her. As a future Emperor-King Wilhelm needed to follow the strict protocol of marrying a princess of equal rank to his.

On this date, July 5, 1904, 108 years ago Crown Prince Wilhelm met his future bride, Princess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1886-1954). At this time her brother, Friedrich Franz IV was the reigning Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and had recently married Princess Alexandra of Hanover and Cumberland. Upon their return to Schwerin Crown Prince Wilhelm arrived in the capitol of the Grand Duchy to deliver the couple a wedding present on behalf of his parents. This is where he met the Grand Duke’s 17 year old sister, Princess Cecilie. He immediately fell in love with her and much to the relief of his parents he had found someone of equal rank. On June 5, 1905 the couple were married in pomp and splendor in Potsdam. Wilhelm and Cecilie had 6 children (4 sons and 2 daughter).

In 1914 Crown Prince Wilhelm’s life changed forever as the First World War broke out. Despite being in the military for the majority of his life he did not have much leadership experience but was given the command of the Vth Army. He oversaw the Verdun Offensive and was forever known by the French as the ‘Butcher of Verdun.” Crown Prince Wilhelm is on record as not being supportive of the war. When Germany lost the war the Crown Prince went into exile on the island of Wieringen, in the Netherlands and was not popular in Germany. His father, Wilhelm II, also sought asylum in the Netherlands settling on an estate in Doorn.

In 1923 after reassuring the German Government that he would not enter into politics Wilhelm was allowed to return to Germany. However, at one point he did have political aspirations and desired to run for Reichspräsident against Paul von Hindenburg in 1932. This ambition was curtailed when his father threatened to disinherit him if he chose this path. The former Kaiser was never supportive of the democratic process and the thought of a Hohenzollern prince running for an election was an anathema to him. From 1919 until 1934 a great aspirtation for the former Crown prince was a restoration of the monarchy.

The Crown Prince supported the rise of Hitler for a short time as did many German princes as Hitler used the promise of a restoration of the monarchy as a means to court their support. With the death of his friend, the former Chancellor, Kurt von Schleicher, in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 enabled him to see Hitlers true colors. From that period on Crown Prince Wilhelm ceased his political activities and his pursuit for the Restoration of the monarchy. In the 1930s Wilhelm lived the life of a playboy enjoying fast cars and fast women, his relationship with his wife had long been over in everything but name.

The 40s saw the outbreak of World War II. In 1941 his father died at the age of 82 and for his supporters he was now the head of the Imperial Family and if the monarchy had survived he would have become Kaiser Wilhelm III. During the war he kept a low profile. His eldest son died in battle during the war. He was living in a lodge in Austria at the end of the war and even though he had not participated in it he was arrested by the French army for a brief period. He lived alone in a small five room house and fell into a depression. The world he grew up in was gone. Prussia, the sate that brought the Hohenzollerns to prominence, was formally dissolved on February 25, 1947 the Allied Control Council. From the end of the war to the end of his life Wilhelm lived as a private citizen with a small group of friends. On July 20, 1951 the chain smoking former heir to the glorious German Empire suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 69. He was succeeded by his second son, Prince Louis Ferdinand, as head of the Imperial house and claimer to the vacant thrones of Germany and Prussia.

Crown Princess Cecilie.

 

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