, , , , , , , , , , , ,


The future king and emperor was born Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig of Prussia in the Kronprinzenpalais in Berlin on March 22, 1797. As the second son of Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and King Friedrich Wilhelm III, himself son of King Friedrich Wilhelm II, Wilhelm was not expected to ascend to the throne. His grandfather died the year he was born, at age 53, in 1797, and his father Became the King of Prussia.

Ever since the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806 uniting the German lands into a modern Nation State, a new empire, was the goal of many statesman as well as the populace of the multi German states that had made up the Holy Roman Empire.

The first attempt to create the Second German Reich occurred in 1848. In the wake of the revolutions of 1848 that swept across Europe, where the people of the many autocratic monarchies demanded that their governments be ruled by laws granted in a Constitution, the liberal Frankfurt Parliament offered the title “Emperor of the Germans” (German: Kaiser der Deutschen) to King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia in 1849 but he declined it citing that it was “not the Parliament’s to give.” Friedrich Wilhelm further stated he would not “stoop down in the gutter to pick up a crown” for he strongly believed that only the German princes had the right to make such an offer, in accordance with the traditions of the Holy Roman Empire.

German Emperor Wilhelm I

Despite this false start creating a German Empire was still the ultimate goal. After a series of wars orchestrated by the ultra conservative Otto von Bismarck, Minister President of Prussia and Chancellor of the North German Confederation; which culminated in uniting the North and South German Confederations at the end of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), King Wilhelm I of Prussia was proclaimed Emperor in the Great Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles on January18, 1871. However, creating the title of Emperor and convincing the King of Prussia to take the crown proved almost as difficult as forging the Empire itself.

The German Emperor (German: Deutscher Kaiser [ˈdɔʏtʃɐ ˈkaɪzɐ]) became the official title of the head of state and hereditary ruler of the German Empire. The title German Emperor was in direct contrast to both Emperor of the Germans or even Emperor of Germany (German: Kaiser von Deutschland).

The title was carefully chosen by Otto von Bismarck, after a discussion which continued until the proclamation of King Wilhelm I of Prussia as emperor at the Palace of Versailles during the Siege of Paris. Wilhelm accepted this title grudgingly on January 18 having preferred “Emperor of Germany.” However, that would have signaled a territorial sovereignty and superiority over all German monarchs and this was particularly unacceptable to the South German monarchs, as well as a claim to lands outside his reign (Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, etc.).

“Emperor of the Germans”, as had been proposed at the Frankfurt Parliament in 1849, was ruled out by Wilhelm as he considered himself a king who ruled by divine right and chosen “By the Grace of God”, not by the people in a popular monarchy. This was an identical stance held by his brother, Friedrich Wilhelm IV. But more in general, Wilhelm was unhappy about a crown that looked artificial (like Napoléon’s), having been created by a constitution. He was afraid that it would overshadow the Prussian crown.

Since 1867, the presidency of the North German Confederation had been a hereditary office of the kings of Prussia. The new constitution of January 1, 1871, following Reichstag and Bundesrat decisions on December 9/10, legally transformed the North German Confederation into the German Empire. This empire was a federal monarchy; the emperor was head of state and president of the federated monarchs (the kings of Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, the grand dukes of Baden, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Hesse, among others, as well as the principalities, duchies and of the free cities of Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen).

German Emperor Friedrich III

Under the imperial constitution, the empire was a federation of states under the permanent presidency of the King of Prussia. Thus, the imperial crown was directly tied to the Prussian crown—something Wilhelm II discovered in the aftermath of World War I. He erroneously believed that he ruled the empire in personal union with Prussia. With the war’s end, he conceded that he could not remain emperor, but initially thought he could at least retain his Prussian crown.

However, his last chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, knew this was legally impossible, and announced Wilhelm II’s abdication of both thrones on November 9, 1918, two days before the Armistice. Realizing his situation was untenable, Wilhelm II went into exile in the Netherlands later that night. It was not until November 28 that Wilhelm II formally gave up all claim to “the throne of Prussia and to the German imperial throne connected therewith.”

German Emperor Wilhelm II

Full titles of the German Emperor

The German Emperors had an extensive list of titles and claims that reflected the geographic expanse and diversity of the lands ruled by the House of Hohenzollern.

His Imperial and Royal Majesty Wilhelm I, 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, Lunenburg, 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.