German Emperor, German Emperor Frederick III, German Emperor Wilhelm II, German Empire, German Imperial Navy, Hemophilia, Prince Henry of Prussia, Princess Irene of Hesse and By Rhine
Prince Albert Wilhelm Heinrich of Prussia (August 14, 1862 – April 20, 1929) Known as Prince Heinrich was a younger brother of German Emperor Wilhelm 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.
Born in Berlin, Prince Heinrich was the third child and second son of eight children born to Emperor Friedrich III and Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom, eldest daughter of the British Queen Victoria. Heinrich was three years younger than his brother, the future Emperor Wilhelm II (born January 27, 1859). He was born on the same day as King Friedrich Wilhelm I “Soldier-King” of Prussia.
After attending the gymnasium in Cassel, which he left in the middle grades in 1877, the 15-year-old Heinrich entered the Imperial Navy cadet program. His naval education included a two-year voyage around the world (1878 to 1880), the naval officer examination (Seeoffizierhauptprüfung) in October 1880, and attending the German naval academy (1884 to 1886).
As an imperial prince, Heinrich quickly achieved command. In 1887, he commanded a torpedo boat and simultaneously the First Torpedo Boat Division; in 1888 the Imperial yacht SMY Hohenzollern; from 1889 to 1890 the second-class cruiser SMS Irene, the armored coastal defense ship SMS Beowulf, and the capital ships SMS Sachsen and SMS Wörth.
At the beginning of World War I, Prince Heinrich was named Commander-in-Chief of the Baltic Fleet. Although the means provided him were far inferior to Russia’s Baltic Fleet, he succeeded, until the 1917 Revolution, in putting Russia’s naval forces far on the defensive, and hindered them from making attacks on the German coast. After the end of hostilities with Russia, his mission was ended, and Prince Henry simply left active duty. With the war’s end and the dissolution of the monarchy in Germany, Prince Henry left the Navy.
On May 24, 1888, Heinrich married Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine, at the chapel of the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. Princess Irene was the third child and third daughter of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. Her maternal grandparents were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Her paternal grandparents were Prince Charles of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Elizabeth of Prussia (the second daughter of Prince Wilhelm of Prussia and Landgravine Marie Anna of Hesse-Homburg).
Princess Irene of Hesse and By Rhine
As their mothers were sisters, Irene and Heinrich were first cousins. Their marriage displeased Queen Victoria because she had not been told about the courtship until they had already decided to marry. At the time of the ceremony, Irene’s uncle and father-in-law, Emperor Friedrich III, was dying of throat cancer, and less than a month after the ceremony, Irene’s cousin and brother-in-law ascended the throne as Emperor Wilhelm II. Heinrich’s mother, Empress Victoria, was fond of Irene. However, Empress Victoria was shocked because Irene did not wear a shawl or scarf to disguise her pregnancy when she was pregnant with her first son, the haemophiliac Prince Waldemar, in 1889.
Empress Victoria, who was fascinated by politics and current events, also couldn’t understand why Heinrich and Irene never read a newspaper. However, the couple were happily married and they were known as “The Very Amiables” by their relatives because of their pleasant natures. The marriage produced three sons.
Their sons Waldemar and Heinrich were both hemophiliacs, a disease which they inherited through Irene from the maternal grandmother of both of their parents, Queen Victoria, who was a carrier.
Prince Heinrich with his wife, Princess Irene, and their sons Waldemar and Sigismund
Heinrich had little in common with his brother, the German Emperor. He lacked, for example, Wilhelm II’s erratic nature and egotism. Contrary to popular belief, the Emperor and the prince were both truly popular in Germany, and on account of his humble and open manner, Heinrich was beloved by those under his command. On foreign travels, he was a good diplomat. Thus, on his 1902 trip to the United States, Heinrich made a favorable impression with the critical American press and succeeded in winning the sympathy of more than just the numerous German-American segment of the population.
As a naval officer, Heinrich had a profession that completely satisfied him and that he loved. He was thoroughly a pragmatist. He received one of the first pilot’s licenses in Germany, and was judged a spirited and excellent seaman. He was dedicated to modern technology and was able to understand quickly the practical value of technical innovations. A yachting enthusiast, Prince Heinrich became one of the first members of the Yacht Club of Kiel, established by a group of naval officers in 1887, and quickly became the club’s patron.
Heinrich was interested in motor cars as well and supposedly invented a windshield wiper and, according to other sources, the car horn. In his honor, the Prinz-Heinrich-Fahrt (Prince Heinrich Tour) was established in 1908, like the earlier Kaiserpreis a precursor to the German Grand Prix. Heinrich and his brother Wilhelm gave patronage to the Kaiserlicher Automobilclub (Imperial Automobile Club).
Heinrich respected his brother, but this attitude was not returned in the same measure. Wilhelm kept his younger brother far from politics, although Heinrich served as his representative as long as the Emperor’s Crown Prince Wilhelm was still in his minority. Heinrich complied with this, for he did not interest himself in either politics or grand strategy. He did not recognize what political effect the German naval build-up would entail, and also would not have been in the position to move his brother toward a different policy.
After the German Revolution and the abolishing of the monarchy, Heinrich lived with his family in Hemmelmark near Eckernförde, in Schleswig-Holstein. He continued with motor sports and sailing and even in old age was a very successful participant in regattas. He popularized the Prinz-Heinrich-Mütze (“Prince Heinrich cap”), which is still worn, especially by older sailors.
In 1899, Heinrich received an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Engineering honoris causa) from the Technical University of Berlin. Also in foreign countries he received numerous similar honors, including an honorary doctorate (LL.D.) from Harvard University in March 1902, during his visit to the United States.
Prince Heinrich died of throat cancer, the same illness that took his father, in Hemmelmark on April 20, 1929.