Wilhelm II (Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert; January 27, 1859 – June 4, 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from June 15, 1888 to his abdication November 9, 1918. He was the eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe, most notably King George V of the United Kingdom and Emperor Nicholas II of Russia.
After abdicating at the end of World War I on the night of November 10th the Kaiser left Spa by train to seek asylum in the Netherlands. He was granted asylum by Queen Wilhelmina.
Wilhelm first settled in Amerongen, where on November 28, he issued a belated statement of abdication from both the Prussian and imperial thrones, thus formally ending the Hohenzollerns’ 500-year rule over Prussia. Accepting the reality that he had lost both of his crowns for good, he gave up his rights to “the throne of Prussia and to the German Imperial throne connected therewith.”
He also released his soldiers and officials in both Prussia and the empire from their oath of loyalty to him. He purchased a country house in the municipality of Doorn, known as Huis Doorn, and moved in on May 15, 1920.
His cousin, George V of the United Kingdom, called him the worst criminal in history. Many nations called for his extradition and wanted the Kaiser hung for war crimes. Eventually even president Wilson agreed that to extradite the Kaiser would destabilize the tentative peace.
In 1922, Wilhelm published the first volume of his memoirs—a very slim volume that insisted he was not guilty of initiating the Great War, and defended his conduct throughout his reign, especially in matters of foreign policy. For the remaining twenty years of his life, he entertained guests (often of some standing) and kept himself updated on events in Europe. He grew a beard and allowed his famous moustache to droop, adopting a style very similar to that of his cousins King George V and Tsar Nicholas II.
He also learned the Dutch language. Wilhelm developed a penchant for archaeology while residing at the Corfu Achilleion, excavating at the site of the Temple of Artemis in Corfu, a passion he retained in his exile. He had bought the former Greek residence of Empress Elisabeth after her murder in 1898. He also sketched plans for grand buildings and battleships when he was bored.
In exile, one of Wilhelm’s greatest passions was hunting, and he killed thousands of animals, both beast and bird. Much of his time was spent chopping wood and thousands of trees were chopped down during his stay at Doorn
Wilhelm died of a pulmonary embolus in Doorn, Netherlands, on June 4, 1941, at the age of 82, just weeks before the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union.
However, Wilhelm’s wishes never to return to Germany until the restoration of the monarchy were respected, and the Nazi occupation authorities granted him a small military funeral, with a few hundred people present.
Wilhelm was buried in a mausoleum in the grounds of Huis Doorn, which has since become a place of pilgrimage for German monarchists. A few of these gather there every year on the anniversary of his death to pay their A few of these gather there every year on the anniversary of his death to pay their homage to the last German Emperor.