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Wilhelm II (Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert; January 27, 1859 – June 4, 1941) was the last German Emperor (German: Kaiser) and King of Prussia, reigning from June 15, 1888 until his abdication on November 9, 1918.

Wilhelm was born in Berlin on January 27, 1859—at the Crown Prince’s Palace—to Victoria, Princess Royal “Vicky”, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His father was Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia (“Fritz” – the future Emperor Friedrich III).

At the time of his birth, his granduncle, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, was king of Prussia. Friedrich Wilhelm IV had been left permanently incapacitated by a series of strokes, and his younger brother Prince Wilhelm was acting as regent.

Upon the death of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV in January 1861, Wilhelm’s paternal grandfather (the elder Wilhelm) became King of Prussia, and the two-year-old Wilhelm became second in the line of succession to Prussia.

After 1871, Wilhelm also became second in the line to the newly created German Empire, which, according to the constitution of the German Empire, was ruled by the Prussian King. At the time of his birth, he was also sixth in the line of succession to the British throne, after his maternal uncles and his mother.

Traumatic birth

Shortly before midnight on January 26, 1859, Wilhelm’s mother experienced labour pains, followed by her water breaking, after which Dr. August Wegner, the family’s personal physician, was summoned. Upon examining Victoria, Wegner realised the infant was in the breech position; gynaecologist Eduard Arnold Martin was then sent for, arriving at the palace at 10 am on January 27.

After administering ipecac and prescribing a mild dose of chloroform, which was administered by Victoria’s personal physician Sir James Clark, Martin advised Fritz the unborn child’s life was endangered. As mild anaesthesia did not alleviate her extreme labour pains, resulting in her “horrible screams and wails”, Clark finally administered full anaesthesia.

Observing her contractions to be insufficiently strong, Martin administered a dose of ergot extract, and at 2:45 pm saw the infant’s buttocks emerging from the birth canal, but noticed the pulse in the umbilical cord was weak and intermittent.

Despite this dangerous sign, Martin ordered a further heavy dose of chloroform so he could better manipulate the infant. Observing the infant’s legs to be raised upwards and his left arm likewise raised upwards and behind his head, Martin “carefully eased out the Prince’s legs”.

Due to the “narrowness of the birth canal”, he then forcibly pulled the left arm downwards, tearing the brachial plexus, then continued to grasp the left arm to rotate the infant’s trunk and free the right arm, likely exacerbating the injury. After completing the delivery, and despite realising the newborn prince was hypoxic, Martin turned his attention to the unconscious Victoria.

Noticing after some minutes that the newborn remained silent, Martin and the midwife Fräulein Stahl worked frantically to revive the prince; finally, despite the disapproval of those present, Stahl spanked the newborn vigorously until “a weak cry escaped his pale lips”.