Wilhelm II (February 25, 1848 – October 2, 1921) was the last King of Württemberg. He ruled from October 6, 1891 until the dissolution of the kingdom on November 30, 1918. He was also the last German ruler to abdicate in the wake of the November Revolution of 1918.
Wilhelm was born the son of Prince Friedrich of Württemberg (1808–1870) by his wife Princess Catherine Frederica of Württemberg (1821–1898), herself the daughter of King Wilhelm I of Württemberg (1781–1864). His parents were first cousins, being the children of two brothers, and Wilhelm was their only child.
Wilhelm’s growing years coincided with a progressive dimininution of Württemberg’s sovereignty and international presence, concomitant with the process of German unification. In 1870, Württemberg took the side of Prussia in the Franco-German War. In 1871, Württemberg became a state of the German Reich, a significant limitation on its sovereignty.
King of Württemberg
Wilhelm’s father died in 1870, but his mother lived to see him seated on the throne of Württemberg. In 1891, Wilhelm succeeded his childless maternal uncle, King Charles I (1823–1891) and became King Wilhelm II of Württemberg. This was not, as it may seem, a departure from the Salic law which governed succession in the German states; his claim to the throne came because he was the nearest agnatic heir of his maternal uncle, as the senior male-line descendant of King Friedrich I of Württemberg through his younger son Prince Paul.
King Wilhelm II became a Generalfeldmarschall during World War I. In 1918, he was deposed from the throne along with the other German rulers. King Wilhelm II finally abdicated on November 30, 1918, ending over 800 years of Württemberg rule. He died on October 2, 1921 at Bebenhausen.
Personality and interests
Considered to be a popular monarch, Wilhelm had the habit of walking his two dogs in public parks in Stuttgart without being attended by bodyguards or the like. During these excursions, he would often be greeted by his subjects with a simple Herr König (“Mister King”).
Despite living in a landlocked kingdom, Wilhelm II was a yachting enthusiast. The king was instrumental in the establishment of the Württembergischer Yacht Club (formerly “Königlich Württembergischer Yacht-Club” or Royal Yacht Club of Württemberg) in 1911 on Lake Constance.
Marriages and children
On February 15, 1877 at Arolsen he married Princess Marie of Waldeck and Pyrmont (1857–1882), was the third daughter of Georg Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont and his wife, Princess Helena of Nassau, younger half-sister of Adolphe, Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
Marie was born in Arolsen, then part of the German Principality of Waldeck and Pyrmont. Her younger brother, Friedrich, was the last reigning prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont. Two of her younger sisters, Emma and Helena, married her third cousin once removed King Willem III of the Netherlands and Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (youngest son of Queen Victoria), respectively.
They had three children:
Princess Pauline of Württemberg (December 19, 1877 – May 7, 1965); married in 1898 Wilhelm Friedrich, Prince of Wied (1872–1945), and had issue.
Prince Ulrich of Württemberg (28 July 1880 – 28 December 1880), died in infancy
A stillborn daughter (24 April 1882)
Marie died on April 30, 1882 in Stuttgart, from complications resulting from the birth of their third child. Wilhelm, already depressed by the death of his only son, is said never to have recovered from this blow.
Nevertheless, he was King and it was his duty to secure the succession.
On April 8, 1886, at Bückeburg, he married Princess Charlotte of Schaumburg-Lippe (1864–1946), the daughter of Prince Wilhelm Karl August of Schaumburg-Lippe, and his wife, Princess Bathildis of Anhalt-Dessau. As the second wife of King William II of Württemberg she became Queen consort of Württemberg. She was not only the last queen of Württemberg, but the last surviving queen of any German state.
They had no children.
On Wilhelm II’s death in 1921 without male issue, the royal branch of the House of Württemberg became extinct, and the headship of the house devolved to Albrecht, Duke of Württemberg, head of the Roman Catholic cadet branch of the dynasty, based at Altshausen.
Albrecht, Duke of Württemberg (December 23, 1865 – October 31, 1939) was the last Württemberger crown prince, a German military commander of the First World War, and the head of the House of Württemberg from 1921 to his death.
Duke Albrecht was born in Vienna as the eldest child of Duke Philipp of Württemberg and his wife Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria, daughter of Archduke Albert, Duke of Teschen.
Albrecht entered the armies of the Kingdom of Württemberg and the German Empire in 1883, rose quickly through its ranks, and became the heir apparent to the throne of Württemberg.
Albrecht was married in Vienna on January 17, 1893 to Archduchess Margarete Sophie of Austria, the fourth and youngest child and only daughter of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria and his second wife Princess Maria Annunciata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. She was named for her father’s first wife, Princess Margaretha of Saxony, and for her paternal grandmother, Princess Sophie of Bavaria. Her older brothers included Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Archduke Otto Francis of Austria.
In 1910, Albrecht attended the funeral of Edward VII of the United Kingdom. Albrecht was a second cousin once removed of Mary of Teck, who was the Queen consort of George V. Mary of Teck was a morganatic descendant of the House of Württemberg and a granddaughter of Duke Alexander of Württemberg (1804–1885).
Albrecht had become heir presumptive to the Kingdom of Württemberg following the death of his father in October 1917, but the German Empire’s World War I defeat and the abdication of his cousin King Willhelm II of Württemberg following the German Revolution prevented him from ever succeeding to the throne.
Albrecht became head of the House of Württemberg after the death of Wilhelm on October 2, 1921. Albrecht died at Altshausen Castle. His son Duke Philipp Albrecht succeeded him as head of the House of Württemberg.