|A.K.A.||Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst|
|Birth||May 6, 1882 (Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany)|
|Death||July 20, 1951 (Hechingen, Zollernalb, Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg)|
Wilhelm, German Crown Prince (German: Kronprinz Wilhelm von Preußen; 6 May 1882 – 20 July 1951), full name Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst, was the eldest child of the future German Emperor Wilhelm II and his wife Empress Augusta Victoria, and the last Crown Prince of the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. After the death of his grandfather Emperor Frederick III, Wilhelm became crown prince at the age of six, retaining that title for more than 30 years until the fall of the empire on 5 November 1918. During World War I, he commanded the 5th Army from 1914 to 1916 and was commander of Army Group German Crown Prince for the remainder of the war. Crown Prince Wilhelm became Head of the House of Hohenzollern on 4 June 1941 following the death of his father and held the position until his own death on 20 July 1951.
Wilhelm was born on 6 May 1882 in the Marmorpalais of Potsdam in the Province of Brandenburg. He was the eldest son of Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor (1859–1941) and his first wife, Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein (1858–1921). When he was born, his great-grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I, was the reigning emperor and his grandfather, Crown Prince Frederick, was heir to the throne, making Wilhelm third in line to the throne. He was the eldest of the Kaiser's seven children, and his birth sparked an argument between his parents and grandmother. Before Wilhelm was born, his grandmother had expected to be asked to help find a nurse, but since her son did everything he could to snub her, the future Wilhelm II asked his aunt Helena to help. His mother was hurt and his grandmother, Queen Victoria, who was the younger Wilhelm's great-grandmother, furious. When his great-grandfather and grandfather both died in 1888, six-year-old Wilhelm became the heir-apparent to the German and Prussian thrones.
Wilhelm was a supporter of association football, then a relatively new sport in the country, donating a cup to the German Football Association in 1908 and thereby initiating the Kronprinzenpokal (now Länderpokal), the oldest cup competition in German football. The German club BFC Preussen was also originally named BFC Friedrich Wilhelm in his honour.
In 1914, the Kaiser ordered the construction of Schloss Cecilienhof in Potsdam for Prince Wilhelm and his family. The Schloss was loosely inspired by Bidston Court in Birkenhead, England, resembling a Tudor manor. Completed in 1917, it became the main residence for the Crown Prince for a time.
World War I
Wilhelm had been active in pushing German expansion, and sought a leading role on the outbreak of war. Despite being only thirty-two and having never commanded a unit larger than a regiment, the German Crown Prince was named commander of the 5th Army in August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I. However, under the well-established Prussian/German General Staff model then in use, inexperienced nobles who were afforded commands of large army formations were always provided with (and expected to defer to the advice of) experienced chiefs of staff to assist them in their duties. As Emperor, Wilhelm's father instructed the Crown Prince to defer to the advice of his experienced chief of staff Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf.
In October 1914 Wilhelm gave his first interview to a foreign correspondent and the first statement to the press made by a German noble since the outbreak of war. He denied promoting military solutions to diplomatic problems, and said this in English:
"Undoubtedly this is the most stupid, senseless and unnecessary war of modern times. It is a war not wanted by Germany, I can assure you, but it was forced on us, and the fact that we were so effectually prepared to defend ourselves is now being used as an argument to convince the world that we desired conflict."— Crown Prince Wilhelm, Wiegand
From August 1915 onwards, Wilhelm was given the additional role as commander of the Crown Prince's Corps. In 1916 his troops began the Verdun Offensive, a year long effort to destroy the French armies that would end in failure. Wilhelm relinquished command of the 5th Army in November of that year, but remained commander of the Crown Prince's Corps for the rest of the war.
After the outbreak of the German Revolution in 1918, both Emperor Wilhelm II and the Crown Prince signed the document of abdication. On 13 November, the former Crown Prince went into exile and was interned on the island of Wieringen (now part of the mainland), near Den Helder in the Netherlands. In the fall of 1921, Gustav Stresemann visited Wilhelm and the Crown Prince voiced his interest in returning to Germany, even as a private citizen. After Stresemann became chancellor in August 1923, Wilhelm was allowed to return after giving assurances that he would no longer engage in politics. He chose 9 November 1923 for this, which infuriated his father, who had not been informed about the plans of his son and who felt the historic date to be inappropriate.
In June 1926, a referendum on expropriating the former ruling Princes of Germany without compensation failed and as a consequence, the financial situation of the Hohenzollern family improved considerably. A settlement between the state and the family made Cecilienhof property of the state but granted a right of residence to Wilhelm and Cecilie. This was limited in duration to three generations. The family also kept the ownership of Monbijou Palace in Berlin, Oels Castle in Silesia and Rheinsberg Palace until 1945.
Wilhelm broke the promise he had made to Stresemann to stay out of politics. Adolf Hitler visited Wilhelm at Cecilienhof three times, in 1926, in 1933 (on the "Day of Potsdam") and in 1935. Wilhelm joined the Stahlhelm which merged in 1931 into the Harzburg Front, a right-wing organisation of those opposed to the democratic republic.
The former Crown Prince was reportedly interested in the idea of running for Reichspräsident as the right-wing candidate against Paul von Hindenburg in 1932, until his father forbade him from acting on the idea. After his plans to become president had been blocked by his father, Wilhelm supported the rise to power of Hitler.
After the murder of his friend Kurt von Schleicher, the former Chancellor, in the Night of the Long Knives (1934), he withdrew from all political activities.
When Wilhelm realized that Hitler had no intention of restoring the monarchy, their relationship cooled. Upon his father's death in 1941, Wilhelm succeeded him as head of the House of Hohenzollern, the former German imperial dynasty. He was approached by those in the military and the diplomatic service who wanted to replace Hitler, but Wilhelm turned them down. After the ill-fated assassination attempt on 20 July 1944, Hitler nevertheless had Wilhelm placed under supervision by the Gestapo and had his home at Cecilienhof watched.
In January 1945, Wilhelm left Potsdam for Oberstdorf for a treatment of his gall and liver problems. His wife Cecilie fled in early February 1945 as the Red Army drew closer to Berlin, but they had been liveing apart sometimes for a long time. At the end of the war, Wilhelm's home, Cecilienhof, was seized by the Soviets. The palace was subsequently used by the Allied Powers as the venue for the Potsdam Conference.
At the end of the war, Wilhelm was captured by French Moroccan troops in Baad, Austria and was interned as a (World War I) war criminal. Transferred to Hechingen, Germany, he lived for a short time in Hohenzollern Castle under house arrest before moving to a small five-room house at Fürstenstraße 16 in Hechingen where he died on 20 July 1951, of a heart attack. Three days later, his opponent in the Battle of Verdun, Marshal Philippe Pétain, died in prison in France.
Wilhelm and his wife are buried at Hohenzollern Castle.
Family and children
Wilhelm married Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (20 September 1886 – 6 May 1954) in Berlin on 6 June 1905. After their marriage, the couple lived at the Crown Prince's Palace in Berlin in the winter and at the Marmorpalais in Potsdam. Cecilie was the daughter of Grand Duke Frederick Francis III, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1851–1897) and his wife, Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia (1860–1922). Their eldest son, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, was killed fighting for the German Army in France in 1940. However, during the early stages of his marriage the crown prince had a brief affair with the American opera singer Geraldine Farrar, and he later had a relationship with the dancer Mata Hari.
Their children and male-line grandchildren are:
- Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (1906–1940), who renounced his succession rights in 1933. He married 1933 Dorothea von Salviati and had issue:
- Princess Felicitas of Prussia (1934–2009)
- Princess Christa of Prussia (born 1936)
- Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia (1907–1994); married 1938 Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia and had issue:
- Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia (1939–2015)
- Prince Michael of Prussia (1940–2014)
- Princess Marie Cécile of Prussia (born 1942)
- Princess Kira of Prussia (1943–2004)
- Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1944–1977)
- Prince Christian-Sigismund of Prussia (born 1946)
- Princess Xenia of Prussia (1949–1992)
- Prince Hubertus of Prussia (1909–1950); married 1941 Baroness Maria von Humboldt-Dachroeden, 1943 Princess Magdalena Reuss, had issue:
- Princess Anastasia of Prussia (born 1944)
- Princess Marie-Christine of Prussia (1947–1966)
- Prince Frederick of Prussia (1911–1966); married 1945 Lady Brigid Guinness and had issue:
- Prince Frederick Nicholas of Prussia (born 1946)
- Prince Andrew of Prussia (born 1947)
- Princess Victoria of Prussia (born 1952)
- Prince Rupert of Prussia (born 1955)
- Princess Antonia of Prussia (born 1955)
- Princess Alexandrine of Prussia (1915–1980), called "Adini", had Down syndrome.
- Princess Cecilie of Prussia (1917–1975); married Clyde Kenneth Harris on 21 June 1949, and had issue.
As descendants of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom through her eldest daughter Victoria, Princess Royal, their surviving descendants are in the line of succession to the British throne.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- 6 May 1882 – 15 June 1888: His Royal Highness Prince Wilhelm of Prussia
- 15 June 1888 – 10 August 1919: His Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia
- 11 August 1919 – 20 July 1951:
- Wilhelm Prinz von Preußen (official)
- 11 August 1919 – 4 June 1941: His Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia (in pretense)
- 4 June 1941 – 20 July 1951: His Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Emperor, King of Prussia (in pretense)
Decorations and awards
- German honours
- Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle
- Pour le Mérite
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown (Prussia)
- Kingdom of Bavaria: Grand Cross of the Military Order of Max Joseph
- Kingdom of Saxony: Grand Cross of the Military Order of St. Henry
- Mecklenburg-Schwerin: Military Merit Cross, 1st class
- Foreign honors
- Austria-Hungary: Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Austrian branch)
- Spain: Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Spanish branch) - January 1900 - the insignia was the same as those which were worn by the Emperor Wilhelm I
- United Kingdom: Knight of the Order of the Garter - expelled in 1915 later reinstated 1917
- Norway: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav
|Ancestors of Wilhelm, German Crown Prince|