Wilhelm Karl, Duke of Urach

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Wilhelm Karl, Duke of Urach
WilhelofUrach.jpg
Duke of Urach
Reign 17 July 1869 – 24 March 1928
Predecessor Prince Wilhelm
Successor Prince Karl Gero
King-elect of Lithuania
Reign 11 July – 2 November 1918
Spouse Duchess Amalie in Bavaria
Princess Wiltrud of Bavaria
Issue Princess Marie-Gabriele
Princess Elizabeth
Princess Karola
Prince Wilhelm
Karl Gero, Duke of Urach
Princess Margarete
Prince Albrecht
Prince Eberhard
Princess Mechtilde
Full name
Wilhelm Karl Florestan Gero Crescentius
House House of Württemberg
Father Wilhelm, 1st Duke of Urach
Mother Princess Florestine of Monaco
Born (1864-05-30)30 May 1864
Monaco
Died 24 March 1928(1928-03-24) (aged 63)
Rapallo, Kingdom of Italy
Burial Ludwigsburg Palace Church

Prince Wilhelm of Urach, Count of Württemberg, 2nd Duke of Urach (Wilhelm Karl Florestan Gero Crescentius; German Fürst Wilhelm von Urach, Graf von Württemberg, 2. Herzog von Urach; 30 May 1864 – 24 March 1928) was a German prince elected King of Lithuania with the regnal name Mindaugas II on 11 July 1918. He never assumed the crown, however, as German authorities declared the election invalid;[1] the invitation was withdrawn in November 1918. From 17 July 1869 until his death he was head of the morganatic Urach branch of the House of Württemberg.

Early life[edit]

Born as His Serene Highness Prince Wilhelm Karl Florestan Gero Crescentius of Urach, Count of Württemberg, he was the elder son of Wilhelm, 1st Duke of Urach (the head of a morganatic branch of the Royal House of the Kingdom of Württemberg), and his second wife, Princess Florestine of Monaco, occasional acting Regent of Monaco and daughter of Florestan I, Prince of Monaco.

At the age of four, Wilhelm succeeded his father as Duke of Urach. He was born and spent much of his childhood in Monaco, where his mother Florestine often managed the government when her nephew, Prince Albert I of Monaco, was out of the country on extended oceanographic excursions. Wilhelm was culturally francophone.

Candidate for various thrones[edit]

Through his mother, Wilhelm was the legitimate heir eventual to the throne of Monaco. Wilhelm's cousin Prince Albert I of Monaco had only one son, Louis, who was unmarried and had no legitimate children. The French Republic, however, was reluctant to see a German prince ruling Monaco. Under French pressure, Monaco passed a law in 1911 recognising Louis's illegitimate daughter, Charlotte, as heir; she was adopted in 1918 by her grandfather Prince Albert I as part of the Monaco Succession Crisis of 1918. Wilhelm was relegated to third in line to Monaco's throne, behind Louis and Charlotte. Furthermore, in July 1918 France and Monaco signed the Franco-Monegasque Treaty; it required all future princes of Monaco to be French or Monegasque citizens and secure the approval the French government to succeed to the throne.[2] After the accession of Prince Louis II in 1922, Wilhelm renounced his rights of succession to the throne of Monaco in favour of distant French cousins, the counts de Chabrillan, in 1924.

In 1913, Wilhelm was one of several princes considered for the throne of Albania;[3] he was supported by Catholic groups in the north. In 1914 Prince William of Wied was selected instead.

In 1917, as a newly retired general, Wilhelm sounded out the possibility of being made Duke of Lorraine after the war was over. In 1918, he accepted the short-lived invitation to reign as Mindaugas II of Lithuania. His claims were published in a 2001 essay by his grandson-in-law, Sergei von Cube.[4]

Military career[edit]

Typical of his family, Wilhelm entered the army in 1883 and was a professional general by the outbreak of World War I in 1914 as commander of the 26th Infantry Division (1st Royal Württemberg) of the Imperial German Army.[5] Until November 1914 this division was part of the German assault on France, and then Belgium, where Wilhelm's sister-in-law Elisabeth of Belgium was queen. In December 1914, the division fought in the battle to cross the Bzura river in Poland. From June to September 1915, the division moved from north of Warsaw to positions close to the Neman River, an advance of hundreds of miles in the campaign in which Poland was taken (the Great Russian Retreat of World War I. In October–November 1915, the division took part in the Serbian Campaign, moving from west of Belgrade to Kraljevo in less than a month. The division served at Ypres in Belgium from December 1915 to July 1916, then was largely destroyed at the Somme battles from August to November 1916 while holding the Schwaben Redoubt (Swabia is part of Württemberg). Wilhelm retired as divisional general on 5 January 1917.[6]

In 1917–18, Wilhelm was General Officer Commanding of the 64th Corps (Generalkommando 64) on the western front; one of his aides de camp was Erwin Rommel.[7]

King of Lithuania[edit]

On 4 June 1918, the Council of Lithuania voted to invite Wilhelm to become the king of a newly-independent Lithuania. Wilhelm agreed and was elected on 11 July 1918, taking the name Mindaugas II. His election can be explained by several factors:[8]

  • he was Roman Catholic (the dominant religion in Lithuania);
  • he was not a member of the House of Hohenzollern, the family to which belonged the German Emperor William II, who wanted Lithuania to be a monarchy in personal union with Prussia;
  • the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March 1918 had established Germany's power in the region, for the time being;
  • he had had a successful military career;
  • if the Central Powers were to win the war, Lithuania could have expected German protection in the event of future intrusions by Russia.

According to Wilhelm's agreement with the Council of Lithuania, he had to live in Lithuania and learn to speak its language.

From the beginning, Wilhelm's reign was controversial. The four socialists of the twenty members of the Council of Lithuania left in protest. The German government did not recognize Wilhelm's selection as king, although the influential publicist and politician Mattias Erzberger, also a Catholic from Württemberg, supported the claim. Wilhelm never had the chance to visit Lithuania;[9] he remained instead at Lichtenstein Castle, his home south of Stuttgart. He did start to learn the Lithuanian language, however.[10] Within a few months of his election, it became clear that Germany would lose World War I, and on 2 November 1918, the Council of Lithuania reversed its decision.

In the tiny chapel of Lichtenstein Castle is a framed letter from Pope Benedict XV welcoming Wilhelm's selection as the future king of Lithuania.[11]

In 2009 Wilhelm's grandson Inigo was interviewed on television in Vilnius, and said: "...if he was honoured with a proposal to assume the throne of Lithuania, he would not refuse it."[12]

The German anti-war novelist Arnold Zweig set his 1937 novel Einsetzung eines Königs (The Crowning of a King) around the election of Mindaugas in 1918.[13]

Marriage and children[edit]

Wilhelm Karl and his family

Wilhelm was married twice. In 1892, he married Duchess Amalie in Bavaria (1865–1912), daughter of Karl-Theodor, Duke in Bavaria, a niece of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and a direct descendant of the Lithuanian princess Louise Caroline Radvila of Biržai. Nine children were born of this marriage:

Though Wilhelm's first wife had died in 1912, two of her ancestors had been elected to rule the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century: August III the Saxon and Stanisław Leszczyński. In 1924, Wilhelm married Princess Wiltrud of Bavaria (1884–1975), daughter of King Ludwig III of Bavaria. This marriage was childless.

Prince Eberhard's son Inigo made a sentimental journey to Lithuania in November 2009, which was covered by the local media.[14][15]

Bypassed for the throne of Württemberg[edit]

In 1921 the former king Wilhelm II of Württemberg died, without leaving a male heir. While the 2nd duke of Urach was technically the senior male descendant from the Württemberg royal family, it had already been decided that the succession would pass to his cousin Duke Albrecht because of the morganatic marriage of the parents of the first duke of Urach.

See also[edit]

Ancestors[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Holborn, Hajo (1982). A history of Modern Germany. Princeton University Press. p. 429. ISBN 0-691-00797-7. 
  2. ^ 1918 Franco-Monegasque Treaty text
  3. ^ Arben Puto, L'indépendance albanaise et la diplomatie des grandes puissances: 1912–1914 (Tirana: Editions "8 Nëntori", 1982), 456.
  4. ^ Von Cube Essay, 2000
  5. ^ http://home.comcast.net/~jcviser/akb/urach.htm
  6. ^ Online history o the division
  7. ^ http://home.comcast.net/~jcviser/akb/rommel.htm
  8. ^ See von Cube's essay, op.cit.
  9. ^ Page, Stanley W. (1959). The Formation of the Baltic States. Harvard University Press. p. 94. 
  10. ^ Mindaugas Peleckis and Tomas Baranauskas.Karališkojo kraujo paieškos: Lietuva ir šimto dienų karalius. Retrieved in 20 June 2007
  11. ^ Stuttgart archives, HStA. GU 117, file 847: copy of letter from Benedict XV dated 24 July 1918.
  12. ^ http://lietuva.lt/en/news/view/id.1189/
  13. ^ Eric Sutton (Translator); "The Crowning of a King", English edition; The Viking Press, 1938 ASIN: B00085BS08
  14. ^ TV coverage (in Lithuanian and English)
  15. ^ Lithuanian web page

External links[edit]

Wilhelm Karl, Duke of Urach
Born: 30 May 1864 Died: 24 March 1928
German nobility
Preceded by
Wilhelm, 1st Duke of Urach
Duke of Urach

Wappen des Herzogs von Urach.svg
1869–1928

Succeeded by
Karl Gero, 3rd Duke of Urach
Regnal titles
Vacant
Title last held by
Vytautas
King of Lithuania
4 June 1918 – 2 November 1918
Succeeded by
Republic established
Titles in pretence
Republic established — TITULAR —
King of Lithuania
2 November 1918 – 24 March 1928
Succeeded by
Karl I