Beginning in the 12th century the site was used as a monastery. Under Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse 1504-1567 it was secularised and used as a castle. This castle was replaced by a new one from 1606 to 1610 by Landgrave Moritz. Schloss Wilhelmshöhe was designed by the architect Simon Louis du Ry from 1786 to 1798.
As King of Westphalia, Jérôme Bonaparte renamed it Napoleonshöhe and appointed his Head Chamberlain Heinrich von Blumenthal as its governor, with instructions to supervise extensive renovations. After the Franco-Prussian War, the Prussian King offered the defeated Emperor Napoleon III accommodation there. From 1899 to 1918 Wilhelmshöhe was the summer residence of the German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II. In 1918, after the defeat of Germany at the end of World War I, Paul von Hindenburg organized and led the withdrawal and demobilization of the German troops there.
The middle tract of the castle was substantially destroyed during the Second World War. The first reconstruction was made in 1968-1974 by the functionalist architect Paul Friedrich Posenenske. He reconstructed completely the exterior but changed the structure of the interior for its new function as an art museum. From 1994 to 2000 a renovation was made to bring it closer to the original structure.
Today the Wilhelmshöhe Castle Museum houses the antiquities collection, the Gallery of the Old Masters (which includes one of the world's largest Rembrandt collections) and the Graphic Arts Collection.
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