William, Crown Prince of Germany and Prussia
Friedrich Wilhelm Victor Augustus Ernest (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst) (6 May 1882 – 20 July 1951) of the House of Hohenzollern was the last Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire. He was known as Wilhelm throughout Europe.
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 Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein (1858–1921). When he was born, he was third in line for the throne, behind his grandfather and father, as the reigning emperor was his great-grandfather, Wilhelm I. 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, Wilhelm asked his aunt Helena to help. His mother was hurt and his grandmother furious. When his great-grandfather and grandfather both died in 1888, he 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, the oldest cup competition in German football. Modern day German club BFC Preussen was originally named BFC Friedrich Wilhelm in his honour.
Relations with his family
Wilhelm was regarded by his father with contempt, mainly because of his many affairs with women. In 1901, during his visit to Blenheim Palace, he took a strong liking to Gladys Deacon and gave her a ring which she had to return on his father's insistence. Wilhelm, on the other hand, became noted for his public criticism of his father's politics. In response, his father found Wilhelm a wife, Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and ordered him to stay away from the Imperial court in Danzig. After initial interest in his wife, he returned to his previous interest in other women.
In 1914, his father ordered the construction of Schloss Cecilienhof in Potsdam for William and his family. It was finished in 1917 and became the main residence for the crown prince for a time.
World War I
Despite being raised within militaristic circles, the Crown Prince had little command experience when he was named commander of the 5th Army in August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I. In November 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 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."
He led the 5th Army until November 1916, a two-year period which included the battle of attrition known as the Verdun Offensive. From April 1916 onward, he tried in vain to convince the supreme command that the Verdun offensive no longer made any sense, but the campaign continued until 2 September of that year.
After the German revolution
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, in the Netherlands. In the fall of 1921, Gustav Stresemann visited William and the Crown Prince voiced his interest in returning to Germany, even as a private citizen. After Stresemann became chancellor in August 1923, William 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.:11-12
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 William and Cecilie. This was limited in duration to three generations.:9-12
William subsequently broke the promise he had made to Stresemann to stay out of politics. Adolf Hitler visited William at Cecilienhof three times, in 1926, in 1933 (on the "Day of Potsdam") and in 1935. William joined the Stahlhelm which merged in 1931 into the Harzburg Front, a right-wing organisation of those opposed to the democratic republic.:13
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, William supported the rise to power of Hitler.:13
After the murder of his friend, the former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, in the Night of the Long Knives (1934), he retreated from all political activities. Most of his efforts from 1919 to 1934 had been directed to making a return of the Hohenzollerns to the throne a viable option, and he had assumed that Hitler would give this idea his support.
When William realized that Hitler had no intention of restoring the monarchy, their relationship cooled. Upon his father's death in 1941, William 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 William turned them down. After the assassination attempt on 20 July 1944, Hitler nevertheless had William placed under supervision by the Gestapo and had his home at Cecilienhof watched.:11-15
In January 1945, William 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 estranged for a long time. At the end of the war, William's home, Cecilienhof, was seized by the Soviets.:15-16
William 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 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 right. He married 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 Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia and had issue.
- Prince Hubertus of Prussia (1909–1950); married Baroness Maria von Humboldt-Dachroeden and Princess Magdalena Reuss of Köstritz, had issue.
- Princess Anastasia of Prussia (born 1944)
- Princess Marie-Christine of Prussia (1947–1966)
- Prince Frederick of Prussia (1911–1966); married 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 Irene of Prussia (1915–1980), called "Adini", had Down syndrome
- Princess Cecilie Viktoria Anastasia Zita Thyra Adelheid of Prussia (1917–1975), married American interior architect Clyde Harris in 1949, settled with him in Amarillo, Texas and had a daughter in 1954.
Their surviving descendants are also in the Line of British succession.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- 6 May 1882 – 15 June 1888: His Royal Highness Prince Wilhelm of Prussia
- 15 June 1888 – 20 July 1951: His Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia
Decorations and awards
- This article incorporates information from the Italian Wikipedia.
- 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)
- Grand Cross of the Military Order of Max Joseph (Bavaria)
- Grand Cross of the Military Order of St. Henry (Saxony)
- Military Merit Cross, 1st class (Mecklenburg-Schwerin)
- Foreign honors
- Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (Austrian branch)
- Knight of the Order of the Garter (United Kingdom) - expelled in 1915
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav (Norway)
- Queen Victoria's Family, A Century of Photographs, Charlotte Zeepvat
- Kick it like Kronprinz (German) Spiegel Online. Retrieved 11 June 2009
- Elter page 74
- Wiegand page 3
- Müller, Heike; Berndt, Harald (2006). Schloss Cecilienhof und die Konferenz von Potsdam 1945 (German). Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten. ISBN 3-910068-16-2.
- www.preussen.de: Wilhelm, Cecilie
- Andreas Elter (April 2003), Die andere Front: Pressepolitik in den USKriegen des 20. Jahrhunderts (PDF) (in German), Cologne, retrieved 5 April 2009
- Karl Henry von Wiegand (1915), Current misconceptions about the war, 1123 Broadway, New York: The Fatherland corporation, inc., retrieved 5 April 2009, "Copyright 1914, United Press ... 20 November"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: William, German Crown Prince|
- The memoirs of the Crown Prince of Germany
- The Life of Crown Prince Wilhelm
- "William". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). 1922.