Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (1906–1940)
Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (Wilhelm Friedrich Franz Joseph Christian Olaf; 4 July 1906 – 26 May 1940) was the eldest child of Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany and Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. At his birth, he was second in line to the German throne and was expected to succeed to the throne after the deaths of his grandfather and father, both of whom, however, outlived him.
Early life and childhood
Wilhelm was born on 4 July 1906 at the Hohenzollern family's private summer residence, Marmorpalais, or Marble Palace, near Potsdam, where his parents were residing until their own home, Schloss Cecilienhof, could be completed. His father was Crown Prince Wilhelm, the eldest son and heir to the German Emperor, Wilhelm II. His mother was Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria was one of the Prince's godfathers.
On his tenth birthday in 1916, Wilhelm was made a lieutenant in the 1st Guards Regiment, and was given the Order of the Black Eagle by his grandfather. Two years later, when he was only twelve, the German monarchy was abolished. Wilhelm and his family remained in Germany, though his grandfather, the former Emperor, went into exile in the Netherlands. The former Crown Prince and his family remained in Potsdam, where Wilhelm and his younger brothers attended the local gymnasium.
After graduating from secondary school, Wilhelm went on to study at the Universities of Königsberg, Munich and Bonn. In 1926, while a student at the University of Bonn, Wilhelm joined the Borussia Corps, a student organization of which his father, grandfather, and other members of the Prussian Royal Family were members.
Marriage and children
While a student at Bonn, Wilhelm fell in love with a fellow student, Dorothea von Salviati (10 September 1907 – 7 May 1972). His grandfather did not approve of the marriage of a member of the minor nobility with the second in line to the German throne. At the time, the former Kaiser still believed in the possibility of a Hohenzollern restoration, and he would not permit his grandson to make an unequal marriage. Wilhelm told his grandson: "Remember, there is every possible form of horse. We are thoroughbreds, however, and when we conclude a marriage such as with Fräulein von Salviati, it produces mongrels, and that cannot be allowed to happen."
However, Wilhelm was determined to marry Dorothea. He renounced any rights to the succession for himself and his future children in 1933. Wilhelm and Dorothea married on 3 June 1933 in Bonn. They had two daughters. In 1940, the ex-Emperor recognised the marriage as dynastic and the girls were accorded the style of Princesses of Prussia, although their father was not restored to his former place in the putative line of succession,
- HRH Princess Felicitas Cecilie Alexandrine Helene Dorothea of Prussia, (7 June 1934–1 August 2009), married Dinnies von der Osten on 12 September 1958 and they were divorced in 1972, with issue.
- HRH Princess Christa Friederike Alexandrine Viktoria of Prussia, (31 October 1936) she married Peter von Assis Liebes on 24 March 1960, without issue.
During the Weimar Republic, Wilhelm inadvertently caused a public scandal by attending Army manoeuvres in the uniform of the old Imperial First Foot Guards without first seeking government approval. The commander of the Reichswehr, Hans von Seeckt, was forced to resign as a result.
Death and reaction
In May 1940, Wilhelm took part in the invasion of France. He was wounded during the fighting in Valenciennes and died in a field hospital in Nivelles on 26 May 1940. His funeral service was held at the Church of Peace, and he was buried in the Hohenzollern family mausoleum in the Antique Temple in Sanssouci Park. The service drew over 50,000 mourners, by far the largest unofficial public turnout during Nazi rule in Germany.
His death and the ensuing sympathy of the German public revealed that despite years of Nazi ideologic indoctrination large parts of the German society still were affectionately bound to the former German royal houses. Thus Hitler began to see the Hohenzollerns as a threat to his regime. Shortly after Wilhelm's death, a decree known as the Prinzenerlaß, or Prince's Decree, was issued, barring all members of the former German royal houses from service in the Wehrmacht.
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