Born in Bohemia in a village now belonging to Nový Bor, Knechtel worked in Prague, then entered into the service of Archduke Maximilian in 1860 at Miramare Castle in Trieste, Italy. When the Archduke was crowned emperor of Mexico, Wilhelm accompanied him and designed various gardens in Mexico City, including the roof garden in Chapultepec Castle.
After Maximilian's incarceration in June 1867, he briefly served in Lacroma (a small island in the Adriatic Sea), before going into the service of Domnitor, later King Carol I of Romania, as Director of Gardens and Professor of Botany at the Bucharest School of Agriculture. He was knighted Cavaler al Ordinului Coroanei României (Knight of the Order of the Romanian Crown) by Carol I of Romania on 17 January 1883.
After his death, Wilhelm Knechtel was buried in the Lutheran Cemetery in Bucharest.
- Handschriftliche Aufzeichnungen meiner persönlichen Eindrücke und Erlebnisse in Mexiko in den Jahren 1864-1867 / Memorias del jardinero de Maximiliano de México (Written notes of my personal impressions and experiences in Mexico in the years between 1864-1867 / Memoires of the gardener to Maximilian of Mexico). Translation by Susanne Igler, Prologue by Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan, Edition by Jean-Gerard Sidaner. To be published in Mexico City by The National Museum of History, Castillo de Chapultepec, Mexico (2000/2001). German original published in approx. 1905 by Karl Bellmann (Prague).
- Gómez Tepexicuapan, Amparo: „Los jardines de Chapultepec en el siglo XIX“. in: Arqueología mexicana Vol. x, 57 (Sept.-Oct. 2002). S. 48-53.
- Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. "Traducción al español del jardinero de Maximiliano". in: La Cultura, Sala de Prensa. 15.01.2001.
- Igler, Susanne. "'México es el México que yo invento' -La percepción europea de México en la época de la Intervención Francesa: las Memorias manuscritas del jardinero imperial Wilhelm Knechtel". (Actas del III Congreso Internacional Alexander von Humboldt).
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