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Wilhelm
File:William, German Crown Prince.jpg
German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia
Preceded by Wilhelm II
Succeeded by Prince Louis Ferdinand
Personal details
Born (1882-05-06)6 May 1882
Potsdam, Brandenburg, German Empire
Died 20 July 1951(1951-07-20) (aged 69)
Hechingen, Germany
Spouse(s) Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Friedrich Wilhelm Victor Augustus Ernest (German language: 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.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Crown Prince Wilhelm, aged 19, wearing civilian clothing

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, his great-grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I, was the reigning emperor and his grandfather, Crown Prince Frederick,Frederick IIIwas heir to the throne, making Wilhelm third in line to the throne. 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.[1] 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 (now Länderpokal), the oldest cup competition in German football.[2] The German club BFC Preussen was also originally named BFC Friedrich Wilhelm in his honour.

Relations with his family[edit | edit source]

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 in Danzig, away from the Imperial court. After initial interest in his wife, he returned to his previous interest in other women.[citation needed]

During his stay in Danzig he used to regularly play tennis in Zopot. This afforded him a chance to meet many beautiful women, many of them coming from Warsaw to stay at the spa.[citation needed]

In 1914, his father ordered the construction of Schloss Cecilienhof in Potsdam for Wilhelm and his family. It was finished in 1917 and became the main residence for the crown prince for a time.

World War I[edit | edit source]

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.[3][4] 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."

—Crown Prince Wilhelm, Wiegand[3][4]

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.[citation needed]

1918–34[edit | edit source]

Meeting politician Adolf Hitler in 1933.

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 Wilhelm and the Crown Prince voiced his interest in returning to Germany, even as a private citizen. After Stresemann became chancellor in August 1923, Wilhelm 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.[5]: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 Wilhelm and Cecilie. This was limited in duration to three generations.[5]:9–12 The family also kept the ownership of Monbijou Palace in Berlin, Oels Castle in Silesia and Rheinsberg Palace until 1945.[citation needed]

Wilhelm subsequently broke the promise he had made to Stresemann to stay out of politics. Adolf Hitler visited Wilhelm at Cecilienhof three times, in 1926, in 1933 (on the "Day of Potsdam") and in 1935. Wilhelm joined the Stahlhelm which merged in 1931 into the Harzburg Front, a right-wing organisation of those opposed to the democratic republic.[5]: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, Wilhelm supported the rise to power of Hitler.[5]:13

1934–51[edit | edit source]

Cecilienhof

Oels Castle

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.[citation needed]

When Wilhelm realized that Hitler had no intention of restoring the monarchy, their relationship cooled. Upon his father's death in 1941, Wilhelm 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 Wilhelm turned them down. After the assassination attempt on 20 July 1944, Hitler nevertheless had Wilhelm placed under supervision by the Gestapo and had his home at Cecilienhof watched.[5]:11–15

In January 1945, Wilhelm 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, Wilhelm's home, Cecilienhof, was seized by the Soviets.[5]:15–16

On 20 July 1951, the former Crown Prince died of a heart attack in Hechingen, in the ancestral lands of his family in Swabia, not far from Hohenzollern Castle.[5]:16 Wilhelm and his wife are buried at Hohenzollern Castle.[6]

Family and children[edit | edit source]

With his father and his son Prince Wilhelm in 1927

His wife and daughters in 1934

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.[citation needed]

Their children and male-line grandchildren are:

Their surviving descendants are also in the line of succession to the British throne.

Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit | edit source]

Titles and styles[edit | edit source]

  • 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

Ancestry[edit | edit source]

Decorations and awards[edit | edit source]

German honours
Foreign honors

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Queen Victoria's Family, A Century of Photographs, Charlotte Zeepvat
  2. "Kick it like Kronprinz" (German) Spiegel Online. Retrieved 11 June 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 Elter page 74
  4. 4.0 4.1 Wiegand page 3
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Müller, Heike; Berndt, Harald (2006). Schloss Cecilienhof und die Konferenz von Potsdam 1945 (German). Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten. ISBN 3-910068-16-2. 
  6. http://www.preussen.de: Wilhelm, Cecilie
  7. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 11 january 1900. 

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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