Kaiser William (or Wilhelm) II was the third and last Emperor of the German Empire and the last king of the Kingdom of Prussia. He remained the emperor for 30 years (1888-1918) while German defeat in the World War I (1914-18) not only ended his reign but also abolished the monarchy.
|Kaiser William II|
William was born on 27th January 1859 in Berlin to the 2nd German Emperor Frederick III. Her mother Victoria was the eldest child of Queen Victoria of the U.K. Wilhelm finished his high school in 1877 while he studied law and politics at University of Bonn. Under the influence of his German tutors, William became extremely antagonist of the British form of democracy while he was much interested in the autocratic rule according to the Prussian thought.
William II as Emperor
On 9th March 1888, Emperor Wilhelm I died who was replaced by Wilhelm II’s father Frederick III. But he also died in June 1888 due to throat cancer and Wilhelm II became the German Emperor on 15th June 1888.
Chancellor Otto von Bismarck was a German statesman who played the most important role for the unification of Germany and the formation of German Empire during the second half of 19th Century. But his relations with Wilhelm III were not courteous due to the latter aggressive foreign policy as opposed to Bismarck’s relatively peaceful and wise policy. Tension between the two rose with passage of time and Bismarck resigned as chancellor in 1890 after insisted by Wilhelm II.
In 1888-89, Wilhelm II suppressed the Abushiri Revolt in the area of German East Africa (now Kenya, Tanzania etc.).
In 1904, the Herero and Namaqua Genocide occurred in the German South-West Africa (now Namibia) when the tribes of Herero and Namaqua rebelled against the German. After the failed revolt, these tribes were driven by German forces into the Namib Desert where thousands died due to thirst and starvation.
In March 1905, Kaiser William II visited Morocco and met with representatives of Sultan of Morocco and assured his support for them for sovereignty of Morocco, which was under the influence of France. This visit started the First Moroccan Crisis which lasted till April 1906. This crisis worsened the relations between Triple Alliance (Germany, Austro-Hungary and Italy) and Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia) and is known as one of the causes of World War I.
Kaiser William II wanted to become the ruler of a country with powerful navy, comparable to the Royal Navy of U.K. For this purpose, five German Naval laws were passed in 1890, 1900, 1906, 1908 and 1912 through which Germany was able to complete the then naval superpower Britain during any conflict.
Kaiser During World War I
On 28th June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo by a Serbian nationalist organization Black Hand. Within two days of this event, Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war against Serbia and Russia mobilized its forces in order to defend Serbia. Later, Germany also entered the war in favor of Austro-Hungary.
After initial hostilities, trench battles started without much success for any opposing side. During the last stages of war, the political government of Germany was seen nowhere while the military generals were controlling the whole situation. The situation deteriorated in 1918 for Germany and its allies and the war ended in favor of the Allied Powers in November 1918.
During the last months of 1918, the German Revolution started when the nationalists and socialists both were against the monarchy. Along with that, mutiny was also evident among the ranks of military, especially naval forces. This situation left no option for Kaiser except to resign. After exile, William entered the Netherlands on 10th November 1918 and remained there for the remainder of his life. William II died at the age of 82 on 3rd June 1941, during the World War II.
Place in History
Kaiser William II wanted to become a great ruler of German Empire and took the Empire at the height of glory but he lacked the qualities required for this purpose. He took resignation from Otto van Bismarck, the mind behind the establishment of German Empire in order to become an autocrat monarch.
His aggressive policies paved the way for World War I, including the Moroccan Crisis, building of a powerful navy parallel to the English Royal Navy and his interview to Daily Telegraph. His strategy during World War I also proved damaging as he let his military commanders to control the situation while the political government remained ineffective. His rule deserves to be called as a failed one which not only caused damage to Germany but also took an end to the German Empire.