Monarchs under the Microscope: Kaiser Wilhelm II

Wilhelm II was the last Emperor of the Germanic empire, was this mere coincidence or did Wilhelm destroy the German peoples’ confidence in their own monarchy? :


Beginning his reign in 1888 aged just 29, Wilhelm was one of the youngest rulers the German empire saw. In theory Wilhelm had the potential to be a successful monarch, upon his accession to the throne Germany was in stable condition and gaining strength and reputation within Europe. Also as the son of the daughter of Queen Victoria of England [confusingly also named Victoria] Wilhelm’s strong connections to Britain could have aided Germanic strength.


BUT in reality Wilhelm was a wild-card monarch. His personality is often described as unbalanced. Despite his ability to be sporadically charismatic, at times he was also childish, easily offended, and prone to erratic mood swings. Rumour has it Wilhelm was actually completely unfit to rule; throughout the entirety of his reign he was either unwilling or unable to undertake hard work. He was a compulsive traveller so having meetings with his advisors on a regular basis was practically impossible due to him hardly ever being in the country. Then when advisors did finally get face time with Wilhelm they were actually too scared of his erratic behaviour to tell him any bad news. In Wilhelm’s world Germany was doing splendidly, right up until the bombshell of the first world war landed in the Kaiser’s lap.


This therefore begs the question was he completely delusional??

He almost definitely had an inflated sense of importance. Wilhelm believed he was creating his own personal rule, and that he was in possession of more power than the monarchs that came before him. It was this sense of self-importance that led to him dismiss the infamous Bismarck from his role as Imperial Chancellor. [see more about Bismarck in another post] Wilhelm thought that Bismarck held too much power for a non-monarchical figure, on numerous occasions stating, “there is only one rule in the Reich and I will not tolerate another”, hence his dismissal of the man who single-handedly orchestrated the unification of Germany in 1871.


Reality Strikes: Wilhelm in 1914:

At the outbreak of the first world war, after being consistently ignored and overruled in military decisions [due to Wilhelm’s completely lack of knowledge and expertise] Wilhelm had a crisis of confidence and swiftly transferred his monarchical powers over to the military and civilian administration. He then fled Germany in search of safety, settling in the Netherlands.


Hopping down the timeline somewhat to focus briefly on the Treaty of Versailles- little known treaty facts: Wilhelm was actually saddled heavily with blame for the start of the First World War in the treaty. Article 227 called for Wilhelm to return to Germany to face a full-scale indictment [which of course he never did]


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