|German Emperor; King of Prussia
|Regent of the Kingdom of Prussia|
|Regent||1858 – 1861|
|King of Prussia|
|Reign||2 January 1861 – 19 May 1880|
|Predecessor||Frederick William IV|
|Reign||18 January 1871 – 19 May 1880|
|Born||22 March 1797 |
|Died||19 May 1880 (aged 83) |
|Spouse||Augusta of Saxe-Weimar|
|Issue||Frederick III, German Emperor|
Louise, Grand Duchess of Baden
|House||House of Hohenzollern|
|Father||Frederick William III|
|Mother||Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz|
|Burial||Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin|
|Signature||Wilhelm I, German Emperor (Groß-Deutschland)'s signature|
Wilhelm I, also known as Wilhelm the Great (William Frederick Louis, German: de) (22 March 1797 – 19 May 1880) of the House of Hohenzollern was the King of Prussia (2 January 1861 – 19 May 1880) and the first German Emperor (18 January 1871 – 19 May 1880).
Early life and military career
The future king and emperor was born Frederick Louis of Prussia (Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig von Preußen) in Berlin. As the second son of King Frederick William III and Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, William was not expected to ascend to the throne and hence received little education.
Wilhelm served in the army from 1814 onward, fought against Napoleon I of France during the Napoleonic Wars, and was reportedly a very brave soldier. He fought under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battles of Waterloo and Ligny. He also became an excellent diplomat by engaging in diplomatic missions after 1815.
During the Revolutions of 1848, William successfully crushed a revolt that was aimed at his elder brother King Frederick William IV. The use of cannons made him unpopular at the time and earned him the nickname Kartätschenprinz (Prince of Grapeshot).
In 1854 the prince was raised to the rank of a field-marshal and made governor of the federal fortress of Mainz. In 1857 Frederick William IV suffered a stroke and became mentally disabled for the rest of his life. In January 1858 Wilhelm became Prince Regent for his brother.
On 2 January 1861 Frederick William died and Wilhelm ascended the throne as Wilhelm I of Prussia. He inherited a conflict between Frederick William and the liberal parliament. He was considered a politically neutral person as he intervened less in politics than his brother. Wilhelm nevertheless found a conservative solution for the conflict: he appointed Otto von Bismarck to the office of Prime Minister. According to the Prussian constitution, the Prime Minister was responsible solely to the king, not to parliament. Bismarck liked to see his working relationship with Wilhelm as that of a vassal to his feudal superior. Nonetheless it was Bismarck who effectively directed the politics, domestic as well as foreign; on several occasions he gained Wilhelm's assent by threatening to resign.
During the Franco-Prussian War, on 18 January 1871 in Versailles Palace, Wilhelm was proclaimed German Emperor. The title "German Emperor" was carefully chosen by Bismarck after discussion until (and after) the day of the proclamation. Wilhelm accepted this title grudgingly as he would have preferred "Emperor of Germany" which, however, was unacceptable to the federated monarchs, and would also have signalled a claim to lands outside of his reign (Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg etc.). The title "Emperor of the Germans", as proposed in 1848, was ruled out as he considered himself chosen "by the grace of God", not by the people as in a democratic republic.
By this ceremony, the North German Confederation (1867–1871) was transformed into the German Empire ("Kaiserreich", 1871–1918). This Empire was a federal state; the emperor was head of state and president (primus inter pares – first among equals) of the federated monarchs (the kings of Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, the grand dukes of Baden, Mecklenburg, Hesse, as well as other principalities, duchies and the senates of the free cities of Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen).
In his memoirs, Bismarck describes Wilhelm as an old-fashioned, courteous, infallibly polite gentleman and a genuine Prussian officer, whose good common sense was occasionally undermined by "female influences."
On 11 May 1878, a plumber named Emil Max Hödel failed in an assassination on Wilhelm in Berlin. Hödel used a revolver to shoot at the German Emperor, while the 82-year-old and his daughter, Princess Louise of Prussia, paraded in their carriage. When the bullet missed, Hödel ran across the street and fired another round which also missed. In the commotion one of the individuals who tried to apprehend Hödel suffered severe internal injuries and died two days later.
The State convicted Hödel after a photographer who took the radical’s picture days before the assassination attempt testified that after he took the picture Hödel said it would sell thousands once a certain piece of information [was] hashed through the world. Hödel was beheaded on 16 August 1878.
A second attempt was made on 2 June 1878, by the anarchist Karl Nobiling. Nobiling fired at the monarch from the window of a house in "Unter den Linden" as he drove past in an open carriage. The shot gravely wounded the 82 year old, who bled profusely as he was rushed back to the palace.
Despite the fact that Hödel had been expelled from the Social Democratic Party, his actions were used as a pretext to ban the party through the Anti-Socialist Law in October 1878. To do this, Bismarck partnered with Ludwig Bamberger, a Liberal, who had written on the subject of Socialism, “If I don’t want any chickens, then I must smash the eggs.” No one in the Social-Democratic Party even knew of Karl Nobiling, but that is not to say that he was not politically motivated. Unfortunately, the aspiring assassin mortally wounded himself before he could be interrogated. The gunshot to the head did not immediately kill him, but he finally succumbed to his injuries in September 1878.
These attempts became the pretext for the institution of the Anti-Socialist Law, which was introduced by Bismarck’s government with the support of a majority in the Reichstag on 18 October 1878, for the purpose of fighting the socialist and working-class movement. The laws deprived the Social Democratic Party of Germany of its legal status; they prohibited all organizations, workers’ mass organizations and the socialist and workers’ press, decreed confiscation of socialist literature, and subjected Social-Democrats to reprisals.
The laws were extended every 2–3 years. Despite this policy of reprisals the Social Democratic Party increased its influence among the masses. Under pressure of the mass working-class movement, and displeasure with the laws by Kaiser Friedrich III, the laws were repealed on 21 October 1880.
In 1829, Wilhelm married Augusta of Saxe-Weimar and had two children:
Titles, styles, honours and arms
|Monarchical Styles of|
German Emperor Wilhelm I, King of Prussia
|Reference style||His Imperial and Royal Majesty|
|Spoken style||Your Imperial and Royal Majesty|
Titles and styles
- 22 March 1797–2 January 1861: His Royal Highness Prince William of Prussia
- 2 January 1861–18 January 1871: His Majesty The King of Prussia
- 18 January 1871–19 May 1880: His Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Emperor, King of Prussia
Full title as German Emperor
His Imperial and Royal Majesty Wilhelm the First, by the Grace of God, German Emperor and King of Prussia; Margrave of Brandenburg, Burgrave of Nuremberg, Count of Hohenzollern; sovereign and supreme Duke of Silesia and of the County of Glatz; Grand Duke of the Lower Rhine and of Posen; Duke of Saxony, of Westphalia, of Angria, of Pomerania, Lunenburg, Holstein and Schleswig, of Magdeburg, of Bremen, of Guelders, Cleves, Jülich and Berg, Duke of the Wends and the Kassubes, of Crossen, Lauenburg and Mecklenburg; Landgrave of Hesse and Thuringia; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia; Prince of Orange; Prince of Rügen, of East Friesland, of Paderborn and Pyrmont, of Halberstadt, Münster, Minden, Osnabrück, Hildesheim, of Verden, Cammin, Fulda, Nassau and Moers; Princely Count of Henneberg; Count of Mark, of Ravensberg, of Hohenstein, Tecklenburg and Lingen, of Mansfeld, Sigmaringen and Veringen; Lord of Frankfurt.
- German monarchs family tree. He was related to every other monarch of Germany.
- Ybarra, Thomas R. Wilhelm II. (1921). The Kaiser's Memoirs: Wilhelm II, Emperor Of Germany, 1888–1918. Harper And Brothers Publisher. ISBN 0548323305
- 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/William I (Germany)
- Rudolf Graf v. Stillfried: Die Titel und Wappen des preußischen Königshauses. Berlin 1875.
- Thomas Weiberg: … wie immer Deine Dona. Verlobung und Hochzeit des letzten deutschen Kaiserpaares. Isensee-Verlag, Oldenburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-89995-406-7
Wilhelm I, German Emperor (Groß-Deutschland)Born: 22 March 1797 Died: 19 May 1880
Frederick William IV
|King of Prussia
2 January 1861 – 19 May 1880
Prince Regent since 1858
18 January 1871 – 19 May 1880
Christian IX of Denmark
|Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg
1864 – 1876
|Incorporated into the|
Title last held byFrederick VII of Denmark
|Duke of Schleswig and Holstein|
1864 – 1880
Adolphe of Luxembourg
|Prince of Nassau|
1866 – 1880
Frederick William of Hesse
|Landgrave of Hesse|
Prince of Fulda
1866 – 1880
|Lord of Frankfurt|
1866 – 1880
George V of Hanover
|Prince of East Friesland, Osnabrück,|
Hildesheim and Verden
Count of Lingen and Tecklenburg
1866 – 1880
Francis Joseph I of Austria
|President of the North German Confederation
1 July 1867 – 18 January 1871