|Reign||4 June 1941 – 20 July 1951|
|Spouse||Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin|
| Prince Wilhelm|
|House||House of Hohenzollern|
|Father||Wilhelm II, German Emperor|
|Mother||Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein|
|Born|| 6 May 1882|
Potsdam, Prussia, Germany
|Died|| 20 July 1951 (aged 69)|
Hechingen, Württemberg-Hohenzollern, Germany
|Religion||Evangelical Christian Church|
Wilhelm III, (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst von Preußen; Frederick William Victor August Ernest of Prussia; 6 May 1882 – 20 July 1951) was German Emperor and King of Prussia from June 4, 1941 at during World War II until his death on July 20, 1951.
Wilhelm was born on May 6, 1882 in the Marmorpalais of Potsdam in the Province of Brandenburg. He was the eldest son of Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, the future Wilhelm II and his first wife Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein. When he was born, his great-grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I, was the reigning emperor and his grandfather, Crown Prince Frederick, was heir to the throne, making Wilhelm third in line to the throne. He was the eldest of the Wilhelm II'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. 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, the oldest cup competition in German football. The German club BFC Friedrich Wilhelm was also named in his honour.
Relations with his family
Wilhelm II regarded his eldest son with contempt, mainly because of his many affairs with women. In 1901, during a visit to Blenheim Palace in England, the Crown Prince took a strong liking to Gladys Deacon and gave her a ring which she had to return - at his father's insistence. Crown Prince Wilhelm, on the other hand, became noted for his public criticism of the politics of his father. In response, his father found Wilhelm a wife, Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and ordered him to stay in Danzig, away from the Imperial court. After initial interest in his wife, the Prince returned to his previous interest in other women.
In 1914 his father ordered the construction of Schloss Cecilienhof in Potsdam for Prince Wilhelm and his family. Completed in 1917, it became the main residence for the Crown Prince.
World War I
Despite being only thirty-two and having never commanded a unit larger than a regiment he was named commander of the 5th Army in August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I. His father instructed the Crown Prince to defer to the advice of his experienced Chief of Staff Schmidt von Knobelsdorf. 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. 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."
From August 1915 onwards, Wilhelm was given the additional role as commander of Army Group German Crown Prince. In 1916 his troops began the Verdun Offensive, a year long effort to destroy the French armies that would end in failure. Wilhelm relinquished command of the 5th Army in November of that year, but remained commander of Army Group German Crown Prince for the rest of the war.
In the closing days of the war in 1918, the Reichstag enacted the October Constitution which effectively crippled the German monarchy's autocratic powers. Wilhelm subsequently began taking a growing interest in 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 constitution.
In January 1933, the Crown Prince, who had been uneasy with the idea of his father making Hitler Chancellor, was persuaded by Franz von Papen of his plan to have Hitler appointed Chancellor but having von Papen control Hitler from behind the scenes as Vice-Chancellor. It was in part because of this pressure from Wilhelm, that his father appointed Hitler as Chancellor.
World War II and after
When war with the Soviet Union broke out, he accepted command of the 2nd Army, with General Maximilian Reichsfreiherr von Weichs as his chief of staff. Wilhelm requested this as his grandfather commanded the Prussian 2nd Army in 1866. As World War II progressed, his father's attention became focused on foreign affairs and the conduct of the war to the exclusion of all else. Wilhelm, not directly engaged in either of these endeavours, became increasingly sidelined from the affairs of the nation and from his father's attention; Hitler had successfully supplanted the Crown Prince in many of his duties and usurped his position at the old Kaiser's side. Wilhelm was concerned that Germany would lose the war as plans progressed for Operation Barbarossa, the main offensive into Soviet occupied Eastern Europe, scheduled to take place later that year.
The Crown Prince was transferred from occupied France where he lead the 8th Army through Austria becoming a triumphal tour that climaxed in Vienna, on March 15, 1941 when around 200,000 German-Austrians gathered around the Heldenplatz (Square of Heroes) to hear him say in front of tens of thousands of cheering people that:
|“||"Certain foreign newspapers have said that we fell on Austria with brutal methods. I can only say: even in death they cannot stop lying. I have in the course of my life won much love from my people, but when I crossed the frontier (into Austria) there met me such a stream of love as I have never experienced. Not as tyrants have we come, but as liberators."||”|
After he received news of his father's failing health the Crown Prince flew to Berlin on May 10, 1941 to be installed as regent. On the same day he arrived Wilhelm and Hitler reportedly argued over the state of the war, the Crown Prince not aware of the counter offensive that had concluded days before he arrived in Berlin. On June 4, 1941 Wilhelm succeeded his father as German Emperor and King of Prussia. Two hours after Wilhelm II's death, it was announced that as a result of "Law Concerning the Ongoing struggle and preservation of the Reich,", Hitler was now de facto both Germany's head of state and head of government, thereby completing the progress of Gleichschaltung ("Co-ordination"). This action effectively removed all institutional checks and balances on Hitler's power, making the new Kaiser powerless to stop him.
In 1942 after word of the Red Army's surrender, crowds shouted "Wir wollen den Kaiser!" ("We want the Emperor") in front of New Reich Chancellery. In a propaganda gesture of unity between the throne and the government, Hitler allowed Wilhelm to appear with him on the balcony to public acclaim. The stress of the war took its toll on the monarchs health. In January 1945, Wilhelm left Berlin for Oberstdorf for a treatment of his gall and liver problems. On July 20, 1951 the emperor died of a heart attack in Hechingen, in the ancestral lands of his family in Swabia, not far from Hohenzollern Castle.
Family and children
Wilhelm married Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (20 September 1886 – 6 May 1954) in Berlin on June 6, 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 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.
Their children and male-line grandchildren are:
- Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (1906–1940); married Dorothea von Salviati and had issue.
- Princess Felicitas of Prussia (1934–2009)
- Princess Christa of Prussia (born 1936)
- Louis Ferdinand, German Emperor (1907–1994); married Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia and had issue.
- Prince Hubertus of Prussia (1909–1950); married Baroness Maria von Humboldt-Dachroeden and Princess Magdalena Reuss of Köstritz, had issue.
- Princess Anastasia of Prussia (born 1944)
- Princess Marie-Christine of Prussia (1947–1966)
- Prince Frederick of Prussia (1911–1966); married Lady Brigid Guinness and had issue.
- Prince Frederick Nicholas of Prussia (born 1946)
- Prince Andrew of Prussia (born 1947)
- Princess Victoria of Prussia (born 1952)
- Prince Rupert of Prussia (born 1955)
- Princess Antonia of Prussia (born 1955)
- Princess Alexandrine Irene of Prussia (1915–1980), called "Adini", had Down syndrome
- Princess Cecilie Viktoria Anastasia Zita Thyra Adelheid of Prussia (1917–1975), married American interior architect Clyde Harris in 1949, settled with him in Amarillo, Texas and had a daughter in 1954.
Their surviving descendants are also in the line of succession to the British throne.
|Monarchical styles of|
Wilhelm III of Germany
|Reference style||His Imperial and Royal Majesty|
|Spoken style||Your Imperial and Royal Majesty|
- His Royal Highness His Royal Highness Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (1882–1888)
- His Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia (1888–1941)
- His Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Emperor, King of Prussia (1941–1951)
Wilhelm III, Emperor of GermanyBorn: 6 May 1882 Died: 20 July 1951
King of Prussia