Saturday, 15 February 2014

Three Royal Cousins: Wilhelm II

Did anyone catch the BBC's Royal Cousins at War? It was a fascinating inside look into the relationship between three twentieth century monarchs: Wilhelm II of Germany, Nicholas II of Russia, and George V of Britain. They ruled vastly different countries and had vastly different levels of power, but they were connected by blood, and by the fact that none of them had a leader's personality. Wilhelm was emotionally damaged and unstable, Nicholas was much more suited to a life dedicated to family and home, and George was too quiet, reserved and inadequately educated for his position.

The Kaiser, Tsar and British King sat on the throne of their respective countries when World War One broke out, a war which all three attempted to stir their countries away from. Their efforts were futile and Europe fell into bloody chaos. Only George came out relatively intact; Wilhelm lost his throne and was exiled, but, more tragically, it was Nicholas who lost it all. He and his family were brutally executed by a drunken firing squad. II is possibly the least famous of the trio, although he has the dubious title of being the last German Emperor. He was the son of Queen Victoria's oldest daughter Vicky. His birth was a difficult one, leaving him with a minor physical disability. His mother saw his condition as a personal failure and tried endlessly to correct it, causing Wilhelm, who was sensitive and emotional, much hurt from which he never truly recovered. The German Kaiser remained to his very last days the black sheep of the family, the one everyone dreaded getting a visit from.

He was married twice. Firstly to Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, with whom he had seven children, and secondly to Hermine Reuss after the death of his fist wife. Augusta Victoria was to all extents a perfect queen-wife. She didn't stick to the usual 'an heir and a spare' but gave Wilhelm six sons (and one daughter).

Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor August Ernst - The Crown Prince that was never to be Emperor. Like his father, he was given Friedrich as a first name but is known to history by his middle name. Friedrich is the German form of Frederick, meaning 'peaceful ruler'.

Wilhelm Eitel Friedrich Christian Karl - Another son known by his middle names, Eitel Friedrich. Like many second sons, Eitel was destined for a life in the army and fought in the First World War. Eitel's name has a meaning relating to a sword.

Adalbert Ferdinand Berengar Viktor - Adalbert was also a military man. His first name is an Old German form of Albert, meaning noble and bright. 

August Wilhelm Heinrich G√ľnther Viktor - Sadly, August Wilhelm was a gay man at a time when being homosexual could cost him his reputation, even his life. His father lost an immense amount of power after it came out that one of his closest advisers was gay, so it was very unlikely that he would allow even a hint of homosexuality to touch one of his sons. August, the German form of Augustus, has the meaning of 'great'.

Oskar Karl Gustav Adolf - There was some controversy with his marriage to his intended wife Ina Marie, but his father's power meant that the couple had a way to overcome it. The couple went on to have four children together. His name is the German form of Oscar, with the possible meaning of 'deer lover' or 'spear of god', depending on what origin you believe to be correct. Franz Humbert - Of Wilhelm's children, it was his youngest son, Joachim, who took the monarchy's removal from power the hardest. It meant that he was now a commoner and no longer part of the highest ruling circles. This, combined with his depression and the break up of his marriage, led Joachim to commit suicide aged only 29. His name may have the possible meaning of 'established by god'.

Viktoria Luise Adelheid Mathilde Charlotte - Wilhelm had a difficult relationship with England, but he always held great fondness for his grandmother, Queen Victoria, and it was after her that Viktoria Luise was named. Officially known by both of her first names, she was affectionately known as Sissy to the family. A bright, willful and spirited girl, Viktoria Luise was her father's favourite, and he made sure that her wedding to the Duke of Brunswick was spectacular. It brought together, for the last time in history, much of the interconnected royal families of Europe. Her name, the German form of Victoria, means 'victor', but is now more commonly seen as meaning 'victory'.

The grandchildren of Wilhelm II

Wilhelm Friedrich Franz Joseph Christian Olaf
Louis Ferdinand Viktor Eduard Albert Michael Hubertus
Hubertus Karl Wilhelm
Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Christoph
Wilhelm Viktor Ernst Freund  Friedrich Georg Adalbert
Alexander Ferdinand Albrecht Achilles Wilhelm Joseph Viktor Karl Feodor
Oskar Wilhelm Karl Hans Kuno
Burchard Friedrich Max Werner Georg
Wilhelm Karl Adalbert Erich Detloff 
Karl Franz Josef Wilhelm Friedrich Eduard Paul
Ernst August Georg Wilhelm Christian Ludwig Franz Joseph Nikolaus Oskar
Georg Wilhelm Ernst August Friedrich Axel
Christian Oskar Ernst August Wilhelm Viktor Georg Heinrich
Welf Heinrich Ernst August Georg Christian Berthold Friedrich Wilhelm Louis Ferdinand

Alexandrine Irene
Cecilie Viktoria Anastasia Zita Thyra Adelheid
Viktoria Marina
Herzeleine-Ian-Marie Sophie Charlotte Else
Frederica Louisa Thyra Victoria Margareta Sophia Olga Cecilie Isabelle Christa

Image: Wilhelm, Deutscher Kaiser by Adolf Emil Hering and Wilhelm and Augusta Viktoria.