Born in Germany in 1859, to Germany's Frederick III and Victoria, Queen Victoria of England's eldest daughter, Kaiser Wilhelm served as emperor of Germany from 1888 until the end of World War I. During his rule, Germany's relations with Britain, France and Russia became strained. During WWI, Wilhelm allowed his military advisers to dictate German policy. After realizing that Germany would lose the war, Wilhelm abdicated the throne in November 1918 and fled to the Netherlands, where he died in 1941.
Kaiser Wilhelm, also known as Wilhelm II, was born Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert in Potsdam, near Berlin, Germany, to Frederick III of Germany and Victoria (the future Empress Frederick), the eldest daughter of England's Queen Victoria, on January 27, 1859. Wilhelm was born with a withered arm. (Some historians believe that his insecurity over this handicap fueled his later erratic behavior.) His parents, particularly his British mother, tried to provide Wilhelm with a liberal education and a love of England.
After Wilhelm II's grandfather, Wilhelm I, died in 1888, at the age of 90, Frederick III was named emperor. But Frederick III would only rule for 99 days. Following a long battle with throat cancer, Emperor Frederick III died on June 15, 1888. Wilhelm II succeeded his father, becoming kaiser of Germany at the tender age of 29.
Kaiser of Germany
The young kaiser dreamed of building Germany into a major naval, colonial and economic power. Determined to have his own way, he forced Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to resign in 1890, and took charge of domestic and foreign policy himself.
A series of inept political moves and Kaiser Wilhelm's fear of being encircled by enemy states strained Germany's relations with Britain, France and Russia—moves that helped lead to World War I. In 1896, Wilhelm enraged Britain by sending congratulations to Boer (Dutch South African) leader Paul Kruger following the defeat of a British raid into Boer territory. Not long after, Wilhelm rallied German soldiers to fight in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901), nicknaming the soldiers "Huns" and encouraging them to fight like Attila's troops.
During WWI, Wilhelm allowed his military advisers to dictate German policy.
Later Years and Death
After realizing that Germany would lose the war, Wilhelm abdicated the throne on November 9, 1918, and fled to the Netherlands. He resided there as a country gentleman until his death, on June 4, 1941, in Doorn.
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