Updated: Nov 3, 2020
With special thanks to Simon Tierney as always with the Research for WW1 photographs in the collection!
Kaiserfest Grüß! [Greetings on the Kaiserfest] This photograph from the collection is Celebrating the 161st anniversary of the birth of Kaiser Wilhelm II [27 January 1859 – 4 June 1941]
The photograph shows a candid and relaxed photograph of Kaiser Wilhelm II mixing with officers and men of both the Army and Navy. The Kaiser speaking with a Kapitainleutnant of the Kaisermarine (Lt. Commander, German Navy) with two other officers of the Kaisermarine in the vicinity of the “Kauleut”. The Kaiser is accompanied by members of his personal staff, which on this occasion includes his youngest son and sixth child; Prince Joachim of Prussia (17 December 1890 – 18 July 1920) to the direct right and rear of the Kaiser. Sadly, Prince Joachim would commit suicide at age 29 suffering with severe depression. To the Kaiser’s right, we see General (later Field Marshall) August von Mackensen (usually seen in Hussars attire, but here, dressed a normal General). The troops in the background are a rather mixed bunch. In the extreme rear we see Greatcoat clad soldiers in Steel Helmets (placing this photo into the winter of 1916) and in the foreground we see the earlier war head gears in the form of a Cuirassier wearing his metal helmet (and carrying a pennant) several Infantiers wearing Pickelhaubes, an Uhlan in his Tschapka (in the background between the Kaiser and von Mackensen). A very unusual photo, that must have been an officer’s personal souvenir of the occasion.
Bon “Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert von Hohenzollern, on 27 January 1859 to the Crown-Prince of Prussia, Frederick, and the Princess Royal of Great Britain, Victoria. Thus at birth, his Grandparents were the Monarchs of Germany and England, and within 11 years, his Grandfather would become the First Kaiser of the II Reich. Born of the Scions of Victoria, Queen Empress of Great Britain and Kaiser Wilhelm the Great, the young Prince Wilhelm would have enjoyed a great deal of opulence. Sadly, he was born with a disfigured and weak arm, which he took pains to hide, and in fact his other arm became so strong he could break people’s hands during handshakes. When his Grandfather died in 1888, his father succeeded to become Kaiser Friedrich III, but his reign lasted on 99 days, so later the same year, Wilhelm ascended to become Kaiser Wilhelm II (in honour of his Grandfather) instead of his first given name of Friedrich. He was happily married to Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, and had 7 children with her, 6 sons, and 1 daughter.
Empress Augusta, known affectionately as "Dona", was a constant companion to Wilhelm, and her death on 11 April 1921 was a devastating blow. It also came less than a year after their son Joachim committed suicide. Ultimately, Kaiser Wilhelm II oversaw a largely Golden era in Germany, which owing to the unforeseen circumstances of the inter-locking European Treaties, where a Liberal Government in Britain in-explicably signed a treaty with the French (the traditional enemy) over that of Germany (the traditional ally, and actual family), causing the domino effect leading to WW1. Frankly, Britain had no vested interest in protecting France, and WW1 would have been significantly smaller and shorter without the sudden inclusion of 25% of the Worlds population getting involved when Britain was pulled into the war via the Treaty.
Ultimately, Germany lost WW1 as a result of the successful blockade of shipping by the Royal Navy, throttling supplies, and the enormous manpower of Britain and its Empire (India, Africa, etc.) and its Commonwealth (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) coming to bear. Germany successfully defeated Russia owing to the 1917 Revolution in Russia, and was able to focus on the Western Front, too late, as the USA was bringing its weight to bear by this point in terms of Materiel and increasing Manpower. Kaiser Wilhelm would be forced to abdicate in November 1918, and would go on to die in exile in the Netherlands on 4 June 1941. He has many descendants today, who are still public figures. History has painted him as a villain at times, but despite a number of character flaws that most humans have, he was by no means a villain. Whilst in the early days of the rise of the NSDAP, he hoped that the movement in Germany would lead to the restoration of the Monarchy, his optimism was not met in kind as they had no interest in this as it happened. He denounced the barbarism of Kristalnacht, and began to be very critical of the terror campaigns.