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Kaiser Wilhelm II


Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1902 (Wikipedia)

The German Royal Yacht SMY Hohenzollern (Wikipedia)

Kaiser Wilhelm II was the last German Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia. A grandson of Queen Victoria, his parents were Victoria, Princess Royal, the eldest child of the Queen, and Prince Frederick of Prussia.

Wilhelm became Kaiser in 1888 and almost immediately set about bringing Germany back into the forefront of European powers. He forced his chancellor Otto von Bismarck to resign and began to build a navy to rival that of Britain. After attending the Review of the Fleet for Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 he vowed to have a powerful fleet of his own. According to the Turpitz Plan if the German Navy was big enough the Royal Navy would not risk attacking it.

The 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, a personal friend of the Kaiser, prompted German support against Serbia and with Austria-Hungary quickly signing a declaration of war, the Russian were mobilised to defend Serbia, Germany moved on Belgium and France, Britain came to their defence and the First World War had begun. After the Treaty of Verasailes and the defeat of Germany, Wilhelm lived in exile in the Netherlands where he died in 1941.

Wilhelm visited Osborne House on many occasions. As a child he played in the model fort in the grounds.

As an adult, Wilhelm’s visits to Cowes Week were noted for his obsessively competitive behaviour towards other sailors, especially his cousin Edward, Prince of Wales. He interfered with the racing and considered himself the ‘boss’ of Cowes Week.  In 1896 he had a giant yacht, the 121ft (37m) Meteor II built. He pit it against the Prince of Wales’s Britannia and won. Edward subsequently gave up racing.

He was a guest of the Queen on August 2nd 1889, arriving at Cowes in his steam yacht Hohenzollern which was escorted by several German warships. He wore his British Admiral’s uniform, a rank recently granted to him by the Queen. The Hohenzollern returned the following August and Wilhelm was met by Edward, Prince of Wales and Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught on the Royal Yacht Alberta. He was driven by carriage to Osborne. As Wilhelm entered the house, a band played the British and German national anthems.

When Victoria lay dying in January 1901 her grandson, Wilhelm was at her bedside and both he and her doctor supported the pillow she lay on for over two hours until she passed away.

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