Wilhelm, German Crown Prince

Wilhelm, German Crown Prince (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst; 6 May 1882 – 20 July 1951) was the eldest child and heir of the last German Emperor, Wilhelm II, and the last Crown Prince of the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. After the death of his grandfather Emperor Frederick III, Wilhelm became crown prince at the age of six, retaining that title for more than 30 years until the fall of the empire on 9 November 1918. During World War I, he commanded the 5th Army from 1914 to 1916 and was commander of the Army Group German Crown Prince for the remainder of the war. Crown Prince Wilhelm became head of the House of Hohenzollern on 4 June 1941 following the death of his father and held the position until his own death on 20 July 1951.

German Crown Prince
Crown Prince of Prussia
Head of the House of Hohenzollern
Tenure4 June 1941  20 July 1951
PredecessorWilhelm II
SuccessorLouis Ferdinand
Born(1882-05-06)6 May 1882
Marmorpalais, Potsdam, German Empire
Died20 July 1951(1951-07-20) (aged 69)
Hechingen, Württemberg-Hohenzollern, West Germany
Burial26 July 1951
Hohenzollern Castle, Württemberg-Hohenzollern, West Germany
Full name
Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst
FatherWilhelm II, German Emperor
MotherAugusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein
ReligionLutheranism (Prussian United)

Early life

Wilhelm was born on 6 May 1882 in the Marmorpalais of Potsdam in the Province of Brandenburg. He was the eldest son of Wilhelm II, the last German Kaiser (Emperor) (1859–1941), and his first wife, Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein (1858–1921).

When he was born, his great-grandfather Wilhelm I was the emperor and his grandfather Crown Prince Frederick was the heir apparent, making Wilhelm third in line to the throne. His birth sparked an argument between his parents and his grandmother Crown Princess Victoria. 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, the future Wilhelm II asked his aunt Helena to help. His mother was hurt and his grandmother, Queen Victoria, who was the younger Wilhelm's great-grandmother, furious.[1] When his great-grandfather and grandfather both died in 1888, six-year-old Wilhelm 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 (now Länderpokal), the oldest cup competition in German football.[2] The German club BFC Preussen was also originally named BFC Friedrich Wilhelm in his honour.

In 1914, the Kaiser ordered the construction of Schloss Cecilienhof in Potsdam for Prince Wilhelm and his family. The Schloss was loosely inspired by Bidston Court in Birkenhead, England, resembling a Tudor manor.[3] Completed in 1917, it became the main residence for the Crown Prince for a time.

World War I

Wilhelm had been active in pushing German expansion, and sought a leading role on the outbreak of war. Despite being only thirty-two and having never commanded a unit larger than a regiment, the German Crown Prince was named commander of the 5th Army in August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I. However, under the well-established Prussian/German General Staff model then in use, inexperienced nobles who were afforded commands of large army formations were always provided with (and expected to defer to the advice of) experienced chiefs of staff to assist them in their duties. As Emperor, Wilhelm's father instructed the Crown Prince to defer to the advice of his experienced chief of staff Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf.[4]

In October 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.[5][6] He denied promoting military solutions to diplomatic problems, and 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.

Crown Prince Wilhelm, Wiegand[5][6]

From August 1915 onwards, Wilhelm was given the additional role as commander of the 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 the Army Group German Crown Prince for the rest of the war.


After the outbreak of the German Revolution in 1918, both Emperor Wilhelm II and the Crown Prince signed the document of abdication. On 13 November, the former Crown Prince fled Germany, crossed into the Netherlands at Oudvroenhoven[7] and was later interned on the island of Wieringen (now part of the mainland), near Den Helder. In the autumn of 1921, Gustav Stresemann visited Wilhelm, and the former Crown Prince voiced an interest in returning to Germany, even as a private citizen. After Stresemann became chancellor in August 1923, Wilhelm was allowed to return after giving assurances that he would not engage in politics. He chose 9 November 1923 for this, which infuriated his father, who had not been informed about the plans of his son and who felt the historic date to be inappropriate.[8]:11–12

In June 1926, a referendum on expropriating the former ruling Princes of Germany without compensation failed and as a consequence, the financial situation of the Hohenzollern family improved considerably. A settlement between the state and the family made Cecilienhof property of the state but granted a right of residence to Wilhelm and Cecilie. This was limited in duration to three generations.[8]:9–12 The family also kept the ownership of Monbijou Palace in Berlin, Oels Castle in Silesia, and Rheinsberg Palace until 1945.

Wilhelm broke the promise he had made to Stresemann to stay out of politics. Adolf Hitler visited Wilhelm at Cecilienhof three times, in 1926, in 1933 (on the "Day of Potsdam") and in 1935. Wilhelm joined The Steel Helmets - League of Frontline Soldiers, which merged in 1931 into the Harzburg Front, a far-right organisation of those opposed to the democratic republic.[8]:13

The former Crown Prince was reportedly interested in the idea of running for Reichspräsident as the right-wing candidate against Paul von Hindenburg in 1932, until his father (who privately supported Hindenburg) forbade him from acting on the idea. After his plans to become president had been blocked by his father, Wilhelm supported Hitler's rise to power.[8]:13


After the murder of his friend Kurt von Schleicher, the former Chancellor, in the Night of the Long Knives (1934), he withdrew from all political activities.

When Wilhelm realised that Hitler had no intention of restoring the monarchy, their relationship cooled. Upon his father's death in 1941, Wilhelm succeeded him as head of the House of Hohenzollern, the former German imperial dynasty. He was approached by those in the military and the diplomatic service who wanted to replace Hitler, but Wilhelm turned them down. After the ill-fated assassination attempt on 20 July 1944, Hitler nevertheless had Wilhelm placed under supervision by the Gestapo and had his home at Cecilienhof watched.[8]:11–15

In January 1945, Wilhelm left Potsdam for Oberstdorf for a treatment of his gall and liver problems. His wife Cecilie fled in early February 1945 as the Red Army drew closer to Berlin, but they had been living apart for a long time. At the end of the war, Wilhelm's home, Cecilienhof, was seized by the Soviets.[8]:15–16 The palace was subsequently used by the Allied Powers as the venue for the Potsdam Conference.[8]:16

At the end of the war, Wilhelm was captured by French Moroccan troops in Baad, Austria and was interned as a (World War I) war criminal. Transferred to Hechingen, Germany, he lived for a short time in Hohenzollern Castle under house arrest before moving to a small five-room house at Fürstenstraße 16 in Hechingen where he died on 20 July 1951, of a heart attack. Three days later, his opponent in the Battle of Verdun, Marshal Philippe Pétain, died in prison in France.[9]

Wilhelm and his wife are buried at Hohenzollern Castle.[10][11]

Family and children

Wilhelm married Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (20 September 1886 – 6 May 1954) in Berlin on 6 June 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, Grand Duke 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 for the German Army in 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 are:

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

As heir apparent to the German and Prussian throne and later as head of the House of Hohenzollern, Wilhelm was styled as "His Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia".

Decorations and awards

German honours[12][13]
Foreign honours[13][18]



  1. Queen Victoria's Family, A Century of Photographs, Charlotte Zeepvat
  2. "Kick it like Kronprinz" (in German) Spiegel Online. Retrieved 11 June 2009
  3. "Hidden Wirral Myths & Legends Tours". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  4. Chief of Staff: Napoleonic wars to World War I, David Zabecki
  5. Elter page 74
  6. Wiegand page 3
  7. "From the Archives: The Ex-Kaiser and Family. Fugitives in Holland". The Hindu. 16 November 2018. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  8. Müller, Heike; Berndt, Harald (2006). Schloss Cecilienhof und die Konferenz von Potsdam 1945 (German). Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten. ISBN 3-910068-16-2.
  9. The Life Of Crown Prince William by Klaus Jonas, 1961 pp. 214-30.
  10. "Preussen.de - Kronprinz Wilhelm". Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  11. "Preussen.de - 50. Todestag der Kronprinzessin Cecilie". Archived from the original on 15 April 2016. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  12. Handbuch über den Königlich Preußischen Hof und Staat (1918), Genealogy p.1
  13. Justus Perthes, Almanach de Gotha (1913) pages 68-69
  14. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Baden (1910), "Großherzogliche Orden" p. 40
  15. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Bayern (1908), "Königliche Orden" p. 9
  16. Hof- und Staatshandbuch des Herzogtums Braunschweig für das Jahr 1908. Braunschweig 1908. Meyer. p. 9
  17. Staatshandbuch für das Großherzogtum Sachsen / Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1900), "Großherzogliche Hausorden" p. 17
  18. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Preußen (1908), Genealogy p.1
  19. "A Szent István Rend tagjai" Archived 22 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  20. Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559–2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. p. 468. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  21. "Court Circular". The Times (36036). London. 11 January 1900. p. 7.
  22. "Court Circular". The Times (36080). London. 3 March 1900. p. 11.
  23. Boettger, T. F. "Chevaliers de la Toisón d'Or - Knights of the Golden Fleece". La Confrérie Amicale. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  24. Sveriges statskalender (in Swedish), 1925, p. 807, retrieved 6 January 2018 via runeberg.org
  25. Shaw, Wm. A. (1906) The Knights of England, I, London, p. 71
  26. Shaw, p. 416


Media related to Wilhelm, German Crown Prince (1882–1951) at Wikimedia Commons

Wilhelm, German Crown Prince
Born: 6 May 1882 Died: 20 July 1951
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Wilhelm II
as German Emperor
and King of Prussia
German Emperor
King of Prussia

4 June 1941 – 20 July 1951
Reason for succession failure:
German Revolution
Succeeded by
Louis Ferdinand
Military offices
Preceded by
Formed from VII Army Inspectorate
(VII. Armee-Inspektion)
Commander, 5th Army
2 August 1914 – 30 November 1916
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Ewald von Lochow
Preceded by
New Creation
Commander, Army Group German Crown Prince
1 August 1915 – 10 November 1918
Succeeded by
Karl von Einem
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