Wilhelm I (German Empire)

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Wilhelm I in a portrait of the court photographer Wilhelm Kuntzemüller (1884)Signature of Wilhelm I.

Wilhelm I , whose full name was Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig of Prussia (born March 22, 1797 in Berlin ; † March 9, 1888 , from the House of Hohenzollern) was King of Prussia from 1861 until his death and the first German since the establishment of the Empire in 1871 Emperor .

After taking over power for his sick brother Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Wilhelm changed in 1858 from the conservative grape prince of the March Revolution to the liberal prince regent of the New Era . On 18 October 1861 he was crowned in Konigsberg Castle to King of Prussia . He left the affairs of government to a large extent to his Prime Minister and later Chancellor Otto von Bismarck . After the Wars of Unification and the founding of the Empire , Wilhelm became German Emperor on January 18, 1871 in the Palace of Versaillesproclaimed. In the following years he gained great popularity in the young nation state, but his posthumously given nickname Wilhelm the Great did not prevail.

Origin and early years

Queen Luise with Prince Wilhelm (left) and Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm (right), painting by Carl Steffeck , 1886

Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig of Prussia was the second son of the Crown Prince couple Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia and Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz , daughter of Duke Karl II of Mecklenburg-Strelitz . The father ascended to the Prussian royal throne in the year Wilhelm was born. The education of the Prince took over Johann Friedrich Gottlieb Delbrück , who previously rector of the Magdeburg Pedagogium had been.

Until the war with France , Wilhelm spent a happy childhood at the side of his older brother Friedrich Wilhelm. The idyll collapsed in 1806 as a result of the devastating defeat of Prussia and the winter escape of the ruling family to East Prussia . Traditionally, his father hired Wilhelm as an ensign in the Guards on Foot regiment on his tenth birthday . The early death of his mother Luise hit 13-year-old Wilhelm deeply.

From March 1813, Wilhelm had a new tutor in the form of the Prussian Colonel Johann Georg Emil von Brause , who remained lifelong friendship with him even after leaving the governor's position in September 1817. From May 1814, with the rank of major , Wilhelm accompanied his father on the campaign in France , taking part in the battles at La Rothière Arcis-sur-Aube , Bar-sur-Aube and Paris . At Bar-sur-Aube, Wilhelm had stood in enemy fire for the first time on February 26, 1814. For his courage, his father awarded him the Iron Cross 2nd class on his mother's 38th birthday .

On March 31, Wilhelm moved into Paris with his father . He also accompanied him on a visit to England and followed him to Paris after the final defeat of Napoleon in July 1815. On January 1, 1816, he received command of the Szczecin Guard Landwehr Battalion, in 1818 as major general the command of a Guard Infantry Brigade, on May 1, 1820, the supreme command of the 1st Guard Division and was promoted to Lieutenant General. On March 22, 1824 Wilhelm took over the leadership of the III. Army Corps , finally he commanded the Guard Corps from March 30, 1838 to May 22, 1848 .

He was also consulted by the king in matters of state. He was repeatedly sent to the Petersburg court on matters of state and family .

Marriage and children

After he renounced his marriage to Princess Elisa Radziwiłł in 1826 because the king did not consider her to be an equal partner of a Prussian prince, he married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach , daughter of the Grand Duke Karl Friedrich of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach , whose sister Maria was the wife of his younger brother Karl.

The marriage ultimately came about at the instigation of his father and was not particularly successful. However, he managed to keep his love affairs hidden from both his wife and the public.

The marriage had two children:

Two miscarriages prevented further children.

The Babelsberg Palace in Potsdam has served Wilhelm and Augusta as their summer residence since 1835, and today's Old Palace in Berlin as their winter residence since 1837 .

Prince of Prussia

Ride of Prince Wilhelm of Prussia accompanied by the painter , painting by Franz Krüger , 1836
King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. , Brother of Wilhelm I.

March Revolution

After the Crown Prince's wife, Elisabeth Ludovika von Bayern , had become sterile as a result of a miscarriage suffered in 1828, Friedrich Wilhelm III. his second-born son, Wilhelm, was designated as the future king's provisional successor. With the death of his father in 1840, Wilhelm received the title of Prince of Prussia as the presumptive heir to the throne of his brother, who was now King Friedrich Wilhelm IV . and was soon promoted to general of the infantry .

According to research by Rüdiger Hachtmann in 1997, the Prussian military only had the option of retreat in the face of the fierce Berlin barricade fighting on March 19, 1848 , if it did not want to be gradually worn out, politicized or nervously shattered during the grueling street fighting. The Prince of Prussia was so hated by the supporters of the revolution for his plea for a military solution that he received the order from the tactical king to travel to London immediately.

Because of his undecided vacillation between a military and a diplomatic solution, Friedrich Wilhelm IV was largely responsible for the escalation. The Berlin public held him less responsible for the barricade fight than Prince Wilhelm, although Wilhelm had already been appointed Governor General of the Rhine Army by the King on March 10, 1848 and thus had no authority over the troops stationed in and around Berlin. The fact that Karl von Prittwitz had specifically approved the use of grape balls was wrongly attributed to Wilhelm. As early as May 12th, the auscultator Maximilian Dortu polemicized Wilhelm as a “grape prince” in a speech. This mockery was subsequently taken up by a large number of newspapers. On March 19, Wilhelm fled to the Spandau Citadel and in the following days into exile in London. In government circles it was debated at this time whether Wilhelm in favor of his son, the future Emperor Friedrich III. should be excluded from the royal succession.

The order to end the "scandal" - the protest demonstration by the population - on the Berlin Palace Square on March 18 was given by Friedrich Wilhelm IV himself. But it was wrong that his military interpreted this order in a way that included the use of firearms above all the "Prince of Prussia", who later became Kaiser Wilhelm I. The fact that Friedrich Wilhelm IV, unsettled by the escalation and trying to find a political solution, suggested to his brother, in the face of the enemy image of the angry masses, to leave the country for a limited time, was later turned into a legend and as " Banishment ”. But Wilhelm did not comply with the request of his brother Friedrich Wilhelm IV because of something like exile. Disguised as a merchant, Wilhelm went to England on a quasi "secret mission", but not without expressing his contempt for the King of Prussia. At the same time, Wilhelm confessed to serving Prussia and the monarchy and preserving them, a task for which - in his opinion - “no sacrifice big enough” could be.

Escape to London

The prince fled Berlin with the help of the major in the staff of the Guard Corps August Oelrichs (1801–1868) and traveled to London on March 23rd and 24th with the help of William O'Swald under the code name Wilhelm Oelrichs . On departure, Augusta is said to have instructed the major in writing "which views" he had to "assert against the prince". In London, Wilhelm associated with Prince Consort Albert , Robert Peel , John Russell , Henry John Palmerston and other statesmen and clarified his political views. He took a lively interest in the German unification efforts. Meanwhile, the Berliners sang songs of derision to him:

Butcher Master Prince of Prussia
come on, come to Berlin!
We want to throw stones at you
and pull the barricades.

With 300 dead demonstrators, the Berlin barricade fight was one of the unrest with the most losses in the March Revolution. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV later rejected any responsibility and instead spread the absurd rumor of an alleged foreign conspiracy in the manifesto To my dear Berliners .

Return to Berlin

Princess Augusta was meanwhile with the two children in Potsdam. Wilhelm returned to Berlin at the beginning of June. On May 30, the prince in Brussels publicly and in writing committed himself to the constitutional form of government for Prussia and thus reacted to the demonstration of 10,000 Berliners against his return. Elected to the Prussian National Assembly, he accepted the mandate, but after he had outlined his constitutional principles in a short speech, he announced the resignation of his mandate and returned to Potsdam. In September, at his suggestion, the king appointed some ministers to the new counter-revolutionary ministry of General Ernst von Pfuel .

On June 8, 1849, the Reichsverweser Johann von Österreich appointed Wilhelm to the commanding officer of the "Army of Operations in Baden and in the Palatinate ", which consisted of the Prussian corps Hirschfeld and Groeben and the Neckar Corps of the German Confederation. The task was to suppress the revolutions in the Palatinate and Baden . After Wilhelm escaped a first assassination attempt at Ingelheim on June 12 , the army of operations subdued the rebels within a few weeks. Since the campaign, the then Chief of Staff Hirschfeld and later army reformer Albrecht von Roon belonged to Wilhelm's personal circle. With the capture of the fortress of Rastatt , the last bastion of the revolutionaries, the March Revolution in Germany was finally crushed. The victory celebration took place with the joint entry of Grand Duke Leopold von Baden and Wilhelm on August 19th in Karlsruhe .

Koblenz years

On October 12th he entered Berlin at the head of troops that had fought in Baden and was appointed Governor General of the Rhine Province and the Province of Westphalia . He took up residence in Koblenz , the capital of the Rhine Province. In 1854 he was also colonel general of the infantry with the rank of field marshal and governor of the Mainz fortress .

In Koblenz, Augusta and Wilhelm von Prussia resided together in the Electoral Palace from 1850 to 1858 . Princess Augusta in particular felt at home in this city; here she finally had the opportunity to live a court life as she was used to from her childhood at the Weimar court. Her son Friedrich studied law in nearby Bonn and was the first Prussian heir to the throne to receive academic training. Augusta's influence was also significantly involved.

At the Koblenzer Hof, especially at the instigation of Princess Augusta, liberal people like the historian Maximilian Duncker , the law professors Moritz August von Bethmann-Hollweg and Clemens Theodor Perthes as well as Alexander von Schleinitz frequented . Under the impression of the 1848 revolt, Wilhelm also adopted a politically more moderate stance that met with anger from his ruling brother. Princess Augusta's tolerant attitude towards Catholicism, which became particularly evident during the time in Koblenz, was viewed critically - an attitude that was felt to be unsuitable for a Prussian-Protestant princess at a time when the religious denomination was still very important.

New era

The formerly unfavorable Prince mood was so turned over because of his reservations about the extreme positions of political and religious reaction and the Junkers in the opposite, that he, especially since the complications with Austria and since the Crimean War , as the main representative of the power of Prussia was, and that all hopes of the patriotic and liberal party turned to him when, during the king's illness, he took office as his deputy on October 23, 1857, and as prince regent from October 7, 1858. After he had sworn the oath on the constitution on October 26th according to Art. 58 of the Prussian Constitution , on November 5th he appointed the liberal ministry Karl Anton Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (" New Era ") and put on November 8th in a decree to this one constitutes its government principles and goals.

He stressed that there was no question of a break with the past; but he declared himself resolutely against all hypocrisy and hypocrisy; He also spoke out against the fact that Prussia surrendered to foreign influences in foreign policy; rather, it must seek to make conquests in Germany through wise legislation, elevation of all moral elements and the establishment of moments of unification. These statements met with approval from the people and the newly elected, predominantly liberal House of Representatives, since it was above all the influence of the church's reaction and the Russian policy of Friedrich Wilhelm IV that had provoked displeasure, and they were almost exclusively heeded; Far too little, on the other hand, are the words of the prince, in which he spoke of the necessary army reform and the necessary funds, since Prussia's army must be powerful and respected if Prussia is to fulfill its task.

The prince saw this as his main task, and the course of the events of 1859, when mobilization encountered great difficulties and revealed important deficiencies in the army, could only strengthen him. The majority of the House of Representatives, however, was not prepared to definitely approve the additional costs of the radical army reorganization introduced in 1860, relying on the Prince's constitutional and German-national sentiments and politics.

King of Prussia

Caricature of Wilhelm I by Thomas Nast

Coronation in Koenigsberg

Coronation of Wilhelm I as king in Königsberg , painting by Adolph Menzel , 1861

After the death of his brother Friedrich Wilhelm IV on January 2, 1861, Wilhelm ascended the Prussian throne. With the coronation organized by himself at his own expense, Wilhelm meant that he had found a compromise between the heir homage not provided for in the constitution, but desired by him , and the oath required there in parliament. In an appeal to my people on January 8, 1861, he affirmed his loyalty to the oath on the constitution, which he had already taken in 1858 as Prince Regent. On October 18, 1861, the magnificent coronation meeting took place in Königsberg in the castle church .

Wilhelm put the crown on himself, took the scepter and the imperial sword from the altar and lifted them up with outstretched arms. This moment, the climax of the coronation, was represented by Adolph Menzel in his painting “Coronation of Wilhelm I” (in the same way a statue later showed the king on Kaiser-Wilhelm-Platz in Königsberg). There was no anointing . Then he crowned his wife queen. At the end of the celebrations, Wilhelm said in the throne room of the Königsberg Palace : “By God's grace, Prussia's kings have been wearing the crown for 160 years. After the throne is surrounded by modern facilities, I am the first king to climb it. But remembering that the crown comes only from God, I have proclaimed through the coronation in a sacred place that I humbly received it from his hands. "

Politics as king

The new elections on December 6, 1861 were won by the newly founded German Progressive Party (straight away with 104 members in the Chamber). With the resignation of the Ministry of the New Era (17 March 1862), which dropped the king, because it could not achieve in the House the approval of funds for actually already carried out military reorganization that began constitutional conflict . The king stuck tenaciously to the army reform, also because he saw the constitutional fundamental question of the relationship between king and parliament affected. Since he saw his powers as a sovereign ruler in question, he even thought at times of abdication. The corresponding document had already been signed when Otto von Bismarck - on the initiative of Minister of War Albrecht von Roon  - prevented the king from taking this step. Bismarck declared himself ready to govern as prime minister even without an approved budget ( gap theory ) and to implement army reform.

With the appointment of Bismarck as Prussian Prime Minister on September 23, 1862 and the support of his ministry against the House of Representatives, the king lost his previous popularity, as was particularly evident at the 50-year commemorative celebrations of the Wars of Liberation in 1863 and the unification of various provinces with Prussia in 1865 . While at the same time the internal reforms stalled completely, and in many cases a harsh police regiment came to power, King von Bismarck allowed himself to be determined to pursue a decisive policy on the German question. Successes in Germany policy should distract from the authoritarian regime within and draw the political opponents into their own camp over time.

In 1866, the patriotic enthusiasm sparked by the victory in the German war offered a favorable opportunity to end the constitutional conflict. With the indemnity bill of 1866, the Prussian state parliament subsequently approved the state budgets from 1862 onwards. Wilhelm again turned more towards liberal channels. The hated ministers of the conflict period were dismissed, giving way to supporters of liberal reform. When the North German Confederation was founded on July 1, 1867, Wilhelm became the holder of the Federal Presidium .

Wars of Unification

After the battle of Königgrätz, painting by Emil Hünten , 1886
After the Battle of Sedan, painting by Carl Steffeck , 1884

The German-Danish War of 1864, in which Prussia and Austria jointly acted as guardians of German interests in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein connected to Denmark, offered the first opportunity for success in Germany policy . As calculated by Bismarck, after the victory over the further treatment of Schleswig-Holstein there was a conflict with Austria, with which Prussia was still competing for leadership in the German Confederation . The king received the victory telegram from the battle of Düppel on the way back from a troop inspection on the Tempelhof field . Immediately he turned back to announce the message of victory to the soldiers. He then drove to the theater of war, where on April 21, 1864, at a parade on a paddock between Gravenstein and Atzbüll , he personally thanked the “chaff stormers”.

Although Wilhelm was initially reluctant to follow Bismarck's policy of seeking a military decision against Austria, he himself took command of the army in the German War of 1866 and, thanks to the superior strategic planning of the Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke, won the decisive victory in the battle of Königgrätz . In the peace negotiations he again followed Bismarck's advice and, albeit reluctantly, renounced the annexation of Saxony in order not to thwart Bismarck's German unification plans.

In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 Wilhelm again took over the command of the entire army advancing into France, commanded himself at Gravelotte and at the battle of Sedan ; In addition, from October 1870 to March 1871 he nominally headed the military operations and political negotiations for the establishment of the German Empire from Versailles . In fact, Bismarck played the essential role here too. In November 1870, the Bavarian King Ludwig II signed the letter from Bismarck to the Kaiser . It was difficult to convince Wilhelm to let Prussia merge into an all-German nation-state in the future, even if he was to become its head himself. He opposed the acceptance of the title German Emperor until the eve of the imperial proclamation in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles , which took place on January 18, 1871.

German emperor

Proclamation in Versailles

Proclamation of the German Empire , painting by Anton von Werner , 1885

Through the imperial proclamation on January 18, 1871, the 170th anniversary of Frederick III's coronation. von Brandenburg took place in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles , Wilhelm accepted the title of German Emperor for himself and his successors to the Crown of Prussia and promised to “always be a member of the German Empire, not in military conquests, but in goods and gifts of peace in the field of national welfare, freedom and morality ”. The proclamation was preceded by a bitter dispute over the title between Bismarck and King Wilhelm. Wilhelm feared that the German imperial crown would overshadow the Prussian royal crown. On the eve of the proclamation, he said:

“Tomorrow is the most unlucky day of my life! We will bury the Prussian kingship there. "

- Wilhelm I.

Wilhelm was not very motivated to become emperor; he held the title of Prussian king higher. It remained undecided whether it should be called "German Kaiser" or "Kaiser von Deutschland". The Baden Grand Duke Friedrich I , his son-in-law, solved the problem, which was still unresolved on the morning of the proclamation, by simply cheering "Kaiser Wilhelm" and bypassing the tricky title question. Ultimately, it stayed with the designation “German Kaiser” chosen by Bismarck with consideration for the German princes. The Kaiser was so bitter that he did not even shake Bismarck's hand. On June 16, 1871, he made his brilliant entry into Berlin.

Politics as an emperor

Wilhelm I in uniform with medal and spiked bonnet , 1884

However, Wilhelm ultimately accepted that the policy of the new German Empire was determined by Bismarck. This is shown by statements ascribed to him such as "Bismarck is more important" or:

"It is not easy to be emperor under such a chancellor."

- Wilhelm I.

In agreement with Bismarck, he endeavored to secure external peace through alliances with neighboring powers (except France). To this end, in September 1872 in Berlin, at the so-called Dreikaisertreffen , he brought about the three - emperor alliance between the German Empire , Russia and Austria-Hungary , which brought the latter two powers closer together and politically isolated France. Visits by the emperor to St. Petersburg and Vienna in 1873 and to Milan in 1875 served to further support this foreign policy rapprochement.

Another - above all honorable - foreign policy task fell to the Kaiser in 1871, when he was asked to mediate between the USA and Great Britain in the so-called pig conflict . With his decision of October 21, 1872 in favor of the USA, he ended the border conflict between the US state of Washington and British Columbia, which had been going on for 13 years . In 1878 Wilhelm established the General Staff Foundation .

Target of assassinations

A few weeks after a failed assassination attempt on May 11, 1878 on the boulevard Unter den Linden , Wilhelm was so badly injured in another attack at almost the same place on June 2, 1878 that two days later he appointed Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm as deputy. Bismarck used the outrage over these attacks to get the Socialist Law through in the Reichstag by having it spread against better judgment that the second assassin, Karl Eduard Nobiling, was a social democrat. The likelihood that nobiling was insane was considered by many to be high. According to his own statements, he was only concerned with getting known.

Wilhelm I recovered only slowly and after a long stay in Baden and Wiesbaden returned to Berlin on December 5th, where he took over the government again. In July, on the occasion of his "happy salvation", the Kaiser Wilhelms donation was collected from the gifts of almost 12 million donors throughout the empire . The income of over 1.7 million marks formed the share capital of a voluntary old-age pension and capital insurance for "low- income classes". Contrary to expectations, the shock of the assassination strengthened the emperor's ailing health. Wilhelm later called Nobiling "his best doctor".

Late years and death

Funeral procession for Wilhelm I in the Berlin Lustgarten , 1888

Wilhelm, who enjoyed great popularity in old age and embodied " old Prussia " for many ("to be more than seem"), died after a brief illness in the three emperor year on March 9, 1888 in the old palace on Unter den Linden and was born on March 16 buried in the mausoleum in the Charlottenburg Palace Park .

Out of German sympathy for Kaiser Wilhelm, the line “We want our old Kaiser Wilhelm back” was sung to the melody of the Fehrbelliner cavalry march composed by Richard Henrion in 1875 .

His sentence “ I have no time to be tired ” became a synonym for the fulfillment of duty until the last moment and later became a household word. These are said to have been the last coherent words that Wilhelm I uttered on the day of his death. The sentence was later changed in part ironically to: "I don't have time now, I'm tired."

Michel Lock created a group of sculptures in 1891 with Wilhelm I, who was sitting in an armchair and dying. After Lock's death, Franz Tübbecke (1856–1937) made a marble version of the work on behalf of the Prussian Minister of Education .

Monuments and honors

Between 1867 and 1918, more than 1000 Kaiser Wilhelm monuments were erected in German-speaking countries , which were primarily or secondarily dedicated to the memory of the emperor. The most famous and largest are the Kyffhäuser Monument (1896), the Kaiser Wilhelm Monument at Porta Westfalica (1896) and the Kaiser Wilhelm Monument at the Deutsches Eck in Koblenz (1897). Many of these monuments are not only about the person of Wilhelm I, but often also about glorifying him in his role as the “founder of the empire” and the first German emperor . In the official Kaiser Wilhelm National Monument in Berlin (1897), Wilhelm I finally represents the monarchical nation-state in the sense of Wilhelminism .

Carl Koldewey , the leader of the First German North Polar Expedition , named an island in Hinlopenstrasse ( Spitzbergen ) in 1868 as Wilhelm Island . In 1869 the Prussian navy port on the North Sea was given the name Wilhelmshaven , the swing bridge over the port was called Kaiser-Wilhelm-Brücke . The Kiel Canal opened in 1895 was called Kaiser Wilhelm Canal until 1948. The Sporntunnel near Cochem on the Moselle route has been called Kaiser Wilhelm Tunnel since it opened in 1877 . In the same year the Kaiser-Wilhelms-Universität, founded in Strasbourg in 1872, was named after him.

From March 21 to 23, 1897, the so-called centenary celebrations (centenary) took place for the hundredth birthday. On the occasion of this anniversary, among other things, the Zentenar Medal was awarded, the "German Centenar Sports Festival" was held and the foundation stone was laid for the Berlin-Grünau sports monument . On this occasion, the Spandau district of Potsdamer Vorstadt was renamed Wilhelmstadt .

The attempt of his grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II to honor his grandfather with the title “the great” met with just as little echo in the population as in the historiography .


Wilhelm I in civilian clothes, after 1871
Kaiser Wilhelm I with son, grandson and great-grandson, 1882


Wilhelm was accepted into Freemasonry as Prince of Prussia on May 22, 1840 in a joint event of all Prussian grand lodges ( Great State Lodge , Great National Mother Lodge , Royal York for Friendship ) . The recording was led by the then sub-architect Wilhelm Ludwig Viktor Count Henckel von Donnersmarck on behalf of the Grand State Lodge. Wilhelm's father agreed on the condition that he also took over the protectorate of the three grand lodges that Frederick the Great had founded in 1774 .

On October 22nd, 1840, Prince Wilhelm was accepted into the chapter of the order "Indissolubilis", also by Count Henckel von Donnersmarck, as the reigning order master was ill.

On December 26, 1841, Prince Wilhelm was appointed sub-architect of the order, the third highest office within the Grand State Lodge. He resigned from office on July 15, 1842, in order not to endanger his neutrality as protector towards the other two grand lodges.


On June 12, 1849, Wilhelm escaped a first assassination attempt near Ingelheim .

On July 14, 1861, the student Oskar Becker committed an assassination attempt on Wilhelm in Baden-Baden , but wounded his neck only slightly.

On May 11, 1878, the unemployed, journeyman plumber Max Hödel , who was in Berlin, fired several shots at him with a revolver when the Kaiser and his daughter, the Grand Duchess of Baden, were driving through the street Unter den Linden in an open car whom no one met. Because the membership cards of several political parties that he had with him when he was arrested included one of the Social Democrats, Bismarck took this as an opportunity on May 24 to apply to the Reichstag for a “law to ward off social democratic excesses”. However, this bill did not find a majority in the Reichstag. Crown Prince Friedrich, who had taken over the deputy for the Emperor, who was seriously injured after the Nobiling assassination on June 2, 1878, confirmed Hödel's death sentence in August.

Three weeks later on Sunday, June 2, 1878, another assassin fired two rifle shots at Wilhelm from a window of the house at 18 Unter den Linden at almost the same spot, before the excitement about the previous assassination had subsided when he drove alone to the zoo. The emperor was hit in the head and arms by thirty pellets and seriously wounded. He only survived through the pimple hood protecting his head. The perpetrator, Karl Eduard Nobiling , a young doctor of agriculture, was caught after attempting suicide and seriously injuring himself in the process.

At the inauguration of the Niederwald monument on September 28, 1883 in Rüdesheim , anarchists around August Reinsdorf prepared an assassination attempt on Wilhelm I with dynamite . The detonator failed because of the damp weather.

Dynastic connections


Pedigree of Wilhelm I.

Friedrich Wilhelm I (Prussia) (1688–1740)
⚭ 1706
Sophie Dorothea of ​​Hanover (1687–1757)

Ferdinand Albrecht II of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1680–1735)
⚭ 1712
Antoinette Amalie von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1696–1762)

Christian III. (Pfalz- Zweibrücken) (1674–1735)
⚭ 1719
Karoline von Nassau- Saarbrücken (1704–1774)

Ludwig VIII (Hessen-Darmstadt)
⚭ 1717
Charlotte Christine Magdalene Johanna von Hanau-Lichtenberg (1700–1726)

Christian Karl Reinhard von Leiningen- Dagsburg- Falkenburg (1695–1766)
⚭ 1726
Katharina Polyxena von Solms- Rödelheim (1702–1765)

Adolf Friedrich II. (Mecklenburg) (1658–1708)
⚭ 1705
Christiane Emilie Antonie von Schwarzburg-Sondershausen (1681–1715)

Ernst Friedrich I (Saxony-Hildburghausen) (1681–1724)
⚭ 1704
Sophia Albertine von Erbach (1683–1742)

Great grandparents

Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia (1722–1758)
⚭ 1742
Luise Amalie von Braunschweig- Wolfenbüttel (1722–1780)

Landgrave Ludwig IX. (Hessen-Darmstadt) (1719–1790)
⚭ 1741
Henriette Karoline von Pfalz-Zweibrücken (1721–1774)

Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hessen-Darmstadt (1722–1782)
⚭ 1748
Maria Luise Albertine von Leiningen- Dagsburg- Falkenburg (1729–1818)

Karl zu Mecklenburg (1708–1752)
⚭ 1735
Elisabeth Albertine of Saxony-Hildburghausen (1713–1761)


King Friedrich Wilhelm II (Prussia) (1744–1797)
⚭ 1769
Friederike von Hessen-Darmstadt (1751–1805)

Grand Duke Charles II (Mecklenburg) (1741–1816)
⚭ 1768
Friederike Caroline Luise of Hesse-Darmstadt (1752–1782)


King Friedrich Wilhelm III. (Prussia) (1770–1840)
⚭ 1793
Luise von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1776–1810)

Kaiser Wilhelm I (1797–1888)


Web links

Commons : Wilhelm I.  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Wilhelm I.  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Kurt Jagow: Wilhelm and Elisa. The old emperor's childhood love . KF Koehler, Leipzig 1930, passim.
  2. On Wilhelm's “baptism of fire” see Franz Herre : Kaiser Wilhelm I. The last Prussian. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne 1980, ISBN 3-462-01409-9 , p. 70 f.
  3. ^ Wolfram Letzner: Berlin - a biography. People and fates from the Ascanians to Helmut Kohl and the capital of Germany. Nünnerich Asmus, Mainz 2016, ISBN 978-3-945751-37-4 .
  4. Jürgen Angelow : Wilhelm I. (1861-1888). In: Frank-Lothar Kroll (Ed.): Prussia's rulers. From the first Hohenzollern to Wilhelm II. Beck, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-406-46711-3 , pp. 242–264, here: p. 248.
  5. a b c Dorlis Blume: Wilhelm I .. Tabular curriculum vitae in the LeMO ( DHM and HdG )
  6. Guntram Schulze-Wegener : Wilhelm I. German Emperor - King of Prussia - National Myth . Mittler, Berlin 2015, pp. 189–191.
  7. ^ Günter Richter: Kaiser Wilhelm I. , in: Wilhelm Treue (Ed.): Three German Emperors, Wilhelm I. - Friedrich III. - Wilhelm II. Your life and your time. Cologne, (Ploetz handbooks of history ) p. 15–80, here: p. 27ff.
    Peter Mast: Wilhelm I. In: Gerhart Hartmann, Karl Schnith (Hrsg.): The German Emperors. 1200 years of European history. Wiesbaden 2006, pp. 747-761.
    Christopher Clark: Prussia. Rise and fall 1600–1947. Munich 2007, pp. 536-582.
  8. Gerd Heinrich (Ed.): Karl Ludwig von Prittwitz. Berlin 1848. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1985 (= publications of the Historical Commission in Berlin, Volume 60), ISBN 3-11-008326-4 , p. 421.
  9. ^ Günter Richter: Between Revolution and Forging an Empire. In: Wolfgang Ribbe (Ed.): History of Berlin. Volume 2: From the March Revolution to the Present. Beck, Munich 1987, p. 616.
  10. For the purpose, preparation and course of the coronation of Wilhem I see Iselin Gundermann : Via Regia. Prussia's way to the crown. Exhibition of the Secret State Archives of Prussian Cultural Heritage 1998 . Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-428-09454-9 , pp. 95-175.
  11. ^ Hermann Robolsky : The Testament of Kaiser Wilhelm I. A commemorative publication for the centenary of the birth of the first Hohenzollern emperor . Berlin 1897, p. 21.
  12. ^ Theodor Fontane : The Schleswig-Holstein War in 1864 , Berlin 1866, ( p. 254 ff. Books.google ); Alfred Cramer : History of the Infantry Regiment Prince Friedrich of the Netherlands (2nd Westphalian) No. 15 . Verlag R. Eisenschmid, publishing house for military science, Berlin 1910.
  13. ^ Hermann Oncken : Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden and German politics from 1854 to 1871 . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart / Berlin / Leipzig 1898, printed in: Martin Wein (Ed.): I came, saw and wrote - eyewitness reports from five millennia . DTV, Munich 1964.
  14. Ludwig Bamberger : Bismarck posthumus . Berlin 1899, p. 8 ( books.google ).
  15. Michael Lock . In: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon , Volume 12. Leipzig 1908, p. 648.
  16. Newspaper clipping about Wilhelm I from 1938
  17. ^ Biography of Franz Tübbecke
  18. ^ Thomas Nipperdey: National Idea and National Monument in Germany in the 19th Century . In: Theodor Schieder, Walther Kienast (ed.): Historical magazine . Vol. 206, Munich 1968, pp. 543-544.
  19. Celebration of the hundredth birthday of His Majesty the high-spirited Emperor William the Great (Ministerial Decree of 3rd of March [March 1897] - IVa A 1547). In: Eisenbahndirektion Mainz (Ed.): Collection of the published official gazettes . Born in 1897, announcement No. 23, p. 59.
  20. Andreas Rose: Wilhelm I - a great one? "Refused greatness" - Kaiser Wilhelm I. Foundation Prussian Palaces and Gardens Berlin-Brandenburg.
  21. The attempted murder against the German Kaiser Wilhelm I on May 11, 1878 . Wikisource
  22. To confirm the death sentence by the crown prince and to the position of the emperor, who thanked his son for this, see Marcus Mühlnikel: “Prince, are you unharmed?” Assassinations in the Empire 1871–1914 . Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn 2014, p. 143 f.
  23. The attempted murder against the German Emperor Wilhelm I on June 2, 1878. Wikisource
predecessor Office successor
Friedrich Wilhelm IV. King of Prussia
Friedrich III.
- President of the North German Confederation
- German Emperor
Friedrich III.