Date: late 19th century
Medium: leather, wool, metal, glass, silk
Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Museum Expedition 1920 & 1921, Robert B. Woodward Memorial Fund, 1921
Accession Number: 2009.300.51
21 notes · View notes
Wilhelm II, German Emperor (1859-1941).
19/20th-century German Emperor and King of Prussia.
His reign lasted from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. Despite strengthening Germany’s position as a great power by building a blue-water navy and promoting scientific innovation, his tactless public statements and reckless foreign policy greatly antagonized the international community and ultimately plunged his country into World War I. When the German war effort collapsed after a series of crushing defeats on the Western Front in 1918, he was forced to abdicate, thereby bringing an end to the Hohenzollern dynasty’s three hundred year rule.
His grandfather and father both died in 1888, the Year of Three Emperors, making Wilhelm emperor and king. On 20 March 1890, he dismissed the German Empire’s powerful longtime chancellor, Otto von Bismarck.
After Bismarck's departure, Wilhelm II assumed direct control over his nation’s policies and embarked on a bellicose "New Course" to cement its status as a respected world power. Subsequently, over the course of his reign, Germany acquired territories in the Far East and became Europe’s largest manufacturer. However, he frequently undermined such progress by making threatening statements towards other countries and voicing xenophobic views without consulting his ministers. Likewise, his regime did much to alienate itself from the world's other Great Powers by initiating a massive naval build-up, challenging French control of Morocco, and building a railway through Baghdad that threatened Britain's dominion in the Persian Gulf. Thus, by the second decade of the 20th century, Germany could rely only on significantly weaker nations such as Austria-Hungary and the declining Ottoman Empire as its allies.
Wilhelm II’s turbulent reign ultimately culminated in Germany's guarantee of military support to Austria-Hungary during the crisis of July 1914, one of the direct underlying causes for the First World War. A lax wartime leader, he left virtually all decision-making regarding strategy and organisation of the war effort to the Imperial German Army's Great General Staff. By 29 August 1916, this broad delegation of power resulted in a de facto military dictatorship that dominated national policy for the rest of the conflict. Despite emerging victorious over Russia and achieving significant gains in Western Europe, Germany was forced to relinquish all its conquests after its forces' decisive defeat in November 1918. Upon losing the support of the military and his subjects, Wilhelm abdicated his throne and fled to exile in the Netherlands. He remained there during the German occupation in World War II, and died in 1941.
He was married twice : Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (1881) ; Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz (1922). He had seven children.
He died of a pulmonary embolus.
90 notes · View notes