Wilhelm I

Wilhelm I.

b. 22 Mar 1797, Berlin, Prussia
d. 9 Mar 1888, Berlin, German Reich

Title: Von Gottes Gnaden Deutscher Kaiser, König von Preußen usw. (By the Grace of God, German Emperor, King of Prussia etc.)
Term: 1 Jan 1871 - 9 Mar 1888
Chronology: 1 Jan 1871, recognized as the German Emperor (Deutscher Kaiser) in accordance with Art. 11 of the Constitution of the German Conferedation (Reich) effective 1 Jan 1871 (Reichsgesetzblatt, No. 51, 31 Dec 1870, pp. 627-653)
  17 Jan 1871, assumed the imperial title by a proclamation issued on 17 Jan 1871 in Versailles, France (Königlich Preußischer Staats-Anzeiger, No. 19, 18 Jan 1871 (evening edition), p. 249)
  18 Jan 1871, the assumption of the title of German Emperor is proclaimed, public ceremony, Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France (Königlich Preußischer Staats-Anzeiger, No. 26, 23 Jan 1871 (2nd evening edition), pp. 349-350) [1]
  9 Mar 1888, died (Deutscher Reichsanzeiger, No. 65, 9 Mar 1888, p. 1)
Names/titles: Baptized: Friedrich Ludwig Wilhelm; Prinz von Preußen (Prince of Prussia) [7 Jun 1840 - 2 Jan 1861]; Prinz-Regent von Preußen (Prince Regent of Prussia) [appointed by letters patent 7 Oct 1858, assumed 9 Oct 1858 - 2 Jan 1861]; König von Preußen (King of Prussia) [2 Jan 1861 - 9 Mar 1888]; held presidence in the North German Confederation [1 Jul 1867 - 31 Dec 1870] with the formula "König von Preußen im Namen des Norddeutschen Bundes" ("King of Prussia on behalf of the North German Confederation")

Born of the marriage of the future Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III and Luise von Mecklenburg-Strelitz, young Wilhelm participated in the Liberation War against Napoléon I and chose a military career, which also required his participation in diplomatic missions. After the 43-year reign of his father (1797-1840), Wilhelm's elder brother, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, inherited the Prussian lands in 1840 and Wilhelm became the Prince of Prussia and heir presumptive. When Friedrich Wilhelm IV was incapacitated as a result of a stroke, Wilhelm assumed the government (23 Oct 1857) and later was made regent (7 Oct 1858 - 2 Jan 1861). Upon the death of Friedrich Wilhelm IV (2 Jan 1861), Wilhelm was proclaimed king of Prussia and ruler of royal lands united under the scepter of Hohenzollern dynasty. He crowned himself on 18 Oct 1861 in Königsberg. In 1862, Wilhelm appointed Otto von Bismarck prime minister and favored conservative politics implemented by the government. Prussian dominance in Germany was reassured by the victory in the Seven Weeks' War against Austria (1866), which led to the creation of the North German Confederation (Norddeutscher Bund). As Prussian king, Wilhelm was entitled to the Presidency of the Confederation (1 Jul 1867) dominated by Prussia. The unification of Germany was incomplete without entry of the southern states into the North German Confederation and Bismarck used the Franco-German War (1870-1871) to consolidate the nation and to overcome the reluctance of rulers of the southern states. After decisive victory at Sedan (2 Sep 1870), nothing prevented Bismarck from establishing a new empire. The unification agreements, which created the German Reich, were ratified by the parliaments of the North German Confederation, Baden, Hessen and Württemberg in December 1870, effective from 1 Jan 1871, and by Bavaria retroactively to that date. According to the agreements, Wilhelm became the German Emperor. He agreed to accept the title in an address to the North German Reichstag (18 Dec 1870) and in a letter to the spokesman of the princes and free cities (14 Jan 1871). The assumption was solemnly proclaimed on 18 Jan 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors of the Versailles Palace in front of German ruling princes, nobility, and military commanders. The last part of Wilhelm's reign was marked by campaigns against political Catholicism (Kulturkampf), socialists and anarchists, initiated by Bismarck, who held the office of Reich Chancellor (21 Mar 1871 - 20 Mar 1890). Wilhelm survived two attempts on his life made in 1878 and was incapacitated from 4 Jun 1878 to 5 Dec 1878. His son, Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, exercised the functions of his father in this period. Biography source: Herre, Franz. Kaiser Wilhelm I: Der letzte Preuße. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1980; Börner, Karl-Heinz. Wilhelm I: Deutscher Kaiser und König von Preußen. Eine Biographie. Berlin: Akademie, 1984.

[1] Wilhelm was crowned as King of Prussia on 18 Oct 1861 in Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). H was not crowned as the German Emperor.