June 15th 1888: Wilhelm becomes Kaiser

On this day in 1888 Crown Prince Wilhelm became Kaiser Wilhelm II upon the death of his predecessor Frederick III. He dismissed Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and took more control of policy; Wilhelm proved an ineffective war leader during World War One. He was the last Emperor of the German Empire and reigned until 9th November 1918 when he abdicated following growing disaffection with his leadership. After Wilhelm, the German monarchy was abolished and Friedrich Ebert became the first President of Germany. Wilhelm died in 1941 aged 82.

Kaiser Wilhelm and Winston Churchill

Churchill’s interest in military affairs continued throughout his life. This 1909 photograph shows him attending German Army maneuvers with Kaiser Wilhelm. Churchill explained the Kaiser’s restlessness: “All he wished was to feel like Napoleon, and be like him without having had to fight his battles…If you are the summit of a volcano, the least you can do is to smoke. So he smoked, a pillar of cloud by day and the gleam of fire by night, to all who gazed from afar; and slowly and surely these perturbed observers gathered and joined themselves together for mutual protection.” 

Yet, Churchill observed with an eagle eye Germany’s ever increasing military preparations. Through their mutual friend, Sir Ernest Cassel, Churchill and Kaiser Wilhelm II even exchanged naval laws and other important military details in the days leading to WWI. 

This is against the words of King Edward VII who noted that Churchill should not be “too communicative and frank with his nephew”, the Kaiser.

June of 1913, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt shakes hands with Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany at the conclusion of their meeting at Doberitz training field in Brandenburg. They have successfully concluded the terms for the continued military alliance between the United States of America and the Empire of Germany, assuring each other that a declaration against one of them would be met with a declaration of war by the other against their enemies.