On March 22, 1797, was born in Berlin the one who would become king of Prussia and the first German emperor, Wilhelm I, more precisely Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig von Hohenzollern. He was king of Prussia from January 2, 1861, until his death and German emperor from January 18, 1871.

Wilhelm I was the second son of Prussian King Frederick Wilhelm III and Queen Louise, daughter of Duke Charles II of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He received an education in accordance with the canons of the time from the rector of the Pedagogium in Magdeburg. From an early age he was appointed an officer, in 1825 reaching the rank of lieutenant general and command of the Prussian Guards Corps.

In addition to military activities, he took part in the political affairs of the state, was used by his father as an adviser or was sent on diplomatic missions to Petersburg. After having to give up his marriage to Princess Elisa Radziwill, he married, for political reasons, Princess Augusta of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach, the daughter of Duke Carol-Frederick of Saxony-Weimar-Eisennach. Although she had a not-so-happy marriage, they still had two children: Friedrich Wilhelm (who would be emperor for 99 days) and Louise, who would become the wife of Frederick I, Grand Duke of Baden.

After the death of his father, in 1840, his brother, the romantic Friedrich Wilhelm IV, succeeded to the throne, who, for health reasons, handed over Wilhelm’s regency on October 7, 1848. He was a representative of Prussian conservative politics, playing a negative role in the suppression of the 1848 revolution. However, his reign is known as the “Wilhelmina period” without negative connotations. On March 18, 1848, under the pressure of the events of the 1848 revolution, Wilhelm ordered the use of cannons against the barricades erected by the revolutionary fighters, which drew the hatred of the revolutionaries.

These incidents caused him suffering, which eventually led him to leave Berlin anonymously. On his return from England, he was met with anti-royal demonstrations and survived an attack. Within a few weeks, Wilhelm destroyed the last bastion of the revolutionaries in Baden, on the Rhine Valley. Between 1850 and 1858, he settled in Koblenz, where, under the influence of his wife, he became more moderate in conceptions and behavior. All this time, his son studied in Bonn.

When mobilizing Prussian troops under pressure from the clergy, in preparation for Prussia’s intervention in the Crimean War (military conflict between 1853 and 1856) between Russia, on the one hand, the Ottoman Empire, France and England, on the other, Wilhelm noticed the shortcomings of the Prussian army, and this led him to approve in 1860 the increase in military spending for the reorganization of the Prussian army.

After the death of his brother, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, on January 2, 1861, he was crowned on October 18, 1861 in Konigsberg as King of Prussia, his coronation being a compromise, viewed with distrust by Parliament. The elections of December 6, 1861 represented a victory for the new progressive party, which won a majority in Parliament, which led to a constitutional conflict. The king demanded the continuation of the existing military structure. These conflicts, which called into question the sovereignty of the monarch, led him to sign his abdication. The signed deed ended up in the hands of Bismarck, who managed to persuade the king to change his mind.

Politics during his reign was influenced by Chancellor Otto von Bismarch. Wilhelm I hardly accepted Bismarck’s aggressive policy. He promoted an authoritarian policy by establishing a police regime inside. This policy also affected the image of the king, who lost his popularity. As a maneuver to channel the population’s attention to German nationalism, Bismarck used military conflict. In 1864, Prussia defeated Denmark, receiving the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein after the victory. This, according to Bismarck’s calculations, led to a conflict with Denmark’s ally, Austria, in 1866.

Due to the strategy applied by General von Moltke, the war ended with the victory of Prussia, which thus gained supremacy in the German world. This policy of consolidating Prussia was viewed with distrust and concern by France, which, under the leadership of Emperor Napoleon III, began the war of 1870-1871, during which the battles of Gravelotte and Sedan took place.

Wilhelm I tried, until the last moment, to prevent the Franco-Prussian war that ended with the Sedan disaster suffered by the French army, which is why he was also called “Wilhelm the Great”. With one of his skilful moves, Bismarck persuaded Napoleon III to declare war on Prussia in 1870. The French request to the King of Prussia – to give up any member of his family to ever aspire to the Spanish crown – was indeed provocative. . But the old and worthy King Wilhelm I, instead of losing his temper, patiently and correctly refused the French ambassador sent to submit the request.

Bismarck then resorted to a technique that the statesmen who followed him developed to the point of art, and let the draft of Wilhelm I’s draft flow to the written press. The drafted version of the king’s telegram looks like a royal rebuke. to France. Enraged, the French public demanded war, which Napoleon III offered him. After the defeat of France, Wilhelm crowned himself as the first German emperor on January 18, 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. It is said that Bismarck and Wilhelm opposed this coronation at Versailles to avoid humiliating the French, but had to give in to pressure from the masses.

The proclamation of the German emperor Wilhelm Ica on January 18, 1871, took place exactly 170 years after the coronation of Frederick III of Brandenburg as King of Prussia, a coronation that took place at Konigsberg.

Wilhelm I was received with great fanfare on June 16, 1871, in Berlin, having controversies with Otto von Bismarck, who wanted Wilhelm to be called “the emperor of all Germans,” while Wilhelm gave him more of the Prussian crown. In the end, Wilhelm accepted the title of “German emperor”, leaving the resolution of political issues to the “iron chancellor”. Bismarck was the one who organized the meeting of the three emperors (of Russia, Austria and Germany), the policy that followed the isolation of France.

In 1871, Wilhelm I was given the role of mediator in foreign policy in the conflict between Washington and British Columbia in Canada, a conflict that broke out due to disputes over the border line. Wilhelm died at an advanced age, on March 9, 1888. Due to his character traits – modesty, faith in his principles – he enjoyed great popularity, being accompanied by a large funeral procession, on March 16, 1888. He was buried in the mausoleum in Charlottenburg, Berlin. Historians have called him “Wilhelm the Great”, a name that was sought to be attributed to his nephew Wilhelm II, but he gave up due to outrage among the masses. Wilhelm Iare a large number of monuments throughout Germany, the best known being Porta Westfalia and the German Corner.

Even though Wilhelm I’s son ruled only 99 days before he was diagnosed with throat cancer, and Wilhelm II behaved in a histrionic manner, which made observers feel uncomfortable that he was the master of the strongest nation in the world. Europe was not only immature, but also eccentric. Germany has been involved in European international politics for a long time.

“If I hadn’t been the king’s son …”
Prussia had become an important military power in Europe. The army was one of the most important institutions of the Prussian state, and German officers enjoyed immense prestige. Not coincidentally, at only ten years old, Wilhelm was appointed an officer by his father. Although he began his military career at an early age, Wilhelm never excelled in the arms business. In 1814, Wilhelm was appointed captain, receiving the order of the “Iron Cross”. A year later, he was promoted to major, receiving the command of the 1st Guards Regiment, and in 1816 he received the command of the Defense Battalion in Stetin (today Szczecin, Poland). In 1818 he took over as commander-in-chief of the Infantry Brigade, after which, in 1820, he took over the supreme command of the 1st Guards Division. In 1825, he became a lieutenant general, taking command of the Prussian Guards Corps.

Assassination attempts on Wilhelm I

On July 14, 1861, student Oskar Becker attempted to assassinate Wilhelm I while he was in Baden-Baden. The king escaped with a leg wound.

On May 11, 1878, the second failed assassination attempt on Wilhelm I took place, carried out by the tiny apprentice Max Hodel, who had social-democratic convictions.

The third attack followed after a period of three weeks, on June 2, 1878. It is the attack of Dr. Karl Eduard Nobiling, which took place in the same place in Berlin, on Under den Linden Street. The emperor was seriously wounded in the head and arms, but survived the attack thanks to the Prussian helmet he wore.

The fourth attack took place in R desheim, in 1893, on the Rhine Valley, an attack carried out with dynamite by the anarchist August Reisdorf, which failed due to the wet weather that neutralized the explosive charge.

Wilhelm the Great, the first German emperor of the modern era