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Kaiser Wilhelm II was a King and Emperor who changed Europe forever – but not quite in the way he might have hoped...
Wilhelm was King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany from 1888 to 1918. He oversaw the meteoric rise of Germany as an economic and military power.
However, Wilhelm's reign also led both to Germany’s humiliating defeat and the abolition of German monarchical rule.
Although his life, actions and complex character were significant in this destruction, he always overestimated his capacity for wise political judgement.
He wanted Germany to be a world power, and certainly managed to disrupt the established balance of the European order.
Wilhelm made blustering claims for German colonial expansion. These only served to unite Britain and France in opposition, even though he was Queen Victoria's first grandson.
Take the Helm this Easter
We've plenty to keep the whole family occupied over the Easter break. Keep HMS Belfast shining on our Ship ShapeSaturdays, or meet veterans and eyewitnesses and have their stories of conflict bring our collections to life.
He was also paranoid about a deliberate encirclement of Germany, which intensified this isolation from other powers.
Wilhelm enjoyed theatrically posturing as a 'supreme warlord'. The status he gained from this helped disguise his unpredictability and ineffectiveness as a war leader between 1914-18.
In 1914 Wilhelm rashly assured unlimited support to Austria-Hungary. This was a significant contribution to the outbreak of war.
He then proved indecisive and ineffective as a war leader. This meant that strategic and political power fell to the German High Command.
By late 1918 Wilhelm's presence even proved an obstacle to peace negotiations. He was forced to abdicate on 9 November 1918, and was bundled off to neutral Holland, where he remained until his death in 1941.
Last Chance to See
Don't miss the final weekend of Making a New World at IWM London. Four exhibitions explore how the world was rebuilt after the First World War. Running until 31 March.