Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor August Ernst, Kronprinz des Deutschen
Reiches und von
(06.05.1882 - 20.07.1951)
place of birth: Marmorpalais, Potsdam (Brandenburg)
Preußen: Kronprinz, OBH, General der Infanterie
sons born to Kaiser Wilhelm
II and Augusta Victoria, Friedrich Wilhelm (Willy) was formally referred to as the
"His Imperial Highness Crown Prince William of the German Empire
and Prussia". During the Great War,
his British counterparts often
referred to him at the Clown Prince.
Although he did not begin actual military service until 18,
at the age of six (1888) he became youngest corporal in the
Prussian Army and, as was customary for all Hohenzollern princes, was commissioned
in 1892 as a 10-year old in the 1st Foot Guards. He never became a
however, which was apparently a deep embarrassment
to his father the Kaiser. Following one of their frequent quarrels ,
Willy was at least initially denied a command in the coveted Totenkopf Husar Regiment (the Death's Head Hussars).
He then spent four years as a
cadet studying at the Plön Academy alongside his
brother, Eitel Friedrich, and two years studying law in Bonn.
His pre-war politics were very right-wing, focusing on Pan-Germanism as
well as anti-semitism.
by relying on the sword can we gain the place in the sun that is
our due, but that is not voluntarily accorded us."
Crown Prince Wilhelm
shortly prior to the Great War
The Crown Prince served most of the
pre-war years with the 1. Foot Guards Regiment in Potsdam, but he also
commanded a Leib-Hussar regiment in Danzig under the noted Totenkopf
commanding general August von Mackensen. For a few months immediately
prior to the war, Willy was also in service with the Great General Staff
in Berlin. He married Duchess Cecelie zu Mecklinburg, with whom he had
four sons and two daughters. His eldest child Wilhelm served as First
Lieutenant during the Second World War and was mortally wounded during
fighting at Valenciennes, France.
As Germany mobilized for the Great War in early August 1914, the
32-year old princely lieutenant general was given command of the Fifth
Army which was tasked with holding the French in check along the Western
Front's southern flank. Granting command of a field army to a crown
prince was also a time-honored Hohenzollern tradition. Although
Willy was a leader with sound insight and fairly good instincts, he did
nonetheless have a dubious reputation as a commander -- the Allies
ridiculed him as an imbecile and referred to him as the Clown Prince
-- but his early successes in the Ardennes helped change this
reputation somewhat. His troops early on were able to capture the
fortress at Longwy, and he was awarded a much-coveted Pour le
Merite in 1915 for his leadership and valor. His insistence on going
on the offensive and charging into Lorraine, however, also forced
Chief of Staff von Moltke to transfer some northern flank divisions to
the south, thus altering the von Schlieffen Plan.
Crown Prince Wilhelm's troops were also engaged at Verdun
in 1916, an
experience which caused him to begin to see the senselessness of the
He thereafter was charged with leading Army Group Deutscher Kronprinz
which in 1918 had some noteworthy successes along the Aisne-Champagne
front. He continued to become more disillusioned about Germany's
prospects and in vain campaigned Supreme Headquarters to pursue a policy
As the war ended, the young general followed his father
into exile in the Netherlands, living on the island of Wieringen in the
Zuiderzee and officially renouncing any right to the throne. In 1923, he
returned to his wife Cecilie at their home in Potsdam where he began
rubbing shoulders with some of the Nazi leadership, including Hitler
himself. The German government paid an allowance to Willy and his
brothers but threatened to cut them off should they ever speak out
against the Nazis. Hitler's promise to the Crown Prince that that he
would eventually restore the monarchy was of course never to take place.
Willy remained a civilian during World War Two, but he was placed under
arrest by the French for a short time after the war. Shortly after
moving to Hohenzollern Castle in Hechingen Baden-Württemburg,
the erstwhile crown prince and army commander died of a heart attack in
1951. He is laid to rest there in the St. Michaels-Bastei.
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