William II of Prussia and Germany (Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Hohenzollern) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and the last king (König) of Prussia from 1888 to 1918.
He was born of Crown Prince Frederick and his wife, the British Royal Princess Victoria. His mother was the aunt of Empress Alexandra (the wife of Tsar Nicholas II), and the sister of King Edward VII. Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom was her grandmother. A traumatic breech birth physically damaged him, leading him to have the atrophied left arm, which he tried with some success to hide.
Recent analysis of her birth records kept in former imperial archives have also suggested that she may have suffered some brain trauma. Historians are divided on the fact that this mental incapacity may have helped to make it often aggressive, tactless, stubborn and occasionally with a domineering approach to problems and people, which was evident both in personal and political life.
This approach certainly spoiled German politics under his leadership, especially when he dismissed his cautious chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, on the other hand he procured him an incredibly poor relationship with his mother. William was educated at the Kassel Gymnasium and at the University of Bonn. On the death of William I, March 9, 1888, his father was crowned Emperor as Frederick III, but he died of a throat cancer and in June of the same year William II succeeded him.
His reign was marked by the militaristic drive to assert German power. He tried to expand the German colonial possessions, "a place in the sun". With the Tirpitz Plan, through the naval laws of 1897 and 1900, the German Navy was strengthened to rival that of the United Kingdom. His personality and policies fluctuated between antagonizing and pleasing the United Kingdom, France and Russia.
He resigned Otto von Bismarck in 1890 and abandoned the careful policies of the Chancellor, replacing him with Leo Graf von Caprivi, who in turn was replaced by Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfurst in 1894. The latter was succeeded by Prince Bernhard von Bülow in 1900 and from Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg in 1909. All these chancellors were senior and non-political civil servants like Bismarck.
William wanted to prevent the rise of another Bismarck. Despite his attitude, it is difficult to say whether he sought the First World War, even if he did very little to prevent it. He had allied with Austria-Hungary and encouraged their hard-line in the Balkans. Even if he lost his courage at the last minute it was too late, and soon he recovered to push his generals to great achievements.
During the war he was Commander in Chief but quickly lost control of all German politics and his popularity precipitated. As a result of the explosion of the German Revolution, the abdication of the Kaiser was announced by Max von Baden on November 9, 1918. William went into exile in the Netherlands.
The Dutch queen Wilhelmina refused to extradite him as a war criminal. William had married Augusta Vittoria, Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein, in 1881. They had seven children.
The end of World War I ended the Hoenzollern dynasty.
Following his wife's death, while in exile, in 1922, he married Hermine von Schoenaich, the widowed princess Reuss. During the 1930s, he apparently had hopes that the Nazi Party would raise the monarchy, but that did not happen. William II lived in exile in Holland where he died in 1941.