William II

William II
1. (William Rufus) ("the Red") 1056?-1100, King of England 1087-1100 (son of William I, duke of Normandy).
2. Also, Wilhelm II. (Frederick Wilhelm Viktor Albert) 1859-1941, king of Prussia and emperor of Germany 1888-1918.

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Dutch Willem Frederik George Lodewijk

born Dec. 6, 1792, The Hague, United Provinces of the Netherlands
died March 17, 1849, Tilburg, Neth.

King of The Netherlands and grand duke of Luxembourg (1840–49).

Son of William I, he lived in exile with his family in England from 1795. He commanded Dutch troops in the Battle of Waterloo (1815). Sent by his father to Belgium in 1830 to appease the rebels, he failed to stop the independence movement. In 1840 he became king of The Netherlands on his father's abdication. As king, he helped stabilize the economy. In 1848 he oversaw passage of a new liberal constitution that expanded the authority of the ministers and assembly, established direct elections, and secured basic civil liberties.

born May 27, 1626, The Hague, United Provinces of the Netherlands
died Nov. 6, 1650, The Hague

Prince of Orange, count of Nassau, and stadtholder of the Netherlands (1647–50).

The son of Frederick Henry, prince of Orange, he married Mary Stuart, eldest daughter of Charles I of England, in 1641 and later succeeded to his father's offices (1647), which included the stadtholdership of all the provinces of the Netherlands except Friesland. Despite the treaty with Spain in 1648 that recognized the independence of the United Provinces, he planned to conquer part of the Spanish Netherlands (modern Belgium). He imprisoned members of the assembly of Holland who opposed his war policy but died of smallpox before his influence could be tested.
German Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert known as Kaiser Wilhelm

born Jan. 27, 1859, Potsdam, near Berlin, Prussia
died June 4, 1941, Doorn, Neth.

German emperor (kaiser) and king of Prussia (1888–1918).

Son of the future Frederick III and grandson of Britain's Queen Victoria, William succeeded his father to the throne in 1888. Two years later, he forced the resignation of Otto von Bismarck. He was characterized by his frequently militaristic manner and by his vacillating policies that undermined those of his chancellors, including Leo, count von Caprivi, and Bernhard, prince von Bülow. From 1897 he encouraged Adm. Alfred von Tirpitz to strengthen the German fleet and challenged France's position in Morocco (see Moroccan crises). He sided with Austria-Hungary in the crisis with Serbia (1914), and in World War I he encouraged the grandiose war aims of the generals and politicians. After Germany's defeat, he fled to The Netherlands, ending the monarchy in Germany, and lived in exile until his death.
Italian Guglielmo known as William the Good

born 1154
died Nov. 18, 1189, Palermo, Kingdom of Sicily

Last Norman king of Sicily (1166–89).

His mother served as regent until 1171, after which he ruled alone, winning a reputation for clemency and justice. His friendship with Manuel I Comnenus ended when the Byzantine emperor thwarted William's proposed marriage to his daughter. Turning against the Byzantines, William allied with Frederick I Barbarossa. He agreed to his aunt's marriage to Frederick's son Henry (later Henry VI), giving Henry a claim to Sicily. He attacked the Byzantines (1185) with early success but was defeated within sight of Constantinople.

born с 1056
died Aug. 2, 1100, near Lyndhurst, Hampshire, Eng.

King of England (1087–1100) and de facto duke of Normandy (1096–1100).

He inherited England from his father, William I (the Conqueror), and quelled a rebellion (1088) by barons loyal to his brother Robert II. A tyrannical ruler, he brutally punished the leaders of a second revolt (1095). He forced St. Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, to leave England and seized his lands (1097). He reduced the Scottish kings to vassals (1093), subjugated Wales (1097), and waged war on Normandy (1089–96), gaining control when Robert mortgaged the duchy. His death in a hunting accident may have been an assassination ordered by his brother Henry (later Henry I).

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▪ emperor of Germany
German  Wilhelm II , in full  Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert  
born January 27, 1859, Potsdam, near Berlin [Germany]
died June 4, 1941, Doorn, The Netherlands
 German emperor (kaiser) and king of Prussia from 1888 to the end of World War I in 1918, known for his frequently militaristic manner as well as for his vacillating policies.

Youth and early influences
      William was the eldest child of Crown Prince Frederick (later Emperor Frederick III) and Victoria, the eldest child of Britain's queen Victoria. He was born with a damaged left arm, and as the limb never grew to full size, some historians have claimed this disability as a clue to understanding his behaviour. More influential, however, in influencing his behaviour was his parentage. His father was honourable, intelligent, and considerate but had neither the will nor the stamina needed to dominate. His father's lack of stamina was not shared by his mother, who had acquired from her father (Albert (Albert, Prince Consort of Great Britain and Ireland)), seriousness of purpose and from her mother, emotion and obstinacy. Her intellect was hopelessly at the mercy of her feelings, and she took rapid likes and dislikes. She tried to force on her son the outlook of a 19th-century British Liberal and bring him up as an English gentleman. The result, however, was to make him sympathetic to those who were urging him to fulfill the ideal that the Prussian people had formed of a ruler—firm, brave, frugal, just and manly, self-sacrificing but also self-reliant.

      Difficult as William's relations with his mother were, she left a deep and lasting mark on him. He was never able to shake off the respect instilled into him for liberal values and habits of life. To be the tough warrior-king did not come naturally to him, yet this was the role to which he felt he must live up, and the result was that he overdid it. Inclination and a sense of duty—inculcated by a Calvinist tutor—were alternating in him continually, each managing to frustrate the other. The tension between the two, superimposed on his physical disability, ultimately explains his taut, restless, and irresolute character. In 1881 William married Princess Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, a plain, unimaginative woman with few intellectual interests and no talents, who bored him and encouraged his reactionary tendencies but all the same represented a point of stability in his life. During their marriage, Augusta gave birth to six sons and a daughter.

Emperor of Germany
      In 1888 William's grandfather William I died at the age of 90. Liberals had long hoped, and conservatives feared, that when Frederick came to the throne, he would alter the constitution by making the chancellor responsible to the Reichstag. But by the time Frederick became emperor, he was dying of cancer. Thus, William, who showed little sympathy for his parents in their bitter crisis, found himself kaiser at the age of 29.

Removal of Bismarck
      In March 1890 William drove Otto von Bismarck (Bismarck, Otto von) into resigning as chancellor. Bismarck had found brilliant answers to the problems facing him when he first took office but in doing so had given the Prussian upper classes a veto on political change and had made France Germany's implacable enemy. At 75 years of age, he was unable to solve the social and political problems confronting Germany at the end of the century. William's action would have been justifiable if he himself had been in possession of a solution. As it was, however, he dropped vague plans for helping the working classes as soon as he ran into court opposition, and he allowed Bismarck's successors to decide against renewing his 1887 Reinsurance Treaty with Russia. Superficially, this decision again could be justified, but it opened the way for Russia in 1891 to make an alliance with France.

      For four years after Bismarck's departure, Leo, Graf (count) von Caprivi (Caprivi, Leo, Graf von), as chancellor, tried unsuccessfully to find a policy that would be acceptable both to the Reichstag (lower house of the parliament) and to the ruling classes. He was followed as chancellor by the aged Prince Chlodwig von Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, Chlodwig Karl Viktor, Fürst zu), who fared no better. In 1897 William appointed the debonair Bernhard von Bülow (Bülow, Bernhard, Fürst von) as foreign secretary and in 1900 made him chancellor, intending that Bülow would persuade the Reichstag to accept the policies that the kaiser and the upper classes chose to adopt. This did little or nothing to bring about the political changes that Germany's very rapid industrialization called for. Instead, Bülow was allowed to divert attention by an exciting foreign policy.

Foreign policies
      British anger had already been aroused by a telegram that, on the advice of his foreign secretary, William had sent in 1896 to President Paul Kruger (Kruger, Paul) of the South African Republic, congratulating him on defeating the British-led Jameson raid; and alarm followed anger as the implications of the German Naval Bills of 1897 and 1900 sank in. The kaiser often indignantly denied that Germany was challenging Britain's domination of the seas, but there is clear evidence that this was in fact the aim of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (Tirpitz, Alfred von), whom he made secretary of the navy in 1897. When in 1904 Britain settled its outstanding disputes with France, the kaiser, at Bülow's suggestion, went to Tangier the following year to challenge France's position in Morocco by announcing German support for Moroccan independence. His hopes of thereby showing that Britain was of no value as an ally to France were disappointed at the 1906 Algeciras Conference, at which the Germans were forced to accept French predominance in Morocco.

      In 1908 William caused great excitement in Germany by giving, after a visit to England, a tactless interview to The Daily Telegraph (Daily Telegraph, The), telling his interviewer that large sections of the German people were anti-English. He had sent the text beforehand to Bülow, who had probably neglected to read it and who defended his master very lamely in the Reichstag. This led William to play a less prominent role in public affairs, and, feeling that he had been betrayed by Bülow, he replaced him with Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (Bethmann Hollweg, Theobald von). Bethmann's attempts to reach agreement with Britain failed because Britain would not promise neutrality in a war between Germany and France unless Germany would limit its fleet—a policy that the kaiser and Tirpitz refused to allow. The Moroccan crisis (Moroccan crises) of 1911, in which Germany again tried to intervene in Morocco against French encroachment, might have led to war if Germany (with the encouragement of the kaiser) had not given way.

Role in World War I
      What began as an attempt to save Austria (Austria-Hungary)-Hungary from collapse, World War I was transformed into a world conflict by Germany. William, having encouraged the Austrians to adopt an uncompromising line, took fright when he found war impending but was not able to halt the implementation of the mobilization measures that he had allowed his generals to prepare. During the war, although nominally supreme commander, William did not attempt to resist his generals when they kept its conduct in their own hands. He encouraged, instead of challenging, the grandiose war aims of the generals and of many politicians that ruled out all chance of a compromise peace. By the autumn of 1918 he realized that Germany had lost the war but not that this had made the loss of his throne inevitable. Refusing to abdicate, his hand was finally forced on November 9, when he was persuaded to seek asylum in The Netherlands. He avoided captivity and perhaps death, but asylum also made it impossible for William to retain his position of emperor of Germany. Subsequently, he lived quietly as a country gentleman in The Netherlands until his death in 1941.

      William often bombastically claimed to be the man who made the decisions. It is true that the German constitution of 1871 put two important powers in his hands. First, he was responsible for appointing and dismissing the chancellor, the head of the civil government. The chancellor needed the support of the Reichstag to pass legislation but not to remain in office. Secondly, the German Army and Navy were not responsible to the civil government, so that the kaiser was the only person in Germany who was in a position to see that the policy followed by the soldiers and sailors was in line with that pursued by the civil servants and diplomats. Thus, British journalists and publicists had some justification when during and immediately after the war they portrayed William as Supreme War Lord, and therefore the man who, more than anyone else, decided to make war.

      As time passed, historians increasingly viewed William more as an accomplice rather than an instigator. In the years after 1890 the German upper and middle classes would have wanted a larger say in the world's councils no matter who had been on the throne, and this “urge to world power” was almost bound to bring them into collision with some of the existing great powers. The chief real criticism to be made of the kaiser is that, instead of seeing this danger and using his influence to restrain German appetites, he shared those appetites and indeed increased them, particularly by his determination to give Germany a navy of which it could be proud and by his frequently tactless and aggressive public statements.

Michael Graham Balfour Ed.

Additional Reading

Lamar Cecil, Wilhelm II, 2 vol. (1989–96), is a scholarly account, which emphasizes foreign affairs. Thomas A. Kohut, Wilhelm II and the Germans: A Study in Leadership (1991), is a psychological analysis. The definitive biography is by John C.G. Röhl, Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser's Early Life, 1859–1888 (1998; originally published in German, 1993).

The kaiser's own writings
Ereignisse und Gestalten aus den Jahren 1878–1918 (1922; The Kaiser's Memoirs, 1922; also published as My Memoirs, 1878–1918); My Early Life (1926); N.F. Grant (ed.), The Kaiser's Letters to the Tsar, Copied from the Government Archives in Petrograd, and Brought from Russia by Isaac Don Levine (1920); E.T.S. Dugdale (compiler and trans.), German Diplomatic Documents, 1871–1914, 4 vol. (1928–31), contains many of the kaiser's marginal notes.

Robert Zedlitz-Trützschler, Twelve Years at the Imperial German Court, trans. by Alfred Kalisch (1924, reissued 1951; originally published in German, 1923); Anne Topham, Memories of the Kaiser's Court (1914), as seen by his daughter's governess; Walter Görlitz (ed.), The Kaiser and His Court: The Diaries, Note Books, and Letters of Admiral Georg Alexander von Müller, Chief of the Naval Cabinet, 1914–1918 (1961; originally published in German, 1959); Sigurd von Ilsemann, Der Kaiser in Holland: Aufzeuchnungen des Letzen Flügeladjutanten Kaiser Wilhelms II, ed. by Harald von Koenigswald, 2 vol. (1967–68).

The kaiser's mother
Frederick Ponsonby (ed.), Letters of the Empress Frederick (1928, reissued 1930), the German edition of 1929 has an introduction by the kaiser; Roger Fulford (ed.), Dearest Child: Letters Between Queen Victoria and the Princess Royal, 1858–1861 (1964, reissued 1977), and Dearest Mama: Letters Between Queen Victoria and the Crown Princess of Prussia, 1861–1864 (1968, reissued 1977).

Descriptions of the abdication
Alfred Niemann, Kaiser und Revolution: Die entscheidenden Ereignisse im Grossen Hauptquartier, im Herbst 1918, new ed. (1928); William, Memoirs of the Crown Prince of Germany (1922); Maurice Baumont, The Fall of the Kaiser, trans. by E. Ibbetson James (1931; originally published in French, 1930).

▪ king of England
byname  William Rufus,  French  Guillaume Le Roux 
born c. 1056
died Aug. 2, 1100, near Lyndhurst, Hampshire, Eng.
 son of William I the Conqueror and king of England from 1087 to 1100; he was also de facto duke of Normandy (as William III) from 1096 to 1100. He prevented the dissolution of political ties between England and Normandy, but his strong-armed rule earned him a reputation as a brutal, corrupt tyrant. Rufus (“the Red”—so named for his ruddy complexion) was William's third (second surviving) and favourite son. In accordance with feudal custom, William I bequeathed his inheritance, the Duchy of Normandy, to his eldest son, Robert II Curthose; England, William's kingdom by conquest, was given to Rufus.

      Nevertheless, many Norman barons in England wanted England and Normandy to remain under one ruler, and shortly after Rufus succeeded to the throne, they conspired to overthrow him in favour of Robert. Led by the Conqueror's half brother, Odo Of Bayeux, Earl of Kent, they raised rebellions in eastern England in 1088. Rufus immediately won the native English to his side by pledging to cut taxes and institute efficient government. The insurgency was suppressed, but the king failed to keep his promises. Consequently, a second baronial revolt, led by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, broke out in 1095. This time William punished the ringleaders with such brutality that no barons dared to challenge his authority thereafter. His attempts to undermine the authority of the English church provoked resistance from St. Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, who, defeated, left the country for Rome in 1097; Rufus immediately seized the lands of Canterbury.

      Meanwhile, Rufus was engaged in military operations in Scotland, Wales, and particularly in Normandy. In 1091 he compelled King Malcolm III of Scotland to acknowledge his overlordship. Malcolm revolted in November 1093, but Rufus' forces quickly killed him near Alnwick, Northumberland. Thereafter, Rufus maintained the Scottish kings as vassals, and in 1097 he subjugated Wales.

      William Rufus' chief interest, however, lay in the recovery of Normandy from the incompetent Robert. After waging war on Normandy for seven years (1089–96), Rufus reduced his brother to the role of a subordinate ally. When Robert left for a crusade in 1096, he mortgaged his kingdom to Rufus, who quickly added Maine to his possessions. In 1100 Rufus was shot in the back with an arrow and killed while hunting in the New Forest in Hampshire. The incident was probably an assassination, and Rufus' alleged slayer, Walter Tirel, lord of Poix in Ponthieu, may have been acting under orders from the king's younger brother, Henry. Henry promptly seized the English throne as King Henry I.

▪ king of Sicily
byname  William The Good,  Italian  Guglielmo Il Buono 
born 1154
died Nov. 18, 1189, Palermo, kingdom of Sicily [Italy]
 the last Norman king of Sicily; under a regency from 1166, he ruled in person from 1171. He became known as William the Good because of his policy of clemency and justice toward the towns and the barons, in contrast with his father, William I the Bad.

      After the regency of his mother, Margaret of Navarre, had ended, William II at first continued his father's policy of friendship with Pope Alexander III and with the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus. In 1172, however, the proposed marriage of William to Manuel's daughter Maria was thwarted by the emperor, and William immediately turned against the Byzantines (Byzantine Empire). In 1177 he concluded a truce with his father's old enemy, the German king Frederick I Barbarossa, who had been defeated by the Lombard League at Legnano in 1176 and no longer seemed dangerous to Sicily. Also in 1177, on February 13, William married Joan, daughter of King Henry II of England. After the death of Pope Alexander III in 1181, William felt freer to exploit disorders in the Byzantine Empire, and he sought even closer relations with Frederick I. William agreed that his aunt Constance should marry Frederick's son Henry (later Henry VI); because William's own marriage was childless, this betrothal (Oct. 29, 1184) gave Henry a strong claim to the Sicilian succession, an arrangement disliked by the Norman national party.

      In June 1185 William commenced a great campaign against the Byzantines. His forces crossed Macedonia and captured Thessalonica (modern Salonika), but when his fleet was in sight of Constantinople (now Istanbul), his army was ambushed and defeated. William died while planning to join the Third Crusade.

▪ king of The Netherlands
Dutch  in full Willem Frederik George Lodewijk  
born Dec. 6, 1792, The Hague
died March 17, 1849, Tilburg, Neth.
 king of The Netherlands and grand duke of Luxembourg (1840–49) whose reign saw the reestablishment of fiscal stability and the transformation of The Netherlands to a more liberal monarchy through the constitution of 1848.

      Exiled to England with his family in 1795, William served in the British Army (1811–12) as the Duke of Wellington's aide-de-camp in the Peninsular War (1808–14); he also commanded the Netherlands troops in the Battle of Waterloo (Waterloo, Battle of) (1815). In 1816 he married the grand duchess Anna Pavlovna, sister of the Russian emperor Alexander I. Popular in the southern or Belgian part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, he was sent to Brussels by his father, William I, after the outbreak of the Belgian Revolution of 1830. His concessions to the rebels failed to quell the revolt, and he retired to England until August 1831, when he returned to Belgium, leading a Dutch army to victory over the forces of the new king of the Belgians, Leopold I, before French intervention stopped his advance.

      William II became king of The Netherlands in October 1840 on his father's abdication. Although he lacked William I's abilities as a statesman and financier, he was fortunate in his choice of F.A. van Hall as finance minister. Van Hall stabilized the public finances and, helped by profits from Dutch colonial ventures in the East Indies, achieved the country's first surplus in 70 years in 1847.

      William was tolerant toward Roman Catholics and Separatists (dissident orthodox Calvinists), but was opposed by the liberals who wanted a more representative form of government. Afraid that the European revolutionary movements of 1848 would sweep across The Netherlands also, he authorized the leading liberal statesman, Johan Thorbecke (Thorbecke, Johan Rudolf), and his associates to draft a new constitution, approved in November 1848. The constitution expanded the power of the ministers and the States General (parliament), established the principle of direct elections, and secured basic civil liberties. William died a few months later.

▪ prince of Orange

born May 27, 1626, The Hague, Neth.
died Nov. 6, 1650, The Hague
 prince of Orange, count of Nassau, stadtholder and captain general of six provinces of the Netherlands from 1647, and the central figure of a critical struggle for power in the Dutch Republic. The son of Frederick Henry, prince of Orange, he was guaranteed, in a series of acts from 1630 onward, succession to all his father's offices.

      On May 12, 1641, William married Mary Stuart (1631–60), eldest daughter of Charles I of England. After his father's death (March 1647), William succeeded to the title of prince of Orange, to the stadtholdership of all the provinces except Friesland, and to the offices of captain general and admiral general of the Union.

      Early in 1648 peace was concluded at Münster (Westphalia, Peace of), ending the Eighty Years' War for Dutch independence. The treaty, however, was concluded despite William's wrathful opposition. He did not abandon his dynastic and military ambitions. He corresponded with the French government and planned to resume the war in order to conquer part of the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium). He also supported his brother-in-law Charles II, hoping to restore him to the throne of England. The States (assembly) of Holland, fearing that William's high ambitions would lead to war, disbanded some of the troops paid by them (June 4, 1650). William then turned to the States General, most of whom were jealous of Holland's influence, which granted him extraordinary powers. On July 30, William imprisoned six leading members of the States of Holland and ordered his army to march on Amsterdam. The attempt to occupy Amsterdam failed, but the States accepted a compromise. William then met much opposition in trying to implement his foreign policy. He died suddenly of smallpox before his influence could really be tested.

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