Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (1906–1940)

Prince Wilhelm Friedrich Franz Joseph Christian Olaf of Prussia (4 July 1906 – 26 May 1940) was the eldest child of Wilhelm, German Crown Prince, and Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. At his birth, he was second in line to the German throne and was expected to succeed to the throne after the deaths of his grandfather, Emperor Wilhelm II, and his father, Crown Prince Wilhelm. Both, however, outlived him.

Prince Wilhelm of Prussia
Prinz Wilhelm und Prinz Lous Ferdinand von Preussen.jpg
Prince Wilhelm, left, with his brother, Louis Ferdinand, in 1926
Born(1906-07-04)4 July 1906
Marmorpalais, near Potsdam, Prussia
Died26 May 1940(1940-05-26) (aged 33)  
Nivelles, Belgium
Burial29 May 1940
SpouseDorothea von Salviati
IssuePrincess Felicitas
Princess Christa
William Frederick Francis Joseph Christian Olaf
German: Wilhelm Friedrich Franz Joseph Christian Olaf
FatherWilhelm, German Crown Prince
MotherDuchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Early life and childhoodEdit

Prince Wilhelm with his mother, Crown Princess Cecilie, in 1908

Wilhelm was born on 4 July 1906 at the Hohenzollern family's private summer residence, Marmorpalais, or Marble Palace, near Potsdam, where his parents were residing until their own home, Schloss Cecilienhof, could be completed.[1] His father was Crown Prince Wilhelm, the eldest son and heir to the German Emperor, Wilhelm II. His mother was Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria was one of the Prince's godfathers.

The selection of a nanny for Wilhelm and his younger brother, Louis Ferdinand (born in 1907) caused considerable distress within the family.[2]

On his tenth birthday in 1916, Wilhelm was made a lieutenant in the 1st Guards Regiment, and was given the Order of the Black Eagle by his grandfather.[3] Two years later, when he was only twelve, the German monarchy was abolished. Wilhelm and his family remained in Germany, though his grandfather, the former Emperor, went into exile in the Netherlands. The former Crown Prince and his family remained in Potsdam, where Wilhelm and his younger brothers attended the local gymnasium.

Prince Wilhelm in 1914, with his younger brothers, Louis Ferdinand, Hubertus and Friedrich. The boys are dressed in the uniform of the Prussian army.

After graduating from secondary school, Wilhelm went on to study at the Universities of Königsberg, Munich and Bonn. In 1926, while a student at the University of Bonn, Wilhelm joined the Borussia Corps, a student organization of which his father, grandfather, and other members of the Prussian Royal Family were members.[4]

Marriage and childrenEdit

While a student at Bonn, Wilhelm fell in love with a fellow student, Dorothea von Salviati (10 September 1907 – 7 May 1972). Her parents were Alexander Hermann Heinrich August von Salviati and Helene "Ella" Crasemann (of the well-established Hamburg merchant family, Crasemann).[5] Her maternal grandfather was the famous Hamburg parliamentarian Gustav August Rudolph Crasemann.

Wilhelm's grandfather did not approve of the marriage of a member of the minor nobility with the second in line to the German throne. At the time, the former Kaiser still believed in the possibility of a Hohenzollern restoration,[6] and he would not permit his grandson to make an unequal marriage. Wilhelm told his grandson, "Remember, there is every possible form of horse. We are thoroughbreds, however, and when we conclude a marriage such as with Fräulein von Salviati, it produces mongrels, and that cannot be allowed to happen."[7]

However, Wilhelm was determined to marry Dorothea. He renounced any rights to the succession for himself and his future children in 1933.[8][9] Wilhelm and Dorothea married on 3 June 1933 in Bonn. They had two daughters. In 1940, the ex-Emperor recognized the marriage as dynastic and the girls were accorded the style of Princesses of Prussia,[10] although their father was not restored to his former place in the putative line of succession,

  • Princess Felicitas Cecilie Alexandrine Helene Dorothea of Prussia, (7 June 1934–1 August 2009),[11] married Dinnies von der Osten (1929-1998) on 12 September 1958 and they were divorced in 1972, with issue. She married secondly Jörg von Nostitz-Wallwitz (b. 1937), with issue.
  • Princess Christa Friederike Alexandrine Viktoria of Prussia, (31 October 1936) she married Peter von Assis Liebes (1926-1967), son of Martin Liebes and Countess Clementine von Montgelas on 24 March 1960, without issue.

Military servicesEdit

During the Weimar Republic, Wilhelm inadvertently caused a public scandal by attending Army manoeuvres in the uniform of the old Imperial First Foot Guards without first seeking government approval. The commander of the Reichswehr, Hans von Seeckt, was forced to resign as a result.[12] The Oster conspiracy of 1938 sought to restore Wilhelm to the throne.

At the beginning of World War II, Wilhelm was among a number of princes from the former German monarchies who enlisted to serve in the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Germany.

Death and reactionEdit

With his father and grandfather in 1927

In May 1940, Wilhelm took part in the invasion of France. He was wounded during the fighting in Valenciennes and died in a field hospital in Nivelles on 26 May 1940.[2][13] His funeral service was held at the Church of Peace, and he was buried in the Hohenzollern family mausoleum in the Antique Temple in Sanssouci Park. The service drew over 50,000 mourners, by far the largest unofficial public turnout during Nazi rule in Germany.[13]

His death, and the ensuing sympathy of the German public, revealed that despite years of Nazi indoctrination, large parts of German society still were affectionately bound to the former German royal houses.[citation needed] Thus, Hitler began to see the Hohenzollerns as a threat to his regime. Shortly after Wilhelm's death, a decree known as the Prinzenerlaß, or Prince's Decree, was issued, barring all members of the former German royal houses from service in the Wehrmacht.[13][14]



  1. ^ Potsdam tourism sights - Marmorpalais
  2. ^ a b Zeepvat, Charlotte (2003). Queen Victoria's Family: A Century of Photographs. Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-3059-8.
  3. ^ Wilhelm von Preußen (1906–1940) - Wikipedia, Die freie Enzyklopädie.
  4. ^ "Kaiser's Fraternity Now in Disgrace — Borussia Corps of the University of Bonn Is Suspended for Hazing — All the Princes Members — Leading Organization of German University Life Guilty of Disorder — Students Not Expelled". New York Times. 21 November 1909. p. C2. Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  5. ^
  6. ^ von Radowitz Nei, Baron Clemens (3 July 1922). "Monarchy Will Return, But Not I, Says Ex-Kaiser — Ebert Capable, but Republic Is Only a Temporary Affair, Former Ruler Holds — Sees Nation Agan A Power — Hopes for an Economic Union in Central Europe, but Disapproves Austrian Alliance — Assails The Soviet Treaty —Talks on Many Current Issues With Baron Clemens von Radowitz-Nei, One of a Group Of Callers at Doorn". New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  7. ^ MacDonogh, Giles (2003). The Last Kaiser: The Life of Wilhelm II. New York City: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0-312-30557-4.
  8. ^ Eilers, Marlene A. (1987). Queen Victoria's Descendants. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-8063-1202-6. OCLC 17370791.
  9. ^ boys clothing: German royalty -- Wilhelm Hohenzollern
  10. ^ Genealogy of the Royal Family of Prussia: HRH Prince Wilhelm and his descendants at the Wayback Machine (archived October 28, 2009)
  11. ^ Trauer um IKH Prinzessin Felicitas von Preussen (1934 - 2009)
  12. ^ "Hans von Seeckt." Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 6 July 2008 [1].
  13. ^ a b c "Wilhelm Prinz von Preussen (in German)" (in German). Retrieved 2008-07-12.
  14. ^ Petropoulos, Jonathan. (2006) Royals and the Reich: The Princes Von Hessen in Nazi Germany. Page 242. Published - Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516133-5