Wilhelm I, (March 22, 1797 - March 9, 1888), German Emperor (Kaiser), ruled January 18, 1871-1888 and king of Prussia, ruled 1861-1888. His full name was Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig

Table of contents
1 Early Life and Military Career
2 Prince Regent
3 King and Kaiser

Early Life and Military Career

As second son of Friedrich Wilhelm III Wilhelm had no expectations to ascend to the throne. As second son he received only little education. He served in the army from 1814 onward, and fought against Napoleon. It was reported that he was a brave soldier.

After 1815 he was engaged in diplomatic missions and he became an excellent diplomat.

In 1848 he was assigned to crush a revolt aimed at his elder brother King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. His standing with his brother was probably a good one.

Prince Regent

In 1857 Friedrich Wilhelm IV suffered from a stroke and became mentally disabled for the rest of his life. In January 1858 Wilhelm became Prince Regent for his brother.

King and Kaiser

On January 2, 1861 Friedrich Wilhelm died and Wilhelm ascended the throne as Wilhelm I of Prussia. He inherited a conflict between King and the liberal parliament. He was considered a politically neutral person as he intervened less in politics than his brother. He nevertheless found a conservative solution for the conflict: he appointed Otto von Bismarck to the office of Prime Minister.

As soon as Bismarck was appointed Wilhelm withdrew from internal politics, which were left to Bismarck, and he concentrated on foreign politics. He lost control over foreign politics in 1870 when he went to a Kurhaus (thermae) to recover from a small illness. During his absence Bismarck sent an insulting telegram to Napoleon III causing conflict over the Hohenzollern candidate to the Spanish throne.

Result was the Franco-Prussian War in which the King fought and Paris was conquered. Wilhelm was proclaimed German Emperor on January 18, 1871 in Versailles, in the palace of Louis XIV.

Throughout the rest of his reign he and Bismarck continued their politics as they did before the Unification. Bismarck's influence on foreign politics had nevertheless grown. In the 1880s Bismarck made concessions to the socialists to appease them.

Preceded by:
Frederick William IV of Prussia (King of Prussia)
List of German Kings and Emperors and List of Kings of Prussia Succeeded by:
Friedrich III of Germany, German Kaiser