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William I of Germany

also known asCivilization:European: Germany

King of Prussia, Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig

Era: Rise of Germany
1797–1888Field of Renown:monarch: Kaiser
William I of Germany
 William I

Emperor William I was the leader of Prussia during the successful Schleswig-Holstein and Austro-Prussian Wars, and in the aftermath of both he gained extensive territory and prestige. Not a highly political person, William preferred a backstage seat during his rule, leaving decisions to his Prime minister and parliament. He was, however, a strong fighter and a courteous gentleman, and with the help of his ministers, he greatly increased the power of the German states.

As the second son of Frederick William III, William was not expected to succeed his father as monarch, and he therefore received only a minimal education. He left home to fight in the Prussian army against the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte, engaging both in battles on the front and in diplomatic missions. Later, in the Revolutions of 1848, he quelled a revolt aimed at his older brother, King Frederick William IV. Unfortunately, ten years later, the king suffered a stroke that left him mentally handicapped. He passed away soon after, leaving the throne open to William I. As king of Prussia, William appointed the brilliant statesman Otto von Bismarck to the office of Prime Minister, a position that answered only to the king. With Bismarck in charge of state, and the great general Helmuth Karl von Moltke at the head of the Prussian forces, Prussia embarked on a series of successful wars with Denmark, Austria, and finally France. In each case Bismarck planned for war with the object of increasing Prussian territory, but managed to trick his opponent into declaring war, so as to avoid the appearance of aggression. After gaining the strategic territory of Alsace-Lorraine during the Franco-Prussian War, William the First founded the Federation of German States and was proclaimed "German Emperor."

Not everyone appreciated the rulings of the Emperor; two assassination attempts were carried out in the same year, one by an anarchist and another by a radical socialist. The latter’s actions in particular led to the creation of the Anti-Socialist Law, laws that deprived the Social Democratic party of its legal rights, forbade all workers’ or socialist organizations, and confiscated suspicious literature. Despite these threats, however, the Socialist party only increased in influence, and following the Emperor’s death and Bismarck’s resignation, pressures from the working class led the government to repeal the new laws.

Key events during the life of William I

Year Event
1797 Born in Berlin
1814 Joined the army and fought in the Napoleonic Wars
1848 Saved brother Frederick William IV from a revolt
1861 Brother died, William became king
1871 Proclaimed German Emperor
1878 Two assassination attempts lead to the creation of the Anti-Socialist Laws
1888 Died
1990 Anti-Socialist Laws were repealed

Book Links
Emperor William First  by  George Upton


Story LinksBook Links
Old Empire and the New  in  Historical Tales: 5—German  by  Morris
Founding the German Empire  in  Growth of the British Empire  by  Synge
German Confederation  in  Germany: Peeps at History  by  Finnemore
William I, United Germany  in  History of Germany  by  Marshall

Image Links
King William I of Prussia proclaimed German  in Famous Men of Modern Times Emperor William  in Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire King William of Prussia proclaimed Emperor of Germany  in Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire
Sarcophagus of Emperor William I., Charlottenburg  in Bismarck and the Foundation of the German Empire Long live his Imperial Majesty Emperor William I!'  in History of Germany Emperor William First.  in Emperor William First
The cornflower wreaths.  in Emperor William First The two Emperors.  in Emperor William First The Emperor's Death Bed  in Emperor William First

Contemporary Short Biography
Otto von Bismarck Mastermind of the Unification of the German State, and wars against Austria and France.
Helmuth Karl von Moltke Military mastermind of the Austro-Prussian, and Franco-Prussian Wars.
Napoleon III Descendent of Josephine, named emperor of France. Defeated in Franco-Prussian War.
Elizabeth of Barvaria Empress of Austria who was influential in 19th century society and known as a free spirit.
Eugene de Beauharnais Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.
Louise of Prussia Queen of Prussia who inspired Germany to resist Napoleon. Greatly honored in Prussia.