History Highlights, Prussia...Northern Germany, Second Reich...1871 to 1918

If Friedrich had lived longer, he might have been able to change European alliances, preventing the outbreak of WWI and thus WWII

In Germany the year 1888 is remembered as the year of 3 Kaisers. Friedrich Wilhelm succeeded his father as Emperor in 1888, but ruled for only 98 days, before succumbing to throat cancer. Although still young at age 57, he was Emperor of Germany for only 3 months. Upon Friedrich’s death, his son Wilhelm II became Emperor of Germany.

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Prince Friedrich Wilhelm (1831-88) was known affectionately as ‘Fritz’, the only son of Wilhelm I, King of Prussia and Kaiser (Emperor) of Germany, and Augusta, daughter of Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. He was mature and experienced, having fought in three wars firsthand as a victorious field commander. However, his liberal sympathies made his position at court difficult for many years.

He was also aware that the new Germany was feared but not loved and was intent on changing that feared perception when he became Kaiser. His goal, combined with a very friendly relationship with Great Britain, make it possible that if Friedrich had lived longer, he might have been able to change European alliances, preventing the outbreak of WWI and thus WWII with all of its ramifications…one of the biggest “what-if’s” in European history.

The portrait shown here depicts Prince Friedrich Wilhelm wearing the uniform of a general in the Prussian army. On his uniform are displayed the ribbon and breast star of the Order of the Black Eagle and the collar and badge of the Hohenzollern House Order. This portrait was painted in 1858 on the occasion of the Prince’s betrothal to Victoria, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Great Britain.

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