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Emperor Wilhelm I and his wife Augusta (b. 1797, r. 1861-1888)
Emperor Wilhelm I's long reign was marked by the successful prosecution of three wars, against Denmark in 1864, Austria in 1866 and four years later, against France. A lifelong soldier who had fought against Napoleon at Leipzig, he was a staunch conservative, uneasy with reform, who found himself in a struggle with the Prussian Parliament which eventually resulted in his appointing Bismarck as Minister-President. Bismarck created a united Germany and proclaimed Wilhelm German Emperor at Versailles, on 8 January 1871. The Royal Prussian court at this time was a place of hierarchy and strictly regulated ceremony, but the capital Berlin periodically saw exhuberant balls and dinners, sometimes for as many as 2000 guests, for such occasions as the Emperor's birthday and the New Year. Considered good-humoured and kind, and by the end of his reign a distinctive figure with his white whiskers, Emperor Wilhelm I's conservativism was mitigated by his popular Francophile wife, the Empress Augusta (1811-1890) whom he had married at Berlin in 1829. He died in 1888 at the age of ninety-one, and was succeeded by his son.
Emperor Friedrich III (b. 1831, r. March-June 1888)
Born in 1831, he married at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, on 25 January 1858, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa (1840-1901), Princess Royal of Great Britain and Ireland and eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. A great favourite of his mother-in-law who called him 'Fritz', Friedrich served with distinction in the war of 1870 as Crown Prince, but died of cancer of the throat after reigning as Emperor for only ninety-eight days, March to June 1888, and was succeeded by his son.
Emperor Wilhelm II and his wife Auguste Viktoria (b. 1859 r. 1888-1918)
Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert was born at Berlin on 27 January 1859, the eldest son of Emperor Friedrich III and Empress Victoria. His choice of names was influenced by his maternal grandmother; Queen Victoria had decreed that in deference to her Prince Consort all her male grandchildren should carry the name 'Albert' to the next generation. His birth was marked by a misadventure which was to influence his entire life. He suffered a dislocation of his left arm, which resulted in permanent weakness in that arm. A group of silver 'Kaiser' forks in the present sale were later made especially to enable him to more easily cut his food using only his good arm. His parents, though credited with the best of intentions, were said to have been somewhat distant and insensitive to him. His approach was to battle his disability in order to prove his physical capabilities despite any handicap. He constantly strove to succeed, mastering various sports, travelling, and sailing aboard his yachts.
Though not an intellectual, he was said to have a superior mind, albeit suffering somewhat from an inability to concentrate. This was made up for by a prodigious energy and interest in all things modern; indeed he deliberately portrayed himself both as an old fashioned 'knight in shining armour' and a reformer, keen to establish Germany as a significant sea power. He cut a glamorous figure in his uniform, watched by half the globe through the new mass media. He married at Berlin, 27 February 1881, Auguste Viktoria Friederike Luise Feodora Jenny (1858-1921), eldest daughter of Friedrich, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg.
In 1888, the 'Year of Three Emperors', he succeeded his grandfather and father as Emperor or Kaiser Wilhelm II at the age of twenty-eight. He swiftly consolidated his political position by removing Bismarck from power and assuming personal command. A firm Anglophile, intensely proud of his close relationship with his grandmother Queen Victoria and his cousins, he nevertheless antagonised his extended family through his growing rivalry with England. When war became inevitable he was said to have been devastated. Naturally his commissions for household effects such as silver and porcelain declined considerably, although a number of pieces do bear dates from this period, when he continued to entertain on a smaller scale, perhaps in part as a mark of continuity with the past. At the conclusion of World War I the Kaiser, having decided not to abdicate in favour of his grandson, took refuge with his army at Spa, and finally abdicated on 28 November 1918. First at the home of Count Bentinck, and then at Huis Doorn, he lived in exile for over two decades. In 1922 he married for the second time, at Huis Doorn, 5 November 1922, Hermine (1887-1947), daughter of Prince Heinrich XXII Reuss. He died at Huis Doorn on 4 June 1941.
Eine Deutsche Silberne Praesentationsvase auf einer Säule