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July 20, 1951
Former Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, eldest son of the late Kaiser Wilhelm II, died today at his villa in Hechingen. He was 69 years old. The "heir apparent" to the former German empire, died after a long illness "within sight of an eighty room Hohenzollern castle he lacked the money to live in."
His estranged wife, Crown Princess Cecilie, rushed to Hechingen from her home in Bad Kissingen, but arrived shortly after Wilhelm had died. The cause of death is arterial sclerosis, reports the Associated Press.
Wilhelm, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, "lived out two of the most destructive wars in history and two shattering German defeats. After the end of the first world war, and the establishment of the republic, the Kaiser and his eldest son were forced into exile. Wilhelm II was allowed to live at Doorn, in the Netherlands, while his son was sent to Wieringen, "a lonely island in Holland's Zuyder Zee."
He returned to Germany after several years, but fled to the French zone after the Russians occupied the former Hohenzollern estates in Brandenburg after World War II.
Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor August Ernst of Prussia was born at the Marmorpalais in Potsdam on May 6, 1882, as the eldest son of Kaiser Wilhelm II and his wife, the former Auguste Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein. He went through "the usual courses of instruction" for a German prince, including attending the Prince's academy at Plön.
He was an "enthusiastic sportsman, liked English country house life, had many American friends, and in general seemed to prefer the life of an English gentleman to that of a Prussian prince." He was regarded by many as someone who would be a "safe Emperor and give Germany a rest from" his father's "strenuous rule."
On June 6, 1905, the Crown Prince married Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The marriage, at first "extremely happy," seemed to stead Wilhelm and he saw his popularity increase, "for he married a girl who was herself tremendously well liked and who understood not only the value of such popularity but how to keep it."
Crown Prince Wilhelm continued to assert himself more and found that "public sentiment sided with him against his father." He and his wife "set a very lively social pace in Berlin," and the birth of their sons "increased their favor with the people." He was "wont to spend almost every other week under arrest at his father's order," but as he grew older, he sough a position of more responsibility, and found he had many supporters.
He supported "German nationalistic policies," especially concerning the military, and he looked forward to the then coming "world conflict." But Germany's defeat in the first world war changed how Crown Prince Wilhelm I was perceived. He was "accused of tactical blunders" during Germany's failed attempt to capture Verdun in 1914. But it would be proven later that the "rulings of the German Imperial Headquarters" and not Crown Prince Wilhelm's "influenced the results."
After the first world war, the former Crown Prince became more active in the Nationalist movement. he was encouraged by "influential industrialists" to spend more time in Berlin, and he began to dress often in uniform. There were suggestions that Wilhelm should become President and "then declare a regency." During Germany's Parliamentary crisis in 1932, many believed that the Crown Prince's day had come, and that the loyal Hindenburg should declare him regent, and "make way for him."
But it was Adolf Hitler who came into power, and he soon established himself as a dictator. Crown Prince Wilhelm "accepted the situation," and "enrolled in the Nazi motor corps." His sons "won commissions in the German armed forces after Hitler had relaxed the restrictions established by the Treaty of Versailles.
By 1935, Crown Prince Wilhelm was seen as an "asset" to Hitler, but despite the "popular and governmental favor" that he enjoyed, he failed to get Hitler "to sanction the return of his father, the Kaiser." Hitler's response was an emphatic "No!"
Crown Prince Wilhelm and his brothers were not "admitted to active service by the Nazi regime," after the outbreak of the second world war in 1939, three of his sons served in the German army. His eldest son, Wilhelm, was killed in action. His youngest son, Friedrich, was interned in Scotland during the war.
In 1938, his second son, Prince Louis Ferdinand, married Grand Duchess Kira of Russia, the younger daughter of the heir to the Russian throne. The Kaiser died in 1941.
Little was heard of the Crown Prince during World War II. He was found by French troops in Baad, Austria, where he had been hiding. He was brought before the French commander, and the only thing he could say was to ask to be returned to "the comforts of his chalet."
General de Lattre de Tassigny told him: "You certainly have lost your sense of dignity. In the face of your country's collapse, you. a man of 65, care for nothing but your own comfort and a woman who pleases you. You are lamentable, Monsieur, and that is all I have to say to you."
Crown Prince Wilhelm is survived by his wife, Crown Princess Cecilie, his two surviving sons, Prince Louis Ferdinand, and Prince Friedrich, who lives in England with his wife, Lady Brigid Guinness, and their children, and two daughters, Princess Alexandrine, and Princess Cecilie, who is married to an American, Clyde Harris, of Amarillo, Texas. Wilhelm's third son, Prince Hubertus, died last year.
Prince Louis Ferdinand, an executive with the German branch of the Ford Motor Company, succeeds as head of the House of Hohenzollern.