Saturday, July 18, 2020

The death of Prince Joachim of Prussia

July 18, 1920

Prince Joachim of Prussia, the sixth and youngest son of former Kaiser Wilhelm II, committed suicide yesterday in Potsdam, reports the New York Times.  He was 29 years old.

It is understood that Joachim had been in "financial straits."   He shot himself at his residence, Villa Liegnitz, and was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died several hours later.

Joachim was suffering from "great mental depression," according to Hohenzollern "intimates."

The only other members of his family in Potsdam is Joachim's elder brother, Prince Eitel Friedrich, who, in an official announcement, stated that his brother was suffering from a "fit of excessive dementia.

He is survived by his estranged wife, Princess Marie Auguste of Anhalt, and a young son, Prince Karl Franz Josef.  Reports of a divorce were incorrect.

Joachim's family was aware of his mental distress.  On May 31, 1918,  he was examined by Professor Robert Gaupp, a highly regarded psychiatrist.   He concluded that Prince Joachim was "incurably ill, both mentally and physically."

The professor's report noted that the Prince spoke too fast and was "extremely easily emotionally and sexually aroused."  He had "violent, uncontrollably exploding outbursts of anger in which all self-control [was] lost."

Wilhelm II's biographer, John Röhl provided detail of the report.  Joachim would feel "unjustly injured" when his "passionate interests" were not met and he would burst into another rage. 

The psychiatrist concluded that Prince Joachim suffered from an "innate abnormal tendency."

Since birth, Joachim had been a constant source of worry for both his parents.

It was difficult for anyone to control Joachim's rages.  His marriage on March 11, 1916, to Princess Marie Auguste of Anhalt, the daughter of Eduard, Duke of Anhalt, was an arranged marriage that collapsed rather quickly. 

The couple's only son, Karl Franz Josef, was born at Potsdam on December 15, 1916. 

In December 1919, Wilhelm's Marshal, Hans von Gontard, told the court physician, Dr. Alfred Haehner, that Joachim was "quite out of control and had beaten his wife, herself just a slip of a girl."

Joachim had not wanted to marry Marie Auguste.  In 1913, he had fallen in love with Princess Elisabeth of Urach (1894-1962), the second daughter of  Wilhelm Karl, Duke of Urach, and his first wife, Duchess Amalie in Bavaria, and wanted to marry her despite family opposition.  He never stopped accusing his mother of "ruining his life" by not permitting the marriage because Elisabeth was Catholic.

But there were also religious concerns from Elisabeth and her father, both of whom were not willing to have Elisabeth and Joachim's children raised as Lutherans. 

According to the Hohenzollern House Laws,  Princess Elisabeth was considered nicht ebenbürtig -- unequal -- to Joachim.   The lovesick prince fought for more than a year to win approval to marry Princess Elisabeth, but it was not meant to be.  Only a few months before he committed suicide, he told his mother that she "destroyed his happiness."

[Princess Elisabeth married in 1921 to Prince Karl  Aloys of Liechtenstein  ]

Wilhelm showed no compassion when he received word of his son's death.  Röhl wrote that he "reacted with fury" to the news.  The outrage was real as he was angry "that the oaf should have done this, too, to us and especially to his mother."

Auguste Victoria rarely had a moment's peace with her youngest son as he caused her pain and worry for years.   The Kaiser and Dr. Haehner told Dona that her son's death was accidental.  The former Empress knew better.  She had wanted to believe that Joachim's death was an accident, but when Wilhelm came into her room to tell her that Joachim "had an accident," but she interrupted him: "He has shot himself!
all images  Marlene A Eilers Koenig Collection

Prince Eitel Friedrich sent his father a detailed report on Joachim's mental state and his suicide on July 18, 1920.   The original copy is now in the Prussian royal house's archive at Burg Hohenzollern.

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diddleymaz said...


Jason said...

That was very interesting. Thank you.