German Monarch. Born the son of Crown Prince Friedrich of Prussia and Princess Victoria, daughter of Great Britain's Queen Victoria, the difficulty of his birth left both his and his mother's lives in question for a time, but while both survived, Wilhelm's left arm had either been damaged at birth by the use of excessive force during a difficult breech delivery causing nerve damage or was affected by a birth defect such as intrauterine growth restriction. In either case his left arm was weak and virtually useless, eventually atrophying and becoming markedly shorter and wizened compared to his right arm. He arbitrarily blamed the British doctor in attendance for the problem, and learned at an early age to conceal the damaged arm from others. He spent much of his childhood enduring futile and often medieval therapies to improve the arm's function. He was educated at the Kassel Gymnasium and then attended the University of Bonn. In 1881, after military service, he married his second cousin, Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, with whom he had seven children. In June, 1888 his father died from throat cancer, after having ruled as Friedrich III for just 99 days. At age 29, Wilhelm ascended the throne. Determinedly militaristic, he set out to increase Germany's influence and strength. In 1890 he forced the resignation of Otto von Bismarck, and took control of Germany’s foreign and domestic policies. He alienated Britain with German naval expansion and a policy of aggressive colonial expansion. He also supported the Boers in their fight against the British in South Africa. A nervous breakdown in 1908, reduced his role in the government for the following few years. Following the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand , however, he encouraged the Austrians to adopt a hard line against Serbia, effectively promising German support in the event of war. He appeared not to understand the larger picture, that an Austro-Hungarian attack on Serbia would pull France, Russia and Britain into the fight. Too late, he attempted to scale back the German mobilization, but was prevented by the Germany military. His generals excluded him from key decisions, while he simultaneously undermined any chance of a negotiated peace by encouraging the grandiose war goals of his generals hawk politicians. He was forced more and more into a figurehead role. In 1918, after the United States entered the ground war, in combination with severe shortages of men and materials in Germany, led to the German military collapse. Wilhelm was forced to abdicate, and went into exile in the Netherlands. After the armistice of 1918, the vengeful European Allies attempted to force the Dutch government to extradite Wilhelm, to be tried as a war criminal. The Dutch refused, however, and he remained in exile in Holland where he wrote two biographies: 'Memoirs, 1878–1918' (1922) and 'My Early Life' (1926). With the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930s, rumors circulated that Wilhelm might be invited to retake his throne, and he made tentative queries to that effect; they came to nothing. Nevertheless, the former Kaiser supported the aggressive nationalism touted by the incoming Nazis, and lived to see the beginning of another war in Europe. He died from a pulmonary embolism in 1941.
Bio by: Iola