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https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/Philip_Alexius_de_Laszlo_-_Wilhelm_II%2C_Deutscher_Kaiser%2C_1908.jpgWilhelm II or William II (27 January 1859 – 4 June 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia. He reigned from 15 June 1888 until his abdication on 9 November 1918 shortly before Germany's defeat in World War I.

The eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria, Wilhelm's first cousins included King George V of the United Kingdom and many princesses who, along with Wilhelm's sister Sophia, became European consorts. For most of his life before becoming emperor, he was second in line to succeed his grandfather Wilhelm I on the German and Prussian thrones after his father, Crown Prince Frederick. His grandfather and father both died in 1888, the Year of Three Emperors, making Wilhelm emperor and king. He dismissed the country's longtime chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, in 1890.

It was in 1906 that a journalist and critic called Maximilian Harden started publishing allegations about homosexual relationships at the court of Wilhelm II. The Kaiser had left himself open to attack on the occasion of Friedrich Alfred Krupp’s funeral, when he accused the Social Democrats, who had published the initial allegations about Krupp’s sex life, of having carried out an ‘intellectual ‘intellectual murder’. He affirmed that he had come to the funeral with the specific intention of protecting the reputation of Krupp and his family. Now Harden was writing openly that the Kaiser was surrounded by ‘sick and degenerate’ men. Among these was Philipp zu Eulenberg, who had been an intimate friend of the crown prince, and then of the Emperor, since 1886.

In the years 1906-09, a succession of homosexual revelations, trials, and suicides involving ministers, courtiers, and Wilhelm's closest friend[44] and advisor, Prince Philipp zu Eulenberg, evolved into the most tumultuous cause célèbre of its era.[45] Fuelled by the journalist Maximilian Harden, who, like some in the upper echelons of the military and Foreign Office, resented Eulenberg's approval of the Anglo-French Entente, and also his encouragement of Wilhelm to personally rule, it led to Wilhelm suffering a nervous breakdown, and the removal of Eulenberg and others of his circle from the court.[44] The view that Wilhelm was a deeply repressed homosexual is increasingly supported by scholars: certainly, he never came to terms with his feelings for Eulenberg.[46] Historians have linked the Harden-Eulenberg affair to a fundamental shift in German policy that heightened military aggression and ultimately contributed to the First World War.[45]

Upon consolidating power as emperor, Wilhelm launched Germany on a bellicose "New Course" to cement its status as a respected world power. However, he frequently undermined this aim by making tactless, alarming public statements without consulting his ministers. He also did much to alienate his country from the other Great Powers by initiating a massive build-up of the German Navy, challenging French control over Morocco, and backing the Austrian annexation of Bosnia in 1908. His turbulent reign ultimately culminated in his guarantee of military support to Austria-Hungary during the crisis of July 1914, resulting in the outbreak of World War I. A lax wartime leader, he left virtually all decision-making regarding military strategy and organisation of the war effort in the hands of the German General Staff. This broad delegation of authority gave rise to a de facto military dictatorship whose belligerent foreign policy led to the United States' entry into the war on April 6, 1917. After losing the support of the German military and his subjects in November 1918, Wilhelm abdicated and fled to exile in the Netherlands, where he died in 1941.

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