German Royalty: Wilhelm II's Boyhood Clothes


Figure 1.--Prince Wilhelm was photographed here in 1862 when he was about 3 years old. His weak leftv arm hangs on to the toy gun. The rabbit may be a favorite toy, but I'm not sure what the cloth is--surely in a formal portrait, it was placed there for some purpose. Wilhelm wears a white dress wth pantalettes. Note that his dress has a black belt or sash.

At this time HBC has very little information on how Wilhelm was dressed as a boy. We do know that he wore dresses as a small boy. He does not appear to have commonly wore kilts, although he did so at least once--for the Prince of Wales' wedding. I'm less sure to what extent he wore sailor suits. We have less information on his other oufits. We are beginning to acquire some information about him based on a few photographs. Wilhelm does not appeared to have been photographed as a child as much as some other royals. At abou age 5 after he was breeched, he wears a dark colored blouse with knickers. As a adult, the Kaiser loved to wear elaborate military uniforms.

Dresses

Available drawings by his mother show that Wilhelm wore dresses as a small child. Prince Albert reportedly saw his grandson as part of a vosit to Coburg in 1860. As Albert's step mother had just died, Vicky and little Willie were dressed in morning. For Willie this meant a white dress with black ribbons. Albert was struck with Willie's good looks and resemblance to his brother Ernest. [Bennett, p. 346.] One photograph taken in 1861 when Wilhelm was 2 show him in a black dress, the family was in morning. He wears pantalettes and short white socks. He also wears a morning bow on his arm. Another image shows him at age 3 wearing a white dress with pantalettes. I am not sure at what age he was breeched, but it was before age 5.

Blouses

Wilhelm was photographed at age 5 in a dark colored long-sleeved blouse that was heavily pleatedf with a small collar and no bow. I'm not sure what color the blouse was, but the buttons are a contrasting white. He seems to wear some kind of white shirt under the blouse.

Kilts

I do not think that Wihelm commonly wore kilts as a boy, after all British influences were frown on by the German court. I do know that he work a kilt for the Prince of Wales mairage in 1863. He was about 4 years old and behaving badly. It appears that he was especially taken with the dirk (dagger) in his kneesocks and threw it noisly about the floor at St. George's Chappel. His young uncles Princes Leopold and Arthur tried to get him to behave. [Van der Kriste, pp. 9-10] I'm not sure yet what the English princes were wearing, but they often did wear kilts.

Sailor Suits

Wilhelm as a boy also wore sailor suits. We have one image of him at about 5 years of age waearing a plain longpants sailor suit without detiling and a wide a wide-brimmed hat. It would have been about 1864. He looks to have just been breached. The sailor suit Prince Wilhelm wears looks rather like the sailor suit his uncle Bertie wore in the famous Winterhalter portrait. We do not know how commonly he wore sailor suits. Nor do we know to what age he wore sailoir suits. At the time Prussia had virtually no navy. We wonder if he wire the sailor suits more when he visited his English relatives than back at home in Prussia. We know that sailor suits became almopst de regur for the royalty of the German states, but it does not seem to have been that common in the early 1860s. As Kaisser Wilhelm became a major proponent of the German naval building program. One wonders if wearing sailor suits was one factor in building his rather un-Prussian interest in naval affairs.

Knickers

He also wore below the knee knickers at age 5, I think with light colored kneesocks, but it is difficult to tell. The knickers blouce out fully.

Uniforms

Wilhelm on his 10th birthday in 1869 was invested with Order of the Black Eagle. As a result, he was allowed to wear the uniform of the first regiment of the guards.

Other Clothes

HBC at this time has no other information on the clothes Wilhelm wore as a boy.

Sources

Röhl, John C.G. Young Wilhelm : the Kaiser's early life, 1859-1888, translated by Jeremy Gaines and Rebecca Wallach.

Van der Kriste, John. Wilhelm II: Germany's Last Emperor (Bodmin: Sutton Publishing, 1999), 244p.





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Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 11:01 PM 3/2/2008