Figure 1.--Emperess August Victoria is seen here with her husband and seven childrn about 1893. This image helps to identify when the children were breached and their hair cut.
Auguste-Victoria's father was Duke Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein, Duke of Schleswig-Holsein (1829- ). Her mother was Princess Adelaide von Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1835- ). Auguste-Victoria was born in 1858. After the death of the Danish King Christian IX, King Friedrich VIII attempted to unite Schleswig-Holstein under the Danish crown. The population of the duchies, especially the German population objects. Prussia comes to the support of Schleswig-Holstein in 1864 and along with Austria decalres war--perhaps one of the most mismatched war in moden European history. Prussia and Austria devestate the Danish Army and occupy the kingdom. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1815-98) demands that Denmark withdraw its terriorial claims. He also insists that Duke Friedrich abdicate. First Schleswig abnd then Holstein, after a war with Austria is annexed by Prussia. Auguste-Victoria's dispossed family withdraws to Dolzig. As a young woman beginning about 1875, she begins to travel extensively, especially in England and France. In England she meets Prince Wilhelm and he proposes in 1879. Her father died in 1880. They marry in 1881. She has seven children. The family mostly lives in the marble palace of the Hohenzollern in Potsdam. As a result of her personality and domestic life, the German people come to see her as the embodiment of the ideal German mother. She certainly was a dutiful wife and mother. Her dutiful obedience to her husband, however, mean that there was no one to moderate his arrogant manner that his mother thought so necessary. In 1888 with the accession of her husband to the throne, Auguste-Victoria becomes German empress and queen of Prussia. She assumes responsibility for the German Red Cross Society and the patriotic woman's association in 1890. During World War I she is involved in careing for wounded soldiers. She follows her husband into exile in the Netherlands after the War. The Empress died in 1921
Auguste-Victoria's father was Duke Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein, Duke of Schleswig-Holsein (1829- ). Her mother was Princess Adelaide von Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1835- ).
Auguste-Victoria was born in 1858.
Dona's brother Ernst Gunther was a problem. He was found to be the person responsible for several hundred letters and distasteful photographs about court personages, from the Kaiser downard. The Kaiser ordered an investigation by dectectives and then police. It was thought at first that Wilhelm's sister Charlotte was responsible--she disliked Donna. While not responsible, her very frank diary had been stolen and may have been used. An arest was finally made, but the letters continued. Their were dules, a death, and injuries. Finally it was found it was Ernst and his French mistress.
August Victoria was not well educated. Her father thought that she would only need to know how to keep a household and care for children. Her educaon showed and was in sharp contrast to her mother-in-law, Wilhelm's mother. Interestingly, Wilhelm who thought his well-educated mother had dominated his father, had no desire for a particularly educated wife.
After the death of the Danish King Christian IX, King Friedrich VIII attempted to unite Schleswig-Holstein under the Danish crown. The population of the duchies, especially the German population objects. Prussia comes to the support of Schleswig-Holstein in 1864 and along with Austria decalres war--perhaps one of the most mismatched war in moden European history. Prussia and Austria devestate the Danish Army and occupy the kingdom. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1815-98) demands that Denmark withdraw its terriorial claims. He also insists that Duke Friedrich abdicate. First Schleswig and then Holstein, after a war with Austria is annexed by Prussia. Auguste-Victoria's dispossed family withdraws to Dolzig.
As a young woman beginning about 1875, she begins to travel extensively, especially in England and France. In England she meets Prince Wilhelm. I'm not sure what she saw in him. The attentions of the heir to the Prussian crown must have been seen as attractive for a woman of limited prospects--despite the way her father had been treated by his grandfather the Kaiser. The arrogance that many young women saw in Wilhelm did not seem to bother her.
Wilhelm was taken by August-Victoria. He had just been spurned, by his first choice--the daughter of his Aunt Alice. He proposed in 1879. Crown Prince Frederich and his wife Victoria had been horrified by how Duke Frederick of Schleswig-Holstein was treated by Chancellor Bismarck. It was thus with some pleasure they received word from their son Prince Wilhelm that he wanted to marry the Duke's daughter, Augusta Victoria. The Duke had worried about her future. The King and Chancellor Bismarck were not happy with Wilhelm's choice. Wilhelm's mother had done her best to concvince the Kaiser that August Victoria, despite her humble background, was a good choice for Prince Wilhelm. In the end, the Kaiser and Bismarck reluctantkly agreed, primarily because they were anxious to reduce his parent's influence and set up Wilhelm with his own household apart from his parents.
August Victoria's father died in 1880, removing some of the political sensativities. She and Wilhelm married in 1881 with a typically cumbersome, formal and long Prussian ceremony. August Victoria was known within the family as Dona.
Wilhelm in Donna found just the wife for which ehe was looking. Donna was a "placid God-fearing woman" who had been raised to see her duty as primarily to create a comfortable home for her husband. She was also a rigid evangelical protesant who abhored catholocism and catholics. She carefully selected her ladies-in-waiting to conform with her outlook. One perceptive observer at the time wrote that Clothes and children were the main subjects of Princess Wilhelm's conversation, and the only thing she thoroughly understood. "For a woman in that position, I have never met anyone so devoid of any individual thought or agility of brain and understanding." [Van der Kiste, p. 28.] While many author's criticise Donna's intelect, not one ever questions that she was a good mother and just the wife that Wilhelm wanted. Of course this was not what Wilhelm's parents had wanted. They saw him becoming even more arrogant and insuferable after mairrage. One biographer writes, "It was evident that beneath Dona's meek, submisive mask lay an intellectual reactionary bigot whose small-minded views only reinforced his [Wilhelm's] own." [Van der Kiste, p. 30.]
The Kaiser provided the Marble Palace in Potsdam as a residence for the newly wed couple. It was a large imposing building on the Heilgensee. At the time of Wilhem's and Donna's mairrage, the Marbale Palace had been unused foe many years and required extensive renovation. It was thus unavailable for them immediately after the ceremony.
Dona had little desire for independence and as one biographer described, "... not much of a mind of her own." Given Donna's limited education, she was awed by Wilhem's seeming erudition. Wilhelm of course enjoyed, to a point, the adjulation that he received from Dona. It was a sharp contrast to the reaction of his own well-educated parents. Wilhelm complained as a yong man that his farher ignored him and and treated him rather as a dummer Junge (dumb child) and with the absolute arrogance taht became so typical of him, blamed his mother for making his father her "craetyre". [Van der Kiste, p. 30.] Wilhelm in the early years with Dona was absent a great deal. The Kaiser and Bismarck, who severely restrcted the Crown Prince's official duties, set about teaching Prince Wilhelm the basics of statecraft. He made many foreign trips--many of which rightfully should have been made by his father the Crown Prince. He also soon after mairrage took a mistress. At home, Wilhelm made it clear that he was annoyed and bored by his "clinging, cloying wife and found her excessive domesticity stifling". Some around the family thought that went out of the way, verging on rudeness, to make it clear that he was the master of the house.
Wilhelm's mother, te Crown Princess Victoria, had thought Wilhelm's choice for his wife to be a very suitable choice. This was in part because of a sence of obligation. Victoria and her husband were horrified at how August Victoria's father the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein had been treated. Victoria also viewed her as a pleasant persoin who might help Prince Wilhelm become less arrogant. She was quite wrong in this regard. After mairrage, Victoria tried to helpful to Donna, rembering her own difficult early years in Berlin. Donna does not, however, appear to have been very gratious to her mother-in-law, perhaps reflecting her husbands's increasinglu strained relations with his mother. This was extremely hurtful to the Crown Princess as she had fought so hard to get the Kaiser to agree to the mairrage. Various incidents and exchanges between the two women led to an increasin estraingment. Wilhelm often stood up for his wife which further estrained the two. HBC observes that despite the numerous available photographs of Wilhelm and Donna with their grandchildren--there are few photographs of Victoria with her grandchildren. It seems as though Wilhelm and Donna may have restivted Victoria's access to her grandchildren.
Wilhelm chose Donna because, unlike his mother, was not well educated and had no serious thoughts about public matters or art and letters. In fact she did had two serious thoughts, she hated the English and Catholics.
Dona among her many prejudices hated the English. She saw them as representing liberal politics and imorality. [Van der Kiste, p. 30.] HBC is not sure when this attitude began. Her father although dispossed by Bismarck and the Kaiser, also had reason to dislike the English. The Danish royal family had very close relations with the Danish. I'm, not sure just when Dona developed these feelings. Perhaps it was in her home as a young girl. Perhaps it was a reflection of the love-hate relationship her husband had with the English. One reflection was the "icy formality" with which she treated her parents-in-law. [Van der Kiste, p. 30.] Interestingly Edward VII's wife Aleandra hated the Germans.
Wilhelm and August Victoria have seven children, including six sons, but only one daughter. Many photographs exist of the family. HBC has so far been able to find very little information about the individual children. Even infornmation on Crown Prince Frederick Wilhelm. There is probably a good bit of information available in German-language sources. HBC has, however, been able to find very little available in English sources. We would be very interesrted in any information that our German readers could offer. Some fought in World War I. The family followed their father into exile after World War I, but many eventually returned to Germany. They apparently thought that the NAZIs would restore the monarchy.
Kaiser Wilhelm's children wore a variety of outfits. As young boys they wore dresses, some with sailor styling. Some wore pantalettes with their dresses. They were born during the Fauntleroy era and at least some of the children wore velvet suits with lace collars. The sailor suit with kneepants appears to have been a popular outfit. These outfits, however, were only worn when they were younger boys. The boys also wore military uniforms which was usually the uniforms for the military academies that they attended. They also had formal military uniforms that they wore on special occasions.
Families in the 19th cnury had different conventions for breaching their boys and cutting their curls. Some times it was done at the same time. Some fmilies did one earlier than the other. Families varied widely on this in America. We do not know if there was more consistency in Germany. We have no information written information yet on what the conventions were in the German royal family. Photographic evidence, however, suggests that the childrn were breached about 3 years of age and their hair cut at about age 5, although that is just an estimate.
The family mostly lives in the marble palace of the Hohenzollern in Potsdam. As a result of her personality and domestic life, the German people come to see her as the embodiment of the ideal German mother. She certainly was a dutiful wife and mother. Unlike her husband, she was very close to the children.
With all the pregnancies as well as some miscairages, Dona's health suffered. Knowing that her husband disliked fat ladies, she dieted and tried all sorts of medecines to keep her weight down. All of this did not help her heath.
Her dutiful obedience to her husband, however, mean that there was no one to moderate his arrogant manner that his mother thought so necessary. As one biographer explained, "Under Donna's unquestioning worship, he became more insufferable than ever." [Van der Kiste, p. 25.]
Auguste-Victoria in 1888, with the accession of her husband to the throne, became German empress and queen of Prussia. Many images exist of her with the children at many formal occassions. Normally she wears dresses and civilian clothes. We do note a few images of her in a uniform with the children. The children including her daughter also wore uniforms at some of these public appearances.
She assumed responsibility for the German Red Cross Society and the patriotic woman's association in 1890. During World War I she is involved in careing for wounded soldiersand often appears in a nurse's uniform..
Donna often irritated Wilhelm. His attitude toward her was largely influenced by his attitude toward women. At first he treated her rather as a child and she largely deferred to him. As the years went on the relationship changed. She was a nervous person at heart and could be easdily driven to histerics. This would irritate Wilhelm to no end. Gradually Donna as she got older became more asertive in their personal relationship. Wilhelm also changed and as time went on began to rely upon her more and more. He increasingly saw her as one of the few people he could truly trust.
The Emperess follows her husband into exile in the Netherlands after the War. Her health, never robust, deteriorated in exile. Her condition worsened after Joachim shot himself in 1920, although she was never told the truth. As her health declined she would call out to her absent children. Usually the Crown Prince and Joaquim. The Empress died in 1921, with her husbanf and Adalbert by her side. She had asked to be buried "in the homeland". She was laid to rest in the family mausoleum at the Neue Palace in Potsdam. The Kaiser was not allowed to accompany her past the Dutch frontier.
Van der Kriste, John. Kaiser Wihelm II: Germany's Last Kaiser (Bodmin: Sutton Publishing, 1999), 244p.
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