William I. (17971888)

William I., emperor of Germany, born at Berlin, second son of Frederick William III. of Prussia, and brother of Frederick William IV., his predecessor on the Prussian throne; was bred from boyhood to military life, having received his first commission at the age of 10; took part in the war of liberation that preceded the fall of Napoleon, and received his baptism of fire on 14th February 1814; visited England in 1844, and again in 1848, and returned prepossessed in favour of constitutional government, which he found the king had already conceded in his absence; in 1858 he was appointed regent owing to his brother's incapacity, and on 2nd February 1861 he succeeded to the throne, having previously made the acquaintance of Moltke in 1818 and of Bismarck in 1834; on his accession, while professing all due respect to the representatives of the people, he announced his intention to maintain to the uttermost all his rights as king, and this gave rise to a threat of insurrection, but a war with Denmark, which issued in the recovery of the German duchies of Sleswick-Holstein, led to an outburst of loyalty, and this was deepened by the publication of the project of Bismarck to unite all Germany under the crown of Prussia; this provoked a war with Austria, which lasted only seven weeks, and ended with the consent of the latter to the projected unification of the other States, and the establishment of a confederation of these under the headship of the Prussian king, a unification which was consolidated into an Imperial one at the close of the Franco-German War, when, on the 18th January 1871, the Prussian king was proclaimed emperor of Germany in the palace of Versailles; the reign which followed was a peaceful one, and the pledge of peace to the rest of Europe; the emperor was a man of robust frame, of imposing figure, of temperate habits, of firm purpose, conspicuous courage, and devoted with his whole heart to the welfare of his people (17971888).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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