History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 84

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Central Europe



Considering the fact that this peripheral region would eventually come to dominate all of Germany and create the second German empire, its beginnings were entirely unremarkable. What was to become Brandenburg emerged in the form of the North March (or Nordmark), a border zone created by eastwards expansion under the Germanic Roman emperors. This and other new regions quickly became formalised as margraviates as they secured the hinterland between the German empire to the west and the Poles and Pomeranians to the east. The North March itself became Brandenburg in the twelfth century and was especially important as an elector, even providing several emperors of its own.

When the Hohenzollerns took over in 1415 things changed. A politically active family, they benefited from the Protestant Revolution when the Teutonic Knights lost their eastern lands, and Prussia was formed. In 1701 this was elevated to a kingdom and, again, benefited greatly from a period of great political uncertainty, this time the Napoleonic Wars, when it expanded widely into the now-disbanded Holy Roman empire and set about securing a role as the dominant German state. Within half a century it was able to formalise its dominance of Germany by founding the German empire. This led it to the First World War, the formation of a replacement republic, the establishment in the south of the Nazi party, and then the Second World War. Following division and reunification, modern Germany is still largely led from the Brandenburg capital at Berlin.

Margraves of the North March (Nordmark)
AD 936 - 1136

Brandenburg began as the North March (Nordmark). This border region was formed in AD 936, when territory to the west of the Oder was incorporated into the march of the Billungs and the North March of the Holy Roman empire. The German word 'march' or 'mark' was also rendered in Old English as 'mierce', meaning 'boundary, borderland'. The English kingdom of Mercia bore this name for much of its existence. The kingdom of Denmark still bears it, as does the modern region of Finnmark in Norway, while Austria was originally the Ostmark and Norway also had its Hedmark and Vingulmark.

The North March was situated between the March of the Billungers to the north (on the Baltic coast, and the Ostmark and March of Lusatia (Lausitz) to the south. The duchy and kingdom of Saxony bordered all of the marches along their western edge, with soon-to-be Christian Poland and pagan Pomerania in the east. The march counties were founded by German expansion eastwards and the initial reorganisation of conquered territory. In time they became formalised as margraviates.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), from Albrecht der Bär, Lutz Partenheimer (Böhlau Verlag, 2003, in German), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

936 - 937


937 - 945


937 - 965



With the accession of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders. The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc (the later Luxemburg), Arnulf I the Elder is restored in Flanders, and the March of Austria is formed from territory already captured from Hungary (around 960).

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern the territories shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases, most notably in the five great stem duchies, many of which were attempting to expand their own territories outside the empire, creating the various march or border regions to the east and south (click or tap on map to view full sized)

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

965 - 985

Dietrich of Haldensleben

His dau, Oda, m Mieszko I of Poland.


The Slavic revolt of the marches sees the Polabian Slavs, plus the Lutici and Obotrite tribes, on the east bank of the Elbe rise up against German overlordship. Faced with a drive to convert them to Christianity as a way of integrating them into the German empire, they take the rare act of organising under Lutici leadership and destroy several churches and settlements. The Saxons are only just able to defend the line of the Elbe, but their 'March of the Billungs' and the North March are lost.

985 - 1003


1003 - 1009


1009 - 1018

Bernard I

1018 - 1044

Bernard II

1044 - 1056


1056 - 1057

Lothar Udo I

1057 - 1082

Udo II

1082 - 1087

Henry I

1087 - 1106

Lothar Udo III

1106 - 1114


1114 - 1128

Henry II

Son of Lothar Udo III.


Lothar of Supplinburg, duke of Saxony, further demonstrates his autonomy from imperial control in 1123 with two key appointments. He confers the margraviate of Lusatia on Albert 'the Bear', count of Ballenstedt (and soon also to be margrave of the North March), and the margraviate of Meissen on Conrad of Wettin.


Upon the death of Henry II, it is Albert the Bear, his brother-in-law, who expects to succeed him. However, Udo of Stade is appointed instead. Having already lost out to Henry the Proud in his pursuit of Saxony, Albert attacks Udo but by doing so earns the disapproval of the German emperor, Lothar II. He is stripped of his holding of Lusatia.

1128 - 1130

Udo IV

Son of Rudolph. Assassinated?

1130 - 1133

Conrad Plotzkau

1134 - 1136

Albert I the Bear

Brother-in-law of Henry. First Ascanian. In Saxony (1138).


The margraviate of Brandenburg is created from the March.

Margraves of Brandenburg (Ascanians)
AD 1136 - 1323

Brandenburg was formed in 1136 from the North March. In part it bordered the new duchy of Pomerania which had been formed on the south Baltic coast in what is now north-western Poland. Wartislaw I of Pomerania made vast conquests on the west bank of the Oder, and these were placed under the overlordship of Albert I by the Holy Roman Emperor.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The History of the Franks, Volume II, Gregory of Tours (O M Dalton, Trans, 1967), from From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, Thomas F X Noble, from the Codex Gothanus, Lupus Servatus (commissioned by Eberhard of Friuli), from Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics, and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered, Eric J Goldberg (Speculum, Vol 70, No 3, Jul 1995), from Albrecht der Bär, Lutz Partenheimer (Böhlau Verlag, 2003, in German), and from External Links: the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy, and from Encyclopaedia.com.)

1136 - 1170

Albert I the Bear

Albert of Saxony (1138-1142).

1138 - 1139

Although he has been appointed to govern Saxony by the new Hohenstaufen emperor of Germany, Conrad III, Albert experiences some difficulties. Although Henry the Proud, former duke of Saxony, has been removed from his position he is fighting on to re-secure Saxony by force of arms. He largely does so by 1139 - along with taking Brandenburg - and is poised to mount an invasion of Bavaria in order to retake that too, but his sudden death ends the plan.

Albert the Bear
During his career, Albert the Bear started out as margrave of Lusatia, gained the North March, lost Lusatia, gained Saxony, turned the North March into Brandenburg, and gave up Saxony to accept the counties of Orlamünde and Weimar (External Link: Creative Commons Licence 2.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Generic)


Albert achieves peace with the son of Henry the Proud, Henry the Lion, eventually to be duke of Bavaria. Having done so he renounces his claim to Saxony and accepts in its place the counties of Orlamünde and Weimar (later to be a Saxon possession known as Saxe-Weimar). Henry the Lion succeeds him as the (restored) Welf duke of Saxony.

1170 - 1184

Otto I



The Ascanian dukes receive the reduced Saxon ducal title, minus its best lands to the west. Their own dynastic focus has always lain towards the eastern side of Saxony, especially given their history in Lusatia and the North March (now Brandenburg). Their base remains in Lusatia and Thuringia, near the Elbe, resulting in the name of 'Saxony' migrating eastwards.

1184 - 1205

Otto II

1205 - 1220

Albert II

Son of Bernard III of Saxony. Duke there in 1212-1260.


Upon the death of Bernard III of Saxony, the rules governing inheritance within the Ascanians means that his territory is divided. The eldest son, Henry, receives Anhalt, while his brother, Albert, gains Saxony. The fact that Saxony is seen as the lesser of the two territories reveals how much it has been reduced by the actions of 1180.

Codex Manesse, Henry, count of Anhalt
Henry, count (and prince from 1218) of Anhalt is portrayed in the Codex Manesse, which was copied and illustrated in Zurich between 1305-1340

1220 - 1267

Otto III


It had been Bernard III of Saxony who had moved his court and primary residence to Wittenberg which straddles the River Elbe. Now, upon the death of his son, it is his grandsons who effectively partition the remaining Saxon lands. At first the division is largely theoretical, but it appears to take effect from or soon after 1272, and is further affirmed in 1296.

1220 - 1266


1266 - 1308/9

Otto IV

1266 - 1281

John II

1266 - 1304



At some point after 1272, and by 1296 at the latest, Ascanian dukes John and Albert divide their Saxony between them. Saxe-Lauenburg is formed in the west while Saxe-Wittenberg is formed in the east. The combined duchy is the seat of one of the prince-electors of the Holy Roman empire, so there is some conflict between the two divisions as to who should retain the position.

1304 - 1319


1319 - 1323

The title is apparently vacant before being gained by the Wittelsbachs.

Margraves of Brandenburg (Wittelsbachs)
AD 1323 - 1355

1323 - 1355

Louis I

Louis V of Bavaria. Raised to elector (1355).


Playing an increasingly important role as one of the new emperor's main supporters, Rudolf I of Saxe-Wittenberg now gains the territory of Altmark from Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The Elbe is now the border between Saxony and Brandenburg, with the two dynasties - Ascanians in Saxony and Wittelsbachs in Brandenburg - constant opponents.


Emperor Charles IV issues his Golden Bull at the end of 1355. It lays down the redrafted laws for the Holy Roman empire, one of which stipulates the role of primogeniture, ensuring that only the eldest son or the valid next in line succeeds to a title and its territory.

The margraviate is raised to an Electorate.

Electors of Brandenburg (Wittelsbachs)
AD 1355 - 1373

1355 - 1361

Louis I

Former margrave of Brandenburg (1323).

1351 - 1355

Louis II

1351 - 1373

Otto V

Electors of Brandenburg (Luxembourg)
AD 1373 - 1417

1373 - 1378


Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1347-1378).

1373 - 1378


Holy Roman Emperor (1378-1400). Died 1419.

1378 - 1397


Pretender to the Polish throne (1382-1383).

1382 - 1383

Louis the Great of Hungary and Poland dies, having largely ensured the succession in favour of two of his daughters. Mary and her husband, Elector Sigismund of Brandenburg, accede in Hungary, with Mary becoming the state's first female 'king'. Sigismund, though, attempts to take control of Poland too.

He is rebuffed by the nobility. They will only accept a successor who will settle within Poland itself. Elizabeth of Poland nominates another daughter, Jadwiga. Ziemowit IV the Elder, duke of Mazovia, lodges his own claim to the throne, but the nobility encourage Elizabeth of Poland to send Jadwiga so that she can confirm her own claim.

1397 - 1411

Jobst of Moravia

HRE rival (1410-1411).

1411 - 1417


Restored. HRE (1410-1437). Died 1438.

1415 - 1417

The title is managed by Frederick, Captain & Administrator of Brandenburg, before his Hohenzollern family purchase the title.

Electors of Brandenburg (Hohenzollern) / Brandenburg-Prussia
AD 1415 - 1701

In 1415 the electorate of Brandenburg was purchased from the Holy Roman empire by the house of Hohenzollern which came from southern Germany, in former Swabia. To the east, the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights was formed during their conquest of the pagan Baltic Old Prussians in the thirteenth century, but this was secularised in 1525, during the Protestant Reformation, and replaced with the duchy of East Prussia. Joining these two possessions together in 1618, the Hohenzollerns formed Brandenburg-Prussia.

1415 - 1440

Frederick I Hohenzollern

Captain & Administrator of Brandenburg (1415-1417).


Eric V of Saxe-Lauenburg attacks Frederick I with the result that the now-established enemy of Saxe-Lauenburg - Lübeck - gains Hamburg in an alliance in support of Brandenburg. Forces from both cities open a second front which sees them swiftly capture Bergedorf, along with Riepenburg Castle and the toll station on the River Esslingen.

Lubeck city gates
The medieval Hanseatic town of Lübeck was rich and powerful, and seemingly more than a political match for Saxe-Lauenburg in its various attempts to raise funds or expand its territory

Eric is forced to agree the Peace of Perleberg on 23 August 1420. All of those areas which he and his father have pawned, including those which had been recaptured by force in 1401, are now irrevocably lost to Hamburg and Lübeck.

1440 - 1470

Frederick II Iron Tooth

1470 - 1486

Albert III Achilles

1486 - 1499

John Cicero

1499 - 1535

Joachim I


A member of the family, grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights Albrecht von Hohenzollern, margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, combines Teutonic East Prussia with Brandenburg. The two segments are run by the two main branches of the family, and East Prussia remains under the control of Albrecht. William, grandson of Elector Albert III, remains archbishop of Riga until the post's secularisation in 1563.

1535 - 1571

Joachim II

1571 - 1598

John George


The duchy of Courland is divided in two, and the ruler of the western section, Wilhelm, marries the daughter of the duke of East Prussia and regains the Grobina district.

Map of German states AD 1560
Introduced in 1560, the system of imperial states replaced the now-outdated feudal system, with an imperial circle ('reichskreis') being a regional grouping of the imperial states (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1598 - 1608

Joachim Frederick

1608 - 1619

John Sigismund


The duke of East Prussia (Albert Frederick) dies without an heir and the territory is inherited by Brandenburg.

1619 - 1640

George William

First Elector of Brandenburg-Prussia 1618.

1640 - 1688

Frederick William the Great Elector


The near-constant warfare and rapid change brought about by the Reformation and its Papal response, the Counter Reformation, is finally ended by the Peace of Westphalia, as is the Thirty Years' War. As part of the treaty's terms, Sweden loses Further-Pomerania to Brandenburg-Prussia.

1688 - 1701

Frederick III

Son. Elevated to Frederick I, first king of Prussia.


The electorate is elevated to a kingdom by the Holy Roman Emperor, the first German state to be raised in this manner.

Kingdom of Prussia
AD 1701 - 1871

1701 - 1713

Frederick I

Former elector, Frederick III.

1713 - 1740

Frederick William I


1740 - 1786

Frederick II the Great


1740 - 1748

The War of the Austrian Succession is a wide-ranging conflict that encompasses the North American King George's War, two Silesian Wars, the War of Jenkins' Ear, and involves most of the crowned heads of Europe in deciding the question of whether Maria Theresa can succeed as archduke of Austria and, perhaps even more importantly, as Holy Roman Emperor. Austria is supported by Britain, the Netherlands, the Savoyard kingdom of Sardinia, and Saxony (after an early switchover), but opposed by an opportunistic Prussia and France, who had raised the question in the first place to disrupt Habsburg control of Central Europe, backed up by Bavaria and Sweden (briefly). Spain joins the war in an unsuccessful attempt to restore possessions lost to Austria in 1715.

War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession saw Europe go to war to decide whether Maria Theresa would secure the throne left to her by her father, but several other issues were also decided as a wide range of wars were involved in the overall conflict

The War of Jenkins' Ear pitches Britain against Spain between 1739-1748. The Russo-Swedish War, or Hats' Russian War, is the Swedish attempt to regain territory lost to Russia in 1741-1743. King George's War is fought between Britain and France in the French Colonies in 1744-1748. The First Carnatic War of 1746-1748 involves the struggle for dominance in India by France and Britain. Henry Pelham, leader of the English government in Parliament, is successful in ending the war, achieving peace with France and trade with Spain through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. Austria is ultimately successful, losing only Silesia to Prussia.

1756 - 1763

The Third Silesian War is sparked by Prussia pre-emptively invading Saxony and temporarily occupying it as part of the Seven Years War. Saxon resources are channelled into Prussian hands while Frederick the Great pursues his war against Austria. When the Treaty of Hubertusburg is signed in 1763 to end the war, Saxony is forced to renounce its claim on Silesia.


Prussia gains territory in Poland-Lithuania during the First Partition: Royal Prussia, Warmia, and parts of Great Poland which are formed into the province of West Prussia.

1786 - 1797

Frederick William II

1792 - 1795

FeaturePrussia declares war on republican France, along with Austria, as part of the First Coalition. Between 1793-1795 the kingdom greatly benefits by gaining more territory during the Second Partition of Poland-Lithuania (1793), and the Third Partition of Poland-Lithuania (1795), which wipes the joint states from the map. With these targets achieved, and with the Netherlands and Hessen-Homburg having been invaded and captured by France, Prussia agrees a separate peace with the French in 1795.

1797 - 1840

Frederick William III


1806 - 1807

The emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, heavily defeats Prussia and the Fourth Coalition, and liberates Prussia's holdings in Poland, forming them into an Imperial satellite state. Prussia's ally in the campaign, Saxony, is left without any information on Prussia's subsequent aims so it agrees a separate peace with Napoleon. In 1807, Pomerania is seized from Prussia.

Prussians at the Battle of Jena in 1806
The once-formidable army of Frederick the Great was thoroughly beaten in just a month of campaigning by Napoleon Bonaparte, losing the decisive battle of Jena (shown here) and surrendering Stettin to just eight hundred French troops, making it necessary to overhaul Prussia's entire army after 1806

1814 - 1815

France is defeated at the end of the Napoleonic Wars and Prussia gains Pomerania from Sweden as part of the reshuffle of territories and power that follows during the Congress of Vienna. Prussia also gains Saxe-Merseburg, Saxe-Weissenfels and Saxe-Zeitz from the kingdom of Saxony. The kingdom has to fight again, however. The duke of Wellington's Anglo-Dutch-German army defeats Napoleon's resurgent French army at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June in conjunction with the Prussian army, decisively ending twenty-five years of war in Europe.

Map of Confederation of German States AD 1815
Following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte 1814, the Congress of Vienna took on board much of his vital restructuring of the German principalities, with the result that a map of the new Confederation of German States in 1815-1817 looked very different to maps of the previous century (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1840 - 1861

Frederick William IV

1848 - 1849

An economic crisis in 1847 is the final straw for the French working classes, after a steady worsening in their general conditions. In a year of European revolutions in 1848 (Hessen-Darmstadt, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Lombardy-Ventia, and Wallachia also experience problems), they revolt against the government and the monarchy is overthrown. In the German lands, the rapid industrialisation of the Rhineland has formed a large working class there and a more vocal peasant class to the north is increasingly desperate to half an autocratic Prussia's removal of their freedoms.

1861 - 1871

William I

Brother. Kaiser of Germany from 18 January 1871.


Prussia gains the former Saxon territory of Saxe-Lauenburg.


Prussia fights the Austro-Prussian War against Austria, essentially as a decider to see which of the two powers will be dominant in Central Europe. Prussia gains the newly-created kingdom of Italy as an ally in the south and several minor German states in the north. Austria and its southern German allies are crushed in just seven weeks (giving the conflict its alternative title of the Seven Weeks' War), and Prussia is now unquestionably dominant.

Bismark oversees the seizure of four of Austria's northern German allies, the kingdom of Hanover, the electorate of Hessen-Kassel, and the duchy of Nassau-Weilburg, along with the free city of Frankfurt. Prussia also subsumes Schleswig and Holstein, although the former has technically been Prussian since 1864, and forces Saxe-Lauenberg into personal union (annexation in all but name, which turns into fact in 1876). Many of these gains ensure that Prussian territories in the east and west are now connected through the Rhineland and Westphalia.

Austro-Prussian War 1866
Austria's slow-moving forces were outpaced by Prussia's fully modern army during the Austro-Prussian War, which decided the power balance in Central Europe, as shown in this oil by Georg Bleibtreu

The new, Prussian-dominated North German Confederation gains members in Anhalt-Dessau, Bremen, Brunswick, Hamburg, Lippe-Detmold, Lübeck, Mecklenburg-Schwerin Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz Neustrelitz, Oldenburg, Reuss, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, the kingdom of Saxony, Schaumburg-Lippe Bückeburg, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt Rudolstadt, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen Sondershausen, and Waldeck-Pyrmont Arolsen. Furthermore, Prince Karl Eitel Frederick of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen is invited to rule the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.

1868 - 1871

The exile of Queen Isabella of Spain to France starts a remarkable chain of events. Isabella's abdication on 25 June 1870 leads to the Franco-Prussian war when France refuses to accept the possibility of the Prussian Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen gaining the Spanish throne.

French troops are humiliated by Prussia's ultra-modern army, and by Saxony's allied troops which are ably commanded by its future king, Albert. The siege of Paris by the combined German forces brings about the downfall of its empire. Following the victory, the Second Reich (Germanic empire) is declared by Prussia, which now displaces Austria as the main Germanic power, as well as being the dominant power throughout central and Western Europe.

Franc-Prussian War 1870-1871
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 swept away any surviving myth of the greatness of France's military capabilities when the highly modernised Prussian forces drove them back to the gates of Paris

German Empire (Second Reich)
AD 1871 - 1918

The remarkable victory over the French empire in 1871 allowed Prussia to declare the 'Second German Empire' (or 'reich') under the former Prussian King William I, now Emperor William. Pursuing an aggressive policy of integration within Germany under Chancellor Bismarck, the new empire incorporated the grand duchy of Baden as a state under its overall control. Bavaria, Hessen-Darmstadt, Lippe, Saxony, and Württemberg were also forcibly included within the empire as vassal states.

The unofficial national anthem of the United Kingdom from around 1745 was and is 'God Save the Queen'. It has never officially been adopted and its origins have yet to be uncovered, although various important eighteenth century composers have been credited. The same tune (albeit with different words) is still used by Liechtenstein and Norway, while in the German empire it was thanks to Chancellor Bismarck that it saw use as the national anthem until the empire fell in 1918. Somewhat surprisingly to modern British ears, the USA also uses it as a patriotic melody.

(Additional information from The Last Kaiser: William the Impetuous, Giles Macdonogh (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001), from The First World War, John Keegan (Vintage Books, 2000), and from External Link: Why does Liechtenstein use 'God Save the Queen' as its national anthem? (Guardian Notes).)

1871 - 1888

William I

First Prussian German emperor.


Italy and France disagree over their respective colonial expansionism so, seeing an opportunity to isolate France, Bismarck welcomes Italy into a Triple Alliance with Prussia and Austria. Italian relations with Berlin now enter their best period, although Vienna remains icily formal with its former subject.


Frederick III

Son. Died after 100 days' rule. m Vicky, dau. of Victoria.

1889 - 1918

William II

Son. 'Kaiser Bill'. Fled to Holland in 1918.


A year after Spain loses the Spanish-American War, it sells the last of its islands in the Pacific to Germany.


A British Protectorate is created for Zanzibar under the terms of the Helgoland-Zanzibar Treaty in which Germany undertakes to avoid becoming involved in British interests in the area.


FeatureWith the accession of the incapacitated Prince Alexander of Lippe, the 'Lippe-Detmold Question' is first raised. Its significance lies not so much in the relatively obscure successional conflict that is triggered in Lippe but in the way it highlights certain weaknesses within the administrative structure of the German empire.


FeatureThe Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church (Evangelical Oberpfarr- und Domkirche) is completed in the heart of Berlin, serving as the primary church of Germany's Protestants.


The German empire moves swiftly to support its ally, Austria-Hungary, in a long-anticipated Great War (later more readily known as the First World War, or World War I). At the start it is successful against the Russian invasion of Prussia, routing their army at the Battle of Tannenberg, and in the west its armies reach the northern outskirts of Paris (occupying Luxembourg along the way) before they are stopped by the armies of Britain and France, together with the small Belgian army. Turkey joins the German cause on 31 October, but Afghanistan remains neutral, refusing to attempt an attack on British India. Other neutral countries include Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, while Japan joins the allies.

Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1914
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Prussia and the German empire inspects his troops on the eve of war in 1914, a war which none of the tributary German principalities had any chance of escaping


In the secret Treaty of London of 26 April, Italy agrees to abandon its allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, declaring war on them instead. Germany begins to conquer the Baltic Provinces by taking Courland.

FeatureA German U-boat sinks the SS Lusitania on 7 May, killing 1,198 and inflaming anti-German feeling in the USA.


German vessels which have been interned in Portuguese ports are seized by the country's government, so William declares war on Portugal. It responds by sending troops to the Western Front to fight alongside the British. On the Eastern Front, Russian defeats bring Latvia and Lithuania under Imperial control, much to the relief of the German-descended land-owning aristocracy there.


In April, Bolivia, Cuba, and the USA all side with the allies but Bolivia takes no active role in the war. In October, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay also join the allied side, with Ecuador and Panama following suit in December. Venezuela remains neutral.


FeatureIn April, Guatemala joins the allies, followed a month later by Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Honduras makes the same move in July. The conquest of the Baltic Provinces is completed by Germany with the taking of Estonia.

However, as the diplomatic, and social situation worsens in Germany in late 1918, the country loses its Austrian ally on 3 November. William II, at the Western Front with his troops from 29 October following riots in Berlin, is forced to abdicate on 9 November, signalling the end of the House of Hohenzollern in power.

The next day he flees to neutral Holland and spends the remainder of his life as a gentleman farmer on a private estate, under loose house arrest by the Dutch Government. The war officially ends on 11 November. Germany is recreated in the form of the Weimar republic.

1918 - 1941

William II

Deposed emperor of Germany. Died 1941.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.