Wilhelm II (1859-1941), the German kaiser (emperor) and king of Prussia from 1888 to 1918, was one of the most recognizable public figures of World War I (1914-18). He gained a reputation as a swaggering militarist through his speeches and ill-advised newspaper interviews. While Wilhelm did not actively seek war, and tried to hold back his generals from mobilizing the German army in the summer of 1914, his verbal outbursts and his open enjoyment of the title of Supreme War Lord helped bolster the case of those who blamed him for the conflict. His role in the conduct of the war as well as his responsibility for its outbreak is still controversial. Some historians maintain that Wilhelm was controlled by his generals, while others argue that he retained considerable political power. In late 1918, he was forced to abdicate. He spent the rest of his life in exile in the Netherlands, where he died at age 82.


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