Historical Precedent

A Kaiser in the White House

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    President Donald Trump has alienated most of his Western allies and isolated the US the same way as Germany’s last monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II, did a century ago.

  • Facts


    • There are a multitude of parallels between Donald Trump and Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ruled the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 1888 until 1918.
    • Wilhelm II had a reputation for speaking off the cuff, which often got him into trouble. Besides insulting important dignitaries, his jingoistic rhetoric landed his country in more than one armed conflict.
    • Wilhelm II is perhaps best known for his role in the First World War, a conflict that ended in disaster for Germany and Europe.
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Trump hugs a U.S. flag as he comes onstage to rally with supporters in Tampa, Florida
A man like Donald Trump doesn’t want to cooperate. He wants to dominate. Source: Reuters

It is dawning on many Americans that they have never experienced a character like Donald Trump wielding the joysticks of power. The Germans might have some advice for that, for they know how it feels when a man rises to power who combines clownishness, narcissism and nefariousness.

That man is Kaiser Wilhelm II, the political oaf with delusions of grandeur who ruled Germany a century ago. Granted, the Germans never elected their emperor. In the end, however, Wilhelm II, who reigned over the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Reich for three momentous decades until the debacle of 1918, was the nation’s political guardian, its ruler and, ultimately, its destiny.

Like Mr. Trump, the Kaiser loathed political correctness. He once called the Prussian statesman and renowned diplomat Otto von Bismarck a “pygmy” — which was actually an improvement over what he called another of his most senior ministers, Bernhard von Bülow — “a slut”.

The eldest grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Kaiser Wilhelm II also had, like Mr. Trump, a caustic relationship with the press. He infamously referred to journalists — along with Jews and mosquitoes, incidentally — as a “plague from which we will have to free ourselves one way or another.”

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