Saturday, April 30, 2016

Playing with the Hohenzollern boys

Hohenzollern Castle
When my friend Bill asked me what I was up to the other day, I told him I was “playing with the Hohenzollern boys.”  He had no clue.  “You know, the princes of the German royal family.”

“German royal family?  I thought Germany was a republic.”

“Well, it is.  But they still have royals.”   a. D. (ausser Dienst – out of service), I might have added.

“When did they ever have a royal family?”

“You know, Kaiser Wilhelm I and II, remember?” 

Never heard of them.

Bill said he was a bit embarrassed to admit he knows nothing of the Kaisers, but he needn’t be.  I doubt most people these days could identify these guys.  They stepped down from the Prussian throne 98 years ago, after all.  They show up for royal weddings (they are related to virtually everybody and most of them claim Queen Victoria as a first, second, or third-degree grandmother), but otherwise they live relatively quiet lives.  Just for the record, the current head of the House of Hohenzollern, Georg Friedrich, whom we'll get to shortly,  is Queen Elizabeth's second cousin twice removed.

The Hohenzollerns became the royal family because the Prussians were in the right place at the right time with the unification of the many German states into a single empire in 1871.  They were by no means the only royals.  Most famous, probably, is the House of Habsburg, associated primarily with Austria, but which produced emperors and kings for at least a dozen other places, Bohemia, France, Hungary, Russia, Ireland, Portugal, and on and on.  But sticking strictly to Germany, there are the Wittelsbachs in Bavaria, the Guelphs (Welfen) in Hannover (who currently inhabit the British throne),  and the Wettins in Saxony (whose Saxe-Coburg and Gotha branch produced Prince Albert, and got changed to Windsor when being German became a no-no).   But it was the Prussian House of Hohenzollern who produced the Kaisers - and the rest is (German) history.

Now Bill is a dear friend, so I thought I’d throw together a mini-lecture on the royals of the Prussian line, so he need never be embarrassed again.

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Outside of Germany nobody takes Prussians seriously.  How do you take a man seriously when he’s wearing a spiked helmet?  Or when he prances around, as Kaiser Wilhelm II used to, with a skull face on your hat?  Then there’s the issue of whether or not the tradition of militarism which the Prussians are responsible for starting is responsible for the rise of Hitler.  Many, including prominent Germans like the former chancellor Helmut Schmidt have made a point of tying them together.  And finally, one doesn’t argue over the fact that the Prussian state is no more; they argue only over when it ended. 

Germany in 1871
Some claim it actually ended in 1871 when Bismarck created the German Second Empire (the first goes back to Otto I in 962), putting an end to the Kingdom of Prussia.  However, it was the Prussian king Wilhelm I who was put in charge.  Purists in the Prussian camp claimed they couldn’t be Prussian anymore if they had to represent all those other German people.  Bavarians, for example.  Or Saxons.  Any number of other not good enough to be called Prussian types.  Lots of people have trouble shedding their tribal identities and tribal loyalties for larger political goals.  Prussians were no exception.

Or did Prussia end when the Prussian monarchy ended, in 1918, when the kaisers were forced to abdicate in favor of the Weimar Republic?  

Or did it continue somehow until formally abolished by the Allied Victors in World War II on February 25,  1947?  In any case, it’s dead and gone.

Or is it, as Mark Twain put it about himself, that "the reports of my death have been grossly exaggerated."

You see, Prussia may have died out, but the House of Hohenzollern, the royal house of the German kaisers, is still alive, and from all reports, actually thriving.

Germany did not do what the Russians did to their tsar's family, murder them all, men, women and children in cold blood.  Instead, when they kicked the kaiser out, they sent him to a comfortable exile in Holland with thirty-six train loads of his furniture from the New Palace in Potsdam.  And when members of the Hohenzollern family who had been disinherited for marrying commoners took their grand nephew, the heir to court, the court allowed they should continue to be able to feed from the Hohenzollern trough, which remains considerable, but that the title of head of the house of Hohenzollern appropriately belonged to the current heir, Georg Friedrich, as the family had determined.

Georg Friedrich, Prinz von Preußen, and his wife Sophie
The current head of the Hohenzollern family, the family of the Kaisers, the guy they’d put on the throne if the Bundesrepublik were suddenly to have a collective desire to restore the monarchy and establish what would be called a Fourth Reich, is Georg Friedrich Prince of Prussia.  He appears to be a gentle kindly soul.  Don’t know him personally, so I can’t say for sure, but if you look at pictures of him and his wife Sophie and their three kids, what’s not to love?  They appear to have all the “noblesse” of blue-blooded folk with “class” and little or none of the upper-class twit features of Georg’s great-great-grandfather Wilhelm II, the pompous bag of wind who changed his uniforms five or six times a day and pranced around on a horse on parade grounds when he was not posing for yet another official photo.  And twirling his moustache heavenwards.

Georg lost his father when he was just a year old.  Father, Louis Ferdinand Oskar Christian of Prussia, Jr. - “Lulu” to his friends – had joined the Bundeswehr, the modern German army, and was crushed between two vehicles while on maneuvres.  He lost his leg and died, apparently of the trauma, a few weeks later.  Lulu left not only his little boy behind, but a wife who was six months pregnant.  That was in July, 1977.  And the baby, Georg’s sister, Cornelie-Cécile, was born developmentally disabled.  Georg’s mother picked up the pieces a few years later and married a man her husband’s sister had divorced.  Georg’s mother had one of those great names that make being blue-blooded worth while.  She was known as the Countess Donata of Castell-Rüdenhausen.  She died last September.

Amidst all this tragedy and tribulation, Georg had a paternal (i.e., Hohenzollern) grandfather, Louis Ferdinand Sr., (full name: Louis Ferdinand Victor Edward Albert Michael Hubert) who outlived his son, Georg’s father, Louis Ferdinand, Jr. by seventeen years.  The two, Louis Sr. and Georg became close and Georg managed to get a royal education.  Georg got from LFVEAMH a whole lot more than grandfatherly companionship,  though.  LFVEAMH had done his part to keep the bloodline blue, when he married the Grand Duchess Kira Kirilovna of Russia.  He then got real pissed when his first two sons, FW39 and Michael,  insisted on marrying commoners for love.  So he cut them off from the title and it went to Louis Ferdinand Jr., and ultimately Georg was designated “sole heir.”

What a family reunion photo looks like
if your name is Hohenzollern
Not without a fight.  FW39 (first-born Friedrich Wilhelm 1939 – there are so many Friedrich Wilhelms that I am adding his birth year for easy identification) – and second-born Michael sued for inheritance.  They had never worked a day in their lives, but they claimed that in the new modern Germany, where everybody is equal, the law requiring blue-blood marriage must certainly be unconstitutional.  They wanted their renunciation of the Hohenzollern title to be dismissed, and they wanted their allowances to be commensurate with their blue blood status – which, unless I'm missing something, is what is called an argument that goes around in circles.  But I guess they didn't care if Georg got the title, as long as they got their allowances.  

They got their wish.   The German Supreme Court decided the boys should have their chunk of change, but the title had passed to Georg and that would be the end of it.  They would henceforth be entitled to ride in the Hohenzollern limousine.  They could just never expect to drive it.

And this raises the interesting question of just exactly how much money is left in the coffers.  A good chunk went when the second kaiser abdicated and this wonderful German word Vermögensauseinandersetzung was on everybody's lips.  (OK, maybe not everybody's.) I believe the English is "apportionment of assets and liabilities."  Go to the official website and you see this word featured in the "Prussian lexicon."  No wonder.  It was the takeover of the family fortune by the state.  They still kept what most people would consider a fortune – the crown jewels, for example – but then lost big once more when the communists took over in the East, where most of Prussia was.  97,000 hectares of land, for example - now you see it, now you don't.

Beau Sancy diamond
Georg Friedrich had to sell the "Beau Sancy" diamond, a couple years ago, once worn by Marie de Medici and Mary Stuart.  34.98 carats.  Was hoping to get between half a million and 3 million euros, I understand.  Actually went for $9.7 million.  Should cover the heating bill for a while.

More recently, Georg sued the AfD, the newly formed right-wing party, for using images of the Hohenzollern Castle he calls home on their campaign posters, as a way of stressing they hold to the good old (Prussian) values.  Georg lost that one.  The castle is too public, the Stuttgart court decided.  He can’t claim exclusive use of it.  So royalty may not be running the country anymore, but neither are they out of the picture entirely.

But I’m digressing now…

Back to grand papa.

Louis Ferdinand Sr. (aka LFVEAMH ) would appear to be somewhat of a snob.  Or maybe he simply didn’t care much for his lazy-ass sons FW39 and Michael.  Who knows what went on in his head when he used the blue-blood excuse to disinherit them and make his grandson sole heir.  It may well have been due to the fact that he himself inherited the title because his own older brother had married a commoner and lost the right of succession. That older brother, Wilhelm06 (full name: Wilhelm Friedrich Franz Josef Christian Olaf) died while invading France in 1940, and so many people showed up at his funeral so big that it made Hitler uncomfortable.  Hitler then decreed that there would be no more royals fighting at the front, thus assuring that blue-bloods would be kept safe to make more blue-bloods.  Grandpa not only failed to show gratitude, but began hanging out with too many anti-Nazi types.  They never proved his participation in attempts to do the Führer in, but Grandpa nonetheless ended up in Dachau for a while. 

But let's get back to the latest generation of Hohenzollerns, Georg and his wife Sophie and their twin boys Carl Friedrich and and Louis Ferdinand (2013).  And their baby sister, Emma Marie, who celebrated her first birthday a couple weeks ago on April 2nd.  Pictures are hard, if not impossible to find.  At least I have not been able to find one.  Their parents are doing their damnedest to keep them out of the limelight so they can grow up like normal kids.  The Prinz von Preußen family are five of the 3195 residents of the village of Fischerhude, just outside Bremen.  When they’re not in Berlin, that is, where Georg works for a company specialising in helping universities bring their innovations to market.  Additionally, he administers the Princess Kira of Prussia-Foundation, founded by his grandmother in 1952.  (For an idea of the kind of things the foundation does, here’s a video of Georg and Sophie at Hohenzollern Castle dealing with a program to put Israeli and Palestinian kids together to create a musical project. 

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Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church
in the heart of West Berlin,
left standing as a reminder of the war,
alongside the new church and tower
Royal families are not among my primary interests, but these days the gay liberation arguments are sort of shooting fish in a barrel, (i.e., big yawn for the most part), and the Trump/Hillary race makes me fall asleep on my feet, so I’ve been entertaining myself reading Prussian history.  Because I fell in love with Berlin back in my young years and wanted to know more about this Sophie Charlotte person that Charlottenburg Castle and the Charlottenburg neighborhood were named after (she was the wife of Frederick I: first in the chart at the end, Frederick the Great's grandfather).  And the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church meant asking questions about the Kaisers.

Then there was that time I found myself at the young age of twenty carried away in Munich by the Fasching (Mardi Gras) crowds singing songs like “Wir wollen unseren alten Kaiser Wilhelm wieder haben (We want our old Kaiser William back again!).  (The song goes on – “you know, the guy with the beard.”  Makes fun of militarism and the old folk’s fascination with the good old days.    

Wasn’t long before I went off on a Freddie the Great Kick.

Let me tell you about Freddie, who came to be known eventually as “der alte Fritz” (old Fritz), since he’s where the Hohenzollerns get involved with modern times and the Enlightenment, in particular.

Fritz – he seems to be among the few, if not the only one of these guys, to have just one name.  He was Friedrich II, plain and simple.  Born in 1712 to a real shit of a father, Friedrich Wilhelm I (and the first of many Friedrich Wilhelms) (1688) and FWI’s cousin Sophia Dorothea, younger sister of King George II of England, who couldn’t stand the sight of her.  FWI didn’t like her much either, allegedly because she liked to have fun.  FWI preferred to play soldier and beat the shit out of little Freddie/Fritz.  Now young Freddie/Fritz) was what we might call a sissie.  He was tutored in French by Huguenot governesses and preferred the language and the literature of France to his supposedly native German (which I am told he spoke with a French accent) all his life.  He also liked to play the flute and loved his dogs so much he wanted to be buried with them.  He also loved his mother.  Who had thirteen other kids besides Fritz to worry about.

Bullied so badly by his father. Fritz made a desperate plan to run away to England with his friend, Hans Hermann von Katte.  Their escape plan was leaked and since they were technically soldiers, they were sentenced to death for treason.  FWI forced his son to watch the beheading of his friend, an experience which so traumatized him he was in shock for days.  But he eventually submitted.  His father was simply too much for him.  Not that he had a whole lot of choice.  His father actually imprisoned him in a fortress in a place called Küstrin for many years.

Then comes a remarkable twist in the plot of the young flute-music composer.  No sooner had his father died in 1740 than Fritz took over and began turning into the soldier-king his father had always wanted him to be.  He launched an audacious and risky war on neighboring Silesia, a province that belonged to Maria Theresa of Austria, and won.  Some time later, he moved into neighboring Saxony, and Prussia was on its way to becoming a major European power.

Sans Souci Palace
Potsdam is just outside Berlin and you can get there in twenty minutes from Charlottenburg.  I used to go all the time.  I went for the first time with my friend Craig, after the wall came down and things were still opening up.  The government of the DDR had refused to spend any money fixing up Sans Souci, which Fritz built for himself, and the neighboring palace, which the Kaisers spent a lot of time in.  (When the revolution came in 1918 and the Hohenzollerns were ousted, the furniture was all shipped to Holland in 34 trainloads for Wilhelm II.  (I guess his father, Wilhelm I, a much plainer-living man, settled for less.)  In the early days, post fall of the wall, the rococo had a decayed and decadent feel to it.  The gardens were kept up and in magnificent condition, and the combination made the place magical.  Now that the tourists have come in and everything has been Disneylanded up, those days are gone.

I used to fantasize about Fritz walking among the six foot hedges with Voltaire, whom he brought to
The "New Palace, now part of the Sans Souci gardens"
in Potsdam
Sans Souci several times for extended stays (when he was not feuding with him and throwing him in jail), and sitting in the theater in the new palace.  He saw no reason to build a royal box.  He preferred the third row.

Lots of people have speculated about Fritz’s alleged homosexuality.  Could be a rumor spread by Voltaire after their falling out.  Voltaire, I'm told, had a penchant for gossip as well as for wit.  It’s true Fritz shunned his wife from the beginning and spent years living with his soldiers, without female companionship.  Used to see her once a year.  One one of those occasions, his only comment was, "You've gotten fat."

So gay people like to claim him as one of their own.  But there is another possible explanation.  One theory of his woman-shunning is that he might have caught a terrible STD  (in Saxony - you know those Saxon girls - or from one of the village girls around Neuruppin - pick your rumor), and had it operated on.  The operation, according to this tale, was a disaster, rendering his genitals useless. I find that argument specious.  First off, who says you can't monkey around with others whose parts are still in order?   Then again, it would come as no surprise to discover that this is a theory generated by homophobic German nationalists who simply could not bear the notion that their Big Daddy and heroic Prussian King might swing the wrong way.  If I ever get to the dozen* still unread biographies of Frederick the Great, (in addition to the five or six I have actually read, that is)  I might come down off the fence with an opinion of my own in this regard.  Especially Tim Blanning's, which makes an open-and-shut case that Frederick was a lover of men.  Then, of course, there is Nancy Mitford's version, which makes the opposite claims.

*Tim Blanning, Robert B. Asprey, Nancy Mitford, Sir David Fraser, Dennis Showalter, Giles McDonogh, C.B. Brackenbury, Herbert J. Redman, G. A. Henry, Thomas Carlyle, Theodor Schieder, Albert Seaton, Luisa Mühlbach, John Lord, Ludwig Reiners, F. W. Longman, Pierre Gaxotte,  and G. P. Gooch.

And those are biographies written in English.  In German, Fritz's biographers include:

Johannes Unger, Johannes Kunisch, Kerstin Friedrich u. Fredmund Malik, Michael Schaper, Tillmann Bendikowski, Wolfgang Stürner, Günther Bentele u. Alexander v. Knorre, Franz Kugler, Jürgen Overhoff,  Rudolf G. Scharmann, Regina Ebert, Josef Schmid, Sabine Henze-Döhring, Michael Imhoff, Louise Mühlbach, Albert Ritter, Norbert Leithold, Christian Graf v. Krockow, Hans-Jürgen Bömelburg u. Matthias Barelkowski, Erich van Heiss u. Ulrike Stolz, Dieter Alfter u. Engel, Bernd Ingmar Gutberlet, Willi Kollo, Sven Externbrink, Iselin Gundermann, Michael von Preußen, Christopher Duffy, Georg Piltz, Charlotte Pangels, W. Mielke, Silke Kiesant, Frank Göse,  - and that's only eight of 75 pages on the German Amazon page under "biographies of Frederick the Great."  I'll stop here. 

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Frederick the Great
portrait by Anton Graff, 1781
Frederick II, known as " Frederick the Great," has come down in history as the best example of an enlightened absolutist.  He modernized the state, the bureaucracy and the civil service.  He implemented freedom of religion – a radical departure in Europe.  He spoke of himself as a "servant of the state,"  also a new political notion.  He reformed the legal system and made it possible for commoners to become judges, encouraged immigration – although notably not for Jews.  And he implemented policies of virtual freedom of artistic expression, the press and literature.  He built the Berlin Opera and founded the Berlin porcelain factory.  Lord Acton (you know, the man known for the phrase “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”) called him “the most consummate practical genius that ever inherited a modern throne.”  (p. 648, Europe, a History, by Norman Davies)  The Nazis glommed onto him, not only for his anti-semitism, but also for his image as a Prussian warrior.

Can’t say he’s any kind of hero. Not any more.  I once fantasized about him as I walked with friend Craig in the gardens at Sans Souci - alone - just after the wall went down and before the tourists came - walking and sharing great ideas with his friend Voltaire, someone who is kind of a hero to me.  Imagine my disillusionment as I read that Voltaire told friends he was bored with Frederick and his sophomoric poetry (he may have used another adjective), which he expected Voltaire to correct for him.   Acquiring territory for Prussia, losing your testicles to an STD, becoming a woman-hater and an anti-Semite – how could I turn this man into a hero.

I guess I can always be selective.  And turn him back into the fantasy figure I created years ago when I fell in love with the notion of a head of the German state as a lover of music and poetry, fosterer of freedom of religion, and a man who wanted to be buried with his dogs.

Nowadays, modern Germans are leading proponents of the EU.  German nationalism is for the
outliers, the neo-Nazis and other crackpots, and most people look back on
Kaiser Wilhelm I
Germany’s history with something less than unadulterated pride.  Too much militarism.  Too much rigidity.  Too much Prussianism.  At the time of Prussia’s last hurrah, however, during the First World War, what others looked upon in Germany with emotions ranging from suspicion to disgust, Germans looked upon with pride.  German virtues were Prussian virtues: honor, duty, loyalty, punctuality, earnestness, discipline, obedience, seriousness (the other side of which is lack of a sense of humor, of course), and many Germans will still cite these as “German virtues,” conspicuously leaving out the other one, which the Nazis stressed, soldierly bravery.

Kaiser Wilhelm II
When the two Germanys divided, the DDR liked to portray these purported virtues as imperialist tendencies which, they say, the west persisted in maintaining, while the east was developing socialist values to replace them, including eliminating the fawning after nobility once and for all.  One has to wonder why they kept the goose-step when the West dropped it, but maybe that's asking too many questions.  In any case, it can’t be easy for those raised with a socialist consciousness to see the warm embrace of the current head of the pretender to the House of Prussia by so many in the west.  Not all, to be sure.  One of the biggies of West German postwar history, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, made it clear he saw entirely too close a connection between the Prussians and the Nazis and made a point of shunning a fest back in 1981 in Berlin, at which Prussian history was jumped up a notch.  

On January 20, 2013, two little boys were born in the North German city of Bremen.  You won’t see their pictures plastered all over the place.  Their parents are committed to keeping them out of the limelight, but their names are Carl Friedrich and Louis Ferdinand Christian Albrecht.  Their mother is Sophie of Isenberg. Their father, Georg Friedrich, is heir to the Prussian throne, “Kaiser-if-you-need-me.”  Twin Papa Georg Friedrich got the title “Prince of Prussia” in 1994 from his father, Louis Ferdinand, who got it from his father Crown Prince William in 1951.  Crown Prince William (Wilhelm, actually), remember, had to abdicate in 1918 along with his father, Kaiser Wilhelm II, when Germany lost the First World War and there was a revolution which ushered in the Weimar Republic. 

The boys, Carl Friedrich and Louis Ferdinand, were baptized on June 22 in a Lutheran ceremony at Burg Hohenzollern, where the Prussian throne is kept.  As well as the crown.  And tons of other beautiful (and expensive) objects – many railroad cars full -  from the good old days.  The Republic was generous to their former rulers when they shuffled them off to a mountain top in Swabia or life in exile in Holland.  You can visit Hohenzollern Castle for 7 euros (5 euros for children 6 to 17).  5 euros more if you actually want to go inside.  Another €3.10 for the round-trip shuttle bus between the parking lot and the castle.  Georg, as we've pointed out before, has a lot of Hohenzollerns on the payroll, after all.

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Among the many curiosities of this age gone by is Paragraph 103 of the German Criminal Code, the law that forbids one from “Majestätsbeleidigung” – what we in English refer to as lèse majesté, the insulting of royals.   The law first went into place in 1871 when the Hohenzollern line was placed in position to rule the new united Germany, and Wilhelm I took on the job.  It’s commonly referred today as “the Shah paragraph” because it was Iran’s Shah Pahlavi who got his nose all twisted by satirists and others of his critics in Germany.  The foreign leader has to register a complaint, you see, for the wheels to start turning.

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The Russians turned “Caesar” into “Tsar.”  The Germans kept the initial k sound and used German spelling to write it “Kaiser.”  Works just as well as “emperor,” you have to admit.  Today, when I go see a doctor, I pull out my “Kaiser Permanente” medical card.  Have associated the name with the Henry J. Kaiser, the automobile, and Willi I and Willi II come to mind these days, pretty much as an afterthought.

In any case, the days of the kaisers are gone.  What’s left are just the princes, including Georg, the current head of the Hohenzollern household, Wilhelm II’s great great grandson, and from all appearances really nice guy.  He’ll be 40 on June 10th.  Educated in Scotland, where he got his A-levels.  Lost his father, Louis Ferdinand Jr.,  when he was only a year old and became very close to his paternal grandfather, Louis Ferdinand Sr. whom his younger son was named after.  But I'm repeating myself.

I used to assume he would use Hohenzollern as the family name – just as Queen Elizabeth might call herself Betty Windsor when she's in a casual mood, but apparently the family uses “Prinz von Preussen” as the official family name.  When Georg joined the army, his name tag read, simply “Preusse” – which led to no end of ribbing by his fellow soldiers, since he was stationed in Bavaria.  The Bavarians speak of “Prussians” the way U.S. Southerners speak of “Yankees”.  It’s as if you were stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia and had to walk around with “Yankee” on your name tag.

But at least it seemed to deflect from the fact that this “Preusse” guy was heir to the German throne, and should the citizens of the Bundesrepublik ever tire of being republicans, could one day parade around like the kaisers of old.

Georg as a kid with his grandfather, Louis Ferdinand,
in front of a portrait of his great great grandfather,
Kaiser Wilhelm II
Not that he would, I imagine.  I’m quite charmed with him.  It's not long ago that he was a gangly teenager with glasses, rather bookish looking.  He married nobility, as was required of him, apparently finding a fellow modern thinker for a companion, and displays all the behavior his trainers inculcated.  Real class, if his projected persona in the press is any indication.  His grandfather, the one who raised him, was asked in an extended interview, “Would you like to be Kaiser?”  The answer was perfect.  “I’d do the job if the German people asked me to, but I’m happy just being a German and a European citizen.”  Georg and his wife Sophie both work full time.  She works at a consulting firm for non-profit organizations.  He manages the family fortunes when he's not at work "helping universities bring their innovations to market."

Even those inclined to insist on removing any trace of sentimentality about royalty and nobility in the modern nation-state seem to find him appealing, personally.  Another success, if I'm not mistaken, of modern German democracy, turning royals into decent Menschen.

As discussed previously, things were never exactly all peaches and cream within the Hohenzollern household.  Remember how Louis Ferdinand Sr., as head of household, followed the rule that heirs must marry within their station, i.e., only other nobility.  And how since his first and second sons both broke that rule and married commoners, the title passed to the third son, Louis Ferdinand Jr., and thus to his son Georg Friedrich.  Those little twin boys? – the one named Carl who stands to inherit and the other one who missed the honor by what may have been only minutes – blue blood all the way back.  At least he shares with his older twin brother (as well as pretty much anybody else in Europe who is royal) - Queen and Prince Consort of the United Kingdom and Ireland Victoria and Prince Albert of England (she’s also Empress of India) as great-great-great-great grandparents.  How many kids do you know who can tell you their four-times-grannie was Emperor of India?

The modern line of the kings of Prussia began in 1701 when the duke of Prussia got permission from the committee to call himself a “King in Prussia” – but not the King of Prussia, because that would be stepping on too many toes.  That got “corrected” in 1772 when, thanks to Freddie the Great, wasn’t nobody going to push these kings around no more.  If you’re familiar with the Philadelphia area, you may know the city with a population of about 20,000 called King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.  It got its name from a tavern named for Freddie the Great.  But I digress.

The line goes like this.  To get from Frederick the Great’s grandfather, the first King in Prussia to the present-day two-year old presumptive heir to the Hohenzollern title, Carl Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, you pass through fifteen generations (counting both ends), although #11 and #13 will not appear on the family tree, since they never actually held the title.  Here's my unofficial compilation.  If you want to see the official one, complete with photos and spousal units, check out here and note they begin one generation earlier, with Frederick William, the Elector.

Hohenzollern boys, modern day (i.e., since 1701)
birth and death years
Head of House of Hohenzollern

Friedrich I, King in Prussia, aka Duke of Prussia, aka Elector of Brandenburg
1688-1701 as duke
1701-1713 as king

Friedrich Wilhelm I
Aug. 14 1688-
May 31, 1740

Friedrich II, aka Friedrich der Große (Frederick the Great) (died childless)
Jan. 24, 1712 – Aug. 17, 1786
1740-1772 as King in Prussia;
1772-1786 as King of Prussia

Friedrich Wilhelm II (son of Freddie the Great’s brother Augustus Wilhelm)
Sept. 25, 1744-Nov. 16, 1797

Nephew FWII 1744’s mother was Fritz’s wife’s sister.  Nephew married Elisabeth Christine, whom he dropped four years later to marry Frederika Louisa by whom he had seven children while having five children by his mistress Wilhelmina Enke whom he took up with while she was still a teenager.  Nephew became a patron of Beethoven and Mozart and played the cello himself.  Fritz thought he was a bum.  Nephew removed Fritz’s ban on the German language and became a Rosicrucian and shut down the freedom of religion Fritz had installed and limited religious expression to officially accepted doctrine with himself deciding what that might be.  Ironically, this policy is credited with stability.  He ran into money problems and had to make deals with the newly formed French Republic, which made him a traitor to other royals.  He married two more women (i.e., became a bigamist twice over) and had seven more children with them.  One daughter married the Duke of York, another married William of Orange.  He built the Brandenburg Gate.

Friedrich Wilhelm III
Aug. 3, 1770-June 7, 1840

FWIII spoke without using personal pronouns.  This later became the model for military officers.  Unlike his father, he was happily married to just one wife, Luise, who bore him ten children.  Until she died.  Then he married another woman, morganatically, but they had no additional children. He is best known for uniting the Protestant Churches, Lutheran and Calvinist, into one, the Church of the Prussian Union and making himself the leading bishop.  He’s buried in the Mausoleum in the park at Charlottenburg Castle.
Friedrich Wilhelm IV
Oct. 15, 1795-Jan. 2, 1861

soldier boy

FWIV was known for completing Cologne Cathedral and for designing the Pickelhaube, the spiked helmet; patron of Felix Mendelssohn, no kids.  Was king during the 1848 revolution, joined forces with the progressives and was offered the crown of all Germany.  He refused, complaining that he could not accept “a crown from the gutter” – i.e., ordinary folk, as opposed to those of the noble classes authorized to determine the succession of kings.  Buried at Sans Souci.

Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig, Wilhelm I – the first “Kaiser Wilhelm” brother to FWIV (who had no kids, remember)
Mar. 22, 1797-Mar. 9, 1888

Otto von Bismarck,
the "Iron Chancellor"

Kaiser Wilhelm I was the first head of state of a modern united Germany.   German Empire (Reich) established under Otto von Bismarck, and title of Emperor (Kaiser) created.

Friedrich Wilhelm, Kaiser Friedrich III; married Victoria, eldest daughter of Victoria and Albert
Oct. 18, 1831-June 15, 1888
March 9 – June 15, 1888 (99 days)
Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen, Kaiser Wilhelm II – eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria, son of Victoria; married Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein
Jan. 27, 1859 – June 4, 1941
June 15, 1888 – Nov. 9, 1918
Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor August Ernst; Crown Prince Wilhelm, last crown prince of Prussia and German Empire; married Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin; ladies’ man
May 6, 1882 – July 20, 1951
became heir apparent (after K. Wilhelm II) at age 6 in 1888 with death of Friedrich III; abdicated with his father, Nov. 9, 1918 but retained his title till death in 1951.

Wilhelm Friedrich Franz Josef Christian Olaf
July 4, 1906 – May 26-, 1940

WFFJCO died before acquiring the title, fighting with the Wehrmacht in the invasion of France.  50,000 people showed up for his funeral at Potsdam.  That made Hitler jealous and he forbade any more participation in his wars by the Hohenzollern boys.

Prinz Louis Ferdinand Sr.
Nov. 9, 1907 – Sept. 26, 1994

LF Sr. married grand duchess Kira of Russia and had seven children.  The first two, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm and Prince Michael pissed their father off by marrying commoners, so he refused to grant them title to the family and it went to his third son, Louis Ferdinand, Jr. Funeral held at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin.

Louis Ferdinand Oskar Christian, Prince of Prussia, aka Louis Ferdinand Jr. – “Lulu” to his friends
Aug. 25, 1944-July 11, 1977

LF Jr. died in a military maneuver accident.  His two children are the current pretender, Georg Friedrich, and his sister, Cornelie-Cécile, who was born developmentally disabled six months after her father’s death.
Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia; married Sophie of Prussia, Princess of Isenburg
June 10, 1976
1994 to date;
current heir to throne
Carl Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, heir presumptive
Jan. 20, 2013
There's an heir and a spare: CF has a twin brother, Louis Ferdinand

Carl Friedrich lives in a house with his mother, Sophie and his father, Georg Friedrich and his younger twin brother Louis Ferdinand and his one-year-old sister Emma Marie in a village called Fischerhude, just outside of Bremen, a lovely little town known for its painters, including Clara Westhoff, wife of Rainer Maria Rilke.  They also call home the Hohenzollern Castle in Swabia, Southwest Germany, about thirty miles south of Stuttgart.

Hohenzollern Castle is one of 20,000 German castles.

photo credits: Hohenzollern Castle