On 5 November 1922, an exiled Emperor married a widowed Princess 30 years his junior. It was the wedding of Wilhelm II, German Emperor and Princess Hermine Reuss of Greiz (also known as Princess of Schönaich-Carolath by her first marriage).
Wilhelm had only been widowed a little over a year, and his family was vehemently against him remarrying, especially so soon. His only daughter Victoria Louise claimed that her pregnancy made it impossible for her to travel, but she also added, “But it not possible for me to come to Doorn and take part in the wedding celebrations in the same house where mother suffered so dreadfully, and from where she departed from us. I could have no joy in a celebration such as is demanded of me. I beg you with my whole heart not to take offence at my candid words, and that you should understand my feelings fully.”1
In the end, only Wilhelm’s eldest son Crown Prince Wilhelm, younger sons Eitel Friedrich and August Wilhelm, his sister Viktoria, his sister Margaret and his brother Heinrich attended from his side of the family.
The inscription here appears to be incorrect as they are in their wedding clothes.
At 11.15 in the morning, Hermine and Wilhelm were married at Huis Doorn with the civil ceremony being performed by the Mayor of Doorn and the religious ceremony being performed by Dr Vogel. Wilhelm wore the grey uniform of a general in the First Regiment of Guard with the orange sash of the High Order of the Black Eagle while Hermine wore a chiffon mauve dress with an heirloom emerald necklace, a stole and a black and white hat. She also carried a fan of ostrich feathers. Their weddings bands were plain golden bands with the inscription: “5 XI 1922 Wilhelm Doorn, Hermine Doorn.”
Heinrich toasted the new couple, “to the health and of His Majesty the Emperor and King and Her Majesty the Empress and Queen.” If it wasn’t clear before, Wilhelm intended for Hermine to be styled as Empress, no matter what anyone thought.
Meanwhile, a wreath delivered to the tomb of Wilhelm’s first wife in Potsdam with the words, “To the silent sufferer. 5 November.” Somebody was very cross, indeed.
Wilhelm later stated, “The people who criticised my remarriage could not fathom the awful solitude that hung over my life like a pall. What do they know of my feelings? How can they realise what it means to a man, who ruled the German Empire for thirty years, to be separated from his native land by an alien border?”2
Hermine: An Empress in Exile is now available in paperback and Kindle!
Why had his first wife suffered? Was it a reference to her medical conditions that caused her death or had Wilhem mistreated her?
Yes, it’s a reference to her medical situation. She was already very ill when she came to live at Doorn.