William II (1859-1941) became King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany on the death of his grandfather William I in 1888. Intelligent but impetuous, he believed in military power. The military might that Germany developed during the reign of William II did not succeed in saving his empire from eclipse. In 1914, his support for Austria helped to precipitate European war, and Germany’s resulting defeat brought his abdication. He retired to Doorn in Holland, where he lived quietly until his death in 1941. His abdication and death in exile provide living proof of the fact that it is not military might that keeps kings in power. Rather, it is ability to correctly interpret national and international circumstances, and deal with them effectively.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, William II went on an official visit to Switzerland, where he was profoundly impressed by the discipline displayed by the Swiss army. While inspecting a military parade, he jokingly said to one of the soldiers: “Germany’s army is twice the size of yours. If the Germans were to attack your country, what would you do?” “Sir, we would have to fire twice instead of once,” came the Swiss soldier’s grave reply.