The German Royal Family: A Brief History

Published January 25, 2021
Kaiser Wilhelm II Family

Does Germany have a royal family? No, modern-day Germany has never had a monarch. However, from 1871 through 1918, the German Empire consisted of Kingdoms, Grand Duchies, Duchies, and Principalities, and all had royal families whose linage could be traced back to the Holy Roman Empire.

What Happened to the German Royal Family?

The German Empire united all the scattered parts of Germany under one king, Kaiser Wilhelm II, King of Prussia. However, unlike Britain, where the monarchy has only a constitutional role, the German Royals were directly involved in the government and the war. Therefore, after the defeat in World War I, they were the target of the people's wrath.

map of German Empire 19th Century

The German or November Revolution

Unrest across the German Empire following the loss of World War I sparked the November Revolution. On November 9, 1918, when a parliamentary democracy was proclaimed, the Prussian monarchy and Germany's other constituent monarchies were abolished. On August 19, 1919, when the Weimar Constitution went into effect, all the German nobility's legal privileges and titles were forever abolished. However, former hereditary titles are still allowed as part of the surname.

German Royal Family Surnames

Most German royal last names related to the family's place of origin. These surnames are now preceded by the preposition von (meaning "of") or zu (meaning "at"). The two are sometimes used together, von und zu, meaning "of and at". Generally, von reveals the family's place of origin, while zu says the family is still in possession of the estate from which the surname is drawn. For example, Georg Friedrich von Preussen is the great-great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last king of Prussia.

Royal Families in Germany

Some German Royal Family dynasties are the Conradines, Carolingians, Salians, Ottonians, Supplinburger, Hohenstaufen, Welf, Wettin, Nassau, Habsburg, Luxemburg, Lorraine, Wittelsbach, Habsburg-Lorraine, Bonaparte and Hohenzollern.

The Last German Kings

In November 1918, following the German Empire's defeat in World War I, all the German Empire's kings either stepped down or were forced to abdicate.

Kaiser Wilhelm II

German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was from the Hohenzollern dynasty and was the last King of Prussia. Following World War I, he fled to the Netherlands, where he spent the rest of his life. He was forced to abdicate from both the imperial throne and the Kingdom of Prussia on November 28, 1918. His abdication formally ended the house of Hohenzollern.

Kaiser Wilhelm II has seven children:

  • Wilhelm, German Crown Prince of Prussia, was the last Crown Prince of the German Empire
  • Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia was Kaiser Wilhelm's only daughter
  • Prince Wilhelm Keitel Friedrich Christian Karl of Prussia
  • Prince Joachim Franz Humbert of Prussia
  • Prince Adalbert of Prussia
  • Prince Oskar of Prussia
  • Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia
German Emperor Wilhelm II

King Ludwig III

Ludwig III was from the Wittelsbach dynasty was the last King of Bavaria. On November 7, 1918, Ludwig fled with his family from Munich. On November 12, 1918, the Wittelsbachs were deposed, bring to an end their 700-year rule over Bavaria.

Ludwig III had 13 children:

  • Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria
  • Princess Adelgunde of Bavaria
  • Maria Ludwiga, Princess of Bavaria
  • Karl, Prince of Bavaria
  • Franz, Prince of Bavaria
  • Princess Mathilde of Bavaria
  • Prince Wolfgang of Bavaria
  • Princess Hildegard of Bavaria
  • Princess Notburga of Bavaria (died as an infant)
  • Princess Wiltrud of Bavaria
  • Princess Helmtrud of Bavaria (died as a child)
  • Princess Dietlinde of Bavaria (died as an infant)
  • Princess Gundelinde, Princess of Bavaria
King Ludwig II of Bavaria

King Frederick Augusta III

Frederick Augustus III from the Wettin dynasty was the last King of Saxony. He voluntarily abdicated his throne on November 13, 1918.

Frederick Augusta III had seven children:

  • Friedrich August Georg, Crown Prince of Saxony. After becoming a Jesuit priest, he is thought to have been assassinated in 1943 by the SS or Gestapo.
  • Friedrich Christian, Margrave of Meissen, Duke of Saxony
  • Ernst Heinrich
  • Maria Alix Carola (stillborn)
  • Margarete Carola Wilhelmine
  • Maria Alix Luitpolda
  • Anna Monika Pia
Frederick Augustus III of Saxony

King William II

William II from the Württemberg dynasty was the last King of Württemberg. King William II abdicated on November 30, 1918. William II had three children but no living sons, which ended the royal branch of the House of Württemberg.

William II's Children:

  • Princess Pauline of Württemberg
  • Prince Ulrich of Württemberg (died in infancy)
  • A stillborn daughter (April 24, 1882)
King William II of Wurttemberg

The Last of the German Nobility

German Grand Dukes, Dukes, and Rulers of Principalities also abdicated in 1918.

The Last German Grand Dukes

  • Fredrich II was the last Grand Duke of Baden.
  • Earnest Louis was the last Grand Duck Hesse.
  • Frederick Francis IV was the last Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
  • Frederick Augustus II was the last Grand Duke of Oldenburg.
  • Wilhelm Earnest was the last Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.

The Last German Dukes

  • Joachim Ernst was the last Duke of Anhalt.
  • Earnest Augustus was the last Duke of Brunswick.
  • Ernst II was the last Duke of Saxe-Altenburg.
  • Charles Edward was the last Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
  • Bernhard III was the last Duke of Saxe-Meiningen.

The Last German Rulers of Principalities

  • Leopold IV was the final Prince of the Principality of Lippe.
  • Adolf was the last Prince of the small Principality, Schaumburg-Lippe.
  • Gunther Victor was the final Prince of the Principalities of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadn and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen.
  • Friedrich was the last Prince of the Principality of Waldeck and Pyrmont.
  • Heinrich XXIV was the last Prince of the Principality Rueuss-Greiz.
  • Heinrich XXVII was the final Prince of the Principality Reuss-Gera.

Germany's Current Royals

Even though Germany abolished its nobility in 1918, the remaining fortune and status of different royal families in the country are significant. They are still a topic of conversation, and the heads of former royal dynasties often make headlines in the German press. As a matter of fact, the Thurn und Taxis dynasty has an official website and Facebook page.

The German Royal Family: A Brief History