German uniform jacket, worn by Kaiser Wilhelm II

German uniform jacket, worn by Kaiser Wilhelm II

Uniform Wilhelm II

Technical data

Type Uniform jacket
Cut Cavalry regiment, Dragoons n° 16
Worn by Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia
Date 1918
Made in Germany
Dimensions 71 cm (L) x 94 cm (W)
Materials Wool, metal yarn, cotton and silk
Where to be seen within the War Heritage Institute Royal Military Museum, ‘14-‘18 Gallery

Emperor Wilhelm II’s uniform jacket

Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last emperor of Germany and the last king of Prussia, wore this uniform jacket in 1918, during the last year of the First World War. Several elements of the jacket certify that the item belonged to Wilhelm II.

First of all we notice that the jacket’s left sleeve is shorter than the right sleeve. Wilhelm II was born with a paralysed left arm, making it shorter than his right arm. In addition, the gold epaulettes, silk lining and yellow piping indicate the owner’s high social status.

A silk label from court tailor Noé & Schultze is sewn into the jacket. We also find the emperor’s signature in blue pencil, as well as a hand-embroidered vignette with the imperial monogram and crown. All of these elements prove that the jacket was unmistakably worn by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The jacket is part of a cavalry uniform and more specifically of the 16th Regiment of Dragoons.

Riem uniform Wilhelm II
Uniform Wilhelm II

Did you know that…

  • the uniform’s  left sleeve is a bit shorter than its right sleeve? The explanation is quite simple: Kaiser Wilhelm II had a slight disability, namely a paralysed left arm. To hide this, he routinely tucked his left arm into his belt or pocket, while he used his right arm to perform his tasks. As a result, his right arm was much more developed than his paralysed arm and the left sleeve of his uniforms was shortened to hide the disability.

  • Wilhelm II adopted the Prussian tradition of having the wardrobe of each of his regiments? He wanted to be seen as a full-fledged warlord.

  • Wilhelm II granted the honorary title of “Commander-in-Chief” to brave officers and royals as a sign of esteem? The brother of King Leopold II, Philippe, was given the title of chief of the 16th Regiment of Dragoons, title that later passed on to his son King Albert I. King Albert I scrupulously adhered to the rules of protocol for the wearing of the uniform.

What makes this uniform jacket a top piece?

Kaiser Wilhelm II became the symbol of German-Prussian militarism. He was declared to be the instigator of the First World War, the aggressor of “poor little Belgium”, the great war criminal.

This grandson of Britain’s Queen Victoria was the last German emperor and a very tragic character. He was one of the protagonists of the First World War. After the war, he sought asylum in the Netherlands and stayed at Huis Doorn until his death in 1941.

-Gillian Van Weyenbergh, technical associate Uniforms, War Heritage Institute