Germany has long been regarded as one of the great territories of Europe, with a rich and complex history dating back to the earliest times of the Holy Roman Empire in the Middle Ages. 

As part of the numerous sovereign countries, empires and monarchies of Europe that emerged from the medieval period, Germany has enjoyed periods of royal rule, featuring grand royal families, kingdoms, duchies and principalities, along with the vast court entourages that the royals of history accumulate over the centuries. 

German Emperors, Kings & Kaisers

The history of Germany and the lands from which it evolved can claim a wealth of legendary royal rulers. These include the Emperors of the mighty Holy Roman Empire, the Kings of Prussia and surrounding lands, as well as the later Kings of Germany. 

These ranks and titles ranged in power, esteem and influence, from the epitome of imperial rule denoted by an Emperor, through the ranks of kings, grand-dukes, dukes and princes who governed over the grand-duchies, duchy estates and principalities that made up the earlier Germanic territories. 

Throughout the evolution of what we consider modern-day Germany, many of its sovereigns and monarchs have been titled as Kaiser, which is generally held to be the Germanic word for emperor, though it is sometimes used to represent a king or other kind of royal head of state. 

The origin of the word Kaiser is closely linked to the ancient Roman term for Emperor which was Caesar, and this sense of imperial sovereignty and absolute power can be witnessed in the history of Germany in a similar fashion to the great emperors of Ancient Rome. 

In another echo of the great leaders of Roman times, the Kaisers and kings of Germany would also witness an end to the days of imperial rule, as the destiny of Germany began to move away from empire status and sovereign rule as it emerged into the modern era.  

The Napoleonic era sparked the beginning of the end for Germany’s great royal rulers, and by the early twentieth century, the country had rejected the system of constitutional monarchy completely, in preference for a more egalitarian regime.  

The Federal Republic of Modern Germany

The history books reveal that Germany most certainly had its share of royal families, with the hereditary monarchs and their families enjoying some of the lavish lifestyles and power typical of influential and esteemed sovereigns. 

Today, however, Germany no longer has a royal family in the traditional sense, as the country is no longer a constitutional monarchy, i.e. the heads of state are no longer hereditary monarchs. 

Modern Germany is a Federal Republic. This means that a federation of states make up one nation that’s governed by republican rule, i.e. that the people of the country are self-governing, as in a democracy, rather than governed by a king or queen. 

As a republic, Germany has no official royal family because it no longer has a sovereign or monarch. 

The Last German Kaiser

Wilhelm II was the last in a great line of powerful and historic German Kaisers. He was the Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia up until his abdication in 1918. 

Portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm II by Court Photographer T. H. Voigt of Frankfurt, 1902.
Portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm II by Court Photographer T. H. Voigt of Frankfurt, 1902 – Thomas Heinrich Voigt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The end of Wilhelm II’s reign signaled the end of Germany’s rich history of royal leaders, as the country opted for republican status, known as the Weimar Republic, and rejected the ancient system of a crowned head of state. 

The events of the First World War culminated in Wilhelm II’s exile from Germany following his abdication. He fled to the Netherlands where he later died – the last in a majestic line of German Kaisers and Kings. 

German Royal Family Ties

Although the official German Royal Family line may have ended with the abdication of Wilhelm II amid the evolution of the Weimar Republic, his royal family heritage remained, and this regal line spanned centuries and many European countries and beyond. 

Perhaps one of the most famous connections to modern royalty that has endured to the twentieth century is the relationship between the current British Royal Family and the German Royal Family of Wilhelm II. 

The last Kaiser of Germany may have been an esteemed and powerful sovereign in his own right, but his mother also had an impressive regal heritage, being the daughter of one of history’s most famous queens. 

Wilhelm II’s mother, known as Victoria, Princess Royal, was herself an Empress of Germany and Queen of Prussia, a position attained upon her marriage at age 17 to the German Emperor Frederick III, Wilhelm’s father. 

Victoria was also the eldest daughter of the legendary British monarch, Queen Victoria. This made Wilhelm II and his family direct relations of the English Queen. So, even after the days of the German Revolution when the monarchy of Germany was abolished, the erstwhile German Royal Family maintained a strong connection with royalty and one of the greatest sovereigns of Europe. 

The Hohenzollern Residences – A German Royal Family Legacy

The official royal family of Germany may have ceased to exist as a result of political and social events, yet there’s a magnificent and undisputed legacy of the great German Royals that millions around the world enjoy to this day – the iconic residences of the last family line of German rulers. 

The House of Hohenzollern may have succumbed to the egalitarian preferences of modern times, yet the spectacular palaces and castles that the royal family bequeathed to the world stand as an enduring testament to their former majesty. 

From the imposing Berlin Palace, to the vast Charlottenburg Palace, to the unique charm and beauty of the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, the homes and habitats of the German Royal Families throughout the reign of the House of Hohenzollern are a remarkable legacy of their sovereignty and rule. 

In particular, the iconic Hohenzollern Castle – the inspiration for the fairytale castles of Walt Disney classics – is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. In the years since it opened its doors to the public, it has attracted millions of visitors from all around the world eager to experience its hilltop magic. 

While the rank and power of the German Royal Family may have been lost to the events of history, the majesty and stories of its Kings and Kaisers endure to inspire and delight in modern times, through the legends of Germany’s royal rulers and their families, and the exquisite legacies of their regal residences.