Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 29 January 2021

Kaiser Wilhelm II and his Garter Insignia

January 27th was the 162nd anniversary of the birth of Kaiser Wilhelm II. When he attained his eighteenth birthday in 1877 many German and European states conferred upon him as second in line to the German and Prussian throne their highest chivalric honours. These are listed in the Wikipedia biography of him which can be accessed at Wilhelm II, German Emperor. In 

One of these came from his maternal grandmother Queen Victoria who made him a Knight of the Garter. Originally she had intended to confer the slightly lower ranking GCB of the Order of the Bath but when Wilhelm’s mother pointed out that other monarchs were going to present him with their highest honour the Queen, somewhat reluctantly, made him a KG.

In later life he commissioned a Lesser George, the sash badge for a Knight of the Garter, with on the reverse the badge of the Prussian equivalent the Order of the Black Eagle. This piece is now in the Museum of the Legion d’Honneur in Paris.

He had received the Black Eagle as a boy of ten in 1869 and there are photographs of him as a boy in uniform wearing the riband and star of the Order. In 1877 he received the further distinction of being given the collar of the Black Eagle.

The badge can be seen in photographs on a Facebook post from the Musee at Musée de la Légion d'honneur et des ordres de chevalerie

I am grateful to the Special Correspondent for sending me the link to this item.

There are several portraits of the Kaiser wearing the Garter. An early one from 1889 in the Royal Collection can be seen with accompanying notes at Rudolf Wimmer (1849-1915) - Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany (1859-1941)

Emperor Wilhelm II (1859–1941), 'The Kaiser'
Kaiser Wilhelm II wearing the Garter with the Windsor Uniform and Oxford DCL robes

Alfred Schwartz (1867-1951)

The Examination Schools University of Oxford 

After the Kaiser was deprived of his British honours - KG, GCVO, Royal Victorian Chain -  in 1915 and during his exile at Doorn there was  something of a standoff about returning the investiture insignia to Britain as the exiled Kaiser maintained that he had been given the Garter by Queen Victoria and was not relinquishing the items. I have not seen how that matter was resolved.

At Huis Doorn there is a Garter Star which belonged to the Kaiser. It can be seen here   Quite apart from its ownership it is interesting in being taller than it is wide - 9.3cm by 8.2cm - which is unusual in Victorian examples. The more elongated shape  only really became established after the 1948 anniversary celebrations of the Order under King George VI.  am indebted to Royal Jewels of the World Message Board: Jewelled Garter Stars in the British Royal Collections for the following paragraphs. Following the death of George Duke of Cambridge in 1904 a large portion of his collection of insignia was auctioned on 15 June that year at Christie's London. Lot 781 of the sale, a Diamond star of the Order of the Garter, belonged to Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge, was sold for £720 to a J.M. Jones, probably on behalf of Kaiser Wilhelm II, along with a most exceptional Diamond and Cameo Lesser George by Caputi, lot 783, which sold for £1,790. These items of insignia caught the future Queen Mary's eye in 1907. "In a letter written to her aunt, Princess Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, in 1907, the Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary) described seeing Kaiser Wilhelm II wearing [the Duke of Cambridge's insignia]; she added ‘they are so fine they ought to belong to our crown jewels’ ( quoted in Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels, 2008). The Caputi George and star were finally acquired by King George VI, thus fulfilling Queen Mary's forty year old wish, from Princess Adelheid of Prussia (the wife of Prince Adalbert, the Kaiser's third son). The Kaiser died in 1941, his son in 1948, and George VI in 1952, so the insignia were most likely acquired sometime between 1948 and 1952.  In a 2010 written question, Andrew MacKinlay, a former Labour MP, asked "the Secretary of State for Justice whether the Garter Banner, uniforms, decorations and other related artefacts of Kaiser Wilhelm II which relate to his honorary rank as United Kingdom Field Marshal and Honorary Colonel-in-Chief of United Kingdom regiments prior to 1914 are in the custody of the Royal Household; and if he will make a statement." The answer followed as such: "Mr. Wills: The Garter Banner and other insignia of Kaiser Wilhelm II were removed from St. George's Chapel, Windsor during the First World War. We have been unable to ascertain their location. The stall plates of Kaiser Wilhelm II are still in place in St. George's Chapel. The Royal Collection has confirmed that it holds the Robe and Garter dress of Kaiser Wilhelm II as well as two diamond Garter Stars and Badge of Kaiser Wilhelm II. No other uniforms, decorations or related artefacts are held” 10 Mar 2010. This confirms that the Cambridge Star and Badge, as well as the Kaiser's 'Small Set' (the provenance of which is unknown) are all in the Royal Collection.  Prince Charles wears his own set of jewelled insignia, comprising a Star and Neck Badge of the Order of the Bath, a cameo Garter Badge and a Star, round in shape, like that of Prince Albert or the one from the Kaiser's second set. Since the Prince of Wales has worn the set since the 1980s (at least) the author doubts that the star could be Prince Albert's. The dark (onyx?) cameo Lesser George also resembles the one from the Kaiser's second set, so he wonders if the Prince of Wales wears the Kaiser's Garter Insignia.

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