|Wilhelm Karl (Mindaugas II)|
|Duke of Urach|
|Reign||17 July 1869 – 24 March 1928|
|Successor||Prince Karl Gero|
|King-elect of Lithuania|
|Reign||11 July – 2 November 1918|
|Born||30 May 1864|
|Died||24 March 1928 (aged 63)|
Rapallo, Kingdom of Italy
Ludwigsburg Palace Church
|Spouse||Duchess Amalie in Bavaria|
Princess Wiltrud of Bavaria
|Issue||Princess Marie-Gabriele |
Princess Elisabeth of Urach
Karl Gero, Duke of Urach
Albrecht von Urach
|Father||Wilhelm, 1st Duke of Urach|
|Mother||Princess Florestine of Monaco|
Prince Wilhelm of Urach, Count of Württemberg, 2nd Duke of Urach (Wilhelm Karl Florestan Gero Crescentius; German: Fürst Wilhelm von Urach, Graf von Württemberg, 2. Herzog von Urach; 30 May 1864 – 24 March 1928), was a German prince who was elected in June 1918 as King of Lithuania, with the regnal name of Mindaugas II. He never assumed the crown, however, as German authorities declared the election invalid; the invitation was withdrawn in November 1918. From 17 July 1869 until his death, he was the head of the morganatic Urach branch of the House of Württemberg.
Born as Wilhelm Karl Florestan Gero Crescentius, Count of Württemberg, he was the elder son of Wilhelm, 1st Duke of Urach (the head of a morganatic branch of the Royal House of the Kingdom of Württemberg), and his second wife, Princess Florestine of Monaco, occasional Regent of Monaco and daughter of Florestan I, Prince of Monaco.
At the age of four, Wilhelm succeeded his father as Duke of Urach. He was born and spent much of his childhood in Monaco, where his mother Florestine often managed the government during the extended oceanographic expeditions of her nephew, Prince Albert I. Wilhelm was culturally francophone.
Through his mother, Wilhelm was a legitimate heir to the throne of Monaco. Wilhelm's cousin Prince Albert I of Monaco had only one child, Prince Louis, who was unmarried and had no legitimate children. The French Republic, however, was reluctant to see a German prince ruling Monaco. Under French pressure, Monaco passed a law in 1911 recognising Louis's illegitimate daughter, Charlotte, as heir; she was adopted in 1918 by her grandfather Prince Albert I as part of the Monaco Succession Crisis of 1918. Wilhelm was relegated to third in line to Monaco's throne, behind Louis and Charlotte. Furthermore, in July 1918 France and Monaco signed the Franco-Monegasque Treaty; it required all future princes of Monaco to be French or Monegasque citizens and secure the approval of the French government to succeed to the throne. After the accession of Prince Louis II in 1922, Wilhelm renounced his rights of succession to the throne of Monaco in favour of distant French cousins, the counts de Chabrillan, in 1924.
In 1913, Wilhelm was one of several princes considered for the throne of Albania. He was supported by Catholic groups in the north and attended the Albanian Congress of Trieste. In 1914 Prince William of Wied was selected instead.
In 1917, as a newly retired general, Wilhelm sounded out the possibility of being made Grand Duke of Alsace-Lorraine after the war was over. In 1918, he accepted the short-lived invitation to reign as Mindaugas II of Lithuania. His claims were published in a 2001 essay by his grandson-in-law, Sergei von Cube.
Typical of his family, Wilhelm entered the army in 1883 and was a professional general by the outbreak of World War I in 1914 as commander of the 26th Infantry Division (1st Royal Württemberg) of the Imperial German Army. Until November 1914 this division was part of the German assault on France, and then Belgium, where Wilhelm's sister-in-law Elisabeth of Belgium was queen. In December 1914, the division fought in the battle to cross the Bzura river in Poland. From June to September 1915, the division moved from north of Warsaw to positions close to the Neman River, an advance of hundreds of miles in the campaign in which Poland was taken (the Great Russian Retreat of World War I). In October–November 1915, the division took part in the Serbian Campaign, moving from west of Belgrade to Kraljevo in less than a month. The division served at Ypres in Belgium from December 1915 to July 1916, then was largely destroyed at the Somme battles from August to November 1916 while holding the Schwaben Redoubt (Swabia is part of Württemberg). Wilhelm retired as divisional general on 5 January 1917.
In 1917–18, Wilhelm was General Officer Commanding of the 64th Corps (Generalkommando 64) on the western front; his aides de camp included Eugen Ott and Erwin Rommel.
Main article: Kingdom of Lithuania (1918)
On 4 June 1918, the Council of Lithuania voted to invite Wilhelm to become the king of a newly independent Lithuania. Wilhelm agreed and was elected on 11 July 1918, taking the name Mindaugas II. His election can be explained by several factors:
According to Wilhelm's agreement with the Council of Lithuania, he had to live in Lithuania and learn to speak its language.
In addition, he was also descended from Casimir IV Jagiellon, grand duke of Lithuania, through his daughter Barbara Jagiellon.
From the beginning, Wilhelm's reign was controversial. The four socialists of the twenty members of the Council of Lithuania left in protest. The German government did not recognize Wilhelm's selection as king, although the influential publicist and politician Matthias Erzberger, also a Catholic from Württemberg, supported the claim. Wilhelm never had the chance to visit Lithuania; he remained instead at Lichtenstein Castle, his home south of Stuttgart. He did start to learn the Lithuanian language, however. Within a few months of his election, it became clear that Germany would lose World War I, and on 2 November 1918, the Council of Lithuania reversed its decision.
In the tiny chapel of Lichtenstein Castle is a framed letter from Pope Benedict XV welcoming Wilhelm's selection as the future king of Lithuania.
In 2009 Wilhelm's grandson Inigo was interviewed on television in Vilnius, and said: "...if he was honoured with a proposal to assume the throne of Lithuania, he would not refuse it."
The German anti-war novelist Arnold Zweig set his 1937 novel Einsetzung eines Königs (The Crowning of a King) around the election of Mindaugas in 1918.
Wilhelm was married twice. On 4 July 1892, he married firstly Duchess Amalie in Bavaria (1865–1912), daughter of Karl-Theodor, Duke in Bavaria, a niece of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, and a direct descendant of the Lithuanian princess Ludwika Karolina Radziwiłł of Biržai. Nine children were born of this marriage:
In 1924, Wilhelm married secondly Princess Wiltrud of Bavaria (1884–1975), daughter of King Ludwig III of Bavaria. This marriage was childless.
Prince Eberhard's son Inigo made a sentimental journey to Lithuania in November 2009, which was covered by the local media.
|Ancestors of Wilhelm Karl, Duke of Urach|