Wilhelm I

Wilhelm I and a United Germany

Letter to Parents

High school students will able to learn about Germany before WWI. They will learn about the first unifying leader and his rise to power. This historical context will allow students to better understand German history.


Thank you and I hope you enjoy this lesson

3 Key Questions

Who was the first leader of Germany?


How did Wilhelm I unite Germany?


Where is Wilhelm I buried


Wilhelm I and a United Germany

Wilhelm I (William in English), the future Emperor of Germany, was born in Prussia, March 22, 1797. Wilhelm served in the army from 1814 onward. He fought in the Napoleonic Wars. Quickly rising in the ranks, he became Major. He led a battalion in various battles including the battle of Waterloo. In 1818, Wilhelm was named General Major and then became the spokesman of the Prussian Army.


On January 2, 1861, Wilhelm became King of Prussia. William led his forces in a war against Denmark in 1864 and the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, the German states pooled their resources together in order to defeat their foe, which Prussia was part of. Creating the North German Confederation, they named the famous Wilhelm I president.


In 1871, the Franco-Prussian War ended with the Germans taking Paris. This hard fought victory united people and resources on a huge scale. With nationalism at an all time high, the various German princes gathered together at Versailles Palace in France on the 18th of January, 1871 to proclaim William I of Prussia the Emperor of Germany. Thus, uniting all of the German speaking lands in Central Europe.


Wilhelm was passed away at age 90 on March 9th, 1888. He was buried at the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, Germany.

Activity Plan

Teacher prepares map of pre-unification German states. Students use class time to label major states. Example include Bohemia, Prussia and Bavaria.


Students can create a timeline of famous battles that led to the Unification


Students could make a short movie on the life of Wilhelm. They could use a stop motion format or get in groups and film a short film. This would allow teaching about particular figures, it is fun for students to study the subject more as an individual and remove the historical context and learn about Wilhelm quirks. This will make remembering his historical importance easier.