War Heritage Institute

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A unique tunic: mission accomplished!

Tunic of the 16th Dragoon regiment (2. Hannoversches Dragoner-Regiment), German Imperial Army, model 1915, worn by the German Emperor Wilhelm II.

In May 2020 the WHI acquired a true treasure. The First World War collection now also features a cavalry uniform jacket of the 16th Dragoon regiment, that belonged to the last German Emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1941).

A silk tailor’s label of court supplier Noé & Schultze, with the Emperor’s signature in blue pencil, as well as an embroidered regiment label for the 2nd Hanoverian Dragoon regiment n° 16 with the hand-sewn imperial monogram and crown, do not leave any doubt as to the uniform’s authenticity. The length of the sleeves also betrays the jacket belonged to Emperor Wilhelm II, who was born with a paralyzed and atrophied left arm. The gilded epaulettes, the silver buttons, the silk lining and the fabric with contrasting yellow piping all testify to the wearer’s social status.

Emperor Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, was a First World War key character. In 1918 he resided in Spa, where he had established his headquarters for tactical reasons. His reign ended in Belgium on 9 November 1918. He fled to the Netherlands, a neutral territory, where he obtained asylum on 10 November and where he passed away in June 1941.

The German Emperor wanted to be a warlord. Following a tradition established by the Prussian King he adopted the equipment of all regiments, which he regularly visited. In the 19th century he awarded the title of "Chief" (Colonel owner) not only to brave officers as a token of appreciation, but also to crowned heads as a sign of high respect.

The title of "Chief" of the 16th Dragoons was awarded first to Leopold II's brother Philip and later to the latter’s son Albert. Wilhelm II was looking for support for his projects and considered Albert I of Saxe-Coburg, King of the Belgians, to be a German monarch: Albert had already met the regiment in 1898 and 1907, and had reviewed it in its Lüneburg cantonment in 1913. However, as the King did not appreciate either the sabre rattling or the manipulation exerted over him, he only wore the German uniform within the strict limits of protocol.