Two significant events, both political and personal, occurred early in Wilhelm's life and would go on to have a significant influence for years to come. The political event was the formation of the German Empire under Prussia in 1871. As second in line to the throne under his father, Frederick III, this event led to a swell in nationalistic pride for Wilhelm, who was determined to "win a place in the sun" for Germany during his reign. Unfortunately, he had a sharp temper, which led to some damaging political decisions, such as firing the chancellor Otto von Bismarck. He also meddled negatively in foreign relations, and caused major financial strain on the government in an attempt to build a naval fleet to rival the British. By World War I, he became a shadow leader, having very little real power for himself, and abdicated shortly before the end of the war in 1918.
The main event happened at his birth. Due to a traumatic breech, Wilhelm was left with a withered left arm that remained some 6 inches shorter than his right arm. Thus, when depicted in Royal portraits, he became adept at hiding the disfigurement. While his arms are not visible on the present piece, one can notice how he sits at an angle presenting the right side of his body further forward, so he can more easily obscure the view of his left.
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