The title of this book means "The Trained King" and refers to Wilhelm II., last king of Wuerttemberg*. Its author, Anni Willmann, is a journalist usually working for one of Stuttgart's newspapers. In "Der gelernte König", she has put together 160 pages of short stories about Wilhelm.
He was not only the last, but probably also the most popular king of Wuerttemberg. If such a thing as a "democratic monarch" is at all thinkable, then he fits the description. Everything this modest, well educated and conscientiously dutiful man did had one goal: to benefit his country and its people.
Many improvements in the lives of his subjects can be traced back to an initiative of his. He made sure the transition from agricultural to industrial state went as smoothly as possible; his was one of only a few German states where the press really WAS free and no censorship existed; he saw the importance of getting a proper education in the theoretical as well as the practical part of all trades, crafts and professions, sponsored the arts - mainly the theatre - and he loved his country so much that he knew war could never be anything but his worst enemy. When WWI broke out in 1914 and he had to say good-bye to his troops in Stuttgart, he did so with tears in his eyes.
Although Wilhelm's life (1848 - 1921) was free of financial sorrows, it was by no means easy or smooth. His first marriage to pretty Marie - it was love at first sight - sadly ended after only 5 years, when Marie died giving birth to her third baby, a stillborn boy. Two years previously, the couple's second child, little Ulrich, died at the age of five months. Wilhelm found himself a widower and single father to barely 5-year-old Pauline.
This is, by the way, the same Pauline mentioned in this post: The house "Marienwahl" (Marie's Choice) was the very place Wilhelm and his young wife moved to, and where he had, in his own words, the happiest years of his life.
The prince (it was still many years before he would become king) remarried, once again for love and not for politics. With his second wife, Charlotte, he had no children, but the two of them seem to have enjoyed a quietly happy marriage based on mutual respect, deep friendship and love, in spite of Wilhelm never really getting over Marie's early death.
In 1891, Wilhelm's uncle Karl (the one mentioned here) died and he became king at 43.
As mentioned above, he did a lot of good for his country, and was much loved. Still, when WWI ended in 1918, the old order could not be upheld, and he was forced to abdicate.
The last three years of his life were spent in modest surroundings (as he had done already before - he never lived in the palaces of Stuttgart or Ludwigsburg, using them only for representative duty). What he enjoyed most was going for walks with his two dogs, dressed as any elderly gentleman, talking to people who often had no idea who he was.
Many funny and touching little episodes are reported, and the king always showed himself a very kind, generous and understanding man.
This book brings out the official as well as the private person behind the title of "Last King of Wuerttemberg". I enjoyed it very much.
* The title? Well, if in my Swabian dialect you want to pay respect to someone's ability to fill a certain role, you say that he "learned" it, he was thoroughly trained for it. That is what someone once apparently said about Wilhelm, that he was a "trained" king, to indicate how good he was at his "job".