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Deutsches Technikmuseum - June

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Exhibit of the Month June 2014

Photo: The rim of the porcelain plate is golden. The imperial ship emblem and the heraldic motto are also golden, the writing is underlaid with blue colour.

The porcelain plate with the imperial ship emblem and the heraldic motto © SDTB / C. Kirchner

Porcelain plate from the Royal Yacht HOHENZOLLERN, 1903

The motto of the Order of the Garter "Honi soit qui mal y pense" is displayed in the middle of this oval plate, which was produced in the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur (Royal Porcelain Factory) for the German Emperor. An English translation would be "Evil be to him who evil thinks".

On January 27, 1877, on the occasion of his 18th birthday, Prince Wilhelm von Preußen, who later became the Emperor, was accepted into this British Order of Chivalry, the oldest and most exclusive of its kind.

Wilhelm II - travelling Emperor and Knight of the Garter

In the "Dreikaiserjahr" 1888 (the year of three emperors), after both his grandfather and father had died in succession, Wilhelm became the German Emperor at 29 years of age. Restlessness and a craving for recognition drove him to make unilateral inaugural visits and imperial journeys to foreign countries, the usefulness of which was outweighed by the political harm done. His zealous wanderlust found expression at the time in the sarcastic rhyme: "Der erste war der greise Kaiser, der zweite war der weise Kaiser, der dritte ist der Reisekaiser." (The first was the geriatric Emperor, the second was the wise Emperor, the
third is the travelling Emperor.)

Coloured drawing: The imperial yacht HOHENZOLLERN passes the red rocks of the North Sea-island Helgoland. In the background two escort ships.

Contemperary drawing © SDTB / Historical archive / Zoom

The Royal Yacht HOHENZOLLERN was always at the ready for Wilhelm II´s annual July "Nordlandfahrten" (Northern Travels) in Norwegian waters. So it was that in the summer of 1914 he was again aboard the HOHENZOLLERN enjoying his vacation when the July Crisis erupted. At the time of the Austria-Hungary ultimatum to Serbia, the Emperor and his accompanying warships had been underway for ten days when their trip had to be discontinued. Four days later the HOHENZOLLERN entered the port at Kiel. A few days after that, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

The HOHENZOLLERN, which was officially a warship, was decommissioned a few days later and finally scrapped in the 1920s. This plate, being part of the ship´s crockery, chronicles the high point and the downfall of Wilhelm II, who was eventually stripped of his title as Knight of the Garter as early as 1915.