Wilhelm Eitel Friedrich Christian Karl was born in the Marmorpalais, Potsdam, on 7 July 1883 and was the second son of Wilhelm II, German Emperor, and Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein.
Eitel Friedrich was said to have been his father’s favourite son and was destined for a career in the military as he was raised at the cadet corps of Plön Castle. The prince was considered to be the handsomest of the kaiser’s six sons and was said to be a charmer, however he soon developed an unsavoury reputation as a womanising playboy and a marriage was quickly sought. Eitel Friedrich was first introduced to Sophia Charlotte of Oldenburg at the wedding of his older brother in June 1905 and his parents were keen for the match as Sophia Charlotte was known to be from an old but unambitious family. Sophia Charlotte was also the goddaughter of the kaiser’s sister, Charlotte, so she was already a favourite in the family.
Eitel Friedrich and Sophia Charlotte were married in Berlin on 27 February 1906, the same day as the kaiser’s silver wedding anniversary, and the ceremony was a lavish one. However, the marriage was an unhappy one and Sophia Charlotte withdrew into herself when she realised what kind of man she had married. The marriage would remain childless.
Eitel Friedrich had joined the Prussian First Foot Guards on his eighteenth birthday in 1901 and when the First World War broke out, he was given command of them. Eitel Friedrich fought almost continuously at the front, leaving only when he was wounded. After the war, the imperial family lost their status when the kaiser was forced to abdicate and Eitel Friedrich became part of the Stahlhelm paramilitary organisation. The Stahlhelm or Steel Helmet were a pro-royalist organisation intent on working towards the restoration of the monarchy and the kaiser’s surviving sons were members.
In 1921, Eitel Friedrich was found guilty of the fraudulent transfer of 370,000 marks and 2,000 Dutch florins to the banking firm of Philippsohn, Grasser & Co with the intention of sending it to the Netherlands. The prince was summoned to appear at court where he explained he was afraid the assets belonging to the House of Hohenzollern were about to be seized by the state and had wished to save funds for his family. Eitel Friedrich claimed he did not know the transfer was prohibited and the court declared his intention had not been malicious so he was fined 5000 marks rather than being sentenced.
Another financial scandal broke in 1926 when Eitel Friedrich was accused of embezzling funds earmarked to buy food for the troops during the First World War. The allegations were printed in the press and Eitel Friedrich found himself isolated from his family even though he denied any wrong doing. Eitel Friedrich was cleared of the charges but the damage had been done as the Hohenzollerns were accused of manipulating the law for their own gain.
That same year, Eitel Friedrich and Sophia Charlotte were divorced with Eitel Friedrich being cited for his infidelity and it was the final nail in his political career as the Hohenzollerns were also embroiled in the scandal of his older brother’s affairs and the attempted suicide of a younger brother, Joachim. Eitel Friedrich took no part in the Second World War and died on 8 December 1942.