The German Empire (German: Deutsches Kaiserreich, officially Deutsches Reich), was the German nation state that existed from the Unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.
The German Empire consisted of 26 states, most of them ruled by noble families. They included four kingdoms, six grand duchies, five duchies (six before 1876), seven principalities, three free Hanseatic cities, and one imperial territory. Although Prussia was one of several kingdoms in the realm, it contained about two thirds of Germany's population and territory.
After 1850, the states of Germany had rapidly become industrialized, with particular strengths in coal, iron (and later steel), chemicals, and railways. In 1871, Germany had a population of 41 million people; by 1913, this had increased to 68 million. A heavily rural collection of states in 1815, the now united Germany became predominantly urban. During its 47 years of existence, the German Empire was an industrial, technological, and scientific giant, gaining more Nobel Prizes in science than any other country.
The Harden–Eulenburg affair, often simply Eulenburg affair, was the controversy surrounding a series of courts-martial and five civil trials regarding accusations of homosexual conduct, and accompanying libel trials, among prominent members of Kaiser Wilhelm II's cabinet and entourage during 1907–1909.
The affair centred on journalist Maximilian Harden's accusations of homosexual conduct between Philipp, Prince of Eulenburg-Hertefeld, and General Kuno, Graf von Moltke. Accusations and counter-accusations quickly multiplied, and the phrase "Liebenberg Round Table" came to be used for the homosexual circle around the Kaiser.
The affair received wide publicity and is often considered the biggest domestic scandal of the German Second Empire. It led to one of the first major public discussions of homosexuality in Germany, comparable to the trial of Oscar Wilde in the United Kingdom.
The incident which provoked the affair followed on the heels of a public relations gaffe by Wilhelm II. Briefly, in November 1908, Wilhelm II began a vacation at an aristocrat's estate in the Black Forest. One evening after dinner, chief of the Military Secretariat Dietrich von Hülsen-Haeseler was performing a pas seul dressed in a woman's ballet tutu when his heart failed and he died. Ottokar von Czernin, also in attendance, remarked, "In Wilhelm II, I saw a man who, for the first time in his life, with horror-stricken eyes, looked upon the world as it really was." Despite the Emperor's fears, the incident, with its implications of homosexuality at high levels, seemed successfully hushed up.
Wilhelm II (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen; English: Frederick William Victor Albert of Prussia; 27 January 1859 – 4 June 1941) was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia, ruling the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia from 15 June 1888 to 9 November 1918. He was the eldest grandchild of the British Queen Victoria and related to many monarchs and princes of Europe.
Crowned in 1888, he dismissed the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, in 1890 and launched Germany on a bellicose "New Course" in foreign affairs that culminated in his support for Austria-Hungary in the crisis of July 1914 that led in a matter of days to the First World War. Bombastic and impetuous, he sometimes made tactless pronouncements on sensitive topics without consulting his ministers, culminating in a disastrous Daily Telegraph interview in 1908 that cost him most of his influence.