He was King Wilfred and he ruled both the house and the kingdom of Lüderitz from his seat at Elbemund. Crowned in just after the Austro-Prussian War at the grand hilltop Felsenkirche, he inherited his father’s hard work in building the small kingdom of Lüderitz into a modern nation within the German Confederation.

His was not always an easy reign. Wilfred had supported Lüderitz’s independence in the face of increasing Prussian encroachment, which hadn’t been a popular idea among either his subjects of his neighbors. In the end, after the whirlwind events of the Franco-Prussian War, he had to settle for quasi-independence under the suzerainty of Prussia and the new German Empire, much like his fellow monarchs of Bavaria and Württemberg.

In the absence of a proper kingdom to rule, King Wilfred instead busied himself with his great loves: architecture and horse-breeding. A program of civil improvement, that not incidentally featured many grand buildings in the king’s favored architectural style, was the hallmark of his reign and Elbemund in particular was among the newest and most modern cities in the empire at the program’s end, albeit on a smaller scale than Berlin or Munich. And Wilfred’s thoroughbreds were in such demand that at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the entire German delegation rode Lüderitz steeds.

Wilhelm prided himself on his accessibility. The palace was open to all comers, provided they met certain minimum grooming standards, and royal audiences took up a substantial amount of his time. The King was also fond of riding about town on his beloved horses without any bodyguards, inspecting building works, chatting with his subjects, and noting improvements to be made.

World War I was a disaster for Lüderitz and Elbemund, just as it was for the rest of Germany. Several of the king’s grandsons perished as soldiers, sailors, or aviators, and his position on the General Staff saw his name attached to unpopular measures even as Wilfred himself was largely bypassed by professional soldiers, becoming a schattenkoenig much as his suzerain Wilhelm II was a schattenkaiser.

King Wilfred’s main legacy to history is his death. He was in the Königspalast when the German Revolution spilled onto the streets, led by soldiers and sailors on leave. Determined to put an end to the unrest, Wilfred rode out on his favorite charger, again without a guard, to meet the revolutionaries. He demanded that they return to their barracks; they demanded that he abdicate. The conversation grew heated.

A sailor on a rooftop shot Wilfred’s horse out from under him. Enraged, the king returned fire with his pistol…and the crowd set upon him. When troops from Weimar arrived to restore order months later, they found Wilfred, twenty-second of his line, where he had been left: on a gibbet, the only ruler in the German Empire to die in the revolution.

For years afterward, his death was held up by both communards and fascists as an example of the futility of negotiation. Cameos of King Wilfred were often sent as gifts—and subtle warnings—to those perceived as lacking steel in their political convictions. Most notably, Eugen Leviné received a Wilfred cameo as a gift from Ernst Toller just before ordering the deaths of hostages he had taken for the Bavarian Socialist Republic in 1919.

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