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Kaiser is the German title meaning "emperor". Like the Bulgarian, Serbian and Russian Tsar it is directly derived from the Roman emperors' title of Caesar, which in turn is derived from the personal name of a branch of the gens (clan) Julia, to which Gaius Julius Caesar, the forebear of the first imperial family, belonged. Although the British monarchs styled "Emperor of India" were also called "Kaisar-i-Hind" in Hindi and Urdu, this word, although ultimately sharing the same Latin origin, is derived from the Greek kaisar, not the German Kaiser.
In English, the term the Kaiser is usually reserved for the emperors of the German Empire, the emperors of the Austrian Empire and those of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. During the First World War, the term the Kaiser—especially as applied to Wilhelm II of Germany—gained considerable pejorative connotations in English-speaking countries.
The Holy Roman Emperors (962–1806) called themselves Kaiser, combining the imperial title with that of Roman King (assumed by the designated heir before the imperial coronation); they saw their rule as a continuation of that of the Roman Emperors and used the title derived from the title Caesar to reflect their supposed heritage.
The rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1804–1918) were drawn from the Habsburg dynasty, who, after 1438, provided most of Holy Roman Emperors. The Austrian-Hungarian rulers adopted the title Kaiser. There were only three Kaisers of the Austrian Empire, the successor empire to the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation), and they have all belonged to the Habsburg dynasty. The successor empire to the Austrian Empire was termed the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had only two Kaisers, both again from the Habsburg dynasty.
In 1871, there was much debate about the exact title for the monarch of those German territories (such as free imperial cities, principalities, duchies, and kingdoms) that agreed to unify under the leadership of Prussia, thereby forming the German Empire. Deutscher Kaiser ("German Emperor") was chosen over alternatives such as Kaiser von Deutschland ("Emperor of Germany"), or Kaiser der Deutschen ("Emperor of the Germans"), as the chosen title simply connoted that the new emperor, hearkening from Prussia, was a German, but did not imply that this new emperor had dominion over all German territories. There were only three Kaisers of the (second) German Empire. All of them belonged to the Hohenzollern dynasty, which, as kings of Prussia, had been de facto leaders of lesser Germany.
In English the (untranslated) word Kaiser is mainly associated with the emperors of the unified German Empire (1871–1918), in particular with Kaiser Wilhelm II. In 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, but the title of Kaiser was retained by the House of Habsburg, the head of which, beginning in 1804, bore the title of Emperor (Kaiser) of Austria.
The Kaisers of the Austrian Empire (1804–1867) and of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867–1918) were:
The Kaisers of the German Empire (1871–1918) were:
Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, is currently head of the House of Hohenzollern, which was the former ruling dynasty of the German Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Karl von Habsburg is currently the head of the House of Habsburg.
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