Prinz Albert Wilhelm Heinrich von Preußen, or Prince Henry of Prussia was a younger brother of German Emperor William II and a Prince of Prussia. He was also a grandson of Queen Victoria. A career naval officer, he held various commands in the Imperial German Navy and eventually rose to the rank of Grand Admiral.
Prince Henry o of Prussia was born in Berlin, Prince Henry of Prussia was the third child and second son of eight children born to Crown Prince Frederick (later Emperor Frederick III), and Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom (later Empress Victoria and in widowhood Empress Frederick), eldest daughter of the British Queen Victoria. Henry was three years younger than his brother, the future Emperor William II (born 27 January 1859).
After attending the gymnasium in Kassel, which he left in the middle grades in 1877, the 15-year-old Henry entered the Imperial Navy cadet program. His naval education included a two-year voyage around the world (1878 to 1880), the naval officer examination (Seeoffizierhauptprüfung) in October 1880, and attending the German naval academy (1884 to 1886).
According to Hohenzollern tradition, Henry at age ten became a second lieutenant in the First Guards Regiment. In 1877, however, he switched to the navy. After travels to South America, Asia, and Africa, Henry was posted to the Navy Academy and, in 1887, became chief of a division of torpedo boats. A host of ship commands followed, and in 1897 Rear Admiral Prince Henry was assigned to the Cruiser Squadron in East Asia, which he commanded as vice admiral two years later. In 1900 the prince led German naval units to China in the wake of the so-called Boxer Rebellion with explicit orders from his imperial brother to crush the Chinese. Promoted admiral in 1901, Henry returned to head the Baltic Sea naval station at Kiel in 1903. Three years later he was appointed chief of the High Sea Fleet, a post Henry held until 1909 when quarrels with Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz over naval strategy forced the kaiser to choose between the two; Prince Henry was promoted grand admiral and given the largely honorific title of inspector general of the navy.
As early as July 30, 1914, Grand Admiral Prince Henry was appointed commander in chief, Baltic Forces. The post had been created specifically for this senior royal commander, whose deployment in the main theater of the war was not desired. For three years, Henry held the Baltic Sea lanes to Sweden open for vital ore shipments; occasional sorties against Russian units at times ended with the loss of German cruisers owing to mines or to British submarines. In November 1916, Henry lost seven of the most modern torpedo boats during a senseless raid into the Gulf of Finland. Above all, the prince was an enthusiastic advocate of a German invasion and annexation of Denmark ("Case N") should the chance present itself, so that the navy would command Jutland and thereby gain access to the northern approaches of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. In October 1917, a German flotilla under Vice Admiral Ehrhardt Schmidt and nominally under Prince Henry's command occupied the Baltic islands Ösel, Moon, and Dagö in the Gulf of Riga; the Russian battleship Slava was severely crippled by German naval fire. The Bolshevik Revolution ended operations in the Baltic Sea, however, and on February 1, 1918, Henry's Baltic Sea command was dissolved. The prince virtually retired to his estate at Hemmelsmark near Eckernförde for the rest of the war. In November 1918, he managed to escape, in disguise and flying the red flag, from rebelling sailors in Kiel.
After the war Prince Henry maintained naval traditions and connections, became an avid flyer and car driver, and was one of the few Hohenzollerns to be allowed to remain on German soil. The kaiser's brother died at Hemmelsmark on April 20, 1929, of cancer of the throat, the same disease that had claimed his father in 1888.
As a naval officer, Henry had a profession that completely satisfied him and that he loved. He was thoroughly a pragmatist. He received one of the first pilot’s licenses in Germany, and was judged a spirited and excellent seaman. He was dedicated to modern technology and was able to understand quickly the practical value of technical innovations. A yachting enthusiast, Prince Henry became one of the first members of the Yacht Club of Kiel, established by a group of naval officers in 1887, and quickly became the club's patron.
Henry was interested in motor cars as well and supposedly invented a windshield wiper and, according to other sources, the car horn. In his honor, the Prinz-Heinrich-Fahrt (Prince Heinrich Tour) was established in 1908, like the earlier Kaiserpreis a precursor to the German Grand Prix. Henry and his brother William gave patronage to the Kaiserlicher Automobilclub (Imperial Automobile Club).
Henry also was an early proponent of introducing submarines and airplanes. He had a steamship converted into a primitive aircraft carrier for operations in the Baltic Sea.
Henry had little in common with his brother, the German Emperor. He lacked, for example, William II's erratic nature and egotism. The prince was truly popular in Northern Germany, and on account of his humble and open manner was beloved by those under his command. On foreign travels, he was a good diplomat, who, unlike his brother, was able to strike the right tone. Thus, on his 1902 trip to the United States, Henry made a favorable impression with the critical American press and succeeded in winning the sympathy of more than just the numerous German-American segment of the population.