Frederick II of Prussia

From Academic Kids

Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great
Template:House of Hohenzollern-Prussia

Frederick II of Prussia (January 24, 1712August 17, 1786) was a king of Prussia from the Hohenzollern dynasty, reigning from 174086. He was one of the so-called "enlightened monarchs". Because of his accomplishments he became known as Friedrich der Groe , or Frederick the Great.

Frederick preferred to speak French rather than German. He surrounded himself with a French-speaking court. Despite his literary talent, Frederick had poor French grammar and spelling. He had little sympathy for the German literature of his time.

His mother was Princess Sophia Dorothea of Hanover (16871757). Unlike her husband, she was well-mannered and well-educated.

Frederick succeeded his father Frederick William I (der Soldatenknig, or "Soldier King"). He had to endure a very rigorous and austere upbringing. The relationship between the music-loving and francophile Frederick and his militaristic father was difficult. At a maneuver the 18-year-old Frederick was once beaten in public by his father. Thereupon he tried to escape together with his friend Hans Hermann von Katte, but was caught (August 5, 1730). Prince Frederick was imprisoned in the fortress of Kstrin. An accusation of treason was leveled against both the prince and von Katte since they were officers in the Prussian army and had tried to flee from Prussia, allegedly even having hatched a plan to ally with the United Kingdom against the Prussian king. The prince was threatened with the death penalty, and the king did not rule out an execution. The proud prince had to submit to his father's demands. Frederick was forced to watch the execution by decapitation of his friend von Katte on November 6, 1730, and was strictly supervised in the following years.

The only way that Frederick atoned (and regained his title of crown prince) for this in his father's eyes was in his marriage to Elisabeth Christine von Braunschweig-Bevern on June 12 1733. The involuntary matrimony did not lead to children. After having become king, Frederick mostly ignored his wife. Some sources (Voltaire) are taken to indicate that he was homosexual.

After the crisis in the relationship with the King in the early 1730s, son and father made a chilly peace in the late 1730s. Frederick William gave his son the chateau Rheinsberg north of Berlin. In Rheinsberg Frederick assembled a small number of musicians, actors and other artists. He spent his time reading, watching dramatic plays, making and listening to music, and regarded this time as one of the happiest of his life.

The works of Niccol Machiavelli, such as The Prince, were considered a guideline for the behavior of a king in Frederick's age. In 1739, Frederick finished his "Antimachiavel, ou Examen du Prince de Machiavel" - a writing in which he opposes Machiavelli. It was published anonymously in 1740.

Frederick did not have a vision for an unified Germany; this had to wait until Bismarck planned the wars of unification a century later. Frederick's goal was to improve his country of Prussia. Toward this end he fought his wars mainly against Austria, whose Habsburg dynasts reigned as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire almost continuously from the 15th century until 1806). Frederick established Brandenburg-Prussia as the fifth and smallest European great power by using the resources his father had made available. For 100 years the ensuing Austro-Prussian dualism made a unified Germany impossible until Prussia's defeat of Austria in 1866.

Frederick led the Prussian forces during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), during the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), and in the War of the Bavarian Succession (1778) - not only as king, but also as the military commander in the field. He was quite successful on the battlefield; Frederick is often admired as one of the greatest tactical geniuses of all time. Even more important were his operational successes, especially preventing the unification of superior enemy armies and being at the right place at the right time to keep enemy armies out of Prussian core territory.

Frederick managed to take Prussia from being basically a European backwater and make it an economically strong and politically reformed state. His acquisition of Silesia was orchestrated so as to provide Prussia's fledgling industries with raw materials, and he protected these industries with high tariffs and minimal restrictions on internal trade. Canals were built, swamps were drained for agricultural cultivation, and new crops, such as the potato and the turnip, were introduced. With the help of French experts, he reorganized the system of indirect taxes, which provided the state with more revenue than direct taxes. He abolished torture and granted wide religious freedom (although he himself did not care much for religion). He gave his state a modern bureaucracy based on respect for law and ethics, as well as pride in one's profession. This legacy was passed on into the modern German state and is a main reason why he is still admired as a historical figure within Germany. A major example of the place that Frederick holds in history as a ruler is seen in Napoleon Bonaparte, who saw Frederick as the greatest tactical genius of all time.

In personal relationships, Frederick had a life-long rivalry with his younger brother Heinrich, Prince of Prussia, and a long-term friendship with Voltaire. Frederick hosted Voltaire from July 1750 to March 1752 in Berlin and Potsdam.

Having no children of his own, Frederick was succeeded by his nephew as King Frederick William II of Prussia.

Frederick had a great fondness for music, and in particular he played the flute to a more than acceptable standard. He was responsible directly or indirectly for the writing of many pieces of flute music, and also wrote over a hundred pieces himself. His court musicians included C. P. E. Bach and Johann Joachim Quantz. A meeting with Johann Sebastian Bach in 1747 in Potsdam led to Bach writing The Musical Offering.

He was also fascinated with enlightenment philosophy, and employed controversial figures such as the enlightenment philosopher Voltaire and the radical materialist La Mettrie. Voltaire gave Frederick the nickname Alaric Cotin, Alaric in recognition of him as a warrior, Cotin as a would-be literary writer, after an unknown French poet of that name. Disliking life in Berlin, Frederick preferred spending his time at his beautiful rococo palace Sanssouci in Potsdam.

He was also know for his extreme dislike and prejudice against Poles, who were persecuted under his rule, he put higher taxes on Polish nobles, tried to eradicate polish language, and settled colonists in Polish areas, also he tried to destroy catholic monasteries that had polish character.


Missing image
Frederick the Great

The following chronology of events took place during his life:

External links


Preceded by:
Frederick William I
King of Prussia
Succeeded by:
Frederick William II

Template:End boxbg:Фридрих II de:Friedrich II. (Preuen) es:Federico II el Grande fr:Frdric II de Prusse it:Federico II di Prussia nl:Frederik II van Pruisen ja:フリードリヒ2世 (プロイセン王) no:Fredrik II av Preussen pl:Fryderyk II Wielki pt:Frederico II da Prssia sv:Fredrik II av Preussen


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