1902 Encyclopedia > Frederick I

Frederick I
King of Prussia

FREDERICK I. (1657-1713), the first king of Prussia, was born at Königsberg, 1657. He was the son of the Great Elector by his first marriage. In consequence of a fall from the arms of his nurse his spine was so seriously injured that he was deformed for life. His stepmother intrigued against him incessantly in the interests of her children; and she succeeded in persuading her husband to make a will whereby Frederick should receive only the electoral title and the electoral lands, the remaining territories being divided among his half-brothers. On his accession in 1688 this will was set aside, with the sanction of the emperor, whose support he had obtained beforehand by signing away in his father's lifetime his rights in Schwiebus, a proceeding which, he afterwards maintained, restored his claim to the Silesian principalities. Frederick, having a strong love of pomp and show, strove hard to make his court an imitation of that of Louis XIV. Although without his father's firm-ness and energy, he seized every occasion of increasing his dominions by purchase ; and he obtained, partly in virtue of certain claims inherited from his mother, partly through the influence of William III. of England, the principality of Neufchatel. It had beeu the intention of the Great Elector to give William III. vigorous support both in his struggle for the English crown and in the wars with France which were seen to be inevitable. Frederick gave effect to this purpose, and his troops played an important part in the battle of the Boyne. In the course of his reign he exercised considerable influence on European politics by placing auxiliary forces at the disposal of friendly princes. The accession of Augustus the Strong of Saxony to the throne of Poland fired his ambition, and for years he endeavoured to induce the emperor Leopold I. to recognize him as king of Prussia. At last, in November 1700, the emperor con-sented, insisting, however, on various strict conditions, one of which was that in the approaching war of the Spanish succession Prussia should contribute a force of 10,000 men to the Austrian army. Immediately after receiving the im-perial sanction, Frederick started with his whole court for Königsberg, where, on January 18, 1701, with much cere-mony he crowned himself. He sent 20,000 men into the war of the Spanish succession, and a portion of them did excellent service at the battle of Blenheim. In 1706 Prince Leopold of Dessau led 6000 Prussians to victory at Turin. Frederick died on the 25th February, 1713. By his extravagance he not only exhausted the treasure amassed by his father, but burdened his country with heavy taxes. He was not, however, an unpopular sovereign, and by mak-ing Prussia a kingdom he undoubtedly advanced it several stages towards its future greatness. He founded the university of Halle and the Berlin Academy of Sciences, and was fond of protecting enlightened men who suffered persecution. He was three times married, his second wife, Sophie Charlotte, sister of George I. of England, being well known as the friend of Leibnitz and as one of the most cultivated princesses of the age.
See Puffendorf, De rebus gestis Friderici III. (Berlin, 1734); W. Halm, Friedrich, der erste Kbnig von Freussen (3d ed., Berlin, 1876); Carlyle, History of Friedrich II. of Prussia.
FREDEBICK WILLIAM I. (1688-1740), king of Prussia, son of Frederick I. by his second marriage, was born in 1688. He spent a considerable time in early youth at the court of his grandfather, the elector of Hanover. On his return to Berlin he was placed under General von Dohna, who trained him to the energetic and regular habits that ever afterwards characterized him. He was soon imbued with a passion for military life, and this was deepened by acquaintance with the duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene, whom he visited during the siege of Tournay. In nearly every respect he was the opposite of his father, having frugal, simple tastes, a passionate temper, and a determined will. He intensely disliked the French, and highly disapproved the imitation of their manners by Frederick I. and his courtiers. When he mounted the throne, his first act was to dismiss from the palace every unneces-sary official, and to regulate the royal household on prin-ciples of the strictest parsimony. In 1715 he was forced, in alliance with Russia, Saxony, and Denmark, into a war with Charles XII. of Sweden, in consequence of which, in return for two million thalers paid to Sweden, he obtained the islands of Wolliu and Usedom, Stettin, and part of Swedish Pomerania. This was his only war. All through his reign he strenuously insisted on his right to Julich and Berg in the event of the Pfalz-Neuburg line dying out (which it seemed certain to do), and his anxiety respecting these duchies gives the key to most of his foreign policy. For some time he inclined to an understanding with Eng-land and Hanover; but in 1726 he formed an alliance with Austria, and in the Polish war of succession (1733-35) aided her with 10,000 men. Ultimately, however, he per-ceived that the emperor was not acting honourably by him, and withdrew from the alliance, occupying himself solely with the internal affairs of his kingdom. He despised many things which the modern world holds in high esteem, and was often coarse, violent, and fond of hideous practical jokes. Nevertheless Prussia profited immensely by his reign. He saw the necessity of rigid economy not only in his private life but in the whole administration of the state; and the consequence was that he paid off the debts in-curred by his father, and left to his successor an overflow-ing treasury. He did nothing for the higher learning, and even banished the philosopher Wolf at 48 hours' notice, " on pain of the halter," for teaching, as he believed, fatalist doctrines ; but he established many village schools, and he encouraged industry by every means in his power, particu-larly agriculture. Under him the nation nourished, and although it stood in awe of his vehement spirit, it respected him for his firmness, his honesty of purpose, and his love of justice. He was devoted to his army, the number of which he raised from 48,000 to 83,500; and there was not in existence a more thoroughly drilled or better appointed force. The Potsdam guard, made up of giants collected from all parts of Europe, sometimes kidnapped, was a sort of toy with which he amused himself. The reviewing of his troops was his chief pleasure; but he was also fond of meeting his friends in the evening in what he called his " tobacco college," where he and they, amid clouds of tobacco smoke, discussed affairs of state. He died on the 31st May 1740, leaving behind him his widow, Sophie Dorothea of Hanover, and a numerous family.

See Morgenstern, lieber Friedrich Wilhelm I. (Brunswick, 1793); J. C. Droysen, Friedrich Wilhelm I, König von Preussen (2 vols., _Leipsic, 1869); Carlyle, History of Friedrich II. of Prussia.

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