Frederick the Great

Frederick II

Portrait of Frederick the Great;
By Anton Graff, 1781
Reign 31 May 1740 – 17 August 1786
Predecessor Frederick William I
Successor Frederick William II
Chief Ministers
Born (1712-01-24)24 January 1712
Berlin, Prussia
Died 17 August 1786(1786-08-17) (aged 74)
Potsdam, Prussia
Burial Sanssouci, Potsdam
Spouse Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel-Bevern
House House of Hohenzollern
Father Frederick William I of Prussia
Mother Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
Religion Calvinist

Frederick II (German: Friedrich; 24 January 1712  17 August 1786) was King of Prussia from 1740 until 1786, the longest reign of any Hohenzollern king.[1] His most significant accomplishments during his reign included his military victories, his reorganization of Prussian armies, his patronage of the arts and the Enlightenment in Prussia, and his final success against great odds in the Seven Years' War. Frederick was the last titled King in Prussia and declared himself King of Prussia after achieving full sovereignty for all historical Prussian lands. Prussia had greatly increased its territories and became a leading military power in Europe under his rule. He became known as Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Große) and was affectionately nicknamed Der Alte Fritz ("Old Fritz") by the Prussian people.

In his youth, Frederick was more interested in music and philosophy than the art of war. He defied his authoritarian father, Frederick William I, and sought to run away with his close friend Hans Hermann von Katte. They were caught at the border and King Frederick William I nearly executed his son for desertion. After being pardoned, he was forced to watch the official beheading of Hans. Upon ascending to the Prussian throne, he attacked Austria and claimed Silesia during the Silesian Wars, winning military acclaim for himself and Prussia. Near the end of his life, Frederick physically connected most of his realm by conquering Polish territories in the First Partition of Poland. He was an influential military theorist whose analysis emerged from his extensive personal battlefield experience and covered issues of strategy, tactics, mobility and logistics.

Considering himself "the first servant of the state",[2]Frederick was a proponent of enlightened absolutism. He modernized the Prussian bureaucracy and civil service and pursued religious policies throughout his realm that ranged from tolerance to segregation.[3] He reformed the judicial system and made it possible for men not of noble stock to become judges and senior bureaucrats. Frederick also encouraged immigrants of various nationalities and faiths to come to Prussia. Some critics, however, point out his oppressive measures against conquered Polish subjects during the First Partition.[4][5] Frederick supported arts and philosophers he favored, as well as allowing complete freedom of the press and literature.[6] Frederick is buried at his favorite residence, Sanssouci in Potsdam. Because he died childless, Frederick was succeeded by his nephew, Frederick William II, son of his brother, Augustus William.

Nearly all 19th-century German historians made Frederick into a romantic model of a glorified warrior, praising his leadership, administrative efficiency, devotion to duty and success in building up Prussia to a great power in Europe. Historian Leopold von Ranke was unstinting in his praise of Frederick's "Heroic life, inspired by great ideas, filled with feats of arms ... immortalized by the raising of the Prussian state to the rank of a power." Johann Gustav Droysen was even more extolling.[7] Frederick remained an admired historical figure through the German Empire's defeat in the First World War, and the Nazis glorified him as a great German leader pre-figuring Hitler, but his reputation in both East and West Germany became far less favorable after the fall of the Nazi regime, largely due to his status as a favorite icon of the Nazis.[8] However, by the 21st century, a re-evaluation of his legacy as a great warrior and enlightened monarch returned opinion of him to favour.[9]


Baptism of Frederick, 1712 (Harper's Magazine, 1870)

Frederick, the son of Frederick William I and his wife, Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, was born in Berlin on 24 January 1712. The birth of Frederick was welcomed by his grandfather, Frederick I, with more than usual pleasure, as his two previous grandsons had both died in infancy. With the death of his father in 1713, Frederick William became King of Prussia, thus making young Frederick the crown prince. The new king wished for his sons and daughters to be educated not as royalty, but as simple folk. He had been educated by a Frenchwoman, Madame de Montbail, who later became Madame de Rocoulle, and he wished that she educate his children.

Frederick William I, popularly dubbed as the Soldier-King, had created a large and powerful army led by his famous "Potsdam Giants", carefully managed his treasury finances and developed a strong, centralized government. However, he also possessed a violent temper (in part due to porphyritic illness) and ruled Brandenburg-Prussia with absolute authority. As Frederick grew, his preference for music, literature and French culture clashed with his father's militarism, resulting in Frederick William frequently beating and humiliating him. In contrast, Frederick’s mother Sophia was polite, charismatic and learned. Her father, George Louis of Brunswick-Lüneburg, succeeded to the British throne as King George I in 1714.

King Frederick with his brothers. Left to right: Frederick, Prince Ferdinand, Crown Prince Augustus William and Prince Henry. Henry served as Frederick's most trusted general during the Seven Years' War.

Frederick was brought up by Huguenot governesses and tutors and learned French and German simultaneously. In spite of his father's desire that his education be entirely religious and pragmatic, the young Frederick, with the help of his tutor Jacques Duhan, procured for himself a three thousand volume secret library of poetry, Greek and Roman classics, and French philosophy to supplement his official lessons.[10]

Although Frederick William I was raised a Calvinist, he feared he was not of the elect. To avoid the possibility of Frederick being motivated by the same concerns, the king ordered that his heir not be taught about predestination. Nevertheless, although Frederick was largely irreligious, he to some extent appeared to adopt this tenet of Calvinism. Some scholars have speculated that he did this to spite his father.[11]

Crown Prince

In 1732, Queen Sophia Dorothea attempted to arrange a dual marriage of Frederick and his sister Wilhelmine with Amelia and Frederick, the children of her brother, King George II of Great Britain. Fearing an alliance between Prussia and Great Britain, Field Marshal von Seckendorff, the Austrian ambassador in Berlin, bribed the Prussian Minister of War, Field Marshal von Grumbkow, and the Prussian ambassador in London, Benjamin Reichenbach. The pair slandered the British and Prussian courts in the eyes of the two kings. Angered by the idea of the effete Frederick's being so honored by Britain, Frederick William presented impossible demands to the British, such as Prussia's acquiring Jülich and Berg, which led to the collapse of the marriage proposal.[12]

Frederick as Crown Prince (1739)

Frederick found an ally in his sister, Wilhelmine, with whom he remained close for life; he was later devastated by her death in 1758. At age 16, Frederick formed an attachment to the king's 13-year-old page, Peter Karl Christoph Keith. Wilhelmine recorded that the two "soon became inseparable. Keith was intelligent, but without education. He served my brother from feelings of real devotion, and kept him informed of all the king's actions."[13] Margaret Goldsmith, a biographer of Frederick's, suggests the attachment was of a sexual nature, and as a result thereof, Keith was sent away to an unpopular regiment near the Dutch frontier, while Frederick was temporarily sent to his father's hunting lodge at Königs Wusterhausen in order "to repent of his sin".[14] Around the same time, he became close friends with Hans Hermann von Katte.

When he was 18, Frederick plotted to flee to England with Katte and other junior army officers. While the royal retinue was near Mannheim in the Electorate of the Palatinate, Robert Keith, Peter's brother, had an attack of conscience when the conspirators were preparing to escape and begged Frederick William for forgiveness on 5 August 1730;[15] Frederick and Katte were subsequently arrested and imprisoned in Küstrin. Because they were army officers who had tried to flee Prussia for Great Britain, Frederick William leveled an accusation of treason against the pair. The king briefly threatened the crown prince with the death penalty, then considered forcing Frederick to renounce the succession in favour of his brother, Augustus William, although either option would have been difficult to justify to the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire.[16] The king forced Frederick to watch the decapitation of his confidant Katte at Küstrin on 6 November, leaving the crown prince to faint right before the fatal blow was struck.[17]

Frederick was granted a royal pardon and released from his cell on 18 November, although he remained stripped of his military rank.[18] Instead of returning to Berlin, however, he was forced to remain in Küstrin and began rigorous schooling in statecraft and administration for the War and Estates Departments on 20 November. Tensions eased slightly when Frederick William visited Küstrin a year later, and Frederick was allowed to visit Berlin on the occasion of his sister Wilhelmine's marriage to Margrave Frederick of Bayreuth on 20 November 1731. The crown prince returned to Berlin after finally being released from his tutelage at Küstrin on 26 February 1732.

Frederick William considered marrying Frederick to Elisabeth of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the niece of Empress Anna of Russia, but this plan was ardently opposed by Prince Eugene of Savoy. Frederick himself proposed marrying Maria Theresa of Austria in return for renouncing the succession. Instead, Eugene persuaded Frederick William, through Seckendorff, that the crown prince marry Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern, a Protestant relative of the Austrian Habsburgs.[19] Although Frederick wrote to his sister that, "There can be neither love nor friendship between us,"[13] and he considered suicide, he went along with the wedding on 12 June 1733. He had little in common with his bride and resented the political marriage as an example of the Austrian interference which had plagued Prussia since 1701. Once Frederick secured the throne in 1740, he prevented Elisabeth from visiting his court in Potsdam, granting her instead Schönhausen Palace and apartments at the Berliner Stadtschloss. Frederick bestowed the title of the heir to the throne, "Prince of Prussia", on his brother Augustus William; despite this, his wife remained devoted to him.[20] In their early married life, the royal couple resided at the Crown Prince's Palace in Berlin. Although Frederick gave Elisabeth Christine all the honors befitting her station, he rarely saw her during his reign and never showed her any affection.

Rheinsberg Palace, Frederick's residence 1736-1740

Frederick was restored to the Prussian Army as Colonel of the Regiment von der Goltz, stationed near Nauen and Neuruppin. When Prussia provided a contingent of troops to aid Austria during the War of the Polish Succession, Frederick studied under Prince Eugene of Savoy during the campaign against France on the Rhine.[21] Frederick William, weakened by gout brought about by the campaign and seeking to reconcile with his heir, granted Frederick Schloss Rheinsberg in Rheinsberg, north of Neuruppin. 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. Frederick formed the Bayard Order to discuss warfare with his friends; Heinrich August de la Motte Fouqué was made the grand master of the gatherings.

The works of Niccolò Machiavelli, such as The Prince, were considered a guideline for the behavior of a king in Frederick's age. In 1739, Frederick finished his Anti-Machiavel, an idealistic refutation of Machiavelli. It was written in French and published anonymously in 1740, but Voltaire distributed it in Amsterdam to great popularity.[22] Frederick's years dedicated to the arts instead of politics ended upon the 1740 death of Frederick William and his inheritance of the Kingdom of Prussia. Frederick and his father were more or less reconciled at the latter's death, and Frederick later admitted, despite their constant conflict, that Frederick William had been an effective ruler: "What a terrible man he was. But he was just, intelligent, and skilled in the management of affairs... it was through his efforts, through his tireless labor, that I have been able to accomplish everything that I have done since." [23]


In one defining respect Frederick would come to the throne with an exceptional inheritance. A Prussian population estimated at 2.24 million might not be enough to confer great power status, but it turned out that an army of 80,000 men could be.[24] The ratio of one soldier for every 28 citizens can be compared with a ratio of one soldier for every 310 citizens in Great Britain, frequently an indispensable ally and another aggressively expansionist power during the middle part of the eighteenth century.[24] Moreover, the Prussian infantry trained by Frederick William I were, at the time of Frederick's ascension, arguably the most formidable in Europe. By 1770, after two decades of punishing war alternating with intervals of peace, Frederick would have doubled the size of the huge army that he had inherited from his father, and which during his reign would consume 86% of the state budget.[24] The situation is summed up in a widely translated and quoted aphorism attributed to Mirabeau who asserted in 1786 that Prussia under Frederick was not a state in possession of an army, but an army in possession of a state ("La Prusse n’est pas un pays qui a une armée, c’est une armée qui a un pays.").[25][26]

Reign (1740–1786)

Brandenburg-Prussia (1600–1795).

Prince Frederick was twenty-eight years of age when his father Frederick William I died and he acceded to the throne of Prussia.[27] Before his accession, Frederick was told by D'Alembert, "The philosophers and the men of letters in every land have long looked upon you, Sire, as their leader and model." Such devotion, however, had to be tempered by political realities. When Frederick ascended the throne as "King in Prussia" in 1740, Prussia consisted of scattered territories, including Cleves, Mark, and Ravensberg in the west of the Holy Roman Empire; Brandenburg, Hither Pomerania, and Farther Pomerania in the east of the Empire; and the Kingdom of Prussia, the former Duchy of Prussia, outside of the Empire bordering the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He was titled King in Prussia because this was only part of historic Prussia; he was to declare himself King of Prussia after acquiring most of the rest in 1772.

War of the Austrian Succession

Frederick's goal was to modernize and unite his vulnerably disconnected lands; toward this end, he fought wars mainly against Austria, whose Habsburg dynasty reigned as Holy Roman Emperors almost continuously from the 15th century until 1806. Frederick established Prussia as the fifth and smallest European great power by using the resources his frugal father had cultivated.

Battle of Hohenfriedberg, Attack of the Prussian Infantry, by Carl Röchling.

Upon succeeding to the throne on 31 May 1740 upon the death of his father,[28] and desiring the prosperous Austrian province of Silesia (which Prussia also had a minor claim to), Frederick declined to endorse the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, a legal mechanism to ensure the inheritance of the Habsburg domains by Maria Theresa of Austria, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. Thus, upon the death of Charles VI on 29 October 1740,[29] Frederick disputed the succession of the 23-year-old Maria Theresa to the Habsburg lands, while simultaneously making his own claim on Silesia. Accordingly, the War of Austrian Succession began on 16 December 1740, when Frederick invaded and quickly occupied the province.[27] Frederick was worried that, if he did not move to occupy Silesia, Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, would seek to connect his own disparate lands through Silesia. Therefore, the Prussian king struck preemptively and quickly occupied Silesia, using as justification an obscure treaty from 1537 between the Hohenzollern and the Piast dynasty of Brieg (Brzeg).

Frederick occupied Silesia, except for three fortresses at Glogau, Brieg and Breslau,[30] in just seven weeks, despite poor roads and bad weather.[27] The fortress at Ohlau fell to Frederick almost immediately and became the winter quarters for Frederick's army.[27] In late March 1741, Frederick set out on his campaign again, but was forced to fall back by a sudden surprise attack by the Austrians. The first real battle Frederick faced in Silesia was the Battle of Mollwitz on 10 April 1741.[31] Though Frederick had actually served under Prince Eugene of Savoy, this was the first time he would command an army. Believing that his army had been defeated by the Austrians, Frederick sought to avoid capture and galloped away[32] leaving Field Marshal Kurt Schwerin in command of the army. In actual fact, the Prussians had won the battle at the very moment that Frederick had fled. Frederick would later admit to humiliation at this breach of discipline[33] and would later state: "Mollwitz was my school."[34]

In early September 1741, the French entered the war against Austria and together with their allies, the Electorate of Bavaria, marched on Prague.[35] With Prague under threat, the Austrians pulled their army out of Silesia to defend Bohemia. When Frederick pursued them into Bohemia and blocked their path to Prague, the Austrians attacked him on 17 May 1742. However, the Prussian Cavalry proved to be a powerful force and ultimately Prussia claimed victory. The battle became known as the Battle of Chotusitz.[33] This was only the second real battle in which Frederick led troops since becoming king. Dramatically winning the Battle of Chotusitz, Frederick forced the Austrians to seek peace with him in the First Silesian War (1740–1742). Peace terms of the Treaty of Breslau between the Austrians and the Prussians negotiated in June 1742, gave Prussia all of Silesia and Glatz County[33] with the Austrians retaining only that portion of Upper Silesia called "Austrian or Czech Silesia." Prussian possession of Silesia gave the kingdom control over the navigable Oder River as well as nearly doubling its' population and territory. In 1744, Frederick also gained the minor territory of East Frisia (located on the North Sea coast of Germany) after its last ruler died without issue.

Frederick strongly suspected that the Austrians (who had subdued Bavaria but were still at war with France) would resume war with Prussia in an attempt to recover Silesia. Accordingly, he renewed his alliance with the French and preemptively invaded Bohemia in August 1744.[36] By late August 1744, all of Frederick's columns had crossed the Bohemian frontier.[37] Frederick marched straight for Prague and laid siege to the city.[38][39] On 11 September 1744, the Prussians began a three-day artillery bombardment of Prague, which fell a few days later.[33] Three days after the fall of Prague,[40] Frederick's troops were again on the march into the heart of central Bohemia.[33] However, the Austrians refused to directly engage in battle with Frederick and simply harassed his supply lines, eventually forcing him to withdraw to Silesia as winter approached. With the death of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII of Bavaria in January 1745, Maria Theresa's husband Francis of Lorraine was elected Emperor and Saxony joined the Austrians' side against Frederick.

On 4 June 1745, Frederick trapped a joint force of Saxons and Austrians that had crossed the mountains to invade Silesia. After allowing them to cross the mountains ("If you want to catch a mouse, leave the trap open," Frederick is quoted as saying at the time.), Frederick then pinned the enemy force down and defeated them at the Battle of Hohenfriedberg.[41] Pursuing the Austrians into Bohemia, Frederick caught the enemy on 30 September 1745 and delivered a flanking attack on the Austrian right wing at the Battle of Soor which set the Austrians to flight. [42] Once again, Frederick's stunning victories on the battlefield caused his enemies to seek peace terms. Under the terms of the Treaty of Dresden, signed on 25 December 1745, Austria was forced to adhere to the terms of the Treaty of Breslau giving Silesia to Prussia.[43]

The Seven Years' War

Battle of Rossbach, a tactical victory for Frederick.

Habsburg Austria and Bourbon France, traditional enemies, allied together in the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756 following the collapse of the Anglo-Austrian Alliance. Frederick swiftly made an alliance with Great Britain at the Convention of Westminster.[44] As neighboring countries began conspiring against him, Frederick was determined to strike first. On 29 August 1756 his well-prepared army crossed the frontier and preemptively invaded Saxony,[45] thus beginning the Seven Years' War, which lasted until 1763.[46] He faced widespread criticism for his attack on neutral Saxony and for his forcible incorporation of the Saxon forces into the Prussian army following the Siege of Pirna in October 1756.[47] While the Prussian invasion of Saxony was successful, it took uncharacteristically long to complete, costing Prussia the initiative. Frederick's subsequent 1757 invasion of Austrian Bohemia, though initially successful, ended in his first defeat at the Battle of Kolin. However, when the French and the Austrians attempted to counter-attack into Saxony and Silesia, Frederick decisively defeated them at the battles of Rossbach and Leuthen. Frederick hoped these two great victories would force Austria to negotiate, but Maria Theresa was determined not to make peace until she had recovered Silesia, and so the war continued. Despite its excellent performance, the Prussian army was stretched thin from many costly battles.

Facing a coalition which included Austria, France, Russia, Saxony and Sweden, and having only Great Britain, Hesse, Brunswick, and Hanover as his allies, Frederick narrowly kept Prussia in the war despite having his territories repeatedly invaded. He suffered some severe defeats himself and was frequently at the last gasp, but always managed to recover. On 6 January 1762, he wrote to Count Karl-Wilhelm Finck von Finckenstein, "We ought now to think of preserving for my nephew, by way of negotiation, whatever fragments of my territory we can save from the avidity of my enemies",[48] which means, that he was resolved to seek a soldier's death on the first opportunity. Prussia's position became even more desperate when Britain (having made gains in India and the Americas) withdrew their financial support for Prussia after the death of King George II, Frederick's uncle.

Frederick leading his troops at the Battle of Zorndorf, by Carl Röchling.

The sudden death of Empress Elizabeth of Russia in January 1762, led to the succession of her Germanized nephew (Duke of Holstein-Gottorp), pro-Prussian Peter III.[49] This "Miracle of the House of Brandenburg" led to the collapse of the anti-Prussian coalition; Peter immediately withdrew his armies from Frederick's territories. One of Peter III's first diplomatic endeavors was to seek a Prussian title from Frederick, which Frederick naturally obliged. Peter III was so enamored of Frederick that he not only offered him the full use of a Russian corps for the remainder of the war, he also wrote to Frederick that he would rather have been a general in the Prussian army than Tsar of Russia.[50] More significantly, Russia's about-face from once an enemy of Prussia to its patron rattled the leadership of Sweden, who, seeing the writing on the wall, hastily made peace with Frederick as well.[51] With the threat to his eastern borders over, and France also seeking peace after its' defeats by Britain, Frederick was able to fight the Austrians to a stalemate, and finally brought them to the peace table. While the ensuing Treaty of Hubertusburg simply returned the European borders to what they had been before the Seven Years' War, Frederick's ability to retain Silesia during the Silesian Wars made him and Prussia popular throughout the German-speaking territories. A year following the Treaty of Hubertusberg, Catherine the Great (Peter III's widow) concluded an eight-year alliance with Prussia.[52]

Frederick and his soldiers after the Battle of Hochkirch in 1758, by Carl Röchling.

Frederick's ultimate success in the Seven Years' War came at a heavy price. Although Prussia remained financially stable at the war's conclusion (unlike most of the other major belligerents) its' population was devastated from various invasions by Austria, Russia and Sweden. Many of Frederick's closest friends (including his sister Wilhelmine and his mother) and the best of his officer corps died during the war. Although by 1772 Frederick had managed to bring his army up to 190,000 men (making it the third-largest in Europe) almost none of the officers were veterans of his generation, and the King's attitude towards them was extremely harsh.[53]

First Partition of Poland

The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth after the First Partition (1772)

Frederick had despised Polish people since his youth, and numerous statements are known in which he expressed anti-Polish prejudice,[54] calling Polish society "stupid" and stating that "all these people with surnames ending with -ski, deserve only contempt"[55] He passionately hated everything associated with Poland, while justifying his hatred and territorial expansion with ideas of Enlightenment.[56] He described Poles as "slovenly Polish trash";[57][58] referring to them in a letter from 1735 as "dirty" and "vile apes",[59] and compared the Polish peasants to American Indians.[60]

Frederick undertook the conquest of Polish territory under the pretext of an enlightened and civilizing mission, particularly given his negative perceptions about Poland and the traditions of its ruling elite, all of which merely provided a convenient path for the "sanguine ameliorism" of the Enlightenment and heightened assurance in the "distinctive merits of the 'Prussian way'".[61][62] He prepared the ground for the partition of Poland-Lithuania in 1752 at the latest, hoping to gain territorial bridge between Pomerania, Brandenburg and East Prussian provinces.[63] Frederick was himself partly responsible for the weakness of the Polish government, having inflated its currency with Polish coin dies obtained during the conquest of Saxony in 1756. The profits exceeded twice the peacetime national budget of Prussia.[64] He opposed attempts of political reform in Poland, and his troops bombarded customs ports on the Vistula, thwarting Polish efforts to create a modern fiscal system.[65] As early as 1731 Frederick had suggested that the country would be well-served by annexing Polish Prussia in order to join the separated territories of the Kingdom of Prussia.[66]

Lewitter says: "The conflict over the rights of religious dissenters [in Poland] had led to civil war and foreign intervention." Out of 11 to 12 million people in Poland, 200,000 were Protestants and 600,000 Eastern Orthodox. The Protestant dissidents were still free to practice their religion, although their schools were shut down.[67] All dissidents could own property, but Poland increasingly reduced their civic rights after a period of considerable religious and political freedoms.[68] They were allowed to serve in the army and vote in elections, but were barred from public offices and the Polish Parliament the Sejm, and during the 1760s their importance became out of proportion compared to their numbers.[69] Frederick exploited this conflict as means to keep Poland weak and divided.[70]

According to Scott, Frederick was eager to exploit Poland economically as part of his wider aim of increasing Prussia's wealth. Scott views this as a continuation of his previous violations of Polish territory in 1759 and 1761 and raids within Greater Poland until 1765. After acquiring dies from which the currency of Poland was struck Prussia issued debased Polish coins which drove money out of Poland into Hohenzollern territory – this resulted in 25 million thalers in profit, while causing considerable monetary problems for Poland.[71]

Empress Catherine II of Russia was staunchly opposed to Prussia. At the same time Frederick opposed Russia, whose troops had been allowed to freely cross the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Seven Years' War of 1756–63. Despite their personal hostility, Frederick and Catherine signed a defensive alliance in 1764 which guaranteed Prussian control of Silesia in return for Prussian support for Russia against Austria or the Ottoman Empire. Catherine's candidate for the Polish throne, Stanisław August Poniatowski, was then elected King of Poland in September of that year, and she controlled Polish politics.

King Frederick II by Anna Dorothea Therbusch, 1772.

Frederick became concerned, however, after Russia gained significant influence over Poland in the Repnin Sejm of 1767, a position which also threatened Austria and the Ottoman Turks. In the ensuing Russo-Turkish War (1768–74), Frederick supported Catherine with a subsidy of 300,000 rubles with reluctance as he did not want Russia to become even stronger through the acquisitions of Ottoman territory. The Prussian king achieved a rapprochement with Emperor Joseph and the Austrian chancellor Kaunitz.

After Russia had occupied the Danubian Principalities in 1769–70, Frederick's representative in Saint Petersburg, his brother Prince Henry, convinced Frederick and Maria Theresa that the balance of power would be maintained by a tripartite division of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth instead of Russia taking land from the Ottomans. They agreed to the First Partition of Poland in 1772, which took place without a war. Frederick claimed most of the Polish province of Royal Prussia. Prussia annexed 20,000 square miles (52,000 km2) and 600,000 inhabitants, the least of the partitioning powers.[72] However, Prussia's Polish territory was also the best-developed economically. The newly created province of West Prussia connected East Prussia and Farther Pomerania and granted Prussia control of the mouth of the Vistula River. Although Maria Theresa had reluctantly agreed to the partition, Frederick commented, "she cries, but she takes".[60]

Frederick invited German immigrants to the province[73] also hoping they would displace the Poles.[74]

Frederick himself tried further propaganda justifying the Partition, portraying the acquired provinces as underdeveloped and improved by Prussian rule. According to Karin Friedrich these claims were accepted for a long time in German historiography and sometimes still reflected in modern works.[75] Frederick however did not justify his conquests on ethnic basis, unlike later, nationalist, 19th-century German historians. Dismissive of contemporary German culture, Frederick was instead pursuing an imperialist policy, acting on the security interests of his state.[76] Frederick II settled 300,000 colonists on territories he had conquered, and enforced Germanization.[77]

After the first partition Frederick engaged in plunder of Polish property, confiscating Polish estates and monasteries to support German colonization, and in 1786 he ordered forced buy-outs of Polish holdings.[78] The new strict tax system and bureaucracy was particularly disliked among Polish population, as was the compulsory military service in the army, which didn't exist previously in Poland.[79] Frederick abolished the gentry's freedom from taxation and restricted its power.[80] Royal estates formerly belonging to the Polish Crown were redistributed to German landowners reinforcing Germanization.[81] Both Protestant and Roman Catholic teachers (mostly Jesuits) taught in West Prussia, and teachers and administrators were encouraged to be able to speak both German and Polish.[73] Economic exploitation of Poland, especially by Prussia and Austria, followed the territorial seizures.

Frederick looked upon many of his new Polish citizens with scorn, but carefully concealed that scorn when actually dealing with them. Frederick's long-term goal was to remove all Polish people from his territories, both peasants and nobility, by expelling the nobles through an oppressive tax system and through "other measures" and by eradicating the Polish national character of the rural population by mixing them with Germans invited in their thousands by promises of free land; by such means, Frederick boasted he would "gradually...get rid of all Poles".[82][83]

Frederick wrote that Poland had "the worst government in Europe with the exception of Turkey".[60] After a prolonged visit to West Prussia in 1773, Frederick informed Voltaire of his findings and accomplishments: "I have abolished serfdom, reformed the savage laws, opened a canal which joins up all the main rivers; I have rebuilt those villages razed to the ground after the plague in 1709. I have drained the marshes and established a police force where none existed. . . it is not reasonable that the country which produced Copernicus should be allowed to moulder in the barbarism that results from tyranny. Those hitherto in power have destroyed the schools, thinking that the uneducated people are easily oppressed. These provinces cannot be compared with any European country--the only parallel would be Canada."[84] But in a letter to Henry, Frederick admitted that the Polish provinces were economically profitable:

It is a very good and advantageous acquisition, both from a financial and a political point of view. In order to excite less jealousy I tell everyone that on my travels I have seen just sand, pine trees, heath land and Jews. Despite that there is a lot of work to be done; there is no order, and no planning and the towns are in a lamentable condition."[85]

He also sent in Jesuits to open schools. Frederick did befriend Ignacy Krasicki, whom he asked to consecrate St. Hedwig's Cathedral in 1773. He also advised his successors to learn Polish, a policy followed by the Hohenzollern dynasty until Frederick III decided not to let the future William II learn the language.[73]

War of the Bavarian Succession

Late in his life Frederick also involved Prussia in the low-scale War of the Bavarian Succession in 1778, in which he stifled Austrian attempts to exchange the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria.[86] For their part, the Austrians tried to pressure the French to participate in the War of Bavarian Succession since there were guarantees under consideration related to the Peace of Westphalia, clauses which linked the Bourbon dynasty of France and the Holy Roman Empire. Unfortunately for the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, the French were unable to provide sufficient manpower and resources to the endeavor since they were already struggling on the North American continent against the British, aiding the American cause for independence in the process. Frederick ended up the ultimate beneficiary of the French and British struggle across the Atlantic.[87]

Moreover, Saxony and Russia, both of which had been Austria's allies in the Seven Years' War, were now allied with Prussia. Although Frederick was weary of war in his old age, he was determined not to allow the Austrians such dominance in German affairs. Frederick and his brother Prince Henry marched the Prussian army into Bohemia to confront Joseph's army, but the two forces ultimately descended into a stalemate, largely living off the land and skirmishing rather than actively attacking each other. Finally, Catherine II of Russia threatened to enter the war on Frederick's side if peace was not negotiated, and Joseph reluctantly dropped his claim to Bavaria. When Joseph tried the scheme again in 1784, Frederick created the Fürstenbund, allowing himself to be seen as a defender of German liberties, in contrast to his earlier role of attacking the imperial Habsburgs. In the process of checking Joseph II's attempts to acquire Bavaria, Frederick enlisted two very important players, the Electors of Hanover and Saxony along with several other second rate German princes. Perhaps even more significant, Frederick benefited from the defection of the senior prelate of the German Church (Archbishop of Mainz) who was also the arch-chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire, which further strengthened Frederick and Prussia's standing amid the German states.[88]

Military theorist

Frederick after the Battle of Kolin, by Julius Schrader.

Contrary to what his father had feared, Frederick proved himself very courageous in battle (with the exception of his first battlefield experience, Mollwitz). He frequently led his military forces personally and had six horses shot from under him during battle. He is often admired as one of the greatest tactical geniuses of all time, especially for his usage of the oblique order of battle, in which attack is focused on one flank of the opposing line, allowing a local advantage even if his forces were outnumbered overall. Even more important were his operational successes, especially preventing the unification of numerically superior opposing armies and being at the right place at the right time to keep enemy armies out of Prussian core territory.

An example of the place that Frederick holds in history as a ruler is seen in Napoleon Bonaparte, who saw the Prussian king as the greatest tactical genius of all time;[89] after Napoleon's victory of the Fourth Coalition in 1807, he visited Frederick's tomb in Potsdam and remarked to his officers, "Gentlemen, if this man were still alive I would not be here".[90] Napoleon frequently "pored through Frederick's campaign narratives and had a statuette of him placed in his personal cabinet."[91] Frederick and Napoleon are perhaps the most admiringly quoted military leaders in Clausewitz' On War. More than Frederick's use of the oblique order, Clausewitz praised particularly the quick and skillful movement of his troops.[92]

Frederick the Great and his staff at the Battle of Leuthen, by Hugo Ungewitter.

Frederick the Great's most notable and decisive military victories on the battlefield were the Battles of Hohenfriedberg, fought during the War of Austrian Succession in June 1745;[93] the Battle of Rossbach, where Frederick defeated a combined Franco-Austrian army of 41,000 with a mere 21,000 soldiers (10,000 dead for the Franco-Austrian side with only 550 casualties for Prussia);[94] and the Battle of Leuthen, which was a follow up victory to Rossbach pitting Frederick's 36,000 troops against Charles of Lorraine's Austrian force of 80,000—Frederick's masterful strategy and tactics at Leuthen inflicted 7,000 casualties upon the Austrians and yielded 20,000 prisoners.[95]

Frederick the Great believed that creating alliances was necessary, as Prussia did not have the comparable resources of nations like France or Austria. After the Seven Years' War, the Prussian military acquired a formidable reputation across Europe.[96] Esteemed for their efficiency and success in battle, the Prussian army of Frederick became a model emulated by other European powers, most notably by Russia and France; the latter of which quickly applied the lessons of Frederick's military tactics under the direction of Napoleon Bonaparte upon their erstwhile European neighbors.[97]

Joseph II of Austria

Frederick was an influential military theorist whose analysis emerged from his extensive personal battlefield experience and covered issues of strategy, tactics, mobility and logistics.[98] Austrian co-ruler Emperor Joseph II wrote, "When the King of Prussia speaks on problems connected with the art of war, which he has studied intensively and on which he has read every conceivable book, then everything is taut, solid and uncommonly instructive. There are no circumlocutions, he gives factual and historical proof of the assertions he makes, for he is well versed in history."[99]

Historian Robert M. Citino describes Frederick's strategic approach:

In war...he usually saw one path to victory, and that was fixing the enemy army in place, maneuvering near or even around it to give himself a favorable position for the attack, and then smashing it with an overwhelming blow from an unexpected direction. He was the most aggressive field commander of the century, perhaps of all time, and one who constantly pushed the limits of the possible.[100]

Historian Dennis Showalter argues, "The King was also more consistently willing than any of his contemporaries to seek decision through offensive operations."[101]

Foresight ranked among the most important attributes when fighting an enemy, according to the Prussian monarch, as the discriminating commander must see everything before it takes place, so "nothing will be new to him."[102] Thus it was flexibility that was often paramount to military success. Donning both the skin of a fox or a lion in battle, as Frederick once remarked, reveals the intellectual dexterity he applied to the art of warfare.

Frederick before the Battle of Torgau, 1760

Much of the structure of the more modern German General Staff owed its existence and extensive structure to Frederick, along with the accompanying power of autonomy given to commanders in the field.[103] According to Citino, "When later generations of Prussian-German staff officers looked back to the age of Frederick, they saw a commander who repeatedly, even joyfully, risked everything on a single day's battle - his army, his kingdom, often his very life."[100] As far as Frederick was concerned, there were two major battlefield considerations - speed of march and speed of fire.[104] So confident in the performance of men he selected for command when compared to those of his enemy, Frederick once quipped, "A general considered audacious in another country is only ordinary in [Prussia]; [our general] is able to dare and undertake anything it is possible for men to execute."[105]

Even the later military reputation of Prussia under Bismarck and Moltke rested on the weight of mid-eighteenth century military developments and the territorial expansion of Frederick the Great.[106] Despite his dazzling success as a military commander, Frederick was no fan of protracted warfare, and once wrote, "Our wars should be short and quickly fought… A long war destroys … our [army’s] discipline; depopulates the country, and exhausts our resources."[107] Martial adeptness and that thoroughness and discipline so often witnessed on the battlefield was not correspondingly reflected on the domestic front for Frederick.[108] In lieu of his military predilections, Frederick administered his Kingdom justly and ranks among the most "enlightened" monarchs of his era; this, notwithstanding the fact that in many ways, "Frederick the Great represented the embodiment of the art of war".[109] Consequently, Frederick continues to be held in high regard as a military theorist the world over.

Modernization of Prussia

Frederick helped transform Prussia from a European backwater to an economically strong and politically reformed state. His conquest of Silesia gave Prussia's fledgling industries access to raw materials and fertile agricultural lands. He protected his industries with high tariffs and minimal restrictions on domestic trade.[110]

With the help of French experts, he organized a system of indirect taxation, which provided the state with more revenue than direct taxation. Frederick the Great commissioned Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky to promote the trade and—to take on the competition with France—put a silk factory where soon 1,500 people found employment. Frederick the Great followed his recommendations in the field of toll levies and import restrictions. In 1763 when Gotzkowsky went broke during a financial crisis, which started in Amsterdam, Frederick took over his porcelain factory, known as KPM, but refused to buy more of his paintings.[111]

Frederick the Great during the Seven Years' War, painting by Richard Knötel.

One of Frederick's greatest achievements included the control of grain prices, whereby government storehouses would enable the civilian population to survive in needy regions, where the harvest was poor.[112]

During the reign of Frederick, the effects of the Seven Years' War and the gaining of Silesia greatly changed the economy. The circulation of depreciated money kept prices high. To revalue the Thaler, the Mint Edict of May 1763 was proposed. This stabilized the rates of depreciated coins that would not be accepted and provided for the payments of taxes in currency of prewar value. This was replaced in northern Germany by the Reichsthaler, worth one-fourth of a Conventionsthaler. Prussia used a Thaler containing one-fourteenth of a Cologne mark of silver. Many other rulers soon followed the steps of Frederick in reforming their own currencies—this resulted in a shortage of ready money thus lowering prices.[113]

In 1781 Frederick decided to make coffee a royal monopoly and disabled soldiers were employed to spy on citizens sniffing in search of illegally roasted coffee, much to the annoyance of general population[114]

Frederick gave his state a modern bureaucracy whose mainstay until 1760 was the able War and Finance Minister Adam Ludwig von Blumenthal, succeeded in 1764 by his nephew Joachim who ran the ministry to the end of the reign and beyond. Prussia's education system was seen as one of the best in Europe. He modernized the Prussian bureaucracy and civil service and promoted religious tolerance throughout his realm. He reformed the judicial system, allowed freedom of speech, the press and literature, and abolished most uses of judicial torture- except the flogging of soldiers, as punishment for desertion. The death penalty could only be carried out with a warrant signed by the King himself; Frederick only signed a handful of these warrants per year, and then only for murder. He made it possible for men not of noble stock to become judges and senior bureaucrats. Langer finds that, "Prussian justice became the most prompt and efficient in Europe."[4]

Frederick began titling himself "King of Prussia" after the acquisition of Royal Prussia (West Prussia) in 1772; the phrasing "King in Prussia" had been used prior to this, beginning with the coronation of Frederick I in Königsberg in 1701.

Religious policies

While Frederick was largely non practicing (in contrast to his devoutly Calvinist father) and tolerated all faiths in his realm, Protestantism became the favored religion, and Catholics were not chosen for higher state positions.[115] Fredrick was known to be more tolerant of Jews and Catholics than many neighboring German states, although he considered "most Jews (and all serfs) as less than human."[116]

Frederick retained Jesuits as teachers in Silesia, Warmia, and the Netze District after their suppression by Pope Clement XIV. Just like Catherine II, Frederick recognized the educational skills the Jesuits had as an asset for the nation.[117] He was interested in attracting a diversity of skills to his country, whether from Jesuit teachers, Huguenot citizens, or Jewish merchants and bankers; the best known were the Rothschilds of Frankfurt, who eventually attained the status of court bankers in Hesse-Kassel in 1795 after Frederick's passing.[118] Nonetheless, Frederick wanted development throughout the country, specifically in areas that he judged as needing a particular kind of development. Thus, he accepted countless Protestant weavers from Bohemia, who were fleeing from the devoutly Catholic rule of Maria Theresa. Frederick granted the weavers freedom from taxes and military service.[119] As an example of Frederick's practical-minded but not fully unprejudiced tolerance, Frederick wrote in his Testament politique that:

We have too many Jews in the towns. They are needed on the Polish border because in these areas Hebrews alone perform trade. As soon as you get away from the frontier, the Jews become a disadvantage, they form cliques, they deal in contraband and get up to all manner of rascally tricks which are detrimental to Christian burghers and merchants. I have never persecuted anyone from this or any other sect; I think, however, it would be prudent to pay attention, so that their numbers do not increase.[120]

Jews on the Polish border were therefore encouraged to perform all the trade they could and received all the protection and support from the king as any other Prussian citizen.[121] The success in integrating the Jews into those areas of society that Frederick encouraged them in can be seen by the role played by Gerson von Bleichröder in financing Bismarck's efforts to reunite Germany.[122]

In territories he conquered from Poland, Frederick persecuted Polish Roman Catholic churches by confiscating goods and property, exercising strict control of churches, and interfering in church administration[123]

As Frederick made more wasteland arable, Prussia looked for new colonists to settle the land. To encourage immigration, he repeatedly emphasized that nationality and religion were of no concern to him. This policy allowed Prussia's population to recover very quickly from the considerable losses it suffered during Frederick's three wars.[124]

Like many leading figures in the Age of Enlightenment, Frederick was a Freemason and his membership legitimized the group and protected it against charges of subversion.[125][126]


South, or garden facade and corps de logis of Sanssouci

Frederick had famous buildings constructed in his capital, Berlin, most of which still exist today, such as the Berlin State Opera, the Royal Library (today the State Library Berlin), St. Hedwig's Cathedral, and Prince Henry's Palace (now the site of Humboldt University). However, the king preferred spending his time in his summer residence at Potsdam, where he built the palace of Sanssouci, the most important work of Northern German rococo. Sanssouci, which translates from French as "carefree" or "without worry", was a refuge for Frederick. "Frederician Rococo" developed under Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff.

The picture gallery at Sanssouci

As a great patron of the arts, Frederick was a collector of paintings and ancient sculptures; his favorite artist was Jean-Antoine Watteau. The picture gallery at Sanssouci "represents a unique synthesis of the arts in which architecture, painting, sculpture and the decorative arts enter into dialogue with each other, forming a compendium of the arts."[127] The gilded stucco decorations of the ceilings were created by Johann Michael Merck (1714–1784) and Carl Joseph Sartori (1709–1770). Both the wall paneling of the galleries and the diamond shapes of the floor consist of white and yellow marble. Paintings by different schools were displayed strictly separately: 17th century Flemish and Dutch paintings filled the western wing and the gallery's central building, Italian paintings from the High Renaissance and Baroque were exhibited in the eastern wing. Sculptures were arranged symmetrically or in rows in relation to the architecture.[128]

Music, arts and learning

The Flute Concert of Sanssouci by Adolph Menzel, 1852, depicts Frederick playing the flute in his music room at Sanssouci. C. P. E. Bach accompanies him on the harpsichord.

Frederick was a patron of music as well as a gifted musician who played the transverse flute.[129][130] He composed more than 100 sonatas for the flute as well as four symphonies. The Hohenfriedberger Marsch, a military march, was supposedly written by Frederick to commemorate his victory in the Battle of Hohenfriedberg during the Second Silesian War. His court musicians included C. P. E. Bach, Johann Joachim Quantz, Carl Heinrich Graun and Franz Benda. A meeting with Johann Sebastian Bach in 1747 in Potsdam led to Bach's writing The Musical Offering.[131]

Frederick also aspired to be a Platonic philosopher king like the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The king joined the Freemasons in 1738 and stood close to the French Enlightenment, corresponding with some of its key figures, such as Voltaire. The personal friendship of Frederick and Voltaire came to an unpleasant end after Voltaire's visit to Berlin and Potsdam in 1750–1753, although they reconciled from afar in later years.

While using German as a working language in the army and with his administration, Frederick read and wrote his literary works in French and also generally used that language with his closest relatives or friends. Though he had a good command of this language, his writing style was flawed; he had troubles with its orthography and always had to rely on French proofreaders.[132]

Frederick in a Waffenrock

Frederick disliked the German language, and literature, explaining that German authors "pile parenthesis upon parenthesis, and often you find only at the end of an entire page the verb on which depends the meaning of the whole sentence".[133] He discarded many baroque era authors as uncreative pedants and especially despised German theatre. Also, Frederick II was mostly indifferent to the revival of German culture in the later part of his reign, as he was unimpressed by the authors of the "Sturm und Drang" movement and remained of essentially classical taste.[134] His main inspiration were ancient philosophers and poets as well as French authors of the 17th century.[135] It should however be noted that interest in foreign cultures was by no means an exception in Germany at that time. The Habsburg court at Vienna was open to influences from Italy, Spain and France. Many German rulers sought to emulate the success of Louis XIV of France and adopted French tastes and manners, though often adapted to the German cultural context.[136] In the case of Frederick II, it might also have been a reaction to the austerity of the familial environnement in which he grew up, as his father had a deep aversion for France and was not interested in the cultural development of his state.

On the other hand, while still considering the German culture of his time to be inferior to that of France or Italy, he did actually take an interest in its development. He thought that it had partly been hindered by the great wars of the 17th century (the Thirty Years' War, the Ottoman wars, the invasions of Louis XIV) but that with some time and effort, it could equal or even surpass that of its rivals.[137] In his view, this would require a complete codification of the German language with the help of official academies, the emergence of talented classical German authors and extensive patronage of the arts from Germanic rulers. However, he did not expect to see this happen in his lifetime.[137] His love for French culture was not without limits either. Frederick II was not appreciative of the luxury and extravagance of the French royal court, and he ridiculed German princes (especially Augustus III, Elector of Saxony) who mimicked the French by indulging in those pleasures.[138] His own court remained quite Spartan, frugal and small, restricted to a limited circle of close friends- a layout similar to his father's court, though Frederick and his friends were far more cultured than Frederick William. Also, Frederick the Great was dismissive of the radical philosophy of later French thinkers such as Rousseau (though he in fact sheltered Rousseau from persecution for a number of years), and grew to believe that the French cultural golden age was drawing to a close.[139]

In spite of his lack of taste for German, Frederick did sponsor the "Königliche Deutsche Gesellschaft" whose aim was to promote and develop the German language. He allowed the association to be qualified as "royal" and gave it the right to have its seat at the castle of Königsberg. However, he does not seem to have taken much interest in the work of the society. Frederick also promoted the use of German instead of Latin in the field of law, though mainly for practical reasons.[140] Moreover, it was under his reign that Berlin became an important center of German enlightenment.

The king's criticism led many German writers to attempt to impress Frederick with their writings in the German language and thus prove its worthiness. Many statesmen, including Baron vom und zum Stein, were also inspired by Frederick's statesmanship. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe gave his opinion of Frederick during a visit to Strasbourg (Strassburg) by writing:

Well, we had not much to say in favour of the constitution of the Reich; we admitted that it consisted entirely of lawful misuses, but it rose therefore the higher over the present French constitution which is operating in a maze of unlawful misuses, whose government displays its energies in the wrong places and therefore has to face the challenge that a thorough change in the state of affairs is widely prophesied. In contrast when we looked towards the north, from there shone Frederick, the Pole Star, around whom Germany, Europe, even the world seemed to turn ...[141]

Environment and agriculture

Frederick the Great inspects the potato harvest outside Neustettin (now Szczecinek, Poland), Eastern Pomerania.

Frederick the Great was keenly interested in land use, especially draining swamps and opening new farmland for colonizers who would increase the kingdom's food supply. He called it "peopling Prussia" (Peuplierungspolitik). About a thousand new villages were founded in his reign that attracted 300,000 immigrants from outside Prussia. He told Voltaire, "Whoever improves the soil, cultivates land lying waste and drains swamps, is making conquests from barbarism".[142] Using improved technology enabled him to create new farmland through a massive drainage program in the country's Oderbruch marsh-land. This program created roughly 60,000 hectares (150,000 acres) of new farmland, but also eliminated vast swaths of natural habitat, destroyed the region's biodiversity, and displaced numerous native plant and animal communities. Frederick saw as this project as the "taming" and "conquering" of nature, which, in its wild form, he regarded as "useless" and "barbarous" (an attitude that reflected his enlightenment-era, rationalist sensibilities).[143] He presided over the construction of canals for bringing crops to market, and introduced new crops, especially the potato and the turnip, to the country. For this, he was sometimes called Der Kartoffelkönig (the Potato King).[144]

The king founded the first veterinary school in Germany. Unusual for his time and aristocratic background, he criticized hunting as cruel, rough and uneducated. When someone once asked Frederick why he didn't wear spurs when riding his horse, he replied, "Try sticking a fork into your naked stomach, and you will soon see why."[6] He loved dogs and his horse and wanted to be buried with his greyhounds. In 1752 he wrote to his sister that people indifferent to loyal animals would not be more grateful to other humans and that it was better to be too sensitive than too harsh. He was also close to nature and issued decrees to protect plants.[145]

Berlin Academy

Frederick's first interview with the philosopher Voltaire[146]

Aarsleff notes that before Frederick came to the throne in 1740, the Prussian Academy of Sciences (Berlin Academy) was overshadowed by similar bodies in London and Paris. Frederick made French the official language and speculative philosophy the most important topic of study. The membership was strong in mathematics and philosophy and included Immanuel Kant, Jean D'Alembert, Pierre-Louis de Maupertuis, and Etienne de Condillac. However the Academy was in a crisis for two decades at mid-century, due to scandals and internal rivalries such as the debates between Newtonianism and Leibnizian views, and the personality conflict between Voltaire and Maupertuis. At a higher level Maupertuis, the director 1746–59 and a monarchist, argued that the action of individuals was shaped by the character of the institution that contained them, and they worked for the glory of the state. By contrast d' Alembert took a republican rather than monarchical approach and emphasized the international Republic of Letters as the vehicle for scientific advance.[147] By 1789, however, the academy had gained an international repute while making major contributions to German culture and thought. Frederick invited Joseph-Louis Lagrange to succeed Leonhard Euler at the Berlin Academy; both were world-class mathematicians. Other intellectuals attracted to the philosopher's kingdom were Francesco Algarotti, d'Argens, and Julien Offray de La Mettrie. Immanuel Kant published religious writings in Berlin which would have been censored elsewhere in Europe.[148]


Recent major biographers of Frederick, including Alings, Blanning, Burgdorf and Hahn, are unequivocal that he was predominately homosexual, and that his sexuality was central to his life and character.[149][150][151][152][153] Frederick's physician Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann claimed that the king had suffered in a minor deformity during an operation to cure gonorrhea in 1733, and convinced himself that he was impotent, but pretended to be homosexual in order to appear that he was still virile and capable of intercourse, albeit with men. This story is doubted by Wolfgang Burgdorf,[151] who is of the opinion that "Frederick had a physical disgust of women" and therefore "was unable to sleep with them".[154] After one particular defeat on the battlefield Frederick bluntly wrote: "Fortune has it in for me; she is a woman, and I am not that way inclined."[155]

At age 16, Frederick seems to have embarked upon a youthful affair with a 13-year-old page of his father, Peter Karl Christoph Keith. In her biography of the king, Margaret Goldsmith says rumors of the liaison spread in the court and the "intimacy" between the two boys provoked the condemnation of even his elder and favorite sister, Wilhelmine, who was his protector in all things.[14] Rumors finally reached King Frederick William, a religious dogmatist who cultivated in his court an ideal of ultramasculine, military life, and who enjoyed bullying his son. As a result, Keith was dismissed from his service to the King and sent away to a regiment by the Dutch border, while Frederick was sent to Wusterhausen in order to "repent of his sin".[14] Frederick's relationship with Hans Hermann von Katte was also believed by King Frederick William to be romantic, a suspicion which apparently enraged him.[156] After Katte's execution by Frederick's father, Frederick was forced to marry Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern, with whom he had no children. He immediately separated from his wife when Frederick William I died in 1740. In later years, Frederick would pay his wife formal visits only once a year.[157] In 1739 Frederick met the Venetian philosopher Francesco Algarotti. Both were infatuated.[158][159] Frederick was to make him a count. Challenged by Algarotti that northern Europeans lacked passion, Frederick penned for him an erotic poem which imagined Algarotti in the throes of sexual congress (with a female partner referred to as Chloris).[160]

William Hogarth's painting The Toilette features a flautist (who stands next to a painting of Zeus, as an eagle, abducting Ganymede), which may be a satirical depiction of Frederick – thereby publicly outing him as a homosexual as early as 1744.[161][162] Frederick certainly spent much of his time at Sanssouci, his favourite residence in Potsdam, in a circle that was exclusively male, though a number of his entourage were happily married.[163][164] The palace gardens include a Temple of Friendship (built as a memorial to Wilhelmine), which celebrate the homoerotic attachments of Greek Antiquity, and which is decorated with portraits of Orestes and Pylades, amongst others.[165] At Sanssouci Frederick entertained his most privileged guests, especially the French philosopher Voltaire, whom he asked in 1750 to come to live with him. Their friendship, which spanned almost 50 years, was marked by mutual intellectual fascination, and began as a flirtation.[166][167] However, in person Frederick found Voltaire difficult to live with, and was often annoyed by Voltaire's many quarrels with his other friends. Voltaire's angry attack on Maupertuis, the President of Frederick's academy, in the form of Le Diatribe du Docteur Akakia provoked Frederick to burn the pamphlet publicly and put Voltaire under house arrest, after which Voltaire left Prussia.

In the 1750s Voltaire began writing his Mémoires.[168] The manuscript was stolen and a pirate copy was published in Amsterdam in 1784 as The Private Life of the King of Prussia.[169] In it, Voltaire explicitly detailed Frederick's homosexuality and the circle surrounding him. The revelations and language were strikingly similar to those detailed in a scurrilous pamphlet published in French, in London in 1752.[170] After a temporary cooling of Frederick and Voltaire's friendship, they resumed their correspondence, and aired mutual recriminations, to end as friends once more.[171] A further intimate friendship was with his first valet Michael Gabriel Fredersdorf who, Frederick confided to his diary, had "a very pretty face": Fredersdorf was provided with an estate, and acted as unofficial prime minister.[172]

Later years and death

In 1785, Frederick signed a Treaty of amity and commerce with the United States of America, recognizing the independence of the new nation. The agreement included a novel clause, whereby the two leaders of the executive branches of either country guaranteed a special and humane detention for prisoners of war[173] Near the end of his life Frederick grew increasingly solitary. His circle of close friends at Sanssouci gradually died off with few replacements, and Frederick became increasingly critical and arbitrary, to the frustration of the civil service and officer corps. The populace of Berlin always cheered the king when he returned to the city from provincial tours or military reviews, but Frederick evinced little pleasure from his popularity with the common people, preferring instead the company of his pet Italian greyhounds,[174] whom he referred to as his 'marquises de Pompadour' as a jibe at the French royal mistress.[175] Even in his late 60s and early 70s when his health was increasingly poor, he rose before dawn, drank six to eight cups of coffee a day, "laced with mustard and peppercorns," and attended to state business with characteristic tenacity.[176]

Grave of Frederick at Sanssouci.

Frederick II died in an armchair in his study in the palace of Sanssouci on 17 August 1786, aged 74. He left instructions that he should be buried next to his greyhounds on the vineyard terrace on the side of the corps de logis of Sanssouci. His nephew and successor Frederick William II instead ordered the body to be entombed next to his father in the Potsdam Garrison Church. Near the end of World War II, Hitler ordered Frederick's coffin, along with those of his father Frederick William I, World War I Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, and Hindenburg's wife Gertrud, to be hidden in a salt mine as protection from destruction. The United States Army relocated the remains to Marburg in 1946; in 1953, the coffins of Frederick and his father were moved to Burg Hohenzollern.[177]

On the 205th anniversary of his death, on 17 August 1991, Frederick's casket lay in state in the court of honor at Sanssouci, covered by a Prussian flag and escorted by a Bundeswehr guard of honor. After nightfall, Frederick's body was finally laid to rest in the terrace of the vineyard of Sanssouci – in the still existing crypt he had built there – without pomp, in accordance with his last will.

Historiography and memory

Frederick the Great, by Wilhelm Camphausen.

Frederick in German memory became a great national hero in the 19th century. Many Germans said he was the greatest monarch in modern history.[178] German historians often made him the romantic model of a glorified warrior, praising his leadership, administrative efficiency, devotion to duty and success in building up Prussia to a leading role in Europe.

Historian Leopold von Ranke was unstinting in his praise of Frederick's "heroic life, inspired by great ideas, filled with feats of arms ... immortalized by the raising of the Prussian state to the rank of a power."[179] Johann Gustav Droysen was even more favorable. Nationalist historian Heinrich von Treitschke presented Frederick as the greatest German in centuries. Onno Klopp was one of the few German historians of the 19th century who denigrated and ridiculed Frederick. The novelist Thomas Mann in 1914 also attacked Frederick, arguing – like Empress Maria Theresa – that he was a wicked man who robbed Austria of Silesia, precipitating the alliance against him. Nevertheless, with Germany humiliated after the World War, Frederick's popularity as a heroic figure remained high in Germany. Frederick's place in British historiography was established by Thomas Carlyle's History of Frederick the Great (8 vol. 1858-65), emphasizing the power of one great "hero" to shape history.[180]

In 1933-45, the Nazis glorified Frederick as a precursor to Hitler, and presented Frederick as holding out hope that another miracle would again save Germany at the last moment.[181] Nevertheless, the nationalist (but anti-Nazi) historian Gerhard Ritter condemned Frederick's brutal seizure in the first partition of Poland; however, he praised the results as beneficial to the Polish people.[182][183] Ritter's biography of Frederick, published in 1936, was designed as a challenge to Nazi claims that there was a continuity between Frederick and Hitler. Dorpalen says "The book was indeed a very courageous indictment of Hitler's irrationalism and recklessness, his ideological fanaticism and insatiable lust for power."[184]

Cartoon lauding "alte Fritz" (1801)

Throughout the Second World War, Hitler often compared himself to Frederick the Great.[185] British-American historian Gordon A. Craig relates that to help legitimize Nazi rule, Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels commissioned artists to render fanciful images of Frederick, Bismarck, and Hitler together to postulate a historical continuum between them.[186] Hitler kept an oval version of Anton Graff's portrait of Frederick with him to the end in the bunker in Berlin.

Frederick's reputation was sharply downgraded after 1945 in both East and West Germany.[8] His diminished legacy in Germany was due in part to the Nazis' fascination with him, to say nothing of his supposed connection with "Prussian militarism."[187] Nonetheless, nowadays Frederick is generally held in high regard, especially for his statesmanship – and for his enlightened reforms that positively changed not only Germany, but European society in general, allowing German intellectuals to assert that the revolutions in both France and America were to some extent "belated" attempts to "catch up with Prussia."[9]

In the 21st century his reputation as a warrior remains strong among military historians.[188][189] Historians in general continue to debate the issue of continuity versus innovation. How much of the king's achievement was based on developments already under way, and how much can be attributed to his initiative? How closely linked was he to The Enlightenment? Is the category of "enlightened absolutism" still useful for the scholar?[190][191]

Frederick in popular culture

Napoleon visits Frederick's (first) sarcophagus in the crypt of Garrison Church, Potsdam.
Commemorative 5-DM coin issued by the Federal Republic of Germany, designed by Carl Vezerfi-Clemm, on the 200th anniversary of Frederick the Great's death (1986).


King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, is named after the King of Prussia Inn, itself named in honour of Frederick.[192]

German films

The Great King (German: Der Große König) is a 1942 German drama film directed by Veit Harlan and starring Otto Gebühr.[193] It depicts the life of Frederick the Great. It received the rare "Film of the Nation" distinction.[194] Otto Gebühr also played the King in many other films.

Films with Otto Gebühr as Frederick the Great
Teil 1 – Sturm und Drang
Teil 2 – Vater und Sohn
Teil 3 – Sanssouci
Teil 4 – Schicksalswende

In the 2004 German film Der Untergang (Downfall), Adolf Hitler is shown sitting in a dark room forlornly gazing at a painting of Frederick, possibly a reference to the dictator's fading hopes for another Miracle of the House of Brandenburg. This is based on an incident witnessed by Rochus Misch.[195]

The 2012 German made-for-television film Friedrich – ein deutscher König ('Frederick – a German King) starred the actresses Katharina Thalbach and her daughter Anna Thalbach in the title roles as the old and young king respectively.


Frederick has been included in the Civilization computer game series, the computer games Age of Empires III, Empire Earth II, Empire: Total War, and the board games Friedrich and Soldier Kings.[196]

Frederick is also depicted in the webcomic Hetalia: Axis Powers as a dear friend of Gilbert Beilschmidt, the anthropomorphic personification of Prussia.

He is recorded as the first to claim that "dog is man's best friend", as he referred to one of his Italian greyhounds as his best friend.[197]

Frederick makes a brief appearance in a season 5 episode of Epic Rap Battles of History, in the episode 'Alexander the Great vs Ivan the Terrible' - he appears after Ivan poisons Alexander and, like real life, dies sitting in his chair. He is portrayed by EpicLLOYD. [198]


Family tree

Frederick William
Elector of Brandenburg
Louise Henriette of Orange-Nassau
Ernest Augustus
Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg
of the Palatine
George William
Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg
Eleonore d'Esmier d'Olbreuse
Frederick I
of Prussia
Sophia Charlotte
of Hanover
George I
of Great Britain
Sophia Dorothea
of Celle
Frederick William I of Prussia
Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
Frederick II of Prussia


Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles


See also


  1. Frederick was the third and last "King in Prussia"; beginning in 1772 he used the title "King of Prussia".
  2. see Antimachiavel. In: "Œuvres". Vol. 8, P. 66, and "Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de la maison de Brandenbourg". In: "Œuvres", Vol. 1, P. 123.
  3. Stanislaw Salmonowicz, "Was Frederick the Great an Enlightened Absolute Ruler?" Polish Western Affairs (1981) 22#1 pp 56-69
  4. 1 2 William Langer, Western Civilization (1968) p 193
  5. Conquest: How Societies Overwhelm Others by David Day Oxford University Press,page 212, 2008
  6. 1 2 Mitford 2013, p. 59.
  7. G. P. Gooch, Frederick the Great: The Ruler, the Writer, the Man (1947) p 343-76; quote p 346
  8. 1 2 Jürgen Angelow, "Kontexte ungleicher Deutung," Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte (2004) 56#2 pp 136–151.
  9. 1 2 Schieder (2000). Frederick the Great, pp. 43-44.
  10. MacDonogh 2001, p. 37.
  11. MacDonogh 2001, p. 35.
  12. Reiners, p. 33
  13. 1 2 Crompton
  14. 1 2 3 Margaret Goldsmith (1929). Frederick the Great. C. Boni. [Van Rees Press]. p. 50.
  15. MacDonogh 2001, p. 63.
  16. Reiners, p. 41
  17. Mitford 2013, p. 35.
  18. Reiners, p. 52
  19. Reiners, p. 63
  20. Reiners, p. 69
  21. Reiners, p. 71
  22. MacDonogh 2001, p. 125.
  23. Duffy, Christopher "Frederick the Great: A Military Life" pp. 20.
  24. 1 2 3 Michael Sontheimer (June 2016). "Altes Reich und neue Macht: Unterschiedlicher als der Preuße Friedrich II. und die Östericherin Maria Theresa konnten Rivalen kaum sein. Ihr Machtkampf spaltete das Reich". Das Reich der Deuschen 962-1871: Eine Nation entsteht. Der Spiegel: 106–107.
  25. Richard A. Billows (1995). The king, the army and Macedonian imperialism. Kings and Colonists: Aspects of Macedonian Imperialism. E.J.Brill, Leiden, New York & Cologne. p. 17. ISBN 90-04-10177-2.
  26. Clémentine Baron (9 May 2015). "La Prusse n'est pas un pays qui a une armée, c'est une armée qui a un pays.". Les citations historiques : Mirabeau et la Prusse. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  27. 1 2 3 4 Luvaas 1966, p. 3.
  28. Asprey 1986, p. 141.
  29. Asprey 1986, p. 154.
  30. Luvaas 1966, p. 136.
  31. Asprey 1986, pp. 196–203.
  32. Asprey 1986, p. 203.
  33. 1 2 3 4 5 Luvaas 1966, p. 4.
  34. Luvaas 1966, p. 46.
  35. Asprey 1986, p. 220.
  36. Asprey 1986, p. 279.
  37. Asprey 1986, p. 289.
  38. Asprey 1986, p. 292.
  39. Asprey 1986, p. 293.
  40. Asprey 1986, p. 294.
  41. Luvaas 1966, p. 5.
  42. Asprey 1986, p. 337.
  43. Asprey 1986, p. 347.
  44. MacDonogh 2001, p. 246.
  45. MacDonogh 2001, p. 248.
  46. For a quick overview of the conflict, see: Marston, Daniel. The Seven Years' War. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2001. An older public domain book related to Frederick's exploits in the Seven Years' War is available for download at: With Frederick the Great A Story of the Seven Years' War
  47. Schieder (1983). Friedrich der Grosse. Ein Königtum der Widersprüche, p. 188.
  48. Cited from: The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature, and General Information, (1910), Volume 9. p. 285.
  49. Anderson 2001, p. 492.
  50. Anderson 2001, pp. 492–493.
  51. Anderson 2001, p. 493.
  52. Stone (2006). Fighting for the Fatherland: The Story of the German Soldier from 1648 to the Present Day. p. 82.
  53. Duffy, Christopher "Frederick the Great: A Military Life" (1985) pp. 245
  54. Polish Western Affairs, Volume 32 Instytut Zachodni 1991, page 114
  55. Przegląd humanistyczny, Tom 22,Wydania 3-6 Państwowe Wydawn. Naukowe, 1978 page 104
  56. Przegląd humanistyczny, Tom 22, Wydania 3-6 Państwowe Wydawn. Naukowe, 1978, 108
  57. Localism, Landscape and the Ambiguities of Place: German-Speaking Central Europe, 1860-1930 By David Blackbourn and James Retallack German and European Studies University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, page 157
  58. Compare: Ritter, Gerhard (1936). Frederick the Great; a Historical Profile. Historical Profile. University of California Press (published 1968). p. 180. Retrieved 2014-12-04. He did not, however, prefer Germans for the sake of their nationality but because they were better workers than the 'slovenly Polish trash.' [...] As Frederick repeatedly emphasized, the race and religion of the newcomers were of no concern to him.
  59. Przegląd humanistyczny, Tom 22, Wydania 3–6 Jan Zygmunt Jakubowski Państwowe Wydawn. Naukowe, 2000, page 105
  60. 1 2 3 Ritter, p. 192
  61. Hans-Jürgen Bömelburg, Friedrich II. zwischen Deutschland und Polen: Ereignis- und Erinnerungsgeschichte (Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner Verlag, 2011) p 88
  62. Clark 2006, p. 239.
  63. Karin Friedrich, The Other Prussia: Royal Prussia, Poland and Liberty, 1569–1772 p. 189
  64. Jerzy Tadeusz Lukavski (2013). Libertys Folly:Polish Lithuan. Routledge. p. 176.
  65. Davies, Norman (1996). Europe: A History. Oxford University Press (published 2010). p. 663. ISBN 9781407091792. Retrieved 2014-12-04. The Prussians had bombarded Polish customs posts on the Vistula, thereby ending all preparations for a modern fiscal system.
  66. MacDonogh 2001, p. 78.
  67. Magda Teter (2005), Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland: A Beleaguered Church in the Post-Reformation Era, pp. 58-60.
  68. The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756-1775 by H. M. Scott, page 177
  69. The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756-1775 By H. M. Scott, page 177
  70. The Emergence of the Eastern Powers, 1756-1775 By H. M. Scott, page 177-178
  71. Hamish M. Scott, The emergence of the Eastern powers 1756–1775 Cambridge University Press 2001, page 176
  72. Reiners, p.250
  73. 1 2 3 Koch, p. 136
  74. Norbert Finszch and Dietmar Schirmer. Identity and Intolerance: Nationalism, Racism, and Xenophobia in Germany and the United States (Cambridge University Press, 2006). ISBN 0-521-59158-9
  75. The Other Prussia: Royal Prussia, Poland and Liberty, 1569–1772 Karin Friedrich, page 16
  76. Clark 2006, pp. 232–233.
  77. Duch Rzeczypospolitej Jerzy Surdykowski – 2001 Wydawn. Nauk. PWN, 2001, page 153
  78. Polszczyzna Niemców Maria Brzezina Państwowe Wydawnictwo. Naukowe,page 26, 1989
  79. Polacy i Niemcy wobec siebie: postawy, opinie, stereotypy (1697-1815) : próba zarysu Stanisław Salmonowicz Ośrodek Badań Nauk. im. Wojciecha Kętrzyńskiego w Olsztynie, 1993 page 86
  80. Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966-1945 page 148 Jerzy Jan Lersk
  81. Mniejszości narodowe w Polsce: 1918-1995 Henryk Chałupczak, Tomasz Browarek Wydawn. Uniwersytetu Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej, page 123
  82. Conquest: How Societies Overwhelm Others David Day,page 212 Oxford University Press 2012
  83. The Holocaust as Colonial Genocide: Hitler's 'Indian Wars' in the 'Wild East' Carroll P. Kakel II, page 29, Palgrave Macmillan page 213
  84. Mitford 2013, p. 218.
  85. MacDonogh 2001, p. 363.
  86. Simms 2013, p. 129.
  87. Simms 2013, pp. 129–130.
  88. Blanning (2008). The Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutions that Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815, p. 283.
  89. Koch, p. 126
  90. Koch, p. 160
  91. Clark 2006, p. 307.
  92. Carl von Clausewitz, On War; see for instance Book 7, Chapter 13.
  93. Richard Holmes and Martin Marix Evans (2009). A Guide to Battles: Decisive Conflicts in History, p. 102.
  94. Archer, Ferris, Herwig, & Travers (2008). World History of Warfare, p. 337.
  95. Holmes & Evans (2009). A Guide to Battles: Decisive Conflicts in History, pp. 105-107.
  96. Goerlitz (1985)[1959]. History of the German General Staff, p. 5.
  97. Stone (2006). Fighting for the Fatherland: The Story of the German Soldier from 1648 to the Present Day. p. 86.
  98. Luvaas 1966, pp. 18–22.
  99. Reiners, pp.247–248
  100. 1 2 Robert M. Citino, The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2008), p. 36.
  101. Showalter (1996). The Wars of Frederick the Great, p. 67.
  102. Frederick the Great, Oeuvres XXVIII: 42, as found in On War and Leadership: The Words of Combat Commanders from Frederick the Great to Norman Schwarzkopf, by Owen Connelly (2002), p. 15.
  103. Goerlitz (1985)[1959]. History of the German General Staff, 1657-1945, pp. 5-7.
  104. Goerlitz (1985)[1959]. History of the German General Staff, 1657-1945, p. 7.
  105. Frederick the Great, Oeuvres XXVII: 39, as found in On War and Leadership: The Words of Combat Commanders from Frederick the Great to Norman Schwarzkopf, by Owen Connelly (2002), p. 13.
  106. Egremont (2011). Forgotten Land: Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia, p. 36.
  107. Fredrick the Great, Oeuvres XXVIII: 84, as found in On War and Leadership: The Words of Combat Commanders from Frederick the Great to Norman Schwarzkopf, by Owen Connelly (2002), p. 10.
  108. Ozment (2005). A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People, pp. 140-141.
  109. Blanning (1998). The Oxford History of Modern Europe, p. 78.
  110. William Langer, Western Civilization (1968) pp 192-94
  111. W.O. Henderson, Studies in the Economic Policy of Frederick the Great (1963) ch 3 online
  112. Ritter, Gerhard (1974). Frederick the Great: A Historical Profile. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-520-02775-2.
  113. W. O. Henderson. Studies in the economic policy of Frederick the Great. Cass. London, 1963.
  114. Jews Welcome Coffee: Tradition and Innovation in Early Modern Germany Robert Liberles page 29
  115. A History of Modern Germany: 1648-1840, Volume 1 Hajo Holborn, page 274
  116. Amos Elon (2002)The Pity Of It All. A History of Jews in Germany 1743-1933, pp. 2, 3. ISBN 0805059644
  117. Ellen Judy Wilson; Peter Hanns Reill. Encyclopedia Of The Enlightenment. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  118. John G. Gagliardo, Germany under the Old Regime, 1600-1790 (London: Longman, 1991), p. 148.
  119. Brunhouse, Jay. Maverick Guide to Berlin. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  120. MacDonogh 2001, p. 347.
  121. W.O. Henderson, Studies in the Economic Policy of Frederick the Great (London: Frank Cass, 1963) p 90
  122. Stern, p. 19
  123. Polacy i Niemcy wobec siebie: postawy, opinie, stereotypy (1697-1815) : próba zarysu Stanisław Salmonowicz Ośrodek Badań Nauk. im. Wojciecha Kętrzyńskiego w Olsztynie, 1993 page 88
  124. Gerhard Ritter Frederick the Great: a historical profile. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975; p. 180
  125. Arthur Edward Waite (2013). A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Volume I. Cosimo, Inc. pp. 287–8.
  126. James Van Horn Melton (2001). The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 267.
  127. "Picture Gallery at Sanssouci Park in Potsdam celebrates 250th anniversary with exhibition",
  128. For more details, see Paul Seidel, "Friedrich der Große als Sammler von Gemälden und Skulpturen", Jahrbuch der Königlich-Preußischen Kunstsammlungen 13 (1892), pp. 183ff.; Hans-Joachim Giersberg and Claudia Meckel, eds., Friedrich II. und die Kunst, 2 vols. (Potsdam 1986); Helmut Börsch-Supan, "Friedrichs des Großen Umgang mit Bildern", Zeitschrift des Deutschen Vereins für Kunstwissenschaft 42 (1988), pp. 23ff.
  129. Michael O'Loghlin, Frederick the Great and his Musicians: The Viola da Gamba Music of the Berlin School (2008)
  130. Sabine Henze-Döhring, Friedrich der Große: Musiker und Monarch (Munich 2012).
  131. An enlightening and entertaining depiction of Frederick's meeting with Johann Sebastian Bach is found in James R. Gaines' Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.
  132. Frederick II, Jean-Paul Bled
  133. MacDonogh 2001, p. 370.
  134. Frédéric II, Jean-Paul Bled
  135. idem
  136. History of Germany, Joseph Rovan
  137. 1 2 An Essay On German Literature; Frederick the great
  138. Des mœurs, des coutumes, de l'industrie, des progrès de l'esprit humain dans les arts et dans les sciences, Frederick the Great
  139. Frédéric II, Jean-Paul Bled
  140. Die Zweisprachigkeit Friedrichs des Großen: Ein linguistisches Porträt, Corina Petersilka
  141. Koch, p. 138
  142. David Blackbourn, "Conquests from Barbarism: Taming Nature in Frederick the Great's Prussia," in Christof Mauch, ed., Nature in German History (2004) pp 10-30, quote p. 13
  143. David Blackbourn, "Conquests from Barbarism: Taming Nature in Frederick the Great's Prussia,"; "Conquests from Barbarism: Interpreting Land Reclamation in 18th Century Prussia" earlier version online
  144. Niemann, Christoph (14 October 2012). "The Legend of the Potato King". The New York Times.
  145. "Friedrich ist der Begründer der Tiermedizin in Deutschland". Süddeutsche Zeitung. 24 January 2013.
  146. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 40, 1870
  147. Mary Terrall, "The Culture of Science in Frederick the Great's Berlin," History of Science, Dec 1990, Vol. 28 Issue 4, pp. 333–364
  148. Hans Aarsleff, "The Berlin Academy under Frederick the Great," History of the Human Sciences, May 1989, Vol. 2 Issue 2, pp. 193–206
  149. Reinhard Alings, "Don't ask - don't tell: War Friedrich schwul?" In Friederisiko: Friedrich der Große: Die Ausstellung (Munich: Hirmer, 2012), pp. 238-247.
  150. Blanning 2016, pp. 55–56, 77.
  151. 1 2 Wolfgang Burgdorf, Friedrich der Große (Freiburg: Herder 2011), pp. 67ff.
  152. Peter-Michael Hahn, Friedrich II. von Preußen: Feldherr, Autokrat und Selbstdarsteller (Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer 2013), chapter 2.
  153. Susan W. Henderson, "Frederick the Great of Prussia: A Homophile Perspective", Gai Saber 1, no. 1 (1977), pp. 46-54.
  154. See also Oliver Das Gupta, "300 Jahre Friedrich der Große - Der schwule Fritz", Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23 January 2012.
  155. Blanning 2016, p. 230.
  156. Mitford 1970, p. 34.
  157. L. Reiners, Frederick the Great, New York, 1960
  158. MacDonogh 2001, p. 71.
  159. Norbert Schmitz, Der italienische Freund: Francesco Algarotti und Friedrich der Große (Hanover: Wehrhahn 2012).
  160. Hadley, Kathryn Frederick the Great's Erotic Poem, History Today, 2011; p71
  161. Bernd Krysmanski, Das einzig authentische Porträt des Alten Fritz? Is the only true likeness of Frederick the Great to be found in Hogarth's 'Marriage A-la-Mode'? Dinslaken 2015.
  162. Giles MacDonogh, "Hogarth's Portrait of Frederick the Great"
  163. Blanning 2016, p. 481.
  164. Ursula Pia Jauch, Friedrichs Tafelrunde und Kants Tischgesellschaft: Ein Versuch über Preußen zwischen Eros, Philosophie und Propaganda (Berlin 2014).
  165. J.D. Steakley, Sodomy in Enlightenment Prussia, Journal of Homosexuality, 16, 1/2 (1988): 163–175
  166. MacDonogh 2001, p. 117.
  167. Louis Crompton, Homosexuality & Civilization (Cambridge, MA and London 2003), pp. 504-518.
  168. Voltaire, Mémoires pour servir à la vie de M. de Voltaire ėcrits par lui-même, ed, Paris: Le Livre de poche, 1998
  169. Johnson, E. Joe; Wells, Bryon, An American Voltaire, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, p242
  170. MacDonogh 2001, pp. 341, 382.
  171. S. W. Henderson, "Frederick the Great of Prussia: a homophile perspective", Gai Saber; 1,1 (1977): 46–54.
  172. Klaus Büstrin, ' "Ich habe gemeinet, du häst mihr lieb": Friedrichs enge Beziehungen zu seinem Kammerdiener Fredersdorf', Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten, 1 September 2012.
  173. The text of the treaty. Thomas Jefferson signed on behalf of the United States in Paris, Benjamin Franklin in Passy, and John Adams in London; on behalf of the king of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm von Thulemeyer signed the agreement in Den Haag.
  174. Ritter, p. 200
  175. MacDonogh 2001, p. 366.
  176. MacDonogh 2001, p. 380.
  177. Alford, Kenneth D. (2000). Nazi Plunder: Great Treasure Stories of World War II. Da Capo Press. p. 102.
  178. G. P. Gooch, Frederick the Great: The Ruler, the Writer, the Man (1947) p 343
  179. G. P. Gooch, Frederick the Great (1947) p 346
  180. Michael Bentley (2002). Companion to Historiography. Taylor & Francis. pp. 398–400, 414–15.
  181. Kershaw (2001). Hitler: 1936-1945, Nemesis, pp. 610-611.
  182. Gooch, Frederick the Great (1947) pp 343-76
  183. Ritter, Frederick the Great pp 191-93
  184. Andreas Dorpalen, "Historiography as History: The Work of Gerhard Ritter." Journal of Modern History (1962) (March, 1962), p 9
  185. Kershaw (2001). Hitler: 1936-1945, Nemesis, p. 277.
  186. Craig (1980). Germany, 1866-1945, p. 543.
  187. Clark 2006, pp. 680, 686.
  188. Dennis Showalter (2012). Frederick the Great: A Military History. Casemate Publishers. p. Introduction.
  189. Elizabeth Krimmer and Patricia Anne Simpson, eds. Enlightened War: German Theories and Cultures of Warfare from Frederick the Great to Clausewitz (Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2011)
  190. T.C.W. Blanning, "Frederick the Great" in H.M. Scott, ed., Enlightened Absolutism (1990) pp 265-88
  191. Peter Paret, "Frederick the Great: A Singular Life, Variably Reflected," Historically Speaking (Jan. 2012) 13#1 pp 29-33
  192. "Historic Reeseville, Early King of Prussia, Pennsylvania". Accessed 24 May 2006.
  193. "The Great King". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  194. Erwin Leiser (1974) Nazi Cinema; tr. Gertrud Mander and David Wilson. London: Secker and Warburg ISBN 0-02-570230-0; p. 116
  195. Schnoor, Stefan; Klinge, Boris (15 May 2011). "The Last Survivor of Hitler's Downfall – The Führer's Bodyguard Gives Last Interview". Daily Express. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  196. "Frederick the Great". Board Games Geek. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  197. Laveaux, C.J. & King of Prussia, F (1789). The life of Frederick the Second, King of Prussia: To which are added observations, Authentic Documents, and a Variety of Anecdotes. J. Derbett London.
  198. Alexander the Great vs Ivan the Terrible - Epic Rap Battles of History Season 5


  • Anderson, Fred (2001). Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-37570-636-3. 
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  • Blanning, T. C. W. The Oxford History of Modern Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • ______________. The Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutions that Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815. New York: Penguin Books, 2008.
  • Blanning, Tim (2016). Frederick the Great: King of Prussia. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-1-40006-812-8. 
  • Citino, Robert Michael. The German Way of War: From the Thirty Years' War to the Third Reich. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2008.
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  • Connelly, Owen. On War and Leadership: The Words of Combat Commanders from Frederick the Great to Norman Schwarzkopf. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.
  • Craig, Gordon. Germany, 1866-1945. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.
  • Davies, Norman. Europe: A History, A Panorama of Europe, East and West, From the Ice-Age to the Cold War, From the Urals to Gibraltar. New York: Harper Perennial, 1998.
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  • Fraser, David (2000). Frederick the Great: King of Prussia. New York: Fromm International. ISBN 0-88064-261-0. 
  • Gaines, James R. Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.
  • Goerlitz, Walter. History of the German General Staff, 1657-1945. Boulder and London: Westview Press, 1985 [1959].
  • Holmes, Richard, and Martin Marix Evans. A Guide to Battles: Decisive Conflicts in History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: 1936-1945, Nemesis. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001.
  • Koch, H. W. (1978). A History of Prussia. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. ISBN 0-88029-158-3. 
  • Luvaas, Jay (1966). Frederick the Great on the Art of War. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-1-11178-540-6. 
  • MacDonogh, Giles (2001). Frederick the Great: A Life in Deed and Letters. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-27266-9. 
  • Mitford, Nancy (2013). Frederick the Great. New York: nyrb. ISBN 978-1-59017-623-8. 
  • Ozment, Steven. A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005.
  • Reiners, Ludwig (1960). Frederick the Great: A Biography. New York: G. P. Putnam & Sons. 
  • Ritter, Gerhard (1936). Frederick the Great: A Historical Profile. English translation 1974 ed. by Peter Peret. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-02775-2. ; Called by Russell Weigley "The best introduction to Frederick the Great and indeed to European warfare in his time."
  • Schieder, Theodor. Frederick the Great. Edited and translated by Sabina Berkeley and H. M. Scott. Harlow and New York: Addison Wesley Longmann, 2000.
  • _______________. Friedrich der Grosse. Ein Königtum der Widersprüche. Frankfurt: Propyläen Verlag, 1983.
  • Showalter, Dennis. The Wars of Frederick the Great. London: Longman, 1996.
  • Showalter, Dennis (2012). Frederick the Great: A Military History. Casemate Publishers. 
  • Simms, Brendan (2013). Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, from 1453 to the Present. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-46506-486-1. 
  • Snyder, Louis (1971). Frederick the Great. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-330605-4. 
  • Stone, David J. Fighting for the Fatherland: The Story of the German Soldier from 1648 to the Present Day. Herndon, VA: Potomac Books, 2006.
  • Teter, Magda. Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland: A Beleaguered Church in the Post-Reformation Era. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Further reading


Primary sources

In German

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Frederick the Great
Born: 24 January 1712 Died: 17 August 1786
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick William I
King in Prussia
as King of Prussia
Elector of Brandenburg
Prince of Neuchâtel

Succeeded by
Frederick William II
New creation
King of Prussia
Preceded by
Charles Edzard
Prince of East Frisia
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