Frederick the Great

Frederick the Great

Birth
Berlin-Mitte, Mitte, Berlin, Germany
Death 17 Aug 1786 (aged 74)
Potsdam, Stadtkreis Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany
Burial Potsdam, Stadtkreis Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany
Plot buried in the lawn of the south patio of Sans Souci
Memorial ID 2986 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Prussian Monarch. Frederick was brought up by governesses and tutors and learned French and German simultaneously. Despite his father's desire that his education be entirely religious and pragmatic, he procured for himself a large secret library of poetry, Greek and Roman classics, and French philosophy to supplement his official lessons. After a pair of romantic scandals reputedly linking him with other men, he was made to marry Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern. He was also stripped of his military rank due to the scandal, but during the War of Polish Succession, he was restored to the Prussian Army as a colonel. He resented the political marriage and separated from his wife when his father died in 1740 and would later only pay her visits once a year on her birthday. Prussia was composed of several unconnected territories. He wanted to unite his lands, and as he had inherited a relatively large army of 80,000 men, he fought wars, mainly against Austria. The First Silesian War began on 16 December 1740, when Frederick invaded and occupied the province. Eventually Austria ceded Prussia most of Silesia and Glatz County. Another war was fought in 1743, which his forces won handily, strengthening his claims to Silesia. A third war a few years later was going badly for the Prussians when the death of the Russian Empress caused that country to switch to the Prussian side of the war and brought it to a quick end in Prussia’s favor. He undertook the conquest of Polish territory under the pretext of an enlightened and civilizing mission, and claimed most of the province of Royal Prussia, annexing 20,000 square miles and 600,000 inhabitants. The newly created province of West Prussia connected two provinces, further uniting his lands. He was courageous in battle, frequently led his military forces personally, and commanded the Prussian Army at sixteen major battles and various sieges, skirmishes and other actions. He is considered one of the greatest tactical and operational commanders in history. Much of the structure of the later German command Staff owed its structure to him, along with the practice of autonomy given to commanders in the field. He helped transform Prussia to an economically strong and politically reformed state, reformed the judicial system, allowed freedom of speech, the press and literature, and greatly limited the death penalty. He made it possible for commoners to become judges and senior bureaucrats, reorganized the Prussian Academy of Sciences and attracted many scientists. He controlled grain prices, so government storehouses would enable the civilian population to survive where the harvest was poor. He promoted the trade and had a silk factory built where 1,500 people found employment. He organized a system of indirect taxation, which would provide the state with more revenue than direct taxation. He tolerated all faiths in his realm, but Protestantism remained the favored religion, and Catholics were not chosen for higher state positions. He retained Jesuits as teachers, and accepted Protestant weavers fleeing from Bohemia, granting them freedom from taxes and military service. To encourage immigration, he emphasized that nationality and religion were of no concern, helping Prussia's population to recover very quickly from the losses suffered during three wars. He was a Freemason and his membership legitimized and protected the group. He had buildings constructed in Berlin, such as the Berlin State Opera, the Royal Library, St. Hedwig's Cathedral, and Prince Henry's Palace. He was a patron of music as well as a gifted musician. He read and wrote his literary works in French and used that language in conversation. He considered German culture of his time to be inferior to that of France or Italy, but he did sponsor the Royal German Society to promote and develop the German language. He promoted the use of German instead of Latin in the field of law. He promoted draining swamps and opening new farmland for colonizers who would increase the kingdom's food supply. About a thousand new villages were founded in his reign that attracted 300,000 immigrants from outside Prussia. He presided over the construction of canals for bringing crops to market and introduced new crops to the country. The Prussian Academy of Sciences had been closed, but he re-opened it when he took the throne in 1740. By 1789 the academy had gained an international repute while making major contributions to German culture and thought. He spent much of his time in his summer residence at Potsdam, where he built the palace of Sanssouci. Near the end of his life, his circle of close friends gradually died off with few replacements, and he became increasingly solitary. He died in an armchair in his study. He will stated that he should be buried next to his greyhounds on the grounds of his palace. 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 the coffin to be hidden in a salt mine as protection from destruction; it was found by the United States Army. On the 205th anniversary of his death, his casket was finally laid to rest in crypt he had built.

Bio by: Pete Mohney



Advertisement

See more Frederick the Great memorials in:

Planning a visit to Potsdam, Germany?

Advertisement

Advertisement

How famous was Frederick the Great?

Current rating:

97 votes

Sign-in to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 May 1998
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2986
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Frederick the Great (24 Jan 1712–17 Aug 1786), Find A Grave Memorial no. 2986, citing Sanssouci Palace, Potsdam, Stadtkreis Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany ; Maintained by Find A Grave .