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Frederick William, crown prince of Germany
Frederick William, elector of Brandenburg
See biography by F. Schevill (1947).
Frederick William, duke of Brunswick
Born Feb. 16, 1620, in Berlin; died May 9, 1688, in Potsdam. Elector of Brandenburg from 1640; known in German bourgeois nobiliary historiography as the Great Elector. Member of the Hohenzollern dynasty.
Prior to Frederick William’s reign, the duchy of Prussia had been a fief of the Polish crown, but under Frederick William it was finally united with Brandenburg, in accordance with the Treaty of Wehlau (1657). By the terms of the Treaty of Westpha lia (1648), Eastern Pomerania and a number of other areas were incorporated into Brandenburg; however, attempts to annex Stettin (Szczecin) and the mouth of the Oder, which were held by Sweden, were unsuccessful. Frederick William laid the foundations of absolutism in Brandenburg-Prussia, and he organized a regular army. He suppressed the resistance of the East Prussian nobility and cities to his policy of centralization.
Frederick William I. Born Aug. 14, 1688, in Berlin; died May 31, 1740, in Potsdam. King of Prussia from 1713. Member of the Hohenzollern dynasty. Son of Frederick I; father of Frederick II.
Frederick William I laid the foundations of Prussian militarism and strengthened the bureaucratic machinery. Noted for hostility toward the intelligentsia and toward progressive social thought, he embodied the major traits of Prussianism. In historical literature Frederick William I is known as the drill sergeant on the throne.
Frederick William II. Born Sept. 25, 1744, in Berlin; died there Nov. 16, 1797. King of Prussia from 1786. Nephew of Frederick II.
Frederick William II was a man of little foresight and weak character and was inclined to mysticism; a court clique held great influence in state affairs. In 1788 he introduced strict censorship, and he limited freedom of religion. In 1791 he signed the Declaration of Pillnitz, which was hostile to revolutionary France. In February 1792, Frederick William concluded a military alliance with Austria, thus initiating the first coalition of European monarchs against revolutionary France.
Frederick William III. Born Aug. 3, 1770, in Potsdam; died June 7, 1840, in Berlin. King of Prussia from 1797. Son of Frederick William II.
In 1806, Frederick William III joined the fourth anti-French coalition. The Prussian army was defeated in battle against Napoleon, and in accordance with the Treaty of Tilsit (1807) half of Prussia was ceded to France. Between 1807 and 1814, Frederick William was forced to agree to the enactment of a series of bourgeois reforms. In 1812, his troops took part in the Napoleonic campaign against Russia. After the Russian victory in the Patriotic War of 1812, a popular patriotic movement arose in Prussia. Under the influence of this movement, Frederick William declared war on France in March 1813. In accordance with a decision of the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), he received Rhenish Prussia, Westphalia, and much of Saxony. He helped create the Holy Alliance. His promise in 1815 to grant Prussia a constitution was not fulfilled. Frederick William assisted in the suppression of the Polish Uprising of 1830–31.
Frederick William IV. Born Oct. 15, 1795, in Berlin; died Jan. 2, 1861, in Potsdam. King of Prussia from 1840. Son of Frederick William III.
Frederick William IV helped suppress the Revolution of 1848–49 and contributed to the establishment of a regime of cruel reaction in Prussia. He was forced, however, to grant Prussia a constitution, which was introduced in January 1850. In the spring of 1849 he refused to accept the imperial crown offered him by the Frankfurt Assembly of 1848–49. In 1857, Frederick William retired from affairs of state because of a mental disorder, and his brother William was declared regent.