Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg

Frederick William (German: Friedrich Wilhelm; 16 February 1620 – 29 April 1688) was Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, thus ruler of Brandenburg-Prussia, from 1640 until his death in 1688. A member of the House of Hohenzollern, he is popularly known as "the Great Elector"[1] (der Große Kurfürst) because of his military and political achievements. Frederick William was a staunch pillar of the Calvinist faith, associated with the rising commercial class. He saw the importance of trade and promoted it vigorously. His shrewd domestic reforms gave Prussia a strong position in the post-Westphalian political order of north-central Europe, setting Prussia up for elevation from duchy to kingdom, achieved under his son and successor.

Frederick William
Frans Luycx - Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, at three-quarter-length.jpg
The Elector by Frans Luycx
Duke of Prussia
Elector of Brandenburg
Reign1 December 1640 – 29 April 1688
PredecessorGeorge William
SuccessorFrederick III
Born(1620-02-16)16 February 1620
Stadtschloss, Berlin, Brandenburg-Prussia
Died29 April 1688(1688-04-29) (aged 68)
Stadtschloss, Potsdam, Brandenburg-Prussia
SpouseLuise Henriette of Nassau
Sophia Dorothea of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Issue
Detail
Charles, Electoral Prince of Brandenburg
Frederick I of Prussia
Philip William, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt
Marie Amelie, Hereditary Princess of Mecklenburg-Güstrow
Prince Margrave Albert Frederick
Prince Charles
Elisabeth Sophie, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen
Prince Christian Ludwig
HouseHohenzollern
FatherGeorge William, Elector of Brandenburg
MotherElisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate
ReligionCalvinist

BiographyEdit

Elector Frederick William was born in Berlin to George William, Elector of Brandenburg, and Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate. His inheritance consisted of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, the Duchy of Cleves, the County of Mark, and the Duchy of Prussia.

Foreign diplomacyEdit

Following the Thirty Years' War that devastated much of the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick William focused on rebuilding his war-ravaged territories. Brandenburg-Prussia benefited from his policy of religious tolerance and he used French subsidies to build up an army that took part in the 1655 to 1660 Second Northern War. This ended with the treaties of Labiau, Wehlau, Bromberg and Oliva; they removed Swedish control of the Duchy of Prussia, which meant he held it direct from the Holy Roman Emperor.[2]

In 1672, Frederick William joined the Franco-Dutch War as an ally of the Dutch Republic, led by his nephew William of Orange but made peace with France in the June 1673 Treaty of Vossem. Although he rejoined the anti-French alliance in 1674, this left him diplomatically isolated; despite conquering much of Swedish Pomerania during the Scanian War, he was obliged to return these to Sweden in the 1679 Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.[3]

Military careerEdit

Frederick William was a military commander of wide renown, and his standing army would later become the model for the Prussian Army. He is notable for his joint victory with Swedish forces at the Battle of Warsaw, which, according to Hajo Holborn, marked "the beginning of Prussian military history",[4] but the Swedes turned on him at the behest of King Louis XIV and invaded Brandenburg. After marching 250 kilometres in 15 days back to Brandenburg, he caught the Swedes by surprise and managed to defeat them on the field at the Battle of Fehrbellin, destroying the myth of Swedish military invincibility. He later destroyed another Swedish army that invaded the Duchy of Prussia during the Great Sleigh Drive in 1678. He is noted for his use of broad directives and delegation of decision-making to his commanders, which would later become the basis for the German doctrine of Auftragstaktik, and he is noted for using rapid mobility to defeat his foes.[5]

Domestic policiesEdit

Frederick William is notable for raising an army of 40,000 soldiers by 1678, through the General War Commissariat presided over by Joachim Friedrich von Blumenthal. He was an advocate of mercantilism, monopolies, subsidies, tariffs, and internal improvements. Following Louis XIV's revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Frederick William encouraged skilled French and Walloon Huguenots to emigrate to Brandenburg-Prussia with the Edict of Potsdam, bolstering the country's technical and industrial base. On Blumenthal's advice he agreed to exempt the nobility from taxes and in return they agreed to dissolve the Estates-General. He also simplified travel in Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia by connecting riverways with canals, a system that was expanded by later Prussian architects, such as Georg Steenke; the system is still in use today.

MarriagesEdit

 
Painting of his 1646 wedding ceremony by Johannes Mytens
 
Portrait engraving after a painting by Anselm van Hulle

On 7 December 1646 in The Hague, Frederick William entered into a marriage, proposed by Blumenthal as a partial solution to the Jülich-Berg question, with Luise Henriette of Nassau (1627–1667), daughter of Frederick Henry of Orange-Nassau and Amalia of Solms-Braunfels and his 1st cousin once removed through William the Silent. Their children were as follows:

  1. William Henry, Electoral Prince of Brandenburg (1648–1649)
  2. Charles, Electoral Prince of Brandenburg (1655–1674)
  3. Frederick I of Prussia (1657–1713), his successor
  4. Amalie (1664–1665)
  5. Henry (1664–1664)
  6. Louis (1666–1687), who married Ludwika Karolina Radziwiłł

On 13 June 1668 in Gröningen, Frederick William married Sophie Dorothea of Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, daughter of Philip, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and Sophie Hedwig of Saxe-Lauenburg. Their children were the following:

  1. Philip William (1669–1711)
  2. Marie Amelie (1670–1739)
  3. Albert Frederick (1672–1731)
  4. Charles Philip (1673–1695)
  5. Elisabeth Sofie (1674–1748)
  6. Dorothea (1675–1676)
  7. Christian Ludwig (1677–1734)

AncestryEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^   Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Great Elector, The" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  2. ^ Press, Volker (1991). Kriege und Krisen. Deutschland 1600–1715. Neue deutsche Geschichte (in German). 5. Munich: Beck. pp. 402ff. ISBN 3-406-30817-1.
  3. ^ Clark, Christopher M. (2006). Iron kingdom: the rise and downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947. Harvard University Press. p. 50. ISBN 0-674-02385-4.
  4. ^ Holborn, Hajo (1982). A History of Modern Germany: 1648–1840. A History of Modern Germany. 2. Princeton University Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-691-00796-9.
  5. ^ Citino, Robert. The German Way of War. From the Thirty Years War to the Third Reich. pp 1–35. University Press of Kansas, 2005.

External linksEdit

Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg
Born: 16 February 1620 Died: 29 April 1688
Regnal titles
Preceded by
George William
Elector of Brandenburg
Duke of Prussia

1640–1688
Succeeded by
Frederick III