Frederick the Great (1712-1786)

Frederick the Great

1712 Frederick the Great was born at Berlin, on January 24th. He was King of Prussia, he fought many wars in order to extend his territories and to transform the country into a European power, and internally he introduced liberal reforms, fact that brought him the title of “enlightened despot”. This grew up in a world full of catastrophes. He was regularly beaten by her father, King Frederick Wilhelm I, even forced to be witness of the execution of his friend, Hans von Katte, the boy he had tried to escape with, to England. After that his father jailed him. Encouraged by his mother despite of strict Prussian atmosphere that his father created in their house, Frederick cultivated the taste for French art, music and literature. He corresponded and even met the great French philosopher Voltaire, learnt to play the flute, composed music and wrote poems and manifested his homosexual inclinations. Yet, in the end he was also interested in his father’s activity and became a great soldier and administrator. More than this, he had a very strong will.

1730 He was jailed by his father in fortress from Kustrin.

1740 He was crowned as Frederick II. After few days he had succeeded his father to the throne like Frederick II, he sent Prussia into a war. He decided to use the well trained army that he had inherited from his father and which was the main political tool of him for more than a quarter of a century. The first target was Silesia that was under Habsburg control and which Frederick snatched from the hands of the new empress of Austria, Maria Teresa.

1740-1741 He had two wars to gain and control those duchies that brought money from mining and agriculture.

1741 The first victory, at Mollowitz, happened. Starting with this moment Frederick obtained a long series if impressive victories, often against greater and stronger armies. His secret was represented by the forceful and full of bravery actions. The intellectual, who liked very much to play the flute, turned into a wonderful military commander.

1756 King Frederick started a new war, by invading Saxony, a fact that historians considered as being warning of wars which Germany would have unleashed in Europe in XX century.  Frederick’s explanation was that he felt threatened by all his neighbours and that he must have attacked to survive.

1759 He was defeated by Russians during the battles from Kunersdorf.

1763 Peace from Hubertusburg ended the Seven Years War.

1772 He attached the Polish side of Prussia and Torun.

1779 He smatched another part of Austria, principality of Bavaria. Until the end of the reign, he had succeeded to triple the population of Prussia and to double the territory.

Internally he acted as an absolute ruler but he had in the same time principles of Enlightenment, manifesting a high grade of tolerance, offering freedom to mass-media, stating freedom of speech and of religion. “I made an agreement with my people, deal that satisfies both parts”, he said at a moment. “They can say what they want, and I can do what I want”.

Frederick continued what his predecessors had begun, thus modernization of Prussian state administration. He promulgated a new Prussian Code of Laws, Codex Fredericanus, obliged the judges to take hard exams, removed the torture and decimated the death sentences. But, he was afraid of the reaction of powerful nobles who owned estates and stopped his tries to free the serf peasants. The king also encouraged arts, science and education development and founded universal primary education.

1786 Frederick died at Sans Souci, on August 17th [].






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