Frederick the Great

(Frederick II of Prussia )


Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great, King of Prussia during the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Year's War, was a distinguished tactician who gained much of his fame for his many victories against the far larger Austrian army. A brilliant strategist and gifted artist, Frederick is recognized as the one of the great characters in Prussian history, and one of the first European monarchs who sought to preside over an "enlightened", secular state.

Frederick's father was Frederick William I, a strict and demanding military hero. The king pushed his son to study military matters but Frederick defied his father by reading poetry and ancient histories in secret. When he was 18, the prince attempted to flee to England with his friend, a lieutenant in the Prussian army, and several other officers. Hearing of their plans, the king arrested and imprisoned Frederick and his friend on charges of treason. The lieutenant was killed and Frederick was imprisoned until he was released by the Holy Roman Emperor. Frederick eventually reconciled with his father and began to take an interest in military matters.

When Frederick ascended to the throne he inherited a full treasury and a well-trained army. When the Austrian king died, leaving the Hapsburg throne to his daughter Maria Theresa, Frederick immediately moved to sieze the province of Silesia, a long time Hapsburg property on the that bordered Brandenburg. The controversy over the hereditary claims of the Hapsburgs led Europe into the War of the Austrian Succession. After years of conflict, Austria gave up the fight for Silesia, but did not surrender its claim to the territory, and eight years later, Austria made an alliance with Russia and France to oppose the upstart. The second Silesian War, better known as the continent wide Seven Year's War, failed to dislodge Frederick from his new territory, and in 1763 the treaties signed to bring the conflict to a close recognized Prussian control of Silesia.

Frederick's goal throughout his reign was to unite and expand his divided kingdoms of Brandenburg and Prussia. He finally achieved this goal by arranging the first and second partition of Poland, in cooperation with Austria and Russia. Frederick was also responsible for bringing modernizing reforms to Prussia, draining swamps for agricultural purposes and establishing a new bureaucracy. Frederick grew more solitary toward the end of his life, finally passing away in his study in 1786.

Key events during the life of Frederick the Great:

Punished by father in attempted escape to England
Ascended to Throne of Prussia
Invaded Silesia—War of Austrian Successsion
Seven Years' War against Austria, France, and Russia
First Partition of Poland
War of the Bavarian Succession
Died while in his palace

Book Links
Frederick the Great  by  George Upton

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
King and the Page  in  Fifty Famous People  by  James Baldwin
Frederick the Great  in  Germany: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Frederick the Great  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
Charles VII  in  The History of Germany  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Youth of Frederick the Great  in  Historical Tales: German  by  Charles Morris
Scenes from the Seven Year's War  in  Historical Tales: German  by  Charles Morris
Boyhood of Frederick the Great  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge
Boyhood of Frederick the Great  in  Brave Men and Brave Deeds  by  M. B. Synge
Fritz, and His Reign  in  The History of Prussia  by  John S.C. Abbott

Image Links

Frederick the Great and his page
 in Germany: Peeps at History

Frederick the Great
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

The Justice of Frederick (allegorical)
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Frederick addressing his generals
 in Famous Men of Modern Times
Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great
 in Back Matter
Frederick and the Austrians after Leuthen
Frederick and the Austrians after Leuthen
 in Back Matter

Frederick II, King of Prussia
 in  Two German Giants

The plucky little Prussian King made all Europe stare at his soldiery
 in The History of Germany

Statue of Frederick the Great, Unter den Linden, Berlin
 in Historical Tales: German

Frederick's interview with his father after his attempt to escape
 in Brave Men and Brave Deeds

After the battle of Kollin.
 in  Frederick the Great

Good-evening, gentlemen, evidently you were not expecting me.'
 in  Frederick the Great

Frederick stood on the bloody field like one dazed.
 in  Frederick the Great

Frederick at the watch fires before the battle of Liegnitz.
 in  Frederick the Great

Short Biography
Voltaire Controversial "free-thinker", satirist, essayist, and Enlightenment philosopher.
Maria Theresa Head of Hapsburg Dynasty. Ruled over much of Eastern Europe. Opposed Frederick the Great.
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Bach German composer associated with Baroque classical music.