Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great)

One of the most dazzling and famous personalities in the ancestral series of the Prussian kings from the House of Hohenzollern is certainly Frederick II.
His subjects almost affectionately called the ruler "Old Fritz," while historiography gave him the title "The Great."

Influenced by the very strict education of his father, Frederick I "the soldier king", he led Prussia through warlike times and left the country as one of the five great powers of Europe.




Origin and teenage years:

Friedrich was born on 24 January 1712 in Berlin as the eldest son of King Frederick William I and his wife Sophie Dorothea of Hanover.

His childhood was marked by the strict education of his father, who wanted to raise his son as a military and religious savvy people. So Friedrich's daily routine was planned for the minute. For the philosophical and musical expression of his son, the father had nothing left and were punished by corporal punishment.

So Friedrich had to secretly meet from 1729 with the eight years older Lieutenant Hans Hermann von Katte, who shared his preference for flute music. Von Katte was also initiated into the plans to flee Frederick to France, which he put into action from 4 to 5 August 1730. In this escape attempt, however, Frederick was caught and placed under arrest in the fortress of Küstrin, while Katte was uncovered and arrested by a compromising letter as a confidant. On November 6, 1730, the death sentence of Kattes, driven by Frederick I, was carried out before the eyes of his son.

Frederick also wanted to condemn his son to death, but left the verdict at the insistence of Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau, Emperor Karl VI. and Prince Eugene finally set and put his son in Küstrin under imprisonment and deny the status of crown prince.

From 1731 Friedrich was able to move freely again and began his military career in 1732 in the regiment on foot from the Goltz. He also agreed, albeit reluctantly, to the marriage of Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern, daughter of Duke Ferdinand Albrecht II of Braunschweig, which greatly eased his relationship with his father and restored him to the status of crown prince.


Kronprinz Friedrich um 1739 Gemälde von Antoine Pesne

Crown Prince Friedrich ca. 1739 Painting by Antoine Pesne




The time as King of Prussia:

Frederick ascended the throne of Prussia as Frederick II on May 31, 1740, after his father had died. His first actions were reforms to abolish torture, the establishment of economic sectors for the widespread independence of important imports and the limited freedom of the press.


Friedrich II. von Preußen

Frederick II of Prussia




The wars under Frederick II .:

Already six months after his accession to the throne Prussia was drawn in October 1740 due to the Austrian war of succession in the first of the three Silesian wars in which Frederick wanted to assert his claim to Silesia.

With the Berlin peace of June 11, 1742, the first Silesian war ends and Prussia is granted a large part of Silesia and the county of Glatz.

In August 1744, the conflict between Prussia and Austria broke out again around Silesia and only with the Peace of Dresden on 24.12.1745 can this also be settled and the Silesian possessions to Prussia be confirmed. After the return of Frederick II to Berlin for the first time the surname "the Great" is assigned.

On 29.8.1756 begins the third Silesian war, also known as the Seven Year War, in which Prussia faces an alliance of Austria, Russia, Sweden and France. Through luck, military successes and the death of Russian Empress Elizabeth, the war could be ended without the destruction of Prussia and the Prussian possessions in Silesia finally confirmed. Due to the many battles and the corresponding aging of Frederick II, he was also assigned the name "old Fritz" in his third war. After the war, Prussia became the fifth major power in Europe.

After the Bavarian line of the noble family of the Wittelsbach had died out in 1777 and Austria claimed to Lower Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate, it came again to a war with Prussia, which, however, due to the poor supply and the bad weather without war actions and with the peace of Teschen on May 13, 1779 was already finished.




Friedrich and the potato:

A decisive event under Frederick II to this day was the potato as food. Introduced was the potato with the colonization of South America, it was initially considered a means of the devil, since it was not mentioned as food in the Bible and as food for the pigs. It was only after discovering how to properly prepare and eat the potato that it became clear how important it was for the food supply.


Friedrich II. inspiziert auf einer seiner Inspektionsreisen den Kartoffelanbau

Friedrich II inspects potato cultivation on one of his inspection trips


So it happened that in 1756 Frederick issued the so-called "potato order". This was to encourage the officials to teach the population the importance of the potato and make them grow it too. He also had potato fields guarded by his soldiers, so that citizens secretly stole the potatoes and ate, because forbidden fruits taste best known. It took many more years until the potato became accepted as a food, but through these measures, the potato prevailed to this day as a staple food.




Frederick's death:

On August 17, 1786, Frederick II died in his chair in Sanssouci Palace.
Already during his lifetime Frederick built a crypt for himself in the castle and wanted to be buried there after his death next to his dogs. But his nephew and successor, Friedrich Wilhelm II, had him buried in the crypt in the Potsdam garrison church on the side of his father Friedrich I.

During the Second World War and the incoming bombardments by Allied bomber formations, the coffins of Frederick I and Frederick II were taken in 1943 as a precaution from the garrison church in the air force bunker in oak. In March 1945 it went from there because of the advancing Soviet army in a mine at Bernterode, then in Marburg Castle and in 1947 in the local Elisabeth Church.

In 1952, the coffins were stimulated by Louis Ferdinand of Prussia relocated to the chapel of Hohenzollern Castle. It was not until 1991 that the actual wish of Frederick II was followed and his body buried in the crypt in Sanssouci Palace.


Reiterstandbild Friedrichs des Großen

Equestrian statue of Frederick the Great






You can find the right literature here:


Frederick the Great: King of Prussia

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 29, 2016

Few figures loom as large in European history as Frederick the Great. When he inherited the Prussian crown in 1740, he ruled over a kingdom of scattered territories, a minor Germanic backwater. By the end of his reign, the much larger and consolidated Prussia ranked among the continent’s great powers. In this magisterial biography, award-winning historian Tim Blanning gives us an intimate, in-depth portrait of a king who dominated the political, military, and cultural life of Europe half a century before Napoleon.

Click here!



Frederick the Great on Warfare: Battlefield Tactics of the Seven Year's War & Military Instruction to the Officers of His Army

Frederick the Great on Warfare: Battlefield Tactics of the Seven Year's War & Military Instruction to the Officers of His Army by Frederick II, King of Prussia Paperback – October 24, 2016

Frederick the Great was one of the most outstanding figures in European history. He was, in the eighteenth century, the monarch of a German state, Prussia, which had few advantages. His was a comparatively small nation surrounded by France, Sweden and Russia all of which were hostile to Prussia’s interests. The Seven Years War was a conflict raging across the globe, the outcome of which would seal the fate of empires. Frederick not only averted national defeat, but proved himself to be a master of strategy and battlefield tactics. Against the odds the Prussian Army not only grew to become a force to be reckoned with, but its commander engendered a spirit which ultimately flourished to form the foundations of a unified Germany. Frederick knew well that his method of waging war would win victories and was anxious that his generals followed his own proven principles. This book, complete with original diagrams and for the first time, in this Leonaur edition, uniform plates of the Prussian Army of the period, is the work (in English translation) that Frederick produced to detail his own methods of waging war. It will be invaluable to all students of military history and tactics and is an essential guide for historical re-enactors, dramatic productions and war-gamers.

Click here!



Frederick the Great: King of Prussia

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia Hardcover – May 1, 2001

Chronicles the life of the legendary ruler, artistic patron, man of letters, lawgiver, and military commander, examining his use of strategy and psychology within the context of eighteenth-century European diplomacy.

Click here!






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