Frederick I of Prussia - Encyclopedia

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FREDERICK I. (1657-1713), king of Prussia, and (as Frederick III.) elector of Brandenburg, was the second son of the great elector, Frederick William, by his first marriage with Louise Henriette, daughter of Frederick Henry of Orange. Born at Konigsberg on the 11th of July 1657, he was educated and greatly influenced by Eberhard Danckelmann, and became heir to the throne of Brandenburg through the death of his elder brother, Charles Emil, in 1674. He appears to have taken some part in public business before the death of his father; and the court at Berlin was soon disturbed by quarrels between the young prince and his stepmother, Dorothea of Holstein-Gliicksburg. In 1686 Dorothea persuaded her husband to bequeath outlying portions of his lands to her four sons; and Frederick, fearing he would be poisoned, left Brandenburg determined to prevent any diminution of his inheritance. By promising to restore Schwiebus to Silesia after his accession he won the support of the emperor Leopold I.; but eventually he gained his end in a peaceable fashion. Having become elector of Brandenburg in May 1688, he came to terms with his half-brothers and their mother. In return for a sum of money these princes renounced their rights under their father's will, and the new elector thus secured the whole of Frederick William's territories. After much delay and grumbling he fulfilled his bargain with Leopold and gave up Schwiebus in 1695. At home and abroad Frederick continued the policy of the great elector. He helped William of Orange to make his descent on England; added various places, including the principality of Neuchatel, to his lands; and exercised some influence on the course of European politics by placing his large and efficient army at the disposal of the emperor and his allies (see Brandenburg). He was present in person at the siege of Bonn in 1689, but was not often in command of his troops. The elector was very fond of pomp, and, striving to model his court upon that of Louis XIV., he directed his main energies towards obtaining for himself the title of king. In spite of the assistance he had given to the emperor his efforts met with no success for some years; but towards 1700 Leopold, faced with the prospect of a new struggle with France, was inclined to view the idea more favourably. Having insisted upon various conditions, prominent among them being military aid for the approaching war, he gave the imperial sanction to Frederick's request in November 17c'0; whereupon the elector, hurrying at once to Konigsberg, crowned himself with great ceremony king of Prussia on the 18th of January 1701. According to his promise the king sent help to the emperor; and during the War of the Spanish Succession the troops of Brandenburg-Prussia rendered great assistance to the allies, fighting with distinction at Blenheim and elsewhere. Frederick, who was deformed through an injury to his spine, died on the 25th of February 1713. By his extravagance the king exhausted the treasure amassed by his father, burdened his country with heavy taxes, and reduced its finances to chaos. His constant obligations to the emperor drained Brandenburg of money which might have been employed more profitably at home, and prevented her sovereign from interfering in the politics of northern Europe. Frederick, however, was not an unpopular ruler, and by making Prussia into a kingdom he undoubtedly advanced it several stages towards its future greatness. He founded the university of Halle, and the Academy of Sciences at Berlin; welcomed and protected Protestant refugees from France and elsewhere; and lavished money on the erection of public buildings.

The king was married three times. His second wife, Sophie Charlotte (1668-1705), sister of the English king George I., was the friend of Leibnitz and one of the most cultured princesses of the age; she bore him his only son, his successor, King Frederick William I.

See W. Hahn, Friedrich I., Konig in Preussen (Berlin, 1876); J. G. Droysen, Geschichte der preussischen Politik, Band iv. (Leipzig, 1872); E. Heyck, Friedrich I. and die Begriindung des preussischen Konigtums (Bielefeld, 1901); C. Graf von Dohna, Memoires originaux sur le regne et la tour de Frederic I Q7 ' (Berlin, 1883); Aus dem Briefwechsel Konig Friedrichs I. von Preussen and seiner Familie (Berlin, 1901); and T. Carlyle, History of Frederick the Great, vol. i. (London, 1872).

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