Frederick III of Prussia - Encyclopedia

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FREDERICK III. (1831-1888), king of Prussia and German emperor, was born at Potsdam on the 18th of October 1831, being the eldest son of Prince William of Prussia, afterwards first German emperor, and the princess Augusta. He was carefully educated, and in 1849-1850 studied at the university of Bonn. The next years were spent in military duties and in travels, in which he was accompanied by Moltke. In 1851 he visited England on the occasion of the Great Exhibition, and in 1855 became engaged to Victoria, princess royal of Great Britain, to whom he was married in London on the 25th of January 1858. On the death of his uncle in 1861 and the accession of his father, Prince Frederick William, as he was then always called, became crown prince of Prussia. His education, the influence of his mother, and perhaps still more that of his wife's father, the Prince Consort, had made him a strong Liberal, and he was much distressed at the course of events in Prussia after the appointment of Bismarck as minister. He was urged by the Liberals to put himself into open opposition to the government; this he refused to do, but he remonstrated privately with the king. In June 1863, however, he publicly dissociated himself from the press ordinances which had just been published. He ceased to attend meetings of the council of state, and was much away from Berlin. The opposition of the crown prince to the ministers was increased during the following year, for he was a warm friend of the prince of Augustenburg, whose claims to Schleswig-Holstein Bismarck refused to support. During the war with Denmark he had his first military experience, being attached to the staff of Marshal von Wrangel; he performed valuable service in arranging the difficulties caused by the disputes between the field marshal and the other officers, and was eventually given a control over him. After the war he continued to support the prince of Augustenburg and was strongly opposed to the war with Austria. During the campaign of 1866 he received the command of an army consisting of four army corps; he was assisted by General von Blumenthal, as chief of the staff, but took a very active part in directing the difficult operations by which his army fought its way through the mountains from Silesia to Bohemia, fighting four engagements in three days, and showed that he possessed genuine military capacity. In the decisive battle of K6niggratz the arrival of his army in the field of battle, after a march of nearly 20 m., secured the victory. During the negotiations which ended the war he gave valuable assistance by persuading the king to accept Bismarck's policy as regards peace with Austria. From this time he was very anxious to see the king of Prussia unite the whole of Germany, with the title of emperor, and was impatient of the caution with which Bismarck proceeded. In 186g he paid a visit to Italy, and in the same year was present at the opening of the Suez Canal; on his way he visited the Holy Land.

He played a conspicuous part in the year 1870-1871, being appointed to command the armies of the Southern States, General Blumenthal again being his chief of the staff; his troops won the victory of Worth, took an important part in the battle of Sedan, and later in the siege of Paris. The popularity he won was of political service in preparing the way for the union of North and South Germany, and he was the foremost advocate of the imperial idea at the Prussian court. During the years that followed, little opportunity for political activity was open to him. He and the crown princess took a great interest in art and industry, especially in the royal museums; and the excavations conducted at Olympia and Pergamon with such great results were chiefly due to him. The crown princess was a keen advocate of the higher education of women, and it was owing to her exertions that the Victoria Lyceum at Berlin (which was named after her) was founded. In 1878, when the emperor was incapacitated by the shot of an assassin, the prince acted for some months as regent. His palace was the centre of all that was best in the literary and learned society of the capital. He publicly expressed his disapproval of the attacks on the Jews in 1878; and the coalition of Liberal parties founded in 1884 was popularly known as the "crown prince's party," but he scrupulously refrained from any act that might embarrass his father's government. For many reasons the accession of the prince was looked forward to with great hope by a large part of the nation. Unfortunately he was attacked by cancer in the throat; he spent the winter of 1887-1888 at San Remo; in January 1888 the operation of tracheotomy had to be performed. On the death of his father, which took place on the 9th of March, he at once journeyed to Berlin; but his days were numbered, and he came to the throne only to die. In these circumstances his accession could not have the political importance which would otherwise have attached to it, though it was disfigured by a vicious outburst of party passion in which the names of the emperor and the empress were constantly misused. While the Liberals hoped the emperor would use his power for some signal declaration of policy, the adherents of Bismarck did not scruple to make bitter attacks on the empress. The emperor's most important act was a severe reprimand addressed to Herr von Puttkamer, the reactionary minister of the interior, which caused his resignation; in the distribution of honours he chose many who belonged to classes and parties hitherto excluded from court favour. A serious difference of opinion with the chancellor regarding the proposal for a marriage between Prince Alexander of Battenberg and the princess Victoria of Prussia was arranged by the intervention of Queen Victoria, who visited Berlin to see her dying son-in-law. He expired at Potsdam on the 15th of June 1888, after a reign of ninety-nine days.

After the emperor's death Professor Geffcken, a personal friend, published in the Deutsche Rundschau extracts from the diary of the crown prince containing passages which illustrated his differences with Bismarck during the war of 1870. The object was to injure Bismarck's reputation, and a very unseemly dispute ensued. Bismarck at first, in a letter addressed to the new emperor, denied the authenticity of the extracts on the ground that they were unworthy of the crown prince. Geffcken was then arrested and imprisoned. He had undoubtedly shown that he was an injudicious friend, for the diary proved that the prince, in his enthusiasm for German unity, had allowed himself to consider projects which would have seriously compromised the relations of Prussia and Bavaria. The treatment of the crown prince's illness also gave rise to an acrimonious controversy. It arose from the fact that as early as May 1887 the German physicians recognized the presence of cancer in the throat, but Sir Morell Mackenzie, the English specialist who was also consulted, disputed the correctness of this diagnosis, and advised that the operation for removal of the larynx, which they had recommended, should not be undertaken. His advice was followed, and the differences between the medical men were made the occasion for a considerable display of national and political animosity.

The empress Victoria, who, after the death of her husband, was known as the empress Frederick, died on the 5th of August 1901 at the castle of Friedrichskron, Cronberg, near Homburg v. d. H., where she spent her last years. Of the emperor's children two, Prince Sigismund (1864-1866) and Prince Waldemar (1869-1879), died in childhood. He left two sons, William, his successor as emperor, and Henry, who adopted a naval career. Of his daughters, the princess Charlotte was married to Bernard, hereditary prince of Meiningen; the princess Victoria to Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe; the princess Sophie to the duke of Sparta, crown prince of Greece; and the princess Margaretha to Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse.

Authorities.-M. von Poschinger, Kaiser Friedrich (3 vols., Berlin, 1898-1900). Adapted into English by Sidney Whitman, Life of the Emperor Frederick (1901). See also Bismarck, Reflections and Reminiscences; Rennell Rodd, Frederick, Crown Prince and Emperor (1888); Gustav Freytag, Der Kronprinz and die deutsche Kaiserkrone (1889; English translation, 1890); Otto Richter, Kaiser Friedrich III. (2nd ed., Berlin, 1903). For his illness, the official publications, published both in English and German: Die Krankheit Kaiser Friedrichs III. (Berlin, 1888), and Morell Mackenzie, The Fatal Illness of Frederick the Noble (1888). Most of the copies of the Deutsche Rundschau containing the extracts from the crown prince's diary were confiscated, but there is an English edition, published in 1889. (J. W. HE.)

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