Posts Tagged ‘Friedrich der Grosse’

Frederick the Great shaped modern Europe

Monday, February 20th, 2017

King Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Grosse) was born in 1712 in Berlin, Germany. In 1740, he inherited the Prussian throne from his father, Frederick William I (Friedrich Wilhelm I) http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/frederick-william-i-a-troubled-ruler/ and ruled until 1786. He was bestowed the epitaph of “the Great” during his lifetime and was affectionately nicknamed “Der Alte Fritz” (Old Fritz) by the Prussian people.

It is doubtful that Otto von Bismarck http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/otto-von-bismarck-visionary-or-villain/ could have united Germany without Frederick the Great’s achievements. In addition to being an excellent military strategist and one of the most enlightened monarchs of the area, Frederick the Great was also an insightful historian, a probing philosopher, an accomplished musician and an insatiable reader. During his time in power, Prussia became one of the preeminent powers in Europe.

Frederick the Great’s childhood

Frederick the Great’s father was a violent authoritarian with a quick temper who expected his son to embrace the military to the exclusion of all other pursuits. But the young price preferred the arts and culture to the art of war. Frederick William responded by beating and humiliating his son. At age 18, young Frederick attempted to escape to England together with his friend, Hans Hermann von Katte. The two were caught and arrested for treason. In a cruel spectacle, Frederick William made his son watch the decapitation of his friend. Thereafter, Frederick the Great bowed to his father’s wishes.

Frederick the Great’s Domestic Achievements

Frederick the Great achieved a high reputation as a military commander and is often remembered as the father of Prussian militarism, but his impact was even more evident domestically. He not only reformed the military and the bureaucracy, he also established religious tolerance and granted a basic form of freedom of speech and press. He reformed the judicial system, abolishing most uses of torture and established the first German code of law. He also encouraged immigrants of various nationalities and faiths to come to Prussia.

 

Frederick II, King of Prussia (known as Frederick the Great), 1712-1786. www.walled-in-berlin.com. Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia

Frederick II, King of Prussia (known as Frederick the Great), 1712-1786. www.walled-in-berlin.com. Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia

 

Frederick the Great’s reign saw a revolutionary change in the importance and prestige of Prussia. Despite preferring the French language to his native German, Frederick distrusted France’s intentions. “Distrust is the mother of security” became his motto.

Frederick the Great’s Architectural Achievements

Frederick had many famous buildings constructed in Berlin. Most of them still exist today, such as the Berlin State Opera (Berliner Staatsoper), the Royal Library (Staatsbioliothek Berlin), St. Hedwig’s Cathedral (Sankt-Hedwig-Kathedrale) and Prince Henry’s Palace (now the site of the Humboldt University (Humboldt Universitaet.) http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-prestigious-humboldt-university/ However, the king’s most favorite place was his summer residence, Sanssouci, in Potsdam. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/sanssouci-modest-kings-retreat/

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

Bizarre Tale of the Potsdam Giants

Monday, January 30th, 2017

The Potsdam Giants (Riesengarde) were the personal batallion of Prussian King Frederick William I (Friedrich Wilhelm I). Officially named “The Grand Grenadiers of Potsdam,” they soon became known as The Potsdam Giants or “The Long Guys” (Lange Kerls) in common parlance. The only requirement for joining was that recruits had to be over six feet tall, an exceptional height at the time. One of the tallest soldiers in the regiment, an Irishman by the name of James Kirkland, was reportedly just less than 7 feet 2 inches. https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Potsdam Giants&item_type=topic

Grenadier James Kirkland, serving in the Potsdam Giants, the personal batallion of King Frederick William I. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Grenadier James Kirkland, serving in the Potsdam Giants, the personal batallion of King Frederick William I. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

King Frederick William was known as the “soldier king” (Soldatenkoenig) and had a passion for all things military. He ruled from 1713 until his death in 1740 and was succeeded by his son Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Grosse) http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/frederick-the-great-shaped-modern-europe/

King Frederick William’s Potsdam Giants

Frederick William was born in 1688 in Berlin, Germany, and died in 1740. In 1713, he was crowned King of Prussia and spent most of his life expanding Prussia’s army and turning it into the most famous and disciplined army in Europe. Eventually, one in every nine Prussian was a soldier. http://madmonarchs.guusbeltman.nl/madmonarchs/fredwil1/fredwil1_bio.htm

Frederick William had a passion for tall men and would go to any length to recruit them into his Prussian infantry regiment no. 6, the Potsdam Giants. He dispatched agents throughout the continent in search of such men and gave special compensation to parents who sent him their tallest sons and to landowners who surrendered their tallest farmhands. Prussian teachers kept an eye out for tall children and promptly handed them over to him. Newborn babies, expected to grow unusually tall, were marked with a bright red scarf to identify them. Frederick William even impressed upon his political allies that they could keep their gifts as long as they provided him with giants for his batallion. He never sent his personal regiment into battle, thereby keeping his Potsdam Giants out of harms way.

If these tall men did not comply voluntarily, he had them kidnapped. There is a story that Frederick William even abducted a preacher in the middle of a sermon. For a time, he tried to stretch these soldiers on a rack to make them even taller than they already were. When it became difficult to entice tall men into the Potsdam Giants, the king initiated a breeding program. When Frederick William was ill or felt depressed, he simply commandeered a few hundred “Long Guys” to march through his bedroom to cheer him up.

Privileges of the Potsdam Giants

Attired in blue uniforms with red contrasts and an 18-inch-high grenadier cap to make them appear even taller, the Potsdam Giants were given excellent accommodations and the best meals the military had to offer. Rates of pay were determined by height. The taller these “Long Guys” were, the more money they earned. Nevertheless, most of the Potsdam Giants were reluctant soldiers and many deserted or attempted suicide.

The end of the Potsdam Giants

When the king died in 1740 the regiment was 3,200-men-strong. However, his successor, Frederick the Great, did not share his father’s obsession and disbanded the Potsdam Giants. He integrated most of the soldiers into other units. In 1806, the regiment was officially dissolved.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

Sanssouci – modest king’s retreat

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

 

Palace Sanssouci, located in the city of  Potsdam, not far from Berlin, Germany, was built to serve as the summer residence of Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Grosse), King of Prussia. The Hohenzollern king was known for his discipline and modesty. He is said to have been so unpretentious that he once alleged, “A crown is just a hat that lets in the rain.”

The name, Sanssouci, comes from the French “sans souci,” and roughly translates into “without worry.” Sanssouci Palace was King Frederick’s favorite retreat where he would relax without having to observe the formalities of the royal court in Berlin. Here he could philosophize and play music, which were his favorite pastimes. No women were allowed in Sanssouci, not even Frederick the Great’s wife. http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/sanssoucipark.htm Following the king’s death in 1786, Sanssouci remained mostly unoccupied and neglected until the mid-19th century when it became the residence of King Frederick William IV (Friedrich Wilhelm IV). Sanssouci and its extensive gardens became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.

History of Palace Sanssouci

In 1744, Frederick ordered the hillside of an orchard to be transformed into three terraced vineyards. Against the brickwork he planted vines from Portugal, Italy, France and Neuruppin. Fig trees were placed in the niches. Then, between 1745 and 1747, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff designed and built Palace Sanssouci on the ridge of that terraced hillside.

Palace Sanssouci atop of a terraced hillside, planted with grapes and fig trees. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Palace Sanssouci atop a terraced hillside planted with grapes and fig trees. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The design of the small rococo chateau was based on a sketch made by the king himself. In 1748, a large fountain was constructed in the center of the garden and marble statues were placed around its basin. They include include Venus, Mercury, Apollo, Diana, Juno, Jupiter, Mars and Minerva, as well as the four elements Fire, Water, Air and Earth.

Statue at Sanssouci depicting Earth. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Statue at Sanssouci depicting Earth. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

In 1750, Frederick the Great commissioned construction of the baroque New Palace (Neues Palais), but construction did not begin until 1763. In contrast to the single-story Sanssouci Palace, which is rather modest in size and has only ten key rooms, the two-story New Palace contains more than two hundred lavishly decorated rooms, including several ballrooms.

New Palace (Neues Palais). Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

New Palace (Neues Palais). Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

One hundred years later, King Frederick William IV built the orangery (Orangerie). Some of the rooms in the 984-foot-long structure house a collection of paintings by Raphael. However, they are copies. The originals were looted by Napoleon.

Also located in Park Sanssouci is the Chinese teahouse (Chinesisches Teehaus), constructed in 1756. It currently holds a collection of porcelain. Gilded sandstone sculptures sit at the feet of the columns and stand along the walls of the rooms. Locals stood as models, which explains the statues’ European features.

Chinese Teahouse in Park Sanssouci. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Chinese Teahouse in Park Sanssouci. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2013. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Frederick the Great wished to be buried at Sanssouci

Frederick the Great died in his study in the Palace of Sanssouci in 1786 and had requested to be buried next to his greyhounds on the vineyard terrace. But his successor Frederick William II (Friedrich Wilhelm II) ordered to have the body entombed in the Potsdam Garrison Church, next to Frederick the Great’s father. Toward the end of World War II, Hitler ordered the coffin to be hidden in a salt mine. The U.S Army relocated the remains to Marburg. In 1953, the coffin was moved to Burg Hohenzollern, the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern. Not until 1991, on the 205th anniversary of the death of Frederick the Great, was Frederick’s body finally laid to rest – in accordance with his will – in the terrace of the vineyard of Sanssouci .

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com