Frederick William III of Prussia

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Frederick William III
King of Prussia; Elector of Brandenburg
Reign 16 November 1797 – 7 June 1840
Predecessor Frederick William II
Successor Frederick William IV
Spouse Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Auguste Gräfin von Harrach(morganatic)

Issue
Frederick William IV of Prussia
William I of Germany
Alexandra, Empress of Russia
Princess Frederica
Prince Charles
Princess Alexandrine
Prince Ferdinand
Princess Louise
Prince Albert
House House of Hohenzollern
Father Frederick William II
Mother Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt
Born 3 August 1770
Potsdam, Prussia
Died 7 June 1840 (age 69)
Berlin
Burial
Religion Calvinism

Frederick William III (German: Friedrich Wilhelm III.) (3 August 1770 – 7 June 1840) was king of Prussia from 1797 to 1840.

Life[change | change source]

Frederick William was born in Potsdam in 1770 as the son of Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia and Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt. He was considered to be a shy and reserved boy,[1]

As a soldier he received the usual training of a Prussian prince, obtained his lieutenancy in 1784, became a colonel in 1790, and took part in the campaigns against France of 1792-1794. On December 24, 1793, Frederick William married Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. They had ten children. In the Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince's palace) in Berlin, Frederick William lived a civil life with a problem-free marriage, which did not change even when he became King of Prussia in 1797.

Reign[change | change source]

Royal Monogram

He succeeded to the throne on 16 November 1797 and took over personal power without giving responsibility to his ministers. Unfortunately he was not able to follow a consistent course for himself. His sense of duty can be seen from this quote:

Every civil servant has a dual obligation: to the sovereign and to the country. It can occur that the two are not compatible; then, the duty to the country is higher.

At first Frederick William tried to follow a policy of neutrality in the Napoleonic Wars. But in the end he entered into war in October 1806. On 14 October 1806, at the Battle of Jena-Auerstädt, the French defeated the Prussian army, and it collapsed. The royal family fled to East Prussia, where Emperor Alexander I of Russia (who, rumour has it, had fallen in love with Queen Louise) helped them against Napoleon.

But Alexander was defeated as well. At Tilsit France made peace with Russia and Prussia. Napoleon dealt with Prussia very harshly, Prussia lost many of its Polish territories, as well as all territory west of the Elbe, and had to pay for French troops that occupied Prussia.

Although Frederick William himself resigned to Prussia's fate, his ministers set about a reform of Prussia's administration and military. After Napoleon's defeat in Russia (1813) Frederick William turned against France and signed an alliance with Russia. Prussian troops played a key part in the victories of the allies in 1813 and 1814.

At the Congress of Vienna, Frederick William's ministers succeeded in securing important territorial increases for Prussia. After the war, Frederick William did not keep the promises he had made in 1813 to supply Prussia with a constitution.

He died on 7 June 1840. His eldest son, Frederick William IV, succeeded him.

Ancestry[change | change source]

Further reading[change | change source]

  • Thomas Stamm-Kuhlmann: König in Preußens großer Zeit. Friedrich Wilhelm III., der Melancholiker auf dem Thron. Siedler, Berlin 1992.
  • Dagmar von Gersdorff: Königin Luise und Friedrich Wilhelm III. Eine Liebe in Preußen. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2001. ISBN 3-499-22615-4.

Related pages[change | change source]

Notes[change | change source]

  1. see Franz Blei: Königin Luise von Preußen. In: Gefährtinnen. Berlin 1931, S. 68 f.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick William II
King of Prussia
1797–1840
Succeeded by
Frederick William IV
Prince of Neuchâtel
as Frederick William III

1797–1806 and again 1813–1840
interrupted by the rule by Louis Alexandre Berthier
Elector of Brandenburg
as Frederick William IV

1797–1806
Territory incorporated
into the Prussian crown
New title
Grand Duke of the Lower Rhine
1815–1840