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Holy Roman Empire




Prussia, the New Kid on the Block

At the conclusion of the Thirty Years War, a new player in the European Theater appeared.  Its name was Prussia

Now how can a new power appear out of nowhere?  Prussia had been there all along, slowly building steam over the centuries. 

The Thirty Years War was the catalyst that opened the door for this middle of the road power to emerge as a superpower. 

This story begins with the Hohenzollerns, a dynastic family very similar to the Habsburgs.   It is an interesting story because it is a classic example of how Europe operated in the Middle Ages.

This German family deliberately went about acquiring various small political units.  Over time, the family parlayed them into a vast empire that would someday become the nation of Germany.

The Hohenzollerns got their start in the Burgraviate of Nuremberg, a state of the Holy Roman Empire from the early 12th to the late 15th centuries.  Nuremberg flourished due to its central location.  It became one great trade centers on the route from Italy to Northern Europe.

Count Frederick III of Zollern was a loyal retainer of the Holy Roman Emperors Frederick Barbarossa and Henry VI. In 1185 Count Frederick married Sophia of Raabs, the daughter of Conrad II, Burgrave of Nuremberg  (Burgrave: hereditary ruler of a German town).

When Conrad II died in 1192, he left no male heirs.  Frederick III, husband to Conrad's daughter, was granted the burgraviate of Nuremberg. He became Burgrave Frederick I of Nuremberg-Zollern. At this point the family name changed to Hohenzollern.

1192 in Nuremberg will be our starting point for the advance of the Hohenzollern dynasty.

After Frederick's death, his two sons partitioned the family lands between themselves.

The older brother, Frederick IV, received the county of Zollern and burgraviate of Nuremberg in 1200 from his father, thereby founding the Swabian branch of the House of Hohenzollerns.  The Swabian line remained Catholic and would fade into mediocrity, Meanwhile his brother's Franconian line would flourish.

The younger brother, Conrad III, received the burgraviate of Nuremberg from his older brother Frederick IV in 1218, thereby founding the Franconian branch of the House of Hohenzollern. The Franconian line would later convert to Protestantism.

Emperor Frederick II wished to develop Nuremberg to a dependable base.  Therefore in 1219 he bestowed a great charter of freedom upon the castle market. While Conrad took over the military protection of the town as a Burgrave, the citizens were able to attain an increasing autonomy in their internal affairs.

During his reign, Conrad would acquire the Rangau with Ansbach, significant parts of the Pegnitz valley and gained control over the most important trade routes to Nuremberg.  He successfully fought against the marauding knights and warded off the nobility.

Frederick III of Nuremberg (1220-1297) was the next Hohenzollern Burgrave of Nuremberg

In 1248 he received from the Counts of Andechs the region of Bayreuth by a so-called Meran's inheritance.

In 1273 Frederick III gave his deciding vote for his friend Rudolf of Habsburg on the election to the king of the Romans. As a reward, the King confirmed his position as a Burgrave and granted the rank of a Prince-Elector. At this time, Wunsiedel, Erlangen and Arzberg came into the possession of the House of Hohenzollern.

This was important. Frederick III had just become one of the Princes of Germany who were involved in electing the King.

Frederick IV (1287–1332) was notable for purchasing the town of Ansbach (1331), nucleus of the later Hohenzollern Principality of Ansbach established in 1398.

Frederick V (1333–1338) acquired the principality of Bayreuth.

John II (1309-1357) acquisition of the county of Kulmbach.  He purchased the contract of inheritance which became effective with the extinction of the present owners.

Frederick VI (1371–1440) became the first member of the House of Hohenzollern to rule the Margraviate of Brandenburg, one of the three most important duchies in the German area.

Hohenzollern Castle, ancestral home of the Hohenzollern family

Nuremburg was a town when the Hohenzollerns got their start.  It would eventually become a major city in south central Germany.

Today's Rhine-Main-Danube canal runs through the center of town.

Nuremburg and Bayreuth. The Hohenzollerns are off to a good start.

Brandenburg did not yet belong to the Hohenzollerns, but in 1411 they began governing this important territory.

So how did Frederick VI get this promotion?

Keep in mind that the King of Germany was an elected position.  The Hohenzollern family was one of the seven Prince Electorates who made the decision who would be the next king.

Early in his career, Frederick VI made a important friend in Sigismund, King of Hungary, when he fought in a major campaign.

Frederick VI

In 1410, the death of Rupert, King of the Germans, left the throne of the Holy Roman Empire vacant. Sigismund enlisted Frederick's help in obtaining the throne.

At the time, Jobst of Moravia ruled Brandenburg.  Therefore Jobst was one of the 7 prince-electors who had the right to vote for the new emperor.  Jobst opposed Sigismund's election to be king.

Jobst's death under suspicious circumstances in 1411 cleared the way for Sigismund's recovery of Brandenburg. Sigismund enjoyed an undisputed election as king of the empire later that year.

In gratitude for Frederick's services, King Sigismund immediately made him governor of Brandenburg.  Frederick fought with an iron hand against the rebellious nobility of the March of Brandenburg (in particular, the Quitzow family).  In the end, he restored security.

Frederick was rewarded for taming this important territory.  In 1415, King Sigismund granted Frederick the titles of Margrave and Prince-elector of Brandenburg. On 21 October 1415 the Brandenburg states meeting in a Landtag asked Frederick to rule in Berlin. The king awarded him the formal enfeoffment of the margravate on 18 April 1417.    (enfeoffment: deed by which a person is given land in exchange for a pledge of service).

Brandenburg was a giant acquisition for the Hohenzollern family.  Brandenburg was one of the premier duchies in the Kingdom of Germany. 

The Hohenzollerns had started small in Nuremburg back in 1192.  Now with the acquisition of Brandenburg in 1417, the Hohenzollern family had definitely reached the big leagues.


Old Prussia and the Teutonic Knights

The Teutonic Knights were a German medieval military order that was involved in the Holy Land Crusades.  It was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land by establishing way stations and hospitals. The military membership was always small, with volunteers and mercenaries augmenting the force as needed.

The Third Crusade (1189–1192), also known as the Kings' Crusade, was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin.  The Third Crusade featured an all-star lineup which included the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, King Richard I the Lionheart of England, and King Philip II of France as well as the Teutonic Knights.

The campaign was largely successful, capturing Acre, Jaffa, and reversing most of Saladin's conquests.  However, it failed to capture Jerusalem, which was the emotional and spiritual fixation of the Crusade.

After the Crusade concluded, the Teutonic Knights needed something to do.  At the time, Konrad of Masovia (Poland) was busy trying to conquer adjacent pagan lands in Prussia, an area in the Eastern Baltic.  Unfortunately, Konrad wasn't doing very well.

At the invitation of Konrad and with the blessings of the Holy Roman Emperor, the military order began a Northern Crusade in 1230.   Konrad and the Teutonic Knights launched a joint invasion of Prussia intended to Christianize the Baltic Old Prussians. The Teutonic Knights were encouraged by the Emperor's whispered suggestion that they could keep whatever they conquered. 

To make a long 50 year story short, the Teutonic Knights were spectacularly successful.  After conquering the area known as Prussia (see map), they told Konrad of Masovia to go take a hike, then settled down in their new territory.

Over the next 30 years (1230-1260), the Knights continued to expand their territory to the north, conquering areas such as Lithuania, Livonia (Latvia), and Estonia

Then the Knights spent the next 20 years subduing the populace and bending them to their will and ways. Fighting between the Knights and the Prussians was ferocious.  The conquest of Prussia was accomplished only with much bloodshed.  It was spread out over more than 50 years during which native Prussians who remained unbaptised were subjugated, killed, or exiled.

After 50 years of warfare and brutal conquest, the end result meant that most of the Prussian natives were either killed or were deported.  With the population decimated, the Teutonic Order encouraged the immigration of colonists from the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (mostly Germans, Flemish, and Dutch). The colonists included nobles, burghers, and peasants. Any surviving "Old Prussians" were gradually assimilated through a process called "Germanization".

Unfortunately the brutal Teutonic Knights were better at fighting than creating civilization.  They never made any real attempts to use diplomacy to create peace in the area.

Poland hated them, Russia hated them, Lithuania hated them, and their own citizens hated them.  A series of counter-attacks began. After the high point of 1260, each future war over the next two centuries cost them large chunks of territory. 

Keep in mind that these were military men.  They were better at killing than building.  They ruled through force, not through politics and compromise.  As the economic fortunes of their area declined, the Knights had trouble paying their bills and hiring new mercenaries to do their fighting. 

The Prussian Confederation was an organization formed in 1440 by a group of 53 nobles and clergy and 19 cities in Prussia to oppose the heavy taxation and poor leadership of the Teutonic Knights.  The revolt of the Prussian Confederation in 1454 enticed Poland to join the battle on their side. 

This began the Thirteen Years War (1454–1466).  The Teutonic Knights were the losers, the Poles were the winners.  Under the terms of the peace treaty, the Poles received extensive territory. 

Forty years later, Sigismund I (1467-1548) became King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1506. Sigismund would play a key role in the fortunes of Europe by strengthening the Habsburgs as well as the Hohenzollerns during his reign.  Any study of the Prussian-Austrian rivalry in the 1800s has to include this chapter.

Sigismund was having trouble enforcing the terms of 1466 peace treaty. The Teutonic Knights had been in a long power struggle with Poland over Prussia and now they were threatening another war to regain the lands lost in 1466. Sigismund knew the Teutonic Knights answered to only one authority, the Holy Roman Emperor.  So Sigismund swung a deal with HRE Emperor Maximilian. 

In return for Maximilian keeping the Teutonic Knights in line, Sigismund consented to the marriage of the children of Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary, his brother, to the grandchildren of Maximilian, a Habsburg.  Through this double marriage contract, Bohemia and Hungary would pass to the House of Habsburg in 1526, on the death of Sigismund's nephew, Louis II.  This was a huge break for the Habsburg dynasty. 

Sure enough, Sigismund regretted the deal from the moment he made it.  He was deeply worried about the growing ties between the Habsburgs and Russia, Poland's worst natural enemy. 

Meanwhile the Teutonic Knights' fortunes had steadily declined throughout the 15th century. They in turn hoped that by selecting a new leader connected by marriage to the ruling dynasty of Poland, they would strengthen their bargaining position and be able to get their lands back by diplomacy rather than war.

In 1511 the Teutonic Knights turned to Albert (1490-1568), a member of the Brandenburg-Ansbach branch of the House of Hohenzollern to become their new Grand Master. 

Albert's election as Grand Master worked wonders.  He was a skilled political administrator and leader.  Albert did indeed reverse the decline of the Teutonic Order.

Albert of Hohenzollern had been chosen specifically in the hope that his relationship to his maternal uncle, Sigismund, Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland, would facilitate a settlement of the disputes over eastern Prussia.

Albert, the new Grand Master, was completely loyal to his duties to the HRE and to the papacy.  Albert defied his uncle Sigismund and refused to submit to the crown of Poland.

In 1519, Poland declared war.  The Teutonic-Polish war went back and forth with neither side able to get an advantage.

Then something strange happened.  In 1521, the Ottoman Empire invaded Bohemia.  This was precious Habsburg territory!!The new Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, a Habsburg, demanded that the Teutonic Knights and Poles stop their hostilities and aid him instead in the defense of Europe against the infidels.

Both sides were Roman Catholic and theoretically under the control of the HRE.  Moreover they were both tired of a war that neither side was winning, so they agreed to an armistice.

Then something even stranger happened.  During the four-year truce, the Polish-Teutonic dispute had been referred to Emperor Charles V and other princes, but no settlement was reached.

Albert continued his efforts to obtain help in view of the inevitable end of the truce.  About this time, Albert realized he was very interested in this new Lutheran religion.  Eventually, in Wittenberg, Albert met none other than Martin Luther himself. 

Luther had a stunning idea. He suggested that Albert abandon the rules of his corrupt Teutonic Order.  Then he should convert Prussia into a hereditary duchy for himself, and make Prussia Protestant!!  Finally, Albert should marry and consolidate Prussia with the powerful Brandenburg nation-state. 

Once Albert was able to wrap his mind around the idea, he agreed it made sense. He resigned as Grand Master and converted to Lutheranism in 1525.  He then assumed the Prussian Homage from his uncle Sigismund I the Old, King of Poland. 

In return, Albert would receive the hereditary rights to the now-secularized Duchy of Prussia as a vassal of the Polish Crown.

Since the Teutonic Knights had worn out their welcome ages ago, everyone back in Prussia supported the move (other than the Knights, of course).  The Prussian diet embraced both the new Duke and Protestant Reformation to Lutheran faith.

The betrayal by Albert caught the Teutonic Order completely by surprise.  It was a bloodless coup.  Thanks to the clever suggestion of the crafty Martin Luther, Albert was able to oust the Teutonic Order without a war.  To raise even a sword invited the invasion of Poland as well as a mass uprising of their own people against them.  It was truly a master stroke.

The Teutonic Order quickly elected a new Grand Master who tried to fight the loss of power in the Prussian territories by political means, but it didn't do any good. They never regained influence.

The new arrangement was confirmed by the Treaty of Kraków in 1525.  Albert pledged a personal oath to his uncle King Sigismund. In return he was invested with the duchy for himself and his heirs.

1260: Highwater mark for Teutonic Knights.  Oddly enough, as the map shows, this territory is not adjacent to the vast Holy Empire.  Poland is inconveniently in the middle.  This would have interesting consequences 400 years later in 1701.

1466: Teutonic Knights have just lost the 13 Years War to Poland. Their territory is shrinking, their power is in decline.  The Knights have many enemies and no allies other than the Holy Roman Emperor.  This explains why they turned to "diplomacy" instead of their usual aggressive policies. 

Polish King Sigismund

Albert, a member of the Brandenburg-Ansbach Hohenzollerns, the man who became the first Duke of Prussia .

The Prussian Homage, 1525. 

Here Albert is pledging loyalty to his uncle King Sigismund of Poland.  In return, he becomes the first Duke of Prussia.  Prussia now becomes an ally and vassal state to Poland.

Albert's stunning betrayal of the Teutonic Knights, his employers, paved the way for the rise of Prussia, the rise of Hohenzollerns, and would open the door for Germany's Unification 300 years from now.

It was win-win for both sides. 

In return for Albert's help in getting rid of the hated Teutonic Knights, Sigismund had just handed the Hohenzollern family the keys to the entire Kingdom of Prussia!!

Albert's incredible move to obtain the Duchy of Prussia would pave the way for the rise of the House of Hohenzollern.  Furthermore, due to his renunciation of the Teutonic Order, Albert could now marry and produce legitimate heirs... which he did.

Albert is therefore seen as the father of the Prussian nation. He was indirectly responsible for the eventual unification of Germany.




Brandenburg-Prussia was the term used for the Brandenburgian Hohenzollern dynasty between 1618 and 1701.

After Albert's bold move to become the First Duke of Prussia in the 1525, the connection between the Brandenburg and Prussian territories was one of distant relatives.  The Hohenzollern family had grown so large there was one line ruling in Brandenburg and another line ruling in Prussia. 

It would take two more generations to bring the two territories under one roof.  Anna, granddaughter of Albert I and daughter of Prussian Duke Albert Frederick (reigned 1568–1618), married her cousin Prince Elector John Sigismund of Brandenburg.

This union paid immediate dividends.  One immediate benefit of the familial intermarriage between Anna and John Sigismund came the Treaty of Xanten

A dispute was settled in the Lower Rhine town of Xanten in 1614 between Wolfgang William, Duke of Palatinate-Neuburg and John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, with representatives from England and France serving as mediators.

The Treaty of Xanten ended the hostilities between Wolfgang William and John Sigismund. Based on the terms of the treaty, Wolfgang William received Jülich-Berg and Ravenstein.

In return, John Sigismund received the territories of


These territories were the first provinces at the Rhine and in Westphalia to be governed by the Hohenzollerns. They would become the oldest constituents of the future Prussian Rhineland and the future Province of Westphalia.

This was a prime example of how the Hohenzollerns were slowly putting the German jigsaw puzzle together.

Upon the death of Albert Frederick in 1618, who died without male heirs, John Sigismund was granted the right of succession to the Duchy of Prussia through Anna.

The next step had been in the planning for two generations.  The Prussian line of the family died off without a male heir in 1618.  No problem.  The main branch of the Hohenzollern family had been intermarrying with the branch ruling the Duchy of Prussia for the past 100 years.  The death of Albert Frederick allowed John Sigismund representing the main branch to secure succession in Prussia upon the extinction in the male line in 1618. 

From this time on, the Duchy of Prussia was now in personal union with the Margraviate of Brandenburg.  From this point on, the Elector of Brandenburg and the Duke of Prussia would be the same person.

The resulting state, known as Brandenburg-Prussia, consisted of geographically disconnected territories in Prussia, Brandenburg, and the Rhineland lands of Cleves and Mark (see map).

The House of Hohenzollern was definitely on the rise.  One by one, various territories were coming under Hohenzollern control. 

1618 also marked the start of the Thirty Years War.

Depending on one's point of view, the Thirty Years War was both devastating and incredibly helpful to the Hohenzollerns.

The Duchy of Brandenburg (which roughly correlates to East Germany and Berlin from the Cold War era) was the scene of much of the fighting. Both the Protestants and Roman Catholics wanted control of this valuable property. As a result Protestant and Catholic armies swept the land back and forth. 

The Elector would change hands three times, there was brutal killing, burning, seizing men and taking the food supplies. Upwards of half the population was dead or dislocated.  Berlin and the other major cities were in ruins. Recovery would take decades.

On the other hand, the 1648 Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years' War brought four new territories under Hohenzollern control.  Brandenburg gains in 1648:

Minden (1648)
Halberstadt (1648)
East Pomerania (incorporated in 1653)
Duchy of Magdeburg (incorporated in 1680).

These acquisitions during the second half of the 17th century laid the basis for Prussia to become one of the great players in European politics later on.

Another major factor in Prussia's rise was Frederick William (1620-1688).  Frederick William became the Elector of Brandenburg (and Prussia as well) in 1640 near the end of the Thirty Years War.  He was an extremely talented man.

It was Frederick William's job to get the devastated Brandenburg back on its feet at the conclusion of the war.

If one looks carefully, the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg can be seen bordering the giant Kingdom of Poland.

Meanwhile, "Germany" is nearly a complete vacuum occupied by 300 or so separate nation-states too small to be seen on the map.

John Sigismund (1523-1619), Prince-Elector of Brandenburg and the eighth Hohenzollern to rule over Prussia, but the first of his line to rule over Brandenburg and Prussia simultaneously. 

This map shows how widely scattered the Brandenburg-Prussia holdings were.  The properties stretched from the Rhine to Russia.  Berlin, the capital of Brandenburg, was 340 miles from Konigsberg, the capital of Prussia. 

Frederick William's first move was to open Brandenburg to large-scale immigration of mostly Protestant refugees from all across war-torn Europe.  This key maneuver helped to replenish the population in Brandenburg much more quickly.

Frederick William, known as "The Great Elector", took other measures as well. He started to centralize Brandenburg-Prussia's administration and reduce the influence of the separate estates existing within its borders.  In other words, someone had finally begun to consolidate the bits and pieces of Germany rather than divide further.

Frederick William was a military commander of wide renown, and his standing army would later become the model for the Prussian Army. He is notable for his joint victory with Swedish forces at the Battle of Warsaw (1656), which some say marked "the beginning of Prussian military history",

The emerging Brandenburg-Prussian military potential, based on the introduction of a standing army in 1653, was further responsible for widely noted victories at Fehrbellin (1675) and the Great Sleigh Drive (1678).

Frederick William was skilled in more ways than simply war. He saw the importance of trade and promoted it vigorously.  Indeed, his legacy is practically flawless. 

Everyone agrees his military build-up combined with shrewd domestic reforms gave Prussia a strong position in the post-Westphalia political order of north-central Europe, setting Prussia up for elevation from duchy to kingdom.


Frederick I Prussia

Frederick I (1657-1713) was the son of Frederick William.

Frederick succeeded his father in Prussia and Brandenburg upon his father's death in 1688.  He would be an effective ruler, but his time was unusually quiet. Although the Prussian army took part in several different campaigns to assist allies, there were no significant territorial gains during his 25 year reign.

Frederick was best known for a major upgrade in Prussian status. 

1701 was a big year for Prussia.  His father's victory in Warsaw back in 1656 had removed the "vassal" status. It meant Prussia was no longer under the control of Poland.  It was now a free state able to do whatever it wanted. 

In 1701 Frederick I decided it was time to take a step up. He wanted to declare himself King of Prussia.

Technically speaking, this was a no-no. According to Germanic law at that time, no kingdoms could exist within the Holy Roman Empire, with the exception of the Kingdom of Bohemia.

Frederick persuaded Leopold I, Archduke of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor, to allow Prussia to be elevated to a kingdom. 

Frederick's argued that since Prussia had never been part of the empire and the Hohenzollerns were fully sovereign over it, it could now be ruled as a "kingdom".

In return for Hohenzollern assistance in the War of the Spanish Succession and support for the Habsburg candidate in the subsequent election, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I gave in to Frederick's request on one condition. 

Leopold, a member of Habsburg family, would allow Frederick to crown himself "King in Prussia", but not "King of Prussia".  Frederick smiled.  Close enough.  Deal.

The net result of Leopold's move weakened further the authority of the emperor over the members of the Empire.  It compelled him to rely more and more upon his position as ruler of the Austrian archduchies and of Hungary and Bohemia.

As for Frederick, it marked the coming of age for the Hohenzollern dynasty.  The family was now stepping up in class.  Only the Habsburg family was more powerful.

As one can see, the paths of the Habsburgs and the Hohenzollerns were crossing with increasingly regularity. 

At this point, the Hohenzollerns were still loyal allies to the Habsburgs, but that would soon change.

Prussia was on the move.


1701 Coronation of Frederick I in Prussia's Königsberg Castle. 

Austrian-Prussian Rivalry

Under Louis IV, the fabled Sun King, France had become the leading power of Europe in the 17th century until his death in 1715.  However, under Louis V and Louis VI, France's power declined under weak leadership. 

It is no coincidence that Prussia's rise to power was aided by France's decline.  With France increasingly distracted by the rising power of its arch-enemy England, this gave Prussia a free hand to take on Austria over control of the Holy Roman Empire.

Now the stage was set for Austria and Prussia to begin its long-standing conflict and rivalry for supremacy in Central Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.  With Austria corresponding to Habsburg control and Prussia to Hohenzollern control, both families understood there were two major prizes.  The Polish territories seemed vulnerable and the grand prize were the 300 independent German-speaking political states up for grabs.

Which family and which country would get the lion's share?

This rivalry was termed German dualism in the German language area.  While wars were seen as part of the rivalry, it was also a race for prestige to be seen as the legitimate political force of the German-speaking peoples.

The Habsburg family was watching with amazement and alarm at the Hohenzollern progress.  The Hohenzollerns were gathering up small states at a regular clip.  For example, East Frisia, a small state located in the northwest corner of Germany near Hamburg, willingly gave up its independence to Prussia in 1744. 

The region was taken over by Prussia after the last Cirksena prince had died without issue. There was no resistance to this takeover since Prussia promised to honor the traditional autonomy of the Frisians.  It had all been arranged by contract beforehand. 

The Prussians preferred to use money, respect and negotiation wherever possible.  However, they didn't mind using their army as well.  The Prussians were born for military service.  More than likely, the 300 years of domination by the militaristic Teutonic Knights had left an indelible stamp on the people.

After Frederick I came Frederick William (1713–1740), a real nut case.  Biographer Jerome Blum wrote this about him:

Uncontrollably violent in temper, vulgar in speech and manner, scornful of education and culture, and so deeply pious that he considered theaters "temples of Satan."

He made a fetish of cleanliness, washing and grooming himself many times each day.

At the the same time, this royal neurotic was the most remarkable reformer of his dynasty....He was the real father of Prussian militarism and Prussian bureaucratic efficiency.

Frederick William, the austere "Soldier King", was the creator of the vaunted Prussian bureaucracy and the professional standing army. Under his careful eye, the Prussian military developed into one of the most powerful fighting forces in Europe. 

One statesman commented on the size of the army in relation to the total population by saying "Prussia is not a state with an army, but rather an army with a state".

Frederick William participated in the Great Northern War, a conflict between Sweden and Russia.  He was determined to gain the Oder estuary with its access to the Baltic Sea for the Brandenburgian core areas, which had been a state goal for centuries. 

Frederick William was rewarded for his efforts with the acquisition of Swedish Pomerania in 1720.

Frederick William is noted for one other thing.  He was the father of Prussia's Frederick the Great

Frederick William was determined to make his son become a fine soldier.  One never knows how to create genius in a child, but there can be no doubt Frederick William used some very strange techniques in raising his gifted child.

The Prussian lion circles the wary Austrian elephant.

Frederick William (1713-1740).

His son Frederick the Great would become one of the dominant leaders of the Eighteenth Century.

Frederick William acquired Swedish Pomerania in 1720

As a small child, young Fritz was awakened each morning by the firing of a cannon. At the age of 6, Fritz was given his own regiment of children to drill as cadets.  One year later, Fritz was given a miniature arsenal to play with.

Frederick William would frequently mistreat Fritz.  The father did this to force his son to learn how to be tough. Fritz was beaten for being thrown off a bolting horse and for wearing gloves in cold weather.  Nothing like tough love, right?

Not surprisingly, the child decided to rebel against his harsh treatment.  When the prince turned 18, he failed in his attempt to flee to England with his tutor.  The livid king nearly executed his son for "desertion".  Eventually the father decided a better punishment would be to force his son to watch the tutor be executed. Frederick fainted on the spot at the horror of seeing his closest friend decapitated.

Then the father had the prince court-martialed and thrown in jail for good measure.  Like we said, the man was a serious nut case.


Frederick the Great

Prince Frederick (1712-1786) was twenty-eight years of age when his father Frederick William I died.  Frederick acceded to the throne of Prussia in 1740.

Frederick was an interesting figure.  As a young man, he was far more interested in music, arts and philosophy than he was in world conquest.  Perhaps he disdained the military life due to his deep hatred of his cruel and authoritarian father. 

For example, the works of Niccolò Machiavelli, such as The Prince, were considered required reading for a future king in Frederick's age.  Frederick didn't care much for Machiavelli.  In 1739, Frederick finished his Anti-Machiavel, an idealistic refutation of Machiavelli's ideas.  Frederick published his thoughts anonymously in 1740, but Voltaire learned the truth and distributed it in Amsterdam to great popularity. 

Sadly, Frederick's years of dedication to the arts instead of politics ended upon the 1740 death of Frederick William and his inheritance of the Kingdom of Prussia.

That is when Frederick surprised everyone.  Considering he had just fashioned himself, the anti-Machiavelli, he wasted no time attacking Silesia 5 months after taking power.

It was Frederick's goal to unite his disconnected lands.  With this in mind, Frederick fought wars mainly against Austria, the power base of the Habsburg dynasty that had reigned as Holy Roman Emperors almost continuously from the 15th century until 1806.  Frederick was fortunate to catch Austria just as it had begun to decline.  Frederick would be able to establish Prussia as the fifth and smallest European great power by using all the resources his strange yet effective father had developed.

Silesia was a prized possession of Austria, the supposed ally of Prussia.  Just two years earlier Prussia and Austria had been allies in the War of Polish Succession (1733–1738).  However, that all changed Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor,  died on 20 October 1740.  His death meant his daughter Maria Theresa could conceivably become not only the reigning queen of Austria, but perhaps even the first female Holy Roman Emperor. 

A woman on the throne?  All of Europe was in an uproar.

While the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy was distracted by the firestorm of arguments over allowing "a woman" to take power, Frederick saw an opportunity to invade Silesia, the mineral-rich property adjacent to the border of Brandenburg. 

This territory, today a part of Poland, was located directly south of the Brandenburg.  Frederick feared that Poland was just as interested in adding this plumb territory to their kingdom as he was.  Control of Silesia would unite Saxony and Poland on Brandenburg's southern border. Frederick wasn't about to let that happen.  So he took everyone by surprise and launched a preemptive strike.

Austria mounted a creditable defense.  However, Austria was forced to retreat in 1741 when France suddenly attacked on a different front.  It was later learned that Frederick had made a secret pact with France to make this exact move.

Silesia was coveted by Poland as a way to connect to Saxony.  Frederick simply beat Poland to the punch.  Prussia pretty much "owned" Silesia as early as 1741, but Austria refused to give up trying to win the valuable territory back until 1763.

Frederick may have been only 28, but he was off to quite a start.

So what was going on here?  The great powers of Europe sensed the vast Austrian Empire was ripe for the pickings.  The Austrian Empire might have been large, but it was overextended. Austria did not have enough armies to defend all its territories. 

Furthermore Maria Theresa was perceived as a weak woman completely incapable of inspiring her military or comprehending strategy.

Frederick decided to test her immediately.  By coordinating with France ahead of time to march on Austrian borders at a key point, Frederick's trap worked like a charm. Austria was forced to recall its armies from Silesia to defend Vienna instead.  At this point, Frederick had no trouble taking Silesia.

Prussia's attack on Silesia was part of a much larger ongoing battle known as the War the Austrian Succession.  The Silesian Wars were a mere part of the larger international conflict known as the "War of the Austrian Succession" (1740-1748). It would take years of back and forth fighting, but in the end Prussia prevailed and retained its prize.  Maria Theresa ceded Silesia to Prussia in the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748).

The end of the war sparked the beginning of the German dualism between Prussia and Austria, which would ultimately fuel German nationalism and the drive to unify Germany as a single entity.

In a curious footnote to history, Frederick had once proposed asking Maria Theresa to marry him.  It would be interesting to know what she would have thought of this match.

As it turned out, Maria Theresa developed a powerful dislike for Frederick.  She had been obsessed with regaining Silesia, but Frederick had matched every one of her moves.

Here is an interesting letter sent from Count Podewils, the Prussian ambassador in Austria, to Frederick the Great at the conclusion of the Austrian Succession War.

"Maria Theresa has, as you well know, a terrible hatred for France, a nation with which it is most difficult for her to keep on good terms. 

However, she controls this passion except when she thinks to her advantage to display it.

She detests Your Majesty, but acknowledges your ability.  She cannot forget the loss of Silesia, nor her grief over the soldiers she lost in wars with you."

The empress had a long reign which spanned 40 years. Some historians have termed Maria Theresa as the savior of the Habsburg Dynasty. Her efforts to transform her empire into a modern state solidified the Habsburg rule. When she came to the throne, her state appeared on the brink of dismemberment.  Maria Theresa provided a strong foundation for the continuation of the Habsburg Dynasty into the modern era.


1756-1763: Seven Years War

The Seven Years War is sometimes described as the first World War because all the great powers of Europe squared off against each other and the United States of America was involved as well.

Essentially the Seven Years War continued the growing tensions between England and France as well as Prussia and Austria. 

Austria was still determined to get Silesia back.  Maria Theresa was able to form an imposing alliance of France, Austria, Sweden, and Russia against Prussia. The Russians and the Austrians were determined to reduce the power of Prussia, the new threat on their doorstep.  Along with France, plans were made for a 1756 attack on Prussia by Austria and Russia, subsidized by France.

Prussia's only real ally was England with its great navy, but England could not help much in any battles fought on the European continent.  This meant it was basically Prussia against the World.

In many ways, Prussia reminds us of famous warrior states.

Every young man born in Prussia knew he was destined for the military.  In that way, Prussia was very much like ancient Sparta.  However, a better parallel might be modern-day Israel.

Like Prussia, Israel is a small country surrounded on every side by fierce enemies and overwhelming numbers.  However, despite being heavily outnumbered, Israel is greatly feared thanks to its powerful military. 

Another thing Prussia and Israel have in common is a lot of guts.  Neither country is afraid to gamble.  For example, in a move highly reminiscent of Israel's pre-emptive strike on Egypt in the 1967 Six Days War, Frederick decided his best move was to attack first. 


Knowing full well that neighboring countries were conspiring against him, Frederick was determined to strike first. On 29 August 1756 Frederick's well-prepared army crossed the frontier and preemptively invaded Saxony.  He faced widespread criticism for his attack on neutral Saxony and for his forcible incorporation of the Saxony forces into the Prussian army after his successful occupation.


Frederick's successful campaign in Saxony once again established himself as Europe's premier general and his men as Europe's most accomplished soldiers. In spite of these successes, the Prussians were now facing the prospect of four major powers attacking on four fronts (France from the West, Austria from the South, Russia from the East and Sweden from the North). Meanwhile a combined force from a number of smaller German states such as Bavaria had been established under Austrian leadership, thus threatening Prussian control of Saxony. Things were looking very grim for Prussia at this time.


By this point Frederick had grown increasingly concerned about the Russian advance from the east and marched to counter it. On 25 August 1758, at the Battle of Zorndorf a Prussian army of 35,000 men under Frederick fought to a standstill a Russian army of 43,000.  Although both sides suffered heavy casualties and the Russians withdrew from the field in good order, Frederick claimed a victory.

In the undecided Battle of Tornow on 25 September, a Swedish army repulsed six assaults by a Prussian army, but did not push home an attempt to move on Berlin following the Battle of Fehrbellin.

During this back and forth year, Prussia was clearly tiring from being forced to battle on four fronts.


The year 1759 saw some severe Prussian defeats. At the Battle of Kay, the Russian Count Saltykov with 47,000 Russians defeated 26,000 Prussian troops commanded by General Carl Heinrich von Wedel.

Though the Hanoverians (a Prussian ally) defeated an army of 60,000 French at Minden, Austrian general Daun forced the surrender of an entire Prussian corps of 13,000 men in the Battle of Maxen.

Frederick himself lost half his army in the Battle of Kunersdorf, the worst defeat in his military career, and one that drove him to the brink of abdication and suicide. The disaster resulted partly from his misjudgment of the Russians, who had already demonstrated their strength at Zorndorf and at Gross-Jägersdorf.


1760 brought even more disasters to the Prussians. The Prussian general Fouqué was defeated in the Battle of Landshut. The French captured Marburg, and the Swedes part of Brandenburg-Prussian Pomerania.

The Hanoverians were victorious over the French at the Battle of Warburg, their continued success preventing France from sending troops to aid the Austrians against Prussia in the east. Despite this the Austrians, under the command of General Laudon captured Glatz (now Klodzko) in Silesia.

In the Battle of Liegnitz Frederick scored a victory despite being outnumbered three to one.

The Russians under General Saltykov and Austrians under General Lacy briefly occupied his capital, Berlin, in October. The end of that year saw Frederick once more victorious, defeating the able Daun in the Battle of Torgau, but he suffered heavy casualties and the Austrians retreated in good order.


Prussia began the 1761 campaign with just 100,000 available troops, many of them new recruits.

The Russians under Zakhar Chernyshev and Pyotr Rumyantsev stormed Kolberg in Pomerania, while the Austrians captured Schweidnitz. The loss of Kolberg cost Prussia its last port on the Baltic Sea. As the Prussian armies had dwindled to just 60,000 men, Frederick's survival was severely threatened.

January 1762 - The End is Near

In Britain, it was speculated that a total Prussian collapse was now imminent.  Britain now threatened to withdraw its subsidies if Prussia didn't seriously consider offering to make concessions to secure peace.

Truth be told, Frederick had clearly bitten off more than he could chew.

Facing a coalition which included Austria, France, Russia, Saxony, Sweden and several minor German states, over the next several years Frederick narrowly kept Prussia in the war.  By 1962, with his territories repeatedly invaded on all sides, Frederick assumed that this was the end.

On 6 January 1762, Frederick wrote to Count von Finckenstein,

"We ought now to think of preserving for my nephew, by way of negotiation, whatever fragments of my territory we can save from the avidity of my enemies"

In other words, Frederick was resolved to seek a soldier's death on the first opportunity.  Amazingly, one step from his last gasp, Frederick received the gift of a lifetime.

Without warning, the Russia Tsarina died.

The sudden death of Empress Elizabeth of Russia in January 1762, led to the succession of Peter III to the Russian throne.

The new tsar was a great admirer of Frederick and decidedly "pro-Prussian".  On his orders, Russia's attack on Prussia evaporated.  Now that Russia was gone, this event led to the collapse of the anti-Prussian coalition. 

As an interesting footnote, Peter III was Tsar for all of six months. Peter III was, shall we say, basically unfit for rule.  Indeed, his move to call off the war was extremely unpopular back in Russia.  The ruling class was fully aware that dangerous Prussia had been on the ropes.  They were horrified to see Russia let Prussia survive once it was cornered.  Put the stake through the vampire while you can.

Nope, too late. Prussia was safe thanks to this stroke of fortune known as the "Miracle of the House of Brandenburg".  Frederick was free to rise again.

This unconscionable mistake led to widespread resentment towards Peter back in Russia.

Noting just how unpopular the public sentiment was towards her husband, Peter's wife Catherine the Great persuaded her boyfriend at the time to eliminate the Tsar.  Peter's murder cleared her way to become the next Tsarina.  Isn't history interesting??

As for Frederick, although he did not gain any territory in the Seven Years War, he had survived to live another day.  Indeed, the performance of the Prussian military against all odds, his ability to retain Silesia, and his amazing series of cat-like escapes made  Frederick extremely popular throughout the countless German-speaking territories. 

Meanwhile Empress Maria Theresa looked on with astonishment.  Foiled again.  Maria Theresa would spend the rest of her life claiming Frederick was a wicked man with a bad heart who robbed Austria of Silesia and the alliance against him had been his own fault.

She was right of course.  Frederick clearly had a wicked streak.  But damn he was good.

Tsar Peter III


The Polish Partition

At the end of the Seven Years War (1763) Prussia was still scattered across Europe. 

Frederick is best remembered as a brilliant military strategist, but he was also a realistic statesman.  He believed creating alliances was necessary, as Prussia did not have the seemingly limitless resources of places like France or Austria.

Frederick understood that for Prussia to survive, he had to make deals.

Increasingly, all the talk in Europe revolved around the phrase "Balance of Power".

The idea was to distribute military defense pacts so that no one state was strong enough to dominate all others by itself.
If one state gained inordinate power, the theory predicted that it would use its strength to attack weaker neighbors.

Every nation understood that those who stood alone risked being conquered, so they made mutual defense alliances promising to come to each other's aid if attacked. This practice is said to have triggered the start of World War I.  But that's another story.

The gap separating Brandenburg from Prussia had been a source of irritation to Prussian rulers dating all the back to 1525 when Brandenburg first acquired Prussia.  Frederick had written it was his life's dream to obtain the land necessary to unite the separate territories. Once the Seven Years War was over, he intended to do something about it.

Two people who clearly did not like each other were Frederick and Catherine the Great. 

Frederick knew Empress Catherine II of Russia was staunchly opposed to Prussia.  She still couldn't believe her idiot husband had let Frederick off the hook. 

For that matter, Frederick opposed Russia as well. He remembered with chagrin how Russian troops had been allowed to freely cross the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Seven Years War to attack Prussian homeland. He hated the Russians and was desperate to obtain control of certain Polish lands that would guarantee greater national security from Russian attack.

One thing that has always amazed people about European politics is the ability of bitter enemies to occasionally work together despite their hatred.  For example, France's entry into the First Silesian War against Austria had effectively handed Silesia to Prussia.  Maria Theresa hated France to the bottom of her soul for their treachery.  And yet eight years later, guess who became allies?  You guessed it.  France and Austria decided to unite and gang up on Prussia in the Seven Years War

In a similar manner, despite their personal hostility, Frederick and Catherine had signed a defensive alliance in 1764.  This pact guaranteed Prussian control of Silesia in return for Prussian support for Russia against Austria or the Ottoman Empire.  Both countries were more worried about Austria and Turkey than each other.  Considering alliances like these changed at the blink of an eye, no country felt safe. The threat of a secret alliance like the Prussian-French trick in the First Silesian War kept statesmen awake at night with fear.

So maybe Russia and Prussia were allies at the moment, but Frederick kept a close eye on Russia nonetheless.  Russia had been a backwards nation lagging far behind the rest of Europe for centuries.  Now, thanks to a series of smart moves, under Catherine, Russia was just now beginning to flex its giant muscles. 

As a side note, Catherine the Great and Frederick the Great both clearly deserved the title of "Greatness".  What they did for their respective nations was incredible.  One can only wonder what these two gifted leaders living side by side could have accomplished if they had trusted each other enough to team up.  If so, a Texas boy like myself just might be speaking Russian now... or maybe German.

But let's get back to our story.  Now that his Kingdom was safe following the Seven Years War, Frederick pondered his next move.  Frederick couldn't take his eyes off Poland.  The territory was a sitting duck and Frederick had a good aim. 

Frederick wanted to find a way to annex the Polish territory that separated the two areas both to unite his divided kingdom and to provide more national security against any future Russian invasion.

Only one problem... what would Russia and Austria do if Prussia moved on Poland?

Prussia, Russia, and Austria all coveted the Polish lands that were there for there for the taking.  But before making a move, each country worried what the other two would do.  They stared at each other with fear and suspicion. Each country knew that any Polish land grab would be opposed by the other two powers.  No one wanted to risk provoking a two against one showdown.

So Frederick had a clever idea.  Why not simply divide Poland into three slices and each power take a slice?  That way they wouldn't have to go to war.  So, under pressure from Prussia, the three powers agreed on the First Partition of Poland (1772).

Doesn't it seem strange that Poland was so cooperative while being carved into three little pieces?   As it turns out, Poland had pretty much become a Russian protectorate over the past century.  Russia didn't "own" Poland, but it called all the shots.

Indeed, the current King... as well as the "Last King"... was Stanislaw Poniatowski.  Stan had been elected to the position by the Polish nobles in 1764 thanks to the support of Catherine the Great who "recommended him highly".

As it turns out, Catherine had a very high opinion of Stan for a special reason. About 20 years earlier they had been lovers.  Catherine had gotten Stan this job as a convenient way to end the affair.  So when the issue of the Polish Partition came up, all Catherine had to do was smile and Stan went right along with the deal. Poof! Polish independence went down the drain... which explains why Stan was the last king Poland ever had. 

In case you might be curious, Poland would not regain its independence until the end of World War I.  This took place when the allies ripped Poland away from Germany as one of many punishments for starting the war.

The annexation of Royal Prussia, aka West Prussia, in 1772 accomplished Frederick's long-held desire to link Brandenburg to Prussia.

The annexation of Royal Prussia in 1772 would mark Frederick's final land acquisition.

Frederick had every reason to smile.  He had finally accomplished his lifelong dream and had even managed to do it without bloodshed.  Even better, as one can see from the map, Royal Prussia was a giant piece of property obtained basically "for free".

This brilliant move was yet another reason why Frederick was widely admired... or greatly feared... throughout Europe.  Frederick had not only put Prussia on the map for good, the country was now united and perfectly positioned to expand in any direction it wanted to go.

Frederick's military victories and land acquisitions were not his only triumphs.  Once the Seven Years War ended, Frederick was free to attend to matters of state.  He helped transform Prussia from a European backwater to an economically strong and politically reformed state. His conquest of Silesia gave Prussia's fledgling industries access to raw materials. He protected industries with high tariffs and minimal restrictions on domestic trade.  He promoted an advanced secondary education, the forerunner of today's German grammar school system, which prepares the brightest pupils for university studies. He made it possible for men not of noble stock to use education to become judges and senior bureaucrats. He modernized the Prussian bureaucracy and civil service and promoted religious tolerance throughout his realm. He reformed the judicial system and abolished most uses of judicial torture.  It is said that Prussian justice became the most prompt and efficient in Europe.

In other words, Frederick's 46 year career as King of Prussia was a remarkable one by practically any measure.

But he left a strange legacy behind.  Frederick had an intense dislike of the Polish people and the Jews.  Nor did he keep his opinions to himself.  Frederick had despised Polish people since his youth.  Numerous statements are recorded in which he expressed his anti-Polish prejudice, calling Polish society "stupid" and stating that "all these people with surnames ending with "-ski" deserve only contempt".

He described Poles as "slovenly Polish trash". Once Prussia acquired its Royal Prussia territory from Poland, Frederick made life miserable for Poles living in that area.  Frederick invited thousands of German immigrants to the province, openly expressing the hope they would displace the Poles permanently.  One can only wonder if Frederick ever pondered more serious measures.  Hmm.  Doesn't that remind us of someone? 

Yes, it does.  It doesn't take much of an imagination to see why Frederick was Adolph Hitler's personal hero.  Adolph Hitler obviously studied Frederick the Great's career very carefully. Indeed, Hitler was quoted as saying, "Despite all Napoleon's genius, Frederick the Great was the most outstanding man of the eighteenth century." 

Hitler would spend his entire life hoping to be "the next Frederick". 

Hitler's desire to create the Master Race parallels Frederick's disdain for the impurities caused by the Poles and Jews in a highly disturbing way. 

Hitler's desire to unite all the Germanic people by whatever means necessary seems identical to Frederick's similar goals. 

In fact, some historians have pointed out that Hitler's refusal to surrender when all hope was gone may have been rooted in his belief that some miracle rescue would come along in the same manner as Frederick's "Brandenburg Miracle". 

Today Frederick is regarded as one of the great geniuses of military history.

He and Napoleon are clearly the most admired military leaders studied in the well-regarded military treatise On War written by Clausewitz. 

Clausewitz praised Frederick's use of the oblique order to attack numerically superior forces plus Frederick's quick and skillful movement of the Prussian troops.

Frederick had other strengths as well. He was brilliant at preventing the unification of numerically superior opposing armies.  He had a keen ability to arrive at the right place at the right time to keep enemy armies out of vital Prussian territory at the last moment.

As the map indicates, following Prussia's conquest of Silesia, Brandenburg-Prussia territories were scattered across Europe in seven different places.

A quick glance at the map reveals Prussia had nowhere near the land resources of countries like France, Russia, Spain and Austria. 

Even with Silesia, Prussia was small in comparison to the great powers of Europe.  This means Frederick's accomplishments were even more impressive considering that Prussia had such a size disadvantage. 

Silesia was Frederick's greatest triumph, but he wanted more. Note that the Prussian territory was divided into seven different segments in 1748. Frederick wanted to unite all those pieces, but he was determined to begin by uniting Prussia and Brandenburg. That meant that sooner or later Poland was in trouble.

This fact alone makes one realize Frederick was taking quite a chance taking on much larger enemies such as Austria, Russia and Poland.  This guy was willing to roll the dice.

Frederick wasn't just a smart man, he was also a brave man. He frequently led his military forces personally. Over time, he had six horses shot from under him during battle. 

His courage, his intelligence, and his statesmanship are testimony to his greatness.  To accomplish what he did with so little explains why history has been kind to Frederick. 

Napoleon Bonaparte was 17 when Frederick died.  Napoleon studied Frederick closely and became a great admirer of Frederick.  Bonaparte viewed the Prussian king as the greatest tactical genius of all time.

After Napoleon's victory of the Fourth Coalition in 1807, he visited Frederick's tomb in Potsdam he remarked to his officers, "Gentlemen, if this man was still alive, I would not be here".

A very fitting tribute indeed. 


Prussia After Frederick

Following Frederick's death in 1786, Poland proved to be the gift that kept on giving. 

After the First Partitions took place in 1772, the Poles living in the Russian sector were miserable. 

Emboldened by the 1789 French Revolution, they attempted to regroup and try to win back their freedom from Russia.  However, they knew Russia would likely intervene, so they recruited their next door neighbor Prussia to be their ally.

The Polish-Prussian Pact of 1790 was signed, giving hope that the Polish Commonwealth had found a powerful ally that would shield it from Russia while the country reorganized.

Empress Catherine was clearly angered at this bold move.  How dare Poland try to do anything without Russia's permission!!

Arguing that this upstart Poland had fallen prey to the "dangerous ideas" emanating from France, Catherine ordered Russian forces to invade the Commonwealth in 1792.

And what about Poland's formidable ally?  Well, mighty Prussia took one look at the Russian forces moving in to Poland and stepped back.  Poland was on its own.  Poor Poland.  They had chosen the wrong country to be their ally. 

Obviously Poland's rebellion folded like a wet rag.  But then Prussia did something interesting.  Just as the Russian forces were ready to withdraw, Prussia asked Russia for more territory as "compensation" for not lifting a finger in Poland's defense.

Catherine the Great was astonished at Prussia's nerve to expect territory in return for doing nothing.  But then she shrugged.  Why not?  This was an excuse for Russia to "legally" annex more Polish territory, so she threw Prussia a bone to shut them up.

And what a bone it was. In 1793 Prussia received Posen, a gigantic slice of territory given in return for doing absolutely nothing other than betray its ally and stick out its hand.

The annexation of Posen in 1793 linked Royal Prussia in the north to Silesia in the south.

This would be the only clever move ever made by Frederick William II, Frederick's successor.

A likely homosexual, Frederick the Great had left no heirs.  What a shame, because his nephew Frederick William II definitely took his eye off the ball.  Pleasure-loving and indolent, he is seen as the complete antithesis to his illustrious predecessor.

Fred was a lover, not a fighter.  Fred hated all things military and turned all war details over to the officers the moment he was crowned in 1786.  At this point, the once vaunted Prussian army began to slack off.  Not one notable victory took place during Fred's reign of womanizing.

Yes, Frederick William II had a definite weakness for women.  In addition to fathering seven children by his second wife Frederica, he spend considerable time with his lovely mistress Wilhelmine, by whom he fathered five more children.  In addition, he fathered yet seven more children with two other mistresses.  That makes 19 children if anyone is counting. One has to wonder if Fred knew all their names.

When Fred wasn't in the arms of his wife or his endless string of mistresses, he could be found practicing the cello and playing Mozart tunes with his beloved private orchestra. 

How this man found time to attend to the affairs of state is a good question.  The answer is a simple one. Fred didn't pay much attention to anything other than women and song.

In the end, other than his potent sperm, it could be said Fred had only one real talent - he was a master at being unfaithful.  Ironically, this proved to be his secret weapon in politics as well.  Fred's only positive accomplishment - acquiring Posen - came to Prussia through betrayal.  Let's hear it for the cheater! 

Frederick William III

After Fred the Dread, the next batter up was Frederick William III (1770 - 1840).  He was king of Prussia from 1797 to 1840.  Unlike his father, Frederick William III was a good man.

He was a melancholy boy, and with good reason.  He was completely ignored by his parents.  His father was far too busy chasing mistresses up and down the halls of the palace to pay attention to his son, so Frederick was raised by tutors.  Disgusted by what he saw, young Frederick grew up pious and honest.

Frederick William III received the usual extensive military training expected of a Prussian prince.  In 1793, Frederick William married Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who bore him ten children.  From his palace in Berlin, Frederick William lived a civil life with a problem-free marriage. His wife Luise was particularly loved by the Prussian people, which boosted the popularity of the whole House of Hohenzollern, including the King himself.

Frederick William succeeded to the throne in 1797.  Disgusted with the moral debauchery of his father's court (in both political intrigues and sexual affairs), Frederick William's first endeavor was to restore morality and dignity to his dynasty.

The new King showed that he was earnest about his good intentions.  He reduced the expenses of the royal establishment, dismissed his father's ministers, and reformed the most oppressive abuses of the late regime.

Although Frederick William tried very hard to be a good king, he was unlucky in three ways.

First, his father's deadbeat reign had seen the vaunted Prussian military lose its pride.

Second, he lacked genuine talent. He had the Hohenzollern determination to retain personal power but not the Hohenzollern genius for using it. Too distrustful to delegate responsibility to his ministers, he lacked the will to strike out and follow a consistent course for himself.  Instead of acting, he reacted.  Unfortunately this made him a step too slow to succeed.

His final stroke of bad luck was being the guy in charge when Napoleon came knocking.

Wilhelmine was described as smart, ambitious, and voluptuous.  Too bad she wasn't running Prussia. 

Frederick William III


As 1800 loomed, Germany was now the great prize.  It was a vast, rich territory that was so horribly divided that it was practically begging to be invaded by someone.  Considering there was no central leadership to coordinate any effective resistance, Germany was ripe for the picking.  Napoleon walked through Germany like it wasn't even there.

With Napoleon sweeping through defenseless, divided Germany, he knocked off one small territory after another like bowling pins. Now Prussia decided to take a turn at trying to stop the Sicilian menace.

So who would you rather have leading your army against Napoleon, one of the greatest warriors of history?  Would you rather have an evil genius like Frederick the Great or a pious, decent church man like Frederick William III? 

Docile and slow to recognize the growing French threat, Frederick's decision to go to war ended in national humiliation. On 14 October 1806, at the Battle of Jena-Auerstädt, Napoleon rolled through Frederick's Prussian army like it wasn't even there.

Thanks to the total collapse of the once-proud Prussian army, the royal family fled to Memel, East Prussia, where they fell on the mercy of Emperor Alexander I of Russia to protect them.

Alexander, too, would soon suffer defeat at the hands of the French.  In 1807 at Tilsit, Poland, on the Niemen, France made peace with Russia and Prussia.

Napoleon dealt with Prussia very harshly, despite the pregnant Queen's personal interview with the French emperor.  Prussia lost many of its Polish territories, as well as all territory west of the Elbe.  Plus it had to finance a large indemnity and pay for French troops to occupy key strong points within the Kingdom.

Furthermore, Prussian troops were forced to fight for Napoleon in his next campaign against Russia.  Each time he defeated a country, Napoleon ordered the country to contribute men to his army. Then Napoleon would go against the next country twice as strong.

By the time Napoleon reached Russia, he had completely shattered the European balance of power that had kept the various countries in check for centuries.  His Grande Armée had grown to preposterous dimensions; his force of 600,000 men consisted of troops not just from France, but troops from Prussia, Italy, Germany, and Austria as well.

Russia's army was terribly outnumbered. It was one single country - Russia - against men from five countries with Napoleon leading them.

What betting man would have given Russia any chance at all?

Amazingly enough, Napoleon had made the worst mistake of his life trying to attack Russia. 

Russian forces almost never engaged Napoleon in direct battle.  Instead, their armies retreated and retreated, burning all food supplies in the process.

Countless Russian peasants died of starvation, but Napoleon's men were now running low on supplies. 

Napoleon understood the danger he was in, but he believed he would find food in Moscow.  So he kept on going deeper into Russia.  Finally he reached Moscow.  That's when the Russians decided to burn Moscow to the ground. Who burns their own capital? Napoleon never saw that one coming.  Checkmate.

Napoleon was forced to retreat in dead of the Russian winter.  Starvation and bitter cold killed countless men.  Cossacks raiding his flanks at every turn did the rest. By the time Napoleon finally reached safety in Poland, his numbers had dwindled to 100,000.

The events of Napoleon's 1812 march on Moscow is one of the most fascinating stories in all military history. If you are curious, Road to Moscow.

Napoleon at Jena-Austerlitz, 1806

The long road home to France after the Russians burned Moscow.


1801 Treaty of Lunéville

Ironically, Napoleon, Prussia's greatest enemy, inadvertently did more to advance German Unification than any other person since Charlemagne.

During the French Revolution, a process had begun whereby the hated nobility was attacked in every way possible.  Some lost their heads, some lost their lands, many lost both. Almost all the lands owned by the French nobles were confiscated and given to the State of France. In addition, many of the lands owned by the Catholic Church were taken as well. 

However, not all the stolen property belonged to the French nobles.  As it turned out, many of the confiscated lands belonged to German princes living east of the Rhine.  They demanded to be compensated.  After all, they owned the hereditary title to the land. 

There was no way France or Napoleon was going to give these properties back.  Once Napoleon came to power, he wanted it understood that these territories PERMANENTLY belonged to France.  But he acknowledged the German princes had a rightful claim that might come back to haunt France down the road.

After consolidating his own position in France, Napoleon chose to expand France's domain.  Shortly before 1800, he began to attack the Habsburg Empire... or Austria... or the Holy Roman Empire... whatever you want to call it.

Napoleon won battle after after battle.   After particularly stinging defeats in Italy (Marengo 1800) and Bavaria (Hohenlinden 1800), Austria/HRE/Habsburg was down on its knees and begging for peace.

With the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801, French Napoleon made out like a bandit. He had the Holy Roman Empire sign over all German territories left of the Rhine River.

Another clause in the Treaty of Lunéville acknowledged these territories had once belonged to various German princes, who now deserved to be compensated.

Holy Roman Emperor Francis II was obliged to say he agreed France now owned all those lands west of the Rhine and that the compensation process was legal.

So what did all this mean??

It meant that France agreed these men were owed compensation, but the Holy Roman Empire was put in charge of paying the debt.  In other words, the Holy Roman Empire was being forced to reward the German princes not France!

So where was this "compensation" land supposed to come from? 

The Catholic Church was about to be stripped bare through a process known as Secularization whereby the secular lands held by an ecclesiastical ruler such as a bishop or an abbot to a secular ruler were redistributed.

To satisfy the terms of the Treaty of Lunéville, The Holy Roman Emperor had little choice but to take possessions owned by the Church and give them to the German princes instead.

Mediatization was another means of compensation. Here the Emperor allowed many smaller German states to be annexed by larger German states. 

What utter chaos. Overnight an incredible amount of money, stuff, citizens, and territory (most of which had belonged to the church) began to change hands.

The outcome was the most extensive redistribution of property in German history before 1945. The rationale had been to compensate those rulers who had lost territory to France, but through quirks in the system, considerably more territory was gained through massive secularization.

For example, Baden received over 7 times as much territory as it had lost, Prussia nearly 5 times. Hanover gained the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück, even though it had lost nothing.  In other words, in trying to keep favor with the German princes, his power base, the Emperor gave up more church land than was probably necessary.

With every winner there has to be a loser.  The big loser was the Catholic Church which saw its vast land holdings in France and Germany vanish before its very eyes.

At this point, the position of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany was nearly destroyed.  A major consequence of the redistribution and redrawn boundaries essentially was the breakup of the Holy Roman Empire.

This situation amused Voltaire to sarcastically remark the HRE was "neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire".

Another consequence of the Peace of Lunéville was the hugely weakened the Austrian position within Germany. In order to make up for the loss of the west bank of the Rhine, Francis II, the Holy Roman Emperor, was forced to secularize ecclesiastical lands on the east bank.

This move lost him support in the Imperial Diet still loyal to the Church, handing the initiative in Germany to Prussia.

Prior to 1806, German-speaking Central Europe included more than 300 political entities, most of them part of the Holy Roman Empire or the extensive Habsburg hereditary dominions.  They ranged in size from small and complex territories of the princely Hohenlohe family branches to sizable, well-defined territories such as the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Kingdom of Prussia.

Their governance varied: they included free imperial cities, also of different sizes, ecclesiastical territories, also of varying sizes and influence, and dynastic states such as Württemberg.

These lands made up the territory of the Holy Roman Empire, which at times in the past had included more than 1,000 entities.  While it is true that total had dwindled over time, as recently as the eve of the French Revolution, Germany's status was still in deep disarray. It consisted of well over 250 self-governing states and 50 or so "free and imperial cities" that self-ruled.

Once the land grab began, the larger states gobbled up the smaller entities within them like a giant Pac-Man and absorbed them into one united territory. 

When the smoke had cleared, Germany had gone from approximately 300 political units down to 39.

As this story has made clear, while  kingdoms such as England, France, and Spain had become more centralized under one hereditary monarch over the past 1,000 years, Germany, i.e. the Holy Roman Empire, was a direct contradiction. Not once had this part of Europe come close to coalescing into a centralized entity.

This impasse had been caused by the tentacles of interference spread throughout Germany emanating from Rome.  Now that the presence of the Church had been obliterated, the coast was finally cleared for progress.

And to think that it took a monster like Napoleon to start the ball rolling.  Wonders never cease.

It is now 1801. Here is the new map of the Holy Roman Empire based on the terms of Lunéville. It was created at the rise of Napoleonic France.  The Rhine River formed most of the eastern border of French territories. 

Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg would gain independence from France in 1815 after Waterloo, but the borders on this map still exist today. 

Ecclesiastical lands of the Holy Roman Empire on the eve of secularization.  Those purple lands would now become the property of German Princes.

Another look at the mishmash of Germany.  Up at the top, look for Hanover in yellow.  During the 1801 land grab, Hanover absorbed Osnabruck.  This was an example of how the German map was becoming more simplified.



King Frederick Wilhelm III made a complete fool of himself during the Napoleonic Wars. 

First, Prussia twiddled its fingers for 10 years (1795-1805) while Napoleon gained momentum.  Napoleon was quite gifted at playing the European powers against each other.  Using promises and threats, he effectively persuaded and intimidated Prussia into doing nothing until it was too late. 

In fact, the Russian Tsar had visited the Prussian king in Potsdam. The two monarchs secretly swore to make common cause against Napoleon.

Had Prussian forces been engaged against the French in 1805, this might have contained Napoleon and prevented the eventual Allied disaster at Austerlitz

In any event, Prussia vacillated in the face of the swift French invasion of Austria and then hastily professed neutrality once the Third Coalition was crushed.

It is sad to think Napoleon could have been stopped ten years prior to his eventual defeat in 1815 at Waterloo had Prussia joined in at the right time.

After Austerlitz, Frederick Wilhelm III compounded his error by declaring war on France.  Influenced by his wife Queen Louise and the war party in Berlin, in August 1806 Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm III made the decision to go to war independent of any other great power, save the distant Russia.  To go it alone was sheer insanity!

Napoleon could scarcely believe Prussia would be so foolish to take him on in a straight fight with hardly any allies at hand on its side, especially since most of his Grande Armée was still in the heart of Germany close to the Prussian border.

Napoleon crushed the Prussian army effortlessly in the 1806 Battle of Jena.

Prussia paid a heavy price for its foolish impertinence. The king was obliged to pay a large indemnity, forced to cap his army at 42,000 men, and forced to allow French troops to be garrisoned throughout Prussia.

Napoleon had succeeded in turning Prussia into a French satellite, a condition that lasted for six long years. 

It was only through Napoleon's colossal blunder in 1812 that Prussia got back into the war.  Seeing Napoleon race through Prussian territory back to France in a panic after his Russian collapse, Prussia decided to chase him all the way back to France.

From France, Napoleon regained his strength and prepared to take on all comers.  Up till now, all the nations were terrified to take him on again.  However, once his mantle of invincibility was stripped away by the Russian debacle, the major powers of Europe decided it was time to put the man down.

The 1813 Battle of Leipzig was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden led by the Russian Czar Alexander I against the French army of Napoleon I at Leipzig, Saxony. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle marked the culmination of the autumn campaign of  during the German campaign and involved over 600,000 soldiers, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.

Being decisively defeated for the first time in battle, Napoleon was compelled to return to France while the Allies hurried to keep their momentum, invading France early the next year. Napoleon was forced to abdicate and was exiled to Elba in May 1814.

However, Napoleon would escape from Elba and return to rearm France. The Prussian troops would play a pivotal role in the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo fought in Belgium on June 18, 1815. 

Following his daring escape from Elba, Napoleon faced tough odds.  Four major enemies had just declared war on him.

Having no choice but to fight, Napoleon began to study his maps.  He felt his best hope for victory was to strike at the nearest Allied armies, those of England’s Arthur Wellesley, better known as the Duke of Wellington, and Marshall Blücher of Prussia.

As usual, France was outnumbered 70,000 to the combined British-Prussian 120,000.  Fortunately, these Allied armies were strung out across Belgium. 

Napoleon correctly reasoned that he had time to sweep aside the two armies one at a time before turning to face the slowly advancing armies of Russia and Austria-Hungary.   As long as Napoleon could face one army at a time, he was tough to beat.

Indeed, Napoleon seemed well on his way to making his plan a success.  On June 16, he sent his "A Team" up against Wellington and his "B Team" up against Blücher.

Having endured French occupation for six years, this particular Prussian army was a shadow of their previous greatness under Frederick.  Napoleon knew full well that despite their impressive size, this force posed only a mild threat. 

Indeed, Napoleon sent his second string up against the Prussians at Ligny and smiled as they handled the battle without difficultly.

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher was the Prussian general during his army's serious defeat at Ligny.  In the middle of the battle, the old field marshal (72) had his horse shot out from under him. 

He lay trapped under his dead horse for several hours and was nearly trampled to death by his own cavalry rushing to battle. His life was narrowly saved thanks to the devotion of his aide-de-camp, Count Nostitz.

Blücher was unable to resume command for some hours. After bathing his wounds in brandy, and fortified by liberal internal application of the same, Blücher rejoined his army. However, by the time he returned, the battle was long over. 

Fortunately, August Neidhardt von Gneisenau, his talented second-in-command, had rallied his troops enough to keep the army from total defeat.

Napoleon was long gone. He had turned his complete attention to Wellington and the British.  In a way, the defeat of the Prussians may have been too easy. 

Napoleon's men had badly mauled the Prussians, yet he didn’t follow up the victory with his customary speed and determination.

Napoleon defeats Austria and Russia at Austerlitz, December 2, 1805

The French Army marches through Berlin in 1806 following its defeat of Prussia in the Battle of Jena. 

The Battle of Leipzig, October 1813, a source of major pride to Prussia as their army played a major role in Napoleon's defeat on German soil.

The Showdown at Waterloo, June 18, 1815

The failed charge of the French cavalry against the British Square

A picture of the Prussian attack on Plancenoit, the intervention that distracted Napoleon long enough to save the day for Wellington's army.

Why not?

Napoleon was so worried about Wellington that he failed to finish the Prussians off so he could begin pursuing the British instead.

Napoleon assumed that the badly beaten Prussians would simply slink back to Germany and lick their wounds.  As a result, he missed a golden opportunity to destroy the Prussian army completely.

Napoleon did leave a force behind to keep an eye on the Prussians, but somehow the French lost track of the Prussian movements.

For his part, Wellington was nearly beaten in a preliminary skirmish at Quatre Bras and was forced to retreat. 

Having narrowly missed defeat at Quatre Blas, Wellington knew there was a good chance his army was overmatched. However, if Blücher could reinforce him, he was willing to risk another battle with Napoleon.

The problem was that Blücher was so far away, Wellington had no certainty that a messenger could get to him in time.  By sticking around to wait for Napoleon,  Wellington was making a huge gamble.

Meanwhile, in the Prussian camp, Gneisenau, the second in command, feared that the British had reneged on their earlier agreements.  Noting the low morale of the troops, Gneisenau vehemently favored a withdrawal.  There was no way these men had the confidence to go back into battle so quickly.  At the first sign of defeat, surely the Prussian army could easily fold.

This, of course, was exactly the attitude Napoleon had hoped for.  However, Blücher wasn't going to give up that easily.  Once he received Wellington's message imploring him to stay and fight, Blücher sent back word that he was sending two Corps to join Wellington at Waterloo.

The actual battle itself carried an enormous element of suspense regarding Blücher. 

In the case of Waterloo, it is highly likely that Wellington would not have accepted battle had he not believed Blücher was on the way.  Whenever asked, Wellington would always say he knew the Prussians would show.  However, Wellington was clearly worried about the Prussians.  Something told him that it was dangerous to depend on their army. 

To hedge his bet, Wellington deliberately posted 17,000 men well to the west to cover a retreat to the coast if necessary.

Many have criticized Wellington for wasting these troops, but had Blücher not arrived and Wellington had been forced to retire, these 17,000 men were there to save his army from complete destruction. Analysts note this move shows that Wellington had misgivings that Blücher wouldn’t show.

Sure enough, the battle started and there was no Blücher.  Wellington expected the man to arrive much earlier in the day. He was clearly worried because onlookers noted he was constantly looking to his left flank, trying to see any sign of the Prussians appearing from the trees.

Meanwhile the Prussian Chief of Staff, Gneisenau, didn’t trust the English and the way he ordered the Prussians to advance meant they would do so at a leisurely pace.

Historians have suggested this pace was deliberate for a reason.  This way, if the English were on the verge of defeat, the Prussians wouldn’t be fully committed and could retreat in safety.  However, if the English did stay and fight, the Prussians would, sooner or later, arrive.

As the day continued, Wellington was growing more and more concerned.  The battle hung in the balance.  Neither side had a decided advantage.  Wellington was certain that if the damn Prussians would just show up, he could turn the battle in England's favor.

Late in the day, Wellington was heard to mutter his famous words, "Give me night or give me Blücher". 

In other words, Wellington had waited so long for the Prussians, he could no longer disengage safely.  But his men were tiring and seemingly on the verge of breaking.  He had to stay and hope the Prussians arrived. If he ran now, his army would cut to pieces during their retreat and be utterly destroyed.

If the Prussians failed to show, then nightfall was their last hope to avoid defeat. 

Suddenly, the Prussians did appear and they immediately went to work. It was about 6 pm and the Prussians were growing stronger on his right flank.

Napoleon ordered Marshall Ney to capture La Haye Saint at any cost.  Ney put together a proper attack with infantry, artillery and cavalry, and he finally drove the British out of La Haye Saint because the British defenders ran out of ammunition.

Ney then moved up a battery of artillery. Now Wellington’s centre came under direct cannon fire. The crisis of the Battle of Waterloo had been reached. The next few minutes would determine a winner and loser.

Wellington’s nerve was stretched to its limit and he called for all his troops to make a last stand in the center. He prayed the Prussians would hurry.

As for Ney, he knew the English could be beaten right now if he had more men. He appealed to Napoleon to give him the Old Guard. Now was the time for the Guard to bring victory.

Amazingly, Napoleon blinked. Had he followed Ney's advice, the French indeed had a critical opportunity.  Having, Napoleon appeared so preoccupied with the Prussians that he couldn’t recognize this moment as being the crucial moment in the battle.

Instead Napoleon decided to take care of the Prussians and solidify his right flank.  Half an hour later, his right flank was stable.  Now Napoleon finally turned his attention to Wellington’s center and finally ordered the Guard to make its assault.

But it was a half hour too late. No one can give a general of Wellington’s quality that kind of time to recover. The British center was now strong enough to hold and defeat the Guard.

Historians give Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington,  enormous credit for standing toe to toe with one of the greatest military strategists of all time.  However, Wellesley was no slouch himself.  He won every campaign he ever participated in and never lost a major battle.  His overall battle record was 32 victories, 6 defeats, and 8 indecisive results.  Wellesley would go on to twice become Great Britain's Prime Minister.

However, no matter how great Wellington's performance was at Waterloo, Blücher’s arrival was clearly the turning point.  His appearance demonstrated the great honor of this aging Prussian warrior.  Blücher may have lacked tactical genius, but he had a charisma to lead his troops to great feats of courage.

With the battle hanging in the balance Blücher's army had intervened with decisive and crushing effect. His vanguard drew off Napoleon's badly needed reserves at the most critical moment in the entire day.

The Prussian intervention had saved the day. Europe was finally safe from the Sicilian monster.  From the German perspective, the actions of Blücher's troops at Waterloo became a rallying point of pride and enthusiasm.

Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, the great Prussian hero

Napoleon Bonaparte.

Love him or hate him, there is no doubt he was a genius.

A picture of Wellington and Blücher embracing after the battle.
No doubt that Wellington is whispering, "What took you so long?"


1815 Congress of Vienna

Improbable and absurd as it may seem, Prussia emerged from the Napoleonic Wars as the dominant power in Germany.

Prussia had done practically nothing to stop Napoleon.  Their main strategy was to avoid confronting him at all costs.  Then by losing to him quickly at Jena, Prussia was able to avoid being devastated by allowing the French to occupy their country for 6 years.

Prussia's King Frederick Wilhelm III was considered one of the least talented rulers in Europe.  The whispers suggested his wife Queen Luise had been the real power in Prussia until her death.

As for the army, the Prussian army had accomplished very little until Waterloo.  Indeed, even their brilliant intervention at Waterloo could be attributed more to accidentally showing up at the perfect time than any brilliant strategy on their part. 

It was difficult to overlook that their army had been thoroughly beaten by Napoleon's B Team only two days previous.

So much for mighty Prussia. 

And yet Prussia kept growing.  First Prussia had gained valuable territory around the Rhine River via "mediatization and secularization" during the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1801-1806. 

Thanks to the first victory over Napoleon in 1814, Prussia had been granted 40% of the highly coveted Saxony.

Now thanks to their part at Waterloo in the final victory over Napoleon, Prussia's reward in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna was the recovery of her lost territories, as well as the whole of the Rhineland and Westphalia.

These western lands were to be of vital importance because they included the Ruhr Valley, center of Germany's fledgling industrial industry. 

These territorial gains also meant the doubling of Prussia's population.

The German-speaking world took notice. Prussia was now beginning to overshadow long-time rival Austria, which had abdicated the imperial HRE crown in 1806. 

The impression was that Prussia was on the rise, Austria on the decline.  However, a simple look at the map shows that Austria-Hungary was still twice as large as Prussia.

In 1815 Prussia became part of the German Confederation.  The German Confederation was a loose association of 39 German states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries and to replace the former Holy Roman Empire.

As one can see, Prussia now has considerable land holdings along the Rhine.

Boundaries of the German Confederation. Prussia is blue, Austria yellow, the rest grey.

With Napoleon and the Church out of their hair, the rivalry between Prussia and Austria, a struggle known as German dualism, began to heat up in earnest for control of the German world. The Confederation was created to act as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia, but it would fail completely.


Teutoberg Forest


Holy Roman Empire



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