Frederick II

Frederick II
1. See Frederick I (def. 2).
2. ("Frederick the Great") 1712-86, king of Prussia 1740-86 (son of Frederick William I).

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born Jan. 24, 1712, Berlin
died Aug. 17, 1786, Potsdam, near Berlin

King of Prussia (1740–86).

The son of Frederick William I, he suffered an unhappy early life, subject to his father's capricious bullying. After trying to escape in 1730, he submitted to his father but continued to pursue intellectual and artistic interests. On his father's death (1740), Frederick became king and asserted his leadership. He seized parts of Silesia during the War of the Austrian Succession, strengthening Prussia considerably. He invaded Saxony in 1756 and marched on into Bohemia. Frederick was almost defeated in the Seven Years' War (1756–63), until his admirer Peter III signed a Russo-Prussian peace treaty that lasted until 1780. The First Partition of Poland in 1772 led to enormous territorial gains for Prussia. Austro-Prussian rivalry led to the War of the Bavarian Succession (1778–79), a diplomatic victory for Frederick, but continued fear of Habsburg ambitions led him to form a league of German states against Joseph II. Under Frederick's leadership Prussia became one of the great states of Europe, with vastly expanded territories and impressive military strength. In addition to modernizing the army, Frederick also espoused the ideas of enlightened despotism and instituted numerous economic, civil, and social reforms.

born Dec. 26, 1194, Jesi, Ancona, Papal States
died Dec. 13, 1250, Castel Fiorentino, Apulia, Kingdom of Sicily

King of Sicily (1197–1250), duke of Swabia (1228–35), German king (1212–50), and Holy Roman Emperor (1220–50).

The grandson of Frederick I Barbarossa, he became king of Sicily at age three but did not gain control over the strife-ridden country until 1212. He defeated his rival Otto IV in 1214, and though the planned union of Sicily and Germany alarmed the pope (1220), he negotiated a compromise and was crowned emperor. A delay in departing for the Sixth Crusade brought excommunication (1227), later revoked. By 1229 Frederick was king of Jerusalem. On his return he quelled a rebellion in Germany led by his son Henry, who had allied with the Lombard League. Seeing Frederick as a growing threat to papal authority, Gregory IX excommunicated him again in 1239; the emperor responded by invading the Papal States. He tried and failed (1245) to negotiate peace with Innocent IV, and his struggle with the papacy continued. By the time of his death Frederick had lost much of central Italy, and his support in Germany was uncertain.

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▪ Holy Roman emperor
born Dec. 26, 1194, Jesi, Ancona, Papal States
died Dec. 13, 1250, Castel Fiorentino, Apulia, Kingdom of Sicily
 king of Sicily (1197–1250), duke of Swabia (as Frederick VI, 1228–35), German king (1212–50), and Holy Roman emperor (1220–50). A Hohenstaufen and grandson of Frederick I Barbarossa, he pursued his dynasty's imperial policies against the papacy and the Italian city states; and he also joined in the Sixth Crusade (1228–29), conquering several areas of the Holy Land and crowning himself king of Jerusalem (reigning 1229–43).

Early years.
      In 1196, Frederick, at the age of two, was elected king by the German princes at Frankfort. His father, however, failed in his attempt to gain the princes' support to make Frederick's succession hereditary. Just before embarking on a crusade to the Holy Land, Emperor Henry (Henry VI) died in September 1197 after a brief illness, only 32 years old. Though the medieval Roman Empire was at the height of its strength, the Emperor's death brought it close to dissolution.

      After the death of her husband, Empress Constance had young Frederick brought to Sicily, where in May 1198 he was crowned king of Sicily. Before her death later that year, Constance loosened the bonds that joined Sicily to the empire and to Germany by appointing Pope Innocent III her son's guardian as well as regent of the Kingdom of Sicily, which was already under papal suzerainty. In Germany two rival kings were elected, Frederick's uncle Philip of Swabia and Otto of Brunswick, as Otto IV.

      Even the Pope, however, did not succeed in protecting Sicily from many years of anarchy. German and papal captains, local barons, and Sicilian Saracens, as well as the cities of Genoa and Pisa, fought for mastery of the country. The situation was not stabilized until the imperial chancellor conquered Palermo in November 1206 and governed in Frederick's name. In December 1208 Frederick, then 14, was declared of age.

      In 1209 he married the much older Constance of Aragon, who brought him an urgently needed troop of knights with whose help he gained control of Sicily, defeated a conspiracy of the barons, and was partially successful in regaining the crown properties that had been lost during his minority. At this time his relations with the Pope began to show signs of strain.

      Frederick's Sicilian efforts were seriously endangered when at the end of 1210 Otto IV invaded the realm on the mainland and in 1211 even threatened Sicily itself. Otto withdrew, however, when in September 1211 a number of German princes deposed him and elected Frederick king.

      Before leaving for Germany in March 1212, Frederick had his one-year-old son Henry VII crowned king of Sicily and granted various privileges to the Holy See. Having rapidly conquered south Germany, where he met almost no opposition, Frederick was elected once again king of Germany by a large majority of princes at Frankfurt in December 1212 and crowned a few days later. In the same year he concluded an alliance with France against Otto, who was decisively defeated at the Battle of Bouvines (Bouvines, Battle of) in July 1214.

Consolidation of the empire.
      In April 1220 Frederick's nine-year-old son Henry VII was elected king by the German princes, thus negating Frederick's promise to Pope Innocent that he would relinquish control of Sicily in favour of Henry, for it meant that Sicily and Germany would eventually be united under one ruler. Although Frederick sought to exonerate himself with Pope Honorius (Honorius II) III by claiming that the election had been held without his knowledge, he had to pay for it by surrendering extensive royal prerogatives to the German ecclesiastical princes.

      Crowned emperor by the Pope in St. Peter's Church, in Rome, on Nov. 22, 1220, Frederick confirmed on the same day the legal separation of the empire from the Kingdom of Sicily while continuing the existing personal union. In addition, he granted important privileges to the Italian ecclesiastics and issued laws against heretics, and it seemed indeed that harmony had been reestablished between the Emperor and the Pope for some years to come. Frederick spent the following years consolidating his rule in Sicily. He broke the resistance of the barons to revocation of certain of their privileges and defeated the rebellious Saracens (Saracen) (1222–24), whom he later resettled in Apulia where they became his most faithful subjects, providing him with a loyal bodyguard immune against papal influence.

      In addition to erecting a chain of castles and border fortifications, he had enlarged the harbours of his kingdom and established a navy and a fleet of merchant vessels. He instituted measures designed to bring trade under state control and make the manufacture of certain products the monopoly of the state. Finally, he created a civil service for which candidates were trained at the first European state university, in Naples (Naples, University of), which he himself founded in 1224.

Years as a crusader (Crusades).
      In the meantime, the Pope was reminding the Emperor of the crusading vows he had taken at his coronations in 1212 and 1220. Frederick, however, was inclined to postpone such a venture until the Italian problems had been resolved. He claimed the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Jerusalem, kingdom of) for himself through his marriage to Isabella (Yolande) of Brienne, the heiress of the titular king of Jerusalem, who had become his wife in 1225 after Constance had died in 1222. Before embarking for the Holy Land, Frederick convened an imperial diet for Easter 1226 in Cremona, in northern Italy, in order to reinforce certain imperial rights in Italy and to prepare for the crusade. The cities of Lombardy, however, reconstituted themselves, under the leadership of Milan, as the Lombard League, and not only sabotaged the diet at Cremona but effectively opposed Frederick's reorganization of northern Italy.

      In September 1227, when Frederick was at last ready to embark from Brindisi for the Holy Land, an epidemic broke out among the crusaders. The new pope, Gregory IX, a passionate man who belonged to the intellectual world of Francis of Assisi—his personal friend whom he canonized as early as 1228—brushed aside Frederick's justification and excommunicated him for his failure to carry out the crusade.

      In June 1228, ignoring the excommunication, Frederick set sail from Brindisi. In the Holy Land, following complex negotiations, he obtained Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth from the Sultan al-Kāmil (Kāmil, al-Malik al-) of Egypt. It was certainly the impact of Frederick's personality on the Arab world, and not armed might, that made this treaty possible. On March 18, 1229, the excommunicated emperor crowned himself king of Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was the high point as well as the turning point of Frederick's conception of sovereignty. Eschatological prophecies concerning his rule were now made, and the Emperor considered himself to be a messiah, a new David. His entry into Jerusalem was compared with that of Christ on Palm Sunday, and, indeed, in a manifesto the Emperor, too, compared himself to Christ.

      In the meantime, however, papal troops had penetrated into the Kingdom of Sicily. Frederick returned at once and reconquered the lost areas but did not in turn attack the Papal States. His diplomacy was rewarded: after the Treaty of San Germano (July 1230) he was absolved from excommunication the following month at Ceprano.

      In August 1231, at Melfi, the Emperor issued his new constitutions for the Kingdom of Sicily. Not since the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian in the 6th century had the administrative law of a European state been codified. Frederick's codes contained many ideas that anticipated enlightened absolutism and the centralization of the state. During the same time, however, Frederick could not prevent his son, the German king Henry VII, from making a number of important concessions to the German princes. These concessions, confirmed by Frederick in 1232 at the diet of Cividale, strengthened the rule of the princes at the expense of the central power of the empire. These and other steps set back the development of communal self-government in Germany and furthered the independence of the principalities. In the meantime, relations between Frederick and Henry VII deteriorated steadily. Henry had been ruling independently in Germany since 1228, when in December 1234 he entered into an alliance with the Lombard League. This action amounted to high treason in the eyes of the Emperor. On Frederick's arrival in Germany, his son's rebellion collapsed; he died in a prison in Calabria in 1242.

      His second wife having died in 1228, Frederick in July 1235 married Isabella of England. Shortly thereafter, he issued an edict of imperial peace, which also called for the appointment of a chief justice of the imperial court in order to protect the sovereign rights of the emperor from further erosion.

      After some military successes in Lombardy against the Lombard League, the Emperor returned to Germany in 1236 to remove the rebellious duke Frederick of Austria and Styria from rule. In February 1237 he had his nine-year-old son Conrad IV elected king of Germany in Vienna. After several more months in Germany—it was to be his last visit—he descended into northern Italy. He defeated the Lombard League at Cortenuova, but, misjudging his strength, he rejected all Milanese peace overtures and insisted on unconditional surrender. It was a moment of grave historic importance when Frederick's hatred coloured his judgment and blocked all possibilities of a peaceful settlement.

Struggle with the papacy.
      Milan and five other cities held out, and in October 1238 he had to raise the siege of Brescia. In the same year the marriage of Frederick's natural son Enzio with the Sardinian princess Adelasia and the designation of Enzio as king of Sardinia, in which the papacy claimed suzerainty, led to the final break with the Pope. Gregory IX deeply distrusted Frederick both in religious and political matters: Frederick was supposed to have jested that Moses, Christ, and Muḥammad were three impostors who had themselves been hoodwinked; and in the political arena the Pope was fearful that the Papal States were about to be isolated and encircled, particularly because a pro-imperial party had been formed in Rome. Under the pretext that the Emperor intended to drive him from Rome, Gregory excommunicated Frederick for the second time on Palm Sunday, March 20, 1239. This was the beginning of the last phase of the gigantic struggle between the papacy and the empire; it ended with the death of the Emperor and the downfall of his house.

      Frederick countered the excommunication with a number of important manifestos, most of them composed by Pietro Della Vigna, a member of the imperial chancery, who had outstanding literary gifts. The manifesto emphasized that the cardinals were meant to participate in the leadership of the church, and Frederick even tried to evoke solidarity among the secular princes. He also, however, intensified his military activities in northern Italy. In order to finance his constantly growing need for arms, he instituted a thorough administrative reorganization of imperial Italy (among others, the formation of 10 vice regencies) and of the Kingdom of Sicily. In addition, he decreed the rigorous surveillance of the population. In central Italy he took the offensive, occupying the March of Ancona and the Duchy of Spoleto, and in February 1240 his army marched into the Papal States and threatened Rome. At the last moment, however, the Pope won the support of the Romans.

      Following the defeat of a Genoese fleet bringing delegates for a papal council to Rome, more than 100 high-ranking ecclesiastics—cardinals and bishops among them—were taken as Frederick's prisoners to Apulia. This military victory proved, however, to be a political disadvantage: it provided material for propaganda depicting Frederick as an oppressor of the church.

      While still encamped before Rome, Frederick received the news of Pope Gregory's death and thereupon withdrew to Sicily. In the meantime, the Mongols had invaded Europe. They were temporarily halted in the extremely bloody Battle of Liegnitz in Silesia on April 9, 1241, but probably only the sudden death of their leader, the great khan Ögödei, prevented further Mongol advances at that time.

      Celestine IV's brief pontificate was followed by a long interregnum. When in 1243 Innocent IV was elected, Frederick, at the urging of the German princes and of King Louis IX of France, opened negotiations with the new pope. Agreement between the Pope and the Emperor seemed close on the evacuation of the Papal States, when in June 1244 Innocent fled the city. In Lyon he convened a council for 1245 and in July of that year deposed the Emperor, the obstacle to reconciliation apparently being the status of the Lombard communes.

      The battle between the Emperor and the papacy then raged in full fury; on the papal side the Emperor was branded as the precursor of the anti-Christ; on the imperial side he was hailed as a messiah. The Emperor supported the contemporary demand that the church return to the poverty and saintliness of the early Christian community and again appealed to the princes of Europe to join in a defensive league against the power-hungry prelates. Most of the princes, however, remained neutral, and, although two successive German antikings received little support, the Emperor steadily lost ground in Germany.

      In May 1247 Frederick's planned journey to Lyon in order to plead his own case before the papal council was interrupted by the revolt of the strategically placed city of Parma. In the wake of this debacle much of central Italy and the Romagna was lost. The following year the Emperor was to suffer further blows of fate; Pietro della Vigna, for many years the Emperor's confidant, was accused of treason and committed suicide in prison. In May 1249 King Enzio of Sardinia, Frederick's favourite son, was captured by the Bolognese and was kept incarcerated until his death in 1272.

      The Emperor's position, both in Italy and—through the efforts of his son, Conrad IV—in Germany, was improving when he died unexpectedly in 1250. He was buried in the cathedral of Palermo near his first wife, his parents, and his Norman grandfather.

      When the news of his death was published, all Europe was deeply shaken. Doubts arose that he was really dead; false Fredericks appeared everywhere; in Sicily a legend grew that he had been conveyed to the Aetna volcano; in Germany that he was encapsuled in a mountain and would return as the latter-day emperor to punish the worldly church and peacefully reestablish the Holy Roman Empire. Yet he was also thought to live on in his heirs. In fact, however, within 22 years after his death, all of them were dead: victims of the battle with the papacy that their father had begun.

      Frederick's character was marked by sharp contradictions, undoubtedly the result of his insecure and emotionally barren childhood. Enchanting amiability and gaiety were paired with cruelty; harshness and rigidity existed side by side with superior intelligence and a keen sense of reality; tolerance and intolerance went hand in hand; impulsive sensuality did not stand in the way of genuine piety; imbalance and inner discord pervaded his personality and his achievements.

      Frederick cannot be considered the first modern man on the throne, nor a pioneer of the Renaissance, as some historians have maintained. Though his gifted personality heralded some of the intellectual trends of later times, he was, all in all, a man of the Middle Ages. He had indeed had the good fortune to have grown up in Sicily in a mixed culture that uniquely combined elements of antiquity, Arabic and Jewish wisdom, the Occidental spirit of the Middle Ages, and Norman realism. The intellectual life of his court reflected this heritage. A courtly “republic of scholars,” it nurtured and fostered the natural sciences as well as philosophy, poetry, and mathematics, and translations as well as original writing, both in Latin and in the vernacular. The pursuit of knowledge without special respect for traditional authorities was characteristic of Frederick and his court.

      Witness to the intellectual vigour and distinction of Frederick himself and those around him are the content and style of his great legal codices and manifestos, many of them serving as examples to later generations; the edifices he erected, particularly the classic style of the Castello del Monte—a fusion of poetry and mathematics in stone; and, most outstanding, his own work De arte venandi cum avibus, a standard work on falconry based entirely on his own experimental research.

      Frederick's concept of the emperor's function was rooted in the ideology of the late Greco-Roman period and the Judeo-Christian philosophy of the Middle Ages, emphasizing the sacredness and universal character of the office. In the light of it, Frederick claimed preeminence for the emperor over all other secular rulers—undoubtedly an ill-timed claim in an age when separate nation-states were developing. Thus, Frederick's policies, full of intellectual and political promise, were in actuality dogged by tragedy.

Gunther Wolf

Additional Reading
E.A. Winkelmann, Kaiser Friedrich II, 2 vol. (1889–97), a biography to the year 1233; E. Kantorowicz, Kaiser Friedrich der Zweite, 2 vol. (1927–31), still the most basic work; H.M. Schaller, Kaiser Friedrich II (1964); Thomas Curtis Van Cleve, The Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, immutator mundi (1972). G. Wolf (ed.), Stupor Mundi: Zur Geschichte Friedrichs II von Hohenstaufen (1966), a collection of the most important research papers following Kantorowicz's work.

▪ elector of Saxony
byname  Frederick The Gentle, or Mild,  German  Friedrich Der Sanftmütige 
born Aug. 22, 1411, Leipzig
died Sept. 7, 1464, Leipzig

      Saxon elector (1428–64) and eldest son of Frederick the Warlike; he successfully defended his electorship against the Ascanian Saxe-Lauenburg line and instituted regular diets in his territories.

      Frederick settled his disputes with the Bohemian followers of Jan Hus, church reformer and condemned heretic, in 1432, and relations were cemented in 1464, when his son Albert married the daughter of the Bohemian leader George of Poděbrady. The burgravate of Meissen, acquired in 1439, added considerable land and income. From 1446 to 1451 Frederick fought the Bruderkrieg (Brothers' War) against his brother William over territorial claims.

▪ king of Denmark and Norway

born July 1, 1534, Haderslev, Den.
died April 4, 1588, Antvorskov
 king of Denmark and Norway (1559–88) who failed in his attempt to establish complete Danish hegemony in the Baltic Sea area in the Seven Years' War of the North (1563–70) but maintained enough control over the Baltic trade to guide Denmark to a period of prosperity in the later years of his reign.

      After joining his uncles John and Adolphus, dukes of the Danish provinces of Schleswig and Holstein, in June 1559 in conquering the peasant republic of Dithmarschen (now in Germany), Frederick succeeded his father, Christian III, in 1559 as king of Denmark and Norway. His competition with Sweden for supremacy in the Baltic broke out into open warfare in 1563, the start of the Seven Years' War of the North. Frederick hoped to take over Sweden and resurrect the Kalmar Union of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. He was unable to gain any military advantage in the war, however, and reluctantly signed the Peace of Stettin with Sweden in 1570. Sweden remained independent and shared control of Baltic coastal territories with Denmark.

      In the postwar years of his reign, Frederick concentrated on rebuilding Denmark's damaged economy and defenses. His chief adviser, Peder Okse, taxed the nobles and successfully maintained the toll Denmark imposed on shipping through The Sound (Øresund) to the Baltic Sea, a route crucial to the economies of the major north European nations. The toll revenues provided a key support for the Danish economy, which then also benefited from reduced competition from the trading centres of the Hanseatic League (a north German trading confederation). Maintaining Danish control of the Baltic waters, Frederick cleared pirates from the seas adjacent to Denmark and built Kronborg Castle at Elsinore to guard The Sound. Also a great patron of science and the arts, he granted the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (Brahe, Tycho) the island of Ven, near Copenhagen, and gave him the means to found an observatory there.

▪ king of Prussia
byname  Frederick the Great , German  Friedrich der Grosse 
born Jan. 24, 1712, Berlin
died Aug. 17, 1786, Potsdam, near Berlin
 king of Prussia (1740–86), a brilliant military campaigner who, in a series of diplomatic stratagems and wars against Austria and other powers, greatly enlarged Prussia's territories and made Prussia the foremost military power in Europe. An enlightened absolute monarch, he favoured French language and art and built a French Rococo palace, Sans Souci, near Berlin.

      Frederick, the third king of Prussia, ranks among the two or three dominant figures in the history of modern Germany. Under his leadership Prussia became one of the great states of Europe. Its territories were greatly increased and its military strength displayed to striking effect. From early in his reign Frederick achieved a high reputation as a military commander, and the Prussian army rapidly became a model admired and imitated in many other states. He also emerged quickly as a leading exponent of the ideas of enlightened (Enlightenment) government, which were then becoming influential throughout much of Europe; indeed, his example did much to spread and strengthen those ideas. Notably, his insistence on the primacy of state over personal or dynastic interests and his religious toleration widely affected the dominant intellectual currents of the age. Even more than his younger contemporaries, Catherine II the Great (Catherine II) of Russia and Joseph II in the Habsburg territories, it was Frederick who, during the mid-18th century, established in the minds of educated Europeans a notion of what “enlightened despotism” should be. His actual achievements, however, were sometimes less than they appeared on the surface; indeed, his inevitable reliance on the landowning officer (Junker) class set severe limits in several respects to what he could even attempt. Nevertheless, his reign saw a revolutionary change in the importance and prestige of Prussia, which was to have profound implications for much of the subsequent history of Europe.

Early life
      Frederick was the eldest surviving son of Frederick William I, king of Prussia, and Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, daughter of George I of Britain. Frederick's upbringing and education were strictly controlled by his father, who was a martinet as well as a paranoiac. Encouraged and supported by his mother and his sister Wilhelmina, Frederick soon came into bitter conflict with his father. Frederick William I deeply despised the artistic and intellectual tastes of his son and was infuriated by Frederick's lack of sympathy with his own rigidly puritanical and militaristic outlook. His disappointment and contempt took the form of bitter public criticism and even outright physical violence, and Frederick, beaten and humiliated by his father, often over trifling details of behaviour, took refuge in evasion and deceit. This personal and family feud culminated spectacularly in 1730, when Frederick was imprisoned in the fortress of Küstrin after planning unsuccessfully to flee initially to France or Holland. Lieutenant Hans Hermann von Katte, the young officer who had been his accomplice in the plan, was executed in Frederick's presence, and there was for a short time a real possibility that the prince might share his fate. During the next year or more Frederick, as a punishment, was employed as a junior official in local administration and deprived of his military rank. The effects of this terrible early life are impossible to measure with accuracy, but there is little doubt that the violent and capricious bullying of his father influenced him deeply.

      In 1733, after a partial reconciliation with his father, Frederick was married to a member of a minor German princely family, Elizabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern, for whom he never cared and whom he systematically neglected. In the following year he saw active military service for the first time under the great Austrian commander Eugene of Savoy against the French army in the Rhineland. In the later 1730s, in semiretirement in the castle of Rheinsberg near Berlin and able for the first time to give free rein to his own tastes, he read voraciously, absorbing the ideas on government and international relations that were to guide him throughout his life. These years were perhaps the happiest that Frederick ever experienced. However, his relations with his father, though somewhat improved, remained strained.

Accession to the throne and foreign policy
      Frederick William I died on May 31, 1740, and Frederick, on his accession, immediately made it clear to his ministers that he alone would decide policy. Within a few months he was given a chance to do so in a way that revolutionized Prussia's international position. The Holy Roman (Holy Roman Empire) emperor Charles VI, of the Austrian house of Habsburg (Habsburg, House of), died on October 20, leaving as his heir a daughter, the archduchess Maria Theresa, whose claims to several of the heterogeneous Habsburg territories were certain to be disputed. Moreover, her army was in a poor state, the financial position of the Habsburg government very difficult, and her ministers mediocre and in many cases old. Frederick, however, thanks to his father, had a fine army and ample funds at his disposal. He therefore decided shortly after the emperor's death to attack the Habsburg province of Silesia, a wealthy and strategically important area to which the Hohenzollerns (Hohenzollern Dynasty), the ruling family of Prussia, had dynastic claims, though weak ones. The most important threat to his plans was Russian support for Maria Theresa, which he hoped to avert by judicious bribery in St. Petersburg and by exploiting the confusion that was likely to follow the imminent death of the empress Anna. He also hoped that Maria Theresa would cede most of Silesia in return for a promise of Prussian support against her other enemies, but her refusal to do so made war inevitable.

      The first military victory of Frederick's (Austrian Succession, War of the) reign was the battle of Mollwitz (April 1741), though it owed nothing to his own leadership; in October Maria Theresa, now threatened by a hostile coalition of France, Spain, and Bavaria, had to agree to the Convention of Klein-Schnellendorf, by which Frederick was allowed to occupy the whole of Lower Silesia. However, the Habsburg successes against the French and Bavarians that followed so alarmed Frederick that early in 1742 he invaded Moravia, the region south of Silesia, which was under Austrian rule. His rather incomplete victory at Chotusitz in May nonetheless forced Maria Theresa to cede almost all of Silesia by the Treaty of Berlin of 1742 in July. This once more allowed Habsburg forces to be concentrated against France and Bavaria, and 1743 and the early months of 1744 saw Maria Theresa's position in Germany become markedly stronger. Frederick, again alarmed by this, invaded Bohemia in August 1744 (Silesian Wars) and rapidly overran it. However, by the end of the year lack of French support and threats to his lines of communication had forced him to retreat. Moreover, the elector Augustus III (king of Poland and the elector of Saxony) now joined Maria Theresa in attacking him in Silesia. He was rescued from this threatening situation by the prowess of his army; victories at Hohenfriedberg in June 1745 and at Soor in September were followed by a Prussian invasion of Saxony. The Treaty of Dresden, signed on Dec. 25, 1745, finally established Prussian rule in Silesia and ended for the time being the complex series of struggles that had begun five years earlier.

      Silesia was a valuable acquisition, being more developed economically than any other major part of the Hohenzollern dominions. Moreover, military victory had now made Prussia at least a semigreat power and marked Frederick as the most successful ruler in Europe. He was well aware, however, that his situation was far from secure. Maria Theresa was determined to recover Silesia, and the peace she signed with France and Spain at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 allowed her to accelerate significant improvements in the administration of her territories and the organization of her army. Frederick's alliance with France, which dated from an agreement of June 1741, was based merely on mutual hostility toward the Habsburgs and had never been effective. More serious, anti-Prussian feeling was now running high in Russia, where both the empress Elizabeth, who had ascended the throne in 1741, and her chancellor, Aleksey Bestuzhev-Ryumin, bitterly disliked Frederick. Moreover, Great Britain, under George II, seeking an effective continental ally against France, seemed to be moving closer to Maria Theresa and Elizabeth. In September 1755 Britain signed an agreement with Russia by which Russia, in return for British subsidies, was to provide a large military force in its Baltic provinces to protect, if necessary, the electorate of Hanover, ruled by George II, against possible French or Prussian attack. Frederick was deeply alarmed by this: a hostile Austro-Russian alliance backed by British money seemed to threaten the destruction of Prussia. In January 1756 he attempted to escape from this menacing situation by an agreement with Britain for the neutralization of Germany in the Anglo-French colonial and naval war that had just begun. This, however, deeply antagonized Louis XV and the French government, who saw the agreement as an insulting desertion of France, Frederick's ostensible ally. The result was the signature in May of a Franco-Austrian defensive alliance. This did not in itself threaten Frederick, but he soon became convinced that a Russo-Austrian attack on him, with French support, was imminent. He determined to forestall his enemies and, in a daring move, invaded Saxony in August 1756 and marched on into Bohemia. This action has been more actively debated by historians than any other event of Frederick's reign because it raised in an acute form the general issue regarding the morality of preventive military action. Though Frederick took the offensive and thus unleashed a great military struggle, there is no doubt that he was by 1756 seriously threatened, indeed, even more seriously than he himself realized, and that his enemies, most of all the empress Elizabeth, meant to destroy Prussia's newly won international status.

Trials and lessons
      The Seven Years' War, on which he embarked thus soon became a life-and-death struggle. In 1757 France, Sweden, Russia, and many of the smaller German states joined the ranks of his opponents, while the Prussian invasion of Bohemia collapsed after a serious defeat at Kolín in June. Brilliant victories over the French and Austrian armies, respectively, at Rossbach and Leuthen in November and December partially reestablished Frederick's position, but it still remained extremely precarious. Ruthless exploitation of every available resource (notably of much of Saxony, which was under Prussian military occupation during most of the war), debasement of the currency, and a British subsidy that he received in 1758–62 allowed Frederick with increasing difficulty to keep up the unequal struggle. More than anything, however, he was helped by the complete failure of his enemies to cooperate effectively, while a partly British and British-financed army in western Germany from 1758 onward neutralized the French military effort. Nevertheless, the strain was immense; in October 1757 a cabinet order suspended all payment of salaries and pensions to Prussian civil servants and judges apart from diplomats serving abroad. Frederick could still win victories in the field, as, for example, at Zorndorf (August 1758) against the Russians at heavy cost or at Liegnitz and Torgau (August and November 1760) against the Austrians. But he also suffered serious defeats at Hochkirch in October 1758 and above all at the hands of a Russian army at Kunersdorf in August 1759. This disaster temporarily reduced him to despair and thoughts of suicide; if it had been effectively followed up by his adversaries, he could not have continued the struggle. As the forces he could put in the field dwindled and resistance grew among his subjects to the unprecedented burdens imposed by the war (in 1760 the landowners of Brandenburg refused to contribute further), the Prussian position became increasingly difficult; by 1761 it was desperate. However, the death in January 1762 of the empress Elizabeth, the most bitter of all Frederick's enemies, completely changed the situation. Her successor, Peter III, a fanatical admirer of Prussia and Frederick, signed an armistice in May, followed by a Russo-Prussian peace treaty. This turn of events ended Maria Theresa's hopes of recovering Silesia. The Treaty of Hubertusburg (Feb. 15, 1763), which ended the war in Germany, left the province in Frederick's hands. Prussia had survived, and its military reputation was now greater than ever. The cost had been enormous, however. The Prussian army had lost 180,000 men during the struggle, and some Prussian provinces had been completely devastated.

      Henceforth Frederick was determined to avoid another such conflict: the alliance with Russia that he signed in 1764 and which lasted until 1780 was directed largely to this end. Nevertheless, he still firmly opposed any growth of Habsburg power in Germany, and in July 1778 a new Austro-Prussian struggle broke out over the efforts of the emperor Joseph II, the son of Maria Theresa, to gain a large part of Bavaria. This War of the Bavarian Succession (Bavarian Succession, War of the) was half-hearted and short-lived, and the Treaty of Teschen ending it in May 1779 was a severe check to Joseph's ambitions and a diplomatic victory for Frederick. But this new conflict showed unmistakably that Austro-Prussian rivalry stemming from the events of 1740–41 was now a deeply ingrained fact of German political life. Fear of Habsburg ambitions continued to haunt Frederick to the end of his reign. His last significant achievement was to inspire the formation, in July 1785, of the League of Princes ( Fürstenbund), which united a number of German states—the most important being Hanover, Saxony, and the archbishopric of Mainz—in successful opposition to Joseph II and his renewed efforts to acquire the whole of Bavaria in exchange for the Austrian Netherlands.

Partition of Poland (Poland, Partitions of)
      The most important foreign policy development in the second half of Frederick's reign was the first partition of Poland, in 1772. By this Prussia gained the Polish province of West Prussia (though without the great commercial city of Danzig), and thus Brandenburg and Pomerania, the core of the monarchy, became linked with the theretofore isolated East Prussia. This gave the state a much greater territorial coherence and more defensible frontiers. It also moved its geographic centre decisively to the east and sharpened the social and political differences that tended to separate it from the states of western Europe.

      Frederick had always hoped for territorial gains of this kind, and, as the weakness and confusion of the internally divided Polish republic increased during the 1760s, the possibilities of realizing them grew. In 1769 he tried indirectly to interest Catherine II of Russia in a partition but in vain. By January 1771, however, faced by strong Austrian opposition to her expansionist ambitions in southeastern Europe, the empress had changed her mind. The visit to St. Petersburg in that month of Frederick's younger brother Prince Henry played a decisive role in making a partition possible; the Habsburg government, which had hoped to recover Silesia or gain territory in the Balkans, was persuaded to join in the process. Frederick bears much of the responsibility for the partition, for he alone of the monarchs who took part had consciously desired it. Since both Russia and Austria were persuaded to follow a policy that was largely Prussian in inspiration, it ranks as perhaps his greatest diplomatic success.

Domestic policies
      In administrative, economic, and social policy Frederick's attitudes were essentially conservative. Much of what he did in these areas was little more than a development of policies pursued by his father. He justified these policies in terms of the rationalizing rhetoric of “enlightened despotism (absolutism),” whereas the devoutly Protestant Frederick William I had done so in terms of religious obligation, but many of the objectives, and the means used to attain them, were the same. Frederick, in spite of his appalling personal relationship with his father, admired him as a ruler and freely acknowledged the debt he owed him. “Only his care,” he wrote during the Seven Years' War, “his untiring work, his scrupulously just policies, his great and admirable thriftiness and the strict discipline he introduced into the army which he himself had created, made possible the achievements I have so far accomplished.”

      Like Frederick William I, Frederick thought of kingship as a duty. To him it entailed obligations to be met only by untiring and conscientious work. It was his duty to protect his subjects from foreign attack, to make them prosperous, to give them efficient and honest administration, and to provide them with laws that were simple and adapted to their wants and their particular temperament. In order to achieve these objectives, the ruler must sacrifice his own interests and any purely personal or family feeling. Raison d'état, the needs of the state, took precedence over these and also over the immediate comfort and happiness of his subjects. The ruler could carry out his duties effectively only if he kept the reins of government firmly in his own hands. His rule must be personal. He must not rely on ministers who were likely to be influenced by selfish ambitions or factional feeling and who might well keep important information from their master if they were allowed to. Personal rule alone could produce the unity and consistency essential to any successful policy. In his Anti-Machiavel, a somewhat conventional discussion of the principles of good government published in 1740 just before his accession, Frederick wrote that there were two sorts of princes—those who ruled in person and those who merely relied on subordinates. The former were “like the soul of a state” and “the weight of their government falls on themselves alone, like the world on the back of Atlas,” whereas the second group were mere phantoms. Yet he would have rejected outright, and on the whole with justification, any suggestion that he ruled as a despot. On the contrary, he would have claimed that his power, however great, was exercised only within limits set by law and that the obligations inherent in his position made it impossible for him to govern in an arbitrary way.

Problems of autocracy
      The insistence that any effective monarchical rule must be intensely personal had obvious potential dangers. As Frederick grew older, these showed themselves with increasing clarity. His whole psychology was hostile to the development in the Prussian administration or army of any real originality, new ideas, or willingness to take initiatives or accept individual responsibilities. He fostered among those who served him a tendency to play safe and to perform their duties conscientiously but to do no more than that. Under him the Prussian administration was the most honest and hardworking in Europe. Its achievements, however, stemmed from the impetus supplied from above by the king rather than from any creative force inherent in the system itself. The provincial War and Domains Chambers established by Frederick William I in 1722 remained very important, and their number grew from 9 to 12. The General Directory, again created by Frederick William, as the main organ of central government with wide-ranging powers, acquired under Frederick several new departments (for commerce and manufactures in 1740, for mines and metallurgy in 1768, for forestry a few years later) but tended, as the reign went on, to become ossified and to lose a good deal of its former importance. The administration of Silesia after its acquisition in the 1740s was notably efficient, and its resources helped greatly in carrying Frederick through the dark days of the Seven Years' War. But tradition and continuity rather than innovation were the hallmarks of the Prussian administration under him; many of what new departures there were (for example, an effort in 1770 to introduce a system of state examinations for entry into the civil service) were not very effective. Many of the truly successful innovations were in the judicial system, where the reforming efforts of Samuel von Cocceji resulted in all judges in higher and appellate courts being appointed only after they had passed a rigorous examination. Cocceji also inspired the establishment in 1750 of a new Superior Consistory to supervise church and educational affairs and began the process of legal codification that culminated after Frederick's death in the issue of the Prussian Common Law (Das Allgemeine Preussische Landrecht) of 1794, one of the most important 18th-century efforts of this kind. Yet Frederick's unwillingness ever to admit a mistake or change his mind tended, as he grew older, to make the processes of government increasingly rigid and inflexible. The government's refusal to adapt and adjust, which was already visible during the monarch's later years, culminated in the Prussian collapse of 1806 before the armies of Napoleon.

Army and the state
      The overriding objective of Frederick's rule was to increase the power of the state. His desire to foster education and cultural life was sincere, but these humanitarian goals were secondary compared with the task of building a great army and gaining the financial resources needed to maintain it. The army was the pivot around which all else turned, and the administrative system existed essentially to recruit, feed, equip, and pay it. In proportion to the resources available to support it, its size was unequaled anywhere in Europe. In 1740 Frederick inherited a standing army of 83,000 men; when he died, this figure had risen to 190,000 (though of these only about 80,000 were Prussian subjects). Under him it remained a force of peasants and of numerous foreign recruits obtained often by outright kidnapping, officered by landowners. In Prussia the army was recruited almost entirely in the countryside; the function of townsmen was to pay for it through their taxes, not to serve in it. Up to a point Frederick tried to protect the peasants and the soldiers against the demands of the Junker landlord-officers. In 1749 and 1764 he issued decrees limiting the obligations of the peasant to his lord, and in 1748 he ordered officers not to treat their men “like serfs”; but these were essentially efforts to prevent the plight of the peasant from becoming so desperate that he would be driven into flight and thus jeopardize the supply of recruits. Throughout Frederick's reign, army service was for the majority of his subjects the most onerous of all the burdens imposed by the state. In order to finance the great army, heavy demands were made on territories that for the most part were poor. Nothing, however, seemed more important to the monarch than amassing a large reserve of cash to be used for the recruitment of men in case of war. The financial demands that a serious conflict would make were constantly on his mind, and the desperate struggles of 1756–62 confirmed him in his beliefs.

      Much of the tax system, based on the excise (largely a tax on food) paid by the towns and the contribution (a complex property tax) raised in the countryside, supplemented by the profits of the extensive royal domains, remained essentially unchanged. Still, Frederick experimented with a number of new taxes, notably with a new system of taxing tobacco and some less important commodities (introduced in 1766 under the supervision of a French entrepreneur, Le Haye de Launay), but these innovations did not bring about significant changes. Indeed, many of Frederick's fiscal policies were ill-judged; for example, the maintenance of a great reserve of cash, which removed from circulation much of the liquid capital of a poor society, was economically damaging. Yet strict control of expenditure and relatively efficient tax collection meant that the government, unlike many others of the age, was never hamstrung by lack of money.

      Frederick's economic policies were squarely in the mercantilist (mercantilism) tradition. “The foundation of trade and manufactures,” he wrote in his Testament Politique of 1752, “is to prevent money leaving the country and to make it come in.” The direct and simplistic way in which these ideas were sometimes applied can be seen in an order of 1747 forbidding individuals to take more than 300 thalers in specie out of their territories. So far as possible Prussia was to avoid importing foreign manufactured goods, and to this end domestic producers were to be helped by privileges and even outright grants of money. Exports were to be encouraged in the same way. In particular, much money was spent on efforts to develop a substantial silk industry, with generally disappointing results. By the end of the reign textiles of all kinds accounted for two-thirds of Prussia's industrial production, and the textile industry employed about 90 percent of the industrial labour force, but this situation owed little to Frederick's economic policies. Efforts to foster the production of porcelain—which, like silk, was one of the industrial status symbols of a number of 18th-century rulers—were also costly and not very effective. A small number of favoured industrialists, notably David Splitgerber and Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky in the 1750s, benefited by these policies, but for Prussia as a whole they were largely a misuse of resources. Other new creations such as the Maritime Trading Company (Seehandlung), a government-backed corporation set up in 1772 to develop overseas trade, and even the Royal Bank of Berlin, established in 1765, were also marginal to the economic life of Frederick's territories, which, except to some extent in Silesia, in the area around Berlin, and in the little county of Mark in western Germany, continued to be based on agriculture.

      Some of the state's programs, however, achieved real success, though sometimes at high cost. Most important was the sustained effort, in the 1760s and '70s, to attract immigrants and to settle them on waste or depopulated land; this settlement program formed the central feature of the rétablissement, the making good of the losses of the Seven Years' War. During Frederick's reign more than 300,000 settlers were attracted to Prussia from other parts of Europe—a substantial addition to a population that in 1740 had numbered only about 2,200,000. In addition, the army provided a large market for arms and woolen cloth for uniforms and thus did something to stimulate economic growth. Moreover, in peacetime the soldiers served with their regiments only for a few months of the year, spending the remaining part in agriculture or some urban employment. The fact that they were in this way integrated into society helped to offset the burden that so great a military effort placed on the economy.

      Frederick's social policies were as conservative as his economic ones. He considered the nobility the most important class in Prussian society. From it were drawn the majority of the army officers and virtually all the higher-ranking ones. It also produced the majority of his officials and all his ministers and completely dominated local government in the countryside. In Frederick's eyes, the nobility alone of all the social groups had a sense of personal honour and responsibility. The continued existence of the state depended on it, and the regime could not function without its cooperation. Thus its interests were always to be safeguarded. In particular, it was not to be diluted by the grant of noble status to self-made bourgeois, and land owned by noble families was to be protected against purchase by members of the urban middle class, however wealthy. Frederick stated these ideas repeatedly in his voluminous writings on statecraft, notably in the political testaments of 1752 and 1768 drawn up for his successor. Given this attitude, it is not surprising that his reign saw little practical improvement for the peasantry (peasant), much of which, in Pomerania, Brandenburg, and East Prussia, was still personally unfree, owing labour services to noble landowners. In principle, Frederick sincerely disliked serfdom. In practice, however, he realized that any rapid move against it risked the disruption of Prussia's agricultural life and the erosion of the position of the all-important nobility. His efforts to improve the lot of his peasant subjects were therefore little more than gestures. As part of his commitment to stimulate recovery from the losses of the Seven Years' War, he tried to abolish serfdom in Prussian Pomerania and also to give the peasantry of Upper Silesia greater security of tenure, but none of this had much practical effect because he never contemplated any significant change in the social order.

      Frederick prided himself on being, among rulers, the leading representative of the high culture of his day. He was a prolific writer on contemporary history and politics; his Histoire de mon temps (1746) is still a source of some value for the period it covers. He produced large quantities of mediocre poetry and composed music. He invited to Prussia several of the leading French intellectuals of the age, notably Voltaire (with whom he soon quarreled). But here again his outlook was essentially conservative. Culture to him meant French culture: he wrote and spoke French by preference, using German only when necessary. He had no interest in the profound intellectual stirrings occurring in Germany. Berlin under him never became an important intellectual centre. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, perhaps the greatest German writer of the mid-18th century, described Prussia as “the most slavish country in Europe,” and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the most distinguished of the musicians serving Frederick, did so rather reluctantly. Frederick's religious tolerance, however, was genuine: it was one of the things that helped to mark him in the eyes of contemporaries as a truly enlightened ruler. The abolition of judicial torture, one of his first acts as king, also showed his genuine belief in this aspect of enlightened reform. On an even more fundamental level, the General Education Regulations (General-Landschul-Reglement) of 1763 attempted to create a system of universal primary education (elementary education) throughout the Prussian monarchy. Lack of resources limited its practical effect, but it was the most ambitious effort of the kind theretofore seen anywhere in Europe.

Significance of Frederick's reign
      Both by his accomplishments and by his example Frederick deeply influenced the course of German history. In the struggles of the 1740s and '50s he weakened still further the tottering structure of the Holy Roman Empire. The bitter Austro-Prussian rivalry that he began was to be a dominant political force in Germany and central Europe for well over a century. Not until the final Prussian victory over Austria in 1866 was the long contest for leadership in Germany finally resolved. For his share in creating the division of the German world Frederick was later attacked, sometimes bitterly, by a number of historians who saw him as having prevented the emergence of a united Great Germany that included all the major German-speaking areas of Europe. Certainly, he had no sympathy, and indeed no understanding, for the embryonic German nationalism. The efforts of some writers of the 19th and 20th centuries to present him as a forerunner of German national unity are quite misleading. His renewed attack on Maria Theresa of Austria in 1744, for example, frustrated an Austrian invasion of Alsace and its possible return from French to German control, and during the Seven Years' War he offered more than once to cede to France territory in western Germany in the hope of breaking up the coalition that threatened him. Moreover, by his part in the first partition of Poland (Poland, Partitions of) he helped to create an important common interest with Russia: thenceforth both states had as one of their major objectives the suppression, or at least the strict control, of Polish nationalist aspirations. For generations to come this was to be a factor turning Prussia's attention to eastern Europe and making it less Western in some of its political attitudes than might otherwise have been the case. Yet in many ways Frederick deserved the admiration that later generations, especially in Germany, increasingly felt for him. For all his social and intellectual conservatism he never ceased to feel himself in sympathy with the enlightened intellectual currents and political strivings of the age and with their tolerant and humanitarian aspects. Building on the foundations laid by his father, he consolidated a Prussian ethos of duty, effort, and discipline that, despite some serious negative features, was to become for several generations one of the major political traditions of Europe.

Additional Reading
Frederick's voluminous writings are collected in Oeuvres de Frédéric le Grand, 31 vol. in 33, ed. by J.D.E. Preuss (1846–57), while selections from his correspondence, Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Grossen, 47 vol. (1879–1939), offer a mine of information on his foreign policy. Writings on his wars were assembled by the Prussian General Staff in Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, 19 vol. in 18 (1890–1914). Among the biographies, Thomas Carlyle, History of Friedrich II of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great, 6 vol. (1858–65, reissued in 8 vol., 1974), is famous and comprehensive but disappointing in its hero worship. J.D.E. Preuss, Friedrich der Grosse: Eine Lebensgeschichte, 5 vol. (1832–34, reprinted in 9 vol., 1981), is an excellent work of official historiography of its time. Reinhold Koser, Geschichte Friedrichs des Grossen, 4 vol. (1912–14), available in many later editions, remains a standard large-scale treatment, complete on war and diplomacy. Arnold Berney, Friedrich der Grosse: Entwicklungsgeschichte eines Staatsmannes (1934), takes the story only to 1756; G.P. Gooch, Frederick the Great, the Ruler, the Writer, the Man (1947, reissued 1990), offers essays on different aspects of the subject; D.B. Horn, Frederick the Great and the Rise of Prussia (1964), is a short introduction; and Peter Paret (ed.), Frederick the Great: A Profile (1972), collects useful extracts from German periodicals and books. A perceptive general discussion is presented in Gerhard Ritter, Frederick the Great: A Historical Profile (1968, reprinted 1974; originally published in German, 1954). Rudolf Augstein, Preussens Friedrich und die Deutschen (1968, reprinted 1986), is extremely hostile but stimulating. Christopher Duffy, The Military Life of Frederick the Great (1986), is a good account of the king's strategy. Theodor Schieder, Frederick the Great, ed. and trans. by Sabina Berkeley and H.M. Scott (1999; originally published in German, 1983), is a thoughtful and sympathetic analysis of Frederick's historical significance.Frederick's early years are described in the old but still useful Ernest Lavisse, The Youth of Frederick the Great (1892, reissued 1972; originally published in French, 1891). Hubert C. Johnson, Frederick the Great and His Officials (1975); and Walther Hubatsch, Frederick the Great of Prussia: Absolutism and Administration, trans. from German (1975), study his regime in Prussia. Other special studies include W.O. Henderson, Studies in the Economic Policy of Frederick the Great (1963); Christopher Duffy, The Army of Frederick the Great (1974); Herbert Butterfield, The Reconstruction of an Historical Episode: The History of the Enquiry into the Origins of the Seven Years' War (1951), a summary of the historical controversy over the attack on Saxony in 1756; Herbert H. Kaplan, The First Partition of Poland (1962, reissued 1972), analyzing Frederick's share in the dismemberment of the Polish republic; and two works focusing on the conflict over Bavaria: Harold Temperley, Frederick the Great and Kaiser Joseph: An Episode of War and Diplomacy in the Eighteenth Century, 2nd ed. (1968); and Paul P. Bernard, Joseph II and Bavaria: Two Eighteenth Century Attempts at German Unification (1965).Matthew Smith Anderson

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Universalium. 2010.

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