Kingdom of Prussia


May 21, 2022

The Kingdom of Prussia (in German: Königreich Preußen), is a former European state formed in 1701 and integrated in 1871 into the German Empire, of which it is the main component; it disappeared in 1918 when Germany became a republic. The kingdom of Prussia became a state of European rank under the reign of Frederick II (1740 – 1786), then played an essential role from 1792 to 1815 as an adversary of France (wars of the Revolution and the Empire), from 1815 in 1866 as an adversary of Austria (unification of Germany excluding Austria), and in 1870-71 again as an adversary of France (Franco-Prussian war).



Since 1618, the Electorate of Brandenburg (under the Holy Empire) and the Duchy of Prussia (under the Polish state) have been united in a personal union by the Hohenzollern dynasty, forming an entity called Brandenburg- Prussia.

The Foundation of the Kingdom

In 1688 began the reign of the Prince-Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia Frederick III: it was he who obtained from the Emperor a long coveted royal title. By the Crown Treaty (in German: Krontraktat), signed in Vienna on November 16, 1700, Emperor Leopold I granted Frederick III, Elector of the Holy Roman Empire the right to bear the title of king in Prussia: the January 18, 1701, Frederick III is crowned and becomes King Frederick I. No one indeed can be crowned king inside the Holy Roman Empire, but Prussia is not part of the empire. Frederick crowns himself in the chapel of Königsberg Castle (now Kaliningrad). From now on, all the possessions of the Hohenzollerns are united within the Prussian kingdom. In 1698, Frederick had asked Andreas Schlüter to transform the castle of Berlin, in anticipation of his elevation to royal dignity, then, in 1700, on the initiative of Leibniz, Berlin hosted the third Academy of Sciences in Europe. He also built for his wife Sophie-Charlotte a sumptuous castle in Charlottenburg, a city then located outside Berlin. Finally, in 1711, Antoine Pesne, of French origin, became court painter. But all this policy of pageantry, partly due to the appetites of prestige of the new king, is expensive: the court spends half of the annual income.

Frederick William I, the "king-sergeant"

In 1713 Frederick William I became king of Prussia. He remained as the Soldatenkönig, the king-sergeant. He is a king who loves drinking, smoking and military songs. He surrounds himself with a guard of giants, famous throughout Europe, for which he has recruited, willingly or by force, giants all over the continent. But Frédéric-Guillaume is characterized by a strong sense of duty to the state. He consolidated the kingdom, replenished the coffers with an austere economy, and made the Prussian army one of the strongest on the continent with a permanent contingent of 76,000 men (at that time, France barely had twice that number and it is much more populated than Prussia). Despite his involvement in the Northern War and the acquisition of Stettin and Western Pomerania, Frédéric-Guillaume was above all concerned with perfecting his army, in particular by organizing recruitment and a new division into cantons: since 1711, each regiment is assigned a canton in which he can carry out his recruitments. In doing so, he bequeaths to his son a powerful war machine which he himself has not used. As Pierre Gaxotte writes, “Prussia was located outside Germany, outside the Empire, in full Slavic territory, landlocked in Polish territories. It was only there that Frederick William was king. In Berlin, he was Elector of Brandenburg, elsewhere