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Friedrich-Wilhelm III (August 3, 1770 – June 7, 1840) was King of Prussia from 1797 to 1840.

Friedrich-Wilhelm was born in Potsdam in 1770 as the son of Friedrich-Wilhelm II of Prussia and Frederica-Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt, the daughter of Landgrave Ludwig IX of Hesse-Darmstadt, and Caroline of Zweibrücken. Frederica-Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt was born in Prenzlau. She was the sister of Grand Duchess Louise of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, as well as Grand Duke Ludwig I of Hesse and by Rhine.

Friedrich-Wilhelm III, King of Prussia

Friedrich-Wilhelm was considered to be a shy and reserved boy, which became noticeable in his particularly reticent conversations distinguished by the lack of personal pronouns. This manner of speech subsequently came to be considered entirely appropriate for military officers. He was neglected by his father during his childhood and suffered from an inferiority complex his entire life.

On December 24, 1793, Friedrich-Wilhelm married Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the fourth daughter and sixth child of Duke Charles of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and his wife Princess Friederike of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her father Charles was a brother of Queen Charlotte of the United Kingdom and her mother Frederike was a granddaughter of Landgrave Ludwig VIII, of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her maternal grandmother, Landgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt, and her paternal first-cousin Princess Augusta-Sophia of the United Kingdom served as sponsors at her baptism; her second given name came from Princess Augusta-Sophia.

Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

The wedding took place in the Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince’s Palace) in Berlin, Friedrich-Wilhelm and Luise lived a civil life with a problem-free marriage, which did not change even when he became King of Prussia in 1797. His wife Luise was particularly loved by the Prussian people, which boosted the popularity of the whole House of Hohenzollern, including the King himself. Friedrich-Wilhelm and Luise had ten children.

Friedrich-Wilhelm succeeded to the throne on November 16, 1797. He also became, in personal union, the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchâtel (1797–1806 and again 1813–1840). At once, the new King showed that he was earnest of his good intentions by cutting down the expenses of the royal establishment, dismissing his father’s ministers, and reforming the most oppressive abuses of the late reign.

Friedrich-Wilhelm II of Prussia (Father)

Frederica-Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt (Mothrr)

King Friedrich-Wilhelm III 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 greatly reduced the effectiveness of his reign since he was forced to assume the roles he did not delegate. This is a main factor of his inconsistent rule.

Disgusted with the moral debauchery of his father’s court (in both political intrigues and sexual affairs), Friedrich-Wilhelm III’s first, and most successful early endeavor was to restore the moral legitimacy to his dynasty.

Friedrich-Wilhelm III ruled Prussia during the difficult times of the Napoleonic Wars. Steering a careful course between France and her enemies, after a major military defeat in 1806, he was humiliated by Napoleon, and Prussia was stripped of recent gains and forced to pay huge financial penalties. The king reluctantly joined the coalition against Napoleon in the Befreiungskriege.

Following Napoleon’s defeat, he took part in the Congress of Vienna, which assembled to settle the political questions arising from the new, post-Napoleonic order in Europe. His major interests were internal, the reform of Prussia’s Protestant churches. He was determined to unify the Protestant churches, to homogenize their liturgy, their organization, and even their architecture.

The long-term goal was to have fully centralized royal control of all the Protestant churches in the Prussian Union of Churches. The king was said to be extremely shy and indecisive. His wife Queen Luise (1776–1810) was his most important political advisor. She led a very powerful group that included Baron vom Stein, Prince von Hardenberg, von Scharnhorst, and Count Gneisenau. They set about reforming Prussia’s administration, churches, finance and military.

In 1824 Friedrich-Wilhelm III remarried (morganatically) Countess Auguste von Harrach, Princess of Liegnitz. They had no children. At the time of their marriage the Harrach family was still not recognised as equal, although, later in 1841, they were officially recognised as a mediatised family (former ruling family within the Holy Roman Empire), with the style of Illustrious Highness which allowed them having equal status for marriage purposes to those reigning and royal families.

Due to that, in 1824 when the marriage occurred, it was treated as morganatic, so she was not named Queen, but was given the titles Princess von Liegnitz (modern-day Legnica) and Countess von Hohenzollern. Friedrich-Wilhelm reportedly stated, that he did not wish to have another queen after Queen Luise.

Countess Auguste von Harrach, Princess of Liegnitz

In 1838 the king distributed large parts of his farmland at Erdmannsdorf Estate to 422 Protestant refugees from the Austrian Zillertal, who built Tyrolean style farmhouses in the Silesian village.


Friedrich-Wilhelm III died on June 7, 1840 in Berlin, from a fever, survived by his second wife. His eldest son succeeded him as King Friedrich-Wilhelm IV. King Friedrich-Wilhelm III is buried at the Mausoleum in Schlosspark Charlottenburg, Berlin.