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Friedrich I. ( July 11, 1657 – February 25, 1713), of the Hohenzollern dynasty, was (as Friedrich III) Elector of Brandenburg (1688–1713) and Duke of Prussia in personal union (Brandenburg-Prussia). The latter function he upgraded to royalty, becoming the first King in Prussia (1701–1713).

Born in Königsberg, he was the third son of Friedrich Wilhelm, The Great Elector of Brandenburg by his father’s first marriage to Louise Henriette of Orange-Nassau, eldest daughter of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange and Amalia of Solms-Braunfels. His maternal cousin was King William III of England.

Upon the death of his father on 29 April 1688, Friedrich became Elector Friedrich III of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia. Right after ascending the throne Friedrich founded a new city southerly adjacent to Dorotheenstadt and named it after himself, the Friedrichstadt.

The Hohenzollern state was then known as Brandenburg-Prussia. The family’s main possessions were the Margraviate of Brandenburg within the Holy Roman Empire and the Duchy of Prussia outside of the Empire, ruled as a personal union.

Although he was the Margrave and Prince-Elector of Brandenburg and the Duke of Prussia, Elector Friedrich III desired the more prestigious title of king. However, according to Germanic law at that time, no kingdoms could exist within the Holy Roman Empire, with the exception of the Kingdom of Bohemia which belonged to the Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Habsburg.

Friedrich persuaded Emperor Leopold I to allow Prussia to be elevated to a kingdom by the Crown Treaty of November 16, 1700. This agreement was ostensibly given in exchange for an alliance against King Louis XIV of France and Navarre in the War of the Spanish Succession, along with the provision of 8,000 Prussian troops to Leopold’s service.

Friedrich argued that Prussia had never been part of the Holy Roman Empire, (it was once a fief of the Kingdom of Poland) and he ruled over it with full sovereignty. Therefore, he said, there was no legal or political barrier to letting him rule it as a kingdom.

Friedrich crowned himself on January 18, 1701 in Königsberg. Although he did so with the Emperor’s consent, and also with formal acknowledgement from Augustus II the Strong, Elector of Saxony, who held the title of King of Poland, the Polish-Lithuanian Diet (Sejm) did raise objections, and viewed the coronation as illegal.

In fact, according to the terms of the Treaty of Wehlau and Bromberg, the House of Hohenzollern’s sovereignty over the Duchy of Prussia was not absolute but contingent on the continuation of the male line (in the absence of which the duchy would revert to the Polish crown). Therefore, out of deference to the region’s historic ties to the Polish crown, Friedrich made the symbolic concession of calling himself “King in Prussia” instead of “King of Prussia”.

His sovereignty was, in any case, limited to Prussia and did not reduce the rights of the Emperor in the portions of Friedrich’s domains that were still part of the Holy Roman Empire.

In other words, while he was a king in Prussia, he was still only an Imperial Elector of Brandenburg under the suzerainty of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Legally, the Hohenzollern state was still a personal union vested in Friedrich who now was both Elector of Brandenburg and the King in Prussia. In other words, Brandenburg and Prussia we’re not politically united as a singular state.

However, in practice and reality, at the time Friedrich crowned himself as King in Prussia, the Emperor Leopold’s authority over the Electorate of Brandenburg (and the rest of the Empire itself) was only nominal, and it soon came to be treated as part of the Prussian Kingdom rather than as a separate entity. His grandson, Friedrich II the Great, was the first Prussian king formally to style himself “King of Prussia” (from 1772 onwards).

With the rise of the Prussian Kingdom, and with the Habsburg Emperors generally only having authority within their native hereditary lands such as the Archduchy of Austria, began a rivalry for the supremacy of the entirety of Germany.