Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria, Emperor of the Germans, Frankfort Parliament, Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, Kingdom of Prussia, Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Roman Catholic, Romantic
Friedrich Wilhelm IV (October 15, 1795 – January 2, 1861), the eldest son and successor of Frederick William III of Prussia, reigned as King of Prussia from June 7, 1840 to his death on January 2, 1861.
Born to Friedrich Wilhelm III by his wife Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, he was her favourite son. Queen Louise was 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 Ludwig VIII, Landgrave 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.
Friedrich Wilhelm was educated by private tutors, many of whom were experienced civil servants, such as Friedrich Ancillon. He also gained military experience by serving in the Prussian Army during the War of Liberation against Napoleon in 1814, although he was an indifferent soldier.
He was a draftsman interested in both architecture and landscape gardening and was a patron of several great German artists, including architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and composer Felix Mendelssohn.
In 1823 he married Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria,
daughter of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria and his Queen Friederike Karoline Wilhelmine Margravine of Baden. She was the identical twin sister of Queen Amalie of Saxony, consort of King Johann I of Saxony, and sister of Archduchess Sophie of Austria, mother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico; as well as Ludovika, Duchess in Bavaria, mother of Franz Josef’s consort, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi), who was Elisabeth’s godchild and namesake. She was known within her family as Elise.
Since Elisabeth Ludovika was a Roman Catholic, the preparations for this marriage included difficult negotiations which ended with her conversion to Lutheranism. There were two wedding ceremonies—one in Munich, and another in Berlin. The couple had a very harmonious marriage, but, after a single miscarriage in 1828, it remained childless.
Friedrich Wilhelm IV was a staunch Romanticist, and his devotion to this movement, which in the German States featured nostalgia for the Middle Ages, was largely responsible for his developing into a conservative at an early age.
In 1815, when he was only twenty, the crown prince exerted his influence to structure the proposed new constitution of 1815, which was never actually enacted, in such a way that the landed aristocracy would hold the greatest power. He was firmly against the liberalization of Germany and only aspired to unify its many states within what he viewed as a historically legitimate framework, inspired by the ancient laws and customs of the recently dissolved Holy Roman Empire.
In politics, he was a conservative, who initially pursued a moderate policy of easing press censorship and reconciling with the Catholic population of the kingdom.
During the German revolutions of 1848–1849, he at first accommodated the revolutionaries but rejected the title of Emperor of the Germans offered by the Frankfurt Parliament in 1849, believing that Parliament did not have the right to make such an offer. He used military force to crush the revolutionaries throughout the German Confederation. From 1849 onward he converted Prussia into a constitutional monarchy and acquired the port of Wilhelmshaven in the Jade Treaty of 1853.
Also referred to as the “romanticist on the throne”, he is best remembered for the many buildings he had constructed in Berlin and Potsdam as well as for the completion of the Gothic Cologne Cathedral.
From 1857 to 1861, he suffered several strokes and was left incapacitated until his death. His brother (and heir-presumptive) Wilhelm served as regent after 1858 and then succeeded him as King.