Congress of Vienna, Elector of Brandenburg, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, Emperor Franz of Austria, Friedrich-Wilhelm II of Prussia, George III of Great Britain, King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, Kingdom of Prussia, Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Napoleonic Wars
Friedrich Wilhelm III (August 3, 1770 – June 7, 1840) was King of Prussia from November 6, 1797 until his death in 1840. He was concurrently Elector of Brandenburg in the Holy Roman Empire until August 6, 1806, when the Empire was dissolved.
Friedrich Wilhelm III was born in Potsdam on August 3, I1770 as the son of Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia and Frederica Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt, the daughter of Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, and Countess Palatine Caroline of Zweibrücken. She was born in Prenzlau. She was the sister of Grand Duchess Louise of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, (wife of Charles August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach)
as well as Grand Duke Ludwig I of Hesse and by Rhine.
Frederica Louisa was selected to marry Friedrich Wilhelm II immediately after his divorce from Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg, after Margravine Philippine of Brandenburg-Schwedt and Sophia Albertina of Sweden had been suggested. Her mother was highly admired by Friedrich II the Great of Prussia. The wedding was performed on July 14, 1769 at the Charlottenburg Palace.
The future Friedrich Wilhelm II 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.
As a child, Friedrich Wiilhelm’s father (under the influence of his mistress, Wilhelmine Enke, Countess of Lichtenau) had him handed over to tutors, as was quite normal for the period. He spent part of the time living at Paretz, the estate of the old soldier Count Hans von Blumenthal who was the governor of his brother Prince Heinrich.
They thus grew up partly with the Count’s son, who accompanied them on their Grand Tour in the 1780s. Friedrich Wilhelm was happy at Paretz, and for this reason, in 1795, he bought it from his boyhood friend and turned it into an important royal country retreat. He was a melancholy boy, but he grew up pious and honest. His tutors included the dramatist Johann Engel.
As a soldier, he received the usual training of a Prussian prince, obtained his lieutenancy in 1784, became a lieutenant colonel in 1786, a colonel in 1790, and took part in the campaigns against France of 1792–1794.
Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Duchess Luise Auguste Wilhelmine Amalie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (“Louise” in English) was born on March 10, 1776 in a one-storey villa, just outside the capital in Hanover. She was the fourth daughter and sixth child of Duke Charles of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and his wife Princess Friederike of Hesse-Darmstadt, eldest daughter of Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hesse-Darmstadt, second son of Ludwig VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, and Countess Maria Louise Albertine of Leiningen-Falkenburg-Dagsburg.
Her father Charles was a brother of Queen Charlotte (wife of George III, King of Great Britain and Elector of Hanover).
Her maternal grandmother, Landgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt, and her paternal first-cousin Princess Augusta Sophia of Great Britain served as sponsors at her baptism; her second given name came from Princess Augusta Sophia.
At the time of her birth, Louise’s father was not yet the ruler of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (he would not succeed his brother as Duke until 1794), and consequently she was not born in a court, but rather in a less formal home. Charles was field marshal of the household brigade in Hanover, and soon after Louise’s birth he was made Governor-General of that territory by his brother-in-law George III, king of the United Kingdom and Hanover.
The family subsequently moved to Leineschloss, the residence of Hanoverian kings, though during the summer they usually lived at Herrenhausen.
In 1793, Marie Louise took the two youngest duchesses with her to Frankfurt, where she paid her respects to her nephew King Friedrich Wilhelm II. Louise had grown up into a beautiful young woman, possessing “an exquisite complexion” and “large blue eyes,” and was naturally graceful. Louise’s uncle, the Duke of Mecklenburg, hoped to strengthen ties between his house and Prussia.
Consequently, on one evening carefully planned by the Duke, seventeen-year-old Louise met the king’s son and heir, Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm. The crown prince was twenty-three, serious-minded, and religious. Louise made such a charming impression on Friedrich Wilhelm that he immediately made his choice, desiring to marry her.
Frederica caught the eye of his younger brother Prince Ludwig Charles, and the two families began planning a double betrothal, celebrating a month later, on April 4, 1793 in Darmstadt. Friedrich Wilhelm and Louise were subsequently married on December 24 that same year, with Ludwig Charles and Frederica marrying two days later.
Louise who bore Friedrich Wilhelm ten children. In the Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince’s Palace) in Berlin, he lived a civil life with a problem-free marriage, which did not change even when he became King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia in 1797. Queen Louise was particularly loved by the Prussian people, which boosted the popularity of the whole House of Hohenzollern, including the King himself.
As King, Friedrich Wilhelm III ruled Prussia during the difficult times of the Napoleonic Wars. The king reluctantly joined the coalition against Napoleon in the Befreiungskriege.
Queen Louise was his most important political advisor. She led a mighty group that included Baron vom Stein, Prince von Hardenberg, Gerhard von Scharnhorst, and Count von Gneisenau. They set about reforming Prussia’s administration, churches, finance, and military.
On July 19, 1810, while visiting her father in Strelitz, the Queen died in her husband’s arms from an unidentified illness. Lieutenant-General Baron De Marbot, in his Memoirs, records that the Queen in later life always wore a thick wrapping around her neck. It was to conceal a botched operation for goitre, which left an open sore, which eventually killed her.
The queen’s subjects attributed the French occupation as the cause of her early death. “Our saint is in heaven”, exclaimed Prussian general Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. Louise’s untimely death left her husband alone during a period of great difficulty, as the Napoleonic Wars and need for reform continued. Louise was buried in the garden of Charlottenburg Palace, where a mausoleum, containing a fine recumbent statue by Christian Daniel Rauch, was built over her grave.
In 1813, following Napoleon’s defeat in Russia, Friedrich Wilhelm turned against France and signed an alliance with Russia at Kalisz. However, he had to flee Berlin, still under French occupation. Prussian troops played a crucial part in the victories of the allies in 1813 and 1814, and the King himself traveled with the main army of Charles Philipp Fürst zu Schwarzenberg, along with Emperor Alexander I of Russia and Emperor Franz of Austria.
At the Congress of Vienna, Friedrich Wilhelm III’s ministers succeeded in securing significant territorial increases for Prussia. However, they failed to obtain the annexation of all of Saxony, as they had wished.
Following the war, Friedrich Wilhelm III turned towards political reaction, abandoning the promises he had made in 1813 to provide Prussia with a constitution.
His primary interests were internal – the reform of Prussia’s Protestant churches.
He was determined to unify the Protestant churches to homogenize their liturgy, organization, and architecture. The long-term goal was to have fully centralized royal control of all the Protestant churches in the Prussian Union of Churches.
In 1824 Friedrich Wilhelm III remarried (morganatically) Countess Auguste von Harrach, Princess of Liegnitz. They had no children.
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, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, succeeded him. Friedrich Wilhelm III is buried at the Mausoleum in Schlosspark Charlottenburg, Berlin.
Friedrich Wilhelm III was the closest common ancestor of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and German Emperor Wilhelm II.
Emperor Nicholas II is a descendant of Friedrich Wilhelm III through his daughter, Princess Charlotte, who married Emperor Nicholas I of Russia who was Emperor Nicholas II’s great-grandfather.
Wilhelm II, German Emperor and King of Prussia is a descendant of Friedrich Wilhelm III through his second son, Wilhelm I, German Emperor and King of Prussia, who was Wilhelm II’s grandfather.
This means that Nicholas II and Wilhelm II were second cousins once removed.