Acsession, Berlin, Frederick William II of Prussia, Frederick William III of Prussia, King George III of Great Britain, Kingdom of Prussia, Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelizt, William I of Prussia
Friedrich Wilhelm III was born in Potsdam on August 3, 1770 as the son of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia and Frederica Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt, the daughter of Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, and Caroline of Zweibrücken. 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.
King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia
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. On December 24, 1793, Friedrich Wilhelm married Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She was the fourth daughter and sixth child of Duke Karl of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and his wife Princess Friederike of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her father Karl was a brother of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III of the United Kingdom. Her mother Frederike was a granddaughter of Ludwig VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt. Louise bore Friedrich Wilhelm III ten children (including future Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and German Emperor Wilhelm I, and Charlotte the wife of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia).
In the Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince’s Palace) in Berlin, Friedrich Wilhelm lived a civil life with a problem-free marriage, which did not change even when he became King of Prussia in 1797. His wife Louise was particularly loved by the Prussian people, which boosted the popularity of the whole House of Hohenzollern, including the King himself.
Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
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.
He had the Hohenzollern determination to retain personal power but not the Hohenzollern genius for using it. Too distrustful to delegate responsibility to his ministers, Friedrich Wilhelm III 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. The eagerness to restore dignity to his family went so far that it nearly caused sculptor Johann Gottfried Schadow to cancel the expensive and lavish Prinzessinnengruppe project, which was commissioned by the previous monarch Friedrich Wilhelm II. He was quoted as saying the following, which demonstrated his sense of duty and peculiar manner of speech:
Every civil servant has a dual obligation: to the sovereign and to the country. It can occur that the two are not compatible; then, the duty to the country is higher.