Frederick III, German Emperor

Frederick III, German Emperor

Infobox Prussian Royalty|monarch
name = Frederick III
title =German Emperor, King of Prussia

caption =Frederick III as crown prince
reign =March 9 – June 15, 1888
coronation =
predecessor =William I
successor =William II
heir =
spouse =Victoria, Princess Royal
issue =William II
Princess Charlotte
Prince Heinrich
Prince Sigismund
Princess Viktoria
Prince Waldemar
Princess Sophie
Princess Margaret
royal house =Hohenzollern
royal anthem ="Heil dir im Siegerkranz" (unofficial)
father =William I
mother =Augusta of Saxe-Weimar
date of birth =birth date|mf=yes|1831|10|18
place of birth =Potsdam, Prussia
date of death =death date and age|mf=yes|1888|6|15|1831|10|18
place of death =Potsdam, German Empire
buried =Friedenskirche, Potsdam, Germany|

Frederick III (German: "Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl", English: "Frederick William Nicholas Charles"; October 18, 1831 – June 15, 1888), (German: "Friedrich III., Deutscher Kaiser und König von Preußen") was German Emperor and King of Prussia in 1888, ruling for only 99 days during the Year of Three Emperors. Born in 1831 to William I, Frederick III followed in his father's footsteps militarily and was a commander during the wars fought to unify German. Frederick III was celebrated for his military successes and leadership during the Second Schleswig War, the Austro-Prussian War, and the Franco-Prussian War.Kollander, p. 79.] Pike] After the wars, his father, now German Emperor, lived to the age of 90, postponing Frederick's reign for 27 years. When Frederick III took the throne on March 9, 1888, he had already developed larynx cancer. After his unsuccessful treatment, he died on June 15, 1888.

He was married to Princess Victoria, the daughter of British Queen Victoria. Frederick, despite following his family's militaristic tradition, had liberal tendencies due to his ties with Britain and his time growing up during the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. Frederick III's reign was anticipated by liberal Germans and British alike in the hopes of liberalizing the German Empire. He opposed Bismarck often and spoke out against his policy of unifying Germany through military might. Frederick also wrote of limiting the power of Bismarck's Chancellor position, however his illness prevented him from enacting most policies about which he spoke. After his largely ineffectual reign, his successor, William II, abandoned any path toward liberalization that Frederick III previously leaned towards.

The timing of his death and the length of his reign have remained important topics among historians today. Many historians feel that Frederick would have enacted the liberal policies of which he dreamed and would have liberalized Germany earlier. Their argument is that an earlier, more liberal Germany with a more liberal leader could have potentially prevented World War I. On the other hand, contrasting historians argue that Frederick either would not have enacted his promised policies due to his obedience to his father and Bismarck, or could not because of the German political climate being unfavorable to liberalism at the time.

Personal life

Early life

Frederick William, as he was known before he assumed the throne, was born in the New Palace at Potsdam, a scion of the House of Hohenzollern. His father, Prince William of Prussia was a younger brother of King Frederick William IV of Prussia. Prussia, at the time, was recovering militarily and otherwise from the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.Van der Kiste, p. 10.] His mother, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar, had been brought up in a very different atmosphere. Weimar was the first German state to grant its subjects a constitution. Frederick's parents were also quite ill-suited to one another. His father had been in love with his cousin Elisa Radziwill, a minor Princess of the Polish nobility. He was forced to give her up due to her unequal rank and marry a dynastically suitable Princess, which he did out of duty. Princess Augusta was well known across Europe for her liberal views.Van der Kiste, p. 11.] It is not surprising therefore that Frederick's adult memories were always of a lonely childhood in a home dominated by his ill-matched parents.Van der Kiste, p. 12.] He had one sister, Louise, later Grand Duchess of Baden. Although Frederick was eight years Louise's senior, the two siblings were very close. During this time Frederick also lived through the Revolutions of 1848 which, along with his liberal family members and education, contributed to him having liberal beliefs early in life.Nichols, p. 7.]


The Hohenzollern family traditionally valued a military education. It was Frederick's mother that insisted that her son be educated according to liberal ideas. Therefore his education was closely supervised and extremely thorough. He was a talented student and was particularly good at foreign languages. He became fluent in English and French and also studied Latin as well as History, Geography, Physics, Music and Religion. Frederick was also good at gymnastics and became a very good rider as required of a Prussian Prince.Mueller-Bohn, p. 44.] Like all Hohenzollern princes he became familiar from a particularly young age with the military traditions of the dynasty. At the age of ten, in accordance with family tradition, he was commissioned second lieutenant in the First Infantry Regiment of Guards, and was invested with the Order of the Black Eagle.Mueller-Bohn, p. 14.] As a Prussian Prince, Frederick was expected to become actively involved as a military commander and strategist. Later, breaking with Hohenzollern tradition, he became the first Hohenzollern prince to pursue academic studies. He focused on history, literature, law, politics, English, and French while studying at the University of Bonn. During his studies in Bonn he developed many of his liberal tendencies.MacDonogh, p. 17.] His future father-in-law, Prince Albert, had also studied there.Mueller-Bohn, p. 19.]

Marriage and family

As early as 1851, there were plans to marry Frederick to Victoria, Princess Royal of Great Britain and Ireland, the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. At the christening of the future King Edward VII, Frederick's uncle, King Frederick William IV of Prussia, was godfather and had also dandled the Princess Royal on his knee. The Royal dynasty in Britain was predominantly German; there was little British blood in Queen Victoria and none in her husband.Van der Kiste, p. 15.] The idea of Frederick marrying the Princess Royal was considered to be a very good idea by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Nobody welcomed the prospect of closer connections with Britain more than Princess Augusta. Prince William had been indifferent to the idea and had hoped for a marriage with a Russian Grand Duchess. King Leopold I of Belgium, uncle of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, had long treasured the idea of Baron Stockmar of a marriage alliance between Britain and Prussia.Van der Kiste, p. 16.] Prince Albert hoped that the marriage would lead to the liberalization and modernization of Prussia. The betrothal of the young couple was announced in April 1856.Van der Kiste, p. 31.] The wedding was on January 25, 1858, in the Chapel of St. James's Palace, London. To mark the occasion, Frederick was promoted to Major-General in the Prussian army. Although the marriage was arranged, the couple loved each other.MacDonogh, p. 17-18.] Van der Kiste, p. 43.] The rigorously educated Victoria shared her husband's liberal views. The couple had eight children during their marriage: William in 1859, Charlotte in 1860, Henry in 1862, Sigismund in 1864, Victoria in 1866, Waldemar in 1868, Sophie in 1870 and Margaret in 1872.Kollander, p. 21.] However, both Princes Sigismund and Waldemar died in childhood, Sigismund at age 2 and Waldemar at age 11. Frederick's eldest son, William, suffered from a withered arm due to his difficult and dangerous breech birth, although it could have also been the result of a slight case of cerebral palsy.Röhl, p.12.] MacDonogh, p. 22.] Relations between both parents and William would prove to be difficult throughout the years.Röhl, p. xiii.]

Political life

Crown Prince

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

*October 18, 1831 - January 2, 1861: "His Royal Highness" Prince Frederick of Prussia
*January 2, 1861 - January 18, 1871: "His Royal Highness" The Crown Prince of Prussia
*January 18, 1871 - March 9, 1888: "His Imperial and Royal Highness" The German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia
*March 9, 1888 - June 15, 1888: "His Imperial and Royal Majesty" The German Emperor, King of Prussia




Further reading

* [ "The War Diary of the Emperor Frederick III, (1870-1871)"] By Frederick III, translated and edited by Alfred Richard Allinson. New York, Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1927. - This is the translated collection of the then Crown Prince Frederick's war diaries that he kept during the Franco-Prussian War.

External links

* [ Kaiser Friedrich III] de icon Website with biographical information, pictures, and paintings of Frederick III

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