Frederick Augustus I of Saxony

Frederick Augustus I of Saxony

"For the king of Poland, see Augustus I of PolandFrederick Augustus I (full name: "Frederick Augustus Joseph Maria Anton Johann Nepomuk Aloys Xavier") ( _de. Friedrich August I.; b. Dresden, 23 December 1750 - d. Dresden, 5 May 1827) was King of Saxony (1805-1827) from the House of Wettin. He was also Elector Frederick Augustus III ("Friedrich August III.") of Saxony (1763-1806) and Duke Frederick Augustus I ( _pl. Fryderyk August I) of Warsaw (1807-1813).

Elector of Saxony and Designated King of Poland

Family Background

He was the second but eldest surviving son of Frederick Christian, Elector of Saxony, and Maria Antonia Walpurgis of Bavaria, Princess of Bavaria. After the death of his father in 1763 and because he was underage his mother was Regent until 1768 and his uncle Prince Franz Xavier was his representative.

Renunciation of the Polish Throne

In 1765 on behalf of the underage Elector Prince Franz Xavier relinquished the Polish throne to Stanisław August Poniatowski. However by the adoption of the Polish constitution by the lower House (Sejm) of the Polish Parliament Frederick Augustus was named the successor to Stanislaw and at the same time the Saxon Royal House was established as the heir to the Polish throne (Article VII of the Polish Constitution). Frederick Augustus declined to accept the crown, because he feared becoming entangled in disputes with Austria, Prussia and Russia, who had already exacted a partition of Poland in 1772. As a matter of fact by 1795 the full partition of Poland among the neighboring powers Austria, Prussia and Russia took place and that even before Stanislaw’s passing.

Position on Foreign Affairs up to the Dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire

In 1791 Frederick Augustus arranged a meeting with Kaiser Leopold II and King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia at Castle Pillnitz at which a declaration of support for the French monarchy was agreed to. The Declaration of Pillnitz contained the prospect of a military action against the French Revolution and gave France the reason for declaring war on Austria in April 1792. Frederick Augustus did not sign the Pillnitzer Declaration.

Saxony did not have anything to do with the defense alliance between Austria and Prussia against France. The proclamation by the Reichstag [Holy Roman Empire] in March 1793 obligated Frederick Augustus to take part. When suddenly in April 1795 at the expense of treasure Prussia concluded a separate peace with France in order to be able to break the resistance against the partition of Poland without hindrance, this created great concern in Saxony. In August 1796 after additional conditions for the Holy Roman Empire were agreed to for a separate peace pact with France and France advanced east, Saxony dropped out of the Coalition War.

Both the peace agreement with France and also the Rastatter Congress served to demonstrate Frederick Augustus’ loyalty to the conventional constitutional principles of the Empire. The Rastatter Congress was supposed to authorize the surrender of left bank areas of the Rhine to France beginning in 1797. Neither in Rastatt nor in 1803 at the Final Report of the Empire Delegation [law of the Holy Roman Empire that laid out the new order of the Empire] did Saxony participate in the general territorial haggling whose principal beneficiaries were Bavaria, Prussia, Wurttemberg and Baden.

Foreign Policy until Peace Pact with Napoleon

Frederick Augustus also did not participate in the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, which led to the final dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. With respect to the Prussian idea of a north German Empire, within which Saxony was supposed to be raised to a kingdom, he appeared reserved. However, when from September 1806 Napoleon advanced as far as Thuringia in response to the Berlin Ultimatum, which demanded the withdrawal of French troops from the area of the left bank of the Rhine, Frederick Augustus joined with Prussia. In the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt in 1806 the Prussian – Saxon troops suffered a clearly crushing defeat against Napoleon. Separated from Prussia, whose state and army leadership withdrew headlong to the east, left without any information and with Napoleon’s troops about to occupy Saxony Frederick Augustus had to conclude peace. On 11 December 1806 in Poznan a treaty was signed by authorized representatives of both sides. Saxony had to join the Confederation of the Rhine and had to surrender areas of Thuringia to the recently organized Kingdom of Westphalia, but agreed to accept as compensation the area around Cottbus and was raised to a Kingdom alongside the Confederation States of Bavaria and Wurttemberg.

King of Saxony and Duke of Warsaw

Elevation to Saxon - Polish Sovereign

On 20 December 1806 the proclamation of Frederick Augustus as King of Saxony took place. After the Treaty of Tilsit , which Frederick William III of Prussia and Czar Alexander of Russia concluded with Napoleon in July 1807, Frederick Augustus was also named Duke of Warsaw. Frederick Augustus, who had rejected the offer in 1795 by the lower House of the Polish Parliament of the hereditary honor, could not refuse this time.".

Altogether, the Duchy had an initial area of around 104,000 km², with a population of approximately 2,600,000. The bulk of its inhabitants were Poles.

In 1809 when Austria attempted to take possession of the Duchy it was successfully defeated by Polish – Saxon troops and for its part had to cede to the Duchy of Warsaw Polish regions absorbed up to 1795 among them the old Polish royal city of Cracow. In July 1812 Frederick Augustus ratified a proclamation of the Polish Parliament restoring the Kingdom of Poland against which Napoleon lodged a protest.

tate of Affairs and Situation during the War of Liberation

In 1813 during the War of Liberation Saxony found itself in a more difficult situation than the other warring states. The country was still solidly in Napoleon’s grip and at the same time had become the central arena of the war. In the autumn of 1813 at the start of the Battle of Leipzig (Battle of Nations) the local population of Saxony, which tallied about 2 million, faced almost a million soldiers. Napoleon openly threatened the King that he would consider Saxony as enemy territory and treat it accordingly should Frederick Augustus change sides. Frederick Augustus’ room for maneuver was consequently greatly limited. He did not want to put the country’s well-being into play frivolously. At the same time the memory was still vivid to the King that in 1806 Prussia had simply abandoned him.

In this difficult situation the King attempted during 1813 to cautiously enter into an alliance with the Great Coalition without risking publicly offending Napoleon and a declaration of war by the Corsican. In the spring as the Prussian and Russian troops entered Saxony the King first moved to the south in order to avoid a direct encounter and pursued secretly from Regensburg the completion of an alliance with Austria. The Saxon-Austrian Pact was concluded on April 20 and the King made the Prussian and Russian allies aware of it at the same time. Napoleon, from whom Frederick Augustus was not able to keep the disengagement concealed, summoned the King urgently to Saxony after he had defeated the Prussian-Russian troops at Lützen on May 2. Without expectation of concrete help from Austria, which entered the war in August and in view of the defeat of the Prussian – Russian coalition, which now sent peace signals to France, Frederick Augustus decided to comply with the ultimatum.

Frederick Augustus’ decision brought the country scarcely any relief. Napoleon, angered at the near defection of the King and at the same time dependent upon the full mobilization of all available forces against the Coalition troops, harshly demanded the full resources of Saxony. In addition the country suffered under the changing fortunes of war and associated movements and quartering. At the end of August the Allies failed again to defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Dresden. Meanwhile Saxony was the principal arena of war and Dresden the mid-point of the French Army movements. Not until September 9 in Teplice (in the present-day Czech Republic) did Austria conclude its alliance with Prussia and Russia. As Napoleon’s troops in Saxony formed up for the retreat before the expanded coalition, there came in September the first defectors from the Saxon Army to the allies.

Frederick Augustus mistrustful of Prussia in view of the experiences of the spring and arguably disappointed as well by Austria preferred not to immediately join the Coalition, especially while the country was exposed as before to the French grip. In the Battle of Leipzig [Battle of Nations] the Saxon as well as the Polish troops fought on the side of Napoleon. In view of the apparent defeat of the French even larger Saxon troop formations went over to the Coalition during the battle, whereas the Polish troops were largely annihilated.

Fate during the Congress of Vienna

More than the difficult geographic position, the changing fortunes of war, the wanting assistance of Austria and finally also the hesitant attitude of the Saxon King, Frederick Augustus, as well as the country, was doomed by the fact that the Prussian-Russian alliance scarcely had an honorable intention to get Saxony into the anti-Napoleon alliance. For even before Prussia declared war on France on March 17 1813 and called its people to arms, she had in Kalisz on February 22 agreed to an alliance with Russia to the detriment of Saxony and Poland: the Duchy of Poland should predominantly come under Russia, Prussia should be compensated for the relinquished Polish territories accordingly with the annexation of Saxony. Prussia’s grasp for the rich, cultural and economically higher developed Saxony resulted certainly not out of any necessity to overcome the Napoleonic foreign rule, on the contrary it corresponded only to the old dream of annexation that Frederick II developed in his political testament of 1752 and had already ruthlessly tried to realize in the Seven Years War.

After the Battle of Leipzig the Prussian-Russian alliance showed no interest in an alliance with the Saxon King in the wider struggle with Napoleon irrespective of corresponding offers by Frederick Augustus. Rather the King was immediately taken in captivity to Friedrichsfelde near Berlin and placed under Russian-Prussian custody in the name of a “General Government of High Allied Powers.”

Not the Government administered by Russian Prince Repnin until November 1814, but the subsequent Prussian occupying forces lasting to June 1815 and the forceful manner of Baron von Stein were responsible for the low morale in Saxony. At the Congress of Vienna Frederick Augustus, who in contrast to the representatives of France was denied participation, was supposed to be punished as the quasi deputy of his ally, Napoleon. Behind this punishment stood certainly nothing other than the intention of Prussia and Russia to carry out the annexation plans agreed to in Kalisz. That Saxony was not completely abandoned rested on the fear of Austria and France of an overly strengthened Prussia. Because the Saxon question threatened to break up the Congress, they finally agreed after intervention by the Czar to divide Saxony (7 January 1815).

Acceptance of the Post War Order of the Congress of Vienna

Frederick Augustus who was released from the Prussian prison in February 1815 delayed before agreeing to the division of his country. Since the King to be sure had no choice he finally gave in and on May 18 consented to the peace treaty laid before him by Prussia and Russia. With the signing of the treaty on May 21, 1815 a good 57% of the Saxon territory and 42% of the Saxon population fell to the northern neighbor.

Places and areas, which for hundreds of years had been connected to the Saxon landscape, became completely foreign, absorbed in part into artificially created administrative regions: for example, Wittenberg, the old capital of the Saxon Elector State [Holy Roman Empire] and seat of the National University made famous by Martin Luther and Melanchthon (which was already done away with in 1817 through merger with the Prussian University of Halle), or Torgau, birthplace and place of residence of the Elector Frederick the Wise [Holy Roman Empire] , was incorporated into one of the new hybrids created by Prussia by the name of Province Saxony. Lower Lusatia, which like Upper Lusatia had its constitutional autonomy conserved under Saxon rule, was incorporated into Province Brandenburg and ceased to exist as a state. Upper Lusatia was arbitrarily divided: the area assigned to Prussia, including Gorlitz next to the capital city Bautzen (which remained with Saxony), the center of the land for centuries was separated and added to Province Silesia; these areas, other than the territory remaining under Saxon rule, also lost their constitutional autonomy.

On May 22, 1815 Frederick Augustus rendered abdication of the Duchy of Warsaw, whose territory was primarily annexed by Russia, but also Prussia and Austria. In the area assigned to Russia, a Kingdom of Poland was created, that was joined in a hereditary union with the Czars. Facing the 1807 established Duchy and comparing more with the old Polish kingdom was this Congress Poland, arranged in Vienna, an appendage that no longer belonged to the old royal city of Cracow. The internal autonomy that the kingdom at first enjoyed was abolished in 1831 after a Polish revolt.

King of Saxony

tanding Among the People upon Return Home

When Frederick returned home to Saxony in July 1815 he was enthusiastically greeted throughout the land. Also numerous expressions of loyalty reached the King from the ceded territories where the populace regarded the new rulers coolly; shortly thereafter the notion of the “mandatory-Prussian” went around. In Liège where the majority of the regiments of the Saxon Army had been stationed since the beginning of 1815 there was a revolt at the end of April. At the behest of the Prussian King, Blücher was to discharge the soldiers who came from the annexed territories, but Frederick Augustus’ men had not yet made their departure, and the Saxon soldiers rioted over it. Blücher had to flee the city and was able to put down the revolt only with additional Prussian troops that were called up.

Upon the King’s return sympathy of public opinion lay significantly on Frederick Augustus’ side. In Saxony the Prussian politics seemed all too ruthless against the country as well as against the King. The pathos of the Berlin special interests came across all too unpleasantly, as the rewards of the War of Liberation were distributed. For example, on top of Prussia’s compensation of the Rhineland Hardenberg attempted to legitimize the only half-won Saxony after the annexation plan arranged principally by him, Stein and Russia in Kalisz [Poland] was not able to be achieved at the Congress of Vienna.

Future generations have been taught to reject the position of Frederick Augustus in the War of Liberation. This is largely due to the influence of Heinrich von Treitschke whose imagery and assessments determined the academic discourse, political journalism and scholastic teaching of history for a long time, up to the time of the partition of Germany and even in the GDR [German Democratic Republic] .

Disposition and Esteem during the Final Years of Reign

The last twelve years of Frederick Augustus’ government passed largely quietly. The conservative character of the King, which in foreign policy up to 1806 had manifested itself unconditionally true to Saxony, hardened even more after the experience of the ravaging years of Napoleonic hegemony. With respect to reform of the constitution or administration and politics the King achieved little. Until his death in 1827, little came forward for the constitutional regulation of the Saxon State, which to be sure, the King failed to do out of respect for the rights of the remaining Lusatian upper classes, just as little came of the wish of many people for the extension of the existing political system to a genuine parliament. There was scarcely a break in the admiration for the old nobleman, who determined the destiny of Saxony for more than half a century. During his lifetime he gained the name “The Just.” The resentment by comparison over the delayed economic and social rebuilding of the country was to be felt by his brother, King Anton, upon his accession, who to be sure was likewise an old man.

Frederick Augustus was entombed in the Roman Catholic Cathedral [Dresden] .

Marriage and Issue

In Mannheim on 17 January 1769 (by proxy) and again in Dresden on 29 January 1769 (in person), Frederick Augustus married with the Countess Palatine ("Pfalzgräfin") Maria Amalia Augusta of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld, sister of the —since 1805— King Maximilian I of Bavaria. During their marriage, Amalia gave birth four children, but only a daughter survive adulthood:

#Stillborn child (1771).
#Stillborn child (1775).
#Maria Augusta Nepomucena Antonia Franziska Xaveria Aloysia (b. Dresden, 21 June 1782 - d. Dresden, 14 March 1863). []
#Stillborn child (1797).

Without surviving male issue, Frederick Augustus was succeeded as King of Saxony by his younger brother Anton.


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