History of Prussia

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The history of Prussia is very intertwined with the history of my German ancestors.

Leaders of Prussia

  • Frederick William, Elector of Brandenberg (1640-1688)
  • Frederick I, Elector of Brandenberg and Duke of Prussia (1688-1701) King of Prussia (1701-1713)
  • Frederick William I, King of Prussia (1713-1740)
  • Frederick II (1740-1772)
  • Frederick William II (1786-1797)
  • Frederick William III (1797-1840)
  • Frederick William IV (1840-1861)
  • William I, King of Prussia (1861-1888), German Emperor (1871-1888)

Joachim Frederick (1598-1608)

  • Became regent of Prussia because Albert Frederick was mentally ill
  • Prelude to Brandenberg-Prussia, Prussia had been under Anabach branch of Hohenzollern family

Territorial Change

  • Regency for Prussia "added" to Brandenberg

John Sigismund (1572-1619)

Elector of Brandenberg (1608-1619); Duke of Cleves, Count of Mark, Count of Ravensberg (1614-1619), Duke of Prussia (1618-19)

  • Converted from Lutheranism to Calvinism
  • Was going to force Calvinism, but due to resistance, made it a choice for all subjects to be Lutheran or Calvinist, which remained henceforth


  • Julich-Cleves War (1609-1614) vs Palatanate-Neuberg over succession of 5 cities
  • 30 Years War (1618-1648) - probably didn't participate

Territorial Changes

  • Gained Cleves, Mark, and Ravensberg in Treaty of Xanten in 1614 at end of Julich-Cleves War (first eastern "island" territories)
  • Personal union between Brandenberg and Prussia in 1618, forming Brandenberg-Prussia
  • Gave Reichshof Castrop to his teacher von Bordelius

George William (1619-1640)

Elector of Brandenberg (1619-1640)

  • Tried to remain neutral between Catholic forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the Protestant principalities
  • Ineffective
  • Population was decimated in war
  • His great-grandson said this was the unluckiest of time and it was a shame he didn't put up an army before the war combatants destroyed the land
  • Retreated and left catholic Chancellor Count Adam von Schwarzenberg in charge

Wars; returned when it was safe

  • 30 Years War (1618-1648)

Territorial Changes

  • Gained Farther (Eastern) Pomerania and the Bishoprics of Magdeburg, Halberstadt, Kammin, and Minden

Frederick William (1640-1688)

Elector of Brandenberg (1640-1688)

  • Known as the "Great Elector"
  • Made the reforms that paved the way to Prussia becoming a kingdom
  • Staunch pillar of Calvinism
  • Raised an army of 40,000 soldiers
  • Advocate of mercatilism, monopolies, subsidies, tariffs, and internal improvement
  • encouraged skilled Huegonots to emigrate
  • exempted nobility from taxes, they dissolved the Estates-General
  • created canals to ease transportation


  • The Deluge (with Sweden, Denmark, Holy Roman Empire, Netherland, Russia etc vs Poland)

Territorial Changes

  • Prussia became independent of Poland

Frederick I (1688-1713)

Elector of Brandenberg and Duke of Prussia (1688-1701) King of Prussia (1701-1713) Wikipedia

  • Convinced Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, to call him a King, since Prussia was never part of the HRE and it would be okay for the Elector of Brandenberg to also be the king of Prussia
  • Got title in exchange for support against France in War of Spanish Succession
  • Called “King IN Prussia”
  • Patron of the arts


  • War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) supported Holy Roman Empire, Great Britain, Netherlands, Portugal, Savoy, Denmark-Norway vs France and Bavaria

Territorial Changes

  • Prussia became kingdom

Frederick William I (1713-1740)

King of Prussia (1713-1740) Wikipedia

  • Known as the “Soldier King”
  • Gave Prussia an international reputation on par with France and Great Britain
  • Increased efficiency of military
  • Established primary schools
  • Replaced mandatory military service in middle classes
  • Lived frugally and tirelessly for the well being of his people
  • Loved the military, but was a peacefull man and didn't engage it often
  • Intevened briefly in the Great Northern War but gained little territory


  • Great Northern War (1700-1721)

Territorial Changes

  • Gained part of Swedish Pomerrania (1721) after Great Northern War

Frederick II (1740-1772)


  • Tried to escape when a prince and forced to watch his friend be executed
  • The ruler whose goal it was to unite the vulnerable disparate pieces of Prussia.
  • Attacked Austria and gained Silesia in the Silesian Wars
  • United most of his disparate lands with the First Partition of Poland
  • Established Prussia as Europe's 5th major power
  • Modernized Prussian beaurocracy and civil service
  • Promoted religious tolerance throughout his land
  • Patronized the arts and philosophers
  • Considered one of the greatest tactical geniuses of all time
  • Despised the polish in his new land
  • Died childless and succeeded by his nephew


  • First Silesian War (1740-1742) (part of Austrian War of Succession, 1740-1748) vs Austria
  • Second Silesian War (1744-1745) vs Austria
  • Seven Years War (1756-1763) with Great Britain and Hannover vs Austria, France, Russia, Saxony, Sweden
  • War of the Bavarian Succession (1778)

Territorial Changes

  • Gained Silesia in First Silesian War (1742)
  • Gained West Prussia (Royal Prussia) in First Partition of Poland (1772), joining Prussia with Brandenberg

Frederick William II (1772-1797)

(1772-1797) Wikipedia

  • A rather disastrous King, grandson of previous king.
  • Favored the arts, had no patience for the military
  • King during the French Revolution
  • Involved in some scandals, spent too much money
  • An economist, gained popularity by relaxing some policies
  • Decided there was more to gain from Poland affairs than trying to put a French King back on the throne
  • Polish-Prussian Pact of 1790
  • Orthodox, launched something of a Protestant inquisition
  • Brought down Prussia's military esteem and brought it to the verge of bankruptcy


  • Dutch Campaign of 1787
  • Involved with Russian/Austrian War vs Turkey (1768-1774), with little consequence

Territorial Changes

  • In Second Partition of Poland (1793), gained lands that filled in the areas between two of its "branches" as well as a mouth of a river inside its territory previously not given
  • In Third Partition of Poland (1795), gained Warsaw and a strip of adjacent land

Frederick William III (1797-1840)


Frederick William IV (1840-1861)


William I (1861-1888)

King of Prussia (1861-1888), German Emperor (1871-1888)

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