Frederick III, German Emperor
Birthday: October 18, 1831
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 56
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl
Born Country: Germany
Born in: New Palace, Potsdam, Germany
Famous as: King
Spouse/Ex-: Princess Royal (m. 1858), Victoria
father: Wilhelm I, German Emperor
mother: Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
siblings: Princess Louise of Prussia
children: Prince Henry of Prussia, Prince Sigismund of Prussia, Prince Waldemar of Prussia, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, Princess Margaret of Prussia, Princess Viktoria of Prussia, Sophia of Prussia, Wilhelm II
Died on: June 15, 1888
Cause of Death: Cancer
City: Potsdam, Germany
Frederick III was a German emperor who ruled over Prussia and Germany for about 3 months in 1888, during the “Year of the Three Emperors.” He was born to Emperor Wilhelm I and Princess Augusta and was a scion of the House of Hohenzollern that ruled Prussia. Prussia was considered to be the most powerful state of the German Empire back then. Due to differences between his father and mother, Frederick grew up in an extremely troubled household. In addition to following the family tradition of getting military training, Frederick also received a formal classical education. He received widespread recognition during the Franco-Prussian, the Austro-Prussian, and the Second Schleswig wars, owing to his leadership abilities. However, he had a strong anti-war sentiment and was widely known for that. He became the crown prince of Prussia in 1861 and the crown prince of the German Empire in 1871, following the unification of Germany. Following his father’s demise in 1888, he ascended to the throne. However, back then, he was severely sick due to cancer. Thus, he only ruled for 99 days before dying in 1888, at the age of 56.
Early Life & Childhood
Frederick III was born Frederick William Nicholas Charles (German: Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl), on October 18, 1831, in New Palace, Prussia, to Wilhelm and Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. He grew up with his sister. His was the royal family of Prussia, which belonged to the House of Hohenzollerns.
His family had a strict tradition of providing its children military training since their early years, and he was no exception. However, his mother grew up with extremely liberal thoughts and had strong anti-war sentiments. She had also received formal education, which helped shape her mindset. This clash of two opposing ideologies turned out to be the cause of constant trouble in the family. This also affected the kids, who grew up with parents who were always arguing.
Frederick received formal classical education along with his military training. In 1844, famous German historian and archaeologist Ernst Curtis was hired as his private tutor. He was taught subjects such as physics, geography, history, music, and religion. He also loved learning new languages and soon became fluent in French and English.
In addition, he learned princely skills such as fencing, horseback riding, and gymnastics. However, his mother was not in favor of long military training for her son. Thus, when he was 18 years old, he was sent to the ‘University of Bonn’ to study subjects such as politics, history, and law.
With his admission into the university, he also broke the long family tradition of not receiving formal education in schools and universities. This education he received turned out to be instrumental in the formation of liberal beliefs in Frederick, for which he came to be known widely in his later years.
He grew up during the 1840s and the 1850s, when liberalism as a political ideology was gaining massive power in Germany. The liberals desired to have a unified Germany, and this led to minor political uprisings in all parts of the German Empire, taking inspiration from other parts of Europe, where the liberal uprising was gaining strength.
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As the Crown Prince
On January 2, 1861, Frederick’s father, Wilhelm I, ascended to the throne of the state of Prussia. As his only son, Frederick was made the crown prince, a title he went on to hold for the next 27 years. King Wilhelm had conservative ideas of running the nation, while Frederick’s ideologies were in stark contrast to his father’s. He was a hardcore liberal.
Frederick advocated essential liberal policies to handle all the internal and foreign affairs of the state. Frederick’s beliefs were unshakable, and this conflicting situation further worsened when his father appointed Otto von Bismarck as the minister-president of Prussia. Otto was a highly authoritative man who suppressed liberal values in the society.
Frederick openly opposed Otto’s extreme right ideas, such as the suppression of the freedom of the press, among many other typical conservative policies. As a result, he earned the animosity of his father. His father was angry that his son had inherited his mother’s beliefs more than his.
In 1863, Frederick protested against the restrictions that Otto wanted to impose on the freedom of the country’s media. This led him to earn the hatred of Otto. His father’s frustration toward his son became quite obvious when he was excluded from all kinds of political power and authority. He was only limited to representing his father at ceremonies, weddings, and other social events.
Despite his opposing views, he wholeheartedly respected his father and supported him during the wars against Austria, France, and Denmark. Although he had first decided that he was anti-war and had also tried a little to stop the wars from taking place, once the situation got out of control, he took positions of command and exhibited his impeccable military prowess.
He did this primarily to prove his worth to his father, who had somehow deemed Frederick unworthy of ever becoming a capable ruler. Finally, in 1871, all the different German states were united as the German Empire. His father took to the throne as the king of the German Empire, and Frederick was made the heir-apparent.
Frederick worked as a liberal and joined hands with many liberal organizations to expand liberal values in the Empire. He also aided in the building of many schools and churches. He also opposed the expansion of the ‘German Army’ for further domination in Europe.
He was appointed by his father as the “Protector of Public Museums.” He worked toward making Berlin the artistic and cultural capital of the German Empire.
He also supported the ill-treated Jews in Europe and raised a strong voice in their favor. He earned the admiration of people but was also hated by many.
In 1888, also known as the “Year of the Three Emperors” in Germany, Frederick’s father passed away (in the month of March). Soon, Frederick succeeded his father as the king. However, he was sick at that time, as he was suffering from laryngeal cancer. He could not speak but tried his best to run the German Empire to the best of his abilities. He reigned for 99 days.
Personal Life & Death
Frederick III and his family had strong relations with the queen of England, Queen Victoria. They were invited to many royal events from time to time. During one such visit, Frederick met Queen Victoria’s daughter, Victoria, Princess Royal, also known as Vicky. They met for the first time in 1851 and became close friends. They got married in January 1858, in London, England.
The couple had eight children together, the eldest of them being Wilhelm II, who later succeeded his father as the king of the German Empire.
Frederick had been a heavy smoker for many years, and in his mid-50s, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He passed away on June 15, 1888, at the age of 56.
His premature death is considered to be a hugely significant event in German history. He promoted liberalism, and it is debated that if he were alive for a longer time, Germany’s highly notorious extremely nationalist policies would not have existed.