Birthday: October 15, 1795
Died At Age: 65
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Friedrich Wilhelm IV
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Berlin, Germany
Famous as: King of Prussia
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria (m. 1823)
father: Frederick William III of Prussia
mother: Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
siblings: William I
Died on: January 2, 1861
place of death: Potsdam
Cause of Death: Stroke
City: Berlin, Germany
awards: Knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit
Knight in the order of Saint-Michel
Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
Order of the Black Eagle
Order of the White Eagle
Order of St. Alexander Nevsky
Order of St. Andrew
Who was Frederick William IV of Prussia?
Frederick William IV was the king of Prussia from 1840 to 1861. He is remembered for implementing conservative policies that eventually sparked the revolution that occurred in 1848. Also known as the ‘romanticist on the throne’, he gained a reputation for the many buildings which he built in Potsdam and Berlin, and for completing the construction of the Gothic Cologne Cathedral. Born in the Kingdom of Prussia, he became the king after his father’s demise in 1840. He was a staunch conservative. He initially had a controlled policy of easing censorship of the press and reconciling with the kingdom’s Catholic population. When the German revolutions took place, he initially sheltered the revolutionaries. However, he refused the title of Emperor of the Germans which the Frankfurt Parliament offered him. He eventually turned Prussia into a constitutional monarchy. Frederick William IV suffered multiple strokes between 1857 and 1861, and was incapacitated in his later years. William, his brother, served as the regent after 1858, and after Frederick’s death, he succeeded as the new king.
Childhood & Early Life
Frederick William IV of Prussia was born in Kronprinzenpalais, Berlin, in the Kingdom of Prussia, on 15th October 1795. He was the son of Frederick William III and his wife, Queen Louise. As a child, he was trained by private tutors. Some of them were experienced civil servants like Friedrich Ancillon.
At an early age, he gained experience in the military. He served in the Prussian Army when the War of Liberation against Napoleon took place. He also developed interest in architecture and landscape gardening.
During this time, he developed his romantic-conservative convictions as well and spent time with conservative philosophers and politicians.
Before he attained the age of twenty, the crown prince used his influence in structuring the newly proposed constitution of 1815. It was created in a way that the maximum power would be in the hands of the landed aristocracy.
He strongly opposed Germany’s liberalization, and wished for the unification of its several states within what he saw as a legitimate framework.
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Accession & Reign
After his father passed away, Frederick William IV ascended the throne as the king of Prussia in 1840. This also made him the sovereign prince of the Principality of Neuchatel, today in Switzerland, through a personal union.
During his reign, he got involved in various projects, such as the construction of Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) and the Neues Museum in Berlin. He worked on enlarging his father’s Erdmannsdorf manor house as well.
Even though German liberals were hoping for change after the 1830s’ paralysis, they were soon disappointed. Frederick William IV instead worked on his father’s constitutional promises, which had been delayed for too long without actually resorting to a constitution.
In 1848, when the revolution had broken out in Prussia, the king at first tried to subdue it with his military force. However, he eventually recalled them.
He focused on the unification of Germany. After forming a liberal government and convening a national assembly, he ordered a constitution to be drawn up as well. After making his position secure, he led his forces and occupied Berlin. After this, he dissolved the assembly in December 1848.
When the Frankfurt Parliament offered Frederick William IV the crown of Germany and the title of ‘Emperor of the Germans’, he refused saying that he didn’t want ‘a crown from the gutter’.
Under pressure from the Russians and the English, Frederick William IV also withdrew his kingdom’s support of the rising taking place in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein.
Eventually, Frederick William IV attempted to establish the Erfurt Union, which would be a union of the German states excluding Austria. However, the idea was abandoned by him when he agreed to the Punctation of Olmutz on 29th November 1850.
Later Years & Death
During the later years of his life, King Frederick William IV became gloomier and was hardly seen by the public. He spent most of his time with advisers who promoted total orthodoxy and conservatism in matters related to politics and religion.
Starting from July 1857, he began suffering from a series of strokes. He became partially paralyzed and also mentally incapacitated. From October 1858, his brother started serving as the regent. The king was eventually driven around in a wheelchair after he suffered another stroke a year later.
On 2nd January 1861, he suffered his last stroke and died. Shortly after, his brother, the regent, ascended the throne as William of Prussia.
King Frederick William IV was interred as per his wishes in the crypt along with his wife, underneath the Church of Peace, in Sanssouci, Potsdam. His heart was taken out of his body and buried along with his parents at the Charlottenburg Palace mausoleum.
Family & Personal Life
Frederick William IV was married to Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria. The couple had a very stable and happy marriage, though they didn’t have any children.
He was a Lutheran and a member of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia, which was a United Protestant demonization that unified people of Reformed and Lutheran beliefs.