m. 28 NOV 1706
Facts and Events
Frederick II (; 24 January 171217 August 1786) was King in Prussia (1740–1786) of the Hohenzollern dynasty. He is best known for his military victories, his reorganization of Prussian armies, his innovative drills and tactics, and his final success against great odds in the Seven Years' War. He became known as Frederick the Great ('Friedrich der Große') and was nicknamed Der Alte Fritz ("Old Fritz").
The young prince was interested primarily in music and philosophy rather than the arts of war. He defied his authoritarian father, Frederick William I, and sought to run away with his close friend Hans Hermann von Katte. They were caught and the king nearly executed his son for "desertion"; he did force Frederick to watch the execution of Hans. Upon ascending to the Prussian throne, he attacked Austria and claimed Silesia during the Silesian Wars, winning military acclaim for himself and Prussia. Near the end of his life, Frederick physically connected most of his realm by conquering Polish territories in the First Partition of Poland.
Frederick was a proponent of enlightened absolutism. He modernized the Prussian bureaucracy and civil service and pursued religious policies throughout his realm that ranged from tolerance to oppression. He reformed the judicial system and made it possible for men not of noble stock to become judges and senior bureaucrats. Some critics however point out his oppressive measures against conquered Polish subjects. He limited freedom of citizens of his country and introduced harsh compulsory military service.
Frederick supported arts and philosophers he favored, but at the same enacted several laws censoring the press. Frederick is buried at his favorite residence, Sanssouci in Potsdam. Because he died childless, Frederick was succeeded by his nephew, Frederick William II of Prussia, son of his brother, Prince Augustus William of Prussia.
Nearly all 19th century German historians made Frederick into a romantic model of a glorified warrior, praising his leadership, administrative efficiency, devotion to duty and success in building up Prussia to a leading role in Europe. Historian Leopold von Ranke was unstinting in his praise of Frederick's "Heroic life, inspired by great ideas, filled with feats of arms...immortalized by the raising of the Prussian state to the rank of a power." Johann Gustav Droysen was even more favorable. The Nazis glorified him as pre-figuring Hitler, but that was followed by a downgrading after 1945 in both East and West Germany.