Atheist and gay, Frederick the Great was more radical than most leaders today

Tim Blanning's instructive, entertaining and surprising new biography of Prussia's colourful king will become the standard English-language account

3 October 2015

9:00 AM

3 October 2015

9:00 AM

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia Tim Blanning

Allen Lane, pp.625, £30, ISBN: 9781846141829

Reacquaintance with Germany is long overdue for most English people. Before 1914 it was at least as familiar as France and Italy. Tim Blanning, former professor of Modern European History at Cambridge, has already written brilliantly about Germany in books such as The Culture of Power and The Triumph of Music. His latest is a 625-page biography of Frederick II (a hero in his lifetime to many Englishmen), which also illuminates Berlin, Potsdam and Prussia in the 18th century. It is sure to be the standard English-language account for many years. It instructs; it entertains; and it surprises. Blanning shows that this hereditary monarch, born in Berlin in 1712, could be more radical than most leaders today. Atheist and homosexual, he called Christianity an ‘odd metaphysical fiction’, and Jesus the ‘Ganymede’ of the Apostle John.

Thanks to Blanning’s use of newly discovered (or previously ignored) poems and letters, readers learn that the Prussian royal family was so odious that it makes the House of Hanover, to whom it was closely related (Frederick the Great was a cousin, namesake and role model for Frederick, Prince of Wales), seem normal. Frederick’s father, Frederick William I, was a screaming psychopath who traumatised his son by forcing him to witness the execution of his lover, Lieutenant von Katte.

After Frederick’s accession in 1740, he became, in his turn, the tormentor of the family. Although he did not imprison his wife like George I, he repeatedly humiliated ‘this incorrigibly sour subspecies of the female sex’, as he called her. They barely met. His nephew and heir, the future Frederick William II, wrote of him in 1780: ‘That animal is a right scourge of God, spat out of Hell on to earth by God’s wrath.’

After his accession, in Blanning’s words Frederick ‘came out’. He spent most of his time far from prying eyes in Potsdam, south- west of Berlin, and enjoyed ‘intimate relations’ with young officers, as well as his first valet Fredersdorf. The king called him ‘du’ and he acted as an unofficial prime minister. Frederick commissioned a fresco of Ganymede and filled his parks with statues of Antinous or pairs of male lovers. His poems ‘The Orgasm’ and ‘Palladion’, the first written for his handsome Italian favourite Count Algarotti, praise ‘glorious heroes, responding both actively and passively to their lithe and obliging friends’.

Blanning emphasises the luxury and grandeur of the court of Prussia. Berlin had one of the largest city palaces in Europe and was surrounded by at least 20 country palaces for the monarch and the ruling family — many more than Vienna. Frederick II extended Charlottenburg, built Sans Souci, and the 638-room Neues Palais in Potsdam and bought a new palace in Breslau, capital of Silesia, in which he installed a throne room. On campaign he shared his troops’ hardships: they loved him. In peacetime, he amassed magnificent collections of pictures, sculptures, jewelled rings and snuff boxes. Frederick’s greenhouses were as luxurious as his gilded rococo bedrooms and music rooms. He built the Berlin opera and founded the Berlin porcelain factory.

Far from being ‘the first servant of the state’ as he sometimes claimed, in reality he was driven by desire for what he called ‘the aggrandisement of my house’, ‘the glory of the House of Brandenburg’, however much he hated its members; also for personal glory, to surpass his father and win the admiration of foreigners and posterity. Hence his conquest of Silesia from the House of Austria in 1740. He also devoted himself to the class interests of the nobility, which he called ‘the finest jewel in his crown and the lustre of his army’. He would not tolerate ‘non-noble vermin’ in the officer corps.

Frederick admired Louis XIV, who he resembled in his aversion to his capital, and in his love of music, rare marbles and colonnades. His carousel of 1750 was modelled on Louis XIV’s carousel of 1662. The Neues Palais was his Versailles, Sans Souci his Marly. Before the inevitable quarrel, Voltaire, who stayed at Potsdam in 1750–53, called his royal master ‘greater than Louis XIV… he thinks like Marcus Aurelius and writes like Cicero’.

Like the recent books of John Röhl on Wilhelm II and Jonathan Steinberg on Bismarck, Blanning shows that Prussia had a court society and culture — a ‘deep state’ not always visible on the surface. If more diaries and memoirs, such as those of Count Lehndorff and Hildegard von Spitzemberg, or the journalism of Alfred Kerr (father of the children’s author Judith Kerr) were translated, they would help us understand the driving force of the country which, before the self-inflicted cataclysm of 1914, was the powerhouse of Europe.

Frederick reviews his troops
Frederick reviews his troops

Frederick’s legal system was a major achievement. Equality before the law was less elusive than in other European states. Peasants could appeal to the King against landowners’ manorial courts. Civil oppression of Jews decreased. The public was consulted on new laws. In an age which judged people by manners, his subjects were impressed that — unlike other monarchs — he took off his hat to anyone whom he encountered.

Frederick II’s toleration, however, was less exceptional than it appears. The construction of a Catholic church in Berlin in 1747–73 would, as Blanning points out, have been impossible in Amsterdam or London. However, it merely enabled Berlin to catch up with other German cities. Dresden already had Catholic and Protestant churches — in Mannheim the same church had been used by Lutherans, Calvinists and Catholics. Few Catholics rose to senior positions in Prussia.

Frederick micro-managed his monarchy. Ministers were ‘only instruments of his will’, who rarely discussed his decisions. He despised the ‘turbulence’ of the English constitution. Frederick annexed West Prussia in 1772 in the first partition of Poland, a European catastrophe which he initiated. Thereafter, Blanning writes, ‘neither the peasants nor the numerous Jews experienced any improvement in their wretched lot’.

Frederick inherited the best disciplined army in Europe. Prussian soldiers’ firing sounded ‘like a constant roll of thunder’. Unlike most other biographers, however, Blanning shows how many battles Frederick lost. His brother Prince Henry was not only a nicer man but also a better general — as the King occasionally acknowledged. Austria often defeated Prussia. Frederick was saved by British subsidies, the sacrifices of (and brutal discipline in) his rank and file, divisions among his enemies, above all his own willpower. In Blanning’s words he was ‘an indifferent general but a brilliant warlord’. If he had lost a war, he was ready to commit suicide (there were opium pills in a locket round his neck), and ‘see everything perish and buried with me, right down to the name of Prussia’. In that case, Europe might have been spared a lot.

In his lifetime he was hailed by admirers (including his fellow freemasons) as ‘the greatest man history has ever known’, ‘the greatest of the great’, and so on. In the long term, his reign was also a poisoned chalice. Victories can be almost as damaging as defeats; ‘great men’ often do more harm than good. With the help of official editions of his collected works and correspondence, Frederick’s policies and campaigns were studied with reverence by later Prussian officers and officials. His elevation of the Prussian army, inculcation of military spirit in ‘ordinary people’, cults of risk-taking,‘preventive’ wars and expansion (‘if one does not advance, one retreats’), his overestimation of Germans and contempt for Poles and Russians, repeatedly demonstrated in Blanning’s wonderful book, were subsequently imitated by increasingly militaristic German governments. Annexed in 1871 without the pretence of consultation, Alsace-Lorraine became another source of wars and tension — the Silesia of the late 19th century.

The wars that Frederick’s successors helped to start led to — among far worse horrors — the expulsion of 13 million Germans from their homes east of the Oder, and the expansion of Russia and Poland into the territories which Frederick had fought hard to annex. The Prussian monarchy was abolished in 1918, the Prussian state in 1947. Today almost no Germans live in Silesia or Prussia. Breslau is called Wroclau, Konigsberg Kaliningrad. Poland and Russia have the last laugh.

Frederick despised his neighbours to the south, the Saxons, whose land his troops devastated during the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War. The Saxon Crown Prince Frederick Christian, for his part, lamented the ‘insolence, cruelty and barbarism’ of the Prussian occupiers. The two states were opposites. Unlike the rulers of Prussia, the rulers of Saxony were friends of Poland. Saxon troops were often used as opera extras rather than killers: in 1727 Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, gave Frederick William I a regiment of dragoons in exchange for pieces of blue-and-white porcelain.

Lali Hortsmann recounts in her superb memoirs Nothing for Tears that she heard a former footman of the last King of Saxony declare in 1945, as he surveyed the destruction of his country: ‘If my king had governed Germany, we should have had no war and suffered no defeat.’ Perhaps Tim Blanning will next turn his attention to Saxony, and write a biography of Augustus II, the ruler who transformed Dresden into a centre of European culture — and a favourite destination for English travellers.

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  • “Atheist and gay, Frederick the Great was more radical than most leaders today”

    That should read, ‘Atheist and homosexual, Frederick the Great was more radical than most leaders today’

    Why is The Spectator giving voice for Marxist saboteurs of Western Civilization, who use ‘gay’ for ‘homosexual’, knowing that a ‘homosexual agenda’ would be clearly seen as sabotage of Western Civilization, hence the more pleasant sounding ‘gay agenda’.

    • Linguistician

      And single parent families? Are they “destroying children’s critical parental bi-gender socialization”

      • “And single parent families? Are they “destroying children’s critical parental bi-gender socialization”‘

        Where have you been?

        • Linguistician

          Don’t be ridiculous. Ancient Egypt endured for many thousands of years and their idea of ‘marriage’ was mostly what we would call co-habitation.
          I do enjoy the idea of people walking around though believing in all these mystical properties of the word marriage, as if it confers guaranteed fidelity, respect and a healthy environment for raising children. Plenty of examples to the contrary, plenty of married couples who “view others as commodities”.
          And it’s hard to take anyone seriously when they say things like “civilization will soon collapse”. The end is nigh I’m sure.

          • “Ancient Egypt endured for many thousands of years and their idea of ‘marriage’ was mostly what we would call co-habitation.”

            It was nothing like the West’s idea of living together. You mean it’s like common law marriage.

        • Terry Field

          Yes, a modern putrefaction

        • Terry Field

          Yes, a modern putrefaction

    • joeblow55

      Ah, the marxist bogeyman is back, the “homosexual agenda” is in full flood, pigs fly and catholic clerics dont wear dresses. Theatre of the absurd. With a nice big dollop of hate.

      • “Ah, the marxist bogeyman is back…”

        The Marxist bogeyman never left, as the following illustrates…

        The following is a discovery I made in April regarding the fake collapse of the USSR, and what that fraudulent collapse proves about the institutions of the West…

        When Soviet citizens were liberated from up to 74 years of horrific Marxist oppression on December 26, 1991 there were ZERO celebrations throughout the USSR, proving (1) the ‘collapse’ of the USSR is a strategic ruse; and (2) the political parties of the West were already co-opted by Marxists,* otherwise the USSR (and East Bloc nations) couldn’t have gotten away with the ruse.

        ZERO celebrations, as the The Atlantic article inadvertently informs us…

        Notice, however, the Kremlin staged anti-government demonstrations that took place in Russia (and other Soviet republics) in the years immediately preceding the ‘collapse’, yet ZERO celebrations after the ‘collapse’!

        For more on this discovery see my blog…


        The West will form new political parties where candidates are vetted for Marxist ideology, the use of the polygraph to be an important tool for such vetting. Then the West can finally liberate the globe of vanguard Communism.


        * The failed socialist inspired and controlled pan-European revolutions that swept the continent in 1848(1) taught Marxists and socialists a powerful lesson, that lesson being they couldn’t win overtly,(2) so they adopted the tactic of infiltration of the West’s political parties/institutions. In the case of the United States…(continue reading at DNotice)…

        Now you know why not one political party in the West requested verification of the collapse of the USSR, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the ‘alternative’ media. When determining whether the ‘former’ USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the ‘former’ USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

        The fraudulent ‘collapse’ of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Marxists, which explains why verification of the ‘collapse’ was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”.

        It gets worse–the ‘freed’ Soviets and West also never (1) de-Communized the Soviet Armed Forces of its Communist Party officer corps, which was 90% officered by Communist Party members; and (2) arrested/de-mobilized the 6-million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior and police control the populations of the larger cities during the period of ‘Perestroika’ (1986-1991)!

        There can be no collapse of the USSR (or East Bloc nations) without…

        Verification, De-Communization and De-mobilization.

        The West never verified the collapse of the USSR because no collapse occurred, since if a real collapse had occurred the West would have verified it, since the survival of the West depends on verification. Conversely, this proves that the political parties of the West were co-opted by Marxists long before the fraudulent collapse of the USSR, since the survival of the West depends on verification.

        The above means that the so-called ‘War on Terror’ is an operation being carried out by the Marxist co-opted governments of the West in alliance with the USSR and other Communist nations, the purpose being to (1) destroy the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world, where the West is seen (i) invading nations without cause; (ii) causing chaos around the globe; and (iii) killing over one-million civilians and boasting of torture; (2) close off non-Russian supplies of oil for export, thereby increasing the price of oil, the higher price allowing oil exporting Russia to maintain economic stability while she modernizes and increases her military forces; (3) destroy the United States Armed Forces via the never-ending ‘War on Terror’; the ultimate purpose of the aforementioned to (4) bring about the demise of the United States in the world, opening up a political void to be filled by a new pan-national entity composed of Europe and Russia (replacing the European Union), a union ‘From the Atlantic to Vladivostok’; which will (5) see the end of NATO.

        Now you know how Bolshevik Russia survived in 1917; how the West ‘lost’ China to the Communists in 1949; why the Eisenhower administration turned a deaf ear to the anti-Communist Hungarian uprising in 1956; why the Eisenhower administration in 1959 was indifferent to the Castro brothers’ Communist fidelity, actually used the CIA to overthrow the Batista government; why the Nixon administration abandoned Taiwan for Communist China, and signed treaties/provided economic aid to the USSR; why the Nixon administration refused to tell the American People that over 50% of North Vietnamese NVA regiments were actually Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers (attired in NVA uniforms, and proving that the Sino/Soviet Split was a ruse, as KGB defector Major Anatoliy Golitsyn told the West back in 1962), thereby (1) ensuring the Vietnam War would be lost; (2) destroying the prominence of the United States abroad and at home; (3) breeding distrust between the American people and their government; and (4) securing Communist victories in Southeast Asia. Working in the background within the political parties of the United States and Great Britain were Marxist agents doing their best to (1) ensure the survival of Communist nations when they popped up; and (2) sabotage any policies that would bring down a Communist nation. That’s why after the fake collapses of the East Bloc nations and USSR there was no mandatory Western verification process to ensure the Communists weren’t still in control.

  • Anonymous

    Alright, I’m fed up with this. Frederick the Great was NOT ATHEIST or GAY! He was a DEIST which should not be CONFUSED with ATHEIST, which is a great mistake to make. He was not GAY. Lieutenant von Katte was not his lover, he was just Frederick’s best friend that they made a plan to escape to England (to the house of a relative, I don’t remember well who) so Frederick would be free of his father’s constant pressure and etc, and Lieutenant von Katte went along. Tim Blanning, if you are reading my comment, I would tell you to go study again. Why are you writing such rubbish? Poor Frederick, if he knew.. Why don’t you let the Old Fritz rest in peace?

  • Anonymous

    Alright, I’m fed up with this. Frederick the Great was NOT ATHEIST or GAY! He was a DEIST which should not be CONFUSED with ATHEIST, which is a great mistake to make. He was not GAY. Lieutenant von Katte was not his lover, he was just Frederick’s best friend that they made a plan to escape to England (to the house of a relative, I don’t remember well who) so Frederick would be free of his father’s constant pressure and etc, and Lieutenant von Katte (his best friend) went along. Tim Blanning, if you are reading my comment, I would recommend you to go and study again and to correct your book from that written rubbish text? Poor Frederick, if he knew.. Can you let the Old Fritz to rest in peace?

    • Linguistician

      Any evidence for any of your assertions?

      • R. J. Stove

        Nancy Mitford’s biography of Frederick the Great makes abundantly clear that he was a deist, not an atheist, and that though he was probably homosexually inclined, there is extremely little unambiguous evidence for actual homosexual affairs on his part. She also shows that much of what most people think they know about Frederick’s erotic life comes from the poisonous pen of Voltaire.

        • Luke

          Mr. Stove and Anonymous above are quite right in questioning Fredrick II ‘atheism’ and ‘homosexuality’. That he was a ‘Deist’ is fairly well known and homosexuality while always possible is mere conjecture.

          Mr. Blanning damages the credibility of his biography of this great figure by seemingly trying to insert some modernist ‘gay’ agenda into Fredrick’s life that is both ahistorical and without the supporting facts.

        • joeblow55

          And lt katte was exuecued by his father for what????

          • R. J. Stove

            Well, one important reason Katte was executed by Frederick’s father was that Frederick’s father happened to be a psychopath (thanks largely to porphyria) who regarded the whole world as consisting pretty much of people to be tortured, punched, kicked, or otherwise bullied. And, on occasion, put to death, like Katte.

            Supposing that Katte really had been guilty of homosexual acts with Frederick, is it really tenable that any (let alone several) of Europe’s crowned heads would have pleaded for Katte’s life in the way that they did? Within many lands at this stage, sodomy was considered a capital crime. Even where not considered a capital crime, it was punishable by long terms of imprisonment.

            But of course little matters like historical literacy must not be allowed (least of all among the modernist, pseudo-conservative, Cameron-besotted champions of same-sex “marriage”) to impede frenzied evangelising on behalf of the Homintern.

          • 82ATW

            A psychopath is someone who can’t experience emotions in a normal human way. Frederick William was authoritarian but no psychopath.

          • Terry Field

            An attempt to escape the duties of a super-militarised state.Idiot.

          • Terry Field

            An attempt to escape the duties of a super-militarised state.Idiot.

          • 82ATW


    • Frank

      “Old Fritz” should have been burned on any handy stake!

      • joeblow55

        Yes and perhaps isis should have a chop at you.

        • Frank

          JoeBlow you are so pre-occupied with protecting gay rights, reputation, etc, that you fail to see that the two Fredericks developed Prussia into a country obsessed with militarism – this led to WW1 and WW2.

    • Dogsnob

      Tut tut, don’t you realise that each and every character from history who is at all regarded in a positive light, is to be gay?

    • joeblow55

      If wishes were dreams, horses would ride. Frederick was gay, whether you personally like it or not.

      • Terry Field

        No he was not. I know this for a fact from unimpeachable sources

        • joeblow55

          Richard Nixon? What a fool.

      • Terry Field

        No he was not. I know this for a fact from unimpeachable sources

      • 82ATW

        There isn’t any evidence for the theory, so while it’s possible it will forever remain a theory.

  • ThePrussian

    Okay… FUCK YOU! Not a word in this bullshit piece that Old Fritz;

    1) His tolerance for the Jews was quite remarkable for Europe at that time
    2) Abolished torture as a means of getting confessions and as a punishment
    3) Rolled back censorship.

    Brits still don’t seem to understand that it is one thing to establish a classically liberal state when you are on an island. It is quite another when you are surrounded by cultural predators and your state is constantly on the verge of extinction,

    And as though this wasn’t enough:

    “The wars that Frederick’s successors helped to start led to — among far
    worse horrors — the expulsion of 13 million Germans from their homes
    east of the Oder, and the expansion of Russia and Poland into the
    territories which Frederick had fought hard to annex”

    Let me get this straight – Frederick the Great is responsible for the expulsion of the Sudentendeutsch and communism in Russia and the East Block?

    This is of the same kidney as that specious bullshit peddled by Macaulay who said Old Friz was responsible for black men fighting on the coast of Cormandel and red men scalping each other by the Great Lakes of North America – while conveniently ignoring that Prussa a) had no American colonies and b) was not involved in the slave trade.

    • Rapallo

      Thank you for your candid words!
      If that book is as inaccurate as this article is a machination than I’d be very sad for Dr. Blanning’s students.

    • The_greyhound

      Two world wars, and a world cup.

    • 82ATW

      Britain was forced to go along with the progress of classical liberalism because its institutions were destabilized by conflict. It was no enlightened paradise in 1789.

  • Persuasive

    Sounds like 1/2 a lunatic. Then again, most of us are some part ludicrous as well.

  • Frank

    Not clear why anyone should celebrate anything Prussian, the military culture created in this state brought about untold misery in due course.

    • 82ATW

      Which also allowed the enlightenment to survive, averting untold misery.

      • Frank

        So the Franco-Prussian War, the Forst World War and the Second World War (with the accompanying genocide) were all the right price to pay?
        The enlightenment would in any event have survived quite well without the Prussian military culture.

        • 82ATW

          Europeans had been killing each other in droves since the end of the Middle Ages, since the Reformation was as much of a political revolution as a theological one it caused a great deal of discord. To say that Frederick started “militarism” is therefore contrary to common sense. I guess we could say it’s all Martin Luther’s fault but then again we’d probably still be burning people at the stake if it weren’t for him.

          And the enlightenment almost didn’t survive. Maria Theresa was the epitome of anti-Semitic backward conservatism, and Frederick’s struggle against her saved Europe from that backwardness being enforced everywhere. Keep in mind that the likes of Thomas Paine would have been hanged if the ideas of liberalism had not been upheld by arms in the Americas, and the depredations of the British Empire in the kingdom and abroad are a sign how enlightened Britain really was. It was only the consequences of the French revolution and its accompanying barbarities the gradually forced Britain to reform.

          A united Hapsburg Europe would have squashed the French revolution long before a Napoleon would have had the chance to spread egalitarian reforms to central Europe. Austria was competing with Prussia for leadership of Germany in the 19th century so it’s not like Germany would still be a collection of tiny principalities if it weren’t for Frederick. Remember also that it was Austria that started the First World War and it was an Austrian that started the second. The fact that Frederick allowed Prussia to survive did not guarantee the events of 1870, and it was France that declared war in the first place.

          Comparing the ideas of Frederick to the ideas of Hitler is preposterous. Fascism isn’t even a German idea. There were thriving fascist movements in Italy, Spain and Romania years before the Nazis began their rise to power. It was the French Gustave Herve who created the theory of national socialism after abandoning antipatriotism, which he also created, and Romanian Mircea Eliade was the the preeminent national socialist philosopher. Finally, if one were to somehow wind back time, the odds that the same people would be born are infinitesimally small. To claim that Frederick the Great is somehow responsible for the Holocaust is absurd.

  • FTG33

    Frederick was not a radical. He was an absolutist king who ruled an absolutist state. He did push forward some innovative reforms – especially when compared to other absolutist 18th century kings – but many of them were already in the mind of 17 and 18th century philosophers. He didn’t come up with anything new and life in England or the Netherlands was much more liberal than life in Prussia. Frederick was also not an atheist. At most he was a deist but on some occasions (See his writings, letters, poems and the works of his reader) he was even close to calvinism.

    And yes, Frederick was probably what we nowadays call an homosexual – although the term did not exist in the 18th century. Even excluding Katte, there were several other favourites. Nonetheless, that does not qualify him as a “radical”. Especially not while Frederick shared the Continent with people like Rousseau, Holbach and even Voltaire.

    To claim that Frederick – and 18th century Prussia – was in any way a “forefather” of Germany during
    WWI or worse Third Reich Germany is ridiculous. Frederick’s wars of conquest were in perfect tune with 18th century mentality, with royal ideology and with attitudes towards warfare. When Frederick was born. Louis XIV was still alive. It is simply ridiculous to even suggest that he and his Prussia have anything to do with 20th century Germany that was influenced by a completely different intellectual background. I know the work of Tim Blanning which is very good historian and as I have not yet read his biography of Frederick, I would very much like to believe that this article is more based on the author’s impressions than anything Blanning suggests. .

  • Roger Hudson

    Given all the comments and the article i wonder why Hitler had that small portrait in his office wherever that was? What happened to it?

    • 82ATW

      If it weren’t for photography, Hitler’s defeat which created access to information about his personal life and the closeness of time to the events of World War II people would most certainly still be contending that Hitler was gay.

      • Douche McBags

        Doubtful. His stated reason of appearing more attractive to female admirers is pretty consistent of his eccentric, narcissistic tendencies. At the very least, that rumor wouldn’t have come from anybody credible.

  • joeblow55

    Give me the greco roman world anyday

  • Philipp Richardt

    Locked between the three powers of France, Russia and Austria Prussia’s choice was to fight or perish.

    • Frank

      Fairly significant exaggeration!

  • Next week: Churchill.

  • european

    There is so much wrong with the article. I’m only soon getting my BA in history proper but I already discover a lot of silly stuff. His father was no psychopath, why use this term? He was a cold hearted military minded person of his time. Frederick the Great was basicly was a strange mix, a renaissance and enlightenment man and he saw himself a little too superiour in that role. Homosexuality has often been alleged and it is a realistic but not proven thesis. But anyways? What is homosexuality here? Is it bisexuality? Only homosexuality? However, the von Katte story was mostly great friendship of his time. He was not executed for nothing. What he did was a crime back then. Cruel one yes. But young Frederick could not florish under his authoritarian father. He wanted to flee to France, back then the most forward thinking place, with him. His father could not let this happen. His own son would have been a traitor to him. He thought von Katte had “brainwashed” him for it. I would have done something different but at times back then?

    He was no atheist at all. Like many people who were part of enlightenment movement, he was a firm Deist (like me, He first corresponded with Voltaire and had him live near him for two years discussing a lot. He also furthered enlightenment ideas, freemasonry, which was combated by other monarchs, he allowed and became the leader of a lodge. His reforms were much more effective and influencial. He was the role model for other reform minded monarchs. His idea was also weakening of aristocracy but giving them a big role in military.

    Another wrong thing concerns the partion of Poland. Poland was in chaos and could not reform. The system could not handle it. His part of the partion was two fold. The inner Prussia-Brandenburg connection was mostly German on some cities anyways. Westprussia wasn’t and there lied the problem. Germanisation attempts. He could have simply kept it Polish. His annexation had nothing to do with later expulsions of Germans. Germans, Ukrainians had equal rights in and even own language education in that post WWI Poland. Hitler and Stalin were responsible for the stuff you mean.

  • Terry Field

    He was far sighted, and a figure of the enlightenment before others. That is not attributable to his (incorrectly desribed, but maliciously assumed ) sexuality or his mis-stated atheism.
    Modernist trash propaganda to conflate untruthfully.

  • Terry Field

    He was far sighted, and a figure of the enlightenment before others. That is not attributable to his (incorrectly desribed, but maliciously assumed ) sexuality or his mis-stated atheism.
    Modernist trash propaganda to conflate untruthfully.

  • 82ATW

    Frederick was deist. He believed in supernatural power of some sort, so that rules him out as an atheist. It’s also wrong instantly assume someone who chooses a life of celibacy is gay. He could have been asexual or he may simply have had his own philosophical or personal reasons.