Emperor Fredrick William I & IV of Germany and Prussia (Friedrich Wilhelm I 1795-1861) was the first Emperor of Germany reigning from 1848 to his death in 1861 and the King of Prussia from 1840 to 1861. A noted conservative, his reign is best known for the unification and establishment of Germany. After a stroke left him mentally incapacitated, his brother William became regent until Frederick William's death aged sixty-five in 1861.

Early Life

The eldest son of Frederick William III and Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, he was taught by private tutors and in 1814, served in the Prussian army against Napoleon, though unlike his younger brother William he was an indifferent soldier. Interested in architecture and landscape gardening he also patroned several great German artists including the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and the composer Felix Mendelssohn. He married Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria in 1823, though the couple never had children.


A staunch romanticist, he developed into a conservative by his twenties and was very much opposed to liberalism and the unification of Germany, preferring to let Austria remain the dominant German power. Despite this, however, he was liberal enough to tone down his father's more reactionary policies, by easing press c

Frederick William I of Germany

ensorship and creating a more liberal constitution. When revolution broke out in Prussia in 1848, he initially decided to repress it with the army, but changed his mind and became the figurehead of the movement. When the Frankfurt Parliament, persuaded by Austria's collapse in the face of revolution offered him the crown of Emperor of Germany in 1849 he accepted something which Francis Joseph of Austria never forgave him for, though his successor Maximilian attempted to normalise relations. Upon his acceptance of the crown, he compromised with the parliament on several issues, such as property rights and capital punishment, so as to maintain the rights of the Prussian Junkers. Frederick William was known for intervening in the politics and before the appointment of the Prussian prime minister Otto Theodor von Manteuffel (1805-1882) as Imperial Chancellor in 1850 he had appointed and dismissed no less than four chancellors in under an year. Under the influence of the military, Frederick William pursued a foreign policy noted for its Prussian-centric view. Due to his fear of Austria however, Germany instead focused on building an overseas empire rather than on European dominance. Frederick William, domestically is best known for his complete re-organisation of the military and his support for the Conservatives in Imperial and Prussian politics. Due to his never having children, his more pragmatic brother William became the real power behind the throne. Frederick William suffered a stroke in 1858 and was severely incapacitated, with his brother assuming power through regency. William reduced some of the political tensions in the empire by appointing the Bavarian prime minister Karl Ludwig von der Pfordten (1811-1880) as chancellor and granting parliament more powers. Frederick William died aged sixty-five in 1861 and was succeeded by the Imperial Regent William.

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