Frederick William III
Reign 16 November 1797 – 7 January 1832 (abdicated)
Predecessor Frederick William II
Successor Frederick William IV
Spouse Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Auguste Gräfin von Harrach (morganatic)

Frederick William IV of Prussia

William I of Germany
Alexandra, Empress of Russia
Princess Frederica
Prince Charles
Princess Alexandrine
Prince Ferdinand
Princess Louise
Prince Albert

House House of Hanover
Father Frederick William II
Mother Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt
Born 3 August 1770
Potsdam, Prussia
Died 7 June 1840 (age 69)
Zurich, Switerland
Religion Anglican

Fredrick Wilhelm III was King of Prussia from 1797 until his abdication in 1832 after the disastrous Prussian Expansion War, and died in 1840 in exile in Switzerland.

Early Life

Born in Potsdam in 1770 as the son of King Wilhelm II and Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt, Fredrick Wilhelm was a quiet, shy and reserved child, and seemed to be uncomfortable in social situations. He was taught under tutors and lived at the estate of Count Hans von Blumenthal, which he later bought and turned into a retreat for himself and the Prussian Royal Family. He was considered a religious and honest child, which served him well into the future.

Fredrick received the compulsorily training of the Prussian Royal Family, being made a Lieutenant in 1784, and Colonel in 1790. He served in the campaigns against revolutionary France in 1792-1794.

On Christmas Eve 1793, Fredrick Wilhelm married Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and they had ten children together. The marriage was problem free and seemed very happy, which did not change when the Crown Prince became King in 1797.


When Fredrick Wilhelm came to power on 16 November 1797, he was quiick to dismiss his father's ministers and restore morality to the court of his father that was known for its debauchery. He reformed the most oppressive excesses of the previous regime, but was also very much opposed to any weakening of his own power as where the other Hohenzollern's of the Prussian kingdom, but he lacked the skill and ability to do so. He rarely trusted his ministers and exercised almost all authority in the state, but was unable to keep on a consistent path for himself or the country. However, he placed duty to the country higher than anything, once even saying: "Every civil servant has a dual obligation: to the sovereign and to the country. It can occur that the two are not compatible; then, the duty to the country is higher."

While neutral in the First Great European War, Fredrick Wilhelm III was pushed to war by the Pro-War Party (lead by the Queen) after the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, which resulted in the humiliation of the Rhineland Conflict in 1806. With his philosophy that Prussia was more important than even himself, he reluctantly agreed to the sweeping changes to both the government and the army proposed by Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom und zum Stein, Karl August von Hardenberg, Gerhard von Scharnhorst, August Neidhardt von Gneisenau and Hermann von Boyen. He became a Constitutional Monarch (though with more power than the English King), and the army became a stronger, leaner and tougher machine with a new General Staff system, an elected Reichstag, new municipal administration and a modern educational system and civil service.

An attempted coup in 1811 by Conservative elements in the army was crushed by Scharnhorst and Boyen, and cemented the constitutional monarchy. Although he struggled to adjust under the new system, by the early 1820's he was resigned to the place he was now in. However, by 1827 he had manged to regain some power, and still under the influence of his wife, began pushing for war with France, and allied with the United Kingdom in the North Sea Pact. After the death of Napoleon I, the two allies decided on war.

Despite early victories against Poland and Austria-Hungary, the Prussian Expansion War ended in the defeat of the North Sea Pact. Prussia was stripped of land to both Poland, Austria and the Confederation of the Rhine, and Fredrick Wilhelm was forced to give up his throne in favor of his son in 1832. He was exiled to Switzerland, where he died in 1840.

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