- Kingdom of Prussia
Infobox Former Country
native_name = "Königreich Preußen"
conventional_long_name = Kingdom of Prussia
common_name = Prussia
continent = Europe
region = Germany
country = Germany
year_start = 1701
year_end = 1918
date_start = January 18
date_end = November 9
event_end = Abolition
p1 = Brandenburg-Prussia
s1 = Free State of Prussia (1918-1933)
flag_s1= Flag of Preussen 1919-1935.jpg
image_map_caption = The Kingdom of Prussia at its greatest extent, at the time of the formation of the
German Empire, 1871
national_anthem = "
Song of Prussia
Heil dir im Siegerkranz"
Hail to Thee in Victor's Crown
government_type = Monarchy
leader1 = Frederick I (first)
year_leader1=1701 — 1713
leader2 = William II (last)
year_leader2 = 1888 — 1918
title_deputy = Prime Minister1
Adolf Heinrich von Arnim-Boitzenburg(first)
year_deputy1 = 1848
deputy2 = Maximilian of Baden (last)
event1 = French domination
date_event1 = 14 October
year_event1 = 1806
event2 = Restoration
date_event2 = 9 June
year_event2 = 1815
event3 = Constitutional Monarchy
date_event3 = 5 December
year_event3 = 1848
Reichsthaler(until 1750) Prussian thaler(1750-1857) Vereinsthaler(1857-1871) Goldmark (1871-1914) Papiermark (from 1914)
house1 = Herrenhaus
house2 = Abgeordnetenhaus
stat_year1 = 1816 cite web |title=Königreich Preußen (1701-1918) |url=http://www.deutsche-schutzgebiete.de/koenigreich_preussen.htm |language=German |accessdate=2007-05-02]
stat_pop1 = 10349031
stat_year2 = 1871
stat_pop2 = 24689000
stat_year3 = 1910 [cite web |title=German Empire: administrative subdivision and municipalities, 1900 to 1910 |url=http://www.gemeindeverzeichnis.de/gem1900/gem1900.htm?gem1900_2.htm |language=German |accessdate=2007-05-02]
stat_pop3 = 34472509
stat_area3 = 348779.87
footnotes = 1 During the
North German Confederationand German Empire(1867-1918), the Prime Minister of Prussia was also the German ChancellorThe Kingdom of Prussia ( _de. Königreich Preußen) was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918 and, from 1871, was the leading state of the German Empire, comprising almost two-thirds of the area of the empire. It took its name from the territory of Prussia, although its power base was Brandenburg.
1701: The growth of Brandenburg
Frederick William, the "Great Elector" of
Brandenburg-Prussia, died in 1688. His possessions passed to his son Frederick III (1688-1701) who became King Frederick I of Prussia(1701-1713). With the exception of the Duchy of Prussia, all of Brandenburg's lands were a part of the Holy Roman Empire, by this time under the all but hereditary nominal rule of the House of Habsburg. Since there was only one King of the Germanswithin the Empire, Frederick gained the assent of Emperor Leopold I (in return for alliance against France in the War of the Spanish Succession) to his adoption (January 1701) of the title of " King in Prussia" based on his non-Imperial territories. The title came into general acceptance with the Treaty of Utrecht (1713).
1701-1740: The young Kingdom
The new Kingdom of Prussia was very poor – still having not fully recovered from the devastation of the
Thirty Years’ War– and its territory was scattered across over 1200 km (750 mi): from the lands of the Duchy of Prussia on the south-east coast of the Baltic Sea, to the Hohenzollern heartland of Brandenburg, to the exclaves of Cleves, Mark and Ravensbergin the Rhineland. In 1708, approximately one third of the population of the Duchy of Prussia fell victim of the bubonic plague. The plague reached Prenzlauin August 1710, but eventually receded before it could reach the capital Berlin, which was only 80 km (50 mi) away.
Sweden's defeat by Russia, Saxony, Poland,
Denmark–Norway, Hanover, and Prussia in the Great Northern War(1700-1721) marked the end of significant Swedish power on the southern shores of the Baltic Sea. In the Prusso-Swedish Treaty of Stockholm (January 1720), Prussia regained Stettin (Szczecin) and other parts of Sweden's holding in Pomerania. The Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg had held the reversion to the Duchy of Pomerania since 1472. (Further Pomerania had already been annexed to Brandenburg-Prussia in 1648 at the Peace of Westphalia).
During this time, the trends set in motion by the Great Elector reached their culmination, as the
Junkers, the landed aristocracy, were welded to the Prussian Army.
1740-1760: The Silesian Wars
In 1740, King Frederick II (Frederick the Great) came to the throne. Using the pretext of a 1537 treaty (vetoed by Emperor Ferdinand I) by which parts of
Silesiawere to pass to Brandenburg after the extinction of its ruling Piast dynasty, Frederick invaded Silesia, thereby beginning the War of the Austrian Succession. After rapidly occupying Silesia, Frederick offered to protect Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austriaif the province were turned over to him. The offer was rejected, but Austria faced several other opponents, and Frederick was eventually able to gain formal cession with the Treaty of Berlin in 1742.
To the surprise of many, Austria managed to renew the war successfully. In 1744 Frederick invaded again to forestall reprisals and to claim, this time, the province of
Bohemia. He failed, but French pressure on Austria's ally Great Britain led to a series of treaties and compromises, culminating in the 1748 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapellethat restored peace and left Prussia in possession of most of Silesia.
Humiliated by the cession of Silesia, Austria worked to secure an alliance with France and Russia (the "
Diplomatic Revolution"), while Prussia drifted into Great Britain's camp. When Frederick preemptively invaded Saxony and Bohemia over the course of a few months in 1756-1757, he initiated the Seven Years' War.
This war was a desperate struggle for the
Prussian Army, and the fact that it managed to fight much of Europe to a draw bears witness to Frederick's military skills. Facing Austria, Russia, France, and Sweden simultaneously, and with only Hanover (and the non-continental British) as notable allies, Frederick managed to prevent serious invasion until October 1760, when the Russian army briefly occupied Berlinand Königsberg. The situation became progressively grimmer, however, until the death of Empress Elizabeth of Russia( the miracle of the House of Brandenburg). The accession of the Prussophile Peter III relieved the pressure on the eastern front. Sweden also exited the war at about the same time.
Defeating the Austrian army at the
Battle of Burkersdorfand relying on continuing British success against France in the war's colonial theatres, Prussia was finally able to force a " status quo ante bellum" on the continent. This result confirmed Prussia's major role within the German states and established the country as a European great power. Frederick, appalled by the near-defeat of Prussia, lived out his days as a much more peaceable ruler.
1772, 1793, 1795: Partitions of Poland
To the east and south of Prussia, the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealthhad gradually weakened during the 18th century. Alarmed by increasing Russian influences in Polish affairs and by a possible expansion of the Russian Empire, Frederick took part in the first of the Partitions of Polandbetween Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1772 to maintain a balance of power. The Kingdom of Prussia annexed most of the Polish province of Royal Prussia, including Warmia; the annexed land was organized the following year into the Province of West Prussia. The new territory connected East Prussia(the territory previously known as the Duchy of Prussia) with Pomerania, uniting the kingdom's eastern territories.
After Frederick died in 1786, his nephew Fredrick William II continued the partitions, gaining a large part of western Poland in 1793.
In 1795, the Kingdom of Poland ceased to exist and a large area (including
Warsaw) to the south of East Prussia became part of Prussia. These new territories were organized into the Provinces of New Silesia, South Prussia, and New East Prussia.
1806-1815: Napoleonic Wars
In 1806 the
Holy Roman Empirewas abolished as a result of Napoleon's victories over Austria. The title of "Kurfürst" ( Prince-elector) of Brandenburg became meaningless, and was dropped. Before this time, the Hohenzollern sovereign had held many titles and hats, from Head of the Evangelical Church to King, Elector, Grand Duke, Duke for the various regions and realms under his rule. After 1806, he simply was King of Prussia.
As a result of Prussia's defeat in the
Battle of Jena-Auerstedtin 1806, King Frederick William III was forced to temporarily flee to Memel. After the Treaties of Tilsitin 1807, Prussia lost about half of its territory, including the land gained from the Second and Third Partitions of Poland(which now fell to the Duchy of Warsaw) and all land west of the Elbe River. The remainder of the kingdom was occupied by French troops (at Prussia’s expense) and the king was obliged to make an alliance with France and join the Continental System.
After the defeat of Napoleon in Russia, Prussia quit the alliance and took part in the
Sixth Coalitionduring the "Wars of Liberation" ("Befreiungskriege") against the French occupation. Prussian troops under Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blüchercontributed crucially in the Battle of Waterlooof 1815 to the final victory over Napoleon.
1815: Prussia after Napoleon
Prussia’s reward for its part in France's defeat came at the
Congress of Vienna, where Prussia was granted most of its lost territories and considerably more, including 40% of the Kingdom of Saxonyand much of the Rhineland. Much of the territory annexed in the Third Partition of Poland was granted to Congress Polandunder Russian rule.
With these Prussian gains in territory, the kingdom was reorganised into ten provinces. Most of the kingdom, aside from the Provinces of
East Prussia, West Prussia, and Posen, became part of the new German Confederation, which replaced the defunct Holy Roman Empire.
As a consequence of the
Revolutions of 1848, the Principalities of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringenand Hohenzollern-Hechingen(ruled by a cadet branch of the House of Hohenzollern) were annexed by Prussia in 1850.
1848–1871: The German wars of unification
For the following half-century after the Congress of Vienna, there was a conflict of ideals within the
German Confederationbetween the formation of a single German nation and the conservation of the current collection of smaller German states and kingdoms. The creation of the German Customs Union ( Zollverein) in 1834, which excluded the Austrian Empire, increased Prussian influence over the member states. As a consequence of the Revolutions of 1848, King Frederick William IV was offered the crown of a united Germany by the Frankfurt Parliament. Frederick William refused the offer on the grounds that revolutionary assemblies could not grant royal titles. But there were two other reasons why he refused: to do so would have done little to end the internal power struggle between Austria and Prussia, and all Prussian kings (up to and including William I) feared that the formation of a German Empirewould mean the end of Prussia’s independence within the German states.
In 1848, actions taken by
Denmarktowards the Duchies of Schleswigand Holsteinled to the First War of Schleswig(1848–51) between Denmark and the German Confederation. Denmark was defeated, but Prussia was embarrassingly forced to allow Denmark to keep both duchies.
Frederick William issued Prussia's first constitution by his own authority in 1850. It was forced upon parliament. This document--moderate by the standards of the time but conservative by today's standards--provided for a two-house parliament. The lower house, or "
Landtag" was elected by all taxpayers, who were divided into three classes whose votes were weighted according to the amount of taxes paid. Women and those who paid no taxes had no vote. This allowed just over one-third of the voters to choose 85% of the legislature, all but assuring dominance by the more well-to-do men of the population. The upper house, which was later renamed the " Herrenhaus" ("House of Lords"), was appointed by the king. He retained full executive authority and ministers were responsible only to him. As a result, the grip of the landowning classes, the Junkers, remained unbroken, especially in the eastern provinces.
Otto von Bismarckwas appointed by King William I as Prime Minister of Prussia. He was determined to unite the German states under Prussian domination, and guided Prussia through three wars which ultimately achieved this goal.
The first of these wars was the
Second War of Schleswig(1864), which Prussia initiated and succeeded in gaining the assistance of Austria. Denmark was soundly defeated and surrendered both Schleswig and Holstein, to Prussia and Austria respectively.
(1866)----legend|#80ffef|Prussian acquisitions: Hanover, Schleswig-Holstein, Hessian Hinterland,
Hesse-Kassel, Nassau and Frankfurt] The divided administration of Schleswig and Holstein then became the trigger for the Austro-Prussian War(1866 – also known as the Seven Weeks’ War), where Prussia, allied with the Kingdom of Italy and various northern German states, declared war on the Austrian Empire. The Austrian-led coalition was crushed and some German states (the Kingdom of Hanover, the Grand Duchy of Hesse, the Duchy of Nassauand the Free City of Frankfurt) were annexed by Prussia. The disputed territories of Schleswig and Holstein were now under total Prussian rule. With these gains in territory it became possible to connect the Prussian possessions in the Rhineland and Westphalia with the remainder of the Kingdom. It was at this point that Prussia reached its fullest extent in terms of area; it now stretched uninterrupted across the northern two-thirds of Germany. It remained at this size until the Kingdom's end in 1918.
The German Confederation was dissolved as part of the war. In its place, Prussia cajoled the 21 states north of the
Maininto forming the North German Confederationin 1867. Prussia was the dominant state in this new grouping, with four-fifths of its territory and population. Its near-total control was cemented in a constitution written by Bismarck. Executive power was vested in a president; the office was held by the Prussian king in accordance with hereditary right. He was assisted by a chancellor responsible only to him. There was also a two-house parliament. The lower house, or Reichstag (Diet), was elected by universal male suffrage. The upper house, or Bundesrat(Federal Council) was appointed by the state governments. The Bundesrat was, in practice, the stronger chamber. Prussia had 17 of 43 votes, and could easily control proceedings through alliances with the other states.
The southern German states (except Austria) were forced to accept military alliances with Prussia. Bismarck’s planned "
Kleindeutschland" unification of Germanyhad come considerably closer to realisation. While King William was determined to make territorial gains from Austria itself, Bismarck persuaded him to abandon the idea. While Bismarck wanted Austria to play no future role in German affairs, he still saw that Austria could be a valuable future ally.
The final act was the
Franco-Prussian War(1870), where Bismarck maneuvered Emperor Napoleon III of Franceinto declaring war on Prussia. Activating the German alliances put in place after the Austro-Prussian War, the German states came together and swiftly defeated France. This Prussian-led victory made possible the creation of the German Empirewith William declared to be Emperor William I on 18 January 1871(the 170th anniversary of the coronation of the first Prussian king, Frederick I) in the Hall of Mirrors at Versaillesoutside of Paris, while the French capital was still under siege.
1871-1918: Prussia’s peak and fall
Bismarck's new empire was one of the most powerful entities in continental Europe. Prussia's dominance over the new empire was almost as absolute as it was with the North German Confederation. It included three-fifths of the empire's territory and two-thirds of its population. The imperial crown was a hereditary office of the House of Hohenzollern.
However, the seeds for future problems lay in a gross disparity between the imperial and Prussian systems. The empire had a system of universal and equal suffrage for all men over 25. However, Prussia retained its restrictive three-class voting system, in which the well-to-do had 17.5 times the voting power of the rest of the population. Since the imperial chancellor was, except for two periods (January-November 1873 and 1892-94) also prime minister of Prussia, this meant that for most of the empire's existence, the king/emperor and prime minister/chancellor had to seek majorities from legislatures elected by two completely different franchises.
At the time of the empire's creation, both Prussia and Germany were roughly two-thirds rural. However, within 20 years, the situation was reversed; the cities and towns accounted for two-thirds of the population. However, in both the kingdom and the empire, the constituencies were never redrawn to reflect the growing population and influence of the cities and towns. This meant that rural areas were grossly overrepresented from the 1890s onward.
Bismarck realized that the rest of Europe was somewhat skeptical of his powerful new Reich, and turned his attention to preserving peace with such acts as the
Congress of Berlin. The new German Empire improved its already-strong relations with Britain. The ties between London and Berlin had already been sealed with a golden braid in 1858, when Crown Prince Frederick William of Germany married Princess Victoria of Britain.
William I died in 1888, and the Crown Prince succeeded to the throne as Frederick III. The new emperor, a decided Anglophile, planned to institute extensive liberal reforms. Unfortunately, he died after only 99 days on the throne and was succeeded by his 29-year old son, William II. As a boy, William had rebelled against his parents' efforts to mold him as a liberal, and had become thoroughly Prussianized under Bismarck's tutelage. The new Kaiser rapidly soured relations with the British and Russian royal families (despite being closely related to them), becoming their rival and ultimately their enemy.
William II ousted Bismarck from office in 1890 and began a campaign of militarisation and adventurism in foreign policy that eventually led Germany into isolation. A gross misjudgment of the Austro-Hungarian conflict with
Serbiaby the Kaiser, who left for holidays, and hasty mobilisation plans of several nations led to the disaster of World War I(1914–1918). As the price of their withdrawal from the war, the Bolsheviksconceded large regions of the western Russian Empire, some of which bordered Prussia, to German control in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk(1918). German control of these territories only lasted for a few months, however, because of the defeat of German military forces and the German Revolution– which led to the Kaiser’s abdication and exile.
Treaty of Versailles, which held Germany solely responsible for the war, was signed in Versailles' Hall of Mirrors, where the German Empire had been created. With the abdication of Wilhelm II in 1918, the Kingdom of Prussia was dissolved and replaced with the Free State of Prussia.
The Kingdom of Prussia was an autocratic monarchy until the
Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, after which Prussia became a constitutional monarchyand Adolf Heinrich von Arnim-Boitzenburgwas elected as Prussia's first prime minister. Following Prussia's first constitution, a two-house parliament was formed. The lower house, or " Landtag" was elected by all taxpayers, who were divided into three classes according to the amount of taxes paid. This allowed just over one-third of the voters to choose 85% of the legislature, all but assuring dominance by the more well-to-do elements of the population. The upper house, which was later renamed the Prussian House of Lords, was appointed by the king. He retained full executive authority and ministers were responsible only to him. As a result, the grip of the landowning classes, the Junkers, remained unbroken, especially in the eastern provinces. Prussian Secret Police, formed in response to the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, aided the conservative government.
ubdivisions of Prussia
The original core regions of the Kingdom of Prussia were the
Margraviate of Brandenburgand the Duchy of Prussiawhich together formed Brandenburg-Prussia. Further Pomeraniahad been held by Prussia since 1648. Combined with nearby gains from Sweden in 1720, this region would later become the Province of Pomerania. Prussian gains in the Silesian Warsled to the formation of the Province of Silesiain 1740.
First Partition of Polandin 1772, the newly-annexed Royal Prussiaand Warmiabecame the Province of West Prussia, while the Duchy of Prussia (along with part of Warmia) became the Province of East Prussia. Other annexations along the Noteć (Netze) River became the Netze District. Following the second and third partitions (1793-1795), the new Prussian annexations became the Provinces of New Silesia, South Prussia, and New East Prussia, with the Netze District redivided between West and South Prussia. These three provinces were ultimately lost to Congress Polandafter the Congress of Viennain 1815, except for the western part of South Prussia, which would form part of the Grand Duchy of Posen.
Following the major western gains made by Prussia after the Vienna Congress, a total of ten provinces were established, each one subdivided further into smaller administrative regions known as
Regierungsbezirke. The provinces were:
Grand Duchy of Posen(authonomus, outside of German Confederation)
In 1822, the provinces of Jülich-Cleves-Berg and the Lower Rhine were merged to form the
Rhine Province. In 1829, the Provinces of East and West Prussia merged to form the Province of Prussia, but the separate provinces were reformed in 1878. The principalities of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringenand Hohenzollern-Hechingenwere annexed in 1850 to form the Province of Hohenzollern.
List of Kings of Prussia
Free State of Prussia
Prussian Crown Jewels
History of Germany
Kreis in Prussia
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