Kingdom of Prussia

Königreich Preußen
Kingdom of Prussia
State of the German Confederation
Leading state of the North German Confederation
Leading state of the German Empire
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   |style="vertical-align:middle; text-align:center; font-size:115%; border:0" | 1701–1918
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Flag of Prussia (1892–1918) Royal coat of arms
Suum cuique
"To each his own"
"Song of Prussia"
Royal anthem
Heil dir im Siegerkranz
"Hail to Thee in the Victor's Crown"
The Kingdom of Prussia (dark blue) at its greatest extent, after incorporation of Saxe-Lauenburg at the time of the German Empire, 1876
Capital Berlin
Language(s) Official language:
Recognised languages:
Low German, Polish, Danish, Lithuanian, Lower Sorbian, Kashubian, Frisian
Government Absolute monarchy
(until 1848)
Constitutional monarchy
(from 1848)
 - 1701–1713 Frederick I
(first king in Prussia)
 - 1740–1786 Frederick II
(first king of Prussia)
 - 1888–1918 Wilhelm II (last)
Minister President1
 - 1848 Adolf Heinrich (first)
 - 1862–73, 1873–90 Otto von Bismarck (notable)
 - 1918 Maximilian of Baden (last)
Legislature Landtag
 - Upper house Herrenhaus
 - Lower house Abgeordnetenhaus
Historical era Early modern period
 - 1910[1] 348779.87 km2 (134665 sq mi)
 - 1816[2] est. 10349031 
 - 1871[2] est. 24689000 
 - 1910[3] est. 34472509 
     Density 98.8 /km2  (256 /sq mi)
Currency Reichsthaler (until 1750)
Prussian thaler (1750–1857)
Vereinsthaler (1857–71)
Goldmark (1871–1914)
Papiermark (from 1914)
Free State of Prussia (1918–1933)

|} |- | Today part of ||  Denmark
 Russia |-

| colspan="2" | 1: During the North German Confederation and German Empire (1867–1918), the Minister President of Prussia was also the Chancellor of Germany |-

|- |} |} The Kingdom of Prussia (German: Königreich Preußen) was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire. It took its name from the territory of Prussia, although its power base was Brandenburg.


Since 1618, the Electorate of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia were ruled in personal union by the House of Hohenzollern ("Brandenburg-Prussia"). In the course of the Second Northern War, the Treaty of Labiau and the Treaty of Wehlau-Bromberg granted the Hohenzollern sovereignty in the Prussian duchy. Thus, in return for an alliance against France in the War of the Spanish Succession, Elector Frederick III crowned himself King in Prussia as Frederick I in 1701. Technically, no kingdoms could exist in the Holy Roman Empire except for Bohemia. However, Frederick took the line that since Prussia had never belonged to the Empire and the Hohenzollerns were fully sovereign over it, he could elevate Prussia to a kingdom. The title "King in Prussia" was adopted because they were still only electors within that portion of Prussia that was still part of the Holy Roman Empire. It was not until 1772 that the title was changed to "King of Prussia."

1701-1740: Early History

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 : 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 Ravensberg in the Rhineland. In 1708, approximately one third of the population of the Duchy of Prussia fell victim to the bubonic plague.[4] The plague reached Prenzlau in August 1710, but eventually receded before it could reach the capital Berlin, which was only 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 course of the Pomeranian campaign and by the Prusso-Swedish Treaty of Stockholm (January 1720), Prussia gained southern Swedish Pomerania with Stettin (Szczecin). Already in 1529, the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg had secured the reversion to the Duchy of Pomerania after a series of conflicts, and acquired its eastern part following 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. This era also saw the rise of compulsory education in Germany.[5] King Frederick William I inaugurated the Prussian compulsory system in 1717.[5]

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 Silesia were 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 Austria if 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-Chapelle that 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 forming the Anglo-Prussian Alliance. When Frederick preemptively invaded Saxony and Bohemia over the course of a few months in 1756-1757, he initiated the Seven Years' War which might also be considered the first world war since it was fought in the three continents (France and Great Britain's colonies).

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 Berlin and Königsberg. The situation became progressively grimmer, however, until the death of Empress Elizabeth of Russia (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 Burkersdorf and 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.