I am a mirror; reflect personas of those around me.
A creature who lies, who doesn't dare to be what nature designed.
But with this new position, a seat upon the Prussian throne.
I'll lead my men through fields where Austria's fate is sown.
Friedrich (or ''Frédéric''
, as he preferred to be known
) II, or, as he has come to be known in English, Frederick the Great
, was the king
in the mid-eighteenth century
. Something of a dark horse in the realm of dynastic politics
, in his youth he was fond of French culture, to a degree that his boorish and possibly insane father, Frederick William I, thought him effeminate. However, he would grow into a notable figure in German martial history, and as such, became an iconic figure of success in the Prussian-dominated German Reich. His reputation is perhaps unfairly stained by imperialists such as Treitschke
or (far worse) Adolf Hitler
, who invoked him to justify their ruthless Realpolitik
. To consider Frederick a proto-Hitler, however, is absurd. Frederick (a devout Francophile) would have regarded Hitler & Co.
as typically barbaric Germans overdue for an appointment with the knoutmaster
Frederick began ruling a sprawling kingdom, short on resources and indefensible. Therefore he deemed it "necessary"
to invade the rich Austrian province of Silesia and conquer it. This obtained the enmity of the Empress
, nominally Frederick's suzerain
, who was unconvinced by Frederick's assurances that it was Nothing Personal
. The king also later annexed various other areas, including parts of Poland-Lithuanianote
. He became well known for his unscrupulous but undeniably skilful foreign policy.
In domestic policy Frederick was a great reformer. He was able to rebuild his kingdom due to the fact that he had –- or was at least prepared to exert — more authority than most of his contemporaries (even though special interests were stronger and Obstructive Bureaucrats
even more obstructive then). He instituted economic reforms and imposed religious toleration. Naturally enough, he also improved the Prussian army and helped give Prussia a recognized place as a great power.
In personality "Old Fritz," as he came to be known, was famous for being dour and curmudgeonly. He has been accused of being inhumane and he was definitely not A Father to His Men
, although he did provide some Pet the Dog
moments to them. Certainly he cared for his people's welfare, perhaps rather more than he cared for his people, and successfully weeded out many archaic and unjust practices that oppressed them. His style of strong personal rule was useful as long as he lived, though it left Prussia temporarily helpless when he was dead. Though it cannot be denied that his effective use of aggression and conspiracy gave them an unhealthy aura of success, it also cannot be denied that he left Prussia with a strong and competent central government. Frederick the Great was not necessarily the most pleasant monarch, but he is not unworthy of admiration.
Probably not a good idea to confuse him with the Cloud Cuckoo Lander
portrayal of him in his titular webcomic
. Though doing so with his other,
more fatherly portrayal in Axis Powers Hetalia
is more understandable.
Tropes Associated With Frederick The Great
- Abusive Parents: His father, Frederick William, gave him Training from Hell which included forcing him to watch while his best friend was beheaded, after they tried to escape from Prussia together. If that wasn't enough, his father also physically beat him, humiliated him in front of their subjects, tried to force him to give up his artistic hobbies and made it clear to him he was a disappointment.
- Abhorrent Admirer: As noted above, all kinds of German imperialists whom Frederick would personally have loathed were fond of invoking his name to support their imperialist policies.
- Antagonist in Mourning: Towards Maria Theresa.
- Asexuality: One of the many, many theories surrounding the reason Frederick did not produce heirs. However historians widely consider Frederick's alignment, whatever it was, to be a moot point that in no way detracts from his Badassery.
- Badass Bureaucrat: One of the best royal bureaucrats in history
- Beneath the Mask: Frederick spent his youth battling with his father over whether he should be an artistic philosopher (whom he wanted to be) or an ascetic, ruff soldier (what his father wanted him to be). While the adult Fredrick seems to have been both, he was mentally damaged by his ordeals, and felt need to appeal to people by putting on a mask and playing a role to them. He admitted to a close friend he felt himself to be "a mirror, afraid to be what the nature had made it to be".
- Big Book of War: His instructions to his officers became a military classic, but Frederick's Instructions have peculiar advantages for an Armchair General. Many a Big Book of War is about general principles which means of course that enemy officers can read it too, leaving little net gain except possibly to make history books a more interesting read after the war. Frederick's Instructions were written for the special circumstances of Prussia and thus help remind a would-be Armchair General that every army has special circumstances.
- Badass Boast: Or rather Badass Tribute. When Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Prussia, he went in to Frederick's tomb with a few trusted officers, and basically said, "Hats off gentlemen, for if he were alive, we would not be here."
- Badass Bookworm
- Byronic Hero
- The Chessmaster: Par for the course for German monarchs. The fact that a reasonably-accurate map of Germany at the time happened to resemble the results of someone trying to design a chessboard while taking every drug known to man probably helped.
- Cool Versus Awesome: Frederick The Great vs. Maria Theresa.
- Crowning Moment of Awesome: The Battle of Leuthen, in which he marched the bulk of the Prussian army all the way across the Austrian front to catch them by surprise — and ironically, the Austrian front had been so long because the commander was attempting to prevent a Prussian flanking! Frederick had some of his cavalry feint on the Austrian right flank, causing the Austrian commander (coincidentally, Maria Theresa's brother-in-law) to commit his reserve and cavalry to that direction, while the Prussian army moved behind the cover of hills until it was at a right angle to the now-weakened Austrian left flank... not only was it quickly rolled up, but it took over an hour for Austrian troops on the right flank to reposition, and when the Austrian cavalry attempted to take the Prussian army's own left flank, the Austrian cavalry were themselves outflanked by the now-charging Prussian cavalry.
- Cultured Badass: He was an accomplished flautist, himself wrote several classical pieces, personally invited Johann Sebastian Bach to play at his palace at Potsdam, and hired Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel.
- On the other hand, he famously said that the great German mediæval epic, the Nibelungenlied, wasn’t "worth a shot of powder" and said he wouldn't have such trash in his personal library. This may be explained for his passionate dislike of old German culture.
- Drink Order: His favorite drink was coffee boiled in champagne, which is very fitting for him. You see, coffee at the time was very modern and champagne is of course very French...and as we have noted, Frederick loved being modern and being French. Perfect!
- Famous Last Words: "The mountains are passed; now we are going better." « La montagne est passée, nous irons mieux. » (Even his last words were in French rather than German.)
- Foe Yay: Frederick and Maria. One Austrian peasant actually told a prisoner, "I wish your King and our Empress could marry." Back in the 1730s, a young Frederick actually suggested marrying Maria, but he was forced into a marriage with Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, whom he resented for the rest of his life. (Just as well; they would probably have gotten along even worse.)
- Folkhero: To Imperial Germany... And curiously enough, to Pennsylvania, which has a town called King-of-Prussia. According to one legend it was a patriotic celebration of an ally in the Seven Years' War. Another version was that there was a tavern there that served German Auxiliaries during The American Revolution and some of these had served in Frederick's army.
- Adolf Hitler gazes on a portrait of him in Downfall as he desperately waits for his situation to turn around. It never did, of course.
- Foreign Culture Fetish: Regarded France as the epitome of Western civilization, and his own native Germany as a land of uncouth barbarians.
- Foreshadowing: Prussia would later unite most of the German lands into a North German Empire.
- Gratuitous French: His German was considered wretched by some contemporaries; he vastly preferred French, and wrote extensively in that language.
- Handicapped Badass: He was famous for his walking stick.
- Heroic BSOD: Famously suffered one when forced to watch his best friend Katte being executed by beheading. He fell unconscious for a few days, and his personality may have been permanently altered by the experience.
- Ho Yay: Rumours of this (some of them spread by Voltaire, who had rather a Slap-Slap-Kiss relationship with the King) have pursued Frederick from his own time to this.
- His relationship with his best friend Lieutenant Katte was widely rumoured in the royal court to be romantic; whatever the case, they ended up running away together (for which Katte was executed).
- There's supposedly a letter of his where he mentioned that he was opposed to "Greek pleasures"... since he'd found them unpleasant.
- I Did What I Had to Do
- Insufferable Genius: Oh, yes!
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sort of. He was unlikable personally but at least was not selfish and was as ruthless with himself as with others.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Unlike some conquerors, he knew when to quit.
- Magnificent Bastard
- The Magnificent: Or The Great.
- Misanthrope Supreme: "Hunde haben alle guten Eigenschaften des Menschen, ohne gleichzeitig ihre Fehler zu besitzen." ("Dogs have all the good qualities of humans, without simultaneously possessing their follies.")
- Modest Royalty: He liked to lounge around. To look at him, no one could tell he was a king unless they knew before hand.
- More Dakka: Prussian infantry were said to be able to get five rounds a minute off. Of course that is discounting powder smoke, physical weariness, disturbance from enemy fire, and all that. Still for the time, Frederick's army could get off an awful lot of dakka.
- Must Have Caffeine: Averted and played straight. Frederick forbade coffee to non-nobles (Oh, the tyranny!) to protect the beer production industry. He himself preferred coffee boiled in champagne.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Frederick was often known as "Old Fritz", a nickname that combines respect and familiarity. It also happens to be a nickname for the Devil.
- Nice Hat: He is often depicted wearing a tricorn.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Old Fritz's court musician was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who was widely regarded as the greatest composer of his day (Mozart and Haydn both acknowledged their debt to him). Unfortunately, the only piece of music that anyone remembered for the last century and a half, was a small group of pieces composed by CPE's father: Johann Sebastian Bach. To be fair, these pieces, entitled A Musical Offering, are among the greatest pieces of keyboard music ever written.
- Pragmatic Villainy: He conquered and schemed to improve Prussia's position, and was not Ax-Crazy like many conquerors.
- Prussia: Durr.
- Pet the Dog: He was famous for his fondness for his hounds.
- He is buried next to them at Sanssouci. Visitors to his grave will often see potatoes on it, as he did a lot to further the cultivation of potatoes in Prussia.
- Rebel Prince: In his youth. Not as romantic as you'd think.
- Reverse Psychology: Fritz wanted to introduce the potato to Prussia, but knew that people were sceptical towards new things. So he had potatoes planted on several fields and guarded by soldiers. But at night, the soldiers would leave, and the curious people would dig out the potato plants and plant them on their own fields, Just as Planned.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Fighting wars, streamlining administration, and writing classical music.
- Secret Circle of Secrets: Frederick first became a member of a Hamburg-based Freemason lodge in the 1730s, and after his accession to the throne he opened Prussia to Freemasonry and acted as its royal protector.
- The Spartan Way: What the Prussian Army is most famous for.
- The Spymaster: He was notably good at this.
- The Spock: Very definitely. Appropriately Maria Theresa was The McCoy.
- Stand Your Ground: When his troops began to rout at the Battle of Kolin (1757), he shouted "Kerls, wollt ihr ewig leben?" ("Dogs, would you live forever?").
- The Stoic
- Übermensch: One of the major influences; Friedrich Nietzsche regarded him highly, and he ticks many of the boxes for his artist-tyrant, though the latter was much more pan-European and anti-statist. Nietzsche's disdain for all things German can be understood in much the same way as Frederick's, being a disdain for German culture and German tradition, and with a disdain for German nationalism as an extension of such prejudices.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Voltaire.
- Warrior Prince
- Why Couldn't You Be Different?: His overly-dominating father, obsessed with masculinity, considered him to be an effeminate weakling.