Frederick III, German Emperor

Frederick III, German Emperor

Born Oct 18, 1831

Frederick III was German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl, known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor William I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service. Although celebrated as a young man for his leadership and successes during the Second Schleswig, Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars, he nevertheless professed a hatred of warfare and was praised by friends and enemies alike for his humane conduct. Following the unification of Germany in 1871 his father, then King of Prussia, became the German Emperor. On William's death at the age of 90 on 9 March 1888, the throne passed to Frederick, who had by then been Crown Prince for 27 years. Frederick was suffering from cancer of the larynx when he died on 15 June 1888, aged 56, following unsuccessful medical treatments for his condition. Frederick married Princess Victoria, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. The couple were well matched; their shared liberal ideology led them to seek greater representation for commoners in the government. Frederick, in spite of his conservative militaristic family background, had developed liberal tendencies as a result of his ties with Britain and his studies at the University of Bonn. As the Crown Prince, he often opposed the conservative Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, particularly in speaking out against Bismarck's policy to unite Germany through force and in urging for the power of the position of Chancellor to be curbed. Liberals in both Germany and Britain hoped that as emperor, Frederick III would move to liberalize the German Empire. Frederick and Victoria were great admirers of the Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, Victoria's father. They planned to rule as consorts, like Albert and Queen Victoria, and to reform the fatal flaws in the executive branch that Bismarck had created for himself. The office of Chancellor, responsible to the Emperor, would be replaced with a British-style cabinet, with ministers responsible to the Reichstag. Government policy would be based on the consensus of the cabinet. Frederick "described the Imperial Constitution as ingeniously contrived chaos. " "The Crown Prince and Princess shared the outlook of the Progressive Party, and Bismarck was haunted by the fear that should the old Emperor die--and he was now in his seventies--they would call on one of the Progressive leaders to become Chancellor. He sought to guard against such a turn by keeping the Crown Prince from a position of any influence and by using foul means as well as fair to make him unpopular. " However, his illness prevented him from effectively establishing policies and measures to achieve this, and such moves as he was able to make were later abandoned by his son and successor, William II. The timing of Frederick's death and the length of his reign are important topics among historians. The premature demise of Frederick III is considered a potential turning point in German history; and whether or not he would have made the Empire more liberal if he had lived longer is still discussed.… Read More

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Learn about the memorable moments in the evolution of Frederick III, German Emperor.


1831 Birth Frederick William was born in the New Palace at Potsdam in Prussia on 18 October 1831. … Read More


1851 19 Years Old …  In 1851, his mother sent Frederick to England, ostensibly to visit the Great Exhibition but in truth she hoped that the cradle of liberalism and home of the industrial revolution would have a positive influence on her son. … Read More


1855 23 Years Old Frederick proposed to Victoria in 1855, when she was 14 years old. The betrothal of the young couple was announced on May 19, 1857 at Buckingham Palace and the Prussian Court, and their marriage took place on 25 January 1858 in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, London. … Read More
1861 29 Years Old When his father succeeded to the Prussian throne as King William I on 2 January 1861, Frederick became the Crown Prince. … Read More


1862 30 Years Old Because William was a dogmatic soldier and unlikely to change his ideas at the age of sixty-four, he regularly clashed with the Diet over policies. In September 1862, one such disagreement almost led to Frederick being crowned and replacing his father as king; William threatened to abdicate when the Diet refused to fund his plans for the army's reorganization. … Read More
1863 31 Years Old His protests against William's rule peaked at Danzig on 4 June 1863, where at an official reception in the city he loudly denounced Bismarck's restrictions on freedom of the press. … Read More
1866 34 Years Old …  The timely arrival of his II Army was crucial to the Prussian victory in 1866 at the decisive Battle of Königgrätz, which won the war for Prussia. … Read More
1870 38 Years Old Four years later Frederick was in action again, this time during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, in which he was once more paired with Blumenthal and commanded the III Army, consisting of troops from the southern German states. … Read More
1871 39 Years Old 1 More Event
For his behaviour and accomplishments, The Times wrote a tribute to Frederick in July 1871, stating that "the Prince has won as much honour for his gentleness as for his prowess in the war".


1878 46 Years Old In 1878, when his father was incapacitated by injury from an assassination attempt, Frederick briefly took over his tasks but was soon relegated to the sidelines once again. … Read More
1880 48 Years Old Clad in the uniform of a Prussian field marshal Frederick, together with Victoria, attended a synagogue service in Berlin in 1880 to show support for tolerance in contrast to what Victoria called Treitscke's "disgraceful attacks". … Read More
1881 49 Years Old In 1881, Frederick and Victoria again attended a synagogue service, this time in Wiesbaden "to demonstrate as clearly as we can what our convictions are". … Read More


1887 55 Years Old Retaining his military portfolio, he continued to represent Germany and its Emperor at ceremonies, weddings, and celebrations, such as Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. … Read More
Frederick was suffering from cancer of the larynx when he died on 15 June 1888, aged fifty-six, following unsuccessful medical treatments for his condition. … Read More
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