Frederick II - History

Frederick II - History

Frederick was King of Prussia, but possessed a number of unusual skills for a monarch. He was deeply involved in study, particularly French literature, music and philosophy (Voltaire was well-acquainted with Frederick and corresponded with him). A talented flutist, Frederick also composed. He was, however, also regarded as a capable military talent (Prussia's army included over 200,000 soldiers during Frederick's time) and was fiscally prudent, able to carry out his many military campaigns/wars without incurring debt. Over the decades of his reign, Frederick acquired additional territories that served to double Prussia's area. Though Frederick's writings indicate a highly cultivated and enlightened figure, he was not particularly liberal with his people, although not unjust; Prussia, it was said, was governed as a large army camp with little personal liberty (although a relatively free press.)

Emperor Frankenstein: The Truth Behind Frederick II of Sicily’s Sadistic Science Experiments

One of the most controversial rulers of his time, Frederick was known for his grand ambitions in the political and cultural arena. Embroiled in a life-long clash with the papacy, which found itself between the Emperor’s lands in northern Italy and his Kingdom of Sicily in the south, he was excommunicated twice for ambitions and his disregard for Papal opinion. As well as his titles of Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, he was also king of Germany and Jerusalem, gaining the latter title after deposing his own father-in-law to secure this long-term aim. Frederick was known for his great curiosity in science, and the lengths he would go to in his quest for knowledge and empirical understanding both fascinated and repelled his contemporaries.

Married at least three times, Frederick fathered eight legitimate children and had many mistresses and illegitimate children throughout his lifetime. This was not enough to secure the continuation of his line, however, and upon his sudden and unexpected death in 1250, his family did not continue for long.

Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, the man who was referred to by his contemporaries as ‘stupor mundi’ – which translates to ‘the astonishment of the world’ – was a remarkable man. Despite people not being shy to give an opinion on the controversial ruler, in many ways Frederick remains a shadowy half-figure in history, swathed in hearsay and rumour, mystery and myth. There is much that remains unknown and unexplained about this complicated ruler.

One of the shadier matters associated with Frederick are the tales told about the emperor by a monk named Salimbene. A contemporary of Frederick’s, Salimbene di Adam, or of Parma as he was sometimes called, was an Italian Franciscan monk. He joined the order in 1238 against the will of his father, and throughout his lifetime produced several works, the most famous known as Cronica or Chronicle. Another of his well-known works, and most relevant to learning more about Frederick, was The Twelve Calamities Of Emperor Frederick II. The purpose of this work was to highlight the faults and immoral nature of Frederick, including his lack of Christian piety and disinterest in supporting the Church of Rome. The work consists of a series of varied and descriptive examples intended to fully illustrate Frederick’s wickedness: among the most horrendous actions the monk attributes to Frederick was that he was guilty of performing a series of atrocious experiments on his fellow human beings during his reign.

rederick II on the second page of the “Manfred manuscript” (Biblioteca Vaticana, Pal. lat 1071)

According to Salimbene, Frederick made good use of prisoners under his control. On one occasion the emperor had a hapless captive sealed inside a wooden cask or barrel, depriving him of food and water until the unfortunate man eventually, and no doubt excruciatingly, died. The whole process was closely observed throughout, especially as the man drew close to death, and a hole was made in the barrel for a purpose that soon became apparent. The point of the experiment was to test whether or not the human soul could be seen at the moment of death as it left the body for the afterlife that was said to follow.

In an even more gruesome experiment related by Salimbene, Frederick ordered that two prisoners be given dinner, each man to be fed the same food as the other. After eating, one of the men was then sent out hunting, while the other was told to go to bed and sleep off the meal he had just ingested. Unknown to the two men, Frederick intended to investigate the different effects that exercise and sleep might have on the digestion process. This was achieved in a most brutal manner: a few hours afterwards, Frederick had both men killed and disembowelled for the purpose of comparing the state of the contents of their stomachs, to see what had a greater effect.

Perhaps the most disturbing of all the experiments gleefully related by Salimbene, were the tests Frederick reputedly had carried out on infants. The origins of human language was something that fascinated the emperor greatly, and he embarked upon an experiment that, he hoped, would prove what was the original language of mankind. In his eagerness to determine what language had been given to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, Frederick gave a group of babies over into the care of nurses who were given strict instructions on how to raise them. The nurses were ordered not to interact with the children other than when strictly necessary the infants could be fed and bathed, but no more, and they were not to be spoken to or cooed over under any circumstances.

Tragically for those involved, Frederick never got an answer to the question he posed, and the original language of mankind remained hidden from him. The children, starved of any form of affection, warmth and basic interaction, died, quite simply, of a lack of love. It is unclear how many infants were used in the experiment, or how many times it was carried out, let alone who the parents of these children were, but the fact remains that the experimentation was questionable in nature and not scientifically viable.

If even a grain of truth lay in Salimbene’s reports, the image created of the emperor is a chilling one. But what proof is there for the monk’s sensational claims? One thing that is clear about Frederick from the outset is that he had a strong, and at times overwhelming, interest in all matters biological. The ideas and approaches attributed to his experiments can be seen in his attitude and interests on a daily basis. For example, his keen concern in animals and nature was expressed through his less controversial, personal projects.

Frederick established several animal reserves in locations across his widespread kingdom, the most impressive example a ‘natural’ habitat for a variety of waterbirds that was maintained at the emperor’s expense. Frederick also owned many animals and he liked to take them on his travels, many of them either unknown or rare in the areas that he visited.

A moth in the margin from a book of Sicilian verse around the time of Frederick II’s reign, courtesy of the British Library

A visit to Ravenna in the winter of 1231 saw the emperor arrive accompanied by a selection of animals that included panthers, lions, leopards and camels. This was by no means a one-off and, in 1245 Frederick graced Santa Zeno in Verona with his presence, where the monks had to find room for 24 camels, five leopards and an elephant. Several years prior to that, Salimbene witnessed his menagerie as the emperor passed through Parma.

It was not only animals that caught Frederick’s attention. At various times on his travels he was accompanied by a host of curious companions, including conjurors and acrobats, eunuchs and slave girls, a troop of what could be classed as human curiosities for the enquiring mind of Frederick. It was also recorded by reputable sources, including Frederick’s own writings, that he carried out experiments, though of a less questionable nature than those recorded by Salimbene.

One such experiment involved establishing the longevity of fish a copper ring was placed inside the gills and released back into the lake where it had been found. According to legend, the very fish was discovered in 1497: the copper ring was still in place, identified by a Greek inscription that read, “I am that fish which Emperor Frederick II placed in this lake with his own hand the fifth day of October 1230.” Whether or not this was purely apocryphal, that the experiment itself took place is not in question.

Frederick was also keenly interested in falconry and published a book on the subject. While standing out as being one of the first of its kind, the text also gives more evidence of Frederick’s inquisitive nature, outlining various experiments that he carried out to satisfy his curiosity on the nature and habits of the falcons in question.
It would seem, at first glance, that the experimental nature that Frederick was well known for could be an argument for there being truth in Salimbene’s accounts. The monk, however, had good reason to be biased against the Emperor, and it may be that Salimbene’s personal views at least somewhat coloured his portrayal of Frederick. In an age where religious belief was taken for granted and seen as part and parcel of a ruler’s lot, Frederick was a self-professed sceptic when it came to matters of religion, something that was deeply shocking to those around him.

Despite being the ward of the Pope after he was orphaned as a child, it does not appear to have nurtured a religious nature – on the contrary, he considered himself a good Christian – and at various points was accused of blasphemy and holding heretical ideas. Furthermore, he was excommunicated on two occasions showing a blatant disregard for the Church of Rome, and paying no attention to the sanctions imposed upon him, Frederick was said to have called Moses, Muhammed, and even Jesus, frauds.

Salimbene, a man of God and a supporter of the papacy, saw in this further evidence that Frederick was a dangerous man. Despite the reputation of his order for being leaders in scientific matters, Salimbene did not share that trait and was quite the opposite, so much so that he made a point of dismissing Frederick’s experiments and ideas as superstitious nonsense.

Emperor Frederick II is excommunicated by Pope Innocent IV. A cardinal takes away his crown and the emperor drops his sceptre. 14th century parchment courtesy of Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Although he could be charming, the lecherous, cunning, greedy side of the Emperor was more often than not at the fore, the man quick to temper and slow to forget. Salimbene relates with some relish of how Frederick ordered a notary to have his thumb cut off for nothing more than not writing his name in the manner the emperor wanted. The gruesome digestion experiment is put down to nothing more than idle curiosity by Salimbene, painting a picture of a man that would cause such harm for nothing more than proving or disproving a whim.

The monk was not the only one to view Frederick in a less than flattering light. Pope Gregory IX referred to him as the predecessor to the Antichrist himself and he was also named by Dante as belonging to the sixth region of Hell, that assigned to heretics. There were many others who shared that opinion, and things that today would be taken as toleration – for example Frederick’s cosmopolitan court and his seeming tolerance of other religions – were seen as further evidence of his demonic nature. Frederick’s thirst for empirical knowledge and experimentation were not shared by the majority of his contemporaries, causing him to stand out and, even in areas which we would today consider enlightened, he was viewed at times with suspicion.

Another argument against the reliability of Salimbene’s account is that the monk had little contact with Frederick. Apart from a glimpse caught of the Emperor during his Parma visit, the monk had no actual links with or connection with Frederick’s court. It is possible therefore that Salimbene, already predisposed towards disliking the emperor, was merely repeating gossip and rumours that he had heard elsewhere rather than having first-hand information.

Today we reflect on his experiments without prejudice, but at the time of his writing, Salimbene expressed criticism and wrote as though expecting his contemporaries to share his views. Committed as he was to his task of casting Frederick in the role of the Antichrist, was Salimbene therefore looking for evidence to prove his point, leaping on unsubstantiated rumours that he then repeated? It has also been suggested that Salimbene was simply taking and modifying examples from ancient texts and applying them to Frederick in an attempt to further support his own arguments and besmirch the emperor’s name, something which it seems he was greatly successful at.

Despite Salimbene’s animosity towards Frederick, there are further arguments for his relation of the experiments being true. It has been argued that the stomach-churning nature of the experiments said to have been carried out by Frederick is the very point that argues for them being true they were so terrible and out of the ordinary that it was therefore unlikely that the details were fabricated. At least in the case of the language experiment, Frederick was not the only ruler said to have had interests in that area, and there were others who experimented with language in an attempt to find it’s original source throughout history.

The Egyptian pharaoh, Psamtik I, was said to have carried out a similar experiment in which he came to the conclusion that the Phrygian race came before his own due to the spurious interpretation of an infant’s babble as the Phrygian word for bread. The fact he was able to find a supposed answer to his question indicates that, if he did carry out the experiment ascribed to him at all, it was unlikely he deprived the children to quite the same extent as Frederick.

A man has his head sewn up in Miscellanea Medica XVIII, early 14th century. Courtesy of the Wellcome Library

Another ruler on the same quest was James IV of Scotland. According to reports, two children were isolated on an island and raised by a woman who was mute in order to see what language, if any, they would develop. The outcome seemed to prove that language was innate rather than learned as the children were claimed to have started to speak in Hebrew. There was, however, great scepticism regarding these claims, even at the time, and there were those who felt the experiment had been a sham from start to finish. The phenomenon that derailed Frederick’s own experiment – the expiring of the children due to want of affection and attention – is one that is well known today.

Studies in the 1990s of children in Romanian orphanages proved what had been increasingly suspected: that children deprived of love and warmth in their early years were left physically and emotionally impaired by such neglect, a state that worsened the longer they were subjected to the crowded, unloving conditions. On the reverse it became apparent that providing a child with love and care could be a hugely transformative force, and the importance of affection for a child became proven once and for all. For Frederick’s time, however, the connection made between lack of attention and the death of the children in the experiment was very ahead of its time, the first stirrings of such a belief not evolving elsewhere until the 18th century. This fact in itself suggests that the experiment, or at least a variation of it, may well have been carried out by the emperor in his quest for knowledge, the interpretation of the result setting him several centuries ahead of his time.

Was the Emperor, therefore, the monster he has so often been painted? Even Salimbene with his open criticism of the Emperor could not deny that Frederick had his good points, admitting that he was known to be charming and intelligent, well-mannered and hard working. In 1224, Frederick founded the University of Naples, (today known as the Universita Federico II in honour of its founder) and he was known as a patron of the arts and culture within his own lands and beyond. Frederick’s prowess and development of ideas in relation to hunting and falconry have already been noted, and he was also to be credited with promoting good hygiene practices within the army, during medical procedures such as blood letting, and where diet and bathing were concerned.

Although his religious beliefs, or lack of them, was viewed with suspicion by those around him, it meant that he showed marked tolerance where others did not. For example, he not only refused to massacre Muslims when given the opportunity, but instead took them into his forces own armed forces and even his personal bodyguard. The Holy Roman Emperor likewise made use of Sicilian Jews, many of whom had been expelled from elsewhere, in translating Arabic and Greek texts, setting Sicily in the role of promoter and preserver of Eastern writings and their transmission to Western Europe.

At his death, there was hope by the lower orders that Frederick would return, and there are intriguing similarities between the legends of Frederick and those of the now more famous King Arthur. Tales from the13th century located Mount Etna as the legend’s resting place, and Frederick was originally said to have been waiting beneath that very same mountain, waiting for the right time to return to the world. A controversial figure in life and death Frederick remains to this day, with a statue of the emperor having been the subject of dispute in the square in Jesi where he was born. Monster and tyrant or enlightened and modern, the truth of Frederick’s experiments will never be known, the real emperor behind the legend remaining, for now, out of reach.

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Death of Emperor Frederick II

The most gifted, vivid and extraordinary of the medieval Holy Roman Emperors died on December 13th, 1250.

Frederick II was ill for some months before his death. Early in December 1250 a fierce attack of dysentery confined him to his hunting lodge of Castel Fiorentino in the south of Italy, which was part of his kingdom of Sicily. He made his will on December 7th, specifying that if he did not recover, he should be buried in the cathedral at Palermo, and sinking fast, died on the 13th, a few days short of his fifty-sixth birthday. He was escorted to Sicily by his Saracen bodyguard and buried in a sarcophagus of red porphyry mounted on four carved lions. The body was wrapped in cloth of red silk covered with inscrutable arabesque designs and with a crusader’s cross on the left shoulder. The tomb can still be seen in Palermo Cathedral today.

When the news reached Rome, Pope Innocent IV was delighted. ‘Let heaven exult and the earth rejoice,’ he proclaimed in a message to the Sicilian bishops and people. One of his chaplains, Nicholas of Carbio, went further. God, he wrote, seeing the desperate danger in which the storm-tossed ‘bark of Peter’ stood, snatched away ‘the tyrant and son of Satan,’ who ‘died horribly, deposed and excommunicated, suffering excruciatingly from dysentery, gnashing his teeth, frothing at the mouth and screaming…’.

However vilely expressed, the relief of the pope and his party at Frederick’s death was understandable, for the emperor had seemed to be on the verge of triumph at last in his long struggle with the papacy. Born in Italy in 1194, heir to the Hohenstaufen territories in Germany and grandson of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, he was also the heir to the Norman kingdom of Sicily. His father died young when Frederick was two, he was crowned King of Sicily at the age of three and his mother died before he was four. At fourteen he came of age and took control of Sicily. He went on to defeat his rival for the German kingship and in 1220, aged twenty-five, he was crowned emperor in St Peter’s, Rome, by Pope Honorius III. This made him, in theory at least, the temporal head of Christ’s people on earth and the overlord of northern Italy. The fact that he was also the ruler of southern Italy and Sicily, on Rome’s doorstep, put him on collision course with the popes.

Frederick astonished his contemporaries because he was more like an oriental despot than a European king. His brilliant court at Palermo blended Norman, Arabic and Jewish elements in a culture full of the warm south. He was witty, entertaining and cruel in several different languages. He kept a harem, guarded by black eunuchs. He had dancing girls, an Arab chef and a menagerie of elephants, lions and camels. He founded towns and industries and he effficiently codified laws. A man of serious intellectual distinction, he hobnobbed amicably with Jewish and Muslim sages. He encouraged scholarship, poetry and mathematics, and original thinking in all areas. He was a fine horseman and swordsman, went coursing with leopards and panthers, and wrote the first classic medieval textbook on falconry.

Frederick’s openness to ideas made him profoundly suspect. He was supposed to have described Moses, Christ and Muhammad as a trio of deluded charlatans. His demands that the Church renounce its wealth and return to apostolic poverty and simplicity did not sit well with the papacy and its supporters, who branded him as Antichrist. Through his second wife, Yolande of Brienne, he claimed the kingdom of Jerusalem and in 1228 he led the sixth crusade to the Holy Land. Preferring diplomacy and the force of his personality to the warlike methods of earlier crusaders, he successfully negotiated with the Sultan of Egypt the hand-over of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. In 1229 he crowned himself King of Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The pope, who had excommunicated him the year before, was not pleased.

Historians used to see Frederick as a Renaissance prince born before his time, or even as the first truly modern man. Writers more recently have preferred to view him in the context of his own day. There is no doubt, however, that he astounded his contemporaries, who called him stupor mundi, ‘wonder of the world’. Such was the impact he made that many people could not believe he had really died. Stories sprang up that he had gone to the depths of Etna or a mountain in Germany where he was biding his time to return, reform the Church and re-establish the good order of the pax Romana of old. In reality his policy virtually died with him. His claim as Caesar Augustus, Imperator Romanorum, to pre-eminence over all the princes of Europe was fatally out of date.

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Frederick II (‘Stupor Mundi’)

To avoid confusion, one remembers that there were two Frederick IIs, Frederick ‘The Great’, an eighteenth century monarch, and our subject in this article, Frederick ‘Stupor Mundi’ a title given him by his courtiers, meaning ‘wonder of the world’.

He was born in 1194, son of Henry VI King of ‘Germany’ (Germany was divided into kingdoms, principalities, dukedoms, archdukedoms and palatinates) and a mother whose background was Sicilian. His grandfather was Frederick I, known as ‘Barbarossa’.

Frederick was an orphan by the age of four, and stayed under the guardianship of Pope Innocent III. It is said that he was nicknamed Stupor Mundi because of the breadth of his power, and his administrative, military and intellectual abilities. His had plenty of enemies however, preferring to dub him ‘Dragon’ or ‘The Beast’.

In 1215 was crowned King at Aachen, on the wholly marble throne of Charlemagne no less.

In 1220 the then Pope Honorius III made him Emperor, an honour Frederick consented to, though he was not really interested in Germany. He had been born in Ancona, and it was Italy that held all his attention. He had grown up in Southern Italy, and thought Sicily was the most sophisticated monarchy in Europe.

His reign therefore consisted of a lengthy struggle for power with the papacy. Despite leading a successful crusade to Jerusalem (1229) and securing that city, plus Nazareth and Bethlehem for Christianity, he was twice excommunicated by Pope Gregory IX. He was unpopular in Italy with the Lombard League, and Germans were not fond of the fact that he spent a great deal of time and Imperial resources inside Germany with the Princes in an effort to obtain their support, while he concentrated on building a power base in Sicily. This led to success in the form of the Constitution of Melfi in 1231.

He battled against the Lombard League at Cortenueva in 1237, won and went on to humiliate Gregory IX prior to this pope’s death in 1241. He failed however to convince the successor, Innocent IV who ordered (from exile in Lyons) the Germans to revolt at the Synod held there in 1445. Frederick’s power and position dissolved in the face of revolt, internal dissension and excellent propaganda organised by the Papacy. He was also defeated militarily (at the Battle of Vittoria 1248) he died in 1250 leaving an impossible situation for his heirs to solve. One good result was that many scholars, artists and other intellectuals left Germany to live in Italy, becoming precursors of the eventual Renaissance (q.v.).

Frederick II lies entombed with his father and grandfather in Palermo Cathedral.

Frederick William II of Prussia Biography

Spouse/Ex-: Frederica Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt (m. 1769), Julie von Voss (m. 1787), Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel - Crown Princess of Prussia (m. 1765 – div. 1769), Sophie von Dönhoff (m. 1790 – sep.1792)

father: Prince Augustus William of Prussia

mother: Duchess Luise of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

children: Alexander Mark Frederick William II of Prussia, Christiane Sophie Friederike von Lutzenburg, Frederick WIlliam III, Friederike Christine Amalie Wilhelmine Prinzessin von Preußen, Friedrich Wilhelm - Count Brandenburg, Gustav Adolf Ingenheim, Julie von Brandenburg, Marianne von the Mark, Prince Henry of Prussia, Prince Louis Charles of Prussia, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, Princess Augusta of Prussia, Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, stillborn son von Hohenzollern, Ulrike Sophie von Berckholzen, unnamed daughter von Hohenzollern, Wilhelmine of Prussia - Queen of the Netherlands

What was the influence of Emperor Frederick II on the Italian Renaissance?

Frederick II, (26 December 1194 – 13 December 1250) Holy Roman Emperor and king of Sicily was one of the most remarkable monarchs of the Middle Ages and indeed in the entire history of Europe. He was the ruler of all Germany and all of Southern Italy. He was one of the most powerful men in the Middle ages and he attempted to change the political system of Medieval Europe. He had many ambitious political plans but they all failed. In many ways, Frederick II can be considered a remarkable failure, but he had a decisive influence on the development of the Renaissance.

Frederick II can be viewed as the first ‘Renaissance Prince.’’ He was a remarkable character and due to his many accomplishments he was commonly known as ‘Stupor Mundi’’ or the ‘Wonder of the World.’’ [1] The big questions is what influence did Frederick II on the Italian Renaissance and what did he accomplish through his cultural patronage? Ultimately, his secular and rational outlook helped shape the Renaissance.


In 1196, Henry VI Hohenstaufen secured the election of his infant son as Holy Roman Emperor. However, the German nobles rebelled and Frederick was raised in Sicily. His mother secured for him the Crown of Sicily, a large kingdom which included Sicily and all Southern Italy. Frederick was king in name and it was only when he gained manhood that he really ruled his kingdom. After the defeat of his rival in France, Frederick was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor. [2] However, he resided in Sicily and he proved to be a shrewd and capable ruler. He managed to pacify the island and he was a tolerant ruler. He was greatly interested in other cultures and treated the Christian, Jewish and Muslim inhabitants of his kingdom equally. Soon his relationship with the Pope deteriorated as he broke a promise to separate southern Italy from his kingdom in Sicily.

Frederick ruled Germany through a regent and he ruled all his many lands from Palermo, Sicily [3] . He created a modern state in his kingdom and transported rebellious Muslim inhabitants to the mainland. It was expected that as the most powerful monarchs in Christendom that he would go on a crusade and attempt to reclaim the Holy Land for the Christians. When he was unable to go on Crusade he was excommunicated by the Pope. At this time he began a conflict with the Northern Italian City States, that was to last until his death. Still excommunicated the Emperor went on crusade and entered into negotiations with the Fatimid Sultan and he secured a diplomatic coup. He was able to gain Jerusalem and Bethlehem through diplomacy and he later crowned himself King of Jerusalem. [4]

Soon he was involved in a brutal war with the League of Italian States (The Lombard League). Some cities sided with the Emperor and a vicious war raged through Italy until Frederick’s death. Frederick sought to make himself the undisputed master of Italy and also to subjugate the Pope to his will. At the same time, he fought a civil war in his German lands. [5] The wars drained Fredericks resources and he was forced to compromise. He agreed to make concessions to the German nobles which greatly reduced the power of the Emperor in Germany. Frederick’s son rose in revolt against this settlement by he was soon defeated. In 1236 Frederick, waged war against the Lombard cities, with some success and he was on the verge of victory the Pope intervened. Pope Gregory IX did not want an Italy dominated by Frederick. The Emperor responded by seizing most of the Papal States.

Gregory IX died and Frederick tried to negotiate with his successor, after he had suffered a series of defeat such as at the Siege of Parma. However, the war once more turned in Frederick’s favor and he was on the verge of total victory, when he died of dysentery in his beloved Sicily. Soon after his death his Empire fell apart. In Germany, the ‘Great Interregnum’ began when for several decades there was no Emperor and no Hohenstaufen was to sit on the Throne of the Holy Roman Emperor, again. Later a French noble supported by the Pope conquered the Kingdom of Sicily and executed Frederick’s son, Manfred. The Hohenstaufen Dynasty was at an end. [6] Frederick II was such a remarkable character that many people expected him to return from the dead and saw him in messianic terms. [7]

Frederick II’ Court at Palermo

Frederick was a tolerant ruler and he was fascinated by different cultures and the exotic. He liked to fill his court with learned men and artists. Now previously royal courts had patronized poets but not to the extent of Frederick II. The Emperor sponsored many artists and poets but also patronized scientists such as astronomers. Frederick also showed an interest in exotic animals and had his own zoo. The Emperor’s Court became a model for Renaissance Princes. Frederick believed in the power of culture and that a prince’s duty was to promote and protect the arts and men of learning. This involved commissioning works and supporting them financially. The example of Frederick II Court in Palermo and his example of patronage was to greatly as influence many leaders in Italy. Many rulers sought to emulate the Court of Fredrick in Italy and many followed his example and this meant that many artists and writers had generous patrons and this was to prove to be a crucial factor in the Renaissance. [8]

Frederick II and Reason

The Renaissance is often seen as an era where reason prevailed and as a departure from the superstitious Middle Ages. Frederick II was a rationalist and unlike his contemporaries he did not defer to tradition but sought to apply reason to every aspect of his state and his policies. [9] Frederick II used rational principles to create one of Europe’s first centralized states, since the Fall of the Roman Empire. He demonstrated to succeeding generations that reason could be used to build a state and to perfect it. This was to greatly influence Renaissance Rulers who treated the ‘state as a work of art’ and used reason rather than tradition to mould and administer their jurisdictions. [10]

Frederick’s rationality is best seen in his laws. He developed new and progressive law codes for both his kingdom of Sicily and his German realms. He based his new laws on reason and did not believe that tradition or custom had any role in legal reasoning and the legal code. For example, he outlawed trial by combat as a way of determining a law case. [11] He declared it to be irrational. Frederick also issued directives that can be seen as very rational and progressive. He ordered that physicians (doctors) be distinguished from apothecaries (chemists) and none could practice both occupations. Frederick encouraged scientific investigation at his court. He himself wrote a book on falconry and on the anatomy and behaviour of birds. He also encouraged the investigation of natural phenomenon at his court. Frederick made the investigation of nature popular among the learned. This was to inspire others to begin to investigate nature and the ‘re-discovery’ of nature is one of the preoccupations of the Renaissance. [12]

This new interest in nature was to lead to the growth in empirical investigations and did much to lay the foundations for modern science. However, not all Frederick’s experiments are commendable. He also ordered experiments to be carried out on human beings. One example, is the notorious in the language deprivation experiment where young infants were raised without human contact to see what language they would speak. However, none ever did speak and they all died. Frederick believed that education was extremely beneficial and this idea, quite novel, proved influential in the Renaissance. The Emperor found the University of Naples and it was to become one of the leading centres of learning in Europe. Many leading humanists who did so much to contribute to the Renaissance studied at Frederick’s foundation.

Frederick II and the Muslim World

Frederick II was widely accused of being a heretic or even of being the Anti-Christ mostly by supporters of his enemy the Pope. In truth Frederick was a devout Christian and although excommunicated he died in a monk’s habit. He certainly was an unorthodox Christian and was interested in other cultures. His Kingdom of Sicily was a multicultural one, where Greek, Italian, Jew, Norman, and Muslim lived as neighbors, because of its recent turbulent history. Frederick was extremely tolerant for his times and this was no doubt out of political necessity in his multicultural kingdom. [13]

However, he was also genuinely interested in Muslim and Jewish culture. As a result, his Court in Palermo was a cosmopolitan one and soon became the most cultured in Europe and the Middle East. Frederick acceptance of different cultures was to have a real impact on the development of the Renaissance. The Muslim World unlike Europe, was very much interested in ancient learning, especially that of the Greeks. Muslim scribes and scholars had done much to preserve the learning of the Classical World. Frederick II organized for many Greek manuscripts to be brought to his court in Palermo. He commissioned them to be translated by Jewish and Muslim translators and as a result, many new or improved versions of great works by Greek philosophers, mathematicians, scientists and others became better known. These works did much to promote an interest in the Classical World and indeed efforts to emulate the Roman and the Greek world, one of the chief characteristics of the Renaissance. [14]

Frederick II and Literature and Language

Perhaps Frederick’s greatest contribution to the development of the Renaissance was in literature and the Italian Language. Frederick could speak six languages and he loved poetry. He was himself a poet and appreciated the company of poets. At his court, a group of poets known as the Sicilian School flourished. This group of poets possibly influenced by Arabic and Provencal examples, created new styles and ways of expressing their themes. [15] The poets of the Sicilian Schools extolled a new kind of poetry based on their own personal experiences and above all, they helped to perfect the love lyric. Their themes were very different from traditional poetry and the Sicilian School was pivotal in the shift away from epic and marital poetry to lyric poetry.

The School was also very important in the development of the sonnet, a form that was to be used by many of the greatest poets of the Renaissance in Italy and indeed, elsewhere. They were they first to use an Italian dialect as a literary language and did not seek to write in Latin. This was to have a great influence on Renaissance literature and helped in the development of an Italian literary language. [16] The poets were to have a decisive influence on the development of the Italian literary language, the language that was used by Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio and others. Many of these writers freely acknowledged their debt to the Sicilian School. Dante acknowledged Frederick II’s role in the development of a literary language and Italian poetry even though he consigned the Emperor to hell in his great poem, the Inferno. [17]


Frederick II was a remarkable man and he dominated his era. He was a international figure and if he had succeeded in his plans he could have changed European history. His abiding achievement was possibly in the field of culture. He patronized artists and writers and this was emulated by later rulers. This was to be very important in the Renaissance. The Emperor also facilitated the translation and dissemination of many works from the Greeks and they too were influential Frederick II valued reason in politics, his administration and the law, he also encouraged empirical investigation and this was to have to inspire many of the later humanists. Finally, a literary patron he made a lasting impression on the development of the Renaissance. His patronage of the Sicilian School was to change the lay the foundations for Renaissance literature. The role of Frederick II should not be overstated but nonetheless, he helped to create an environment in Italy that helped to promote the Renaissance.

The Crusade of Frederick II

The failure of the Fifth Crusade placed a heavy responsibility on Frederick II, whose motives as a Crusader are difficult to assess. A controversial figure, he has been regarded by some as the archenemy of the popes and by others as the greatest of emperors. His intellectual interests included Islam, and his attitude might seem to be more akin to that of the Eastern barons than the typical Western Crusader. Through his marriage to John of Brienne’s daughter Isabella (Yolande), he established a claim first to the kingship and then, on Isabella’s death in 1228, to the regency of Jerusalem (Acre). As emperor, he could claim suzerainty over Cyprus because his father and predecessor, Henry VI, was paid homage by the Cypriot king and bestowed a crown on him.

After being allowed several postponements by the pope to settle affairs in the empire, Frederick finally agreed to terms that virtually placed his expedition under papal jurisdiction. Yet his entire Eastern policy was inextricably connected with his European concerns: Sicily, Italy and the papacy, and Germany. Cyprus-Jerusalem became, as a consequence, part of a greater imperial design.

Most of his Crusade fleet left Italy in the late summer of 1227, but Frederick was delayed by illness. During the delay he received envoys from al-Malik al-Kāmil of Egypt, who, threatened by the ambitions of his Ayyūbid brothers, was disposed to negotiate. Meanwhile, Pope Gregory IX, less patient than his predecessor, rejected Frederick’s plea that illness had hindered his departure and excommunicated the emperor. Thus, when Frederick departed in the summer of 1228 with the remainder of his forces, he was in the equivocal position of a Crusader under the ban of the church. He arrived in Cyprus on July 21.

In Cyprus, John of Ibelin, the leading member of the influential Ibelin family, had been named regent for the young Henry I. Along with most of the barons, he was willing to recognize the emperor’s rights as suzerain in Cyprus. But because news of Isabella’s death had arrived in Acre, the emperor could claim only a regency there for his infant son. John obeyed the emperor’s summons to meet him in Cyprus but, despite intimidation, refused to surrender his lordship of Beirut and insisted that his case be brought before the high court of barons. The matter was set aside, and Frederick left for Acre.

In Acre, Frederick met more opposition. News of his excommunication had arrived, and many refused to support him. Dependent, therefore, on the Teutonic Knights and his own small contingent of German Crusaders, he was forced to attempt what he could by diplomacy. Negotiations, accordingly, were reopened with al-Malik al-Kāmil.

The treaty of 1229 is unique in the history of the Crusades. By diplomacy alone and without major military confrontation, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and a corridor running to the sea were ceded to the kingdom of Jerusalem. Exception was made for the Temple area, the Dome of the Rock, and the Aqṣā Mosque, which the Muslims retained. Moreover, all current Muslim residents of the city would retain their homes and property. They would also have their own city officials to administer a separate justice system and safeguard their religious interests. The walls of Jerusalem, which had already been destroyed, were not rebuilt, and the peace was to last for 10 years.

Nevertheless, the benefits of the treaty of 1229 were more apparent than real. The areas ceded were not easily defensible, and Jerusalem soon fell into disorder. Furthermore, the treaty was denounced by the devout of both faiths. When the excommunicated Frederick entered Jerusalem, the patriarch placed the city under interdict. No priest was present, and Frederick placed a crown on his own head while one of the Teutonic Knights read the ceremony. Leaving agents in charge, he hastily returned to Europe and at San Germano made peace with the pope (July 23, 1230). Thereafter his legal position was secure, and the pope ordered the patriarch to lift the interdict.

Jerusalem and Cyprus, however, were now plagued by civil war because Frederick’s imperial concept of government was contrary to the well-established preeminence of the Jerusalem baronage. The barons of both Jerusalem and Cyprus, in alliance with the Genoese and a commune formed in Acre that elected John of Ibelin mayor, resisted the imperial deputies, who were supported by the Pisans, the Teutonic Knights, Bohemond of Antioch, and a few nobles. The clergy, the other military orders, and the Venetians stood aloof.

The barons were successful in Cyprus, and in 1233 Henry I was recognized as king. Even after John of Ibelin, the “Old Lord of Beirut,” died in 1236, resistance continued. In 1243 a parliament at Acre refused homage to Frederick’s son Conrad, unless he appeared in person, and named Alice, queen dowager of Cyprus, regent.

Thus it was that baronial rule triumphed over imperial administration in the Levant. But the victory of the barons brought to the kingdom not strength but continued division, which was made more serious by the appearance of new forces in the Muslim world. The Khwārezmian Turks, pushed south and west by the Mongols, had upset the power balance and gained the support of Egypt. After the 10 years’ peace had expired in 1239, the Muslims easily took back the defenseless Jerusalem. The Crusades of 1239 to 1241, under Thibaut IV of Champagne and Richard of Cornwall, brought about the return of the city as well as other lost territories through negotiation. However, in 1244 an alliance of Jerusalem and Damascus failed to prevent the capture and sack of Jerusalem by Khwārezmians with Egyptian aid. All the diplomatic gains of the preceding years were lost. Once again the Christians were confined to a thin strip of ports along the Mediterranean coast.

Frederick II

Frederick II (1194�) Holy Roman Emperor (1215�), king of Germany (1212�), Sicily (1198�) and Jerusalem (1229�) son of Emperor Henry VI. Frederick devoted himself to Italy and Sicily. He promised to make his son, Henry, King of Sicily but gave him Germany (1220) instead. Frederick's claims on Lombardy and postponement of a crusade angered Pope Honorius III, who excommunicated him and revived the Lombard League. Frederick finally embarked on a crusade in 1228, and was crowned King of Jerusalem. In Sicily, he set up a centralized royal administration. In Germany, he devolved authority to the princes Henry rebelled against his father, and in 1235 Frederick imprisoned him and gave the throne to Conrad IV. In 1245, Innocent IV deposed Frederick and civil war ensued in Germany and Italy.

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Frederick II: How the War-Hungry Prussian Monarch Came to be Revered

Frederick II’s first act on assuming the throne of Prussia in 1740 was to take his state to war—a consequence, he later explained, of possessing a well-trained army, a full treasury and a desire to establish a reputation. For the next quarter century, he confronted Europe in arms and emerged victorious, but at a price that left his kingdom shaken to its physical and moral core. As many as a quarter million Prussians died in uniform, to say nothing of civilian losses. Provinces were devastated, people scattered, the currency debased. The social contract of the Prussian state—service and loyalty in return for stability and protection—was broken.

Despite such costs, Frederick always makes the short list of history’s great captains. Yet that legacy is no less questionable: In a reign that stretched to 1786, Prussia’s military leader focused on drill and discipline, leaching the army of initiative and inspiration. He insisted that common soldiers should fear their own officers more than the enemy, yet monitored his generals so closely that none could be trusted to perform independently. Frederick carried grudges against entire regiments for decades.

In an age when physical courage was taken for granted in senior officers, Frederick twice left major battlefields—Mollwitz in 1741 and Lobositz in 1756—under dubious circumstances. Nor was his post-battle behavior such as to impress fighting men. After the defeat of Kolin in 1757, he spent hours aimlessly drawing circles in the dirt with a stick, then left his army, explaining that he needed rest. After losing at Kunersdorf in 1759, the king turned command over to a subordinate, grandiloquently declaring he would not survive the disaster. A more generous generation may speak of post-traumatic stress. Eighteenth-century armies had blunter words for such conduct. Nevertheless, the man who brought Prussia through three brutal wars, oversaw its reconstruction and secured its status as a great power was far more than the sum of his negatives.

As crown prince, Frederick had concluded that Prussia, which stretched from the Rhine River deep into the Kingdom of Poland, could not avoid being drawn into conflict virtually anywhere in Europe. But his country lacked the military, economic and diplomatic strength to support its geographic position. Expansion was a necessity, not just for Prussia’s welfare, but for its very survival.

Frederick rationalized his position by appealing to “reason of state,” a principle independent of moral guidelines applying to individuals. His Anti-Machiaviel, published anonymously in 1740—the year of his accession to the throne—argued that law and ethics in international relations should be based on neither the interests of the ruler nor those of his people. Instead, they should be fundamentally consistent, subject to rational calculation and governed by principles that could be learned and applied in the same way one maintains and repairs a clock. This trope remained central to his foreign policy throughout his reign.

Frederick’s concept of statecraft in turn convinced him that Prussia must fight only short, decisive wars—partly to conserve scarce resources, partly to convince the losers to make and keep the peace, and partly to deter potential challengers. This required development of a forward-loaded military, able to spring to war from a standstill with strong initial results.

While Frederick did not necessarily seek battle for its own sake, he held nothing back once the fighting started. His enemies responded by denying him the initiative whenever possible, fighting only under favorable conditions and limiting their tactical commitments.

Early on, Frederick would experience the randomness of combat. At the Battle of Mollwitz in 1741, the day seemed thoroughly lost until the last-gasp advance of the Prussian infantry turned the tide. The 1745 Battle of Soor began when the Austrians surprised the Prussian camp and ended when Frederick improvised victory from the sheer fighting power of his men. The 1758 Battle of Hochkirch was an even more comprehensive surprise that Frederick dismissed as an outpost fight until taught better by round shot from his own captured guns. He responded to these reverses by striving to make Prussia’s military indomitable, thus minimizing what Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) would later call the “fog and friction” of war. Even in peacetime, Frederick’s army would account for as much as three-fourths of public expenditure.

In 18th-century Prussia, all citizens owed service to the state. The burden of direct military service fell entirely on such least-favored subjects as farm workers, peasants and unskilled urban workers. The conscription process systematically tapped Prussia’s domestic manpower. It succeeded less by direct compulsion than due to the willingness of families and communities to furnish a limited proportion of their sons each year, and the state allowed local entities latitude in deciding which individuals would serve.

Building on that good faith, Frederick integrated the state economy into its war-making function. He institutionalized annual field exercises involving as many men as might serve in a fair-sized battle—44,000 in 1753. While expensive, such maneuvers were not just for show. They served to test formations and tactics, to practice large-scale maneuvers, to achieve precise concert among regiments and to accustom senior officers to handling troops under stress. They were also public displays of raw power, designed to deter any state thinking of confronting “Old Fritz” and his faithful grenadiers.

The failure of that deterrence, and the resulting Seven Years’ War (1756- 1763) between Prussia and the coalition of Austria, Russia and France, tested Frederick’s system to its limits, producing some surprising results.

Compulsion might put men in uniform, but neither force nor conditioning can keep men in the ranks at the height of a battle, particularly during the era of the Seven Years’ War, when conflict resembled nothing so much as feeding two candles into a blowtorch and seeing which melted first.

A soldier’s relationship to the state differs essentially from all others because it involves a commitment to dying. Yet for most soldiers the “death clause” remains largely dormant. An individual can spend 30 honorable years in uniform and face only collateral risks such as training accidents. Even in war the commitment is not absolute. As casualty lists mount, however, soldiers are increasingly likely to scrutinize the moral fine print in their agreements with their respective states.

During the Landsknecht era of the late 15th to late 16th century and the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), becoming a soldier meant being able to carry a sword, wear outrageous clothing and swagger in ways denied the peasant or artisan. In later years the introduction of uniforms and systematic enforcement of camp and garrison discipline removed much of the patina of liberty from a life that was likely to be nasty, brutish and short. In its place emerged a commitment-dependence cycle, whereby the state demonstrated concern for the soldiers’ well-being as a means of boosting the soldiers’ dependence on the state.

Frederick took the commitment-dependence cycle further than any of his counterparts. Prussia’s uniforms were among the best in Europe. Its medical care in peace and war was superior to that typically available to civilians. Its veterans had good opportunities for public employment or maintenance in one of the garrison companies that served as both local security force and de facto retirement home. As the Seven Years’ War dragged on, however, retaining a soldier’s fealty would require more than material appeals. It would take leadership, and not merely that of a battle captain but a Kriegsherr (warlord).

At the 1757 Battle of Kolin, in one of the final desperate attacks against the Austrian line, Frederick would shift from an institutionalized model of leadership to one far more personal, seeking for the first time to inspire his men directly. While his battle cry of “Rogues! Do you want to live forever?” was scarcely on a par with the rhetoric of a Julius Caesar, it did strike at least one responsive chord, when a musketeer reportedly replied, “Fritz, we’ve earned our 50 cents for today!”

While almost certainly apocryphal, the exchange is portentous. The army had suffered heavy and irreplaceable casualties at Lobositz, Kolin and in front of Prague. Russian troops invaded East Prussia that summer, while a mass of French troops reinforced with contingents from the Holy Roman Empire advanced against Frederick from the west. The king’s unprovoked attack on Saxony and subsequent plundering of that state had deprived him of whatever sympathy he might have garnered elsewhere in Germany. Prussia’s prospects were grim.

The victory at Rossbach on November 5, 1757, furthered Frederick’s transformation. The phrase allegedly uttered by a French officer to his Prussian captor, “Sir, you are an army—we are a traveling whorehouse,” reflected a baggage train that actually did include “valets, servants, cooks, hairdressers, courtesans, priests and actors…dressing gowns, hairnets, sunshades, nightgowns and parrots.” Propagandists seized on that fact to trumpet the purported Prussian virtues of simplicity and chastity, and Frederick became legend, unwittingly lending his name to taverns, streets and towns as far off as Pennsylvania.

As Frederick had learned, however, warfare can be random. The Prussian surrender at Breslau on November 25, 1757, marked the nadir of an ill-conducted local campaign that left Berlin vulnerable, and when the king arrived in Silesia on December 2, he was left with one option: fight…and win. His behavior over the coming days would lay the foundations for the myth of Old Fritz. Contemporary accounts describe a man overcoming sickness and exhaustion, moving from bivouac to bivouac, warming himself at the men’s fires, listening to stories and hearing complaints, and promising reward for loyal service. The king capped his performance on December 3, when he invited not only his generals but also the army’s regiment and battalion commanders to his headquarters.

Frederick appeared before his officers not as a commander radiating confidence and vitality, but as a tired, aging man in a threadbare and snuff-stained uniform. The army, he declared in a barely audible voice, would attack. Its only alternatives were victory or death. “We are fighting for our glory, for our honor and for our wives and children….Those who stand with me can rest assured I will look after their families if they are killed. Anyone wishing to retire can go now, but will have no further claim on my benevolence.” Lest anyone think he had gone soft, Frederick finished by vowing that any cavalry regiment failing in its duty would lose its horses and any infantry battalion that flinched faced confiscation of its colors, the ceremonial braid from its uniforms and even its swords.

The Parchwitz speech, named for the campsite, was a subtle blend of sincerity and artifice that lost nothing in the retelling. Years afterward men could remember everything they saw and heard—regardless of whether they were actually present. Two days later, on December 5, 1757, the Prussian army outmaneuvered, then smashed, the Austrians at Leuthen.

After Leuthen there were no more easy victories, no more brilliant maneuvers—just the close-quarters massacres at Zorndorf (1758) and Kunersdorf in Silesia (1759), at Hochkirch (1758) and finally at Torgau (1760). None suggested a warrior king who led by force of will and intelligence. Yet his army endured part of the winter of 1759–60 in tents pitched on the Silesian plateau. While short on rations and racked by dysentery and respiratory diseases, it neither exploded in mutiny nor dissolved in desertion. The following summer, many of the same men took part in a month’s worth of forced marches that saw many stragglers but few deserters.

These were no longer the seasoned soldiers who had filled Prussia’s ranks in 1756. By the spring of 1761, three-fifths of the army’s replacements still came from the regimental depots, but many were foreigners—prisoners of war pressured into taking new colors, brought in by recruiting parties that differed little from press gangs, the flotsam of five years’ hard war. About half of the prewar officer corps was gone, and some of their replacements were as young as 13. Yet this unpromising amalgam continued to stand its ground against steadily improving enemies. When Russia’s Empress Elizabeth died unexpectedly in 1763, Frederick was able to exit from the Seven Years War, his kingdom and reputation intact.

In the end, it was their king who kept the Prussian army on task in the war’s waning years. Frederick was in part a figurehead, a tangible focus for soldiers in the absence of such ideals as patriotism or religion. But the campfire tales and tavern legends did not rest entirely on a phantasm sustained by the gallows and the firing squad. Frederick demonstrated the kind of endurance he demanded of his men. On the march and in camp he was present and visible. His soldiers had seen Frederick rally the broken ranks at Hochkirch and knew a spent ball had struck him at Torgau. This was no Alexander, no white-plumed Henry of Navarre. Frederick was a workaday warrior who commanded respect by not demanding it.

Likewise, Prussian officers were neither courtiers nor uniformed bureaucrats, but men of war. Frederick’s indifference to dress and rank set the tone: Officers’ insignia were not introduced until after the war, and Frederick granted lieutenants the same direct access as that granted to generals. And the king’s unpredictable harshness contributed not a little to the cohesion of his officers.

Frederick’s demeanor also struck a chord among his soldiers. Warfare in the 18th century was largely a matter of endurance rather than performance. While battles seldom lasted longer than a day, their close-quarters nature tried a soldier’s capacity to stand firm. Campaigns, particularly in the barren expanses of East Prussia and central Europe, were exercises in survival. By willingly sharing the general lot of his soldiers, Frederick engendered admiration as well as loyalty.

What today’s soldiers might refer to as “chickenshit” was also remarkably absent from a Prussian camp. While expecting clockwork precision on parade, Frederick didn’t drive hard on field exercises. Pickets and sentries were kept to a minimum. Duties were functional and shared within each company. Discipline was relaxed while on the march. Frederick enjoyed riding along with his men and trading barbs with them in dialect. Only in camp would he impose his authority and in common parlance, it was as if God himself had descended to earth dressed in a common soldier’s blue coat.

Following the 1763 Treaty of Hubertusburg, Frederick’s image as general, statesman and Landesvater (father of his country) only flourished, despite his professed indifference to public opinion. In fact, this nonchalance paradoxically enhanced the king’s appeal. In turn, Prussia’s reputation attracted soldiers and administrators from throughout Germany. They wanted to be part of the best.

Postwar adulation of Frederick’s military genius was by no means universal among his officers, who remembered the fiascoes as well as the triumphs. But with the passage of time, the Seven Years’ War took on a meaning for them similar to that held by veterans of the American Civil War a century later. It was the defining event of their lives, not to be trivialized. Perhaps things had not been as bad as they recalled. While Frederick lived, his critics kept silent.

By the mid-1770s, the Prussian army looked on Frederick as a symbol of past glories and future hopes. A parallel could be drawn to Robert E. Lee’s status in the Army of Northern Virginia by the end of 1862. In each case independent thought gave way to a general feeling the “old man” knew what he was doing, even if the wisdom of a particular course might not be apparent. Dissent was tantamount to disloyalty.

Ironically, the monarch who initially sought a state and an army in which charismatic leadership was superfluous ultimately became the center of the first modern cult of personality. To a degree, “Old Fritz” was the creation of his soldiers and subjects, a Teflon monarch to whom no criticism stuck because he was a projection of their own needs, desires and myths. For good or ill, Frederick II of Prussia remains Frederick the Great.

For further reading, Dennis Showalter recommends: Frederick the Great, by Theodor Schieder, edited and translated by Sabrina Berkeley and H.M. Scott and Frederick the Great: King of Prussia, by David Fraser.

Originally published in the June 2007 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here.

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