Frederick William I The Great Elector

Elector of Brandenburg

Frederick William I The Great Elector
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Frederick William Hohenzollern was the Elector of Brandenburg and became Duke of Prussia.

When Frederick William was born it seemed unlikely that the Hohenzollern lands separated from each other would eventually form one of the strongest states in Europe in the guise of Prussia. Brandenburg had been a bit part player in the Thirty Years War as much of what is the modern Czech Republic, Germany, and Slovakia had been laid waste by the armies of France, Spain, Sweden and the Habsburgs.   

Such were his achievements in office from 1640 to 1688 that he became known as the Great Elector. When he succeeded his father as a twenty year old he soon demonstrated his diplomatic and military nous as the Thirty Years War finally drew to its conclusion. Brandenburg had held it’s own in the conflict before his rise to power, whilst France had got stronger, Sweden had reached it’s peak, and Poland Lithuania had been weakened.

The Great Elector seemed to have an uncanny ability to fight, change sides, or make peace at the best possible moments for his country. Brandenburg made impressive territorial gains eight years into his reign at the Treaty of Westphalia.

He proved that astute diplomacy could be more effective than military force by itself.

By 1660 Frederick William had persuaded the Polish king to give him complete control over the Duchy of Prussia. He also increased the size of the Brandenburg / Prussian army. He laid the foundations for the expansion of thePrussian  territories under his capable and ruthless descendants, most notably Frederick the Great. Indeed his successors became Kings in Prussia then Kings of Prussia.


Clarke C (2006) Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Fall of Prussia, Penguin Books

Holmes R (2007) Battlefield – Decisive Conflicts in Human History, Oxford University Press

Lenman B (2004) The Chambers Dictionary of World History, Chambers


Roberts J M (1996) The Penguin History of Europe, Penguin Books

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