frederick-ii

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History Meme: 7 couples (1/7)
Hans Hermann von Katte & Frederick the Great

The story of Hans and Frederick is perhaps one of the most tragic historical love stories of all time. Hans was a nobleman from birth, coming from a long line of aristocratic military men, but even then he wasn’t high enough on the social ranks to be associating  with the likes of the royal family. However, this hardly stopped the crown prince, Frederick, from getting to know and befriending him. It is unclear when the two first met, but it is said that when he and the prince attended the same private mathematics and mechanics class, the two became fast friends. Wilhelmine, Frederick’s older sister, frequently admonished her brother for acquainting himself with those who were ‘below them’. This did nothing to change Frederick’s mind about the young lieutenant that had caught his fancy. Together the two boys shared a love for poetry, the flute and the French language. Based on their letters to one another, it can be inferred that they both spoke in French between them. As the years went on, Hans became the prince’s close confidant as well as his protector. In fact, the lieutenant was known to have stood guard while the prince practiced playing his instrument so that he wouldn’t get punished for it if someone were to find out and tell the King. The closeness of the pair didn’t escape the attention of the Prussian court and for a while it was wildly speculated that they were in fact, lovers. Some even said that they “behaved like a master and a mistress” when they were together.
In 1730, Frederick trusted Hans enough to tell him about his plan to run to Britain to escape his father’s abuse. Hans, although he understood his beloved’s reasons, did not support the idea of the crown prince abandoning his country and did all that he could to convince Frederick that there was another way. During this time, Hans was the only person Frederick trusted to deliver correspondence between him and his sister so Hans frequently visited the princess. Wilhelmine, who wasn’t at all fond of Hans, accused him of poisoning her brother’s mind with ideas of escaping, to which Hans replied: “As long as I am with that beloved prince, I shall prevent his executing his designs,”. When the princess heard this, she told the lieutenant that he was putting his life on the line even if he opposed to her brother’s plans. Hans simply answered: “If I lose my head, it will be in a good cause. But the prince will not forsake me,”. In the end, Hans supported Frederick’s decision to leave. Together the two of them, along with their dear friend Keith, plotted to leave at separate times and meet up at the town of Leipzic so they could go over to England. The night the prince was scheduled to leave, he wrote to his beloved: “I am off, my dear Katte. My precautions are well taken, so I have nothing to fear. I shall go through Leipzic,  where I shall pass myself for the marquis d’Ambreville. I have already sent word to Keith, who is to go straight to England. Lose no time, for I expect to meet you at Leipzic. Adeiu! Be of good cheer,” Unfortunately, Hans was held up at a town and was caught before he could make his escape. Frederick had a good head start, but he too was captured and the both of them were thrown into prison, accused of treason. Both of them were interrogated roughly and subjected to prisoner-like living conditions for months. Although Hans confessed to being an accomplice of Frederick, he defended his beloved’s decision and never once mentioned that Wilhelmine was a part of their plans. Frederick was said to have given the guards nothing but haughty, harsh and insulting answers, refusing to subject himself to his father’s will. When he did say his side of the story, his alibi lined up perfectly with Katte’s. Frederick William, the prince’s father, was so outraged that he wanted to put his son to death. However, the Holy Roman Emperor opposed to this idea since Frederick is the crown prince and the heir to the Prussian crown. He turned all of his anger towards the unfortunate Hans, who was only initially sentenced with life imprisonment. His executioner refused the command twice and even apologized to Hans when he was sent to escort him to the execution site. The young lieutenant smiled and replied: “I die for a prince whom I love, and I have the consolation to give him, by my death, the strongest proof of attachment that can be required. I do not regret the world,”. Frederick in the meantime was brought to an apartment with a view of the execution stand. He thought that he was going to be executed, but the knowledge that Katte was safe gave him a little comfort. In the morning, the prince was awakened and was forced to look out the window where his love was standing at the scaffold. Frederick attempted to to throw himself out the window, but was held back by the guards. “Delay the execution!” the prince screamed, “I am ready to renounce my right to the crown if his majesty will pardon Katte!” then turning to Hans, Frederick switched to speaking French and said: “Please forgive me, my dear Katte, in God’s name, forgive me!” Hans had nothing but a smile when he called back, “If I had a thousand lives, I would sacrifice them all for you. There is nothing to forgive, I die for you with joy in my heart!” Before the axe hit Hans’ neck, Frederick had already fainted away. After he awoke, the prince became so ill that his life was in danger for three consecutive days. He was ravaged by hallucinations and nightmares and even refused to take any medicine. Frederick calmed down, however, when he was told that his mother and sister would die if he did. Days later, when the prince was in a better state of health, guards came by to ask him to write a letter resigning himself to his father’s will. At first, the prince refused but, feeling like he had nothing to fight for, he eventually stopped fighting and gave in. Wilhelmine mentioned in her memoir that for weeks, her brother insisted on wearing the brown coat that he was given as a prisoner until it was battered and torn, because it was similar to the one Katte wore when he was killed. Frederick remained in a state of depression for quite some time until he shook himself out of it and never spoke of Hans ever again. Through his life, he never fell romantically for any other man or woman nor did he participate in any kind of sexual activity. (All quotes were taken from Wilhelmine’s memoirs)

Jack Falahee as Hans von Katte Toby Regbo as Frederick the Great
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Hohenzollern castle in Germany is the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern family, which emerged in the Middle Ages and eventually became Prussian emperors.

The castle is located on top of Berg (Mount) Hohenzollern at an elevation of 855 meters and was first constructed in the first part of the 11th century.

Among the historical artifacts of Prussian history contained in the castle today are the crown of Wilhelm II and some of the personal effects of Frederick the Great and a letter from US President George Washington thanking Baron von Steuben, a scion of the House of Hohenzollern, for his service in the American Revolutionary War. The castle is today a popular tourist destination.

*gnostix1 submitted:

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the first ever Arabic Crusader inscription, they announced on Monday.

The epigraphic evidence emerged from a 800-year-old inscribed marble slab which originally sat in Jaffa’s city wall.

Bearing the name of the “Holy Roman Emperor” Frederick II, and the date “1229 of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus the Messiah,” the inscription was found broken on the top, right, left and bottom.

(Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi , Tue Nov 15)

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Why Frederick was Great,

"A crown is merely a hat to let the rain in".

-Frederick the Great

Born Frederick II, Frederick seemed like the last person in the world to lead a conquering military.  In fact, in his younger years he seemed more interested in fine arts and music than war and combat. He even once tried to run away to avoid becoming King of Prussia. However, when Frederick took the Prussian throne in 1740, his reign would stun Europe and rightly earn him the title, “Frederick the Great”.

When Frederick came to power in 1740, Prussia was far from an empire, in fact it was a minor backwater in Eastern Germany and Western Poland.  Some of its territory wasn’t even contiguous with the rest of the country (see map above) as small plots of Prussian soil doted Germany.  Frederick sought to change all that.

While Frederick’s kingdom was nothing special, his army certainly was.  Prussia could not recruit mass armies like large empires such as Britain, France, or Russia.  The population of eligible conscripts in Prussia was small, so the Prussians built an army based on quality rather than quantity.  While small the Prussian Army was the best trained, most disciplined, best equipped, and most technologically advanced army in the world at the time.  More importantly the Prussian Army was led by some of the best military commanders and tacticians in Europe. In most of Europe placement as a military officer was based on wealth and inherited privilege. This resulted in massive and unwieldy armies led by incompetent buffoons. In contrast the Prussian Army chose its leaders based on merit, skill, and ability.  As a result the Prussian Army was led by a skilled officer corps, and commanded by brilliant generals who utilized audacious and revolutionary tactics.

In 1741 Frederick tricked Austrian Queen Maria Theresa to allow his armies to occupy Lower Silesia (now the Czech Republic) in exchange for protection from France, Spain and Bavaria. He then proceeded to invade key areas, forcing Maria Theresa to cede almost all of Silesia by 1745. The annexation of Silesia almost doubled his kingdom overnight, while more importantly enriching his kingdom as Silesia was an important mining and industrial region of Eastern Europe.  However, Maria Theresa was not going to simply let Prussia keep Silesia.

In 1756, Austria would seek to take back Silesia, invading the territory as a part of the larger Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian War in America).  However, Austria was not alone.  Allied with her was France, Russia, Sweden, Saxony, and other German states.  With enemies all around him it seemed that Frederick would be easily overrun.  In fact Prussia almost collapsed as result, but the superior Prussian Army was able to hold out against impossible odds.  Incredibly, under the direct leadership of the Frederick and the use of swift maneuvering  the Prussian Army was able to prevent the major armies of France, Sweden, and Austria from linking.  Unlike other monarchs, Frederick personally led his troops into battle.  In fact he had six horses shot out from under him during the Seven Years War.  One of his most famous tactics was the use of the “oblique order”, a strategy that involved attack a single flank on the enemy’s line.  If that flank gave, the whole army, no matter how large, would be sent running.

After a series of decisive victories, Frederick was able to fend off the Austrian Coalition and her allies.  When the dust settled Prussia had nearly doubled in size.  The Prussian victory shocked Europe.  A small unimportant German Empire had single handidly defeat the major empires of Europe simultaneously.   Frederick’s victory secured him and his military as the best of the best.

Along with military success and conquest, Frederick sought to modernize his kingdom.  He encouraged the development of new industry and new technologies, instituted important legal reforms, made Prussia’s education system the best in Europe, and instituted religious freedom.

Frederick the Great died in 1786 at the age of 74.  He left an incredible legacy in Europe and around the world, especially in military history.  In the end his reputation was that of a brilliant military leader and conqueror.  Even the great Napoleon Bonaparte looked up to Frederick the Great as the greatest tactician of all time.  More importantly Prussia would form a foundation for a modern German state, as Prussia would be key to German Unification in the mid 19th century.  The Prussian Army would hand down a legacy of military tradition and professionalism that would dominate Germany, lasting even until the end of World War II.  Indeed Frederick was very great.

Frederick II - Holy Roman Emperor from 1220 -1250

Obviously this picture gives us little indication of whether he was a hottie, but he’s definitely worthy of being on this blog because of how brilliant he was. 

Known as stupor mundi (wonder of the world) he went on crusade in 1229, despite having been excommunicated, and regained control of Jerusalem without shedding a drop of blood by negotiating a treaty in Arabic (he was a polyglot, you know) which gave Christian control of Jerusalem, and left The Dome of the Rock in Muslim hands. Incidentally, he was keen to know all about Muslim culture, and spent a night praying at The Dome of the Rock. 

Forget Richard the Lionheart - THAT’S how it’s done. 

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Emperor Frederick II a.k.a Stupor Mundi is one of my favourites among Medieval rulers. I regard him a last truly great ruler of the Sicilian kingdom. And naturally Hauteville blood is a bonus ;).  (Frederick’s mother was a daughter of king Roger II). 

Frederick spoke several languages, and was a great patron of arts and sciences. He also wrote a book on falconry called Arte Venandi Cum Avibus”. Here are a few illuminations from copies that were made in the 13th and 14th centuries. 

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Fighting Hautevilles: Constance of Sicily

Queen regnant of Sicily (1194-1198) and mother of Frederick II

1. Constance  marries emperor Henry VI

2. People of Salerno are besieging Constance and her garrison - In 1190 Henry VI and Constance led an army to south to take crown from Tancred by force. Most of the mainland cities capitulated and Constance took up residence in Salerno. The imperial army was hit by malaria though and Henry decided to withdraw the main bulk of his troops. Constance, who stayed in Salerno, was attacked and taken prisoner by the people of the city.

3. Queen regnant Constance and Henry VI - Tancred died in 1194 after which Henry VI seized the power easily. According to some stories Tancred’s young son and successor William III was blinded and castrated by Henry.  

4. King William III is being tortured

5. Constance gives birth to future emperor Frederick II

6. Constance and her baby boy Frederick II