Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tricentenaire de Frederic II de Prusse, 1712-2012

I read a few years ago a very good biography of Frédéric II of Prussia by Giles MacDonough, I use here the spelling of his name in the French manner, the way he liked it. He was a great Francophile, he exchanged correspondence with Voltaire for 50 years and Voltaire did live in Potsdam for a while, but it was a stormy relationship, Voltaire found him to militaristic and questioned Frederic's acceptance of the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment, after all he was an absolute monarch. Frederic liked coffee made with champagne instead of water, hated beer and anything German, he is despite that fact a popular figure in Germany, maybe because he was such a character. He spoke French fluently and bad German all around. Loved his Italian Hounds, he is buried at SansSouci with them in the garden as per his wishes, he was a great reformer of government, instituted public schooling for all, abolished the death penalty and instituted religious tolerance in his Kingdom, many French Huguenots came to live in Prussia and several French aristocrats found position in his government. He introduced the potato to Prussia and this is why it is featured prominently in German cuisine to this day. The story goes that he cultivated potato plants in his garden, made sure the population knew about it and he had the patch where the potatoes were guarded by day by his feared Grenadiers, the soldiers went away by night so the people would come and steal some potatoes to try this exotic vegetable reserved for the table of the King.  He was also a musician composing 100 pieces of music for the flute, he was a friend of the Bach family, he appointed  Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach as Court composer and he is remembered mainly as a brilliant military strategist, his army was feared though it was not the largest in Europe. His favourite colours where white and gold or green and gold and black and gold, dominant colours in his palaces.

When he recognized the USA as a new country in 1786, he inserted into the treaty establishing diplomatic relations, that prisoners of war between the USA and Prussia would be treated with care and kindness, this was a first for his era an unheard of idea for the time. He was also involved in supporting Britain during the Seven Year War (1757-1763) which had a profound impact on Canada, troops from Hesse were sent to Canada to fight alongside the British troops against the French. It was a Swiss-German Commander in the town of Sorel near Montreal who with his wife introduced the tradition of the Christmas tree to Canada.

                                      Born in Berlin 24 January 1712, died at Postdam 17 August 1786

If you visit Potsdam this year you will see some wonderful restorations of buildings from his era. Many have been rebuilt or are under reconstruction, such as the City Palace and the Garrison Church.
This web site in German only gives a good idea of what is being worked on in Potsdam,

His family Hohenzollern is also closely related with our own Royals in Canada, they are first cousins. Queen Victoria was the grandmother of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Official Diamond Jubilee portrait 2012.


  1. I am crackers for the Queen; God bless her!
    I should move to Canada ( a recurring theme for me) for I am wasted here in the States.
    Coffee made with champagne? I may start drinking the stuff more often if it was this way. Imagine the lines at Tim Horton's!?

  2. Yes I can just imagine the lines in coffee places, though in the age of Frederic coffee was served in small demi-tasse not the mugs of today.