Frederick (German: Friedrich; 18 October 1831 - 12 April 1908) is the North German Emperor and King of Prussia. Known informally as "Fritz", he was the only son of Emperor Wilhelm 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 war and later the Brother's War and despite his long career as a Field Marshal of the North German Realm until his ascension to the throne, he nevertheless professed a hatred of warfare and was praised by friend and foe alike for humane conduct. Following the formation of the North Germany as a Nation-state in 1867, his father, then King of Prussia, became the North German Emperor. Upon Wilhelm's death at the age of ninety on 9 March 1888, the thrones passed to Frederick who had by then been North German Crown Prince for twenty-one years and Crown Prince of Prussia for thirty-one years. Frederick suffered from cancer of the larynx until a few months before his ascension to the throne partially due to his unhealthy smoking habit, but he was successfully treated for his condition.
Frederick married Victoria, Princess Royal, 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 Crown Prince, he often opposed the Reactionary Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, particularly in speaking out against Bismarck's failed attempt in uniting Germany through force, and in urging that the power of Chancellorship be curbed. Liberals in Britain and North Germany both rejoiced as he moved to liberalize the North German Realm a few years after assuming the crown.
Frederick and Victoria were great admirers of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband. They planned to rule as consorts, like Albert and Victoria, and to reform what they saw as flaws in the executive branch that Bismarck had created for himself. The Office of Chancellor which was largely responsible only to the Emperor; they planned, 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.". Of course, the plan was forced to be scrapped after the catastrophe of 1897 where the office of the Chancellor was replaced three times due to the illiberal nature of German Parliamentary politics. Eventually, he was forced to let the office of Chancellor remain and only dramatically decrease its power and authority by making it responsible to the German Parliament as well as the Emperor.
The Emperor and his consort share 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. His attempts, especially following Frederick's early years as Emperor, eventually resulted in Bismarck's resignation and the fall of Reaction as the main ideology of the Prussian State.
Friedrich eventually succumbed to the disease he had survived twenty years earlier, after his health began deteriorating after 1906. One of his final actions before taking a leave off politics was to ensure his son Wilhelm -who he had clashed with over political matters for the last few decades- would abdicate from the office of the Crown Prince and leaving his second son, Heinrich as his successor. Friedrich passed away in the Berlin Palace on 12th of April, though Henry had been acting as a regent ever since the 4th of April, 1908. His passing marks the end of la la Belle Époque in North Germany, as the country fell into a short period political unrest following his departure, and then saw the beginning of The Great War only a few months later in that very same year.
1 Personal Life
Early Life and Education
Marriage and family
2 Crown Prince of Prussia
3 Crown Prince of North Germany
4 Illness, decline, and convalescence
5 Reign as North German Emperor
Fall of the Reaction
Early Years as Emperor
The Moroccan Crisis
The Final Years
6 Titles, styles, and honours
Early Life and Education
Frederick William was born in the New Palace at Postdam in Prussia in 18 October 1831. He was a scion of the House of Hohenzollern, rulers of Prussia, then the second most powerful of the German States. Frederick's father, Prince William, was a younger brother of King Frederick William IV of Prussia and, having been reaised in the military traditions of the Hohenzollerns, developed into a strict disciplinarian. William fell in love with his cousin Elisa Radziwill, a princess of Polish nobility, but his parents fell Elisa's rank was not suitable for a bride of a Prussian Prince and forced a more suitable match. The woman selected to be his wife, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar, had been raised in the more intellectual and artistic atmosphere of Weimar, which gave its citizens greater participation in politics and had already limited its rulers' powers through the Constitution of Weimar. Augusta was well-known across Euorpe for her liberal views. Because of their difference, the couple did not have a happy marriage and as a result, young Frederick grew up in a troubled household, leaving him memories of a very lonely childhood. He had but one sister, Louise (later Grand Duchess of Baden) who was eight years his junior and very close to him. Frederick also had a good relationship with his uncle, Frederick William IV of Prussia, who is also known as "The romantic on the Throne".
Frederick grew up during a tumultuous political period as the concept of German liberalism, which evolved during 1840, was gaining widespread and enthusiastic support. The liberals sought to unite The German Confederation under a constitutional monarchy that ensured equal protection under the law, the protection of property, and the safeguarding of basic civil rights. Overall, liberals desired a government ruled by popular representation. When Frederick was 17, these nationalist and liberal sentiments took form in a series of political uprisings across the German Confederation and all over Europe. In Germany, their goal was to protect freedoms such as the Freedom of Assembly and the Press, and to create a German Parliament and Constitution. Even though these uprisings eventually brought little lasting change to the German States, liberal sentiments remained an influential force in German Politics throughout Frederick's early life.
Despite the value placed by the Hohenzollern family on a traditional military education, Augusta insisted her son also have a classical education, therefore Frederick was thoroughly educated in military traditions as well as liberal arts by, among many others, his private tutor Ernst Curtius, a famous Archaeologist. Frederick was a talented student, particularly good at foreign languages, becoming fluent in English and French and studying Latin. He also studied history, geography, physics, music and religion, and excelled at gymnastics; as required of a Prussian prince, he became a very good rider. Despite his upbringing as a Hohenzollern (and the fact he'd been commissioned as second lieutenant into the First Infantry Regiment of Guards at the age of 10), Frederick broke family tradition at the age of 18 and entered the University of Bonn, where he studied history, law and governance, and public policy. During his time in Bonn (1850-1852) his teachers included Ernst Moritz Arndt and Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann. His time spent at the university, along with the influence of less conservative family members, were instrumental in his embrace of liberal beliefs.
In 1853, Frederick was initiated into Freemasonry by his father, then Prince William of Prussia, and would later become Master of the Order of the Grand Landlodge of the Freemasons of Germany. During his reign, he served as the patron of the German Freemasons.
Victoria, Princess Royal
Royal marriages of the 19th century were arranged to secure alliances and maintain blood ties among European royalty. As early as 1851, Queen Victoria of the UK and her German-born Husband Prince Albert were making plans to marry their eldest daughter, Victoria, Princess Royal, to Frederick. The royal dynasty in Britain was predominanty German; there was little British blood in Queen Victoria and none in her husband, and the monarchs desired to maintain their family's blood ties to Germany, and Prince Albert further hoped that the marriage would lead to the liberalization and modernization of Prussia. Frederick's Father, Prince William, had no interest in the arrangement, instead hoping for a Russian Grand Duchess as his daughter-in-law, but Princess Augusta was greatly in favor of a match that would bring closer connections to Britain. In 1851, Frederick was sent by his mother to Britain, assumingly to visit the Great Exhibition but in truth so that the cradle of liberalism and home of the industrial revolution would have a positive influence on her son. Prince Albert took Frederick under his wing but in truth it was Albert's eleven years old daughter who guided the Prince around the Exhibition. Frederick only knew a few words of English, while Victoria could converse fluently in German. He was impressed by her mix of innocence, intellectual curiosity and simplicity, and their meeting proved to be a success. A regular exchange of letters between Victoria and Frederick followed.
Frederick eventually proposed to Victoria in 1855, when he was 24 and she 14. The betrothal of the young couple was announced on May 19, 1857 at Buckingham Palace and the Prussian Court, while their marriage took place on 25 January 1858 in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, London. To mark the occasion, Frederick was promoted to Major-General in the Prussian Army. Although it was an arranged marriage, the newlyweds were compatible from the start and their marriage was a loving one; Victoria too had received a liberal education and shared her husband's views. Of the two, Victoria was the dominant one in the relationship. The couple often resided at the Crown Prince's Palace and had eight children: Wilhelm in 1859, Charlotte in 1860, Henry in 1862, Sigismund in 1864, Victoria in 1866, Waldemar in 1868, Sophia in 1870 and Margaret in 1872. Sigismund died at the age of 2 and Waldemar at age 11, and their eldest son, Wilhelm, suffered from a withered arm—probably due to his difficult and dangerous breech birth, although it could have also resulted from a mild case of cerebral palsy. Wilhelm (now Crown Prince of Northern Germany and of Prussia since 1888) shared none of his parent's liberal ideas; his mother viewed him as a "complete Prussian". This difference in ideology created a rift between Wilhelm and his parents (which was exacerbated by Bismarck's interference), and relations between them have been strained ever since.
Emperor Frederick III was a Lutheran member of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces. It was a United Protestant denomination, bringing together Reformed and Lutheran believers.
When his father succeeded to the Prussian Throne as King Wilhelm on 2 January 1861, Frederick became Crown Prince. Already twenty-nine years old, he would be Crown Prince for another twenty-seven years. The new king was inittially seen as politically neutral; Frederick and Prussia's liberal elements hoped he would usher a new era of liberalism. The liberals did manage to greatly increase their majority in the Prussian Landtag, but Wilhelm soon showed he was ,apart from in the "essential liberal policy for internal and foreign affairs", more in favor of the conservative way.
William allowed Frederick few official duties,
such as socializing with dignitaries in balls
Wilhelm being a dogmatic soldier unlikely to change his ideas at the rip age of sixty-four, he clashed with the Landtag over policies on a regular basis. One such disagreement almost led to his abdication as early as September 1862, when the Diet refused to fund his plans for the army's reorganization. Frederick was appalled by this action and said that an abdication would "constitute a threat to the dynasty, country and Crown". Wilhelm reconsidered and instead on the advice of Minister of War Albrecht von Roon appointed Otto von Bismarck, who had offered to push through the military reform even against the majority of the Diet, as Minister-President. The appointment of Bismarck, an authoritarian who would often ignore or overrule the Diet, set Frederick on a collision course with his father and led to his exclusion from affairs of state for the rest of William's reign. Like many of his peers and contemporaries, Frederick was supportive of a German Unification, but he prefered bloodless "moral conquests" and a unification of Germany by liberal, peaceful means. Opposed to him was Bismarck's Blood and Iron policy that was supportive of forming a German Nation through conquest. Frederick often warned against these plans, calling them ambitious and dependent on too many variables, something that he was proven to be correct about as Bismarck's politicking did eventually lead to the creation of two rivalling German Nation-States that would begin to shape the politics of the Great Powers in near future. Frederick, of course, opposed Bismarck on multiple levels. His protests against Bismarck'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. These protests led to him becoming an unofficial enemy of the Iron Chancellor and thus brought upon him the anger of his father who consequently banned him from positions of political power throughout Wilhelm's reign. Retaining his military portfolio, he continued to represent Prussia, (later) North Germany and its Sovereign at ceremonies, weddings, and celebrations such as Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. Frederick would spend a large portion of time in Britain, where Queen Victoria frequently allowed him to represent her at ceremonies and social functions.
Frederick fought in the wars against Denmark and Austria. Though he opposed military action in each case, once the war had begun he supported Prussian military wholeheartedly and took positions of command. Due to his lack of political influence, these were the best opportunities to prove himself. Frederick experienced his first combat in the Second Schleswig War. Appointed to supervise the supreme German Confederation commander Field Marshal Wrangel and his staff, the Crown Prince tactfully managed disputes between Wrangel and the other officers. The Prussians and their Austrian allies defeated the Danes and conquered the southern part of Jutland, but after the war they spent two years politicking to assume leadership of the German states. This culminated in the Austro-Prussian War. Frederick "was the only member of the Prussian Crown Council to uphold the rights of the Duke of Augustenberg and oppose the idea of a war with Austria which he described as fratricide." Although he supported unification and the restoration of the medieval empire, "Fritz could not accept that war was the right way to unite Germany.", and often warned about its possible repercussions. Once the Brother's War broke out, he still accepted command of one of Prussia's three armies, with General Leonhard Graf von Lumenthal as his chief of staff. The timely arrival of his II Army was crucial to the Prussian victory of 1866 in the Battle of Königgrätz, which won the war for Prussia. Nevertheless, the bloodshed caused him great dismay. A few days before Königgrätz, Frederick had written to his wife, expressing his hope that this would be the last war he would have to fight. On the third day of the battle he wrote to her again: "Who knows whether we may not have to wage a third war in order to keep what we have now won?"
Following the War in Austria, Frederick was one of the loudest opposing voices to the annexation of the "treasonous" North German States that had sided with Austria, something Bismarck too came to realize as pragmatic when the South German Confederation was formed in 1867. He was praised for his leadership after defeating the Austrians and helping win the battle of Königgrätz. Frederick's humane treatment of his country's foes earned him their respect and the plaudits of neutral observers, a London journalist witnessed the Crown Prince's many visits to wounded Prussian soldiers and lauded his deeds, extolling the love and respect the soldiers held for Frederick. Frederick had, on multiple occasions, said "I do not like war gentlemen. If I should reign I would never make it.", though this came to be false as his reign would see multiple small-scale conflicts, as well as the eventual Great War that would throw Europe in Flames. 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".
In 1867, following Prussia's victory in the Brother's War and the "excommunication" of Prussia by Baden, Württemberg, and Bavaria, the Northern German States were reorganized into the North German Federal Realm, with Wilhelm as its Kaiser and Frederick as heir-apparent to the new North German monarchy. Bismarck, now Chancellor, disliked Frederick and distrusted the liberal attitudes of the Crown Prince and Princess. Often at odds with his father's and Bismarck's policies and actions, Frederick sided with the country's liberals in their opposition to the expansion of the realm's army. The Crown Prince also became involved in many public work projects such as establishment of schools and churches in Bornstedt near Potsdam. To assist his father's effort to turn Berlin, the new Reichshauptstadt into a great Cultural centre, he was appointed Protector of Public Museams. It is largely due to Frederick that considerable artistic collections were acquired and housed in what came to be known as Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum during his own reign. 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. His lack of influence affected him deeply, even causing him to contemplate suicide.
During an effort led between 1879 and 1881 by the völkisch historian Heinrich von Treitschke and the court chaplain, Adolf Stoecker to dis-emancipate German Jews, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess were in opposition. Victoria wrote that she saw "Treitschke and his supporters as lunatics of the most dangerous sort", and opining that Pastor Stoecker properly belonged in an insane asylum. She went on to write that she felt ashamed of her adopted country because people like Treitschke and Stoecker "behave so hatefully towards people of a different faith and another race who become an integral part (and by no means the worst) of our nation!". 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". Shortly afterward, Frederick gave a speech denouncing the anti-Semitic movement in Germany as "a shameful blot on our time", adding that "We are ashamed of the Judenhetze which has broken all bounds of decency in Berlin, but which seems to flourish under the protection of the Court clerics." 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". Frederick followed this up by giving a speech in which he spoke out for the "poor, ill-treated Jews" of Europe. Frederick's mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, wrote to thank him for his speech, saying she was proud that her daughter had married someone like him, but within Junker circles, Frederick was widely criticised for his actions in support of the Jews. Prominent among the Crown Prince's critics was his eldest son, Prince Wilhelm, who called his father a weak, cowardly man controlled by his British mother and the Jews. Beyond Wilhelm, many of the "reactionary and 'chauvinistic' circles in Germany" had, in the words of the British historian John C. G. Röhl come to the "...conviction that the Crown Prince and his liberal English wife were an alien, un-German force that must not be allowed to accede to the throne". Upon ascending to the throne, Frederick was supportive of Jews in North Germany and followed their hardships across Europe, eventually helping create the Kingdom of the Levent out of an the Jerusalem territory of the Ottoman Empire in order to help the Jews. He also focused on fighting Anti-semitism and rooting it out of the German Culture, though it is yet to be seen how successful this endeavor has been.
Frederick had been a heavy smoker for many years. At a ball held by Wilhelm on 31 January 1887, a guest reported the Crown Prince "was so hoarse that he could hardly say a word.". His hoarseness continued through February, and was diagnosed as a thickening of the mucous membrane over the vocal cords, caused by "a chronic laryngeal catarrh." On 7 February, Frederick consulted a doctor, Karl Gerhardt, who scraped a wire across the membrane for 10 days in an attempt to remove thickened tissue. After the procedure proved unsuccessful, Gerhardt cauterised the left vocal cord with an electric wire on 15 March in an attempt to remove what was then thought to be a vocal fold nodule. Due to Frederick's highly inflamed throat, Gerhardt was unable to remove the entire growth. After several cauterisations, and with no signs of improvement, Frederick and his wife went to the spa of Bad Ems, where he drank the mineral waters and underwent a regimen of gargles and inhaling fresh air, with no effect.
On 17 May, Gerhardt and other doctors, including Ernst von Bergmann, diagnosed the growth as laryngeal cancer. Bergmann recommended consulting a leading British cancer specialist, Morell Mackenzie; he also recommended a thyrotomy to gain better access to the inside of the larynx. followed by the complete removal of the larynx – a total laryngectomy – if the situation proved serious. While Victoria was informed of the need for an immediate operation, Frederick was not told. Despite the tentative diagnosis of cancer, the doctors hoped the growth would prove to be a benign epithelioma. A room on the top floor of the Crown Prince's palace was then equipped as an operating theatre, but Bergmann elected to put the operation on hold until Mackenzie could provide his assessment. Mackenzie arrived in Berlin on 20 May, but after examining Frederick recommended a biopsy of the growth to determine whether or not it was malignant. He conducted the biopsy the following morning, after which he sent tissue samples to the distinguished pathologist Rudolf Virchow for microscopic examination. When Virchow was unable to detect any cancerous cells despite several separate analyses, Mackenzie declared his opposition to a laryngectomy being performed, as he felt it would be invariably fatal, and said he would assume charge of the case. He gave his assurance that Frederick would fully recover "in a few months." While Gerhardt and Physician-General August Wegner concurred with Mackenzie, Bergmann and his colleague Adalbert Tobold held to their original diagnosis of cancer. In addition to Mackenzie's opinion, Bismarck strongly opposed any major operation on Frederick's throat, and pressed the Kaiser to veto it. On 9 June, Mackenzie again biopsied the growth and sent the samples to Virchow, who reported the following day that he was again unable to detect any signs of cancer.
On 13 June, the Crown Prince left Potsdam for London to attend his mother-in-law's Golden Jubilee and to consult Mackenzie. He never saw his father alive again. He was accompanied by Victoria and their three younger daughters, along with Gerhardt; on 29 June Mackenzie reported that he had successfully operated at his Harley Street clinic, and had removed "nearly the entire growth." Frederick spent July with his family at Norris Castle on the Isle of Wight. However, when Frederick visited Mackenzie's office on 2 August for a follow-up examination, the growth had reappeared, necessitating its cauterisation the same day, and again on 8 August – an ominous indication that it was indeed malignant. Felix Semon, a distinguished German throat specialist with a practice in England, and who had been closely following Frederick's case, submitted a report to the German Foreign Secretary in which he strongly criticised Mackenzie's cauterisations, and gave his opinion that the growth, if not malignant, was suspect, and should continue to be biopsied and examined. On 9 August, Frederick travelled to Braemar in the Scottish Highlands with Dr. Mark Hovell, a senior surgeon at the Throat Hospital in London. Although a further examination by Mackenzie on 20 August revealed no sign of a recurrent growth, Frederick said he had the "constant feeling" of something "not right inside"; nonetheless, he requested Queen Victoria to knight Mackenzie, who duly received a knighthood in September.
Despite the operations on his throat and having taken the sea air at Cowes, Frederick remained hoarse, and was advised by Mackenzie to spend the coming winter on the Italian Riviera. In August, following reports that his father was gravely ill, he considered returning to Germany, but was dissuaded by his wife, and went to Toblach in South Tyrol with his family, where Victoria had rented a house. He arrived in Toblach on 7 September, exhausted and hoarse. Concerned by Frederick's lack of visible improvement after a brief meeting with Frederick in Munich, Philipp, Prince of Eulenburg consulted the distinguished laryngologist Max Joseph Oertel, who urged a drastic and thorough operation on Frederick's throat, and said he suspected a benign tumour which could soon become malignant. By this time, Mackenzie's treatment of Frederick was generating strong criticism. After a fortnight in Toblach, Mackenzie arrived to reexamine Frederick, who had continued to suffer from colds and hoarseness; in public, however, the doctor remained largely unconcerned, and attributed the hoarseness to a "momentary chill." However, he recommended that Frederick should leave Toblach for Venice, to be followed by Victoria. The weather soon turned cold, and Frederick's throat caused him pain, for which he received cocaine injections.
Upon arriving in Venice, Frederick again caught cold; privately, Mackenzie was growing seriously concerned, having observed a continued tendency for Frederick's throat and larynx to swell. He forbade Frederick from speaking at any length, noting that if the Crown Prince insisted on speaking and contracted further colds, he could give him no more than three months to live. At the beginning of October, Victoria noted that "Fritz's throat is giving no cause for fresh anxiety & he really does take a little more care and speaks a little less." On 6 October, Frederick, his family and Mackenzie left for a villa at Baveno on the shore of Lake Maggiore, with Mackenzie leaving Baveno on 8 October, after predicting Frederick's recovery "in 3 or 4 months," wrote Victoria. Their elder son Wilhelm joined them at Baveno on 17 October for Frederick's 56th birthday the following day. At the end of October, Frederick's condition abruptly worsened, with Victoria writing to her mother on 2 November that Frederick's throat was again inflamed, but not due to any cold, and that he was "very hoarse again" and easily became depressed about his health. General Alfred von Waldersee observed that Frederick's health had grave implications, as if William died soon and his son succeeded, "a new Kaiser who is not allowed to speak is a virtual impossibility, quite apart from the fact that we desperately need a highly energetic one." His son Wilhelm reported to King Albert of Saxony that his father was frequently short-tempered and melancholic, though his voice appeared to have slightly improved, and that Frederick's throat was being treated by "blowing in a powder twice a day to soothe the larynx."
On 3 November, Frederick and his entourage departed for San Remo. At San Remo two days later, on 5 November, Frederick entirely lost his voice and experienced severe pain throughout his throat. Upon examination, Dr. Hovell discovered a new growth under the left vocal cord; when the news reached William and the German government, it caused great consternation. The following day, Mackenzie issued a bulletin stating that while there was no immediate danger to the Crown Prince, his illness had "unfortunately taken an unfavorable turn," and that he had requested advice from other specialists, including the Austrian professor of laryngology Leopold Schrötter and Dr. Hermann Krause of Berlin. On 9 November, Schrötter and Krause diagnosed the new growth as malignant, and said it was unlikely Frederick could live another year without an operation. All the doctors in attendance, including Mackenzie, now concluded that Frederick's disease was indeed laryngeal cancer, as new lesions had appeared on the right side of the larynx, and that an immediate and total laryngectomy was required to save his life; Moritz Schmidt, one of the doctors, subsequently said that the earlier growths found in May had also been cancerous. Frederick was devastated by the news, bursting into tears upon being informed by Mackenzie and crying, "To think I should have such a horrid disgusting illness ... I had so hoped to have been of use to my country. Why is Heaven so cruel to me? What have I done to be thus stricken and condemned?" Even at this stage, however, Frederick, in a private discussion with his wife, decided against the laryngectomy as it was itself highly risky. He sent his doctors a written statement that he would remain in Italy and would only submit to a tracheotomy if he was at risk of suffocating due to his condition. The news was greeted with shock in Berlin and generated further hatred against Victoria, now seen as a domineering "foreigner" who was manipulating her husband. Some politicians suggested that Frederick be made to relinquish his position in the line of succession in favour of his son Wilhelm, but Bismarck firmly stated that Frederick would succeed his ailing father "whether he is ill or not, and whether the Kaiser is then unable permanently to perform his duties," would then be determined per the relevant provisions of the Prussian Constitution. Despite the renewed diagnosis of cancer, Frederick's condition appeared to improve after 5 November, and he became more optimistic; through January 1888 there remained some hope that the diagnosis was incorrect. Both Frederick and Victoria retained their faith in Mackenzie, who reexamined Frederick's throat several times in December and gave a good prognosis, again doubting whether the growths had been cancerous.
On 26 December 1887, Frederick wrote that his "chronic catarrh" appeared to be taking "a turn for the better and that "a further bond has been forged between our people and myself; may God preserve it by giving me, when I resume my duties, the capacity to prove myself worthy of the great trust that has been shown me!" A week later, however, on 5 January 1888, his hoarseness and the swelling under his left vocal cord returned, with the previously unaffected right side of his throat becoming inflamed. He ran high fevers and began coughing violently, with his breathing becoming more labored. The doctors diagnosed perichondritis, an infection of the throat membrane. Frederick again became unable to speak, and suffered violent headaches and insomnia. On 29 January, Mackenzie returned to San Remo from a trip to Spain, and after examining his patient recommended an immediate tracheotomy. The operation was conducted at 4 p.m. on 8 February, by which time Frederick was continually suffering from insomnia and "embarrassing bouts of suffocation.". Frederick was lucky, a successful operation in 8 February 1888 had managed to cure his laryngeal cancer before it could bring him to death, but it had temporarily taken away his voice.
As Frederick began his Convalescence period and began learning to speak again in Esophageal speech, a period that would in truth continue for the majority of his first year as Kaiser.
Kaiser Wilhelm died aged 90 at 8:22 a.m. on 9 March 1888, and Frederick became North German Emperor and King of Prussia. His son William, now Crown Prince, telegraphed the news to his father in Italy. Later the same day, Frederick wrote in his diary that he had received the telegram upon returning from a walk, "...and so I have ascended the throne of my forefathers and of the German Kaiser! God help me fulfill my duties conscientiously and for the weal of my Fatherland, in both the narrower and the wider sense." There was a debate, originally, on what Frederick should have taken as his regnal name. There were equal arguments for Frederick I (as North Germany had been created recently), Frederick IV (If North Germany, as spiritual successor of the German Confederation, was viewed as a continuation of the old Holy Roman Empire, which had had three different Fredericks), or Frederick III (As would be his regnal as King of Prussia). While Frederick preferred "Frederick IV", Bismarck was more favorable to "Frederick III", arguing this would create legal problems. In the end, he took "Frederick I" as North German Emperor and "Frederick III" as Prussian King, which is why he is sometimes referred to as "Friedrich I und III". Officially Speaking, he is named Friedrich without any roman numerals however. The new Kaiser reached Berlin at 11 p.m. on the night of 11 March; those who saw him were horrified by his "pitiful" appearance. The question now was how much longer the mortally ill emperor could be expected to live, and what, if anything, he could hope to achieve. In spite of his illness, Frederick did his best to fulfill his obligations as Emperor. In spite of his illness, Frederick did his best to fulfill his obligations as Emperor. Immediately after the announcement of his accession, he took the ribbon and star of his Order of the Black Eagle from his jacket and pinned it on the dress of his wife; he was determined to honor her position as Empress. Too ill to march in his father's funeral procession, he was represented by Wilhelm, the new Crown Prince, while he watched, weeping, from his rooms in the Charlottenburg Palace.
Due to his inability to speak, he largely left the administration of the realm to his Chancellor Bismarck, while he continued his training. As North German Emperor, he officially received Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (his mother-in-law) and King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway, and attended the wedding of his son Prince Henry to his niece Princess Irene. Dr. Mackenzie wrote that the Emperor had "an almost overwhelming sense of the duties of his position". In a letter to Lord Napier, Empress Victoria wrote "The Emperor is able to attend to his business, and do a great deal, but not being able to speak is, of course, most trying."
Wilhelm finally retained his voice in 24 November 1888. Though his Esophageal voice was much more raspy, and at some points hard to understand, the regaining of his voice -and with it, most of his health- was enough for the New Emperor of 57 years to begin taking his duty as Emperor seriously and to begin dimantling Bismarck's domination of North German Politics.
In early 1889, Friedrich forced Robert von Puttkamer, a Conservative politician and one of Bismarck's main supporters to resign as Prussian Minister of the Interior on 8 June, when evidence indicated that Puttkamer had interfered in the Reichstag elections. He similarly brought an edict he had penned before he ascended to the throne that would limit the powers of the chancellor and monarch under the constitution to the Reichstag, though it failed to find much support in the Conservative-Reactionary dominated Parliament. Friedrich, not wanting a fight this early, accepted to stand down. Bismarck, who had come to become more irritable, authoritarian and less focused in his old age, had long since tried to ensure Frederick wouldn't succeed into his new office, and his fears were proven to be correct, as The dismissal of Robert von Puttkamer, the highly-conservative Prussian interior minister, on 8 June showed. While Friedrich preferred the British model of Constitutionalism to what Prussia had created following the Revolutions of 1848, he had realized that he could not do what Queen Victoria did. The North German Emperor could not be viewed as a Paternal figure, but had to be an authority. In the first few years of his reign, he employed (some believe "suffered through") Bismarck's administration, mostly in order to learn his duties as the Head of State, and to learn the method to Bismarck's madness.
Friedrich and Bismarck fell into conflict for various reasons, and in various levels. While the two were of the same mind that The old Chancellor had to guide him as he had his father, the Emperor was in no mood for his Chancellor's Reactionary and Hardliner policies. A key difference between Friedrich and Bismarck was their approach to handling domestic crises. In 1889, Upper Silesian Coal miners went on strike. While Bismarck had demanded military intervention to deal with the strike, Friedrich rejected this authoritarianism, claiming that he had no wish to shed unnecessary book. Instead of condoning this repression, he had the provincial government negotiate with the miners' representatives, bringing an end to the strike with minimal violence, eventually implementing laws further favoring the laborers across the realm. Eventually however, the growing schism between Bismarck's Reaction and Friedrich's liberal reform had the fractious relationship come to a close in March 1890. Bismarck and Friedrich quarreled, The Chancellor threatened to resign (as he had, time and time again, during quarrels with Wilhelm), and the Kaiser responded -in a way eerily similar to how the Chancellor had responded to the French in 1866- "Good, then resign.". The Chancellor did so only a few days later, and the Age of Reaction came to a close.
While Friedrich and Victoria had plans of liberalizing the North German Political machine in a few radical strokes, they both soon discovered that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. With an edict, Friedrich increased the powers of the Reichstag and the Bundesrat over the Government, similarly decreasing political pressure on ideological enemies of the state. As more political parties and more ideologies came to join the Parliament, so did the problem any illiberal legislature faces upon reform: Political Turmoil. With the long-reigning Chancellor (who had been the Minister-President of Prussia and thus the power in charge of Northern regions of German Confederation for the majority of the previous 28 years) now gone, the next few Chancellors each reigned for at most a few years. The year 1897 in particular, was known as the Year of three chancellors (Dreikanzlerjahr), with the fifth Chancellor reigning only for five weeks before he was removed from office. The political turmoil did not halt the North German Machine, and the system Bismarck had put in place continued to work where industry, urbanization, Germanization, and Welfare were concerned. With consent of other monarchs, Friedrich concentrated on removing reactionary elements from the administration of North Germany.
After the election of 1890 which, to Friedrich's dismay, brought a coalition of Reactionaries and Conservatives in power, he appointed the relatively moderate conservative politician Herbert Schindler-Hosen as the second Chancellor of North Germany. Schindler-Hosen and his immediate successor set the basic precedent for German Foreign and Colonial policy. While the full effect of his policies in home remain to be unseen -mostly due to the fact the reforming was taking much longer than Friedrich had hoped-, his foreign policy turned North Germany from a mostly neutral "middle ground" back into an interventionist political power with open and active interests in the immediate regions it existed in. His government baited the Boer and Afrikaan people of British South Africa to revolt in 1892, subsiding their military efforts, arming their insurgencies, and even at some point sending "voluntary expeditions", largely made of Boer and Dutch immigrants living in The southern parts of Mittelafrika, while officially taking a neutral stance. Near home, Schindler-Hosen continued what Bismarck had been planning and incentivized the former Polish new residents of Congress Poland to sue for independence and liberty against the Russian Empire. However, his coalition fell apart on 20 July, when the Conservative and Nationalist elements failed to come to an agreement regarding privatization of what the North German Constitution had officially put under the Nation's authority.
The Nationalists this time aligned themselves with the Centre Party, which had come into prominence in response to Kulturkampf. The Centre-Nationalist coalition, now in charge of the Government of North Germany, were much closer to Friedrich's personal political beliefs, and he appointed Nationalist politician Karl von Wustenberg much less reluctantly. Wustenberg, while boldening and bolstering the North German Welfare State, incentivizing workers to migrate there for a better opportunity for work, continued with Schindler-Hosen's foreign policy. However, where Schindler-Hosen only concentrated on weakening Germany's Rival Great Powers, Wustenberg concentrated more on allowing the smaller states directly neighboring North Germany to flourish all the while bringing them into the North German sphere of influence. With consent -and approval- of Friedrich, he began rebuilding the relations between Denmark and North Germany, eventually helping them invade and defeat Sweden-Norway in a war that gave Denmark territory on the Scandinavian region. In order to bolster the North German-French relations -which had been chilly in the latter years of Bismarck's reign-, his government signed a treaty of mutual defense and assistance with the small Catalonian State, informally guaranteeing its independence to put North Germany in a better light to the French Empire. Similarly, The Kingdom of Netherlands, a Lesser Power in Europe with a large colonial Empire in Oceania (which directly bordered the Norddeutsch-Pacifica) was brought into the North German sphere of influence. By allowing them to use the North German islands in the Pacific as a springboard, Wustenberg effectively pitted Netherlands against the British-aligned Spanish Empire in the Dutch-Spanish war of 1896 over the Spanish colonies in the Philippine Islands. This put Spain in a weak spot, allowing the rapidly rising Japanese Empire to dominate and conquer the isles of Luzon in the next few months, brightening Japanese-North German relations while Spanish and British opinion of North Germany soured by the second.
Eventually, however, Wustenberg's reign came to an end in March 1897. The fourth Chancellor, Herman von der Saar, came into power in the First New Election of North Germany, where his loose, bickering coalition of Liberals and Conservatives managed to challenge Wustenberg's Nationalist Government. von der Saar was a much less interventionist Chancellor, but -and this was something Friedrich learned the hard way- Parliamentary democracy had not the same effect in the historically dictatorial German Nation as it did in Britain. The weak, mostly illiberal -though, reforming- parliamentary politics resulted in the dissolution of the Liberal-Conservative coalition in July of that same year. That same week, a new election was held where Reactionaries and Catholics formed the majority coalition and put 5th Chancellor Maximilian von Papen in charge. That coalition, due to the historical animosity between Bismarckian Reaction and Catholic Centrism, fell apart immediately and in September, a new election was held. Thankfully, this was the very last election in that year.
The Nationalists, returning to the front after a short interim period in 1987, managed to form a coalition with the liberals with promise of political reform. With the new chancellor Alfred von Wastrecht-Orenblau appointed into office, the Nationalist-Liberal coalition imposed a number of political reforms lifting the censorship laws regarding the media, lifting the ban on non-Socialist (though this came along with somewhat of a disagreement from the "Anarcho-Liberal" Radikale Partei), and lifting the ban on political public meetings, though that had been de jure allowed since 1889. Arguments in favor of enfranchisement of women were brought to the Reichstag and the Bundesrat, but they it to garner as much support in North Germany as it had in Britain. A more radical reform, though this one by direct edict of the Emperor as King of Prussia, was to completely abolish the Tree-class franchise system of the Kingdom of Prussia, allowing equal voting by secret ballot to be held, something that decreased conservative influence in the country dramatically. In addition, Wastrecht-Orenblau put forth a bill that, with a majority, banned use of paramilitary by Political parties, fining them heavily for their now-unofficial paramilitary wings, an act that put an effective end to the street battles between Reactionaries, Nationalists, Socialists, and Social Democrats.
In Foreign Policy, Wastrecht-Orenblau's reign was a mix between the Pragmatic Bismarckian politics and the Loud gunboat policy of Wustenberg. While North Germany continued to form a coalition across Europe -particularly working with France, which had seen their relationship with Britain tank due to the resulting crisis in the Fashoda Incident, where the British Empire put a stop to France's attempts in colonizing the Independent Egypt that was in the British Sphere of Influence. With a rise in Franco-British animosity and a decrease of the historical Franco-Prussian enmity, Wastrecht-Orenblau's policies were favorable to the French Emperor Napoleon IV, and the Franco-Austrian enmity was slowly put to relevance again after its short respite during Napoleon III's reign. Napoleon IV's impatience only played into North Germany's hand, as South Germany had under recent administration made a series of diplomatic blunders that had decreased its prestige to the modern world.
The North African Crisis, also called the Crisis of 1903, was the last of many territorial disputes over the by-now-mostly-colonized African continent. Initially an attempt by the Spanish Empire to connect its Moroccan territories by conquering the Kingdom of Morocco, the crisis began when France, claiming the small state to be under its sphere of Influence, demanded the Spanish Empire to demobilize its military units. Britain sided with Morocco, demanding in return that France cede Liberia (which had been colonized before the Conference of Berlin solidified land claimed, despite the British claim on its region) to Britain in turn. As France and Britain clashed, North Germany entered the affairs on France's side, demanding that Britain cede its colonies in the Gold Coast to the North German State.
The crisis was ongoing for four months in The Hague, where the Seven Great Powers (Britain, France, North Germany, Russia, South Germany, The United States, and Japan) bickered as Morocco stood by, fearing its very existence. By November 1903, France, North Germany, and Japan on one side and Britain, Russia, and South Germany on the other had failed to arrive to a settlement and were preparing for war. What put a stop to this madness was the American Argument that a war between the multicontinental Empires in the dispute would lead to an all-out "War to end all wars". The seven Powers agreed to refrain from fighting, however this message had been in conflict with individual messages by France, North Germany, Britain, and Spain. From 16 January to 19 January, multiple colonial conflicts occured. North Germany occupied Spanish Equatorial Guinea, France launched an invasion and blockade of British Guiana, while Britain attacked North German Gold Coast from their Gold Coast colony. Due to the lack of fighting on the Mainland, the Diplomats in Hague -at the behest of the Dutch King- were convinced to go through the diplomatic mission and sue for a Status Quo peace before partial mobilization in mainland could put an end to the war.
This event, commonly called the First Moroccan Crisis, brought North Germany's greatest fears into reality. The North Germans needed a Navy, and they needed one that could overtake the mighty British Royal Navy.
Following the First Moroccan Crisis, Friedrich took a more passive approach to ruling. With his health slowly deteriorating, his depression spiked back around 1904, and he was forced to bedrest for about three months in 1905, and he already knew that he was in no shape to rule as he had in the last 17 years. During this period of lull, chancellor Wastrecht-Orenblau had become de facto in charge of all duties that were officially those of the North German Emperor. This led to a period of both ruin and prosperity.
In 1904, following a native rebellion in the Mittelafrikan province of Südwest, the local governor (General Lothar von Trotha) began an extensive campaign against the Herero People native to the region. Given the green light to deal with the situation as he saw fit, Trotha was given almost complete autonomy in his operations, and what he did is one of the first acts in the 20th century to officially be considered a genocide. Tens of thousands of Herero people were confined in concentration camps where they would be put under horrible fates (slave labor, medical and other experimentation, extrajudicial murder, rape, etc.). This reached its peak in 1907, where news of the event started reaching the Mainland. The protests, mostly led by the Liberal Academia, the Left, and the Anti-Colonial factions, eventually resulted in a public outcry, marking Friedrich's return to the fold.
In a decree, the Emperor took away the autonomy of the Province of Südwest. The North German Navy officially took control of the province and put it under direct military rule from Berlin. Investigations on the allegations of genocide proved the existence of concentration camps, which the Emperor considered 'against our Mission to Civilize, and basic Christian Conduct'. With Trotha and many other officials in charge of these affairs arrested, the Emperor -backed by the majority of the Bundesrat- cracked down on the Colonial Ministry. 1248 officials, from the Ministry, Südwest, and Mittelafrika in general were removed from office and most them were later tried for incompetence and acts against official conduct. Between February and May 1908, more than half of that number (400 from Mittelafrika, 112 from Südwest, another 300 from the Colonial Ministry) were found guilty, and between 100 and 200 (Trotha included) were put to death.
With Südwest under direct rule, the Emperor took a more active role in the Realm again. On March 1907, Crown Prince William, pressed by his father, abdicated from his title, and the office of the Crown Prince was given to his younger brother, Henry (later Kaiser Heinrich), who was removed from military command in the North German Navy. William gradually removed himself from politics and took a secluded life, eventually retiring to a Hohenzollern estate in Prussia in 1908.
Friedrich's health, which had for the last twenty years been relatively well -though due to his rigorous loyalty to keeping a healthy lifestyle- deteriorated in March 1908. Despite his personal doctors' best hopes, his condition was proven to be terminal in early April. He was confined to bedrest and declared unfit to rule on 5 April, where his son Henry was appointed regent by the Bundesrat. Only seven days later, Friedrich, second Emperor of North Germany, passed away.
Titles and styles
18 October 1831 – 2 January 1861: His Royal Highness Prince Frederick of Prussia
2 January 1861 – 16 April 1867: His Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Prussia
16 April 1867 - 9 March 1888: His Imperial and Royal Highness The North German Crown Prince, Crown Prince of Prussia and Limburg
9 March 1888 - 12 April 1908: His Imperial and Royal Majesty The North German Emperor, King of Prussia, Duke of Limburg, Stadthalter of Berlin
Frederick was invested as a Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle on 18 October 1849, and was awarded the Pour le Mérite in 1866 for his personal gallantry on the field and leadership of the II Army during the Battle of Königgrätz.
Kingdom of Prussia
Order of the Black Eagle, Sovereign
Order of the Red Eagle, Sovereign
Order of the Prussian Crown, Sovereign
Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, Sovereign
Johanniter Order, Protector
Pour le Mérite, Sovereign
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen: Princely House Order of Hohenzollern, Cross of Honour 1st Class with Swords
Kingdom of Hanover
Order of St. George, Knight
Kingdom of Saxony
Order of the Rue Crown, Knight
Military Order of Saint Henry, Grand Cross
Kingdom of Hesse
Order of the Golden Lion, Knight
Ludwig Order, Grand Cross
Military Merit Cross, 1866-67
Kingdom of Mecklenburg
House Order of the Wendish Crown, Chain with Crown in Ore
Military Merit Cross, 1st Class
Cross for Distinction in War)
Grand Duchy of Oldenburg
House and Merit Order of Duke Peter Friedrich Ludwig, Grand Cross with Crown and Swords
Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
Order of the White Falcon, Grand Cross with Swords
Grand Duchy of Anhalt
Order of Albert the Bear, Grand Cross with Swords
Duchy of Nassau
Order of the Gold Lion of Nassau, Knight
Duchy of Brunswick
Order of Henry the Lion, Grand Cross
Saxe-Ernestine House Order, Grand Cross
Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe
Military Merit Medal
In addition to his decorations in North Germany, Frederick was a well decorated individual with many medals and honors awarded to him from foreign countries. Of course, some of these honors and orders were later revoked after the Austro-Prussian war.
The Brazilian Empire
Order of St. Stephen of Hungary, Grand Cross, 1852
Military Order of Maria Theresa, Knight
Service Medal for Officers (25 years)
Kingdom of Denmark
Order of the Elephant, Knight, 19 August 1873
The French Empire
Legion of Honour, Grand Cross, 11 December 1856
Husainid House Order
Kingdom of Greece
Order of the Redeemer, Grand Cross
The Japanese Empire
Order of the Chrysanthemum, Collar
The Dutch Empire
Military William Order, Grand Cross
Order of the Netherlands Lion, Grand Cross
The Ottoman Empire
Order of Distinction with Diamonds
Order of Osmanieh, 1st Class
Gold Imtiyaz Medal
The Portuguese Empire
Sash of the Two Orders
Order of the Tower and Sword, Grand Cross with Swords
Kingdom of Iran
Portrait of the Shah of Persia with Diamonds
Kingdom of Romania
Order of the Star of Romania, Grand Cross with Swords
The Russian Empire
Order of St. Andrew the Apostle the First-Called, Knight, 16 September 1843
Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, Knight
Order of St. Anna, 1st Class
Order of St. Stanislaus, 1st Class
Imperial Order of the White Eagle, Knight
Imperial Order of St. George, Knight 2nd Class
Kingdom of Italy
Order of the Annunciation, Knight, 1850
Military Order of Savoy, Grand Cross
Gold Medal of Military Valour, 1866
Order of Saint Ferdinand and of Merit, Grand Cross
Order of San Marino, Commander
The Bulgarian Empire
Order of the Cross of Takovo, Grand Cross
Royal Order of the White Eagle, Grand Cross
The Spanish Empire
Order of the Golden Fleece, Knight, 1862
Laureate Cross of Saint Ferdinand, Grand Cross
Order of the Liberator, Collar
Kingdom of Sweden-Norway
Royal Order of the Seraphim, Knight
Order of Charles XIII, Knight, 3 May 1858
Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, Grand Cross
The British Empire
Order of the Garter, Knight, 28 January 1858
Order of the Bath, Honorary Grand Cross, 25 January 1883
Prince William of Prussia
27 January 1859
married Princess Auguste Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein on 27 February 1881, had 7 children by 1907
Charlotte, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen
24 July 1860
married Bernhard III, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen on 18 February 1878, had 1 daughter by 1907
Heinrich, North German Crown Prince
14 August 1862
married his first cousin Princess Irene of Hesse on 24 May 1888, had 3 children by 1907
Prince Sigismund of Prussia
15 September 1864
18 June 1866
died of meningitis at 21 months. First grandchild of Queen Victoria to die.
Viktoria, Princess Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe
12 April 1866
married Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe on 19 November 1890, no children by 1907
Prince Waldemar of Prussia
10 February 1868
27 March 1879
died of diphtheria at age 11
Sophia, Queen of the Hellenes
14 June 1870
married Constantine I, King of the Hellenes on 27 October 1889, had five children by 1907
Margaret, Landgravine of Hesse-Kassel
22 April 1872
married Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse on 25 January 1893, had six children by 1907