What did frederick william i do


Frederick William I, also known as Friedrich Wilhelm I, was a prominent figure in Prussian history during the 18th century. His reign as King of Prussia left a lasting impact, helping to shape the future of his nation. In this article, we will delve into the key aspects of Frederick William I’s rule and the transformative actions he undertook.

Key Achievements

Frederick William I: The Soldier King – Prussian History

1. Modernization of Prussian Bureaucracy and Judicial System

Frederick William I introduced substantial reforms to Prussia’s administrative and legal systems. He modernized the bureaucracy, allowing non-nobles to hold positions as judges and senior bureaucrats. This was a significant step toward a more meritocratic society, breaking down traditional barriers.

2. Promotion of Freedom of Expression and Press

The king’s reign also saw a commitment to freedom of expression and the press. Frederick William I abolished various forms of judicial torture, fostering an environment where people could speak and write more freely. This progressive approach was a precursor to greater intellectual and societal growth.

3. Intellectual Friendship with Voltaire

Frederick William I was known for his intellectual pursuits. He shared a correspondence with the renowned philosopher Voltaire, expressing his admiration for the thinker. Their exchange of ideas marked the beginning of a lasting intellectual friendship.

Declining the German Crown

4. Rejecting the Frankfurt Parliament’s Offer

One notable event during Frederick William I’s reign was his refusal of the crown offered to him by the Frankfurt Parliament in 1849. He declined the crown, subject to parliamentary terms, as he believed that authority should not be granted by an elected assembly to a monarch with divine right. His decision also aligned with his conservative stance against nationalists and liberals who sought to diminish his power.

5. Opposition to the Elected Assembly

By declining the crown, the King of Prussia joined other monarchs in opposing the elected assembly’s influence, further solidifying his commitment to maintaining traditional monarchy.

Legacy and Impact

6. Frederick William I’s Enduring Influence

Frederick William I’s reign laid the groundwork for Prussia’s future success. His modernization efforts, commitment to freedom of expression, and refusal to accept a united German crown under parliamentary terms were pivotal moments in the history of Prussia and, ultimately, Germany.

7. Modern Prussia and Beyond

Frederick William I’s legacy continued through his successors, most notably his son, Frederick II the Great. It was under Frederick II’s rule that Prussia rose to become a major military power in Europe.


Frederick William I’s contributions to Prussia’s development, including modernizing its bureaucracy and championing freedom of expression, played a crucial role in shaping the course of Prussian and German history. His decision to reject the German crown symbolized his commitment to the principles he upheld during his rule, leaving a lasting mark on the nation’s trajectory.

In summary, when considering "What Did Frederick William I Do," it becomes evident that his reign was marked by significant reforms, intellectual pursuits, and a steadfast commitment to preserving traditional monarchic authority.

Captivating Insights into Prussian History

What Was Frederick William I Best Known For?

Frederick William I, born on August 14, 1688, in Berlin and passing away on May 31, 1740, in Potsdam, Prussia, is renowned for his transformation of Prussia. As the second Prussian king, he elevated his nation from a second-rate power to an efficient and prosperous state. This pivotal groundwork laid the foundation for his son and successor, Frederick II the Great, to establish Prussia as a major military power on the European continent. Frederick William I’s legacy is defined by this transformative shift in Prussian fortunes, setting the stage for Prussia’s future greatness.

What Did Frederick William the First Accomplish?

Frederick William I achieved several significant milestones during his reign. His government undertook the settlement of numerous peasant colonists and implemented measures to improve the living conditions of peasant subjects on state domains and noble estates. These policies played a crucial role in establishing the groundwork for Prussia’s later success under his son, Frederick II ("the Great"), who reigned from 1740 to 1786. Frederick William I’s accomplishments were pivotal in laying the foundation for Prussia’s triumphant rise as a major power.

What Did Frederick William I Create?

Frederick William I’s reforms had a profound impact on Prussia, particularly in the realm of military strength. His initiatives transformed the Prussian army into one of the most efficient and disciplined forces in Europe. By 1740, Prussia boasted an army of 80,000 well-trained soldiers. Notably, he allocated over seventy percent of the state’s treasury to the military budget, a significant investment even by contemporary standards. Frederick William I’s visionary reforms laid the foundation for Prussia’s formidable military prowess.

How Did Frederick William I Control the Nobility?

Frederick William I exercised his sovereign power to dismantle the extensive privileges held by the nobility. His key method of gaining control and ensuring their obedience was the implementation of the single land tax in 1715. This reform was instrumental in breaking down the old privileges of the nobles, consolidating the king’s authority, and fostering their compliance.

What Did William I of Prussia Accomplish?

William I of Prussia played a central role in Prussian history, primarily on the international stage. His leadership resulted in significant Prussian victories in the Second Schleswig War and the Austro-Prussian War, effectively positioning Prussia as the dominant German power. In a historic turn of events orchestrated by Bismarck’s strategic maneuvers, the unification of Germany was realized in 1871, largely spurred by the Franco-Prussian War.

Why Was Frederick William Called the Great Elector?

Frederick William, a member of the House of Hohenzollern, earned the moniker "the Great Elector" (der Große Kurfürst) due to his remarkable military and political accomplishments. He was a steadfast supporter of the Calvinist faith and became closely linked with the ascending commercial class, further solidifying his reputation as a pivotal figure in Prussian history.

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