Academic journal article Military Review

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia

Academic journal article Military Review

Frederick the Great: King of Prussia

Article excerpt


King of Prussia

Tim Blanning, Random House, New York, 2016, 688 pages


That happens to a military force when its leadership changes from a straitlaced, antiacademic, German man's man to a homosexual son of the French Enlightenment? In Frederick II of Prussia's case, that military force defeated the most powerful armies of Europe, conquered key territories, and changed the balance of power forever in the Holy Roman Empire. Tim Blanning, a noted University of Cambridge historian, has deftly demonstrated great skill in authoritatively writing about a warrior king full of talent and contradictions. His story about how Berlin became the center of the Germanic world is important reading for today's military strategists even if they think Carl von Clausewitz has already had the last word.

Prussia had few apparent resources before Frederick became sovereign in 1740. His father had thought he was effeminate and unfit to rule. Frederick was caught secretly slipping into a red silk dressing gown with gold brocade for private flute practices. Frederick William had his son's favorite friend executed in front of Frederick as part of a plan to mold him into a different sort of man. Upon gaining the throne, Frederick gambled at war and invaded the Hapsburg Empire in a daring opportunistic move. As the book recounts, he used his advantages of unity of command and superior interior lines time and again against the French, Russians, Swedes, and Saxons, as well as the Hapsburgs. The Prussian Army was a formidable machine capable of performing extraordinary feats for a pragmatic leader who took little stock in the value of titles and other aids for less secure warlords. …

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