Empress Frederick: The Last Hope for a Liberal Germany?

By Kollander, Patricia | The Historian, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview

Empress Frederick: The Last Hope for a Liberal Germany?


Kollander, Patricia, The Historian


Historians have long regarded Victoria (1840-1901), the British-born princess who took the name Empress Frederick after the death of her husband, Emperor Frederick III of Germany (1831-88), as a tragic figure. Her parents, Queen Victoria of Britain and her consort, Prince Albert, supported German unification under Prussia. Both hoped that young Victoria's marriage to the heir to the Prussian throne would bring progressive political ideas to conservative and militaristic Prussia and subsequently to all of Germany. But this was not to be. Although Victoria converted her husband into a supporter of liberalism, he died after a pathetically brief 99-day reign.

Works by popular biographer Hannah Pakula and historian John Roehl have praised Victoria's political judgement. Other biographers agree that if Frederick had lived longer, Germany could have adopted a more liberal course, which could have enabled Germany and the world to avoid the tragedies of the twentieth century.(1) Such historians may have been misled by the fictitious portrait of Frederick that Victoria created after his death.(2) This portrait created a liberal legend of Frederick III and criticized his political adversary Otto von Bismarck (1815-98), who dominated German politics from 1862 to 1890. Bismarck strove above all to enhance the power of Prussia and Germany in Europe, and he was hostile to the liberal movement. Many historians have used Victoria's criticism of Bismarck--as filtered through the legend of her husband--to support the contention that Bismarck was responsible in no small measure for the Germany's downfall.

Based on the unpublished correspondence between Frederick and Victoria, this paper calls the accuracy of these views into question.(3) It shows that the success of Victoria's campaign to convert her husband to liberalism was in actuality more limited than she herself believed. Victoria hoped to revise German politics along more liberal and progressive guidelines used in Britain, but while Frederick adopted moderately liberal views after his marriage, he shied away from embracing the far more radical political philosophy of his wife. Her views on domestic and foreign policy were unrealistic, and the course of action she advocated on several occasions was downright dangerous. Indeed, in the long run it may have been better for Germany that most of her views never became translated into actual policy.

During the mid-nineteenth century, there was no sovereign state of Germany, but rather a Germanic Confederation, a loose association of 34 German states and four cities. The two largest states, Austria and Prussia, were rivals for leadership in the confederation. Many German middle-class liberals wished to liberalize the rigid Prussian political institutions and unify Germany under Prussian leadership. This, they believed, would bring progress, prosperity, and security to the German people. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert supported German unification under Protestant Prussia because if liberals succeeded in their goal, Britain would gain a Protestant ally on the European continent. Although Albert was born and raised in the German principality of Saxe-Coburg, he came to admire British political institutions. He wished to see features of the British political system such as free elections, free expression, free trade, and a ministry responsible to parliament adopted by Prussia. This seemed to be little more than a dream, however, for an ultra-conservative government that was hostile to unification and liberalization of any kind dominated Prussia. The leaders of most of the other German states also opposed unification, as they assumed that this would diminish their sovereign powers.

Empress Frederick was born Princess Victoria of Britain on 21 November 1840. She was the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and her father's favorite. Discussion began regarding her marriage began when Victoria was a small child. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Empress Frederick: The Last Hope for a Liberal Germany?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.