Frederick II

Early Life

Frederick's coarse and tyrannical father despised the prince, who showed a taste for French art and literature and no interest in government and war. At the age of 18 Frederick, who had been repeatedly humiliated and ill-treated, planned to escape to England. He was arrested, imprisoned, and forced to witness the beheading of his friend and accomplice, Lieutenant Katte. Frederick submitted to his father and was released. In 1733, at his father's request, he married Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, but he separated from her shortly afterward and for the rest of his life showed no interest in women.

Prince Frederick spent the next few years at Rheinsberg, where he wrote his Anti-Machiavel, an idealistic refutation of Machiavelli, and began his long correspondence with Voltaire. His period of relative inactivity ended with his accession to the throne in 1740, after which Frederick immediately showed the qualities of leadership and decision that were to characterize his reign.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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