King Frederick William I is considered to be „Prussia’s greatest inner king”, because he envisioned and designed the modern Prussian state. King Frederick William I had the strength and perseverance to implement his vision that was likened as a „revolution from above,“ whereby a poor, demoralized country was transitioned within one generation into a beacon of development.
He was dubbed the „Soldier King“ but this term is too misleading as he was more than that. To emphasize, he was not only responsible for the framework of a proper administration but Frederick William was successful in efficiently managing his nation’s agriculture, crafts, production and trade. He did so by bringing foreign skilled workers into the country and making them hardworking and appreciative citizens.
Frederick William I was born in Berlin in 1688 and, even as a boy, scrutinized his pomp-loving father’s (Friedrich I) wasteful practices during his reign whilst being dominated by of his courtiers. When he finally became king in 1713 and after inheriting high debts, he tried to remedy the economy in a radical manner. One of his immediate actions was to sell or rent most of the inherited palace buildings as well as reducing expenses for the royal court to a mere 20%.
In contrast to his ancestors and rulers in neighboring countries, he did not build a single new palace. Rather, he focused his efforts on the construction of utility buildings.
Contrary to his principles however, in 1730 he had a small hunting lodge built in the Parforceheide near Potsdam. This being the only residence for his private use.
Today, Frederick William I is largely forgotten, but much in today’s political system is still as it had been invented and enforced at that time. Therefore, you should get to know this man better if you want to understand Germany.
„He was a praise worthy man, wonderfully suited to his time, and at the same time ahead of it. He not only stabilized kingship, but also, more importantly, laid the foundations for a new era, and replaced disorder, self-rule and arbitrariness with order and justice.“ (Theodor Fontane in “Der Stechlin”).