GHDI logo
German History in Documents and Images
return to system

Frederick William I, Prussia's "Soldier King" (1729)
By the time Frederick William I (r. 1713-40) acceded to the throne in 1713 he had already gained considerable influence on Prussian politics, having reordered the country’s finances and removed factionalized officials from office. Realizing that Prussia was precariously situated between the great powers, he exercised caution in foreign policy, making few territorial gains and generally avoiding war. His domestic and economic policies were highly effective, however. Among other accomplishments, Frederick William I’s government settled numerous peasant colonists and worked to stabilize the circumstances of peasant subjects on state domains and noble estates. His policies laid the foundation for the triumphant rise of Prussia under his son, Frederick II (“the Great”) (r. 1740-86). Oil on canvas by Prussian court painter Antoine Pesne (1683-1757), 1729.