The Germans documentary continues with Frederick and the Empress. Today’s episode is about Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa of Austria. They were rivals. They fought wars with each other. They split the German lands. This is a good series to show about the War of the Austrian Succession.
Nobody knows what’s coming in December 1740. It was in the middle of winter when nobody fought wars. Frederick marched into Silesia. Silesia was an Austrian territory. His actions were seen as brazen. Maria Theresa was the newly crowned Empress of Austria. However, despite her inexperience, she was prepared to fight back. Germany and Austria would be changed as the war spun out of control.
Austria was a united Empire while Frederick lead patches of land, far away from the unified Empire Maria Theresa led. Austria was the power behind the Holy Roman Empire. Frederick wanted to change that. Brandenburg, Prussia where Frederick ruled from was barren, marshy, and covered with forests, and home to two million people. It was led by a soldier-king.
The Prussian court was strict and was Spartan. Frederick was expected to follow the strict rules of his father. However, Frederick loved arts and literature. Frederick’s father hated that and thought the state should be built by having a strong military. Frederick flees from the Prussian court but is captured. His boyhood friend is executed because he knew that Frederick wanted to flee. Frederick had to watch his friend’s execution.
The Hapsburg empire is shocked by the Prussian King’s actions. The Austrian King sends a letter pleading with the Prussian King to spare his son Frederick. Maria Theresa lived a carefree childhood. She was very intelligent and believed that she would not inherit the throne. However, the Pragmatic Sanction was passed allowing Maria Theresa to rule. She was 23 when she was crowned Queen of Austria and Bohemia.
As a young mother with three children and a fourth one on the way, many princes and politicians took advantage of the young woman. Of all of them, King Frederick, lead the charge to expand Prussia’s power at Austria’s expense. In the intervening years, King Frederick became a soldier-king like his father. He demands Silesia as his birthright. Maria Theresa is silent. Silesia is important strategically and was rich in culture. So, Frederick decides to use Maria Theresa’s silence as permission to take it.
Maria Theresa was shocked at the outrage towards her kingdom. It was theft and she called Frederick an evil man for taking it. She turned to her Hungarian subjects. With her son in her arms, she gave a stirring speech to the Hungarian Nobles asking for troops. The Hungarians rallied to her cause and they were given additional rights in the Empire.
For four years the war went on. The Prussian Army showed itself superior to the Austrian troops. Fortunes turn on at a time during the war. Frederick sends Maria Theresa an offer. Frederick dangles the crown of the Holy Roman Empire in front of Maria Theresa and her husband. As a woman, she could not wear the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, but her husband could. So Francis was crowned as Holy Roman Empire and she would rule behind the scenes. They could take Silesia later.
Frederick returns to Brandenburg to cheering crowds. With the war over, he focuses on building a capital city. He works on building Berlin. It became a city of culture as well as industry. He even established a porcelain factory, which filled his coffers. However, the city could become chaotic and so he established a palace outside the city where he could have peace. Voltaire comes and visits Frederick and his palace.
To continue to learn more about Frederick and the Empress watch the rest of the documentary.
You can access the YouTube Video here.
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