Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia (1828–1885)

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Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia
Prinz Friedrich Carl.jpg
Born20 March 1828
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia
Died15 June 1885(1885-06-15) (aged 57)
Jagdschloss Glienicke, Potsdam, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
(m. 1854)
IssuePrincess Marie
Elisabeth, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Oldenburg
Princess Anna Victoria
Princess Louise Margaret, Duchess of Connaught and Strathearn
Prince Friedrich Leopold
Friedrich Karl Nikolaus
FatherPrince Charles of Prussia
MotherPrincess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
Military career
Allegiance Kingdom of Prussia
 German Empire
Service/branch Prussian Army
 Imperial German Army
Commands heldIII Corps
First Army
Second Army
Battles/warsFirst Schleswig War
Second Schleswig War
Austro-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
AwardsPour le Mérite (Grand Cross)
Iron Cross (Grand Cross)
Order of the Black Eagle

Prince Friedrich Karl Nikolaus of Prussia (20 March 1828 – 15 June 1885) was the son of Prince Charles of Prussia (1801–1883) and his wife, Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1808–1877). Prince Friedrich Karl was a grandson of King Frederick William III of Prussia and a nephew of Frederick William IV and William I.

As a military commander, the Prince had a major influence on the Royal Prussian Army's advances in training and tactics in the 1850s and 1860s. He commanded one of the armies which defeated the Austrian army at the Battle of Königgrätz in 1866 and the French Army of the Rhine at the Battle of Mars-la-Tour, overseeing the defeat of the Army of the Rhine at the Siege of Metz in 1870.


Friedrich Karl was born at the Royal Palace in Berlin on 20 March 1828, as the only son of Prince Charles of Prussia, the brother of future German emperor William I. From 1842 to 1846, Frederick Charles was under the military tutelage of then Major Albrecht von Roon. In 1845, the Prince joined the army and was sent to an infantry company. Roon accompanied the Prince to the University of Bonn in 1846. He was the first Hohenzollern prince to study in a university.[1] He became a member of the Corps Borussia Bonn in 1847 and was awarded Prussia's Lifesaving Medal for rescuing a child from the Rhine the same year. After his studies, the Prince went back to his regiment in 1848, where he was promoted to captain. His company was issued the breech-loading Dreyse needle gun and the Prince produced an article on its probable future impact, writing that the troops could be prevented from firing off all their ammunition through good training and discipline.[citation needed] He served on Friedrich Graf von Wrangel's staff during the First Schleswig War of 1848. During the war Friedrich Karl received the Pour le Mérite.[1] He shifted to the cavalry branch in October 1848 and was promoted to major in June 1849. He partook in a campaign in the Baden Revolution of 1849, during which he was wounded twice while leading a Guards Hussar squadron at the battle of Wiesenthal against Baden rebels. He continued to lead his squadron up till 1852.

In 1851, the Prince wrote a radical field manual for light troops, underlining the importance of training individual soldiers to take the initiative and not wait for orders. During the following peace years he was promoted to colonel in 1852 and granted the command of the Guards Dragoon Regiment, where he introduced realistic field exercises and insisted on combat readiness. He became major general and commander of the 1st Guards Cavalry Brigade in 1854 and lieutenant general in 1856. He commanded the 1st Guards Infantry Division from 19 February to 18 September 1857, but resigned after encountering significant opposition to his approach on training. In 1859, he published the study On French Tactics, which highlighted the decisiveness of troop morale. In 1860, the Prince published a military book, titled, "Eine militärische Denkschrift von P. F. K.", which contained a series of reform proposals. As commander of III Army Corps from 1 July 1860 to 17 July 1870, the Prince implemented his reforms and turned his corps into a leader in Prussian military innovation.

Promoted to General der Kavallerie, the Prince took part in the Second Schleswig War of 1864 against Denmark, where he held command over the Prussian troops in the Austro-Prussian expeditionary force and defeated the Danes at the Battle of Dybbøl. In May 1864, he became supreme commander of the Austro-Prussian allied army and conquered Jutland.

He served with distinction in the Austro-Prussian War where he commanded the First Army, consisting of the II, III, IV, and Cavalry corps.[2][3] At the start of the war the prince's army marched to the East. This caused a gap between the First Army and the Second Army, however enabled it to link up with the Army of the Elbe. On June 28, the Prince and Karl Eberhard Herwarth von Bittenfeld attacked the Austrian Army at Munchengratz. They gained a victory in that battle and caused the Austrians to retreat to Jičín. On 29 June 1866, the prince ordered August von Werder, commanding the 3rd Division, to fight against the Austrians at Jičín. The 3rd Division was victorious in the resulting Battle of Gitschin but the campaign was ill regarded by the headquarters as it was outside of the strategic plans of King William of Prussia. Friedrich Karl was disappointed by the German General Staff in return. Meanwhile the combined operation of the two armies strained the supply lines and both Armies were starving.[4] Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke inferred that the operational aim of Friedrich Karl was not to unite with the Second Army at Jičín but to capture Prague on his own.[5] Before the Battle of Königgrätz, the troops of the prince were at Kamenitz.[6] By his command the First Army was the first to arrive at Königgrätz.[7] Along with the Army of the Elbe,[8] the First Army held the numerically superior Austrians at bay for seven hours from 08:00 to 15:00, inflicting such massive casualties on the Austrians that it took the arrival of just one division from the Second Army, the latter commanded by his cousin the Crown Prince Frederick William, to complete the victory and cause the Austrians to order a general withdrawal at 15:00. The First Army then marched on Vienna. After the war, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Pour le Mérite.

Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia wearing his Grand Cross of the Iron Cross

He was elected to the North German Reichstag in the February 1867 North German federal election, representing the East Prussian constituency of Labiau-Wehlau.

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, the Prince was given command of the Second Army, and defeated the French Army of the Rhine at the Battle of Mars-la-Tour on 16 August 1870, cutting off its escape route to the west. The battle was followed by another victory at Gravelotte-St.Privat on 18 August and the encirclement and annihilation of the Army of the Rhine at the Siege of Metz. After the fall of Metz on 27 October, his army was sent to the Loire to clear the area around Orléans, where French armies, first under Aurelle de Paladines, then under Chanzy, were trying to march north to relieve Paris. He won battles at Orléans on 2 December and Le Mans from 10–12 January 1871. For his services he was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall. After the war, the Prince was made Inspector-General and was given the rank of Field Marshal of Russia by Alexander II of Russia.

He died of a heart attack at Jagdschloss Glienicke on 15 June 1885. He became the namesake of SMS Friedrich Carl.


On 29 November 1854 at Dessau he married Princess Maria Anna of Anhalt-Dessau (1837–1906), daughter of Leopold IV, Duke of Anhalt. He had met her at a hunt. They had five children:

Name Birth Death Notes
Princess Marie Elisabeth Luise Friederike of Prussia 14 September 1855 20 June 1888 married twice (1) Prince Henry of the Netherlands; (2) Prince Albert of Saxe-Altenburg
Princess Elisabeth Anna of Prussia 8 February 1857 28 August 1895 married Frederick Augustus II, Grand Duke of Oldenburg
Princess Anna Viktoria Charlotte Auguste Adelheid of Prussia 26 February 1858[9] 6 May 1858[9]
Princess Luise Margarete Alexandra Viktoria Agnes of Prussia 25 July 1860 14 March 1917 married Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
Prince Joachim Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Leopold of Prussia 14 November 1865 13 September 1931 married Princess Louise Sophie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg


He received the following decorations and awards:[10]

German honours
Foreign honours


Portrayal in media[edit]


  • Wagner, Arthur Lockwood (1899). The Campaign of Königgrätz: A Study of the Austro-Prussian Conflict in the Light of the American Civil War.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  • Moltke, Helmuth von (1867). The Campaign of 1866 in Germany.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  • Geoffrey, Wawro (1997). The Austro-Prussian War: Austria's War with Prussia and Italy in 1866. ISBN 978-0-521-62951-5.


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  4. ^ Wagner 1899, p. 25.
  5. ^ Geoffrey 1997, p. 182-183.
  6. ^ Moltke 1867, p. 167.
  7. ^ Moltke 1867, p. 177.
  8. ^ Moltke 1877, p. 181.
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  15. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Baden (1862), "Großherzogliche Orden" pp. 32, 37, 44
  16. ^ Hof- und Staats ... Baden (1873), "Großherzogliche Orden", p. 63
  17. ^ "Königliche Orden", Hof- und – Staatshandbuch des Königreichs Bayern (in German), Munich: Druck and Verlag, 1882, p. 7 – via
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  21. ^ Kurfürstlich Hessisches Hof- und Staatshandbuch: 1855. Waisenhaus. 1855. p. 12.
  22. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Hessen (1879), "Großherzogliche Orden und Ehrenzeichen" pp. 10, 130
  23. ^ Hof- und Staatshandbuch des Großherzogtums Oldenburg: für das Jahr 1872/73, "Der Großherzogliche Haus-und Verdienst Orden" p. 31
  24. ^ Staatshandbuch für das Großherzogtum Sachsen / Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1846), "Großherzogliche Hausorden" p. 10
  25. ^ Staatshandbuch für den Freistaat Sachsen: 1873. Heinrich. 1873. pp. 4, 35.
  26. ^ Württemberg (1873). Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreichs Württemberg: 1873. p. 71.
  27. ^ "Ritter-Orden", Hof- und Staatshandbuch der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, 1884, pp. 117, 121, retrieved 13 June 2020
  28. ^ Almanach royal officiel de Belgique. Librairie polytechnique De Decq. 1868. p. 52.
  29. ^ Kalakaua to his sister, 4 August 1881, quoted in Greer, Richard A. (editor, 1967) "The Royal Tourist—Kalakaua's Letters Home from Tokio to London", Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 5, p. 104
  30. ^ "Hohenzollern Principe Federico Carlo" (in Italian), Il sito ufficiale della Presidenza della Repubblica. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  31. ^ Cibrario, Luigi (1869). Notizia storica del nobilissimo ordine supremo della santissima Annunziata. Sunto degli statuti, catalogo dei cavalieri (in Italian). Eredi Botta. p. 121. Retrieved 2019-03-04.
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  36. ^ Shaw, Wm. A. (1906) The Knights of England, I, London, p. 197