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The Kingdom of Prussia (German: Knigreich Preuen) was a kingdom that

constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918 and included parts of
present-day Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium and the
Czech Republic.[3] It was the driving force behind the unification of Germany in
1871, and was the leading state of the German Empire until its dissolution in
1918.[3] Although it took its name from the region called Prussia, it was based in
Brandenburg, where its capital was Berlin.

The kings of Prussia were Hohenzollerns. Prussia was a great power from the time
it became a kingdom, through its predecessor, Brandenburg-Prussia, which
became a military power under Frederick William, known as "The Great Elector".

Prussia continued its reign of power under the guidance of Frederick II (Frederick
the Great), the third son of Frederick William I of Prussia.[8] Frederick the Great
was credited for starting the Seven Years' War, holding his own against Austria,
Russia, France and Sweden and establishing Prussias role in the German states,
as well as establishing the country as a European great power.[9] After the might
of Prussia was revealed it became a major power for the German states.
Throughout the next hundred years they went on to win many battles for the
German states.[10] It was because of their power that they continuously tried to
unify all the German states under their rule. After the Napoleonic wars the issue
of unifying Germany into one country caused revolution throughout the German
states each wanting their own constitution.[3] Prussia tried once unsuccessfully
to unify German states and end the fighting. The first was called the North
German Confederation lasted from 1867-1871 and included many but not all of
the German states.[3] It was seen as more of an alliance of military strength in
the aftermath of the Austro-Prussian War but many of its laws were later used in
the German empire. The German Empire lasted from 1871-1918 and was the
successful unification of all the German states under Prussian power.[3] This was
due to the defeat of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. The
war united all the German states against a common enemy, and with the victory
came an overwhelming wave of patriotism which changed the opinions of those
against unification. In 1871, Germany unified into a single country with Prussia
the dominant power.[3] Prussia is considered the legal predecessor of the unified
German Reich (18711945) and as such a direct ancestor of today's Federal
Republic of Germany.[3] The formal abolition of Prussia, carried out on 25
February 1947 by the fiat of the Allied Control Council referred to an alleged
tradition of the kingdom as a bearer of militarism and reaction, and made way for
the current setup of the German states. However, the Free State of Prussia
(German: Freistaat Preuen), which had followed the abolition of the Kingdom of
Prussia in the aftermath of World War I, was a major democratic force in Weimar
Germany until the nationalist coup of 1932 known as the Preuenschlag. The
Kingdom left a significant cultural legacy, today notably promoted by the
Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (German: Stiftung Preuischer Kulturbesitz

(SPK)), which has become one of the largest cultural organisations in the world.


1 History
1.1 Establishment
1.2 The Great Northern War: 1700-1721
1.3 17011721: Results of Thirty-Years' War and The Great Northern War
1.4 17401760: Silesian Wars
1.5 1772, 1793, and 1795: Partitions of PolishLithuanian Commonwealth
1.6 18011815: Napoleonic Wars
1.7 1815: After Napoleon
1.8 18481871: German wars of unification
1.9 18711918: Peak and fall
2 Politics
3 Religion
4 Subdivisions
5 See also
6 References

Main articles: Brandenburg-Prussia and King in Prussia

In 1415, a Hohenzollern Burgrave came from the south to the March of

Brandenburg and took control of the area as elector.[3] Although this desolate
area had none of the properties of the Prussia history knows, in four hundred and
fifty years this area became the most important German state in all of Europe.[3]
In 1417, the Hohenzollern, knelt at the feet of the Luxemburg Caesar and was
made an elector of the Holy Roman Empire.[3] No one could have imagined the
impact it would have not only to the German states but Europe as a whole.

After the Polish wars, the newly established Baltic towns of German states
including Prussia, suffered many setbacks in their economy.[12] Many of the
Prussian towns could not even afford to attend meetings of politics outside of
Prussia. The towns suffered in poverty, even the largest town of Danzig, had to
borrow money from elsewhere to pay for trade.[12] Poverty in these towns was
mainly caused by Prussias neighbors who had a monopoly on trading that these
new towns could not compete with. These issues with Prussias neighbors led to
feuds, wars, trade competition and invasions.[12] However, the death of these
towns gave rise to the nobility, separated the east and the west, and allowed the
urban middle class of Brandenburg to prosper.[12]

It was clear in 1440 how different Brandenburg was from the other German
territories, as it faced two dangers that the other German territories did not. Not
only did it face partition from within but also the threat of its neighbors.[3] It
prevented the issue of partition by enacting the Dispositio Achillea which instilled
the principle of primogeniture to both the Brandenburg and Franconian
territories.[3] The second danger was solved through expansion. Brandenburg
was surrounded on every side by neighbors whose boundaries were merely
political.[3] Any neighbor could attack and consume Brandenburg at any
moment. The only way to defend herself was to absorb her neighbors before they
absorbed her.[3] Through negotiations and marriages Brandenburg slowly but
surely expanded her borders, absorbing her neighbors and eliminating the threat
of attack. The absence of conquest through fighting and bloodshed for the first 2
centuries of Brandenburg expansion is only a hint to how powerful the area of
Brandenburg, and therefore Prussia would become.[3]

The Hohenzollerns had been made rulers of Brandenburg, a state of the Holy
Roman Empire, in 1518. In 1529, the Hohenzollerns had secured the reversion to
the Duchy of Pomerania after a series of conflicts, and acquired its eastern part
following the Peace of Westphalia.

In 1618, the Hohenzollerns inherited the Duchy of Prussia, a fief of Poland; it was
ruled in a personal union with Brandenburg, known as "Brandenburg-Prussia". In
the course of the Second Northern War, the treaties of Labiau and WehlauBromberg granted the Hohenzollerns full sovereignty over the Prussian duchy by

In return for an alliance against France in the War of the Spanish Succession, the
Great Elector's son, Frederick III, was allowed to elevate Prussia to a kingdom in
1701. Frederick crowned himself "King in Prussia" as Frederick I on 18 January.
Legally, no kingdoms could exist in the Holy Roman Empire except for Bohemia.

However, Frederick took the line that since Prussia had never been part of the
empire and the Hohenzollerns were fully sovereign over it, he could elevate
Prussia to a kingdom.

The style "King in Prussia" was adopted to acknowledge the legal fiction that the
Hohenzollerns were legally kings only in their former duchy. In Brandenburg and
the portions of their domains that were still part of the Empire, they were still
legally only electors under the overlordship of the emperor. However, by this time
the emperor's authority was only nominal. The rulers of the empire's various
territories acted largely as the rulers of sovereign states, and only acknowledged
the emperor's suzerainty in a formal way. While the personal union between
Brandenburg and Prussia legally continued until the end of the empire in 1806,
from 1701 onward Brandenburg was de facto treated as an integral part of the
kingdom. Since the Hohenzollerns were nominally still subjects of the emperor
within the parts of their domains that were part of the empire, they continued to
use the additional title of Elector of Brandenburg until the empire ceased. It was
not until 1772 that the title was changed to "King of Prussia".
The Great Northern War: 1700-1721

The Great Northern War was the first major conflict the new Kingdom of Prussia
was involved in. Starting in 1700, the Great Northern War consisted of a coalition
led by Tsarist Russia and the dominant European power at the time the Swedish
Empire. Frederick William in 1705 tried to get Prussia involved in the war, stating
"best Prussia has her own army and make her own decisions."[13] However his
views were not considered accepted by those in power. It was not until 1713 that
Frederick William gained full royal powers.[13] Therefore in 1715, Prussia, led by
Frederick William, joined the coalition for various reasons.[13] The most
important being the danger of getting attacked from both her rear and the sea,
her claims on Pomerania and the fact that if she stood aside and Sweden lost she
would not get a share of the territory.[3][13] Prussia turned the tides of the war,
their armies helped push the Swedish army out of the Pomerania which
eventually lead to the Swedish Empire surrender. It was this surrender that led to
the Treaty of Stockholm in which Prussia expanded its empire by obtaining the
previously Swedish territory of Pomerania. The Great Northern War not only
marked the end of the Swedish Empire but also introduced Prussia and Russia as
new powers in Europe.[14]
17011721: Results of Thirty-Years' War and The Great Northern War

The Kingdom of Prussia was poor in natural resources and devastated from the
Thirty Years' War. Its territory was disjointed. It stretched 1,200 km (750 mi): from
the lands of the Duchy of Prussia on the south-east coast of the Baltic Sea to the
Hohenzollern heartland of Brandenburg, and the exclaves of Cleves, Mark and
Ravensberg in the Rhineland. In 1708, about one third of the population of the

Duchy of Prussia died of bubonic plague.[15] The plague reached Prenzlau in

August 1710, but receded before it could reach the capital Berlin, which was only
80 km (50 mi) away.

Sweden's defeat by Russia, Saxony, Poland, DenmarkNorway, Hanover, and

Prussia in the Great Northern War (17001721) marked the end of significant
Swedish power on the southern shores of the Baltic Sea. In the course of the
Pomeranian campaign and by the Prusso-Swedish Treaty of Stockholm (January
1720), Prussia gained southern Swedish Pomerania with Stettin (Szczecin).

The Great Elector incorporated the Junkers, the landed aristocracy, into his
empire's bureaucracy and military machine. A vested interest in the Prussian
Army and compulsory education.[16] King Frederick William I inaugurated the
Prussian compulsory system in 1717.[16]
17401760: Silesian Wars
Main article: Silesian Wars
Prussian territorial acquisitions in the 18th c.

In 1740, King Frederick II (Frederick the Great) came to the throne. Using the
pretext of a 1537 treaty (vetoed by Emperor Ferdinand I) by which parts of Silesia
were to pass to Brandenburg after the extinction of its ruling Piast dynasty,
Frederick invaded Silesia, thereby beginning the War of the Austrian Succession.
After rapidly occupying Silesia, Frederick offered to protect Archduchess Maria
Theresa of Austria if the province were turned over to him. The offer was
rejected, but Austria faced several other opponents, and Frederick was eventually
able to gain formal cession with the Treaty of Berlin in 1742.

To the surprise of many, Austria managed to renew the war successfully. In 1744,
Frederick invaded again to forestall reprisals and to claim, this time, the province
of Bohemia. He failed, but French pressure on Austria's ally Great Britain led to a
series of treaties and compromises, culminating in the 1748 Treaty of Aix-laChapelle that restored peace and left Prussia in possession of most of Silesia.

Humiliated by the cession of Silesia, Austria worked to secure an alliance with

France and Russia (the "Diplomatic Revolution"), while Prussia drifted into Great
Britain's camp forming the Anglo-Prussian Alliance. When Frederick preemptively
invaded Saxony and Bohemia over the course of a few months in 17561757, he
initiated the Seven Years' War which might also be considered the first world war
since it was fought in the three continents (France and Great Britain's colonies).

This war was a desperate struggle for the Prussian Army, and the fact that it
managed to fight much of Europe to a draw bears witness to Frederick's military
skills. Facing Austria, Russia, France, and Sweden simultaneously, and with only
Hanover (and the non-continental British) as notable allies, Frederick managed to
prevent serious invasion until October 1760, when the Russian army briefly
occupied Berlin and Knigsberg. The situation became progressively grimmer,
however, until the death of Empress Elizabeth of Russia (Miracle of the House of
Brandenburg). The accession of the Prussophile Peter III relieved the pressure on
the eastern front. Sweden also exited the war at about the same time.

Defeating the Austrian army at the Battle of Burkersdorf and relying on

continuing British success against France in the war's colonial theatres, Prussia
was finally able to force a status quo ante bellum on the continent. This result
confirmed Prussia's major role within the German states and established the
country as a European great power. Frederick, appalled by the near-defeat of
Prussia, lived out his days as a much more peaceable ruler.
1772, 1793, and 1795: Partitions of PolishLithuanian Commonwealth
Wappen Mark Brandenburg.png
Wappen Preuen.png

History of Brandenburg and Prussia

Northern March
pre12th century

Old Prussians

pre13th century
Margraviate of Brandenburg
11571618 (1806) Teutonic Order
Duchy of Prussia
15251618 Royal (Polish) Prussia
Kingdom in Prussia

Kingdom of Prussia
Free State of Prussia
19181947 Klaipda Region
19201939 / 1945present
19471952 / 1990present

Recovered Territories


Kaliningrad Oblast

Main articles: Partitions of Poland and Kociuszko Uprising

To the east and south of Prussia, the PolishLithuanian Commonwealth had

gradually weakened during the 18th century. Alarmed by increasing Russian
influences in Polish affairs and by a possible expansion of the Russian Empire,
Frederick was instrumental in initiating the first of the Partitions of Poland
between Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1772 to maintain a balance of power.
[citation needed] The Kingdom of Prussia annexed most of the Polish province of
Royal Prussia, including Warmia; the annexed land was organized the following
year into the Province of West Prussia. The new territory connected the Province
of East Prussia (the territory previously known as the Duchy of Prussia) with the
Province of Pomerania, uniting the kingdom's eastern territories.

After Frederick died in 1786, his nephew Fredrick William II continued the
partitions, gaining a large part of western Poland in 1793.

In 1795, the Kingdom of Poland ceased to exist and a large area (including
Warsaw) to the south of East Prussia became part of Prussia. These new
territories were organized into the Provinces of New Silesia, South Prussia, and
New East Prussia.

18011815: Napoleonic Wars

Main article: Napoleonic Wars
Prussia (orange) and its territories lost after the War of the Fourth Coalition (other

The Treaty of Basel (1795) ended the War of the First Coalition against France. In
it, the First French Republic and Prussia had stipulated that the latter would
ensure the Holy Roman Empire's neutrality in all the latter's territories north of
the demarcation line of the river Main, including the British continental dominions
of the Electorate of Hanover and the Duchies of Bremen-Verden. To this end,
Hanover (including Bremen-Verden) also had to provide troops for the so-called
demarcation army maintaining this state of armed neutrality.

In the course of the War of the Second Coalition against France (17991802)
Napoleon Bonaparte urged Prussia to occupy the continental British dominions. In
1801, 24,000 Prussian soldiers invaded, surprising Hanover, which surrendered
without a fight. In April 1801, the Prussian troops arrived in Bremen-Verden's
capital Stade and stayed there until October of the same year. The United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland first ignored Prussia's hostility, but when it
joined the pro-French coalition of armed "neutral" powers such as Denmark
Norway and Russia, Britain started to capture Prussian sea vessels. After the
battle of Copenhagen the coalition fell apart and Prussia withdrew again its

At Napoleon's instigation, Prussia recaptured British Hanover and Bremen-Verden

in early 1806. On August 6 of the same year, the Holy Roman Empire was
dissolved as a result of Napolon's victories over Austria. The title of Kurfrst
(Prince-elector) of Brandenburg became meaningless, and was dropped.
Nonetheless, Frederick William III was now de jure as well as de facto sovereign of
all of the Hohenzollern domains.[17] Before this time, the Hohenzollern sovereign
had held many titles and crowns, from Supreme Governor of the Protestant
Churches (summus episcopus) to King, Elector, Grand Duke, Duke for the various
regions and realms under his rule. After 1806, he was simply King of Prussia and
summus episcopus.

But when Prussia, after it turned against the French Empire, was defeated in the
Battle of JenaAuerstedt (October 14, 1806), Frederick William III was forced to
temporarily flee to remote Memel. After the Treaties of Tilsit in 1807, Prussia lost
about half of its territory, including the land gained from the Second and Third
Partitions of Poland (which now fell to the Duchy of Warsaw) and all land west of
the Elbe River. France recaptured Prussian-occupied Hanover, including Bremen-

Verden. The remainder of the kingdom was occupied by French troops (at
Prussia's expense) and the king was obliged to make an alliance with France and
join the Continental System.

The Prussian reforms were a reaction to the Prussian defeat in 1806 and the
Treaties of Tilsit. It describes a series of constitutional, administrative, social and
economic reforms of the kingdom of Prussia. They are sometimes known as the
Stein-Hardenberg Reforms after Karl Freiherr vom Stein and Karl August Frst von
Hardenberg, their main instigators.

After the defeat of Napoleon in Russia in 1812, Prussia quit the alliance and took
part in the Sixth Coalition during the "Wars of Liberation" (Befreiungskriege)
against the French occupation. Prussian troops under Marshal Gebhard Leberecht
von Blcher contributed crucially in the Battle of Waterloo of 1815 to the final
victory over Napoleon.
1815: After Napoleon
Expansion of Prussia 18071871

Prussias reward for its part in France's defeat came at the Congress of Vienna. It
regained most of its pre-1806 territory. Notable exceptions included much of the
territory annexed in the Second and Third Partitions of Poland, which became
Congress Poland under Russian rule. It also didn't regain several of its former
towns in the south. However, as compensation it picked up some new territory,
including 40% of the Kingdom of Saxony and much of Westphalia and the
Rhineland. Prussia now stretched uninterrupted from the Niemen in the east to
the Elbe in the west, and possessed a chain of disconnected territories west of
the Elbe.

With these gains in territory, the kingdom was reorganised into ten provinces.
Most of the kingdom, aside from the Provinces of East Prussia, West Prussia, and
Posen, became part of the new German Confederation, a confederacy of 39
sovereign states replacing the defunct Holy Roman Empire.

Frederick William III submitted Prussia to a number of administrative reforms,

among others reorganising the government by way of ministries, which remained
formative for the following hundred years.

As to religion, reformed Calvinist Frederick William IIIas Supreme Governor of

the Protestant Churchesasserted his long-cherished project (started in 1798) to

unite the Lutheran and the Reformed Church in 1817, (see Prussian Union). The
Calvinist minority, strongly supported by its co-religionist Frederick William III,
and the partially reluctant Lutheran majority formed the united Protestant
Evangelical Church in Prussia. However, ensuing quarrels causing a permanent
schism among the Lutherans into united and Old Lutherans by 1830.

As a consequence of the Revolutions of 1848, the Principalities of HohenzollernSigmaringen and Hohenzollern-Hechingen (ruled by a Catholic cadet branch of
the House of Hohenzollern) were annexed by Prussia in 1850, later united as
Province of Hohenzollern.
18481871: German wars of unification

For the half-century that followed the Congress of Vienna, there was a conflict of
ideals within the German Confederation between the formation of a single
German nation and the conservation of the current collection of smaller German
states and kingdoms. The creation of the German Customs Union (Zollverein) in
1834, which excluded the Austrian Empire, increased Prussian influence over the
member states. As a consequence of the Revolutions of 1848, King Frederick
William IV was offered the crown of a united Germany by the Frankfurt
Parliament. Frederick William refused the offer on the grounds that revolutionary
assemblies could not grant royal titles. But there were two other reasons why he
refused: to do so would have done little to end the internal power struggle
between Austria and Prussia, and all Prussian kings (up to and including William I)
feared that the formation of a German Empire would mean the end of Prussia's
independence within the German states.

In 1848, actions taken by Denmark towards the Duchies of Schleswig and

Holstein led to the First War of Schleswig (184851) between Denmark and the
German Confederation. Denmark won.

Frederick William issued Prussia's first constitution by his own authority in 1848.
This documentmoderate by the standards of the time but conservative by
today's standardsprovided for a two-house parliament. The lower house, or
Landtag was elected by all taxpayers, who were divided into three classes whose
votes were weighted according to the amount of taxes paid. Women and those
who paid no taxes had no vote. This allowed just over one-third of the voters to
choose 85% of the legislature, all but assuring dominance by the more well-to-do
men of the population. The upper house, which was later renamed the
Herrenhaus ("House of Lords"), was appointed by the king. He retained full
executive authority and ministers were responsible only to him (indeed, as late as
1910, Prussian kings believed that they ruled by divine right). As a result, the grip

of the landowning classes, the Junkers, remained unbroken, especially in the

eastern provinces.

Frederick William suffered a stroke in 1857, and his younger brother, Prince
William, became regent. William pursued a considerably more moderate. Upon
Frederick William IV's death in 1861, he succeeded to the throne as William I.
However, shortly after gaining the throne, he faced a dispute with his parliament
over the size of the army. The parliament, dominated by the liberals, balked at
William's desire to increase the number of regiments and withheld approval of
the budget to pay for its cost. A deadlock ensued, and William seriously
considered abdicating in favour of his son, Crown Prince Frederick William. He
was, however, persuaded to appoint as prime minister Otto von Bismarck, his
ambassador to France. Bismarck took office on September 23, 1862.

Although Bismarck had a reputation as an unyielding conservative, he was

initially inclined to seek a compromise over the budget issue. However, William
refused to consider it; he viewed defence issues as the crown's personal
province. Forced into a policy of confrontation, Bismarck came up with a novel
theory. Under the constitution, the king and the parliament were responsible for
agreeing on the budget. Bismarck argued that since they had failed to come to
an agreement, there was a "hole" in the constitution, and the government had to
continue to collect taxes and disburse funds in accordance with the old budget in
order to keep functioning. The government thus operated without a new budget
from 1862 to 1866, allowing Bismarck to implement William's military reforms.

The liberals violently denounced Bismarck for what they saw as his disregard for
the fundamental law of the kingdom. However, Bismarck's real plan was an
accommodation with liberalism. Although he had opposed German unification
earlier in his career, he had now come to believe that it was inevitable. To his
mind, the conservative forces had to take the lead in the drive toward creating a
unified nation in order to keep from being eclipsed. He also believed that the
middle-class liberals wanted a unified Germany more than they wanted to break
the grip of the traditional forces over society. He thus embarked on a drive to
create a united Germany under Prussian leadership, and guided Prussia through
three wars which ultimately achieved this goal.

The first of these wars was the Second War of Schleswig (1864), which Prussia
initiated and succeeded in gaining the assistance of Austria. Denmark was
soundly defeated and surrendered both Schleswig and Holstein, to Prussia and
Austria respectively.
Aftermath of the Austro-Prussian War (1866)

Prussian allies: Italy and 14 German states[18]
Austrian allies: 11 German states[19]
Neutral states: Liechtenstein, Limburg, Luxembourg, Reuss-Schleiz, SaxeWeimar-Eisenach, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt
Prussian acquisitions: Hanover, Schleswig-Holstein, Hessian Hinterland, HesseKassel, Nassau and Frankfurt

The divided administration of Schleswig and Holstein then became the trigger for
the Austro-Prussian War (1866also known as the Seven Weeks' War), where
Prussia, allied with the Kingdom of Italy and various northern German states,
declared war on the Austrian Empire. The Austrian-led coalition was crushed, and
Prussia annexed four of its smaller alliesthe Kingdom of Hanover, the Electorate
of Hesse, the Duchy of Nassau and the Free City of Frankfurt. Prussia also
annexed Schleswig and Holstein, and also effectively annexed Saxe-Lauenburg by
forcing it into a personal union with Prussia (which was turned into a full union in
1876). King William initially wanted to take territory from Austria itself, but
Bismarck persuaded him to abandon the idea. While Bismarck wanted Austria to
play no future role in German affairs, he still saw that Austria could be a valuable
future ally.

With these gains in territory, the Prussian possessions in the Rhineland and
Westphalia were connected to the rest of the kingdom for the first time. Counting
the de facto annexation of Saxe-Lauenburg, Prussia now stretched uninterrupted
across the northern two-thirds of Germany. It would remain at this size until the
overthrow of the monarchy in 1918.

Bismarck used this opportunity to end the budget dispute with parliament. He
proposed a bill of indemnity granting him retroactive approval for governing
without a legal budget. He guessed, correctly as it turned out, that this would
lead to a split between his liberal adversaries. While some of them argued that
there could be no compromise with the principle of constitutional government,
most of the liberals decided to support the bill in hopes of winning more freedom
in the future.

The German Confederation was dissolved as part of the war. In its place, Prussia
cajoled the 21 states north of the Main into forming the North German
Confederation in 1867. Prussia was the dominant state in this new grouping, with

four-fifths of its territory and populationmore than the other members of the
confederation combined. Its near-total control was cemented in a constitution
written by Bismarck. Executive power was vested in a presidenta hereditary
office of the rulers of Prussia. He was assisted by a chancellor responsible only to
him. There was also a two-house parliament. The lower house, or Reichstag
(Diet), was elected by universal male suffrage. The upper house, or Bundesrat
(Federal Council) was appointed by the state governments. The Bundesrat was, in
practice, the stronger chamber. Prussia had 17 of 43 votes, and could easily
control proceedings through alliances with the other states. For all intents and
purposes, the new grouping was dominated by Bismarck. He served as his own
foreign minister for virtually his entire tenure as prime minister of Prussia, and in
that capacity was able to instruct the Prussian delegates to the Bundesrat.

The southern German states (except Austria) were forced to accept military
alliances with Prussia, and Prussia began steps to merge them with the North
German Confederation. Bismarck's planned Kleindeutschland unification of
Germany had come considerably closer to realisation.

The final act was the Franco-Prussian War (1870), where Bismarck maneuvered
Emperor Napoleon III of France into declaring war on Prussia. Activating the
German alliances put in place after the Austro-Prussian War, the German states
came together and swiftly defeated France, even managing to take Napoleon
prisoner. Even before then, Bismarck was able to complete the work of unifying
Germany under Prussian leadership. The patriotic fervour aroused by the war
with France overwhelmed the remaining opponents of a unified nation, and on 18
January 1871 (the 170th anniversary of the coronation of the first Prussian king,
Frederick I), the German Empire was proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles
outside of Paris, while the French capital was still under siege. King William
became the first emperor of a unified Germany.
18711918: Peak and fall
Main article: German Empire
Prussia in the German Empire 18711918

Bismarck's new empire was the most powerful state on the Continent. Prussia's
dominance over the new empire was almost as absolute as it was with the North
German Confederation. It included two-thirds of the empire's territory and threefifths of its population. The imperial crown was a hereditary office of the House of
Hohenzollern. Prussia also had a large plurality of seats in the Bundesrat, and as
before could control the proceedings with the support of its allies in the
secondary states. The Imperial Army was essentially an enlarged Prussian army,
and the embassies of the new empire were mostly old Prussian embassies. The

constitution of the German Empire was essentially an amended version of the

constitution of the North German Confederation.

However, the seeds for future problems lay in a gross disparity between the
imperial and Prussian systems. The empire granted the vote to all men over 25.
However, Prussia retained its restrictive three-class voting system, in which the
well-to-do had 17 times the voting power of the rest of the population. Since
the imperial chancellor was, except for two periods (JanuaryNovember 1873 and
189294) also prime minister of Prussia, this meant that for most of the empire's
existence, the king/emperor and prime minister/chancellor had to seek majorities
from legislatures elected by two completely different franchises.

At the time of the empire's creation, both Prussia and Germany were roughly twothirds rural. Within 20 years, the situation was reversed; the cities and towns
accounted for two-thirds of the population. However, in both the kingdom and the
empire, the constituencies were never redrawn to reflect the growing population
and influence of the cities and towns. This meant that rural areas were grossly
overrepresented from the 1890s onward.

Bismarck realised that the rest of Europe was sceptical of his powerful new Reich,
and turned his attention to preserving peace with such acts as the Congress of
Berlin. The new German Empire improved its already-strong relations with Britain.
The ties between London and Berlin had already been sealed with a golden braid
in 1858, when Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia married Princess Victoria
of Britain.

William I died in 1888, and the Crown Prince succeeded to the throne as Frederick
III. The new emperor, a decided Anglophile, planned to transform Prussia and the
empire into a more liberal and democratic monarchy based on the British model.
However, Frederick was already ill with inoperable throat cancer, and died after
only 99 days on the throne. He was succeeded by his 29-year-old son, William II.
As a boy, William had rebelled against his parents' efforts to mould him as a
liberal, and had become thoroughly Prussianised under Bismarck's tutelage. The
new Kaiser rapidly soured relations with the British and Russian royal families
(despite being closely related to them), becoming their rival and ultimately their
[icon] This section requires expansion. (June 2008)
Prussian King's Crown (Hohenzollern Castle Collection)

The Kingdom of Prussia was an absolute monarchy until the Revolutions of 1848
in the German states, after which Prussia became a constitutional monarchy and
Adolf Heinrich von Arnim-Boitzenburg was appointed as Prussia's first prime
minister. Following Prussia's first constitution, a two-house parliament was
formed. The lower house, or Landtag was elected by all taxpayers, who were
divided into three classes according to the amount of taxes paid. This allowed
just over 25% of the voters to choose 85% of the legislature, all but assuring
dominance by the more well-to-do elements of the population. The upper house,
which was later renamed the Prussian House of Lords, was appointed by the king.
He retained full executive authority and ministers were responsible only to him.
As a result, the grip of the landowning classes, the Junkers, remained unbroken,
especially in the eastern provinces. Prussian Secret Police, formed in response to
the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, aided the conservative


There were three constitutions that had been adopted during the rule of the
Prussian State, these were the Constitution of Prussia (1848), the Constitution of
Prussia (1850) and the Constitution of Prussia (1920). The constitution of 1848
was enacted and set into effect on December 5, 1848 by Frederick William IV.
This was set out in response to the revolutions of 1848. The second constitution
was enacted on January 31, 1850 and was continually amended in the following
years. The third and final constitution of the Prussian government was enacted on
November 30, 1920 and was the constitution for the Free State of Prussia.

The Constitution of 1848 occurred under the rule of Frederick William IV who took
power from his father when he died in the year 1840. After taking power, he set
an appointment of committees to confer on points of various questions. With this
the king believed that he could give a sense of unity without revolution. The
government was than cautiously brought together all members of the eight
provincial assemblies and split into two houses, a house of lords and a second
house that enveloped the three estates of the knights. The burgesses and the
peasants. Although they had no real power and the King did not consult them or
allow them to veto of argue the legislatures that were being made, it was a step
towards a constitutional state. Known as the March Days radical changes began
to occur. When the King refused to add the United Diets into an actual
representative institution, the people began to rebel. On the 18th of March the
King made the decision to agree to some concessions. However, there was
multiple stand offs with soldiers as he had not been able to stop them from
attacking even peaceful crowds. In March the king agreed to demands issued by
the people and made a number of concessions. At the May 22, 1848 convention
he put out the sketch of the new constitution. The people submitted a revised
draft on July 26, 1848. When all discussions were finished, Frederick dissolved the

convention and the constitution was official put in place on December 5, 1848.

The Constitution is separated into 105 different articles headed under eight
separate headings. The nine headings are titled The Territory of the State, The
Rights of the Prussians, The King, The Ministers, The Chambers, The Judicial
Power, Public Officials Not Belonging to the Judicial Class, The Finances and The
Communes, Circuits, Districts, and Provincial Bodies. Each of these groups varies
in numbers of articles with the seventh and ninth sections have only one article
each and the second section having forty separate articles. There have also been
fourteen provisions divided into General Provisions and Temporary Provisions.[20]

The Constitution of 1920 was officially accepted on November 30, 1920. The
document is only around four thousand words long and only barely outlines the
frame-work for the government that will follow. This document contains no bill of
rights and is more business like than others, such as the American Constitution.
There are eighty-eight sections grouped into eleven separate groups titled the
State, the Public Powers, the Diet, the Council of State, the Ministry, Legislation,
Finances, Autonomous Administration (meaning the local administration),
Religious Communities, Public Functionaries, and Regulations regarding the
Transition. As each title states, each section focuses on a different area of the
nation. As a way to insure the constitution reflects the people, there is a
procedure known as the initiative. This ensures three things, it is used to amend
the constitution, to enact, amend and repeal a statute, and it may be used to
effect the dissolution the Diet. All financial matters, such as taxation, are not
allowed to be changed through the popular vote. This constitution also divides
Prussia into fourteen provinces all represented in the Council of State.[22]
Main article: Prussia Religion

The Prussian constitution of 1850 allowed for the freedom of conscience, the
freedom of public and private worship and the freedom of association onto
religious bodies. It stated that all churches and religious associations should
administer everything independently and privately from the state and that no
part of the government may affect the Church. The constitution also stated that
all children should be taught their religion from people of their own religion and
not by someone else.[23][24]

As a breakdown of the religion of the kingdom, according to a census taken in the

early or mid 1800s, around the 1830s there was a division of six religions based
on one million people. According to this census there is 609,427.0 who are

practising Protestants, 376,177.1 practising Roman Catholics, 13,348.8 practising

the Jewish faith, 925.1 Mennonites, 121.4 from the Greek Church and 0.6

Although dominated by Protestant Lutherans (along with some Reformed), it

contained millions of Catholics in the west and in Poland. There were numerous
Catholic populations in the Rhineland and parts of Westphalia. In addition, West
Prussia, Warmia, Silesia, and the Province of Posen had predominantly Catholic
Polish-speaking populations. East Prussia's southern region of Masuria was mostly
made up of Germanised Protestant Masurs.
Main article: Provinces of Prussia
The ten provinces of the Kingdom of Prussia, after the Congress of Vienna (1815).
The other member states of the German Confederation are shown in beige. The
Canton of Neuchtel in the south-west was under Prussian administration until
Current states of Germany (shown in darker green) that are completely or mostly
situated inside the old borders of Imperial Germany's Kingdom of Prussia

The original core regions of the Kingdom of Prussia were the Margraviate of
Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia which together formed BrandenburgPrussia. A Further Pomeranian province had been held by Prussia since 1653.
Combined with Swedish Pomerania, gained from Sweden in 1720 and 1815, this
region formed the Province of Pomerania. Prussian gains in the Silesian Wars led
to the formation of the Province of Silesia in 1740.

After the First Partition of Poland in 1772, the newly annexed Royal Prussia and
Warmia became the Province of West Prussia, while the Duchy of Prussia (along
with part of Warmia) became the Province of East Prussia. Other annexations
along the Note (Netze) River became the Netze District. Following the second
and third partitions (17931795), the new Prussian annexations became the
Provinces of New Silesia, South Prussia, and New East Prussia, with the Netze
District redivided between West and South Prussia. These three provinces were
ultimately lost to Congress Poland after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, except
for the western part of South Prussia, which would form part of the Grand Duchy
of Posen.

Following the major western gains made by Prussia after the Vienna Congress, a
total of ten provinces were established, each one subdivided further into smaller
administrative regions known as Regierungsbezirke. The provinces were:

Province of Brandenburg
Province of East Prussia
Clear.gif Province of Jlich-Cleves-Berg
Grand Duchy of the Lower Rhine
Province of Pomerania
Grand Duchy of Posen (autonomous, outside of German Confederation)
Province of Saxony
Province of Silesia
Province of West Prussia
Province of Westphalia

In 1822, the provinces of Jlich-Cleves-Berg and the Lower Rhine were merged to
form the Rhine Province. In 1829, the Provinces of East and West Prussia merged
to form the Province of Prussia, but the separate provinces were reformed in
1878. The principalities of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and HohenzollernHechingen were annexed in 1850 to form the Province of Hohenzollern.

After Prussia's victory in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War, territories annexed by

Prussia were reorganised into three new provinces:


See also

List of Kings of Prussia

Prussian Army
Free State of Prussia
Prussian Crown Jewels

Prussian virtues
History of Germany
Kreis in Prussia
Brandenburger Gold Coast