Frederick the Great

Johann Georg Ziesenis: Friedrich der Große (Ausschnitt), 1763, Foto: Wolfgang Pfauder (c) SPSG

Born in 1712, the heir to the Prussian throne made headlines in Europe for the first time at the age of 18: Through his attempt to escape in 1730, Frederick entered the stage of world history, which he would leave again as "The Great” in 1786. In between these dates was a rare, multifaceted life, in which Frederick played diverse roles. The interest in him was primarily focused on his impact. Very few inquired about his nature, his character or his personality.

The pleasure Frederick derived in risk-taking was a striking characteristic of this monarch. His risks included the flight from his father, the invasion of Silesia with an inexperienced army at the beginning of his reign, and the invasion of Saxony, which set all of Europe against him as a prelude to the Seven Years' War. He seldom thought about the consequences of his actions. In fact, Frederick rarely took others or himself into consideration. Consequently, it is worth considering and understanding Frederick the Great under the leitmotif of "risk.” It opens up the possibilities to new, unforeseen and surprising insights and information. Indeed, it quickly becomes apparent that taking risks was an essential prerequisite for Frederick to attain fame. He strove for it at all costs. It is what drove him.