Despite having the shortest reign among the German Emperors, Frederick has been a historical figure who draws interest even today, mainly because he is visibly different than a classic Prussian monarch in terms of his tendency towards liberal and revolutionary ideas. There have been many discussions about how German Empire’s fate would have changed if he hadn’t died after only three months of reigning. Frederick was born in Potsdam in 18 October 1831 to Prince Wilhelm and Princess Augusta. Augusta was influential in Frederick’s intellectual development as she wasn’t a keen supporter of Prussian values either.
Frederick was brought up like other Prussian princes, with the focus of his education being the Prussian values and military training. At the time of Frederick’s youth, ideas of liberalism were taking Europe by storm. In other German states, liberals were the first group of people to openly endorse a unification of German states. Frederick was studying at the University of Bonn during the Revolutions of 1848. Such rapid rise of liberalism combined with the fact that his mother was already trying to raise him as a more liberal man resulted with Frederick having a very unique character among other members of his family. Frederick didn’t really get along with his father as he was a much more conservative man and a typical Prussian monarch. Frederick’s liberal tendencies and his intimacy with the Freemason society were despised by his royal family.
In 25 January 1858, Prussian crown prince Frederick and Princess Royal Victoria were married at the St James Palace chapel in London. Even though this was an arranged marriage, the couple made a perfect match. But even Frederick’s German liberal mentality wasn’t a match for British liberalism which was the school of thought Princess Victoria was brought up with. Victoria never felt comfortable with the life style in Prussia and wanted to change things around her according to her own taste. Frederick was a more of a realist as he knew it would take a long time and effort to transform Prussia from a conservative monarchy to a liberal and constitutional one. The couple had eight children throughout their lives, one of them being the future Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Frederick became the crown prince in 1861 after his father’s succession to the throne. Frederick became gradually more involved in Prussian politics as the liberals were on the rise in Prussia too. His father’s appointment of Otto von Bismarck as the Minister President angered Frederick. He was an open enemy of Bismarck’s anti-liberal politics. His opposition against his father and Bismarck’s policies ultimately resulted in him being isolated from Prussian politics. Bismarck tried to keep him out of state matters so he wouldn’t create obstacles in his quest to diminish liberal influences in Prussian politics. Despite being politically marginalized, Frederick got to perform his martial talents in the battlefield during the wars against Denmark, Austria and France. He proved himself to be a competent soldier and commander by achieving victory in many important battles.
After the unification of Germany under Prussian monarchy in 1871, Frederick became the crown prince to not only Prussian kingdom but also the German Empire as well. This was a great opportunity for Frederick and his wife, since now they could apply their liberal reforms on a larger scale, including not only Prussia but all of Germany. However, Frederick never got to act as a proper Emperor. When he finally inherited the throne in 1888, he was already diagnosed with throat cancer and was really ill. Only 99 days after his succession, Kaiser Frederick III died in 15 June 1888. According to many historians, his death changed the course of history as his son Wilhelm II is seen as a key figure in causing some of the conflicts of the 20th century.