Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815

Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars  1793-1815: Preussen, Friedrich Wilhelm Karl, Prinz von

Preussen, Friedrich Wilhelm Karl, Prinz von (1125)

Born on 3 July 1783 in Berlin palace, son of King Friedrich Wilhelm II. He entered military service on 18 March 1799 as Stkpt in the Liebkompagnie, 1. Bn Garde Nr 15a. On 12 December 1801, he was transferred to KürR Nr 13 (Garde du Corps) and promoted to Rtmstr. On 5 October 1805, he was promoted to Obstlt and awarded the HOSA Ch. On 18 September 1806, he was  promoted to Brigadier of the Leibkürassierregiment Nr 3 and Leibkarabinierregiment Nr 11. He was present at the battle of Auerstädt on 14 October 1806, where he charged Morand`s division. On 29 November 1806, he was appointed deputy commander of the Garde du Corps and in given charge of the reorganization of the cavalry in Königsberg. On 27 January 1807, he was transferred to Insterburg (now Chernyakovsk, on the River Pregel, east of Königsberg) to take over the raising of new cavalry regiments. On 8 March 1807, he was promoted to Obst and appointed Chef of DragR König von Bayern Nr 1. On 11 November 1807, he was promoted to GM and appointed Chef of the Brandenburg DragR. On 20 Nov 1807, he was appointed chairman of the Immediatkommission zur Untersuchung der Kapitulationen und sonstigen Ereignisse des Feldzuges von 1806. After the Peace of Tilsit had been signed, the Convention of Königsberg was drawn up. Under its terms, Prussia was to remain under French occupation-and to bear all the costs of the occupying troops- until she had paid off all the war reparations to France. But the exact size of the reparations and the time limit were not specified in the document. In August 1807 the French General Intendant, Daru, demanded prompt payment of all contributions outstanding since 1806 and said that the total was 154,000,000 Francs. Friedrich Wilhelm III protested to Napoleon but to no effect. The Emperor said : ` there will be no evacuation of French troops until all points agreed to in the Convention are implemented.`  The Prussian minister Freiherr von Stein calculated the war debt to be 20,000,000 Francs and offered the French 30,000,000; this was rejected and Napoleon ordered Daru to apply more leverage to extract payment. On 15 September 1807, Daru announced that he would keep control of Prussian civil administration  and demanded that he be given control of West Prussia and Silesia. Six days later he told the hapless king that he had been ordered by Napoleon to to confiscate all Prussian state revenues on 1 October 1807. At the same time, the French took over the civil administration of West Prussia and Silesia. In desperation, Friedrich Wilhelm sent Prinz Wilhelm to Paris to plead his case for him with Napoleon. The prince wrote to Scharnhorst: `Leben Sie wohl, ich reise morgen früh von hier nach jener grosse Stadt, die ich nie gewünscht habe zu sehen.` (Good-bye, early tomorrow I leave to travel to that great city, that I never wished to see.`). On his trip he was accompanied by Alexander von Humboldt who knew the city well and was popular there. The group, including the prince`s ADC, Lt von Hedemann and Graf Anton Stolberg, reached Paris on 3 January 1808. The prince had his first audience with Napoleon on 8 January and offered himself and his wife as hostages for the payment of the debt. Napoleon was astonished and said : `That is very noble but I cannot accept, never, never.` On 23 February they met again, Napoleon employing delaying tactics to put off the meeting. Prince Wilhelm used his time to study the French army and wrote some valuable reports on the topics of education and training. On 8 September 1808 the Treaty of Paris was signed; it marked the most humiliating point of Prussia`s history. On 7 October the prince shared a coach with Napoleon as they travelled to Erfurt, Weimar and Jena. Prinz Wilhelm reached Königsberg at the end of October and then accompanied the king to St Petersburg.

On 14 March 1813, he was promoted to GL; he was present at Gross-Görschen, where he charged an enemy square with the Garde du Corps and the Brandenburg Kürassiers and had two horses shot from under him. He was also in action at  the Katzbach, Leipzig, Löwenberg, Pilgramsdorf, Goldberg, Kaub Rhine crossing, St-Dizier, La Chaussee, Chalons, Laon, Chateau Thierry, Mery-sur-Seine. On 6 May 1813, he was awarded the EK II for his actions at Gross-Görschen. On the 18 October, Blücher sent him to Bernadotte`s headquarters to urge him to come up for the battle. On 21 October 1813 – after the epic battle of Leipzig – he was appointed GOC, 2nd Brigade in place of Prinz Karl von Mecklenburg who had been wounded at Leipzig. On 20 December 1813, he was  appointed GOC 8th Brigade in von Yorck`s I Corps. On 30 May 1814, he was promoted to GdK; from 31 May 1814 – 23 Mar 1815, he commanded the Reserve Cavalry Brigade in von Bülow`s IV Corps. On 29 April 1816, he was appointed 1st Commander of the 2nd Bn, 4th Garde-Landwehr-Regiment. From 8 September 1824 to 22 October 1829, he was Governor of Mainz. From 24 September 1830 to 27 July 1832, he acted as Governor-General of Westphalia and the Lower Rhine.From 7 March 1834 to 8 October 1839, he was again Governor of Mainz, and again from 3 Oct 1844 to 2 May 1845. On 2 May 1845, he became GdK a la suite (on the army staff); then Governor of Mainz again until 12 October 1849. Prinz Wilhelm died in Berlin on 28 September 1851.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2011

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