Friday, February 1, 2013
Battlefield Royal: Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia
In 1864, when Prussia went to war with Denmark, Prince Friedrich Karl (promoted to General of Cavalry) and commanded the Prussian contingent of the joint Austrian-Prussian expeditionary force. There was though some friction as the Prince clashed with chief of staff General Leonhard von Blumenthal who would be credited with winning the war and become a field marshal. Prince Friedrich Karl suffered some setbacks but himself went on to win some key victories in the Jutland campaign as commander of the allied forces after the resignation of General Wrangel. Prussian King Wilhlem I rewarded him for his exceptional service during the conflict and he cemented his status as one of the leading military figures in Prussia. In 1866 the Prince was appointed to the prestigious command of the First Army which he led in the war against Austria. Taking the field against the Austrians and Saxons in Bohemia, Prince Friedrich Karl greatly distinguished himself throughout the short conflict, particularly at the decisive battle of Koniggratz in which he and his outnumbered troops held their ground against determined Austrian attacks until Crown Prince Friedrich and his forces arrived to save the day and claim the final victory, ensuring an Austrian defeat.
The Prince participated in the pivotal siege of Metz, another Prussian victory, and while the combined German forces advanced on Paris, Prince Friedrich Karl was sent to the Loire valley to secure Orleans and prevent other French forces from coming to the aid of Paris. He carried out these duties with his usual determination, winning more battles at Orleans and Le Mans. Because of his meritorious service, King Wilhelm I, after 1871 Kaiser Wilhelm I of course, promoted the Prince to Field Marshal and awarded him the (extremely rare) Grand Iron Cross. With the war over and the German Empire created, Prince Friedrich Karl was tasked to put his military expertise to work as Inspector-General of the army, which also enabled him to spend more time with his wife (daughter of the Duke of Anhalt) and five children. Other countries also recognized his accomplishments; Tsar Alexander II gave him the rank of Field Marshal in the Imperial Russian Army and in 1878 Queen Victoria of Great Britain made him an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. He traveled around the world for a time, however, the life of Prince Friedrich Karl was cut somewhat short when he died, at the age of 57, in Potsdam on June 15, 1885 one of the most honored military figures of the campaigns for German unification.