Saturday, May 16, 2009

Royal Guardians Profile: The Potsdam Giants

The Potsdam Giants Guard, also known as the "Long Guys" was formed by the eccentric Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I. He inherited the No.6 Prussian Infantry Regiment (founded in 1675) which, as king, he began to populate with exceptionally tall soldiers. The King loved military pageantry and displays and enjoyed drilling his pet regiment to perfection. Over time he became increasingly fanatical about having his Potsdam Giants be the tallest men in the world. Their official name was the "Grand Grenadiers of Potsdam" but came to be better known as the Potsdam Giants because of their height or as the "Long Guys" in German. The usual requirement was that one had to be at least 6 feet tall. The tallest of all was reportedly an Irishman named James Kirkland (pictured left) who was 7 feet tall. The king collected tall men from across Europe, recruiting them, buying them or in extreme cases even kidnapping them. His efforts to produce extra-tall soldiers let to him instigating the coupling of especially tall men and women to produce tall children to the even more extreme idea of stretching his soldiers; which was dropped as there was almost a mutiny as soon as the men heard the first hints of the idea. However, the Potsdam Giants, probably more imposing than any soldiers in the world at the time, were parade ground troops only. Friedrich Wilhelm was far too fond of his tall favorites to ever risk them in combat. When Friedrich the Great succeeded as King of Prussia he saw the Potsdam Giants as useless window-dressing and diverted most of the men to active combat units. The No. 6 was downgraded and finally disbanded in 1806 after the Prussian defeat at Jena. Those interested in the Potsdam Giants can visit the website of the 'Long Guys' Association in Germany.

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