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Frederick of Württemberg

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Frederick of Württemberg

Frederick I
Frederick I of Württemberg
Duke, Elector, then King of Wurttemberg
Reign 22 December 1797 – 30 October 1816
Coronation 1 January 1806
Predecessor Frederick II Eugene
Successor William I
Spouse Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (m.1780 wid.1788)
Charlotte, Princess Royal (m.1797 wid.1816)
William I
Catharina, Queen of Westphalia
Princess Sophia Dorothea
Prince Paul
Father Frederick II Eugene, Duke of Wurttemberg
Mother Sophia Dorothea of Brandenburg-Schwedt
Born (1754-11-06)6 November 1754
Died 30 October 1816(1816-10-30) (aged 61)
Religion Lutheranism

Frederick I William Charles of Württemberg (German: Friedrich I Wilhelm Karl von Württemberg; 6 November 1754 – 30 October 1816) was the last Duke of Würtemberg, then briefly Elector of Württemberg, and was later elevated to the status of King of Württemberg, by Napoleon I. He was known for his size: at 2.11 m (6 ft 11 in) and about 200 kg (440 lb).


Born in Treptow an der Rega, today Trzebiatów, Poland, Frederick was the eldest son of Frederick II Eugene, Duke of Württemberg, and Sophia Dorothea of Brandenburg-Schwedt. Frederick's father was the third son of Charles Alexander, Duke of Württemberg, and Frederick was thus the nephew of the long-reigning duke Charles Eugene (German: Karl Eugen). Since neither Charles Eugene nor his next brother, Louis Eugene (German: Ludwig Eugen), had any sons, it was expected that Frederick would eventually succeed to the Duchy.

Frederick's younger sister, Sophie Dorothea, had married Tsesarevich Paul, future Emperor of Russia, in 1776.

A few years later, Frederick followed her to Russia, where Empress Catherine II appointed him Governor-General of Eastern Finland, with his seat at Viipuri.

Frederick married Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel on 15 October 1780 at Braunschweig. The marriage was not a happy one. Though they had four children, Frederick was rumored to be bisexual, with a coterie of young noblemen.

Frederick was reportedly violent towards his wife, and during a visit to Saint Petersburg in December 1786, Augusta asked for protection from Empress Catherine. Catherine gave Augusta asylum and ordered Frederick to leave Russia. When Sophie protested at the treatment of her brother, Catherine replied, "It is not I who cover the Prince of Württemberg with opprobrium: on the contrary, it is I who try to bury abominations and it is my duty to suppress any further ones." Augusta died in 1788.

In 1797, Frederick married Princess Charlotte, daughter of King George III of Great Britain.

On 22 December 1797, Frederick's father, who had succeeded his brother as Duke of Württemberg two years before, died, and Frederick became Duke of Württemberg as Frederick III. He was not to enjoy his reign undisturbed for long, however. In 1800, the French army occupied Württemberg and the Duke and Duchess fled to Vienna. In 1801, Duke Frederick ceded the enclave of Montbéliard to the French Republic, and received Ellwangen in exchange two years later.

In the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss, which reorganized the Empire as a result of the French annexation of the west bank of the Rhine, the Duke of Württemberg was raised to the dignity of Imperial Elector. Frederick assumed the title Prince-Elector (German: Kurfürst) on 25 February 1803, and was thereafter known as the Elector of Württemberg. The reorganization of the Empire also secured the new Elector control of various ecclesiastical territories and former free cities, thus greatly increasing the size of his domains.

In exchange for providing France with a large auxiliary force, Napoleon recognized the Elector as King of Württemberg on 26 December 1805. Friedrich became King Frederick I when he formally ascended the throne on 1 January 1806, and was crowned as such on the same day at Stuttgart. Soon after, Württemberg seceded from the Holy Roman Empire and joined Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine. Once again, the assumption of a new title also meant territorial expansion, as the territories of various nearby princes were mediatized and annexed by Württemberg. As a symbol of his alliance with Napoleon, Frederick's daughter, Princess Catharina, was married to Napoleon's youngest brother, Jérôme Bonaparte. The newly elevated king's alliance with France technically made him the enemy of his father-in-law, George III. However, the King's dynastic connections would enable him to act as a go-between with Britain and various continental powers.

During the War of Liberation in 1813, Frederick changed sides and went over to the Allies, where his status as the brother-in-law of the British Prince Regent (later George IV) and uncle to the Russian Emperor Alexander I helped his standing. After the fall of Napoleon, he attended the Congress of Vienna and was confirmed as King. At Vienna, Frederick and his ministers were very concerned to make sure that Württemberg would be able to retain all the territories it had gained in the past fifteen years. Frederick's harsh treatment of the mediatized princes within his domain made him one of the principal targets of the organization of dispossessed princes, which hoped to gain the support of the Powers in regaining their lost sovereignty. In the end, however, Austria, which was seen as the natural ally of the princes, was more interested in alliance with the medium sized German states like Württemberg than in asserting its traditional role as protector of the smaller sovereigns of the old Empire; and Frederick was allowed to retain his dubiously acquired lands. Frederick, along with the other German princes, joined the new Germanic Confederation in 1815. He died in Stuttgart in October of the next year.

When he became King, he granted his children and further male-line descendants the titles Princes and Princesses of Württemberg with the style Royal Highness, and he styled his siblings as Royal Highnesses with the titles Dukes and Duchesses of Württemberg.

He was very tall and obese: behind his back he was known as "The Great Belly-Gerent". Napoleon remarked that God had created the Prince to demonstrate the utmost extent to which the human skin could be stretched without bursting.[1] In return, Frederick wondered how so much poison could fit in such a small head as Napoleon's.

In 1810, Frederick banished the composer Carl Maria von Weber from Württemberg on the pretext that Weber had mismanaged the funds of Frederick's brother, Louis, for whom Weber had served as secretary since 1807.

Marriage and children

Frederick was married twice:

On 15 October 1780, he married Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, eldest daughter of Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Princess Augusta of Great Britain, the sister of King George III.

They had four children:

They were separated in 1786. Augusta died in 1788 from complications during the birth of an illegitimate child.

On 18 May 1797, at St. James's Palace in London, he married Charlotte, Princess Royal of Great Britain, the eldest daughter of King George III and his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. They had only one child: a stillborn daughter, born and died on 27 April 1798.



  • Sauer, Paul. Der schwäbische Zar. Friedrich – Württembergs erster König. Stuttgart 1984.
  • Paul, Ina Ulrike. Württemberg 1797–1816/19. Quellen und Studien zur Entstehung des modernen württembergischen Staates (Quellen zu den Reformen in den Rheinbundstaaten, Vol. 7). Munich 2005.
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External links

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Frederick I of Württemberg
Born: 6 November 1754 Died: 30 October 1816
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick II Eugene
Duke of Württemberg
1797 – 1803
Change of title
New title
Elevation in rank
Elector of Württemberg
1803 – 1805
King of Württemberg
1805 – 1816
Succeeded by
William I

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