Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The 12 Gays of Christmas

King Frederick the Great of Prussia (1712-1786)

Christmas presents come in all shapes and sizes, from your favourite chocolate to a fleet of Porsche. But what one gay man got for Christmas in 1745 was an entire country.

Frederick II von Hohenzollern, King of Prussia, is one of the most important founders of the Germany empire. A fortunate chain of events began in the year he became king which led to Frederick earning his name “the Great”: the Austrian Emperor died leaving his daughter Maria Teresa as his heir, but most of the empire’s territories barred women from succession. So the power of Austrian empire, already in a state of stagnation, was weak enough to challenge.

Frederick took the opportunity to invade the province of Silesia. He hoped Maria Teresa would give in and cede Silesia to Prussia in return for his support in her fight to become empress. She refused. War was inevitable – the War of the Austrian Succession.

From this map you will see how important some of the following countries were to Frederick.

Frederick next invaded Moravia, and the ensuing conflict led to Maria Teresa at last ceding most of Silesia to him. Frederick then invaded Bohemia, but by this time, 4 years after the war started, Maria Teresa had a stronger army with support from the joint kingdom of Poland and Saxony and they began to attack Prussian troops in Silesia from both sides, threatening to cut it off from Prussia. In response Frederick invaded Saxony.

It was on Christmas Day that year, 1745, that the Treaty of Dresden was signed. This stopped hostilities in Saxony (for the time being) as Frederick agreed to pull out the country in exchange for his undisputed right to Silesia. It was a Christmas that put Frederick the Great into the most superior political position on the continent as the other leaders carried on fighting each other.

Frederick the Great returned to Berlin in triumph. But it was a triumph tinged with sadness. During Frederick’s absence in the war in Saxony his greatest friend (and probable lover) Count von Keyserling, died.

One of Frederick’s earliest lover’s was the handsome young Lt. Hans Hermann von Katte. The two plotted to run away together to escape the abusive and humiliating treatment Frederick received from his father. The two were captured and Katte was executed by Frederick’s father.

Among Frederick’s other lovers was Count Francesco Algarotti, and a man who will get another mention next month in relation to a female English aristocrat.

What resulted from Frederick’s success in Silesia at Christmas 1745 was the foundation of Prussia as a major power around which the future German Empire would grow.

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