Empress Frederick

Empress Frederick Biography

Queen, Emperor (1840–1901)
Empress Frederick was the oldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of England. She married the future German emperor, Frederick III, in 1858, thus becoming empress of Germany and queen of Prussia.


Born Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise in London, England, in 1840, Empress Frederick was the oldest child of England's Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was heiress to the throne, in line to succeed her mother as queen of the United Kingdom, until her younger brother, the future King Edward VII, was born in 1841. She married Prince Frederick William of Prussia (German Emperor Frederick III) in 1858, at age 17, thus becoming empress of Germany and queen of Prussia. She and Frederick had eight children together: Wilhelm II, Charlotte, Henry, Sigismund, Victoria, Waldemar, Sophie and Margaret. Empress Frederick died on August 5, 1901, in Schloss Friedrichshof, Kronberg, Germany.

Early Life

Empress Frederick was born Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa on November 21, 1840, at Buckingham Palace in London, England. Victoria was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The Archbishop of Canterbury baptized her in the throne room on February 10, 1841.

Victoria grew up well-educated and was well versed in several languages. At a young age, as was the custom, Victoria was groomed for marriage, and she met her future husband, Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia, in 1851. Prussia was an old ally of Great Britain, so the match was politically expedient, and the pair turned out to be a good match. The prince, 10 years Victoria's elder, proposed in 1855, and the couple was married in 1857 in St. James Palace. The wedding furrowed brows across Prussia, as royals there had hoped to host the wedding. The couple did, however, soon move to Prussia.

The Empress

Victoria often complained that Prussia's standards of living were not up to those found in Great Britain (starting with the royal accommodations and continuing on to the architecture of the buildings). But Frederick and Victoria loved each very much, and he treated her as an equal in the House of Hohenzollern.

Two years after their wedding, in 1859, Victoria gave birth to their first child, Prince Wilhelm. However, the birth was problematic and the child would develop a physical disability. Despite this misfortune, Victoria would go on to have seven more children, although one would die before reaching its first birthday and another at age 11.

In 1861, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV died, and his brother succeeded him as King Wilhelm, which made Frederick and Victoria the crown prince and princess of Prussia. From this position, Victoria began putting forth ideas for the transformation of Prussia into a more open, liberal society (modeled on Great Britain), which often put her at odds with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who was a rising figure at the time.

Another push Victoria led was for Prussia to assume a leadership role in the unification of the German states. While unification did occur, in 1871, it happened under von Bismarck's guidance and not Victoria’s, perhaps fueling animosity between the two that lasted for years.

Later Years

In 1888, Kaiser Wilhelm I died and Frederick took the throne. Frederick had throat cancer, however, and he only lived a few months more. With his death—at age 56—went any hope that Victoria had of changing the nature of her adopted country, and she was no longer a figure to contend with in Prussian politics.

Frederick and Victoria's eldest son soon took the throne as Kaiser Wilhelm II, and his strong-arm tactics in taking control would enrage Empress Frederick—as she became known post-unification—and caused a permanent rift between them. She focused her energies on keeping the memory of her late husband alive and strengthening ties with her British relatives.

In 1899, Victoria was diagnosed with breast cancer and died on August 5, 1901.

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