Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1772–1806)
Louis Ferdinand was born in Friedrichsfelde Palace near Berlin. He was a son of Prince August Ferdinand of Prussia and Elisabeth Louise of Brandenburg-Schwedt, and was a nephew of King Frederick the Great. Ludwig von Wildenbruch was the elder of two illegitimate children of Louis Ferdinand by Henriette Fromme. The 1927 German film Prinz Louis Ferdinand was a biopic of his life.
Louis Ferdinand participated in the French Revolutionary Wars and was wounded during the Siege of Mainz. In 1806, he was one of the principal advocates of resuming the war against Napoleon and the First French Empire, triggering the War of the Fourth Coalition.
He died during the opening engagement of the war, at the Battle of Saalfeld. Louis Ferdinand was in command of 8,300 men when he advanced against marshall Jean Lannes' V Corps as they attempted to break out from the passes of Thuringian Forest. In that battle, he engaged a much larger French force (12,800 men), led by Lannes himself. The French held the high ground, while the Prussians had the Saale River behind their backs, which would make a retreat difficult. When he saw his forces beginning to rout, Louis Ferdinand charged the French cavalry. He was killed in combat by Guindet, quartermaster of the French 10th Hussars, after Louis Ferdinand refused an offer to surrender and wounded the French NCO. As a prominent leader of the Prussian court, his death was deeply felt.
Apart from being a soldier, Louis Ferdinand was also a gifted musician and composer. Johann Friedrich Reichardt, Kapellmeister to Frederick II and Frederick William II, considered him a great pianist. Early on Louis Ferdinand also started to compose music but he was not recognized for his compositional activities until later. His early pieces were performed by the orchestra of Prince Henry, the brother of Fredrick the Great. Later on, Prince Louis Ferdinand joined several salons in Berlin, where he frequently improvised on the piano. Among his circle of acquaintances were figures such as Schlegel, Wackenroder, and Tieck, all of whom were highly interested in music as well. Ludwig van Beethoven dedicated his Third Piano Concerto to him, a sign of high esteem for his piano playing. Anton Reicha's massive variation cycle, L'art de varier, was also written for Louis Ferdinand.
In 1842, Franz Liszt wrote an Élégie sur des motifs du Prince Louis Ferdinand de Prusse, S. 168, for piano solo.