Prince Henry of Prussia (1726–1802)
Frederick Henry Louis (German: Friedrich Heinrich Ludwig) (18 January 1726 – 3 August 1802), commonly known as Henry (Heinrich), was a Prince of Prussia. He also served as a general and statesman, and, in 1786, was suggested as a candidate for a monarch for the United States.
Born in Berlin, Henry was the 13th child of King Frederick William I of Prussia and Princess Sophia Dorothea of Hanover. The younger brother of King Frederick II of Prussia, Henry's conflicts with "Frederick the Great" are almost legendary.
When he was only 14, Henry was appointed as Colonel of the 35th Infanterieregiment by Frederick after he became king in 1740, leading Henry to participate in the Silesian Wars. Henry lived in the shadow of his older brother "Frederick the Great", and he sometimes criticized the king's military strategies and foreign policies. In 1753 he published his memoirs under the pseudonym "Maréchal Gessler".
On 25 June 1752 Henry married Princess Wilhelmina of Hesse-Kassel in Charlottenburg, but they had no children. Henry lived in Rheinsberg after receiving it as a gift from his brother. Despite the marriage, he scarcely concealed his passion for other men and developed intimate friendships with the actor Blainville and the French emigre Count La Roche-Aymon. One favourite, Major Kaphengst, exploited the prince's interest in him to lead a dissipated, wasteful life on an estate not far from Rheinsberg.
Henry successfully led Prussian armies as a general during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), in which he never lost a battle. After the Prussian Army's initial success against one wing of the joint Russian and Austrian Armies in the Battle of Kunersdorf, Henry urged his brother Frederick to stop attacking. The king, who had already sent a message of victory to Berlin, pressed the attack. The day ended with a virtually destroyed Prussian army, a virtually defenseless Kingdom of Prussia, and a complete victory by the Russo-Austrian force. Afterwards, Henry reorganized the routed Prussian forces. Frederick came to rely on his brother as commander of the Prussian forces in the east, Frederick's strategic flank. Henry later won his most famous victory at Freiberg in 1762.
After the Seven Years' War, Henry worked as a shrewd diplomat who helped plan the First Partition of Poland through trips to Stockholm and St. Petersburg. In the 1780s he made two diplomatic trips to France. He was a friend of Jean-Louis Favier.
Henry attempted to secure a principality for himself and twice tried to become King of Poland, but was opposed by a displeased Frederick. The king frustrated Henry's attempt to become ruler of a kingdom Catherine II of Russia planned to create in Wallachia.
Proposal for King of the United States
In 1786 either Nathaniel Gorham, then-President of the Continental Congress, or Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the Prussian general who served in the Continental Army, suggested to Alexander Hamilton that Henry should become President or King of the United States, but the offer was revoked before the prince could make a reply.
After the death of Frederick in 1786, Henry hoped to become more influential in the Prussian government as the advisor of his nephew, the new King Frederick William II of Prussia. Although he was less influential than he hoped, Henry was more important during the last years of his life in advising King Frederick William III, who began his reign in 1797. Voltaire had seen in Frederick the embodiment of his "Philosopher King". Arguably, Henry was by deed the man Voltaire had hoped the "Age of Reason" would produce.
Henry died in Rheinsberg.
- Eugen Wilhem, "Die Homosexualitat des Prinzen Heinrich von Preussen, des Bruders Friedrichs des Grossen", Zeitschrift fur Sexualwissenschaft 15, (1929)
- "Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, William Marina. The Independent Institute. Did the Constitution Betray the Revolution?". Retrieved February 1, 2007.
- John Richard Alden. The History of the American Revolution. Da Capo Press, 1989. ISBN 0-306-80366-6
- Richard Krauel. "Prince Henry of Prussia and the Regency of the United States, 1786". The American Historical Review, Vol. 17, No. 1 (October, 1911), pp. 44-51
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- Biography at Preussen.de (German)