The ‘Great Elector’, Frederick William (1640–88), came to power with Brandenburg-Prussia in ruins from the multiple invasions of the Thirty Years’ War. His father, George William, while trying to claim neutrality, had been forced to espouse, at various points, both the Catholic and Protestant cause and consequently had his lands repeatedly ravaged by both sides. Frederick William was determined to address the military and economic weaknesses the war had graphically exposed, thus laying the foundations for Prussia’s future power. He developed a standing army of 30,000, imposing the tax regime needed for its maintenance. Through war and diplomacy, he also secured substantial territories in eastern Pomerania and Magdeburg. Equally important, Prussia gained a growing reputation as a military power, which was strengthened when Frederick William’s son, Frederick III, gained recognition by the major European states as King of Prussia (1700).
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