Frederick II has been hailed as one of Europe’s most illustrious monarchs. The future King of Prussia, born in Berlin in 1712, was enthralled by enlightenment and Freemasonry.
As a young man, he was more interested in music and philosophy than governance and war, and liberally developed his ideas and philosophy on life.
Frederick II was initiated, passed, and raised in the Grand Lodge of Germany without his father’s knowledge or approval in 1738, just days after assuming the throne of Prussia in 1740. Brother Frederick founded the Scottish Rite in Germany during his reign as a patron of the craft.
This was alongside several acts of military belligerence, most notably the annexation of Silesia, as well as the advances his men made into the Polish territories. Such military achievements enabled him to attain a reputation for being both firm and enlightened, which wasn’t the norm with European rulers at the time.
Frederick quickly became a model for all enlightened monarchs by promoting the Masonic virtue of Equality; he reformed the Prussian bureaucracy to enable eligible non-nobles to serve, promoted immigration to improve the Prussian economy, and reformed the military.
Central to his quest for equality was his doctrine of ‘enlightened absolutism.’ This was his belief that the ruler should be the first servant of his state, a principle he proudly lived by.
Until the foundation of the German Empire in 1871, his impressive accomplishments as King of Prussia catapulted the country from a second-rate force to a major player in Europe. He was esteemed by future rulers of the German nation, and remained a role model for German military commanders in both the First and Second World Wars.
Frederick, a man with a keen vision, abolished censorship and introduced reforms that benefited humanity. He corresponded with Voltaire and the Count de St. Germain on a regular basis.
Brother Frederick cemented his place as one of the most influential sovereigns to ever sit on a European throne, enriching the people and modernizing the state, when he died in 1786.
His commitment to the Freemasonic values of Liberty and Equality was visible in his attitudes and changes during his life. One of the most interesting volumes produced on Frederick’s life is Thomas Carlyle’s History of Frederick the Great. In it, Carlyle presents the leader as an enlightenment hero whose policies and foresight shaped modern Europe.
Few doubt the enormity of Frederick’s contribution to the establishment of Freemasonry in the time of his rule, and we can certainly look back on his life with admiration and gratitude for his promotion of the Craft.