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Prussian Royalty
House of Hohenzollern
File:Image:Wappen Deutsches Reich - Königreich Preussen (Grosses).png

Frederick I (1701-1713)
   Princess Louise Dorothea
   Prince Frederick William
Frederick William I (1713-1740)
   Princess Wilhelmine
   Prince Frederick
   Princess Friederike Luise
   Princess Philippine Charlotte
   Princess Sophia Dorothea
   Princess Louisa Ulrika
   Prince Augustus William
   Princess Anna Amalia
   Prince Henry
   Prince Ferdinand
Frederick II (The Great, 1740-1786)
Frederick William II (1786-1797)
   Prince Frederick William
   Prince Louis
   Princess Wilhelmine
   Princess Augusta
   Prince Charles
   Prince Wilhelm
Frederick William III (1797-1840)
   Prince Frederick William
   Prince Wilhelm
   Princess Charlotte
   Princess Alexandrine
   Prince Charles
   Princess Louise
   Prince Albert
Frederick William IV (1840-1861)

Friederike Sophie Wilhelmine, Princess of Prussia and Margravine of Bayreuth (3 July 1709 – 14 October 1758) was a daughter of Frederick William I of Prussia and his queen consort Sophia Dorothea of Hanover. In 1731, she married Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth. The baroque buildings and parks built during her reign constitute much of the present appearance of the town of Bayreuth, Germany.



Wilhelmine von Preussen.

Born in Berlin, Wilhelmine shared the unhappy childhood of her brother, Frederick the Great, whose friend and confidante she remained all her life, with the exception of one short interval.

Their mother Sophia Dorothea wished to marry Wilhelmine to her nephew Frederick, Prince of Wales, but on the British side there was no inclination to make an offer of marriage except in exchange for substantial concessions that Wilhelmine's father would not accept.

The fruitless intrigues carried on by Sophia Dorothea to bring about this match played a large part in Wilhelmine's early life. After much talk of other matches came to nothing, she was eventually married in 1731 to her Hohenzollern kinsman, Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth.

This marriage was only accepted by Wilhelmine under threats from her father and with a view to lightening her brother's disgrace. It turned out to be a happy marriage at first, though it was clouded first by limited financial resources and then by a love affair of the future Margrave with Dorothea von Marwitz, whose rise at the court of Bayreuth was bitterly resented by her brother Frederick the Great and caused an estrangement of some three years between him and Wilhelmine.

When Wilhelmine's husband came into his inheritance in 1735, the pair set about making Bayreuth a miniature Versailles. Their building projects included the rebuilding of their summer residence (the Ermitage), the rebuilding of the great Bayreuth opera house, the building of a theater, the reconstruction of the Bayreuth palace, and the building of a new opera house. The so-called Bayreuth Rococo style of architecture is renowned even today. The pair also founded the University of Erlangen. All of these ambitious undertakings pushed the court to the verge of bankruptcy.

The margravine made Bayreuth one of the chief intellectual centers of the Holy Roman Empire, surrounding herself with a court of wits and artists that accrued added prestige from the occasional visits of Voltaire and Frederick the Great.

With the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, Wilhelmina's interests shifted from dilettantism to diplomacy. She acted as eyes and ears for her brother in southern Germany until her death at Bayreuth on 14 October 1758, the day of Frederick's defeat by the Austrian forces of Leopold Josef Graf Daun at the Battle of Hochkirch.

On the tenth anniversary of her death, her devastated brother had the Temple of Friendship built at Sanssouci in her memory.


The Margravine of Bayreuth.

In addition to her other accomplishments, Wilhelmine was also a gifted composer and a supporter of music. She was a lutenist, a student of Sylvius Leopold Weiss, and the employer of Bernhard Joachim Hagen. She wrote an opera, Argenore, performed in 1740 for her husband's birthday, as well as some chamber music that still survives.

The margravine's memoirs, Memoires de ma vie, written or revised in French between 1748 and her death, are preserved in the Royal Library of Berlin. They were first printed in two forms in 1810: a German translation down to the year 1733 from the firm of Cotta of Tübingen; and a version in French published by Vieweg of Brunswick, and coming down to 1742. There have been several subsequent editions, including a German one published at Leipzig in 1908. An English translation was published in Berlin in 1904. For the discussion on the authenticity of these entertaining, though not very trustworthy, memoirs, see G. H. Pertz, Uber die Merkwürdigkeiten der Markgrafin (1851). See also Arvede Barine, Princesses et grandes dames (Paris, 1890); E. E. Cuttell, Wilhelmine, Margravine of Baireuth (London, 2 vols., 1905); ' and R. Fester, Die Bayreuther Schwester Friedrichs des Grossen (Berlin, 1902). Writer William Thackeray recommended the memoirs to "those who are curious about European Court history of the last age".[1]


Wilhelmine's only child was Elisabeth Fredericka Sophie of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (August 30, 1732-April 6, 1780). Described by Giacomo Casanova as the most beautiful girl in Germany, she was married to Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg in 1748.



  1. ^ Andrew Sanders (novel by William Makepeace Thackeray) (1984). "Notes". The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq.. Oxford University Press. p. 331. 
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Some of the information in this article is based on a translation of its German equivalent.
  • Thea Leitner: Skandal bei Hof. Frauenschicksale an europäischen Königshöfen, Piper, München 2003, ISBN 3-492-22009-6
  • Uwe A. Oster: Wilhelmine von Bayreuth. Das Leben der Schwester Friedrichs des Großen, Piper, München, 2005, ISBN 3-492-04524-3

In fiction

  • Princess Wilhelmine is the main character of the 1909 historical novel A Gentle Knight of Old Brandenburg by Charles Major (see [1]).

External links

Information about the opera "Argenore" of a performance in the Hamburg Opera House



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