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The Giants of Potsdam
January 9, 2014 12:05 PM   Subscribe

"The most beautiful girl or woman in the world would be a matter of indifference to me, but tall soldiers—they are my weakness." Thus confessed Frederick William, second king of Prussia, whose passion compelled the creation of an elite regiment of six-foot-plus grenadiers. Recruitment, diplomatic gifts, and the occasional abduction of a spindly peasant or acromegalic tradesman supplied thousands of "giants" for the ranks; experiments with breeding programs and stretching machines were somewhat less successful. Frederick II, Frederick William's son and successor, dispersed the regiment when he succeeded to power in 1740. The Potsdam Giants had never actually seen combat, the main part of their duty having been to drill and parade before their enraptured king.

Frederick II ("The Great") was himself one of his father's experiments in military formation. Wikipedia:
As a small child, Fritz was awakened each morning by the firing of a cannon. At the age of 6, he was given his own regiment of children to drill as cadets, and a year later, he was given a miniature arsenal. Fritz was beaten for being thrown off a bolting horse and wearing gloves in cold weather...After the prince attempted to flee to England with his tutor, Hans Hermann von Katte, the father had Katte executed before the eyes of the prince, who himself was court-martialled.
posted by Iridic (18 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Neat post. One of the reasons why Napoleon has been portrayed as "short" in popular culture is because his Guards were all relative giants.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:18 PM on January 9


Old Boney was average-sized for the time, IIRC
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:23 PM on January 9


In any discussion of Prussian history the "weirdhistory" tag is probably superfluous.
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:24 PM on January 9 [8 favorites]


LITTLE THINGS HITTING EACH OTHER
posted by Merzbau at 12:41 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


Because there were as yet no postage stamps.
posted by Twang at 12:57 PM on January 9


the main part of their duty having been to drill and parade before their enraptured king.

This will probably be a key part of my reign as well.
posted by elizardbits at 1:13 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]


King Frederick is actually still alive and has a job writing all the women-seeking-men posts on Craigslist.
posted by w0mbat at 1:38 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


"The most beautiful girl or woman in the world would be a matter of indifference to me, but tall soldiers—they are my weakness."

this quote is literally the best thing I ever got out of AP Core and it has remained one of my very favoritest things about European history class, given how many times we acted this out with various elaborate flourishes and accents

bless you for the memories
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:15 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Behold the skeleton of Anton de Franchepoinct, one of Frederick William's soldiers, who has been on display for many years. Source.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:03 PM on January 9


Merzbau: "LITTLE THINGS HITTING EACH OTHER"

Ha, Merzbau, I think this line in my head about once a day. My husband is a foot taller than I am. It's like being at the bottom of a bloody well!!
posted by theredpen at 3:07 PM on January 9


the main part of their duty having been to drill and parade before their enraptured king.

This will probably be a key part of my reign as well.


mine too but wtf is up with all of this clothing they wear
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:21 PM on January 9


It's times like these* I wonder about the sanity of monarchies.


(* Which is every time a historical monarch gets mentioned, and no few of the modern ones)
posted by Mezentian at 6:28 PM on January 9


So, this was a fetish, right? I mean, he pretty much copped to it. Kidnapping people and making them his own little set of toy soldiers to dress up, play with and put on display. That's pure fetish fiction, come to life. Cruel and horrible. Still, it must be said: it's good to be the king.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:24 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


I love little bits of history like this. These pieces of colour you get as people with absolute power and little scrutiny are able to indulge in the most bizzare behaviours.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:57 PM on January 9


i would really like absolute power and little scrutiny where can i get this


i'm just in it for the hot guys if that helps
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:49 AM on January 10


i'm just in it for the hot guys if that helps

We already had gathered this. thanks
posted by Colonel Panic at 3:20 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I wonder if any other autocrats were inspired by this tale?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:08 AM on January 10


I love quick time harch.
posted by perhapsolutely at 1:54 PM on January 10


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