. 2
( 13)


which would surely have done little to allay the anxieties of Brandenburg™s
neighbours. One of the reasons for adopting the title Rex in Borussia or
˜King in Prussia™ was that it disarmed Polish suspicions by underscoring
the territorial limits of the new kingdom, while at the same time freeing
the new crown from any Polish claims pertaining to Ducal Prussia™s royal
The establishment of the royal title brought a massive expansion of
the courtly establishment and a great unfurling of elaborate ceremonial,
much of it with an overtly historical and commemorative dimension.
There were splendid festivities to mark the anniversary of the coronation,
the birthday of the queen, the birthday of the king, the conferral of the
Order of the Black Eagle (an honour invented to mark the coronation
itself), the unveiling of a statue of the Great Elector. For the foreign
envoys posted in Berlin, this quantum leap in courtly splendour meant
that life became much more expensive “ a consequence of the coronation
that is universally overlooked. In a report ¬led in the summer of 1703,
the British envoy extraordinary (later ambassador) Lord Raby noted that
˜my equipage, which in London was thought very ¬ne, is nothing to
those that are here™.33 The British despatches of this period are ¬lled with
complaints at the inordinate expense involved in maintaining appearances
at what had suddenly become one of Europe™s most formal courtly venues.
Apartments had to be refurnished, servants, carriages and horses kitted
out to a more exacting and costly standard. ˜I ¬nd I shall be no gainer by
my embassy,™ Raby dolefully commented in one of many veiled pleas for
a more generous allowance.
Perhaps the most dramatic expression of the new taste for elaborate
ceremonial was the regime of mourning that followed the death of the
king™s second wife, Sophie Charlotte of Hanover, in February 1705.34
The queen had been visiting her relatives in Hanover at the time of her
death; a senior court of¬cial was ordered to take two battalions of Bran-
denburg troops to Hanover and bear the corpse back to Berlin, where it
was to lie exposed on a bed of state for six months. Strictest orders were
given that the ˜deepest mourning that is possible™ should be observed
throughout the king™s dominions.35 All who came to court were ordered
to cover themselves in long black cloaks, and all apartments, coaches and
equipages, including those of the foreign envoys, were to be ˜put into

33 Lord Raby to Charles Hedges, Berlin, 30 June 1703, PRO SP 90/2, fo. 21.
34 For a detailed analysis of the mourning rituals observed after the death of the queen, see
Uwe Steiner, ˜Triumphale Trauer. Die Trauerfeierlichkeiten aus Anlaß des Todes der
ersten preußischen Konigin in Berlin im Jahre 1705™, Forschungen zur brandenburgischen
und preußischen Geschichte 11 (2001), pp. 23“53.
35 Raby to Harley, 3 February 1705, PRO SP 90/3, fo. 183.
26 Christopher Clark

deep mourning™.36 Here again, it is worth citing Lord Raby in a report to
Secretary of State Robert Harley:
The court was in deeper mourning that ever I saw in my life [Lord Raby reported],
for the women all had black head clothes and Black veils that cover™d them al over,
so no face was to be seen. The men all in long black cloakes and the rooms all
hung with cloath the top as well as the bottom, and but four candles in each room,
so that one could hardly distinguish the king from the rest but by the height of
his cloake, which was held up by a gentleman of the bedchamber.37

Was the Prussian royal title, with all the pomp and circumstance that
attended it, worth the money and effort spent acquiring and living up
to it? The most famous answer to this question was a scathing negative.
For Frederick™s grandson, Frederick II, the entire exercise amounted to
little more than an indulgence of the Elector™s vanity, as he explained in
a remarkably spiteful portrait of the ¬rst Prussian king.
He was small and misshapen, his expression was proud, his physiognomy vulgar.
His soul was like a mirror that throws back every object . . . He mistook vanities
for true greatness. He was more concerned with appearances than with useful
things that are soundly made . . . He only desired the crown so hotly because he
needed a super¬cial pretext to justify his weakness for ceremony and his wasteful
extravagance . . . All in all: he was great in small things and small in great things.
And it was his misfortune to ¬nd a place in history between a father and a son
whose superior talents cast him in shadow.38

It is certainly true that the ¬rst Prussian king took great pleasure
in magni¬cent festivities and elaborately choreographed ceremonies.
Already as a child he had taken inordinate pleasure in clothes, hats,
gloves and daggers. He had so many jewels, he boasted to a relative,
that he had no idea what to do with them all.39 When the French ambas-
sador commented admiringly on his jewellery and added that there was
surely no other potentate in Europe “ with the exception of the King of
France “ who could deck himself in such ¬nery, Frederick replied with

36 Raby to Harley, 7 February 1705, PRO SP 90/3, fo. 190.
37 Raby to Harley, 10 February 1705, PRO SP 90/3, fo. 195.
38 Frederick II, ˜M´ moires pour servir a l™histoire de la maison de Brandebourg™, in J. D. E.
e `
Preuss (ed.), Oeuvres de Fr´d´ric II, roi de Prusse (33 vols., Berlin, 1846“57), vol. I, pp. 1“
202, here pp. 122“3.
39 Frederick I to Electress Sophie of Hanover, Charlottenburg, 6 September 1712, in Ernst
Berner (ed.), Aus dem Briefwechsel K¨ nig Friedrichs I. von Preussen und seiner Familie
(Berlin, 1901), p. 287; for other examples of the king™s preoccupation with jewels and
other outward signs of status, see pp. 35, 71.
The Prussian coronation of 1701 27

the disarming ingenuousness of the nouveau riche that the jewels on the
coat he was wearing had been valued at over one million talers. It may
well be, as Walther Koch observed long ago, that this love of display was
driven in part by the psychological needs of a man who had survived the
death of a more talented and charismatic elder brother.40
But the emphasis on personal foibles is misplaced. Frederick I was not
the only European ruler to seek elevation to kingly status at this time “ the
Grand Duke of Tuscany had acquired the right to be addressed as ˜Royal
Highness™ in 1691; the same right was acquired during the following years
by the Dukes of Savoy and Lorraine. More importantly from Berlin™s
perspective, a number of rival German dynasties were angling for a royal
title during the 1690s. The Elector of Saxony converted to Catholicism
in order to get himself elected King of Poland in 1697 and negotiations
began at around the same time over the possible succession of the Elec-
toral House of Hanover to the British royal throne. The Bavarians and the
Palatine Wittelsbachs were likewise pursuing (ultimately futile) plans to
capture a royal title, either by elevation or, in the latter case, by securing a
claim to the ˜royal throne of Armenia™. In other words, the coronation of
1701 was no isolated personal caprice, but part of a ˜wave of regalisation™
that was sweeping across the still largely non-regal territories of the Holy
Roman Empire at the end of the seventeenth century.
Royal title mattered because it still entailed privileged status within
the international community. Since the precedence accorded to crowned
heads was also observed at the great peace treaties of the era, it was also a
matter of potentially grave practical importance. In a long memorandum
drawn up for the king in 1704, the Secretary of State, Rudiger von Ilgen,
drew attention to this aspect of the elevation. The king™s father, Elec-
tor Frederick William, Ilgen observed, had already pressed for the right
to be acknowledged on a level footing with the royal crowns in interna-
tional negotiations, but without success. The consequences could be seen
at the Peace of Rijswijk (1697), where a ˜notable difference™ was made
between the royal and the ˜Brandenburg-electoral™ ministers. Indeed the
Brandenburg-electoral ministers had to put up with the fact that the
republics of Venice and the Netherlands and even the Italian princes
refused to yield to them in the order of precedence, and, to make matters
worse, received preferential treatment in many other matters.
The elevation in status was thus of great importance, not only for
ceremonial reasons, but because of the ˜real advantages™ that could be

40 Prince Karl Emil, the family favourite, died on campaign in 1674; see Walther Koch, Hof
und Regierungsverfassung. K¨ nig Friedrich I. von Preußen (1697“1710) (Breslau, 1926),
pp. 2“3.
28 Christopher Clark

secured through precedence. After all, Ilgen recalled, there were many
˜weighty and important affairs™ of Brandenburg that had received insuf-
¬cient attention or could not be brought into effect, simply because dis-
putes over precedence made it impossible to orchestrate negotiations with
the right partners, to accept and pay visits or even on occasion to attend
conferences and congresses. Henceforth, he concluded, it would be pos-
sible for the kings™s ministers to concentrate on ˜the real content of their
mission™ rather than wasting their time in pointless skirmishing over ques-
tions of rank.41
In any case, the recent growth of interest in the early modern European
courts as political and cultural institutions has heightened our awareness
of the functionality of courtly ritual. And here it is apposite to cite that
celebrated scholar of the mechanics of cultural power T. C. W. Blanning:
˜The power of states to command the obedience of their subjects at home
and to assert their interests in the international arena . . . is not just a
question of military might and the means to ¬nance it. Power depends as
much on perception as reality.™42 Courtly festivities had a crucial commu-
nicative and legitimating function.43 No royal establishment exempli¬ed
this maxim more dramatically than the court of Louis XIV, the super-
monarch of seventeenth-century Europe, whose importance as a model
for Frederick III/I (and many of his German colleagues) can scarcely be
overestimated. Sumptuous court festivals, Louis XIV remarked to the
Dauphin, pleased the subjects and gave foreigners ˜an extremely useful
impression of magni¬cence, power, wealth and grandeur™. Montesquieu,
who grew up in the reign of the Sun King, observed that ˜magni¬cence
and splendour™ were not just the playthings of monarchs, but ˜part of
their power™.44 As the philosopher Christian Wolff observed in 1721, the
˜common man™, who depended upon his senses rather than his reason,
was quite incapable of grasping ˜what the majesty of a king is™. Yet it was
possible to convey to him a sense of the power of the monarch by con-
fronting him with ˜things that catch his eye and stir his other senses™. A
considerable court and court ceremonies, he concluded, were thus ˜by
no means super¬‚uous or reprehensible™.45

41 Memorandum, Ilgen to Frederick I, 1704, in Lehmann, Preussen und die katholische
Kirche, vol. I, pp. 548“59, here p. 559.
42 T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture (Oxford, 2002), p. 5.
43 See Barbara Stolberg-Rilinger, ˜Ho¬sche Offentlichkeit. Zur zeremoniellen Selbst-
darstellung des brandenburgischen Hofes vor dem europ¨ ischen Publikum™, Forschungen
zur brandenburgischen und preußischen Geschichte 7 (1997), pp. 146“76.
44 Both citations are from Peter Burke, The Fabrication of Louis XIV (New Haven, 1997),
p. 5.
45 Christian Wolff, Vern¨ nfftige Gedancken von dem Gesellschafftlichen Leben der Menschen
und insonderheit dem gemeinen Wesen zu Bef¨ rderung der Gl¨ ckseligkeit des menschlichen
o u
The Prussian coronation of 1701 29

Courts were also linked with each other through family diplomatic and
cultural ties; they were not only focal points for elite social and politi-
cal life within each respective territory, but also nodes in an international
courtly network. The magni¬cent celebrations of the Prussian coronation
anniversaries, for example, were observed by numerous foreign visitors,
not to speak of the various relatives and envoys who could always be found
at court during the season. The international resonance of such events
within the European court system was further ampli¬ed by published
of¬cial or semi-of¬cial accounts, in which scrupulous attention was paid
to details of precedence, dress, ceremony and the splendour of the specta-
cle. The same applied to the elaborately ritualised observances associated
with mourning. The orders issued following the death of Queen Sophie
Charlotte were not primarily intended to lend expression to the private
grief of the bereaved, but rather to send out signals about the weight
and importance of the court where the death had occurred. These sig-
nals were directed not only to a domestic audience of subjects, but also
to other courts, which were expected to mark their acknowledgement of
the event by entering into various degrees of mourning. So implicit were
these expectations that Frederick I was furious when he discovered that
Louis XIV had decided not to put the court at Versailles into mourning
on Sophie Charlotte™s account “ a deliberate snub designed to convey his
displeasure at Berlin™s policy in the War of the Spanish Succession.46 Like
the other ceremonies that punctuated life at court, mourning was part of
a system of political communication. Seen in this context, the court was
an instrument whose purpose was to document the rank of the prince
before an international ˜courtly public™.47
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the coronation ritual of 1701
is the fact that it did not become the foundation stone of a tradition
of sacral coronations in Prussia. The crown prince, the future Frederick

Geschlechts (Frankfurt, 1721), p. 466. On the importance of display and ˜reputation™
for the contemporary legitimation of monarchy, see Jorg Jochen Berns, ˜Der nackte
Monarch und die nackte Wahrheit™, in August Buck, Georg Kauffmann, Blake Lee Spahr
and Conrad Wiedemann (eds.), Europ¨ ische Hofkultur im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert (Ham-
burg, 1981), pp. 607“12; Andreas Gestrich, ˜Ho¬sches Zeremoniell und sinnliches Volk:
Die Rechtfertigung des Hofzeremoniells im 17. und fruhen 18. Jahrhundert™, in Jorg
¨ ¨
Jochen Berns and Thomas Rahn (eds.), Zeremoniell als h¨ ¬sche Asthetik in Sp¨ tmittelalter
o a
und fr¨ her Neuzeit (Tubingen, 1995), pp. 57“73; Andreas Gestrich, Absolutismus und
u ¨
Offentlichkeit: Politische Kommunikation in Deutschland zu Beginn des 18. Jahrhunderts
(Gottingen, 1994).
46 Linda and Marsha Frey, Frederick I: The Man and His Times (Boulder, CO, 1984), p. 225.
According to the British ambassador, over 20,000 foreign visitors attended the queen™s
funeral in June 1705; Raby to Harley, PRO SP 90/3, fo. 333.
47 See A. Winterling, Der Hof der Kurf¨ rsten von K¨ ln 1688“1794: eine Fallstudie zur Bedeu-
u o
tung ˜absolutistischer™ Hofhaltung (Bonn, 1986), pp. 153“5.
30 Christopher Clark

William I, had never been enthusiastic about the pomp and circumstance
of the new court and his resistance to it stiffened as he matured into
adulthood. There was a prolonged struggle over the arrangements for his
betrothal to Sophie Dorothea of Braunschweig-Luneburg in July 1706.
The crown prince begged his father to dispense with any ceremony and
to perform the rite in the relatively small palace chapel, but the father
insisted on elaborate festivities and a celebration in Berlin Cathedral.
As a concession Frederick I allowed the of¬cial festivities to be cut back
from twenty-two to only eleven days. There were magni¬cent processions
from city to city, in which the young couple were greeted by formations
of artisans and arms-bearing burghers in rich livery, costly ¬reworks and
a huge ˜Thier-Hetze™, in which animals of various species were goaded
to tear each other to death before a vast crowd of spectators.48 All this
did nothing to disarm the crown prince™s antipathy to courtly spectacle:
˜I really am glad this is all over™, he commented after the termination of
the festivities, ˜for it bores me so much.™49
Once he had himself acceded to the throne in 1713, Frederick William
dispensed entirely with a coronation ritual of any kind, and laid an axe
to the tree of his father™s court establishment. Having scrutinised the
¬nancial accounts of the royal household, the new king embarked on a
drastic cost-cutting campaign. Two-thirds of the servants employed at
the court “ including the chocolatier, a brace of castrato singers, the cel-
lists, composers and organ-builders “ were sacked without notice; the
rest had to put up with salary reductions of up to 75 per cent. A substan-
tial quantity of the jewels, gold and silver plate, ¬ne wines, furniture and
coaches accumulated during his father™s reign was sold off. The lions of
the royal menagerie were presented as gifts to the King of Poland. Most of
the sculptors engaged during Frederick™s reign promptly left Berlin when
they were informed of their revised conditions of employment. A sense of
panic gripped the court. In a report ¬led on 28 February 1713, the British
envoy William Breton observed that the king was ˜very busye cutting off
pensions and making great retrenchements in his civill list, to the great
grief of many ¬ne gentlemen™. The queen dowager™s household had been
especially hard hit and ˜the poore maids [had] gone home to their friends
with heavy hearts™.50 The weeks following the accession must have been

48 Anon., Die große Preußisch- und L¨ neburgische Verm¨ hlungsfreude . . . bey . . .
u a
Verm¨ hlung . . . Fridrich Wilhelms, Cron-Printzen von Preussen, mit Sophie Dorothea aus
dem Kur-Hause Braunschweig-L¨ neburg . . . (Berlin, 1707), pp. 3, 15“33, 38.
49 Koch, Hof und Regierungsverfassung, p. 72.
50 Will. Breton to Earl of Strafford, Berlin, 28 February 1713, PRO SP 90/6; Carl Hin-
richs, ˜Der Regierungsantritt Friedrich Wilhelms I.™, in Hinrichs, Preussen als historisches
Problem, ed. Gerhard Oestreich (Berlin, 1964), pp. 91“137, here p. 106.
The Prussian coronation of 1701 31

particularly traumatic for Johann von Besser, who had served Frederick
III/I as his master of ceremonies since 1690. As his life™s work collapsed
around him, he was unceremoniously struck from the state list. A letter
he sent to the new king requesting consideration for another post was
tossed into the ¬re on receipt. Besser ¬‚ed Berlin and subsequently found
employment as an advisor and master of ceremonies at the still sumptu-
ous Saxon court in Dresden. Frederick II inherited his father™s dislike of
dynastic ostentation and did not restore the ceremony of coronation. As
a consequence, Brandenburg-Prussia became a kingdom without coro-
nations. The de¬ning ritual of the accession remained, as in earlier times,
the oath of homage in Konigsberg of the Prussian Estates and in Berlin
of the other Estates of the Hohenzollern dominions.
It is clear nonetheless in retrospect that the acquisition of the kingly
title inaugurated a new phase in the history of the Brandenburg polity.
The fact that he dispensed with much royal ritual and ceremonial appara-
tus did not mean that Frederick William set no store by his kingly status.
On the contrary, the title was very frequently invoked by the king himself
and was clearly crucial to his sense of who he was. The turn away from
ritual was a revolution in styles, not a repudiation of kingship. The same
can be said with even more emphasis of Frederick the Great, who styled
himself from the early years of his reign ˜le roi philosophe™ and fashioned
one of Europe™s most charismatic and memorable models of kingship.
In any case, it is worth noting that the rituals associated with the coro-
nation remained dormant within the collective memory of the dynasty.
The Order of the Black Eagle, for example, was resurrected in the 1840s
during the reign of Frederick William IV, and the original conferral cer-
emonies were reconstructed from the archives and reintroduced. King
William I chose upon his accession in 1861 to dispense with the homage
(which many contemporaries judged to be obsolete) and instead to revive
the practice of self-coronation in Konigsberg. ˜The rulers of Prussia™, he
told the assembled deputies of the Landtag (Prussian parliament), ˜receive
their crown directly from God. I will therefore tomorrow take the crown
from the table of the Lord and set it on my head. That is the meaning
of kingship by the grace of God, and herein lies the sacredness of the
crown, which is inviolable.™51 It was this same monarch who scheduled
the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors
at Versailles to fall on 18 January, the anniversary of the ¬rst corona-
tion. The cultural resonance of the coronation ritual within the life of

51 Anon., Die Kr¨ nung zu K¨ nigsberg am 18. October 1861 (Berlin, 1873), p. 40; Liermann,
o o
˜Sakralrecht™, p. 380; on this recourse to ˜tradition™, see also David E. Barclay, Frederick
William IV and the Prussian Monarchy 1840“1861 (Oxford, 1995), pp. 73“4, 287“8.
32 Christopher Clark

the dynasty was thus more enduring than its sudden abandonment after
1713 might suggest.
The subordinate place of religion “ and of religious personnel “ in the
coronation ritual also broadcast an important signal. Since the conversion
of Johann Sigismund in 1613, the Hohenzollerns had been a Calvinist
dynasty that ruled a largely Lutheran population. The tension between
the agents of central authority and the holders of provincial privilege that
we associate with the age of European ˜absolutism™ thus acquired a confes-
sional colouring in the Hohenzollern lands. This was particularly the case
in Prussia, where the Elector™s mainly Calvinist councillors confronted
an entrenched Lutheran cultural and political elite. In assigning his two
appointed bishops “ one of each confession “ to parallel but subordinate
roles in the coronation ceremony, Frederick expressed the claim of the
new crown to impartial authority over both territorial confessions. In so
doing, he broke with the policy of his predecessor, the Great Elector,
who had repeatedly (but unsuccessfully) pressed the Lutheran clergy to
accept a union with the Calvinists, and con¬rmed the emergence of the
Brandenburg-Prussian monarchical state as a supra-confessional entity
committed to neutrality in interconfessional relations, an idea of pro-
found importance for the evolution of the territory™s political culture.
The coronation of 1701 also signalled a subtle shift in the relation-
ship between the monarch and his spouse. Of the seventeenth-century
wives and mothers of the Brandenburg electors, several had been pow-
erful, independent ¬gures at court. The most outstanding individual in
this respect had been Anna of Prussia, wife of Johann Sigismund, a spir-
ited, iron-willed woman who responded to her husband™s intermittent
drunken rages by throwing plates and glasses at his head. Anna main-
tained her own diplomatic network and virtually ran a separate foreign
policy. In the darkest years of the Thirty Years™ War, it was the Elector
Palatine™s wife Elisabeth Charlotte and her mother Louise Juliane, rather
than George William himself, who managed the delicate diplomatic rela-
tionship between Brandenburg and Sweden.52 In other words: women
at court continued to pursue interests informed by their own family net-
works and quite distinct from those of their husbands. The same can be
said of Sophie Charlotte, the intelligent Hanoverian princess who married
Frederick III/I in 1684, but who spent long sojourns at her mother™s court

52 Schultze, Mark Brandenburg, vol. IV, Von der Reformation bis zum Westf¨ lischen Frieden
(1535“1648), pp. 206“7; Gotthard, ˜Zwischen Luthertum und Calvinismus™, p. 93;
on the later marginalisation of the consort, see Thomas Biskup, ˜The Hidden Queen:
Elisabeth Christine of Prussia and Hohenzollern Queenship in the Eighteenth Century™,
in Clarissa Campbell-Orr (ed.), Queenship in Europe 1660“1815: The Role of the Consort
(Cambridge, 2004), pp. 300“32.
The Prussian coronation of 1701 33

in Hanover (she was staying there when she died in 1705) and remained
an advocate of Hanoverian policy.53 She was an opponent of the coro-
nation project, which she saw as damaging to Hanoverian interests. (She
demonstrated her lack of enthusiasm on the day by taking demonstrative
pinches of snuff during the proceedings.)54
Against this background, it is clear that the coronation set the rela-
tionship between the Elector and his spouse within a new framework.
It was the Elector who crowned his wife, having ¬rst crowned himself,
and thereby made her his queen. The element of subordination was
made explicit in Besser™s commentary on the coronation. ˜The crowns
of kings™, he wrote, ˜are their kingdoms; the crowns of queens, however,
are their kings: who are not merely, as are all husbands, called the crowns
of their spouses, but also in a real sense bestow a part of the brilliance
and majesty of their title upon their spouses.™ As if this were not clear
enough, Besser drew a parallel with the marriage between the ancient
Persian king Ahasverus who married the Jewish commoner Esther and
thereby elevated her to queenship.55
This was, of course, a mere symbolic detail without practical conse-
quences and since there were no further coronations in the eighteenth
century, it was not re-enacted. But the ceremony nonetheless signalled
the beginning of a process by which the dynastic identity of the wife
would be partially merged into that of her husband, the crowned head
of a royal household. The concomitant masculinisation of the monarchy,
coupled with the fact that the House of Hohenzollern now enjoyed a
clear pre-eminence among the Protestant German dynasties from which
spouses were recruited, narrowed the freedom of movement available to
the ˜¬rst ladies™ of Brandenburg-Prussia. Their eighteenth-century suc-
cessors were not without personal gifts and political insight, but they
would not develop the kind of autonomous weight in politics that had
been such a striking feature of the previous century.
There were also changes in the tone of social life at court. The courtly
milieu of Frederick William I was a cheaper, rougher and much more mas-
culine scene that its predecessor. At the centre of the monarch™s social
life was the ˜Tabakskollegium™ or ˜Tobacco Ministry™, a group of between
eight and twelve councillors, senior of¬cials, army of¬cers and assorted
visiting adventurers, envoys or men of letters who gathered in the evenings
with the monarch for general conversation over strong drink and pipes of

53 Frey and Frey, Frederick I, pp. 35“6.
54 Carl Hinrichs, Friedrich Wilhelm I. K¨ nig in Preußen. Eine Biographie (Hamburg, 1941),
pp. 146“7; Baumgart, ˜Die preußische Konigskronung™, p. 82.
¨ ¨
55 Besser, Preussische Kr¨ nungsgeschichte, p. 22.
34 Christopher Clark

tobacco. The tone was informal, often crude and non-hierarchical. The
subjects of discussion ranged from Bible passages, newspaper reports,
political gossip, hunting anecdotes to more risqu´ matters such as the
natural aromas given off by women. Participants were expected to speak
their minds, and hefty arguments and even ¬st¬ghts sometimes broke
out; indeed, these appear on occasion to have been encouraged by the
monarch himself. It was a far cry from the previous reign, when the queen
sometimes sat in on this intimate circle, whose members were forbidden
to speak too loudly or too softly and were discouraged from laughing.56
Under Frederick William I, women were pushed to the margins of pub-
lic life. A visitor from Saxony who resided in Berlin for several months
during 1723 recalled that the great festivities of the courtly season were
held ˜according to the Jewish manner™ with the women separated from
the men, and observed with surprise that there were many dinners at
court at which no women appeared at all.57 The masculinisation that had
tentatively announced itself in the ceremony of the coronation had by
now transformed the social life of the court.
Finally, the new title had a psychologically integrating effect: the Baltic
territory formerly known as Ducal Prussia was no longer a mere out-
lying possession of the Brandenburg heartland, but a constitutive ele-
ment in a new royal-electoral amalgam that would ¬rst be known as
Brandenburg-Prussia, later simply as Prussia. The words ˜Kingdom of
Prussia™ were incorporated into the of¬cial denomination of every Hohen-
zollern province. It may have been true, as opponents of the coronation
project were quick to point out, that the sovereign of Brandenburg already
possessed the fullness of royal power and thus had no need to adorn him-
self with new titles. But to accept this view would be to overlook the fact
that things are ultimately transformed by the names we give them. ˜To
name a thing™, Leibniz sagely observed in a memorandum supporting
Frederick™s enterprise, ˜is to complete its essence.™

The coronation of 1701 did not represent the unconscious encoded
expression of a collective disposition, nor was it a metaphor, ˜upon which
are inscribed the tacit assumptions that either legitimise a political order

56 Koch, Hof und Regierungsverfassung, p. 96.
57 Gustav Schmoller, ˜Eine Schilderung Berlins aus dem Jahre 1723™, Forschungen zur Bran-
denburgischen und Preußischen Geschichte 4 (1891), pp. 213“16. The author of this account
is Field Marshal Count von Flemming, who spent the months of May and June 1723 in
The Prussian coronation of 1701 35

or hasten its disintegration™.58 Even that elegant paradigm of the ˜invented
tradition™, so brilliantly launched by Hobsbawm and Ranger in 1982, fails
to capture the particularity of the Prussian coronation. For the ˜traditions™
invoked in the ceremony were not invented, but assembled from within a
common European canon. More fundamentally, the coronation and the
pamphlets and literary propaganda that accompanied it made no attempt
to create an illusion of tradition, but rather celebrated the novelty of the
Prussian ceremony, as the fruit of stupendous effort and astute diplo-
macy. The complexity and semiotic density on display throughout the
ceremony were not the outgrowth of cultural ˜deep structures™ but of a
strikingly purposive and self-conscious play with surface effects.
Yet the arti¬ciality and singularity of the ceremony should not be taken
to imply that the coronation was politically or culturally insigni¬cant,
or irrelevant to the later evolution of the Brandenburg polity. The func-
tionalism so explicitly invoked in the of¬cial publicity and among the
political elite was important precisely because it distinguished the fact of
Brandenburg-Prussia™s ˜real™ status as a power among powers so clearly
from the contingent cultural devices employed to solemnise it. These
latter could be cast aside in an era that prized austerity and repudiated
pomp, only to be selectively revived when public taste called for more
expansive cultural expressions of sovereign power.

58 Sean Wilentz, ˜Introduction. Teufelsdrockh™s Dilemma: On Symbolism, Politics and
History™, in Wilentz (ed.), Rites of Power: Symbolism, Ritual and Politics since the Middle
Ages (Pennsylvania, 1985), pp. 1“10, here p. 3.
3 Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806

Peter H. Wilson
University of Hull

The subject of military culture has been neglected in recent writing on
war and eighteenth-century central European society. A great deal is now
known about the material conditions of German soldiers and their rela-
tionship to civilians, but this has yet to ¬lter through to discussions of
what might be considered military culture that is still presented through
the paradigm of standing armies and absolutism.1 The primary focus is
on Prussia as the de¬ning German military power. The Hohenzollern
monarchy is widely regarded as the most heavily militarised of all the old
regime great powers. Military power not only created the state, but shaped
its economic and social development, fostering a slavish subservience to
authority and veneration of martial values, according to the in¬‚uential
˜social militarisation™ thesis of Otto Busch.2 The secondary focus is on
the so-called ˜petty particularism™ (Kleinstaaterei) of the lesser principali-
ties that are often perceived as debased, yet still more extreme versions of
Prussia. Examples include Landgrave Ludwig IX of Hessen-Darmstadt
and Duke Carl Eugen of Wurttemberg who dressed and drilled their
˜miniature armies™ in the Prussian manner. Better known are the ˜Hes-
sians™ or auxiliaries from six principalities, including Hessen-Kassel, who
fought for Britain against the American Revolutionaries and have long
been regarded as the archetypal mercenaries of petty despots.3 In short,
1 For guides to the literature, see D. Hohrath, ˜Sp¨ tbarocke Kriegspraxis und aufgekl¨ rte
a a
Kriegswissenschaften™, Aufkl¨ rung 12 (1997), pp. 5“47; P. H. Wilson, ˜War in Early
Modern German History™, German History 19 (2001), pp. 419“38; M. Hochedlinger,
˜“Belli gerant alii?” On the State of Early Modern Military History in Austria™, Austrian
History Yearbook 30 (1999), pp. 237“77.
2 O. Busch, Milit¨ rsystem und Sozialleben im alten Preußen 1713“1807. Die Anf¨ nge der
¨ a a
sozialen Milit¨ risierung der preußisch-deutschen Gesellschaft (Berlin, 1962: English trans-
lation 1995); M. Kitchen, A Military History of Germany from the Eighteenth Century to
the Present Day (Bloomington, IN, 1975); G. A. Craig, The Politics of the Prussian Army
1640“1945 (Oxford, 1955). See also V. G. Kiernan, ˜Foreign Mercenaries and Absolute
Monarchy™, Past and Present 11 (1957), pp. 66“86.
3 E. J. Lowell, The Hessians and Other German Auxiliaries of Great Britain in the Revolutionary
War (New York, 1884); F. C. G. Kapp, Soldatenhandel deutscher F¨ rsten nach Amerika
(1775 bis 1783) (2nd edn, Berlin, 1874); H. D. Schmidt, ˜The Hessian Mercenaries: The
Career of a Political Clich´ ™, History 43 (1958), pp. 206“12.

Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 37

military culture is de¬ned as ˜militarism™ and state power as despotic
These interpretations are largely retrospective, viewing the past from
the perspective of later, especially twentieth-century events in what is
generally a search for the origins of subsequent phenomena. The most
notorious product of this approach is the Sonderweg thesis, or notion
that German historical development somehow deviated from the ˜nor-
mal™ European pattern down its own special path towards world war and
the Holocaust. It is no coincidence that the arguments about the social
basis of Prussian absolutism and the pernicious in¬‚uence of its dispropor-
tionately large army advanced by Hans Rosenberg and others that form
the basis of the Sonderweg, reappear in the standard view of absolutist
Prussia and its army.4 The shadow of later events also hangs over other,
less polemical interpretations, since everyone knows that the army of old
regime Prussia faltered in its ¬rst clash with revolutionary France at Valmy
in September 1792 and was then convincingly defeated by Napoleon at
the twin battles of Jena and Auerst¨ dt in 1806. With the knowledge of this
demise, it has been customary to apply the standard biological metaphor
to the development of Prussian absolutism and its standing army. Both
were ˜born™ in the reign of the Great Elector, Frederick William (1640“
88), and experienced their troubled adolescence under King Frederick
William I (1713“40) whose harsh schooling guided their future growth.
Reaching maturity during the ¬rst half of Frederick II™s reign (1740“86),
Prussia ¬‚exed its muscles in four wars against Austria that saw it cap-
ture Silesia and achieve great power status. Signs of approaching old age
appeared in the last of these con¬‚icts, the War of the Bavarian Succes-
sion (1778“9), before senility set in after the great king™s death in 1786
so that the Prussia that Napoleon faced was but a shadow of its former
This standard model of absolutism also underpins Jurgen Habermas™s
structural transformation of the public sphere that argued that monar-
chical control of political debate was challenged in the later eighteenth
century by the growth of an alternative arena of Enlightened discourse
fuelled by social and economic change. Military culture scarcely featured
in Habermas™s original thesis, or in subsequent discussions of it, but all
the elements are there in the broader writing on armies and absolutism.
Standing armies are regarded as the creations of absolute monarchs who

4 W. W. Hagen, ˜Descent of the Sonderweg: Hans Rosenberg™s History of Old-Regime
Prussia™, Central European History 24 (1991), pp. 24“50; H. Rosenberg, Bureaucracy,
Aristocracy and Autocracy: The Prussian Experience 1660“1815 (Cambridge, MA, 1966).
5 This scheme is most explicit in H. Schnitter/T. Schmidt, Absolutismus und Heer (Berlin,
38 Peter H. Wilson

also shaped their culture by determining their social basis and fostering
speci¬c martial values. Armies were allegedly commanded by aristocrats
allied with the crown who saw their rank as compensation for the loss
of political autonomy and regarded the army as a guarantee for their
continued exploitation of peasant labour. The rank and ¬le are depicted
as foreign mercenaries or peasant conscripts held in the ranks by brutal
discipline. This form of military organisation was subject to Enlightened
critique as an alien element in society; a situation that appears corrob-
orated by the widespread public apathy in Prussia following the French
invasion and victories at Jena and Auerst¨ dt.
Other models present broadly similar interpretations, because they
also relate military culture to state power. The focus is on the of¬cers
as state agents, reducing military culture to a transition from the war-
rior ethos of independent knights, through the mercenary calculations of
˜military enterprisers™ to the professionalised of¬cer corps of the abso-
lutist standing armies.6 This model appears convincing because it ¬ts
wider interpretations of cultural change under absolutism. One of these
is Gerhard Oestreich™s in¬‚uential ˜social discipline™ thesis that argues that
the growth of centralised states transformed human behaviour through
a two-stage process. In the ¬rst phase, the state disciplined its own staff,
integrating, in the case of the army, the previously autonomous merce-
nary commanders into its wider network of bureaucratic surveillance and
control. Once the state was sure of its own servants, wider social disci-
plining became possible as the of¬cers and of¬cials enforced regulations
upon soldiers and subjects.7 Norbert Elias™s civilising process is a second
model that matches the customary emphasis on of¬cers as the carriers of
military culture. Elias argued that the creation of royal courts and other
aspects of the early modern state shifted the emphasis from external coer-
cion through the threat of punishment to internalised self-discipline as
individuals adopted modes of behaviour best suited to achieving socially
desirable goals.8 Elias and Oestreich™s models offer some useful insights,

6 R. Wohlfeil, ˜Ritter “ Soldnerfuhrer “ Of¬zier™, in J. B¨ rmann, ed., Geschichtliche Lan-
¨ ¨ a
deskunde, vol. III (Wiesbaden, 1966), pp. 45“70; F. Redlich, The German Military Enter-
prizer and his Workforce (2 vols., Wiesbaden, 1964“5). See also S. Wilson, ˜For a Socio-
Historical Approach to the Study of Western Military Culture™, Armed Forces and Society
6 (1980), pp. 527“52; M. Janowitz, The Professional Soldier: A Social and Political Portrait
(New York, 1971), and his ˜Professionalization of Military Elites™, in Janowitz, On Social
Organization and Social Control (Chicago, 1991).
7 G. Oestreich, Neostoicism and the Early Modern State (Cambridge, 1982).
8 N. Elias, The Civilising Process (Oxford, 1994), and his Die h¨ ¬sche Gesellschaft (Frank-
furt/M., 1983). Further discussion and critique in W. Ludwig-Mayerhofer, ˜Disziplin oder
Distinktion? Zur Interpretation der Theorie des Zivilisationsprozesses von Norbert Elias™,
K¨ lner Zeitschrift f¨ r Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 50 (1998), pp. 217“37; J. Duindam,
o u
Myths of Power: Norbert Elias and the Early Modern Court (Amsterdam, 1995).
Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 39

but both suffer from substantial ¬‚aws. The most important of these for
present purposes is that the emphasis on the state and aristocracy rein-
forces the customary paradigm of absolutism and standing armies that
largely reduces military culture to an ill-de¬ned ˜militarism™.9 Militarism
is of limited utility since its usual de¬nitions imply value judgements
about the ˜improper™ authority of soldiers over civilians. Recent work on
the public sphere has identi¬ed numerous problems with Habermas™s
model, making it timely to reconsider the nature of military culture and
state power.10
Military culture is better understood as a form of institutional cul-
ture, with ˜culture™ de¬ned as the values, norms and assumptions that
encourage people to make certain choices in given circumstances.11 Early
modern Europe was an age of institution-building with armies as one
of the most important of these, yet military culture is curiously absent
from the most recent study of early modern institutional culture.12 Insti-
tutions vary considerably, but all share ¬ve key elements shaping their
culture that can also be applied to armies. They require a mission that
de¬nes their purpose and legitimises their actions and existence. They
must de¬ne their relationship to the state and to other institutions. Their
recruitment of members gives them a social basis and a relationship to
wider society. They have an internal structure that embodies norms and
assumptions that guide their members™ behaviour. These can be both of¬-
cial rules about how the institution is supposed to function, and informal
strategies and practices that may be at variance with these procedures.
Finally, they require resources to survive, not simply material ones, but
also knowledge and technology.

9 See E. Willems, A Way of Life and Death: Three Centuries of Prussian-German Militarism
(Nashville, 1985) for an example of this pitfall. See also the in¬‚uential work by G. Ritter
translated as The Sword and the Sceptre: The Problem of Militarism in Germany (4 vols.,
London, 1972“3) and the discussion in V. R. Berghahn, Militarism: The History of an
International Debate 1861“1979 (Leamington Spa, 1981).
10 T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe
1660“1789 (Oxford, 2002); A. Gestrich, Absolutismus und Offentlichkeit. Politische Kom-
munikation in Deutschland zu Beginn des 18. Jahrhunderts (Gottingen, 1994); J. V. H.
Melton, The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe (Cambridge, 2001); M. Schaich,
Staat und Offentlichkeit im Kurf¨ rstentum Bayern der Sp¨ taufkl¨ rung (Munich, 2001); J.
u a a
Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Cambridge, MA, 1989).
11 For helpful discussions of institutional culture, see J. S. Ott, The Organizational Culture
Perspective (Chicago, 1989); A. M. Pettigrew, ˜On Studying Organizational Cultures™,
Administrative Science Quarterly 24 (1979), pp. 570“81; D. C. Pheysey, Organizational
Cultures: Types and Transformations (London/New York, 1993); R. H. Hall, Organizations:
Structures, Processes, and Outcomes (4th edn, Englewood Cliffs, 1989); D. Katz/R. L.
Kahn, The Social Psychology of Organizations (2nd edn, New York, 1978).
12 A. Goldgar and R. I. Frost, eds., Institutional Culture in Early Modern Europe (Leiden,
40 Peter H. Wilson

State power
The importance attached to absolutism requires us to begin by clarify-
ing the nature of state power in central Europe. Prussia is a misleading
starting-point since it obscures the powerful in¬‚uence of the Reich, or
Holy Roman Empire. Prior to the annexation of parts of Poland after
1772, most Prussian territory lay within the Reich which still exercised
formal jurisdiction over 43 per cent of its land and 55 per cent of the pop-
ulation in 1806. Part of the explanation why the Reich has been excluded
from the standard paradigm of German state power and military culture is
that it not only lacked a permanent army, but contemporaries questioned
whether it was a state at all.13 Closer examination reveals, however, that
the Reich™s fragmented sovereignty exercised considerable in¬‚uence on
both state power and military culture, and this not merely in the smaller
principalities, but also in Prussia, and the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy,
that other great central European colossus that stands somewhat in the
Hohenzollern™s historiographical shadow.
This can be seen when we examine the how central Europeans
responded to the fundamental question of political legitimacy. There
were of course considerable differences in how royal power was dis-
cussed across Europe. Nonetheless, it is possible to draw a broad contrast
between debates in western, southern and northern Europe, and those
within the Reich. Most European monarchs sought to buttress claims for
unfettered royal authority by referring to divine and hereditary rights,
and the rhetoric of the ˜mysteries of state™ that implied that the common
good was best served by trusting ultimate authority in an impartial king,
standing above the petty squabbles and self-interest of lesser mortals.
These arguments were supplemented over the course of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries by increasing reliance on supposedly rational
˜reasons of state™ that were in turn transformed into ˜national interests™ at
the turn of the nineteenth century. Though subject to its own scholarly
controversy, these royalist arguments can be labelled for our purposes as

13 For the contemporary debate on the Reich and the issue of state power, see B. Roeck,
Reichssystem und Reichsherkommen. Die Diskussion uber die Staatlichkeit des Reiches in der
politischen Publizistik des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart, 1984); H. Gross, Empire and
Sovereignty: A History of the Public Law Literature in the Holy Roman Empire 1599“1804
(Chicago, 1973). Further useful discussion in W. Brauneder, ed., Heiliges R¨ mischen Reich
und moderne Staatlichkeit (Frankfurt/M., 1993). For the central European understanding
of monarchy see H. Dreitzel, Absolutismus und st¨ ndische Verfassung in Deutschland (Mainz,
1992), and his Monarchiebegriffe in der F¨ rstengesellschaft (2 vols., Cologne, Weimar,
Vienna, 1991). For the debates on the Reich™s political character, see P. H. Wilson,
˜Still a Monstrosity? Some Re¬‚ections on Early Modern German Statehood™, Historical
Journal 45 (2) (2006), pp. 565“76.
Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 41

Absolutism was disputed from three directions: Estates and other rep-
resentative bodies claiming to act on behalf of the population; social and
corporate groups like the nobility and clergy exercising less formal in¬‚u-
ence, such as through the royal court; ordinary people shaping events
through protest and passive resistance.14 This contest over the moral high
ground of the ˜common good™ produced two conceptions of monarchy.
One was the more exclusive, unfettered exercise of power by an absolute
monarchy whose behaviour might be guided by laws, but was not bound
by them. The other was the mixed form where the crown held the initia-
tive, but shared the exercise of at least some sovereign rights with various
formal intermediary bodies like parliaments and law courts.
These arguments were conducted in modi¬ed form within central
Europe because of the complex nature of the Reich. It was accepted that
the Reich was an empire, but some disputed whether it was a monar-
chy, rather than a federation or an aristocracy in which the emperor was
simply primus inter pares. The imperial title was elective rather than
hereditary, and constituted the practical expression of the medieval polit-
ical ideal of a single Christendom. The Reich claimed direct descent from
ancient Rome as the fourth, or last monarchy prophesied in the Book of
Daniel. This imperial ideology had little impact on international relations
after 1648, but had nonetheless profoundly shaped the political structure
of central Europe. Monarchy meant the emperor as sovereign overlord
of a host of other rulers all exercising lesser rights that had come to be
known as ˜territorial sovereignty™ (Landeshoheit) through their association
with speci¬c lands within the Reich. These lesser territorial rulers were
arranged in a feudal hierarchy that bound them not only to the emperor,
but also collectively to the Reich as an overarching political framework.
At the pinnacle were the seven electors, one of whom ruled Bohemia that
constituted a distinct kingdom within the Reich. Then followed around
85 secular and ecclesiastical principalities that had been joined by 226
counts and prelates as junior partners in the sixteenth century.15 Rule in
these principalities followed monarchical lines, although around a third
were governed by clerics elected by the local cathedral or abbey chapter.

14 M. A. R. Graves, The Parliaments of Early Modern Europe 1400“1700 (Harlow, 2001);
W. te Brake, Shaping History: Ordinary People in European Politics, 1500“1700 (Berkeley,
15 The counts and prelates had declined to 139 by 1792, chie¬‚y through the promotion
of some to full princely status and the inheritance and absorption of others into vari-
ous electorates and principalities. For new interpretations of the Reich and its political
structure see H. Neuhaus, Das Reich in der Fr¨ hen Neuzeit (Munich, 1997); K. O. Frhr.
v. Aretin, Das alte Reich 1648“1806 (3 vols., Stuttgart, 1993“7); P. H. Wilson, The Holy
Roman Empire 1495“1806 (Basingstoke, 1999), and From Reich to Revolution: German
History 1558“1806 (Basingstoke, 2004).
42 Peter H. Wilson

Alongside these were around 51 imperial free cities governed as civic
republics, plus another 350 families of imperial knights grouped into 15
˜cantons™, or autonomous aristocratic corporations, that were excluded
from most imperial institutions, but, like the cities, were nonetheless reich-
sunmittelbar, or subject to no other lord than the emperor.
The Reich™s fragmented sovereignty considerably complicated the cen-
tral European debate on legitimate authority and, with it, the discussion
of state power and the use of force. While employing absolutist rhetoric
in disputes with their own Estates (Landst¨ nde) within their territories,
the electors and princes joined the cities in presenting themselves col-
lectively as the imperial Estates (Reichsst¨ nde) charged with safeguarding
the common good by preventing the emperor™s abuse of authority. The
latter™s position was more complex still since he was simultaneously over-
lord of the Reich, ruler of one of its constituent territories and so also a
Reichsstand, and, as territorial ruler (Landesherr) faced territorial Estates
who contested his unrestrained exercise of power in his own domains.
A number of medium- and long-term factors ensured that development
was uneven across the Reich, so that some princes and electors had more
practical power than others, while the emperor™s authority and that of the
collective imperial institutions varied according to region.16
The territorial Estates had seen their powers curtailed more severely
than either the emperor or the princes by the later seventeenth century.
The Estates had been ¬rmly excluded from any say in military matters
when the collective defence structure of the Reich was established at the
beginning of the sixteenth century. The Thirty Years™ War saw their virtual
exclusion from matters of territorial defence, as imperial law was revised
by 1654 to oblige them to grant taxes towards the upkeep of soldiers
and military installations required for common defence. The experience
of prolonged warfare between 1672 and 1714 enabled most princes to
convert this into the ability to determine taxation and recruitment levels
without reference to their Estates.17 However, this situation remained
uneven across the Reich, particularly where the Estates secured imperial

16 For this with particular reference to the use of armed force, see H. Munkler, Im Namen
des Staates. Die Begr¨ ndung der Staatsraison in der Fr¨
u uhen Neuzeit (Frankfurt/M., 1987);
J. Kunisch, F¨ rst “ Gesellschaft “ Krieg. Studien zur bellizistischen Disposition des absoluten
F¨ rstenstaates (Cologne, 1992); P. H. Wilson, Absolutism in Central Europe (London,
2000), and ˜War in German Thought from the Peace of Westphalia to Napoleon™, Euro-
pean History Quarterly 28 (1998), pp. 5“50.
17 For a useful, if biased, discussion with numerous examples see J. J. Moser, Von der
Landes Hoheit in Milit¨ r Sachen . . . (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1773). For an overview
of German military development in the context of imperial politics, see W. Schulze,
Reich und T¨ rkengefahr im sp¨ ten 16. Jahrhundert (Munich, 1978); P. H. Wilson, German
u a
Armies: War and German Politics 1648“1806 (London, 1998).
Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 43

recognition for agreements with their princes, leaving open the possibility
that one of the two imperial supreme courts might intervene to curb
excessive princely demands, as in eighteenth-century Wurttemberg and
The princes were the principal bene¬ciaries of these developments,
but their ability to exercise legitimate authority, particularly in matters of
war and peace, remained partially restricted. One reason was that they
lacked suf¬cient resources for fully independent statehood, had they even
desired it. Territories such as Saxony or Bavaria that exercised consid-
erable in¬‚uence within the Reich were comparatively small in European
terms. The same was true of the Hohenzollern monarchy for much of
its existence prior to the later eighteenth century. Material factors grew
more signi¬cant as the century progressed, as the military expansion of
other European powers marginalised the German princes. At least eight
electorates, bishoprics and duchies had mustered armies of 10“20,000
men apiece between the 1680s and 1720s, or roughly comparable with
late seventeenth-century England, Denmark or Portugal. However, this
had required an extreme effort and had only been possible thanks to the
slow demographic recovery following the Thirty Years™ War and increased
levels of taxation. The acceleration of population growth from the 1730s
eased the burden somewhat, but created other problems in its wake at a
time when territorial rulers faced the legacy of indebtedness after the pro-
longed wars of 1672“1714. The ¬nancial problems were compounded by
renewed warfare in the mid-eighteenth century, made worse by the fact
that much of it was fought within the Reich, unlike the earlier con¬‚icts
that had been kept mainly to its periphery by the system of collective
security. Coupled with the in¬‚exibility of German corporate society, this
forced the medium and smaller princes to disengage from European mil-
itary competition after the end of the Seven Years™ War in 1763.
Some statistics illustrate this point. The overall size of central Euro-
pean military establishments rose from 48,700 in 1650 to peak at 343,000
in the ¬nal stages of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701“14), or
roughly equivalent to those maintained by France across the same period.
Numbers declined somewhat after 1714, but rose again to over 430,000
by 1735, now considerably higher than the French military establishment.
Overall numbers then stabilised at about 420,000, before climbing in the
last two decades of the century to 798,700 by the eve of the French Rev-
olutionary Wars. The proportion maintained by the medium and smaller
territories had remained constant at between 40 and 50% until 1714,
when it fell to 30 to 40%, declining to under 30% from the 1740s, before
dropping to 13% by 1792. Meanwhile, the Habsburg army had grown
from 33,000 in 1650 to 497,700 by 1792, while that of the Hohenzollerns
44 Peter H. Wilson

experienced an even more dramatic increase from 700 to 195,000 over
the same period.18
These changes in the size and structure of German armies were simul-
taneously a cause and a consequence of the changing place of central
European rulers within the international system. German princes already
possessed signi¬cant military and alliance rights prior to the Peace of
Westphalia that codi¬ed some of the more signi¬cant ones.19 The more
frequent exercise of these rights after 1648 stemmed in part from a new
understanding of the princes™ position as autonomous rulers rather than
the emperor™s local agents. However, it also derived from greater anxi-
ety at the ambiguity of their international position in a Europe that was
subdivided into increasingly more distinct sovereign states. These pres-
sures stimulated a desire among some princes to enhance their position
within the Reich by acquiring a higher place in its formal hierarchy, for
instance an electoral title. More signi¬cantly, it encouraged others to seek
royal titles, either based on their existing possessions, or through mar-
riage, conquest or election elsewhere. Such ambitions propelled princes
to capitalise on their strategic location, military resources and in¬‚uence
within imperial politics to seek foreign sponsors, not least because, as
the Hohenzollerns discovered, new royal titles only acquired full legiti-
macy once they were recognised by other European monarchs. The abil-
ity of most princes to engage in such activities was severely restricted by
their lack of substantial territories or resources, and by their geograph-
ical location that placed them in locations with little chance of expan-
sion. The Hohenzollerns were fortunate in this respect as their territories
were clustered mainly in the north-east next to Sweden and Poland, both
of which were in decline by 1700 and offered scope for conquest and
The growth of Prussia and Austria as distinct central European great
powers should not obscure the fact that both retained much of the Reich™s
political culture, especially the belief that political legitimacy rested on the
adherence of those in power to recognised legal and moral norms.20 While

18 Compiled from the tables in P. H. Wilson, ˜Warfare in the Old Regime 1648“1789™, in
J. Black, ed., European Warfare 1453“1815 (Basingstoke, 1999), p. 80, and Wilson, Reich
to Revolution, p. 226.
19 E. W. Bockenforde, ˜Der Westf¨ lische Friede und das Bundnisrecht der Reichsst¨ nde™,
¨ ¨ a ¨ a
Der Staat 8 (1969), pp. 449“78; D. Gotschmann, ˜Das jus armorum. Ausformung
und politische Bedeutung der reichsst¨ ndischen Milit¨ rhoheit bis zu ihrer de¬nitiven
a a
Anerkennung im Westf¨ lischen Frieden™, Bl¨ tter f¨ r deutsche Landesgeschichte 129 (1993),
a a u
pp. 257“76.
20 W. Schmale, ˜Das Heilige Romische Reich und die Herrschaft des Rechts™, in R. G. Asch
and H. Duchhardt, eds., Der Absolutismus “ ein Mythos? (Cologne, 1996), pp. 229“48;
J. Engelbrecht, ˜Staat, Recht und Konfession. Krieg und Frieden im Rechtsdenken des
Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 45

territorial law became increasingly distinct thanks to its codi¬cation in the
eighteenth century, it derived ultimately from imperial law. Princes used
their status as imperial Estates to justify tax and recruitment demands
from their own subjects. The Reich offered a protective framework that
was appreciated by the smaller and weaker principalities, particularly as
these were overshadowed by the disproportionate growth of Austria and
Prussia. Though not averse to seizing speci¬c advantages for their own
dynasty, most princes wanted to preserve the basic imperial framework as
essential to their own status and autonomy in an uncertain international
These concerns sustained both the emperor™s own authority and the
wider collective imperial framework into the eighteenth century. The
emperor remained formal overlord over the entire Reich after 1648, but
was obliged to exercise some important sovereign rights in conjunction
with the imperial Estates through common institutions, notably the impe-
rial diet, or Reichstag, that remained in permanent session after 1663. This
collective exercise of state power was expressed as the formula of Kaiser
und Reich and covered key legislative, judicial, diplomatic and military
functions. However, the imperial title was in practice monopolised by
the Habsburgs between 1438 and 1806, and so was associated with the
dynasty with the most territory and largest army of all central European
rulers. Possession of the title was far from automatic. The Habsburgs
had to negotiate with the electors to ensure each succession and there
remained the possibility that these might choose another German prince
or even foreign ruler instead. The experience of two prolonged inter-
regna, 1657“8 and 1740“2, together with the election of the Bavarian
Wittelsbach as Emperor Charles VII (1742“5), underlined the fact that
Habsburg supremacy could not be taken for granted. Consequently, the
trend towards the merger of Habsburg and imperial institutions that had
still been perceptible in the early seventeenth century was reversed from
the 1640s as the dynasty sought to insulate their own possessions against
any potential loss of the imperial title. This trend became pronounced
with the death of the last male Habsburg in 1740 and the subsequent War
of the Austrian Succession. Though the Habsburgs recovered the impe-
rial title for Maria Theresa™s husband, Francis Stephen, in 1745, they
failed to persuade the rest of the German princes to back their defence
of their dynastic possessions against a hostile European coalition. The

Reiches™, in H. Lademacher and S. Groenveld, eds., Krieg und Kultur (Munster, 1998),
pp. 113“28; P. H. Wilson, ˜War, Political Culture and Central European State Formation
from the Late Middle Ages to the Early Nineteenth Century™, in N. Garnham and
K. Jeffery, eds., Culture, Place and Identity (Dublin, 2005), pp. 112“37.
46 Peter H. Wilson

Monarchy™s internal reform programme that was fully underway by 1748
was intended to ensure there would not be a repeat of the earlier crisis
by making the Habsburg™s dynastic empire fully self-suf¬cient from the
These developments ensured that state power remained fragmented
and multiple in central Europe, where a variety of different authori-
ties claimed individually, or collectively, to exercise the legitimate use of
armed force in the eighteenth century. The most senior of these was for-
mally the emperor who retained the ability to act unilaterally despite the
imposition of constitutional constraints. The emperor had been obliged
not to embark on a war or conclude a foreign alliance without the Reich-
stag™s knowledge and agreement since 1495.22 These restrictions were
related to the juridi¬cation of con¬‚icts within the Reich through the
mechanism of the Public Peace that required all disputes between impe-
rial Estates and between them and their subjects to be submitted to
arbitration through the imperial supreme courts. An elaborate institu-
tional and legal framework was developed between 1495 and 1570 to
both constrain war-making and encourage peaceful con¬‚ict resolution. As
supreme judge and war lord, the emperor stood partially above this frame-
work. Moreover, the Public Peace legislation permitted the use of force in
self-defence, while the rules were intended to regulate behaviour between
Christians, leaving the emperor considerable scope in his dealings with
the Ottoman Turks. The decision of Emperor Leopold I (1658“1705)
to seek the Reichstag™s approval for formal declarations of war against
France in 1689 and 1702 had little to do with further constitutional con-
straints imposed at the Peace of Westphalia. He had begun defensive
military operations already in the ¬rst case, while in the second his army
had launched an offensive in Italy prior to the formal declaration of war.
The Reichstag™s participation simply lent greater legitimacy to operations
that were already underway.23
Formal involvement of the Reichstag invoked the formula of Kaiser und
Reich and imposed certain constraints on imperial operations. However,
in practice the emperor could circumvent these as the Reich lacked its
own permanent army and relied on soldiers from the territories during

21 For accessible, modern overviews see M. Hochedlinger, Austria™s Wars of Emergence
1683“1797 (London, 2003); T. Winkelbauer, St¨ ndefreiheit und F¨ rstenmacht. L¨ nder
a u a
und Untertanen des Hauses Habsburg im konfessionellen Zeitalter (2 vols., Vienna, 2003).
22 J. J. Schmauss and H. C. Senckenberg, eds., Neue und vollst¨ ndige Sammlung der Reichsab-
schiede (4 vols., Frankfurt/M., 1747), II: 12; J. C. Lunig, Corpus juris militaris (2 vols.,
Frankfurt, 1723), I: 381“7.
23 C. Kampmann, ˜Reichstag und Reichskriegserkl¨ rung im Zeitalter Ludwigs XIV™, His-
torische Jahrbuch 113 (1993), pp. 41“59.
Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 47

emergencies. The Habsburg monarchy always provided the largest con-
tingent and its generals dominated the imperial general staff.24 Nonethe-
less, the distinction between reichisch and kaiserlich only sharpened once
the Habsburgs temporarily lost the imperial title in 1740, and Austrian
and even Prussian (until 1795) troops continued to act as Reichstruppen
into the French Revolutionary Wars.
The collective exercise of military power was further sustained by the
regional level inserted into imperial politics by the network of Kreise, or
imperial circles, interposed between superior imperial institutions like
the Reichstag and the mass of individual territories. Established between
1500 and 1512, this structure grouped the territories into ten regions,
each formally with its own convenors and assembly. The Habsburgs
ensured that their lands formed two of these Kreise; something that both
enhanced the autonomy of their dynastic empire, yet permitted partic-
ipation at this level of imperial politics when it suited them. The two
north-eastern Kreise largely ceased to function thanks to the rise of Prus-
sia that made little use of these institutions after the 1730s. The other six
functioned more or less effectively until the end of the Reich and provided
a forum for the smaller territories to take defensive measures, ful¬l their
imperial obligations and act collectively in European politics.25
The territories constituted the other dimension of central European
state power, but, as we have seen, varied widely in their capacity and the
degree of their dependency on the Reich. All were entitled under imperial
law to maintain troops and exercise other aspects associated with military
authority (Milit¨ rhoheit) such as recruitment and disciplinary functions.
Territorial forces could be used to advance dynastic objectives through
participation in European con¬‚icts. This was becoming the exclusive pre-
serve of Austria and Prussia by the later eighteenth century, though the
possession of modest forces ensured that medium territories like Bavaria,
Hessen-Darmstadt, Baden and Wurttemberg remained attractive alliance
partners to revolutionary and Napoleonic France and enabled them to
make the transition from constituent parts of the Reich to sovereign mem-
bers of the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806.26 Defence remained the
prime legitimate use of armed force and was generally associated with the

24 H. Neuhaus, ˜Das Problem der milit¨ rischen Exekutive in der Sp¨ tphase des alten
a a
Reiches™, in J. Kunisch and B. Stollberg-Rilinger, eds., Staatsverfassung und Heeresverfas-
sung (Berlin, 1986), pp. 297“346.
25 W. Dotzauer, Die deutschen Reichskreise (1383“1806) (Stuttgart, 1998); H. Neuhaus,
˜Reichskreise und Reichskriege in der Fruhen Neuzeit™, in W. Wust, ed., Reichskreis und
¨ ¨
Territorium. Die Herrschaft uber die Herrschaft? (Stuttgart, 2000), pp. 71“88.
26 R. Schneid, Napoleon™s Conquest of Europe: The War of the Third Coalition (Westport,
48 Peter H. Wilson

ful¬lment of obligations to imperial collective security and the mainte-
nance of the Public Peace. Possession of even a few troops represented a
visible demonstration of political autonomy that set the imperial Estates
apart from the thousands of lesser aristocrats and towns. For this rea-
son, the medium and minor princes refrained from completely disband-
ing their forces in the later eighteenth century, even though they had
dropped out of an active role in European affairs. Finally, troops were
useful for peacekeeping and maintaining law and order within territories,
though the ability of rulers to use force to coerce their subjects remained
restricted by imperial law and could, in extreme cases, still result in their
deposition by the imperial courts. A good example is the Hanoverian
and Brunswick invasion of Mecklenburg in 1719 to enforce a court ver-
dict against Duke Carl Leopold who had used his own troops to silence
opposition from his nobility.27

Military culture
The nature of central European state power ensured that defence consti-
tuted the primary military mission. All European rulers were concerned
that their military actions appeared legitimate, particularly to their peers
who, in this aspect, constituted the chief court of public opinion.28 The
supra-territorial imperial legal framework formalised this public sphere
within the Reich, by providing a form of international law, as well as
fora like the Reichstag and imperial courts to judge rulers™ actions. Legit-
imacy was also a concern of ordinary soldiers since the completion of their
institutional mission entailed breaking core social taboos against killing:
soldiers risked becoming outcasts by crossing the moral and theological
norms guiding the behaviour of settled society.29

27 M. Hughes, Law and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Germany (Woodbridge, 1988);
P. Wick, Versuche zur Errichtung des Absolutismus im Mecklenburg in der ersten H¨ lfte des
18. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1964). Other examples in W. Trossbach, ˜Furstenabsetzung im
18. Jahrhundert™, Zeitschrift f¨ r Historische Forschung 13 (1986), pp. 425“54.
28 K. Repgen, ˜Kriegslegitimationen in Alteuropa. Entwurf einer historischen Typologie™,
Historische Zeitschrift 241 (1985), pp. 27“49; Gestreich, Absolutismus und Offentlichkeit,
pp. 78“90.
29 On the values and norms of German society, including inhibitions against violence,
see K. H. Wegert, ˜Contention with Civility: The State and Social Control in the Ger-
man Southwest, 1760“1850™, Historical Journal 34 (1991), pp. 349“69 esp. pp. 366“7;
P. Munch, ˜Grundwerte in der fruhneuzeitlichen St¨ ndegesellschaft?™, in W. Schulze, ed.,
¨ ¨ a
St¨ ndische Gesellschaft und soziale Mobilit¨ t (Munich, 1988), pp. 53“72; H. C. Rublack,
a a
˜Political and Social Norms in Urban Communities in the Holy Roman Empire™, in
K. v. Greyerz, ed., Religion, Politics and Social Protest (London, 1984), pp. 24“60;
W. Schulze, ˜Vom Gemeinnutz zum Eigennutz. Uber den Normenwandel in der
st¨ ndischen Gesellschaft der Fruhen Neuzeit™, Historische Zeitschrift 243 (1986), pp. 591“
a ¨
Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 49

The survival and development of the institution forms a secondary
element in its mission that can in practice supplant the formal, primary
mission. For an army to act in this manner, it needs to have a suf¬cient
level of institutional development and cohesion so that it follows a com-
mon goal, rather than a disparate set of individual and group interests.
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the princes and imperial
institutions struggle to assert control over mercenaries and militiamen.
Changes in warfare associated with the ˜military revolution™ placed a pre-
mium on drill and cohesion, since the new weapons and tactics were only
effective when used en masse by large, well-trained and disciplined for-
mations. While the authorities appreciated the advantages of cohesion,
they also feared it, since it reinforced soldiers™ corporate autonomy and
identity. The practical and emotional bonds forged by serving together
induced soldiers to identify with their comrades and their unit, rather than
their, often unreliable, paymaster. The same cohesion that made them
superior to feudal levies in battle, also enabled them to bargain more
effectively with the authorities, for instance by refusing to disband until
their pay arrears were met. Even when units were formally discharged,
soldiers frequently stayed together, living by extortion until they were
hired again. The princes reacted by using the framework of the Public
Peace to assert control over the masterless soldiery. They agreed com-
mon disciplinary codes through the Reichstag, notably in 1570 and 1642,
that included punishments for marauders and deserters.30 These were
integrated in other imperial and territorial legislation that attempted to
restrict movement through a system of check-points and passes. The mea-
sures were revised and extended after 1648 to target bandits, marauders
and the general itinerant population that in any case always included a
signi¬cant proportion of deserters and former soldiers.31 Like all disci-
plinary measures, these were only partially successful, contradictory and
often counter-productive. Itinerants and others considered ˜expendable™
(entbehrlich) were often pressed into the ranks, particularly in wartime or

30 R. Baumann, Landsknechte (Munich, 1994); P. Burschel, S¨ ldner im Nordwestdeutsch-
land der 16. und 17. Jahrhundert (Gottingen, 1994). Numerous regulations are printed
in E. Frauenholz, ed., Entwicklungsgeschichte des deutschen Heerwesens (4 vols., Munich,
1936“40). J. G. Kulpis, ed., Eines hochl¨ bl. Schwabisch. Creyßes alte und neue Kriegs Verord-
nungen und Reglements (Stuttgart, 1737); J. F. Schultze, ed., Compendium additionale uber ¨
die churf¨ rstlich brandenburgischen Kriegsartikel (Berlin, 1686); Lunig, ed., Corpus juris
u ¨
militaris. Other south-west German examples can be found in the Hauptsstaatarchiv
Stuttgart, A5: Bu.67; A211: Bu.484; C14: Bu.122, 123 and 123a; Landesbibliothek
¨ ¨ ¨
Stuttgart, manuscripts section, cod.milit. qt.28.
31 U. Danker, R¨ uberbanden im alten Reich um 1700 (Frankfurt/M., 1988); C. Kuther,
a ¨
Menschen auf der Straße (Gottingen, 1983); E. Schubert, Arme Leute, Bettler und Gauner
im Franken des 18. Jahrhunderts (2nd edn, Neustadt an der Aisch, 1990).
50 Peter H. Wilson

when regiments were being hired as auxiliaries to foreign powers. The
same men were expected to patrol the countryside and assist in the polic-
ing of gypsies, beggars and others considered a threat by the authorities.32
The disciplinary measures were accompanied by other strategies
designed to refocus soldiers™ loyalty away from the horizontal plane of
comradeship and upwards towards the territorial ruler. Soldiers lost the
right to elect their immediate superiors early in the sixteenth century.
Colonels were deprived of the power to appoint the junior regimental
of¬cers during the seventeenth century, and gradually lost control over
many aspects of the internal management of their unit in the course of
the next hundred years. The hierarchy of command lengthened as more
intermediate ranks were introduced, while the ratio of of¬cers to men
increased as company sizes were reduced in the later seventeenth cen-
tury while expanding the number of command positions. Uniforms that
had initially reinforced unit identi¬cation and loyalty during the seven-
teenth century were standardised across entire armies, or at least the
infantry from the 1670s as, for instance, the Austrians adopted pearl-
grey coats, the Prussians blue and the Hanoverians red. The common
colours identi¬ed soldiers as their ruler™s men, something that became
still more apparent once the princes themselves began wearing military
uniform from the early eighteenth century onwards.33
Finally, the greater permanence of forces after 1648, and especially
after the 1670s, also assisted the institutionalisation of armies. Military
formations persisted beyond the length of service of their personnel and,
during the eighteenth century, also frequently outlived them.34 Formal
procedures and informal patterns of behaviour became established and
routine. This process was assisted by the character of German society
as a complex web of corporate groups, loosely structured along func-
tional lines, each with recognised customs, rights and privileges that were
anchored in law and, in many cases, separate and partially autonomous
jurisdictions. Military personnel were simply one among many such
groups, identi¬able by distinctive clothing, customs and their own martial
While it was promoted by the authorities in the interests of further-
ing their control, the institutionalisation of armies nonetheless created

32 S. Kroll, ˜Kurs¨ chsisches Milit¨ r und l¨ ndliche Randgruppen im 18. Jahrhundert™, in
a a a
S. Kroll and M. Kaiser, eds., Milit¨ r und Gesellschaft in der Fr¨ hen Neuzeit (Hamburg,
a u
2002), pp. 275“95.
33 P. Mansel, ˜Monarchy, Uniform and the Rise of the Frac™, Past and Present 96 (1982),
pp. 103“32.
34 For the lineages of German regiments see G. Tessin, Die Regimenter der europ¨ ischen
Staaten im alten R´gime (Osnabruck, 1986).
e ¨
Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 51

new opportunities for a distinct collective identity and set of interests.
Individual regiments and, on rare occasions, entire armies still mutinied,
particularly when they were about to be transferred to the service of
another ruler. While this could still be reconciled with loyalty to their
original master, as in the case of the Saxon army that deserted virtually en
masse after being pressed into Prussian service in 1756, other instances
were clearly directed against the authorities.35 Some of these mutinies
were motivated by the fear that soldiers would lose pay or employment
if their regiments were disbanded, or because they believed they were
being sent on particularly dangerous missions far from home. Service in
Hungary was particularly unpopular because of the high mortality rate
from malaria. Other regiments mutinied in the 1770s and 1780s when
they learned they were to serve in North America, or other places from
where they felt they would have little prospect of returning home. Two
Ansbach-Bayreuth regiments rebelled at Ochsenfurt in March 1777 when
they thought they would make the entire voyage to America in the barges
they were boarding to carry them down the River Main. Perhaps the most
dramatic instance of an army acting to safeguard its own institutional
interests was the coup carried out by the Wurttemberg army in 1737. A
group of senior of¬cers, supported by over half the regiments, marched
on the duchy™s capital to overturn the regency government established by
the late duke and replace it with a new one that explicitly guaranteed the
army would not be disbanded. Like most coups, this caused severe ten-
sions within the army as the action was opposed by some key personnel
who plotted an unsuccessful counter-coup later in the year.36
Discussion of the army™s mission has already highlighted the impor-
tance of its relationship to the state for its military culture. However, as
we have seen, state power was fragmented in central Europe between ter-
ritorial rulers, the emperor and imperial institutions. The system of col-
lective security entailed the despatch of individual territorial contingents
to be combined into the imperial army. The weaker territories simply
sent their few soldiers who joined those of neighbouring lands to form
regiments organised through the regional structure of the Kreise. This
process was consolidated by the imperial defence reforms of 1681“2 that

35 H. Hohne, Die Einstellung der s¨ chsischen Regimenter in die preußischen Armee im
¨ a
Jahre 1756 (Halle, 1926); W. Handrick, ˜Der bayerische Lowe im Dienste des
osterreichischen Adlers. Das kurfurstliche Auxili¨ rkorps in den Niederlanden 1746“
¨ ¨ a
1749™, Milit¨ rgeschichtlichen Mitteilungen 50 (1991), pp. 25“60; P. H. Wilson, ˜Violence
and the Rejection of Authority in 18th-Century Germany: The Case of the Swabian
Mutinies 1757™, German History 12 (1994), pp. 1“26.
36 E. St¨ dtler, Die Ansbach-Bayreuther Truppen im Amerikanischen Unabh¨ ngigkeitskrieg
a a
1777“1783 (Neustadt/Aisch, 1955); P. H. Wilson, War, State and Society in W¨ rttemberg,
1677“1793 (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 184“98.
52 Peter H. Wilson

were implemented by the six southern and western Kreise that decided to
maintain their imperial contingents permanently in peacetime once the
wars against France ended in 1714. While the territories provided the
infantry and cavalry, the Kreise employed the general staff and specialist
troops directly as their own establishment paid with regular cash con-
tributions from their member territories. The Reich also maintained a
small general staff, as well as three fortresses on its western frontier. This
system created three distinct, yet overlapping military structures, each
with its own authority, set of regulations, martial law, organisation and
pay arrangements. Many medium territories were also integrated in all
three structures, since they designated sections of their territorial forces
as permanent Kreistruppen. This entailed surrendering part of their terri-
torial military authority (Milit¨ rhoheit), because pay, discipline and pro-
motion procedures were all subject to Kreis rather than territorial rules.37
The larger territories refused to integrate their forces into the Kreis mili-
tary structure, but still sent parts of their armies to serve under Kreis or
Reich generals in wartime and for peacekeeping operations. Even Prussia
remained within this system, deploying part of its army as its imperial con-
tingent in the war against revolutionary France in 1793“5. Involvement
in this operation stimulated renewed Prussian interest in other imperial
institutions, notably the Reichstag since it was here that the appointment
of the Reich generals was decided.38
The existence of three parallel military structures slowed the institu-
tionalisation of the different armies at territorial level. It was common
for of¬cers to hold territorial, Kreis and even Reich ranks simultaneously,
giving them three sets of masters. Imperial regulations continued to in¬‚u-
ence Kreis and territorial ones, encouraging a degree of standardisation
and inhibiting the evolution of distinct territorial practice. The relatively
frequent transfer of of¬cers and other personnel between armies also
disseminated ideas across the Reich and ensured notions of loyalty to a
wider, if vaguely de¬ned fatherland that transcended that to a particular
Nonetheless, the territory remained the foundation for all military
organisation since it was at this level that troops were recruited, trained,
fed, clothed and housed. The exclusion of the territorial Estates from
military authority was a major step towards creating a single princely
monopoly of legitimate armed force. Territorial towns and villages

37 Examples in P. C. Storm, Der schw¨ bische Kreis als Feldherr (Berlin, 1974); B. Sicken,
Das Wehrwesen des fr¨ nkischen Reichskreises (Wurzburg, 1967); M. Plassmann, Krieg und
a ¨
Defension am Oberrhein. Die vorderen Reichskreise und Markgraf Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden
(1693“1706) (Berlin, 2000).
38 K. H¨ rter, Reichstag und Revolution 1789“1806 (Gottingen, 1992).
a ¨
Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 53

continued to maintain their own armed watchmen into the eighteenth
century, but they had already been integrated into territorial militia sys-
tems in the sixteenth century. The militia had been subject to a similar
disciplining process as the regular army, and had often been partially
merged with it as a conscription system, as with the ˜canton system™ in
Prussia. With the partial exception of the Habsburgs, no central Euro-
pean rulers maintained substantial naval forces, leaving the army as the
sole armed institution.
State regulation and disciplining helped create soldiers as a distinct
˜military estate™ (Milit¨ rstand) within German corporate society. The
army™s social composition only super¬cially corresponded to the clich´ e
of it as an expression of class structure. While it was a vehicle for social
mobility, the actual number of ordinary men rising through the ranks
was relatively small. Moreover, the proportion of aristocratic of¬cers
increased during the eighteenth century. However, many of these were
ennobled commoners, particularly in the Austrian army, or the sons of
patent nobles (Briefadel) rather than the feudal landlords implied by the
standard interpretation of the Prussian army.39 Like the civil administra-
tion, territorial armies recruited their of¬cers from groups already allied
with the princely dynasty, rather than through a wholesale alliance with
the local aristocracy. A signi¬cant number of of¬cers came from out-
side the territory, though most were from other parts of the Reich, and
relatively few corresponded to the later image of the rootless cavalier.
While soldiers wore distinctive clothing and lived under separate juris-
diction, they were far from detached from the rest of society. The devel-
opment of permanent armies led to the concentration of soldiers in those
towns with princely residences or fortresses. However, relatively few men
lived in barracks prior to the mid-nineteenth century, and even those that
did frequently had their families with them. Barracks were in any case
comparatively small and in close proximity to civilian housing. The cav-
alry generally remained billeted in the surrounding villages where they
had better access to fodder for the horses.40 Most men were recruited
locally with generally no more than 10 to 20 per cent coming from out-
side the territory, and these largely from neighbouring lands. The belief
that half or more of the Prussian army was composed of foreigners is a

39 M. Hochedlinger, ˜Mars Ennobled: The Ascent of the Military and the Creation of
a Military Nobility in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Austria™, German History 17 (1991),
pp. 141“76; P. H. Wilson, ˜Social Militarisation in Eighteenth-Century Germany™,
German History 18 (2000), pp. 1“39.
40 R. Prove, Stehendes Heer und st¨ dtische Gesellschaft im 18. Jahrhundert (Gottingen, 1995);
¨ a ¨
H. T. Gr¨ f, ˜Militarisierung der Stadt oder Urbanisierung des Milit¨ rs?™, in R. Prove,
a a ¨
ed., Klio in Uniform? (Cologne, 1997), pp. 89“108.
54 Peter H. Wilson

myth, based on the fact that regiments designated any recruit coming
from outside their ˜canton™ as an Ausl¨ nder. While Prussia did recruit a
higher than average number of men from outside its own lands, it also
allowed a greater proportion of its personnel to marry. As in other armies,
two-thirds or more of the rank and ¬le were given extended leave out-
side the exercise season, while even the permanent cadre was permit-
ted to work as craftsmen and day labourers in their garrison towns.41
Nonetheless, military service still impacted on men™s lives. Rural recruits
entered an urban environment and came into contact with men from dis-
tant lands, often speaking a different dialect. This was especially true of
those regiments in the Prussian and Austrian armies that were raised and
recruited by minor princes seeking in¬‚uence with the Hohenzollerns and
Habsburgs. These units were often stationed in far-¬‚ung parts of their
respective monarchies, yet sent of¬cers back to the original territory each
winter to collect additional recruits.
The diversity of state power in central Europe was not matched by a
similar variety in military organisation. All territories adopted essentially
the same formal structures regardless of whether they were electorates,
secular or ecclesiastical principalities, or imperial cities. The standard
administrative units were the regiment and company, with higher forma-
tions only being introduced during the later eighteenth century. Units
might vary in size with the minor territories maintaining regiments with
companies that were both fewer and smaller than those of larger pow-
ers like Prussia and Austria. Yet, all followed the same general trends,
changing their name from F¨ hnlein to Kompagnie from the 1640s, and
gradually increasing the ratio of of¬cers to men. The tendency for insti-
tutions in the same ¬eld to adopt similar internal structures has been
labelled ˜institutional isomorphism™.42 It was in¬‚uenced by a similarity
in mission, as well as external factors such as common developments in
weaponry and military theory. The overarching structure of the Reich
also exerted considerable in¬‚uence through the imperial military legisla-
tion that shaped territorial regulations. Within this pattern, certain armies
emerged as models for others. The example of Prussia, especially follow-
ing the victories of Frederick II in the 1740s, is well known. However,

41 See the contributions to B. R. Kroener and R. Prove, eds., Krieg und Frieden. Milit¨ r und
¨ a
Gesellschaft in der Fr¨ hen Neuzeit (Paderborn, 1996), and M. Winter, Untertanengeist durch
Milit¨ rp¬‚cht? Das preußische Kantonsystem in brandenburgischen St¨ dten im 18. Jahrhundert
a a
(Bielefeld, 2005); P. H. Wilson, ˜The Politics of Military Recruitment in Eighteenth-
Century Germany™, English Historical Review 117 (2002), pp. 536“58.
42 P. J. DiMaggio and W. W. Powell, ˜The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism
and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields™, American Sociological Review 48
(1983), pp. 147“60.
Military culture in the Reich, c. 1680“1806 55

the Habsburg army was more important across the period as a whole. It
was not only consistently the largest central European force, but it was
also associated with the imperial title and through this with the imperial
military legislation and practice. The Habsburgs attracted a consider-
able number of volunteers from other armies, keen to gain experience
and the chance of entering the emperor™s service. The Habsburgs also
straddled the entire region giving them a variety of enemies, notably the
Ottoman Turks, and so provided a valuable opportunity to learn different
techniques and borrow foreign practice.
Resources constitute the ¬fth element of institutional culture and are
necessary for an army to carry out its mission and to sustain itself. The
material aspect has been comparatively well studied in the literature on
territorial ¬nance that indicates the considerable burden of the standing
army and its impact on ¬scal development and on state intervention in
social and economic life.43 The psychological dimension has received less
attention. Soldiers™ con¬dence in their ability to complete their mission
depends in part on their perception of their equipment and logistical
support. It is also related to their status and self-worth. Low and irregular
pay eroded morale and social standing. Soldiers were considered a poor
catch by prospective parents-in-law and the recognition that they had
little chance of supporting a family encouraged of¬cial attempts to restrict
their chances to marry.44 The belief that military service only attracted
the dregs of society was not restricted to the lower ranks: the cycle of
relatively low pay and status deterred nobles from joining the Elector of
Mainz™s army, for instance, despite otherwise strong traditions of service
in its court and administration.45
Knowledge constituted another important resource. The educational
attainment of eighteenth-century of¬cers was mixed and a number cer-
tainly conformed to the clich´ of the hard-drinking, gambling spendthrifts


. 2
( 13)