The Gay Lives of Frederick the Great and William Iii

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The Gay Lives of Frederick the Great and William III

Frederick the Great of Prussia and William III of the Dutch Republic were two well known great leaders of Europe. They lived decades apart, William from 1650 to 1702, and Frederick from 1712 to 1786, yet had uncannily similar lives, in many aspects. These leaders, because of a somewhat controversial past, have lost many important clues about what their lives were really like. Nonetheless, it is known for sure that both were knowledgeable, great military leaders, champions of justice, and very likely homosexual.

One of the few dissimilarities between Frederick and William was the religion they were raised on, which of course was to influence the rest of their lives, particularly in philosophy. At a young age, William was sent to a Calvinist school which emphasized the Calvinist values like modesty and theory like predestination. Although his views were far from conservative, he did tend to dress more simply, and kept a very cool and reserved appearance. William also was born a week after his father's death, leaving him without a strong figure to emulate. If this had any effect on William, it was not apparent, for he firmly believed that he was destined for great things, and his diplomacy became one of his strongest skills.

All of William's security in his childhood did not exist for Frederick. Frederick endured a horrible abusive childhood with his tyrannical father. Frederick was very well educated and a lover of all things French- art, philosophy and literature. He was a true dandy- he dressed ostentatiously, and did very fashionable things. He also had a very close male friend- Hans Hermann Von Katte who was about 8 years older. They ran away together, but what exactly their relationship was is unclear. Frederick was careful to destroy any evidence so as to escape his father's wrath. But it didn't work, Frederick's father had the two arrested, and very cruelly had Von Katte beheaded in front of Frederick's eyes. Frederick was bed-ridden and hallucinatory for days.

William II also had a close friend, who fortunately did not suffer the same fate. Willem Bentick and William became inseperable at 14. They were so close that when William contracted smallpox, Willem shared his bed, as it was thought that another person with the sick person could draw away some of the disease. Willem and William remained very close, but preceding William's ascension to the throne, it was decided that he would need to be married. He married Mary Stuart, his cousin and daughter of the Duke of York, and very much disliked her. They were polar opposites: Mary wanted affection and was very emotional, while William had his stoic Calvinist mindset. It was sort of the reverse for Frederick: he had a very simple bride, Elizabeth Christine Brunswick, while he was more outgoing, sociable individual. Though the marriage was chosen by Frederick's father, the prince was obedient and understood the importance of the appearance of a strong union. In fact, Frederick had a younger, more openly gay brother who he “[forced] marry ,'to save appearances'" (Dynes 429). Although their marriages were not ideal for either, both William and Frederick stayed with their wives until the end. Frederick coped by buying a palace for his wife; William actually grew to respect his wife and rely on her diplomatic charm. In fact, following her death in 1694 and later his in 1702, William “was found to be wearing Mary's wedding ring and a lock of her hair close to his heart” (William III).

While both kings had decent marriages, Frederick and William were also known for their love of men. William's relationships were less well known, although it was common knowledge that William was interested in men. “There was a rumour that William was unfaithful to Mary. Her meddling English servants warned her that she would catch him emerging from the bedroom of one of her ladies, Elizabeth...
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