18 January in German History

1701

Frederick I of Prussia crowns himself king at Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia).

Frederick maintained a large, splendid court and an army out of proportion to his territories and position to further his pretensions.

In European politics, he allied himself with Austria and the sea powers (England and Holland) against France. Prussian troops were sent to the Netherlands (1688) to protect William of Orange’s continental lands against expected French attacks when William crossed the Channel to accept the English crown. By this act, Frederick hoped to gain the Dutch stadholdership for himself or his descendants, but he was eventually frustrated. Although in the wars of the Grand Alliance against Louis XIV (1689–97), Prussia’s contingents in the imperial army distinguished themselves everywhere, Prussia emerged practically unrewarded at the Treaty of Rijswijk (1697).

On Nov. 16, 1700, however, Austria and Prussia signed a secret treaty that permitted Frederick to crown himself king in Prussia, thus finally realizing his long-cherished ambition. Austria agreed to this elevation primarily to gain Prussian aid in the threatening war against France over the succession to the Spanish throne. In return, Frederick promised to send 8,000 troops beyond the normal Prussian contingent to the imperial army, to give preference to Habsburg candidates in imperial elections, and to vote with Austria on all important matters in the German Diet as far as Prussian interests permitted. Thus, when Frederick crowned himself in Königsberg on Jan. 18, 1701, Prussia was saddled with weighty obligations. Only his son, Frederick William I, and his grandson, Frederick II the Great, were able to exploit Prussia’s enhanced position to the full and transform the new kingdom into a great European power.

1871

Foundation of the German Empire (Reich) and proclamation of Wilhelm I as Emperor (Kaiser) in Versailles.

Lloyd George, Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, Georges Clemenceau, Woodrow Wilson.

1919

The Paris Peace Conference at Versailles opens officially to conclude WWI. Germany and Russia are not represented. Wilson is committed to his 14 Points and a League of Nations. Clemenceau seeks revenge. Lloyd George had been elected partly by promising that German war leaders would be punished. Orlando of Italy sought the territorial gains which the Allies had used to lure Italy into the war in the first place.

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