Frederick the Great
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Frederick the Great

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  15 reviews
In this biography of Frederick the Great, Nancy Mitford carefully unravels the complex character of one of Europe's brilliant rulers. She re-creates his unhappy youth; his reforming zeal, which paved the way for a united Germany; and his spectacular wars.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1970)
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63rd out of 309 books — 77 voters
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David Nichols
An entertaining and edifying biography, skillfully combining political and military history with a wealth of amusing personal details about monarchical eccentricities. Did you know that Frederick II's father collected giants, sometimes by kidnapping them from their homes? Now you do.
Avis Black
I enjoyed the book, but it's missing something that would give it more weight. Mitford's narrative skips along in a breezy, light-hearted fashion that's fun to read, but Frederick the Great happens to be a subject better examined with more depth and with more understanding of the dark side of his personality, his battles, and his era.

The great event of Frederick's life was the The Seven Years' War, which has been called a virtual 'World War' in its scope, with the participation of nearly all th...more
Annalisa
Seldom do I make it through a non-fiction history book, but Nancy Mitford managed to make it easy for me and in record time. This was Mitford's last book, and written while ill with the cancer that would kill her not long after she finished the book. What a strong note to go out on.

Much of the Frederick the Great is based on information gleaned from letters and what a fascinating read it is. I do wish Mitford had lived longer because she could have applied her deft touch to bring so many others...more
Bruce
I have a bit of a passion for historical biographies and this one did not dissapoint. Nancy Mitford's writng style is fresh and engaging. She definitely brings to life some of the complexity of Frederik the Great and in the end brings you to the conclusion that he was a significant and noble ruler of his time. I got interested in learning more about him while reading another biography of Napoleon. On Napolean's fated invasion of Russia he stopped in Potsdam, home of Frederik and the beautiful Sa...more
Margaret
Nancy Mitford is a favorite of mine, without a doubt, and her Frederick the Great is the last European Enlightenment biography that she managed to finish before her early death. Frederick was spared a lot of her razor wit and snide remarks, maybe because she related to the overbearing father and strict expectations. Whatever the reason, Mitford's last biography is simply wonderful.

Frederick the Great was challenged with problems early in his life (he had a brother die from the gun salute given...more
Charles Puskas
This lively biography of a great and complex Prussian king, military genius, musician, and promoter of the arts (1712-86), is by a British novelist and biographer of aristocratic birth, Nancy Mitford, whose novel, The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949)gave rare inside glimpses of upper class society in England. Much has been written on the diverse interests, pursuits, and ideologies of Nancy and her sisters (e.g., of the four, one was a fascist and one was a communist). I e...more
Christine
I really enjoyed this book. The writing style is very casual. But it is filled with facts and flows well. The titles and naming conventions were confusing to me, I believe partly because the book was published in 1970. And because it was written by an English author in a way that suggests her target audience would have some prior knowledge of the subject.

Having read Catherine the Great, by Robert K. Massie, immediately prior to Fredrick the Great, I was very entertained by the difference in feel...more
Josh Rosner
Although Mitford's biography of Frederick the Great has an old-fashioned feel to it in the way she uses the English language, it is a minor point regarding what is, overall, a truly engaging book on a great Prussian leader.

I was living in Berlin as the 200th anniversary of Frederick the Great's birthday passed - he was born on 24 January 1712 - and predictably there were a number of commemorative events held - many of which I attended - and many biographies of the man published, or re-published....more
Ray Duncan
I was not as impressed with this biography as most of the other reviewers here. The style is stuffy and old fashioned, and the reading is slow going. The author jumps from topic to topic and most are treated very superficially. We hear a lot more about Frederick's little spats with Voltaire and his correspondence with his various admirers, for example, than we learn about his strategic thinking or his reforms. You don't come away from the book with an understanding of why he is called The Great....more
Eric Smith
This is a biography that reads a little like a British tabloid, it is opinionated, biting, amusing, and filled with juicy details. Frederick the Great was a remarkable man, a military genius, an astute ruler, and a great friend to many men. He got married, but never spent any time with his Queen, they never lived together, in fact she was never invited to Frederick's palace called Sans Suci. HIs upbringing was filled with pain as his father tortured him almost daily. He grew up loving French lit...more
Cheryll
I loved this piece of history especially as it ties in with Catherine the Great. At the end of the book Napoleon is quoted at Frederick's grave saying if Frederick were still alive he Napoleon would not be leader.
Frederick had an abusive father Frederick William, which like many stories of royal families could have suppressed him, but Frederick came out of it to be a great military strategist. He also had many good ideas about crop rotation, industrialization and reducing capital punishment as w...more
James
Frederick II of Prussia attempted to escape his authoritarian father as a boy, but went on to become one of history's greatest rulers. He loved the flute, and devoted hours of study to the arts and French literature, forming a long-lasting but turbulent friendship with Voltaire. He was a military genius and enlarged the borders of his empire, but he also promoted religious tolerance, economic reform and laid the foundation for a united Germany. Nancy Mitford brings all these contradictions and a...more
Bronwyn Hope
I am still in the middle of reading this book but find Mitford an engaging and engrossing biographer.

Frederick the Great himself is a colourful character and Mitford writes with such humour and irony there are parts of this book where you will laugh out loud.


Jackson Cyril
A delightful account of the king's life and reign abounding with anecdotes and stories that help the reader understand who Frederick was and how he came to be Frederick the Great.
Jose Santos
Estive no final Março de 2014 em Sans Souci, a casa de Frederico o Grande. Berlim e Dresden, cidades por onde andou, também foram visitados. Ao ouvir a guia a contar-nos sobre o caracter surpreendente e enigmático deste personagem, senti uma grande empatia. Uma amiga tinha lido este livro, que me emprestou na viagem. Gostei imenso de conhecer mais sobre este grande Frederico, tão diferente dos alemães de agora, com uma personalidade tão difícil naqueles tempos conturbados em que não deve ter sid...more
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Nancy Mitford, CBE (28 November 1904, London – 30 June 1973, Versailles), styled The Hon. Nancy Mitford before her marriage and The Hon. Mrs Peter Rodd thereafter, was an English novelist and biographer, one of the Bright Young People on the London social scene in the inter-war years. She was born at 1 Graham Street (now Graham Place) in Belgravia, London, the eldest daughter of Lord Redesdale and...more
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