Frederick III of Saxony

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Frederick III, Elector of Saxony (Duchy and Elector, he became King on the 11 December, 1806).
Saxony's sovereign was by far the most faithful German ally to Napoleon. The idea that all states in the Confederation of the Rhine were uniformly modernised under the French model must be abandoned, in fact the Saxon state is the best proof of this. Neither State nor society changed in this country: the government was content with simply drawing up plans for reform. On the other hand, industry in Saxony prospered, in large part thanks to the Continental Blockade.

At the head of the electorate was Frederick Augustus III, who sustained peace throughout his State for forty years until 1806. The reigning dynasty had provided kings for Poland. It was a Lutheran country, however the dynasty converted to Catholicism, thus the State's affairs were dealt with by a Catholic sovereign surrounded by protestant advisors. The electorate consisted of an almost perfect territorial unit, unlike many other German states. It constituted two different parts: hereditary states (these alone made up two thirds the entirety) and various other regions. The latter had been acquired since the Counter Reformation. They were all considered to be under the Crown but were not incorporated in the hereditary states and consisted of the Bishoprics of Merseburg and Naumburg-Zeitz; Henneberg; Querfert; and of Upper and Lower Lusatia. Each had kept its own “constitution” and institutions, and was considered as “foreign” by the others. There were often provinces inside these territories and they themselves had their own particular administration. In total, there were 20 “constitutions” in the electorate mainly concerning government and administration, 36 for Police and Justice, 18 consistories and 7 financial administrations that managed 13 different tax systems. Aspirations to simplify the situation were very weak and until 1806 critics of the governmental system and administration were far and few between even though in 1793, 1799 and 1805 the representatives of the Bourgeoisie in the state assemblies and, more still, the bourgeois publicists had presented a plan to reform the “constitution”, criticising the nobility's fiscal privileges and the general inequality.

Though Frederick had joined the Prussians, for the fateful Jena/Auerstädt campaign, he was let off lightly by Napoleon. The Elector was elevated to the title of King and joined the Confederation of the Rhine, but he was forced to pay indemnities and to put 20,000 men at the Emperor's disposal. His swerving support for France (despite the fact that Westphalia was carved out of Saxon lands) brought him control of the Duchy of Warsaw. The Continental Blockade was of great profit to Saxony, allowing it to increase its linen production and at the same time to exploit contraband. It was also the Napoleonic State in which the fabrication of sugar from beetroot was the most successful. Likewise the central position of the Leipzig Fair within German-speaking lands brought Saxony prosperity.

1813, however, sounded the death knell to the good times. Ruined by the quartering of huge armies on its territories and also suffering from having fought on the wrong side, Saxony was to be made a Prussian protectorate after the Congress of Vienna (Prussia was in the end to annex the Northern half of the kingdom). Labouring under massive debt and her industry destroyed by the dismantling of the Continental Blockade and the consequent huge influx of British manufactured goods, Saxony was to find the period post-1815 one of great hardship.

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