These were interesting times indeed. Europe was in a state of renewal. Old traditions were in the process of being overthrown, and new thoughts and philosophies, as well as modern technologies were developed. While this was the way it had to be, it scared the rulers of the European countries.
What caused them to tremble was especially the slow awakening of the masses, which began to realize that there was no such thing as a divine right to rule. The examples of the United States of America, and, more important, the French Revolution had shown that the people could overthrow their masters. While it had to be proven yet that these ‘Governments of the people’ could survive, there was no doubt that they could cause great troubles.
No one knew that better than the king of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II., who had risen to the throne after the death of Friedrich II. in 1786. He was a nephew of Frederick the Great, and he was absolutely not his equal, whether on the battlefield or on the field of diplomacy. While ministers like Hardenberg tried to reform the Prussian state, he issued the so-called ‘Lusthaus-Reglement’, a law that concerned itself with brothrels. In a time when Kant, Herder, Fichte and Humboldt wrote great works, he had numerous affairs. However, he managed to divide Poland, together with Russia, and significantly enlarged the Prussian territory.
But when a coalition of Austria and Prussia had tried to exploit the weakness of the fledgling French army, they were fought back at Valmy in September of 1792. Shortly thereafter, France became a Republic, and a constant threat to the crowned heads of Europe, for the king and his wife were put to the feared Guillotine.
This threat proved to be enough to unite the great powers of Austria, Prussia, the United Kingdom and Spain against this new foe. The resulting war brought forth one of the most brilliant military minds history had ever seen, one that equalled Hannibal, Caesar and Frederick the Great. His name was Napoleon, and he was about to change the face of Europe…