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Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

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Title: Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Battle of Pirmasens, Axel von Fersen the Younger, French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen
Collection: 1735 Births, 1806 Deaths, Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Fellows of the Royal Society, Field Marshals of Prussia, German Lutherans, German Military Leaders of the French Revolutionary Wars, House of Brunswick-Bevern, Knights of the Garter, Military Leaders of the French Revolutionary Wars, Military Personnel Killed in the Napoleonic Wars, People from the Duchy of Brunswick, People from Wolfenbüttel, Princes of Wolfenbüttel, Protestant Monarchs, Prussian Commanders of the Napoleonic Wars
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

Charles William Ferdinand
Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Reign 26 March 1780 – 10 November 1806
Predecessor Charles I
Successor Frederick William
Born (1735-10-09)9 October 1735
Wolfenbüttel, Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Died 10 November 1806(1806-11-10) (aged 71)
Consort Princess Augusta of Great Britain
(m. 1764–1806; his death)
Issue Augusta, Duchess of Württemberg
Charles George Augustus, Hereditary Prince
Duke George William Christian
Duke Augustus
Caroline, Queen of the United Kingdom
Frederick William
Duchess Amelia
Full name
Charles William Ferdinand
German: Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand
House House of Brunswick-Bevern
Father Charles I, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Mother Princess Philippine Charlotte of Prussia

Charles William Ferdinand (Brunsvigia was named in his honour.


  • History 1
  • Reputation 2
  • Military experience 3
    • Seven Years' War 3.1
    • Invasion of the Netherlands 3.2
    • French Revolutionary Wars 3.3


Charles William Ferdinand (German: Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand) was the son of Charles I, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Philippine Charlotte, daughter of King Frederick William I of Prussia. Karl received an unusually wide and thorough education, and travelled in his youth in the Netherlands, France and various parts of Germany.

After the close of the Marmontel; in Switzerland, whither he continued his tour, that of Voltaire; and in Rome, where he remained for a long time, he explored the antiquities of the city under the guidance of Winckelmann. After a visit to Naples he returned to Paris, and thence, with his wife, to Brunswick. His services to the dukedom during the next few years were of the greatest value; with the assistance of the minister Feonçe von Rotenkreuz he rescued the state from the bankruptcy into which the war had brought it. His popularity was unbounded, and when he succeeded his father, Duke Karl I, in 1780, he soon became known as a model to sovereigns.


The Duke was a typical "enlightened despot" of the 18th century, characterized by economy and prudence. His habitual caution often made him draw back from potential reforms. He brought Brunswick into close alliance with the king of Prussia, for whom he had fought in the Seven Years' War; he was a Prussian field marshal, and was at pains to make the regiment of which he was colonel a model one, and he was frequently engaged in diplomatic and other state affairs. He resembled his uncle Frederick the Great in many ways, but he lacked the resolution of the king, and in civil as in military affairs was prone to excessive caution. As an enthusiastic adherent of the Germanic and anti-Austrian policy of Prussia he joined the Fürstenbund, in which, as he now had the reputation of being the best soldier of his time, he was the destined commander-in-chief of the federal army.

Charles William Ferdinand of Brunswick.

Military experience

Seven Years' War

His first military experience was in the North German campaign of 1757, under Prince William, Duke of Cumberland. At the Battle of Hastenbeck he won great renown by a gallant charge at the head of an infantry brigade; and upon the capitulation of Klosterzeven he was easily persuaded by his uncle Ferdinand of Brunswick, who succeeded Cumberland in command, to continue in the war as a general officer. The exploits of the hereditary prince, as he was called, soon gained him further reputation, and he became an acknowledged master of irregular warfare. In pitched battles, and in particular at Minden and Warburg, he proved himself an excellent subordinate.

Invasion of the Netherlands

He was made a Prussian general in 1773. After he succeeded to his title in 1780, he was made field marshal in 1787. In 1787 the Duke, as a Prussian field marshal, led the army which invaded the Netherlands in order to suppress the Batavian Revolution in the United Provinces (The Dutch Republic), restoring the authority of the House of Orange. His success was rapid, complete and almost bloodless, and in the eyes of contemporaires the campaign appeared as an example of perfect generalship.

French Revolutionary Wars

In the early summer of 1792, Ferdinand was poised with military forces at Coblenz. After the Girondins had arranged for France to declare war on Austria, voted on April 20, 1792, the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II and the Protestant King of Prussia Frederick William II had combined armies and put them under Brunswick's command.

The "Brunswick Proclamation" or "Brunswick Manifesto" that he now issued from Coblenz on July 25, 1792 threatened war and ruin to soldiers and civilians alike, should the Republicans injure Louis XVI and his family. His avowed aim was:

to put an end to the anarchy in the interior of France, to check the attacks upon the throne and the altar, to reestablish the legal power, to restore to the king the security and the liberty of which he is now deprived and to place him in a position to exercise once more the legitimate authority which belongs to him.

Additionally, the manifesto threatened the French population with instant punishment should they resist the Imperial and Prussian armies, or the reinstatement of the monarchy. In large part, the manifesto had been written by Louis XVI's cousin, Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, who was the leader of a large corps of émigrés in the allied army.

It has been asserted that the manifesto was in fact issued against the advice of Brunswick himself; the duke, a model sovereign in his own principality, sympathized with the constitutional side of the French Revolution, while as a soldier he had no confidence in the success of the enterprise. However, having let the manifesto bear his signature, he had to bear the full responsibility for its consequences.

The proclamation was intended to threaten the French population into submission; it had exactly the opposite effect.

In Paris, Louis XVI was generally believed to be in correspondence with the Austrians and Prussians already, and the republicans became more vocal in the early summer of 1792. It remained for the Duke of Brunswick's proclamation to assure the downfall of the monarchy by his proclamation, which was being rapidly distributed in Paris by July 28 apparently by the monarchists, who badly misjudged the effect it would have (See text in link). The "Brunswick Manifesto" seemed to furnish the agitators with a complete justification for the revolt that they were already planning. The first violent action was carried out on August 10, when the Tuileries Palace was stormed.

Memorial in Christianskirche

Having already military restored the authority of the House of Orange in 1787, the Duke was less successful against French citizen's army that met him at Valmy. Having secured Longwy and Verdun without serious resistance, he turned back after a mere skirmish in Valmy, and evacuated France. When he counterattacked the Revolutionary French who had invaded Germany, in 1793, he recaptured Mainz after a long siege, but resigned in 1794 in protest at interference by [[Frederick

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