Prince Adalbert of Prussia (1811–1873)

For the later prince, see Prince Adalbert of Prussia (1884–1948).
Prince Adalbert
Prince Adalbert of Prussia

Prince Adalbert of Prussia
Born (1811-10-29)29 October 1811
Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia
Died 6 June 1873(1873-06-06) (aged 61)
Karlsbad, Grand Duchy of Baden
Spouse Therese Elssler, Frau von Barnim
Issue Adalbert, Freiherr von Barnim
Full name
(German: Heinrich Wilhelm Adalbert)
(Henry William Adalbert)
House Hohenzollern
Father Prince Wilhelm of Prussia
Mother Landgravine Marie Anna of Hesse-Homburg

Prince Adalbert of Prussia (Heinrich Wilhelm Adalbert) (29 October 1811 in Berlin – 6 June 1873 in Karlsbad) was a son of Prince Wilhelm of Prussia and Landgravine Marie Anna of Hesse-Homburg. He was a naval theorist and admiral. He was instrumental during the Revolutions of 1848 in founding the first unified German fleet, the Reichsflotte. During the 1850s he helped to establish the Prussian Navy.

Adalbert was the son of Prince William, the youngest brother of King Frederick William III.

As a young man, Adalbert entered the Prussian army and served in the artillery. Several journeys led him between 1826 and 1842 to the Netherlands, Britain, Russia, Turkey, Greece and Brazil. He recognized during his many sea voyages the importance that sea power had for a modern commercial and industrial nation. He studied carefully the theory of naval warfare and in 1835-36 wrote a first plan for the construction of a Prussian fleet. Prussia at that time was a land power focused on Continental Europe, possessing practically no navy of its own; rather, it relied on the allied powers of Britain, the Netherlands, and Denmark. During the First Schleswig War of 1848-51, however, the failure of this strategy became apparent: Britain and the Netherlands remained neutral and Denmark became the enemy. Within a few days the Danish navy had destroyed German maritime commerce in the North Sea and the Baltic.

During the Revolutions of 1848, the German National Assembly which met at St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt resolved with "a majority clearly bordering on unanimity" to establish a German Imperial fleet and named Prince Adalbert to lead the Maritime Technical Commission. He presented his recommendations in a "Memorandum on the Construction of a German Fleet" (Denkschrift über die Bildung einer deutschen Flotte) (Potsdam, 1848). In this memorandum, still regarded highly for its insights on naval strategy, Adalbert distinguished between three fleet models:

Adalbert favored the middle solution, because it would not provoke the great sea powers (such as Britain), but would provide the German navy with significant value as an ally.

In 1849 his cousin, King Frederick William IV, ordered Adalbert to resign his office in the fledgling Imperial Navy. The reactionary king mistrusted the National Assembly because of its revolutionary nature, and had already turned down its offer to assume the German Imperial crown. Despite the setback, Adalbert continued to give active support to the construction of a fleet.

In 1852 Adalbert argued that Prussia needed to build a naval base on the North Sea. He arranged the Jade Treaty of 20 July 1853, in which Prussia and the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg jointly withdrew from a region on the west bank of the Jade bay, where from 1854 onward Prussia established the fortress, naval base and city of Wilhelmshaven.

On 30 March 1854, Adalbert was named Admiral of the Prussian Coast and Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. In the summer of 1856, while on a training cruise of Prussian warships, he was shot at by pirates within sight of Morocco’s Rif coast and was wounded. During the Second Schleswig War of 1864 (also known as the "Danish-Prussian War") he commanded the Baltic Squadron, without being able to take an active role in the war.

After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, which led to the creation of the German Empire, Adalbert laid down his title of "Prince-Admiral" and retired from the now-renamed Imperial Navy. He died two years later of liver disease in Karlsbad.

Adalbert was married to the dancer Therese Elssler (Frau von Barnim); their only son, Adalbert v. Barnim (born 1841), died in 1860 during an expedition on the Nile.


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