A King obsessed with giants so deeply that he had an entire regiment of them in his army? I saw a brief reference to King Frederick William’s obsession with giants in a book I was reading about circus sideshows and immediately had to track down more information. How could I not have heard of the Prussian ruler who had an entire regiment of giants? It sounds like a fairy tale, but it’s true.
There are plenty of references available on the web, but the most complete I found was this one. Frederick it seems collected giants to be in his special giant regiment, the Potsdam Grenadiers. He would send agents to other countries searching for giants and offer them great sums of money to come and join his unit, if they refused he would often order them kidnapped.
His obsession made him the laughing-stock of most of the royal houses of Europe. His judgment was so clouded in this area that he would bring his nation to the brink of war while attempting to kidnap a seven-foot tall man from another country. In fact, other countries could easily gain his favor by presenting him with a gift of giants. The poor giants were paid well, but there were many attempts at desertion and suicide as they were separated from their homes and families.
To get around the trouble caused by his illegal giant activities, Frederick hit upon another idea. Instead of capturing them, he would breed them. He then started forcing the tallest men in his kingdom to couple with the tallest women to produce giant babies. Of course the effects were not immediate, but in a couple of generations there was a much larger proportion of giants in the city of Potsdam, especially very tall women.
In his deluded way, Frederick loved his hundreds of giants. He spent hours drilling them into one of finest precision military units in the world. They were dressed in expensive and detailed military uniforms topped off with tall red caps. He could paint their faces from memory and often did. In times of deep depression, he would have them march, preceded by their huge bear mascot, through his room to cheer himself up. It is said he treated them as a boy might treat his toy soldiers, and at five foot five, he was proportionally a child in their presence. Draw your own psychological conclusions.