The story of Frederick William, “The Great Elector,” as he is known in history, begins with his birth and closes with his accession to power upon the death of his father. It is the story of his youth only, but in the youth we find all the attributes which made him so great as an Elector and as a man. Its scenes are laid in the period of the terrible and devastating Thirty Years’ War, which had not yet come to a close when Frederick William became Elector of Brandenburg. Its characters, Ferdinand the Second, Frederick the Fifth, Christian of Denmark, Gustavus Adolphus, Wallenstein, Tilly, Maximilian of Bavaria, the Swedish Chancellor Oxenstjern, Count von Mansfeld, the Empress Elizabeth, the Elector of Brandenburg, his high-minded wife, and his great son, are world-famous.
Its progress throws a strong light upon that memorable war of faiths, which lasted more than a generation, and which was characterized by bitter enmity and cruel atrocities on both sides, as has usually been the case in every religious struggle. It is a terrible picture of those days when Catholics and Protestants were struggling for the supremacy, but its dark and repellent details are rendered more endurable by the knowledge in this twentieth century that such wars and such cruelties in the name of religion are not likely to occur again. The world has advanced; freedom of thought and of conscience is everywhere recognized and conceded. Sects may still disagree in doctrine, but the old deadly hatreds are extinguished. The central figure in this stirring drama is Frederick William, who, as the curtain falls, enters upon his career as the Great Elector.