The Grand Grenadiers of Potsdam

Some people collect stamps and coins.  I collect nail polishes in shades ranging from berry to wine, inappropriate crushes, and faddy fitness habits.  King Frederick William I of Prussia collected giants.  He had a special regiment exclusively made up of men over 1.88 metres tall.

Being tall isn’t an especially useful soldierly characteristic, and the ‘Postdam Giants’ were never put into battle, but the King found them very amusing and trained the group himself.  When he was sick or depressed he’d get them to march past him to cheer him up.

Large Prussians didn’t get much of a career choice – most were forceably added to the ranks as soon as their height was noticed.  Foreign rulers sent King Frederick their tallest subjects as gifts, and he also arranged kidnappings of suitably statuesque men from all around Europe (scandals ensued when they attempted to take an Italian priest from his altar).  Tall women were enlisted to marry tall men – the King was obviously thinking long term.  However, when he died (probably hoping to emerge in Paradise a foot or two taller – he was only 1.6 metres high himself) Frederick II ascended to the throne and promptly disbanded the regiment.  You’d think this would be a relief, but as Nancy Mitford puts it, as a result “Germany was filled with huge, weak nitwits, sadly lurching along the roads looking for work”.

Tall Prussian Syndrome

Tall Prussian Syndrome

However this wrong has been righted two centuries later, as apparently a voluntary version of the Postdam Giants has recently started up, created to preserve the original unit’s memory. However!  Google Translate has failed me in making their website even slightly decipherable, so any German speakers who can verify, please oblige?


March 8, 2009. Tags: , , , , . history.

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