Friedrich Franz II was born at Ludwigslust on 28 February 1823. He reigned from 1842 to his death in 1883. After his schooling at Ludwigslust, which placed special emphasis on piety, he attended the “Blochmann Educational Establishment” in Dresden and from 1840 studied law in Bonn. At the age of 19 (1842) he became the ruler of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. In the first years of his rule he was advised and supported in matters of government, chiefly by his mother, Princess Alexandrine of Prussia. Alexandrine’s political weight remained significant even at an advanced age and she was a legend in her own lifetime under the name of the “Queen of Mecklenburg”. The uncle of Friedrich Franz, Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia (1795-1861) was his model in many respects and also advised and supported him in difficult decisions.
In 1848, when Mecklenburg-Schwerin was sucked into the revolution, Friedrich Franz II showed himself ready to compromise and advocated a “Basic State Law”. This constitution came into force in 1849 but was repealed in 1850 by the Freienwald Arbitration. Friedrich Franz II was popular with his people to the end of his days, not least because of this constitution.
In 1849 he married Auguste Reuss zu Köstritz. Because of her love for flowers he created the “Flower Room” in Schwerin Castle and also named the Augusteninsel (Augusten Island) after her. After her death in 1862 he married Anna of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1864 but she died soon after, in 1865. His last wife was Marie of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, whom he married in 1868. She survived him by just under four decades.
During the reign of Friedrich Franz II special emphasis was placed on the strong ties between altar and throne. As the supreme bishop of the province, Friedrich Franz II believed that religion further legitimated and supported his power. However, he promoted many reforms which affected public policy. For instance, he built up and extended transport in the province such as the railway (Friedrich Franz railway). The military activities of Friedrich Franz II were confined to the German wars of unification, during which he was promoted and decorated several times.
Generally, he owed his popularity with the people to the “upright will, pious mind and fulfilment of duty” which marked his actions. The comprehensive remodelling and reconstructive works which he commissioned at Schwerin Castle between 1843 and 1857 were especially important to the city of Schwerin. Today the castle is seen as a pearl of romantic historicism. The remodelling served to modernize the castle, which was feeling the effects of time, and to make it appropriate to his rank as Grand Duke. By choosing to reside at this site, so steeped in history, he created a link to his predecessors, as the island had already been fortified with a castle in the Slavonic period. In the following decades his expansion of the city created a Residence ensemble which is unique and still unparalleled in its cohesion. Friedrich Franz II died at Schwerin on 15 April 1883.
Written by Martin Funk, Voluntary Social Year 2016/17.