Portrait of Charles William Ferdinand (1735-1806), Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg; Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1780-1806), 1792
Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (German: Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, Herzog von Braunschweig-Lüneburg und Fürst von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel) (9 October 1735 – 10 November 1806), was ruler of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and a military leader. His titles are usually shortened to Duke of Brunswick in English-language sources. He succeeded his father as sovereign prince of the Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, one of the princely states of the Holy Roman Empire. The duke was a cultured and benevolent despot in the model of Frederick the Great, and was married to Princess Augusta, a sister of George III of Great Britain. He was also a recognized master of 18th century warfare, serving as a Field Marshal in the Prussian Army. During the Napoleonic Wars, he was mortally wounded by a musket ball at the Battle of Jena–Auerstedt in 1806. Charles William Ferdinand was born in the town of Wolfenbüttel on 9 October 1735, probably in Wolfenbüttel Castle. He was the first-born son of Charles I, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and his wife Philippine Charlotte. His father Charles I was the ruling prince (German: Fürst) of the small state of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, one of the imperial states of the Holy Roman Empire. Philippine Charlotte was the favourite daughter of King Frederick William I of Prussia and sister of Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great). As the heir apparent of a sovereign prince, Charles William Ferdinand received the title of Hereditary Prince (German: Erbprinz). He received an unusually wide and thorough education, overseen by his mother. In his youth he travelled in the Netherlands, France and various parts of Germany. Charles William Ferdinand was part of the allied Anglo-German force at the Battle of Minden (1759), and the Battle of Warburg (1760). Both were decisive victories over the French, during which he proved himself an excellent subordinate commander. The hereditary prince's reputation improved throughout, and he became an acknowledged master of irregular warfare. Peace was restored in 1763. His father, Charles I, had been an enthusiastic supporter of the war, but nearly bankrupted the state paying for it. As a result, in 1773 Charles William Ferdinand was given a major role in reforming the economy. With the assistance of the minister Feonçe von Rotenkreuz he was highly successful, restoring the state's finances and improving the economy. This made him hugely popular in the duchy. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Charles William Ferdinand saw an opportunity to replenish the state's treasury by renting its well-trained army to Great Britain. Charles I died in 1780, at which point Charles William Ferdinand inherited the throne. He soon became known as a model sovereign, a typical enlightened despot of the period, characterized by economy and prudence. The duke's combination of interest in the well-being of his subjects and habitual caution led to a policy of gradual reforms, a successful middle way between the conservatism of some contemporary monarchs and the over-enthusiastic wholesale changes pursued by others.
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