Peter II (Oldenburg)

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Nikolaus Friedrich Peter
Nikolaus Friedrich Peter of Oldenburg
Contemporary marble bust of Nikolaus Friedrich Peter, Eutin Palace
Vereinstaler Oldenburg 1866

Nikolaus Friedrich Peter von Oldenburg (* July 8, 1827 in Oldenburg ; † June 13, 1900 in Rastede ) was from 1853 to 1900 as Peter II Grand Duke of Oldenburg .


Early years

Peter was born as the eldest son of Grand Duke Paul Friedrich August (1783-1853) and Princess Ida von Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg-Hoym (1804-1828) and received a careful, strict upbringing that resulted from a two-year study visit from 1846 to 1848 at the University of Leipzig . When the revolution of 1848 broke out , which had a lasting impact on his political thinking, he was called back to Oldenburg early in March 1848 to support and temporarily represent his father.

In 1850, Peter had the opportunity to assume a royal dignity and thus to increase his political weight enormously. At the suggestion of Tsar Nicholas I , who was related to the House of Oldenburg , Denmark offered him the succession to the throne. With the offer, the Danes hoped that the establishment of a German prince would defuse the Schleswig-Holstein question and ensure that the two duchies of Schleswig and Holstein would remain in the Danish state . Grand Duke Paul Friedrich August took up the offer, which would have given his family considerable prestige gain, enthusiastically and also against the resistance of his government cabinet. Peter evidently assessed the political risks more realistically and tied his approval to a series of conditions that amounted to a rejection of the project. Denmark and Russia then withdrew the offer. Peter received support from the Oldenburg State Minister Dietrich Christian von Buttel , which triggered a political crisis in the Grand Duchy.

After the revolutionary unrest and the political crisis had subsided, Peter, as Hereditary Duke, was able to make up for the mandatory but previously postponed educational trip that took him to Italy , Turkey and Greece in 1850 and 1851 to visit his sister, the Greek Queen Amalie (1818-1875 ), led. In Italy Peter laid the foundation for his strong interest in Italian painting, which he later gave a dominant place in his painting collection.

Accession to government and foreign policy

On February 27, 1853, he succeeded his father in government. In political and personal respects, Peter represented realpolitical views and tried to maintain continuity. So he took over the cabinet and the ministers of his father and in foreign policy continued the turn to Prussia , to which he saw no alternative even against the concerns and resistance from his environment. Under his government the cession of the area of ​​the later Wilhelmshaven to Prussia , which had already been prepared under Paul Friedrich August, was completed. In return, Prussia financially and politically supported the return of the former Bentinckian lordships of Kniphausen (1858) and Varel (1854) to Oldenburg.

In 1864 Peter took over the patronage of the Association for the Care of Wounded Warriors founded in Oldenburg , which functioned as a voluntary aid organization for the Red Cross in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg . In the same year, after the Emperor of Russia had transferred all of Gottorp's inheritance rights to him, he raised claims to rule over the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. In doing so, Peter relied on generally questionable, but at least controversial, claims to succession, based on complicated historical and legal deductions by the Oldenburg archivist Wilhelm Leverkus . This represented the thesis that after the extinction of the Danish dynasty in the male line, the Holstein-Gottorp family and thus Peter as his descendant was entitled to inheritance in the duchies. Peter allowed himself to be convinced of this opinion and, in years of effort, managed to get the Tsar to transfer the rights of the older line of the House of Gottorp to him in 1864. Peter officially registered his claims with the German Bundestag in 1864 . However, the reaction in the duchies, in the German public and also in Oldenburg was negative, as the attempt at a purely dynastic solution that did not take into account the national movement or the power-political interests of the great powers was given no prospect of success. Only Bismarck supported Peter temporarily for tactical reasons in order to have a counterweight to the popular candidacy of Duke Friedrich von Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg . In order not to be left completely empty-handed, Peter ceded his claims to Prussia in 1866 and concluded the Kiel Treaty with Prussia on February 23, 1867 , through which he received the Ahrensbök office as compensation, which had previously covered the northern and southern part of the Oldenburg principality Lübeck had separated, as well as 1 million thalers, which the Grand Duke used to enlarge the family fideikommissgüter .

Oldenburg in the North German Confederation

The conclusion of this policy based on Prussia was the military alliance concluded at the outbreak of the war in 1866 , in the course of which Peter had the Oldenburg troop contingent of the Prussian Main Army defeated . In memory of this, he donated the commemorative medal for the campaign in 1866 . On the one hand, his approach ensured the continued existence of Oldenburg as a state and, on the other hand, regulated its incorporation into the North German Confederation and later into the German Empire with the constitution on July 1, 1867 as the first German federal state . Peter accepted the loss of sovereignty, such as the relinquishment of military sovereignty , that came with this policy.

The Grand Duke took part in the imperial proclamation in Versailles on January 18, 1871.

Within the North German Confederation, however, Peter turned against the dominant position of Prussia and resolutely rejected the introduction of democratic suffrage for the Reichstag . As early as 1866, he proposed to the Prussian king to accept the imperial title in order to make it easier for the German princes to be included in the North German Confederation through this connection to the old imperial tradition. Furthermore, Peter presented his own draft of a constitution for the North German Confederation, the core of which was the formation of a House of Lords or Princely House. He wanted to create a conservative counterweight to the democratically elected Reichstag on the one hand and a federal organ against the preponderance of Prussia on the other . Peter's draft differed from the numerous House of Lords proposals that were introduced into the constitutional discussion in 1866 and 1870/71, above all in the composition of this House of Lords. In doing so, however, Peter discredited his design, as he wanted to appoint representatives of the mediatized former spiritual principalities and the former imperial counts of the no longer existing Holy Roman Empire to the house in addition to the ruling princes . In addition, it should have the same rights as the Reichstag. His design was thus turned into the past and almost romantic and therefore not to be called a politically constructive counter-concept to Bismarck's constitution .

Domestic politics

In domestic politics from 1850 onwards, Peter's approach was determined by adherence to dynastic and historical law and a pronounced conservatism . As a result, Peter often came into conflict with the prevailing currents of the time such as the Oldenburg free-thinking bourgeoisie. According to his biographer Hans Friedl, he was “deeply permeated by his sovereign position based on dynastic law and monarchical principle” in the sense of a “dedicated divine right”. In 1852 he had the state constitution of Oldenburg revised in a conservative sense, which strengthened his own position and that of his government and curtailed the influence of parliament. Peter rejected further changes to the constitution, in particular those that would have led to an expansion of parliamentary influence or an increase in the right of the people to participate, such as the demand for the introduction of one-year budget periods. Furthermore, he reacted sensitively when the parliament exceeded its powers. He sharply criticized Parliament's motion of censure against two ministers in 1896 and demonstratively honored the attacked. In order not to give parliament an opportunity to counterattacks, he refrained from increasing the civil list set when he took office .

In addition to the meetings of the Ministry of State and the lectures of the ministers, Peter tried by intensive study of files to bring a personal share in the government, the events and processes in his country. Apparently, however, he did not intervene in the daily decision-making processes, but rather, according to his long-time confidante Günther Jansen , gave his advisors and ministers a relatively large amount of leeway, without, of course, giving up the reins. During Peter's reign, ministerial changes were rare. With the exception of the chairmen of the military department, which was dissolved in 1867, only ten ministers were in office during the 47 years of his government, the four governments of Rössing (1853-1874), von Berg (1874-76), Ruhstrat (1876-1890) and Jansen (1890 –1900) belonged. The unusually long reign of Peter and the stability of the staff in the leadership of the Grand Duchy ushered in a long phase of continuity in state politics, but in the end, despite the carefully initiated reforms, seemed rigid and immobile.


The Grand Duke was married to Princess Elisabeth Pauline Alexandrine (born March 26, 1826 - February 2, 1896), the third daughter of Duke Joseph von Sachsen-Altenburg (1789–1868) and Amalia, born on February 10, 1852 . Princess of Württemberg. The two sons came from the marriage:


In the former Grand Duchy of Oldenburg, the peat colonies Petersfehn and Petersdorf are named after Nikolaus Friedrich Peter. Then there is Nikolausdorf , a church village near Garrel .


Web links

Commons : Peter II. (Oldenburg)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Dr. Theodor Toeche-Mittler: The imperial proclamation in Versailles on January 18, 1871 with a list of the festival participants , Ernst Siegfried Mittler & Son . Berlin 1896.
  2. H. Schnaebeli: photographs of the imperial proclamation in Versailles . Berlin 1871.
predecessor Office successor
August I. Grand Duke of Oldenburg
Friedrich August