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Where does the Prussian king write "Das Volk ist mir zum Kotzen" = "The people makes me sick," as claimed in 6:26 in Die Revolution von 1848 I musstewissen Geschichte?

screenshot of video attributing quote to the king

The video has been watched by 1.4 million at the time of writing.

I found this wording only in a famous mockery:

cartoon image of king regurgitating onto the masses

I became suspicious at the coarse expression since in German, this sounds much too cheap for a king. I do not like to put it here even as a quotation, since in German, this is bad colloquial language and should rather not be uttered at all. I could not imagine this to be written by the king because the wording also does not fit his writing and speaking style in other sources known to me:

The wording seems to belong to the caricature alone, never written by the king. If that is true, and if the king got to know about this video, he would probably turn over in his grave in anger. After longer search, I have not found any letter or speech in which the Prussian king utters this.

Has the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV. (1795 - 1861) ever written: "Das Volk ist mir zum Kotzen" = "The people makes me sick"?

  • In this wording, not just as a summary of someone mocking.
  • And if so, where and when? (Likely around 1847/48.)

Grammar side note: "the people make" or "the people makes"?

This question was changed to the wording "The people make me sick". I changed it back since I guess that it is right for "Das Volk ist mir zum Kotzen". "Volk" is the people as a singular. Since English is not my mother tongue, I am not fully sure, but on the other hand, I tried to get advice from English speakers, and they did not seem to understand it:

With "people" as plural, it has another meaning in German (= "die Menschen/Leute"), which is not meant here. Thus, I take the English plural, "the peoples" (= "die Völker") and make it the singular: "the people" (= "das Volk").

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    A more precise claim (from a Google snippet): Jürgen Lodemann, Lortzing: Leben und Werk des dichtenden, komponierenden und singenden Publikumslieblings, Familienvaters und komisch tragischen Spielopernweltmeisters aus Berlin, Steidl 2000, p. 521: " Das Volk ist mir zum Kotzen « , schreibt der Preußenkönig im Frühjahr 1848 an seinen Bruder Wilhelm nach England und verachtet die Farben , die dieses Volk als Freiheitsfarben feiert " I don't see a supporting footnote with a proper citation, though. It's possible the snippet cuts off before the relevant reference.
    – njuffa
    Jul 1, 2023 at 20:21
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    If this is indeed a quote from correspondence between Friedrich Wilhelm and his brother Wilhelm, I would expect it to be included in: Winfried Baumgart (ed.), König Friedrich Wilhelm IV. und Wilhelm I. Briefwechsel 1840–1858. Brill 2013, 583 pp. I have perused other published correspondence of Friedrich Wilhelm, but haven't found anything yet that is even close to the statement in question.
    – njuffa
    Jul 1, 2023 at 21:05
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    I do not intend to write an answer based on just one Google snippet from a book (i.e. without even textual context). I consider recourse to primary sources extremely important, because books on historical matters already contain too many (IMHO) inaccurate / questionable claims that are perpetuated because authors simply quote previous authors without skepticism and without going back to check the primary sources to ensure accuracy.
    – njuffa
    Jul 1, 2023 at 21:16
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    For all we know at this point, this supposed statement by Friedrich Wilhelm may be as (a-)historical as Marie Antoinette's supposed statement "Let them eat cake". As Wikipedia points out in that case: " While the phrase is commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette, it was coined by 1765, when she was 9 years old and had never been to France, and it was only attributed to her decades after her death. It is unlikely that she ever said it. "
    – njuffa
    Jul 1, 2023 at 21:36
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    @MarkJohnson No need to point out the obvious. BTW, do you have access to the book by W. Baumgart? It would be useful to establish whether Friedrich Wilhelm wrote anything resembling the statement attributed to him in his correspondence with his brother. The king's speech of 1847 is here, and shows the king defiant and stubborn, but also invokes the theme of love between king and people repeatedly. I don't get "zum Kotzen" from that.
    – njuffa
    Jul 2, 2023 at 20:55

1 Answer 1

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This is not really an answer because it only deals with the caricature, but also to long for a comment.

As pointed out by @njuffa, the caricature of barfing Friedrich Wilhelm IV is about the opening speech for Prussia's "United Diet" that he held on April 11th, 1847. Some notable items in this context are

  • The liberals had expected some liberalization, more representation and a constitution. Friedrich Wilhelm rejected all of these. He explicitely pointed out that the diet was not going to be a parliament and implicitely that it should not expect much respect from him. (according to Christopher Clark, Revolutionary Spring, p. 259).
  • Friedrich Wilhelm IV was known as "Champagnerfritze". In fact, that seems to be another title for that caricature. He was rumored to have alcohol problems and the caricature also shows a bottle of champaign. Also note the tipsy All-seeing Eye left of the king, and the crown that looks like a cap and bells on the right. Throwing up is a well-known symptom of an acute alcohol intoxication.
  • "kotzen" or "sich auskotzen" can be used as synonym for "to rant" (source, also entry for "kotzen" II/2/d here).

Given all this, the caricature might be more about about Friedrich Wilhelm making hardline politics under the influence, and not necessarily imply that Friedrich Wilhelm IV is disgusted by his people.

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  • Often you should not trust your understanding of a caricature at first sight. Though this comment is not an answer, it is still very helpful knowing that this caricature might point at an alcohol problem as well. With this wording and image, the author would put himself and his movement in a rather bad light as well. And knowing about the alcohol problem, one might also understand how people might have attributed this remark to the king just a few years and decades later. In a time when primary sources still did not count so much. As said above, we clearly need the primary source here.
    – ETathome
    Jul 3, 2023 at 18:08

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