When King Friedrich Wilhelm I (1688–1740) ruled Prussia, he became increasingly obsessed with his infantry regiment No 6 (aka Potsdam Giants). He ordered that all members had to be at least 6’2″ or 1.88 meters tall. Ironically, the king himself was only 5’3″ (1.60m). Because many men did not grow this tall in Prussia, he eventually “imported” tall men from many regions within Europe.
Despite the high pay, many of these tall guys did not want to join the regiment and were then kidnapped. Due to gigantism, a sizeable part of the regiment was not even fit for combat. The regiment existed purely for parades and for the Kings entertainment. The king was so preoccupied with the unit that he had them march in front of him when he was ill or in a bad mood. During its heydays there were about 2,500 Potsdam Giants. Some of them were forced to marry tall women to “breed” tall sons who then could themselves join the regiment. In 1740, when Friedrich died, his son found the whole thing to be a huge waste of money and put a stop to it.
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Photo Credits / Sources:
Johann Christof Merk (active 1695-1726) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons