Germany did not exist as a unified nation until 1871. Before then, the land now considered as German territory was a patchwork of kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, electorates and other varieties of political states. One of these was the kingdom of Prussia.
At the time Frederick the Great became king in 1740, the territory held by Prussia lay along the southern shores of the Baltic Sea, east of Denmark in what is now northern Germany and northern Poland. However, Frederick's military achievements led to territorial expansion. More expansion occurred due to the First Partition of Poland in 1772, in which territory previously held by the kingdom of Poland was divided amongst Prussia, Russia and Austria. By the time Frederick the Great died in 1786, Prussia had approximately doubled in size. Twenty years later, the Prussian army was still operating on the assumption that what had worked for Frederick would always continue to work, right down to the drills practiced by their dragons.
Prussia gained more territory in the Second and Third Partitions of Poland in 1793 and 1795. After 1795, Poland ceased to exist as an independent nation, and its dragons were sent to Prussian breeding grounds. Little notice of this event appears to have been taken outside Poland. Eleven years later, Laurence was to remember that it had been "much deplored" in his father's political circles. He thought that perhaps the British government might have "made some sort of formal protest", but was not sure on that point.
However, the Polish dragons certainly remembered when they were released during the French invasion in 1806. Many of their captains had died in the intervening decade, in Prussian captivity or from age or sickness. The dragons, bereft and bitter, were quick to assist the French with scouting and patrol work.
Prussia in the Napoleonic Wars
Prussia did not participate in the Third Coalition against Napoleon in 1805. In fact, Prussia benefited somewhat from Napoleon's gains. The French had occupied the electorate of Hanover in 1803. In 1805, Napoleon handed the territory over to the Prussians in hopes of gaining their support. This did not sit well with George III of Britain, who included "elector of Hanover" among his titles.
However, after the Battle of Austerlitz in December 1805 effectively ended the Third Coalition, Prussia (finally) became concerned about growing French influence in Central Europe. This led to the formation of the Fourth Coalition by Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Prussia and Russia mobilized for a fresh campaign, and Prussian troops massed in Saxony.
This was the situation which existed when Temeraire, Laurence and their crew arrived in Dresden, Saxony, in September 1806, intending to ask for safe passage across Prussian territory so that they could return to Britain with the two dragon eggs they had retrieved from Turkey. They were refused. The Prussians had been promised twenty dragons by the Aerial Corps which had not materialized. (This was of course due to the effects of the Dragon Plague in Britain, but the Corps did not want this news spread about.) To make up for the absence of the promised twenty, they requisitioned Temeraire.
The Prussian forces moved westward to engage the French along the Saale River. The advance guard under Prince Louis Ferdinand was defeated at the Battle of Saalfeld on October 10, 1806, in which Prince Louis was killed. Four days later, the Prussian forces were defeated even more resoundingly at the twin battles at Jena and Auerstadt, about 20-25 NNE of Saalfeld. Temeraire and Laurence fell back to Apolda, about six miles northwest of Jena and six miles southwest of Auerstadt. There they were immediately sent on to Sommerda, about 15-20 miles WNW, where King Frederick and Queen Louise had gone.
Prince Hohenlohe asked Laurence to continue on to Halle on the Saale River, about 40-45 miles northeast of Sommerda. The next day, however, before they could get underway, a courier delivered the news that the French had taken Halle. Instead, Temeraire took the King and Queen to Berlin, to reach their children before the French should arrive there. Hohenhole did not believe Berlin could be held, but voiced some plans concerning defending the line of the Oder River east of Berlin.
From Berlin, the royal children were sent away to supposed safety Konigsberg, deep in East Prussia. (By early 1807, Napoleon had captured the two princes and taken them to Paris.) Napoleon's armies had crossed the Elbe and could already be seen approaching Berlin when the King and Queen left, again aboard Temeraire. After spending a night at a fortress on the Oder River, they headed towards Posen (in Polish, Poznan), locating the Prussian army some 20 miles short of that city. (It was during this flight that Temeraire encountered a small group of feral dragons and noticed that the language they spoke resembled the Durzagh language spoken in the Pamirs.)
From this point Temeraire and Laurence continued eastward with the army, under the command of General Lestocq, first on to Posen and then towards Warsaw, where they were to rendezvous with the Russian army. The going was slow, at the infantry's pace, and the weather was wet and muddy. It was almost impossible to purchase any food, at any price; the local Poles had no reason to assist the Prussians who had finshed dismembering Poland a decade before. Posen was humming with the news that Colonel Ingersleben had meekly handed over the fortress of Stettin (Szczecin), a Baltic seaport at the mouth of the Oder.
Still, the army continued on towards Warsaw. They were three days' march away from this city when, on November 4, they heard guns and saw the red glow of fire on the horizon ahead of them. The French had beaten them to Warsaw and defeated the Russians. There was no point to staying, so Temeraire and Laurence - along with Iskierka, newly-hatched and harnessed by Granby - headed north along the Vistula River to the Siege of Danzig (Gdansk).
Under the Treaties of Tilsit signed in July 1807, Prussia lost about half of its territory, including the areas gained from the Second and Third Partitions of Poland, and was required to become a French ally. It was to be another five years before Prussia again actively opposed France.