“Nobody here, great or small, dares make any representation to this young prince against the measures he is pursuing, though all are sensible of the confusion which must follow. A prince who had the least regard to honor, truth, and justice, could not act the part he is going to do. But it is plain his only view is to deceive us all, and conceal for a while his ambitious and mischievous designs.”In another letter to Grumkow, he writes: “As to what you tell me of the Princess of Mecklenburg, could not I marry her?140 She would have a dowry of two or three million rubles.22 Only fancy how I could live with that. I think that project might succeed. I find none of these advantages in the Princess of Bevern, who, as many people even of the duke’s court say, is not at all beautiful, speaks almost nothing, and is given to pouting. The good empress has so little money herself that the sums she could afford her niece would be very moderate.”
“I will not sing jeremiades to you, nor speak of my fears or anxieties; but I can assure you that they are great. The crisis I am in changes in appearance, but nothing decisive happens. I am consumed by a slow fire; I am like a living body losing limb after limb. May Heaven assist us, for we have much need of it.“‘I skip over it,’ he replied, laughing; and then began to talk of other things. He inquired,Battle of Hohenfriedberg.—Religious Antagonism.—Anecdote of the King.—Retreat of the Austrians.—Horrors of War.—“A slight Pleasantry.”—Sufferings of the Prussian Army.—The Victory of Fontenoy.—Frederick’s Pecuniary Embarrassments.—Executive Abilities of Maria Theresa.—Inflexibility of the Austrian Queen.—The Retreat to Silesia.—The Surprise at Sohr.—Military Genius of Frederick.—Great Victory of Sohr.
548 “Frederick’s share,” writes Mr. Carlyle, “as an anciently Teutonic country, and as filling up the always dangerous gap between his Ost Prussen and him, has, under Prussian administration, proved much the most valuable of the three, and, next to Silesia, is Frederick’s most important acquisition.“Any room that was large enough, and had height of ceiling and air circulation, and no cloth furniture, would do. And in each palace is one, or more than one, that has been fixed upon and fitted out for that object. A high room, as the engravings give it us; contented, saturnine human figures, a dozen or so of them, sitting around a large, long table furnished for the occasion; a long Dutch pipe in the mouth of each man; supplies of knaster easily accessible; small pan of burning peat, in the Dutch fashion (sandy native charcoal, which burns slowly without smoke), is at your left hand; at your right a jug, which I find to consist of excellent, thin, bitter beer; other costlier materials for drinking, if you want such, are not beyond reach. On side-tables stand wholesome cold meats, royal rounds of beef not wanting, with bread thinly sliced and buttered; in a rustic, but neat and abundant way, such innocent accommodations, narcotic or nutritious, gaseous, fluid, and solid, as human nature can require.47 Perfect equality is the rule; no rising or no notice taken when any body enters or leaves. Let the entering man take his place and pipe without obligatory remarks. If he can not smoke, let him at least affect to do so, and not ruffle the established stream of things. And so puff, slowly puff! and any comfortable speech that is in you, or none, if you authentically have not any.”
He seems ever to have treated his nominal wife, Queen Elizabeth, politely. For some months after the accession he was quite prominent in his public attentions to her. But these intervals of association grew gradually more rare, until after three or four years they ceased almost entirely.“It is true that Schlubhut had no trial, but he certainly deserved his doom. He was a public thief, stealing the taxes he was sent to gather; insolently offering to repay, as if that were184 all the amends required; and saying that it was not good manners to hang a nobleman.”Colonel Chasot, exceedingly chagrined, rode directly to the king, and inquired, “Did not your majesty grant me permission to invite my friend to the review?
The heroic General Einsiedel struggled along through the snow and over the pathless hills, pursued and pelted every hour by the indomitable foe. He was often compelled to abandon baggage-wagons and ambulances containing the sick, while the wounded and the exhausted sank freezing by the way. At one time he was so crowded by the enemy that he was compelled to continue his march through the long hours of a wintry night, by the light of pitch-pine torches. After this awful retreat of twenty days, an emaciate, ragged, frostbitten band crossed the frontier into Silesia, near Friedland. They were soon united with the other columns of the discomfited and almost ruined army.“My gentleman admitted this, and led the conversation on to the Dutch government. He criticised it—probably to bring me to speak. I did speak, and gave him frankly to know that he was not perfectly instructed in the thing he was criticising.As night came on he fell into what may be called the death-sleep. His breathing was painful and stertorous; his mind was wandering in delirious dreams; his voice became inarticulate. At a moment of returning consciousness he tried several times in vain to give some utterance to his thoughts. Then, with a despairing expression of countenance, he sank back upon his pillow. Fever flushed his cheeks, and his eyes assumed some of their wonted fire. Thus the dying hours were prolonged, as the friendless monarch, surrounded by respectful attendants, slowly descended to the grave.
“I took my brother by the hand, and implored the king to restore his affection to him. This scene was so touching that it drew tears from all present. I then approached the queen. She was obliged to embrace me, the king being close opposite. But I remarked that her joy was only affected. I turned to my brother again. I gave him a thousand caresses, to all which he remained cold as ice, and answered only in monosyllables. I presented to him my husband, to whom he did not say one word. I was astonished at this; but I laid the blame of it on the king, who was observing us, and who I judged might be intimidating my brother. But even the countenance of my brother surprised me. He wore a proud air, and seemed to look down upon every body.”Circumstances had already rendered Frederick one of the most important personages in Europe. He could ally himself with France, and humble Austria; or he could ally himself with England and Austria, and crush France. All the lesser lights in the Continental firmament circulated around these central luminaries. Consequently Frederick was enabled to take a conspicuous part in all the diplomatic intrigues which were then agitating the courts of Europe.Just then eighteen thousand fresh Russian troops advanced upon them in solid phalanx from their centre and their right wing. It was nearly three o’clock in the afternoon. The fugitive Russians were rallied. With new impetuosity the re-enforced band hurled itself upon the Prussians. They speedily regained their hundred and eighty guns, and opened upon the ranks of Frederick such torrents of grape-shot as no flesh and blood could endure. Huge gaps were torn through his lines. His men recoiled, whirled round, and were driven pell-mell from the hill.
THE KING’S BIVOUAC.21 Sophie Dorothee was a very pretty child. The plan was probably already contemplated by the parents that the two should be married in due time. Soon after this Frederick William lost his mother, and with her all of a mother’s care and gentle influences. Her place was taken by a step-mother, whose peevishness and irritability soon developed into maniacal insanity. When Frederick William was eighteen years of age he was allowed to choose between three princesses for his wife. He took his pretty cousin, Sophie Dorothee. They were married with great pomp on the 28th of November, 1706.
“All next day the body lay in state in the palace; thousands crowding, from Berlin and the other environs, to see that face for the last time. Wasted, worn, but beautiful in death, with the thin gray hair parted into locks, and slightly powdered.”201Perhaps never before was a monarch surrounded by difficulties so great. The energy and sagacity Frederick displayed have never been surpassed, if ever equaled.
154 Three years were occupied in enlarging and decorating this palace. In the mean time the Princess Elizabeth resided in Berlin, or in a small country house provided for her at Sch?nhausen. The Crown Prince occasionally visited her, always treating her with the marked respect due a lady occupying her high position.Voltaire, in his Memoirs, says that he drew up the manifesto for Frederick upon this occasion. “The pretext,” he writes, “for this fine expedition was certain rights which his majesty pretended to have over a part of the suburbs. It was to me he committed the task of drawing up the manifesto, which I performed as well as the nature of the case would let me, never suspecting that a king, with whom I supped, and who called me his friend, could possibly be in the wrong. The affair was soon brought to a conclusion by the payment of a million of livres, which he exacted in good hard ducats, and which served to defray the expenses of his tour to Strasbourg, concerning which he complained so loudly in his poetic prose epistle.详情
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