“Join,” said he, “the Austrian force under Prince Lobkowitz in Bohemia. Fall immediately and impetuously upon the French, before they can combine their forces to resist you. If you succeed in this, perhaps I will by-and-by join you; if you fail—well, you know every one must look out for himself.”Frederick declares, in his history, that never were tidings more welcome to him than these. He had embarked in the enterprise for the conquest of Moravia with the allies. He could not, without humiliation, withdraw. But, now that the ally, in whose behalf he assumed to be fighting, had abandoned him, he could, without dishonor, relinquish the field. Leaving the Saxons to themselves, with many bitter words of reproach, he countermanded his order for Silesian re-enforcements, assembled his troops at Wischau, and then, by a rapid march through Olmütz, returned to his strong fortresses in the north.
The queen, delighted in having obtained even this measure of acquiescence on the part of the king, now conferred with Wilhelmina. But, to her surprise and bitter disappointment, the young princess did not share in her mother’s joy. She was not disposed to be thus bartered away, and presented sundry objections. The poor mother, harassed by these interminable difficulties, now lost all patience. She broke out upon her equally unhappy daughter with cruel reproaches.Frederick William, the Crown Prince, was at the time of the birth of his son Frederick twenty-four years of age. He was a22 very peculiar man, sturdy and thick-set in figure, of strong mental powers, but quite uneducated. He was unpolished in manners, rude in his address, honest and sincere, a stern, persevering worker, despising all luxurious indulgence, and excessively devoted to the routine of military duties.
dd. Prussian Cavalry.
All thoughts of the double marriage were for the moment relinquished. The Czar of Russia had a son and a daughter. It was proposed to marry Wilhelmina to the son and Fritz to the daughter, and thus to secure a Russian instead of an English alliance. Harassed by these difficulties, Frederick William grew increasingly morose, venting his spite upon his wife and children. Fritz seriously contemplated escaping from his father’s abuse by flight, and to take refuge with his uncle George in England, and thus to secure his marriage with Amelia. The portraits of the62 princess which he had seen proved her to be very beautiful. All reports pronounced her to be as lovely in character as in person. He was becoming passionately attached to her. Wilhelmina was his only confidante. Regard for her alone restrained him from attempting to escape. “He would have done so long ago,” writes Dubourgay, under date of August 11, 1729, “were it not for his sister, upon whom the whole weight of his father’s resentment would then fall. Happen what will, therefore, he is resolved to share with her all the hardships which the king, his father, may be pleased to put upon her.”
Frederick William was very anxious that little Fritz should be trained to warlike tastes and habits; that, like himself, he should scorn all effeminacy; that, wearing homespun clothes, eating frugal food, despising all pursuits of pleasure and all literary tastes, he should be every inch a soldier. But, to the bitter disappointment of the father, the child manifested no taste for soldiering. He was gentle, affectionate, fond of books and music,4 and with an almost feminine love clung to his sister. The29 stern old king was not only disappointed, but angered. These were qualities which he deemed unmanly, and which he thoroughly despised.Still it is evident that the serpent was in this Eden. Carlyle writes: “An ardent, aerial, gracefully predominant, and, in the end, somewhat termagant female, this divine Emilie. Her temper, radiant rather than bland, was none of the patientest on occasion. Nor was M. De Voltaire the least of a Job if you came athwart him in a wrong way. I have heard that their domestic symphony was liable to furious flaws; that plates, in presence of the lackeys, actual crockery or metal, have been known to fly from end to end of the dinner-table; nay, they mention ‘knives,’ though only in the way of oratorical action; and Voltaire has been heard to exclaim, ‘Don’t fix those haggard, sidelong eyes on me in that way!’—mere shrillness of pale rage presiding over the scene.”
We have now reached the year 1726. The Emperor of Germany declares that he can never give his consent to the double marriage with the English princes. Frederick William, who is not at all fond of his wife’s relatives, and is annoyed by the hesitancy which his father-in-law has manifested in reference to it, is also turning his obstinate will against the nuptial alliance. A more imperative and inflexible man never breathed. This year the unhappy wife of George I. died, unreconciled, wretched, exasperated, after thirty years’ captivity in the castle of Ahlden. Darker and darker seemed the gloom which enveloped the path of Sophie Dorothee. She still clung to the marriages as the dearest hope of her heart. It was with her an ever-present thought. But Frederick William was the most obdurate and obstinate of mortals.“Poor deaf Amelia (Frederick’s old love, now grown old and deaf) listened wildly for some faint sound from those lips now mute forever. George II. was no more. His grandson, George III, was now king.”160“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.”
“To whose continual sluggishness and strange want of concert—to whose incoherency of movements, languor of execution, and other enormous faults, we have owed, with some excuse for our own faults, our escape from destruction hitherto.”With wonderful skill, Frederick conducted his retreat about four miles to the northwest. Here he took a strong position at Doberschütz, and again bade defiance to the Austrians. Slowly, proudly, and in perfect order he retired, as if merely shifting his ground. His cavalry was drawn up as on parade, protecting his baggage-wagons as they defiled through the pass of Drehsa. The Austrians gazed quietly upon the movement, not venturing to renew the attack by daylight upon such desperate men.Here the young prince made the most solemn promises to try to regain his father’s favor. The king then asked: “Was it thou that temptedst Katte, or did Katte tempt thee?” Fritz promptly replied, “I tempted Katte.” “I am glad,” rejoined the king, “to hear the truth from you, at any rate.”详情
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