“The princess has an open countenance; her eyebrows are neat and regular; her nose is small and angular, but very elegantly defined; and her coral lips and well-turned neck are equally admirable. Goodness is strongly marked in her countenance; and we may say, from her whole figure, that the Graces have exerted themselves in forming a great princess. Her highness talks but little, especially at table, but all she says is sterling sense. She appears to have an uncommon genius, which she ornaments by the continual study of the best French authors.”
“My dear Son Fritz,—I am glad you need no more medicine. But you must have a care of yourself some days yet, for the severe weather gives me and every body colds. So pray be on your guard.
“That may well be,” rejoined the king, “with the cursed life I have been leading.”“I was sitting quiet in my apartment, busy with work, and some one reading to me, when the queen’s ladies rushed in, with a torrent of domestics in their rear, who all bawled out, putting one knee to the ground, that they were come to salute the Princess of Wales. I fairly believed these poor people had lost their wits. They would not cease overwhelming me with noise and tumult; their joy was so great they knew not what they did. When the farce had lasted some time, they told me what had occurred at the dinner.
In the court-yard there was a fountain with stone steps, where Frederick William loved to sit on summer evenings and smoke his pipe. He frequently took his frugal dinner here in the open air under a lime-tree, with the additional protection of an awning. After dinner he would throw himself down for a nap on a wooden bench, apparently regardless of the flaming sun.
51 Some of the courtiers, in order to divert the king from his melancholy, and from these ideas of abdication, succeeded in impressing upon him the political necessity of visiting Augustus, the King of Poland, at Dresden. The king did not intend to take Fritz with him. But Wilhelmina adroitly whispered a word to Baron Suhm, the Polish embassador, and obtained a special invitation for the Crown Prince. It is a hundred miles from Berlin to Dresden—a distance easily traversed by post in a day. It was the middle of January, 1728, when the Prussian king reached Dresden, followed the day after by his son. They were sumptuously entertained for four weeks in a continuous round of magnificent amusements, from which the melancholic King of Prussia recoiled, but could not well escape.
“The king now admitted that my brother was still alive, but vowed horribly that he would put him to death, and lay me fast within four walls for the rest of my life. He accused me of being the prince’s accomplice, whose crime was high treason. ‘I hope now,’ he said, ‘to have evidence enough to convict the rascal Fritz and the wretch Wilhelmina, and to cut their heads off. As for Fritz, he will always, if he lives, be a worthless fellow. I have three other sons, who will all turn out better than he has done.’
164 On the fourth day after the arrival of the Crown Prince at Baireuth, a courier came with a letter from the queen conjuring him to return immediately, as the king was growing worse and worse. Frederick immediately hastened to Potsdam, and on the 12th of October entered the sick-chamber of his father in the palace there. He seems to have thought nothing of his wife, who was at Berlin. We have no evidence that he wrote to her during his absence, or that he visited her upon his return. For four months the king remained a great sufferer in Potsdam, trembling between life and death. It was often with great difficulty that he could breathe. He was impatient and irritable in the extreme. As he was rolled about in his Bath chair, he would petulantly cry out, “Air! air!” as if his attendants were to blame for his shortness of breath. The distress from the dropsy was very great. “If you roll the king a little fast,” writes an attendant, “you hear the water jumble in his body.” The Crown Prince was deeply affected in view of the deplorable condition of his father, and wept convulsively. The stern old king was stern to the end. He said one day to Frederick, “If you begin at the wrong end with things, and all go topsy-turvy after I am gone, I will laugh at you out of my grave.“Heir is a gallant enough young gentleman. Frederick judges that he probably will have haggled to sign any Austrian convention for dismemberment of Baiern, and that he will start into life upon it so soon as he sees hope.
It was all in vain. On Sunday evening, September 5th, as the condemned young man was sitting alone in his prison cell, sadly awaiting his doom, yet clinging to hopes of mercy, an officer entered with the startling intelligence that the carriage was at the door to convey him to the fortress of Cüstrin, at a few leagues distance, where he was to be executed. For a moment he was greatly agitated. He soon, however, regained his equanimity. It must indeed have been a fearful communication to one in the107 vigor of health, in the prime of youth, and surrounded by every thing which could render life desirable. Two brother-officers and the chaplain accompanied him upon this dismal midnight ride. Silence, pious conversation, prayers, and occasional devotional hymns occupied the hours. The dawn of a cold winter’s morning was just appearing as they reached the fortress.MAP OF THE CAMPAIGN OF ROSSBACH.
It is perhaps not strange that Frederick should have imbibed a strong feeling of antipathy to Christianity. In his father’s life he had witnessed only its most repulsive caricature. While making the loudest protestations of piety, Frederick William, in his daily conduct, had manifested mainly only every thing that is hateful and of bad report. Still, it is quite evident that Frederick was not blind to the distinction between the principles of Christianity as taught by Jesus and developed in his life, and the conduct of those who, professing his name, trampled those principles beneath their feet. In one of his letters to Voltaire, dated Cirey, August 26, 1736, Frederick wrote:详情
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