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“That may well be,” rejoined the king, “with the cursed life I have been leading.”The young sovereign commenced his reign with the utterance of very noble sentiments. The day after his accession he assembled the chief officers of his father to administer to them the oath of allegiance. He urged them to be humane in the exercise of all authority which might be delegated to them.

“Certainly, certainly,” exclaimed the king.

The last letter which it is supposed that he wrote was the following cold epistle to his excellent wife, whom, through a long life, he had treated with such cruel neglect:Objections to the British Alliance.—Obstinacy of the King.—Wilhelmina’s Journal.—Policy of Frederick William and of George II.—Letter from Fritz.—The Camp of Mühlberg.—The Plan of Escape.—The Flight arrested.—Ungovernable Rage of the King.—Endeavors to kill his Son.—Arrest and Imprisonment of Fritz.—Terror of his Mother and Sister.—Wilhelmina imprisoned.“I forbid any funeral sermon to be preached over me. In the evening a festival will be given in the great room in the garden. The cask of hock which I have in my cellar must be opened. At this repast good wine alone shall be drank.

“The Prussians,” writes Carlyle, “tramp on with the usual grim-browed resolution, foot in front, horse in rear. But they have a terrible problem at that Kesselsdorf, with its retrenched batteries and numerous grenadiers fighting under cover. The very ground is sore against them; up-hill, and the trampled snow wearing into a slide, so that you sprawl and stagger sadly. Thirty-one big guns, and near nine thousand small, pouring out mere death on you from that knoll-head. The Prussians stagger; can not stand; bend to rightward to get out of shot range; can not manage it this bout. Rally, re-enforced; try it again. Again with a will; but again there is not a way. The Prussians are again repulsed; fall back down this slippery course in more disorder than the first time. Had the Saxons stood still, steadily handling arms, how, on such terms, could the Prussians have ever managed it?”90In a pet Frederick left the room. The heroic general, who had flatly refused to obey a positive command, found it necessary to resign his commission. The next day another officer plundered the castle. Seventy-five thousand dollars of the proceeds of the sale were appropriated to the field hospitals. The remainder, which proved to be a large sum, was the reward of the plundering general.

On the 5th of May, after careful reconnoissance, Frederick crossed the Moldau several miles north of Prague. He went over upon pontoons unopposed, and thus effected a junction with his troops on the east side of the river. The Austrian army was drawn up on some formidable heights but a short distance east of the city. Their position was very strong, and they were thoroughly intrenched. On the 6th of May the dreadful battle of Prague was fought. For many years, as not a few of our readers will remember, it was fought over and over again upon all the pianos in Christendom. They will remember the awe with which, as children, they listened to the tumult of the battle, swelling forth from the ivory keys, with the rattle of musketry, the booming of the cannon, and the groans of the dying—such groans as even the field of battle itself could scarcely have rivaled.“We had just arrived there when it began to rain heavily, and the night became exceedingly dark. About nine o’clock one of the Austrian generals approached us with his light troops, and set fire to the houses close to which we were posted. By the blaze of the conflagration he soon discovered us, and began firing at us from the windows. The town was so full that it was impossible for us to find a place in it. Besides, the gate was barricaded, and from the top they were firing at us with our small field-pieces, which they had captured.

231 “If you make any resistance, you shall be treated as prisoners of war. If you make no resistance, and promise not to serve against us, you may march out of the city unmolested, with your arms.“There came, in those weeks, one of the Duke of Gloucester’s gentlemen to Berlin. The queen had a soiree. He was presented to her as well as to me. He made a very obliging compliment on his master’s part. I blushed and answered only by a courtesy. The queen, who had her eye on me, was very angry that I had answered the duke’s compliments in mere silence, and rated me sharply for it, and ordered me, under pain of her indignation, to repair that fault to-morrow. I retired all in tears to my room, exasperated against the queen and against the duke. I vowed I would never marry him.It was on the 11th of November, 1741, that Frederick, elated with his conquest of Silesia, had returned to Berlin. In commencing the enterprise he had said, “Ambition, interest, and the desire to make the world speak of me, vanquished all, and war was determined on.” He had, indeed, succeeded in making the “world speak” of him. He had suddenly become the most prominent man in Europe. Some extolled his exploits. Some expressed amazement at his perfidy. Many, recognizing his sagacity296 and his tremendous energy, sought his alliance. Embassadors from the various courts of Europe crowded his capital. Fourteen sovereign princes, with many foreigners of the highest rank, were counted among the number. The king was in high spirits. While studiously maturing his plans for the future, he assumed the air of a thoughtless man of fashion, and dazzled the eyes and bewildered the minds of his guests with feasts and pageants.

At six o’clock in the evening the whole city was illuminated. Frederick entered his carriage, and, attended by his two brothers, the Prince of Prussia and Prince Henry, rode out to take the circuit of the streets. But the king had received information that one of his former preceptors, M. Duhan, lay at the point of death. He ordered his carriage to be at once driven to the residence of the dying man. The house of M. Duhan was situated in a court, blazing with the glow of thousands of lamps.The latter part of April Prince Charles had gathered a large force of Austrian regulars at Olmütz, with the manifest intention of again invading Silesia. The King of Poland had entered into cordial alliance with Austria, and was sending a large army of Saxon troops to co-operate in the enterprise. Frederick’s indignation was great, and his peril still greater. Encamped in the valley of the Neisse, assailed on every side, and menaced with still more formidable foes, he dispatched orders to the Old Dessauer immediately to establish an army of observation (thirty thousand strong) upon the frontiers of Saxony. He was to be prepared instantly, upon the Saxon troops leaving Saxony, to ravage the country with the most merciless plunderings of war.

Two days after the death of Katte, the king wrote to Chaplain Müller, under date of November 7th, 1730, a letter closing with the following words:

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Still the queen-mother, Sophie Dorothee, clung to the double marriage. Her brother, George II., was now King of England. His son Fred, who had been intended for Wilhelmina, was not a favorite of his father’s, and had not yet been permitted to go to England. In May, 1728, he was twenty-one years of age. He was living idly in Hanover, impatient to wed his cousin Wilhelmina, who was then nineteen years of age. He seems to have secretly contemplated, in conference with Wilhelmina’s mother, Sophie Dorothee, a trip incognito to Berlin, where he would marry the princess clandestinely, and then leave it with the royal papas to settle the difficulty the best way they could. The plan was not executed. Wilhelmina manifested coquettish indifference to the whole matter. She, however, writes that Queen Sophie was so confidently expecting him that “she took every ass or mule for his royal highness.”

“Old Leopold, quick as thought, noticing the thing, hurls cavalry on these victorious, down-plunging grenadiers; slashes them asunder into mere recoiling whirlpools of ruin, so that few of them got back unwounded; and the Prussians, storming in along with them, aided by ever new Prussians, the place was at length carried.”91196

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