“The seventh day after our accession to the throne of all the Russias we received information that the late emperor, Peter III., was attacked with a violent colic. That we might not be wanting in Christian duty, or disobedient to the divine command by which we are enjoined to preserve the life of our neighbor, we immediately ordered that the said Peter should be furnished with every thing that might be judged necessary to restore his health by the aids of medicine. But, to our great regret and affliction, we were yesterday evening apprized that, by permission of the Almighty, the late emperor departed this life.”About this time Frederick was somewhat alarmed by a statement issued by the court of Austria, that the emperor, Charles Albert, was no legitimate emperor at all; that the election was not valid; and that Austria, which had the emperor’s kingdom of Bavaria by the throat, insisted upon compensation for the Silesia she had lost. It was evident that Maria Theresa, whose armies were every where successful, was determined that her husband, Duke Francis, should be decorated with the imperial crown. It now seemed probable that she would be able to accomplish her design. Frederick was alarmed, and deemed it necessary to strengthen himself by matrimonial alliances.
BATTLE OF KUNERSDORF, AUGUST 12, 1759.Voltaire promptly replied to this letter in corresponding terms of flattery. His letter was dated Cirey, August 26th, 1736:
“In whatever corner of the world I may end my life, be assured, Monseigneur, my wishes will be continually for you. My heart will rank itself among your subjects. Your glory will be ever dear to me. I shall wish, May you always be like yourself, and may other kings be like you. I am, with profound respect, your royal highness’s most humble
On the 19th of December the king wrote, from the vicinity of Glogau, to M. Jordan. Perhaps he would not so frankly have revealed his ambition and his want of principle had he supposed that the private letter would be exposed to the perusal of the whole civilized world.
“This, for the present, is her method of looking at the matter; this magnanimous, heroic, and occasionally somewhat female one. Her husband, the grand-duke, an inert but good-tempered, well-conditioned duke, after his sort, goes with her. Now, as always, he follows loyally his wife’s lead, never she his. Wife being intrinsically as well as extrinsically the better man, what other can he do?”The apartments prepared for the Princess Royal were also very magnificent. Her parlor was twenty feet high. It had six windows, three opening in the main front toward the town, and the other three opening toward the interior court. The spaces between the windows were covered with immense mirrors, so arranged as to display the ceiling, beautifully painted by one of the finest artists of the day. The artist had spread his colors with such delicacy and skill, so exquisitely blending light and shade, that the illusion was almost perfect. The spectator felt that the real sky, with its fleecy clouds and infinite depth of blue, overarched him.
Early in the spring of 1757, France, Russia, Austria, Poland, and Sweden were combined against Frederick. These countries represented a population of one hundred millions. Frederick’s domains contained but five millions. His annual revenue was but about ten million dollars. He had an army in the field of one hundred and fifty thousand of the best troops in the world. His fortresses were garrisoned by about fifty thousand of inferior quality. The armies of the allies numbered four hundred and thirty thousand. Frederick was regarded as an outlaw. The design of the allies was to crush him, and to divide his territory between them. Austria was to retake Silesia. France was to have the Wesel-Cleve country. Russia was to annex to her domains Prussen, K?nigsberg, etc. Poland, having regained Saxony, was to add to her territory Magdeburg and Halle. Sweden was to have Pomerania. Never before had there appeared such a combination against any man. The situation of Frederick seemed desperate.Sieges, skirmishes, battles innumerable ensued. The Russians and the Austrians, in superior numbers and with able leaders, were unwearied in their endeavors to annihilate their formidable foe. The conflict was somewhat analogous to that which takes place between the lion at bay in the jungle and a pack of dogs. The details could scarcely be made intelligible to the reader, and would certainly prove tedious.153The year 1739 was spent by the prince mostly at Reinsberg. Many distinguished visitors were received at the chateau. Frederick continued busily engaged in his studies, writing both prose and verse, and keeping up a lively correspondence with Voltaire and other literary friends. He engaged very earnestly in writing a book entitled Anti-Machiavel, which consisted of a refutation of Machiavel’s Prince. This book was published, praised, and read, but has long since been forgotten. The only memorable thing about the book now is that in those dark days of absolutism, when it was the almost universally recognized opinion that power did not ascend from the people to their sovereign, but descended from the monarch to his subjects, Frederick should have spoken of the king as the “born servant of his people.”
With that vigilant eye upon him, Frederick was compelled to some vigor of action. On the night of October 17th he commenced the bombardment. The noise was terrific. It could not294 be prevented but that the shot and shell should do some harm. Some buildings were burned; several lives were lost. M. Valori, who knew that the result could not be doubtful, was induced to go to Breslau and await the surrender. After the garrison had made apparently a gallant resistance, and Frederick had achieved apparent prodigies of valor, the city was surrendered on the 31st of October. Most of the garrison immediately enlisted in the Prussian service.The Prince of Soubise had rendezvoused fifty thousand French and Saxon troops at Erfurt, about a hundred and seventy miles west of Dresden. He had also, scattered around at different posts, easily accessible, a hundred thousand more well-armed and well-disciplined troops. Frederick took twenty-three thousand men and marched to assail these foes in almost despairing battle. To plunge with so feeble a band into such a mass of enemies seemed to be the extreme of recklessness.Wilhelmina and her husband soon left for Baireuth. Though the princess thus left the splendors of a royal palace for the far more quiet and humble state of a ducal mansion, still she was glad to escape from a home where she had experienced so many sorrows.
“General Finck gets a difficult commission. The unlucky army which I give up to him is no longer in a condition to make head against the Russians. Haddick will now start for Berlin, perhaps Loudon too.136 If General Finck go after these, the Russians487 will fall on his rear. If he continue on the Oder, he gets Haddick on his flank. However, I believe, should Loudon go for Berlin, he might attack Loudon and beat him. This, if it succeeded, would be a stand against misfortune, and hold matters up. Time gained is much in these desperate circumstances. C?per, my secretary, will send him the news from Torgau and Dresden. You must inform my brother137 of every thing, whom I have declared generalissimo of the army. To repair this bad luck altogether is not possible. But what my brother shall command must be done. The army swears to my nephew. This is all the advice in these unhappy circumstances I am in a condition to give. If I had still had resources, I would have staid by them.详情
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