The wife of George I., the mother of Sophie Dorothee, was the subject of one of the saddest of earthly tragedies. Her case is still involved in some obscurity. She was a beautiful, haughty, passionate princess of Zelle when she married her cousin George, Elector of Hanover. George became jealous of Count K?nigsmark, a very handsome courtier of commanding address. In an angry altercation with his wife, it is said that the infuriate husband boxed her ears. Suddenly, on the 1st of July, 1694, Count K?nigsmark disappeared. Mysteriously he vanished from earth, and was heard of no more. The unhappy wife, who had given birth to the daughter Sophie Dorothee, bearing her mother’s name, and to a son, afterward George II., almost frenzied with42 rage, was divorced from her husband, and was locked up in the gloomy castle of Ahlden, situated in the solitary moors of Luneburg heath. Here she was held in captivity for thirty years, until she died. In the mean time, George, ascending the throne of England, solaced himself in the society of female favorites, none of whom he honored with the title of wife. The raging captive of Ahlden, who seems never to have become submissive to her lot, could, of course, exert no influence in the marriage of her grandchildren.Still the question of the marriages remained the subject of innumerable intrigues. There were several claimants for the hand of Wilhelmina, and many nuptial alliances suggested for Fritz. Frederick William proposed the marriage of Wilhelmina to Fred, the Prince of Wales, and to let the marriage of Fritz and Amelia for the present remain undecided. But England promptly replied “No; both marriages or none.” It is intimated by the ministers of the Prussian king that he was influenced in his vacillating course respecting the marriages not only by his doubts whether the English or a German alliance would be most desirable,55 but also by avarice, as he knew not what dowry he could secure with the English princess, and by jealousy, as he was very unwilling to add to the importance and the power of his hated son Fritz. He also disliked extremely his brother-in-law, George II.6England was the hereditary foe of France. It was one of the leading objects in her diplomacy to circumvent that power. “Our great-grandfathers,” writes Carlyle, “lived in perpetual terror that they would be devoured by France; that French ambition would overset the Celestial Balance, and proceed next to eat the British nation.” Strengthening Austria was weakening France. Therefore the sympathies of England were strongly with Austria. In addition to this, personal feelings came in. The puerile little king, George II., hated implacably his nephew, Frederick of Prussia, which hatred Frederick returned with interest.
During the next three days the king suffered much from weakness and a violent cough. He was often heard murmuring prayers, and would say to those around him, “Pray for me; pray for me.” Several times he pathetically exclaimed, “Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” A favorite hymn was often sung to him containing the words, “Naked came I into the world, and naked187 shall I go out of it.” At this passage he repeatedly exclaimed, with much vivacity, as though it were an admirable joke, “No, not quite naked; I shall have my uniform on.”
Thus his Prussian majesty and the Queen of Hungary met each other like two icebergs in a stormy sea. The allies were exasperated, not conquered, by the defeat of Sohr. Maria Theresa, notwithstanding the severity of winter’s cold, resolved immediately to send three armies to invade Prussia, and storm Berlin itself. She hoped to keep the design profoundly secret, so that Frederick might be taken at unawares. The Swedish envoy at Dresden spied out the plan, and gave the king warning. Marshal Grüne was to advance from the Rhine, and enter Brandenburg from the west. Prince Charles, skirting Western Silesia, was to march upon Brandenburg from the south. General Rutowski was to spring upon the Old Dessauer, who was encamped upon the frontiers of Saxony, overwhelm and crush his army with superior numbers, and then, forming a junction with Marshal Brüne, with their united force rush upon Berlin.
Frederick was very fond of dogs. This was one of his earliest passions, and it continued until the end of his life. He almost invariably had five or six Italian greyhounds about him, leaping upon the chairs, and sleeping upon the sofas in his room. Dr. Zimmermann describes them as placed on blue satin chairs and couches near the king’s arm-chair, and says that when Frederick, during his last illness, used to sit on his terrace at Sans Souci in order to enjoy the sun, a chair was always placed by his side, which was occupied by one of his dogs. He fed them himself, took the greatest possible care of them when they were sick, and when they died buried them in the gardens of Sans Souci. The568 traveler may still see their tombs—flat stones with the names of the dogs beneath engraved upon them—at each end of the terrace of Sans Souci, in front of the palace.“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.”
“Inarticulate notions, fancies, transient aspirations, he might have, in the background of his mind. One day, sitting for a while out of doors, gazing into the sun, he was heard to murmur, ‘Perhaps I shall be nearer thee soon;’ and, indeed, nobody knows what his thoughts were in these final months. There is traceable only a complete superiority to fear and hope; in parts, too, are half glimpses of a great motionless interior lake of sorrow, sadder than any tears or complainings, which are altogether wanting to it.”
At the battle of Sohr, Biche was taken captive with the king’s baggage. The animal manifested so much joy upon being restored to its master that the king’s eyes were flooded with tears.“The king esteems his wife, and can not endure her. It was but a few days ago she handed him a letter petitioning for some things of which she had the most pressing want. Frederick took the letter with that most smiling, gracious air, which he assumes at pleasure, and, without breaking the seal, tore it up before her face, made her a profound bow, and turned his back on her.”It would be unjust alike to the father and the son to withhold a letter which reflects so much credit upon them both—upon179 the father for his humane measures, and upon the son for his appreciation of their moral beauty.
Still, on the whole, the siege progressed favorably. Large supplies of food and ammunition were indispensable to Frederick. Thirty thousand hungry men were to be fed. A constant bombardment rapidly exhausts even abundant stores of powder, shot, and shell.On the 10th of August there was a magnificent review of the Prussian army on the plain of Strehlin, to which all the foreign embassadors were invited. During the night of the 9th, General Schwerin and Prince Leopold, with eight thousand Prussian troops, horse and foot, arrived in the southwestern suburbs of Breslau, and, at six o’clock in the morning, demanded simply a passage through the city for their regiments and baggage, on the march to attack a marauding band of the Austrians on the other side of the Oder.Keith, trembling in every limb, returned to the stable. Though Rochow pretended not to suspect any attempt at escape, it was manifestly pretense only. The prince had provided himself with a red overcoat as a disguise to his uniform, the gray one having been left with Katte at Potsdam. As Fritz was returning to the barn with Rochow, wearing this suspicious garment, they met the minister Seckendorf, whom Fritz and his mother thoroughly hated as one of the counselors of the king. Very coolly and cuttingly Rochow inquired of Seckendorf, “How do you like his royal highness in the red overcoat?” It was a desperate game these men were playing; for, should the king suddenly91 die, Fritz would surely inherit the crown, and they would be entirely at his mercy. All hope of escape seemed now to vanish, and the prince was quite in despair.
“And what does the court of Cüstrin do? It orders the mill to be sold, that the nobleman may have his rent! Go you, sir,” addressing the grand chancellor, “about your business, this instant. Your successor is appointed; with you I have nothing more to do.” The other three were assailed in the same way, but still more vehemently, as the king’s wrath flamed higher and higher. “Out of my sight,” he exclaimed at last; “I will make an example of you which shall be remembered.”In 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.
It speaks well for Frederick that during this illness, which was long and painful, he almost daily visited at the bedside of his friend, ministering to his wants with his own hand. After his death the king continued his kindness to the bereaved family. Baron Bielfeld gives the following account of one of the scenes of carousal in which these men engaged, when in the enjoyment of youth and health:Prince Leopold was keenly wounded by this reproof. Though he uttered not a word in self-defense, he was ever after, in the presence of his majesty, very silent, distant, and reserved. Though scrupulously faithful in every duty, he compelled the king to feel that an impassable wall of separation had risen up between them. He was seeking for an honorable pretext to withdraw from his majesty’s service.256 It was now about noon. The sun shone brightly on the glistening snow. There was no wind. Twenty thousand peasants, armed and drilled as soldiers, were facing each other upon either side, to engage in mutual slaughter, with no animosity between them—no cause of quarrel. It is one of the unrevealed mysteries of Providence that any one man should thus have it in his power to create such wide-spread death and misery. The Austrians had a splendid body of cavalry, eight thousand six hundred in number. Frederick had but about half as many horsemen. The Prussians had sixty pieces of artillery, the Austrians but eighteen.
“Think you there is any pleasure in living this dog’s life, in seeing and causing the butchery of people you know nothing of, in losing daily those you do know and love, in seeing perpetually your reputation exposed to the caprices of chance, passing year after year in disquietudes and apprehensions, in risking without end your life and your fortune?“It is a monument for the latest posterity; the only book worthy of a king for these fifteen hundred years.”33详情
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