There seems to be no end to the complications and troubles of this royal family. It is said that Wilhelmina, to soothe her mother, treated her betrothed with great coldness; that her younger sister Charlotte fell deeply in love with the Prince of Baireuth, and endeavored to win him to herself; and that the prince himself, attracted by warmth on the one hand, and repelled by coldness on the other, was quite disposed to make the exchange.19 The king, irritated by these interminable annoyances, and the victim of chronic petulance and ill nature, recommenced his brutal treatment of his daughter.“Old Leopold is hardly at home at Dessau,” writes Carlyle, “when the new Pandour tempests, tides of ravaging war, again come beating against the Giant Mountains, pouring through all passes, huge influx of wild riding hordes, each with some support of Austrian grenadiers, cannoniers, threatening to submerge Silesia. Precursors, Frederick need not doubt, of a strenuous, regular attempt that way. Hungarian majesty’s fixed intention,347 hope, and determination is to expel him straightway from Silesia.”81
“‘See there; that is the way to mark out camps.’”192Maria Theresa was developing character which attracted the admiration of Europe. She seriously contemplated taking command of her armies herself. She loved Duke Francis, her husband, treated him very tenderly, and was anxious to confer upon him honor; but by nature vastly his superior, instinctively she assumed the command. She led; he followed. She was a magnificent rider. Her form was the perfection of grace. Her beautiful, pensive, thoughtful face was tanned by the weather. All hearts throbbed as, on a spirited charger, she sometimes swept before the ranks of the army, with her gorgeous retinue, appearing and disappearing like a meteor. She was as devout as she317 was brave, winning the homage of all Catholic hearts. We know not where, in the long list of sovereigns, to point to man or woman of more imperial energies, of more exalted worth.
One’s faith in a superintending Providence is almost staggered by such outrages. It would seem that there could scarcely be any compensation even in the future world for so foul a wrong inflicted upon this guileless and innocent girl. There can be no possible solution of the mystery but in the decree, “After death cometh the judgment.”It will be remembered that, in the note which M. Valori accidentally dropped, and which Frederick furtively obtained, the minister was instructed by the French court not to give up Glatz to the Prussian king if he could possibly avoid it. But Frederick had now seized the city, and the region around, by force300 of arms, and held them with a gripe not to be relaxed. Glatz was a Catholic town. In the convent there was an image of the Virgin, whose tawdry robes had become threadbare and faded. The wife of the Austrian commandant had promised the Virgin a new dress if she would keep the Prussians out of the city. Frederick heard of this. As he took possession of the city, with grim humor he assured the Virgin that she should not lose in consequence of the favor she had shown the Prussians. New and costly garments were immediately provided for her at the expense of the Prussian king.
“Whole provinces had been laid waste. Even in those which had not been thus destroyed, internal commerce and industry were almost at an end. A great part of Pomerania and Brandenburg was changed into a desert. There were provinces where hardly any men were to be found, and where the women were therefore obliged to guide the plow. In others women were as much wanting as men. The most fertile plains of Germany, on the banks of the Oder and the Wesel, presented only the arid and sterile appearance of a desert. An officer has stated that he had passed through seven villages without meeting a single person excepting a curate.”174
Gradually the secret treaty which allied France, Bavaria, and Prussia, and it was not known how many other minor powers, against Austria, came to light. Two French armies of fifty thousand men each were on the march to act in co-operation with Frederick. England, trembling from fear of the loss of Hanover, dared not move. The Aulic Council at Vienna, in a panic, “fell back into their chairs like dead men.” The ruin of Maria Theresa and the fatal dismemberment of Austria seemed inevitable.
On Monday morning, the 9th of October, 1741, the British minister, Lord Hyndford, accompanied by General Neipperg and General Lentulus from the Austrian camp, repaired to this castle, ostensibly to fix some cartel for the exchange of prisoners. Frederick rode out that morning with General Goltz, assuming that he was going to visit some of his outposts. In leaving, he said to the French minister Valori, “I am afraid that I shall not be home to dinner.” At the same time, to occupy the attention of M. Valori, he was invited to dine with Prince Leopold. By circuitous and unfrequented paths, the king and his companion hied to the castle.397 Some years before this time Frederick had taken possession of East Friesland, and had made Emden a port of entry. It was a very important acquisition, as it opened to Prussia a convenient avenue for maritime commerce. With great vigor and sagacity Frederick was encouraging this commerce, thus strengthening his kingdom and enriching his subjects. England, mistress of the seas, and then, as usual, at war with France, was covering all the adjacent waters with her war-ships and privateers. Frederick had inquired of the English court, through his embassador at London, whether hemp, flax, or timber were deemed contraband. “No,” was the official response. Freighted with such merchandise, the Prussian ships freely sailed in all directions. But soon an English privateer seized several of them, upon the assumption that the planks with which they were loaded were contraband.
Frederick was accustomed to cover his deep designs of diplomacy322 by the promotion of the utmost gayety in his capital. Never did Berlin exhibit such spectacles of festivity and pleasure as during the winter of 1742 and 1743. There was a continued succession of operas, balls, fêtes, and sleigh-parties. Frederick’s two younger sisters were at that time brilliant ornaments of his court. They were both remarkably beautiful and vivacious. The Princess Louise Ulrique was in her twenty-third year. The following letter to Frederick from these two princesses will be keenly appreciated by many of our young lady readers whose expenses have exceeded their allowance. It shows very conclusively that there may be the same pecuniary annoyances in the palaces of kings as in more humble homes.
“Sunday next I shall be at a little place near Cleves, where I shall be able to possess you at my ease. If the sight of you don’t cure me, I will send for a confessor at once. Adieu. You know my sentiments and my heart.
The queen remained bitterly unreconciled to the marriage of Wilhelmina with any one but the Prince of Wales. Stung by the sense of defeat, she did every thing in her power, by all sorts of intrigues, to break off the engagement with the Prince of Baireuth. When she found her efforts entirely unavailing, she even went so far as to take her daughter aside and entreat her, since the ceremony must take place, to refuse, after the marriage, to receive the Prince of Baireuth as her husband, that the queen might endeavor to obtain a divorce.Gradually the secret treaty which allied France, Bavaria, and Prussia, and it was not known how many other minor powers, against Austria, came to light. Two French armies of fifty thousand men each were on the march to act in co-operation with Frederick. England, trembling from fear of the loss of Hanover, dared not move. The Aulic Council at Vienna, in a panic, “fell back into their chairs like dead men.” The ruin of Maria Theresa and the fatal dismemberment of Austria seemed inevitable.
We have often spoken of the entire neglect with which the king treated his virtuous and amiable queen. Preuss relates the following incident:详情
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