The annoyances to which Wilhelmina was exposed, while thus preparing for her wedding, must have been almost unendurable. Not only her mother was thus persistent and implacable in her hostility, but her father reluctantly submitted to the connection. He had fully made up his mind, with all the strength of his inflexible will, that Wilhelmina should marry either the Margrave of Schwedt or the Duke of Weissenfels. It was with extreme reluctance, and greatly to his chagrin, that the stern old man131 found himself constrained, perhaps for the first time in his life, to yield to others.Lafayette, Lord Cornwallis, and the Duke of York were his565 guests at the dinner-table that day. The king suffered from his exposure, was very feverish, and at an early hour went to bed. The next day he completed his review; and the next day “went—round by Neisse, inspection not to be omitted there, though it doubles the distance—to Brieg, a drive of eighty miles, inspection work included.”196It was a glorious victory. What was the price? Five thousand six hundred Prussian young men lay in their blood upon the field, dead or wounded. Six thousand seven hundred young men from Austrian homes lay by their side, silent in death, or groaning in anguish, lacerated by the missiles of war.
“Great God! my sister of Baireuth, my noble Wilhelmina, dead; died in the very hours while we were fighting here.”Frederick had now France only for an ally. But France was seeking her own private interests on the Rhine, as Frederick was aiming at the aggrandizement of Prussia on his Austrian frontiers. Neither party was disposed to make any sacrifice for the benefit of the other. Frederick, thus thrown mainly upon his345 own resources, with an impoverished treasury, and a weakened and baffled army, made indirect application to both England and Austria for peace. But both of these courts, flushed with success, were indisposed to listen to any terms which Frederick would propose.
“If you wish to come hither you can. I hear nothing of lawsuits, not even of yours. Since you have gained it I congratulate389 you, and I am glad that this scurvy affair is done.96 I hope you will have no more quarrels, either with the Old or the New Testament. Such contentions leave their mark upon a man. Even with the talents of the finest genius in France, you will not cover the stains which this conduct will fasten on your reputation in the long run. I write this letter with the rough common sense of a German, without employing equivocal terms which disfigure the truth. It is for you to profit by it.”“We rose from table. As we had to pass near him in going out, he aimed a great blow at me with his crutch, which, if I had not jerked away from it, would have ended me. He chased me for a while in his wheel-chair, but the people drawing it gave me time to escape to the queen’s chamber.”In his “epistle” Frederick had expressed the opinion that428 there was no God who took any interest in human affairs. He had also repeatedly expressed the resolve to Wilhelmina, and to Voltaire, to whom he had become partially reconciled, that he was prepared to commit suicide should events prove as disastrous as he had every reason to expect they would prove. He had also urged his sister to follow his example, and not to survive the ruin of the family. Such was the support which the king, in hours of adversity, found in that philosophy for which he had discarded the religion of Jesus Christ.
a. Advance of Prussians.FREDERICK AT THE MILL.
Four good days in penance
Character of the Crown Prince.—Stratagem of the Emperor Joseph II.—Death of the Empress Catharine of Russia.—Matrimonial Alliance of Russia and Prussia.—Death of the King of Bavaria.—Attempt to Annex Bavaria to Austria.—Unexpected Energy of Frederick.—Court Intrigues.—Preparations for War.—Address to the Troops.—Declaration of War.—Terror in Vienna.—Irritability of Frederick.—Death of Voltaire.—Unjust Condemnation of the Judges.—Death of Maria Theresa.—Anecdote.—The King’s Fondness for Children.—His Fault-finding Spirit.—The King’s Appearance.—The Last Review.—Statement of Mirabeau.—Anecdote related by Dr. Moore.—Frederick’s Fondness for Dogs.—Increasing Weakness. —Unchanging Obduracy toward the Queen.—The Dying Scene.
“I know not what I have written. My heart is torn in pieces. I feel that by dint of disquietude and alarms I am losing my senses. Oh, my dear, adorable brother, have pity on me. The least thing that concerns you pierces me to the heart. Might I die a thousand deaths provided you lived and were happy! I can say no more. Grief chokes me. I can only repeat that your fate shall be mine; being, my dear brother, yourBut it was much easier for Frederick to issue these orders than for Leopold to execute them. As Leopold could not, in a day, gather sufficient force to warrant an attack upon the Austrians, the king was greatly irritated, and allowed himself to write to Leopold in a strain of which he must afterward have been much ashamed. On the 19th he addressed a note to the veteran officer couched in the following terms:
FREDERICK AND WILHELMINA.The camp was so utterly destroyed that Frederick could not even obtain pen and ink. He was obliged to write with a pencil. Not a loaf of bread nor a cup of wine was left for the exhausted king. The hungry soldiers, after a conflict of five hours, having had neither breakfast nor dinner, found no refreshments awaiting them; yet, without a murmur, they smoked their pipes, drank some spring water, and rejoiced in their great victory.
To obviate the difficulty of the Crown Prince becoming the head of a party in Berlin antagonistic to the king, the plan was suggested of having him appointed, with his English princess, vice-regent of Hanover. But this plan failed. Hotham now84 became quite discouraged. He wrote home, on the 22d of April, that he had that day dined with the king; that the Crown Prince was present, but dreadfully dejected, and that great sympathy was excited in his behalf, as he was so engaging and so universally popular. He evidently perceived some indications of superiority in the Crown Prince, for he added, “If I am not much mistaken, this young prince will one day make a very considerable figure.”“The king found,” writes Voltaire, “testimonies of the dread which he had occasioned. The queen died soon after of grief. All Europe pitied that unfortunate family. But in the course of those public calamities millions of families experienced hardships not less great, though more obscure.”101
221 By the 10th of December, within a fortnight of the time that the king received the tidings of the death of the emperor, he had collected such a force on the frontiers of Silesia that there could be no question that the invasion of that province was intended. As not the slightest preparation had been made on the part of Austria to meet such an event, the king could with perfect ease overrun the province and seize all its fortresses. But Austria was, in territory, resources, and military power, vastly stronger than Prussia. It was therefore scarcely possible that Frederick could hold the province, after he had seized it, unless he could encourage others to dispute the succession of Maria Theresa, and thus involve Europe in a general war. Frederick, having made all his arrangements for prompt and vigorous action, sent to Maria Theresa a message which could be regarded only as an insult:He therefore spread his troops abroad in winter quarters, levying contributions upon the unhappy inhabitants of Silesia for their support. The king, ever prompt in his movements, having on Monday, the 23d of January, converted the siege into a blockade, on Wednesday, the 25th, set out for home. Visiting one or two important posts by the way, he reached Berlin the latter part of the week. Here he was received with great acclamations as a conquering hero. In six weeks he had overrun Silesia, and had virtually annexed it to his own realms. Whether Austria would quietly submit to this robbery, and whether Frederick would be able to retain his conquest, were questions yet to be decided.详情
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