THE LAST REVIEW.
Frederick was endowed with brilliant powers of conversation. He was fond of society, where he could exercise and display these gifts and accomplishments. Frequent suppers were given at Sans Souci, which lasted from half past eight till midnight. Gentlemen only—learned men—were invited to these entertainments. Frederick was not an amiable man. He took pleasure in inflicting the keenest pain possible with his satirical tongue. No friend was spared. The more deeply he could strike the lash into the quivering nerves of sensibility, the better he seemed pleased with himself.
Days of Peace and Prosperity.—The Palace of Sans Souci.—Letter from Marshal Keith.—Domestic Habits of the King.—Frederick’s Snuff-boxes.—Anecdotes.—Severe Discipline of the Army.—Testimony of Baron Trenck.—The Review.—Death of the “Divine Emilie.”—The King’s Revenge.—Anecdote of the Poor Schoolmaster.—The Berlin Carousal.—Appearance of his Majesty.—Honors conferred upon Voltaire.The correspondence carried on between Frederick and Voltaire, and their mutual comments, very clearly reveal the relations existing between these remarkable men. Frederick was well aware that the eloquent pen of the great dramatist and historian could give him celebrity throughout Europe. Voltaire was keenly alive to the consideration that the friendship of a monarch could secure to him position and opulence. And yet each privately spoke of the other very contemptuously, while in the correspondence which passed between them they professed for each other the highest esteem and affection. Frederick wrote from Berlin as follows to Voltaire:
Frederick cautiously refused to sign his name to any paper. Verbally, he agreed that in one week from that time, on the 16th, General Neipperg should have liberty to retire to the south through the mountains, unmolested save by sham attacks in his rear. A small garrison was to be left in Neisse. After maintaining a sham siege for a fortnight, they were to surrender the291 city. Sham hostilities, to deceive the French, were to be continued until the year was out, and then a treaty was to be signed and ratified.“There has been a revolution in St. Petersburg. The Czar Peter III., your majesty’s devoted friend, has been deposed, and probably assassinated. The Czarina Catharine, influenced by the enemies of your majesty, and unwilling to become embroiled in a conflict with Austria and France, has ordered me to return instantly homeward with the twenty thousand troops under my command.”It was apparently easy for the Crown Prince to relinquish Amelia. But the English princess, being very unhappy at home, had fixed her affections upon Frederick with the most romantic tenderness. In beauty of person, in chivalric reputation, in exalted rank, he was every thing an imaginative maiden could have desired. She regarded him probably as, in heart, true to her. He had often sent his protestations to the English court that he would never marry any one but Amelia. Though the marriage ceremony had been performed with Elizabeth, he recognized only its legal tie. Poor Amelia was heart-crushed. Earth had no longer any joys for her. She never married, but wore the miniature of the prince upon her breast for the rest of her days. We have no record of the weary years during which grief was consuming her life. Her eyelids became permanently swollen with weeping. And when, at the age of sixty, she died, the miniature of the Crown Prince was still found resting upon her true and faithful heart. Amelia and Elizabeth—how sad their fate! Through no fault of their own, earth was to them both truly a vale of tears. The only relief from the contemplation of the terrible tragedies of earth is found in the hope that the sufferers may find compensation in a heavenly home.
General Daun, in command of the Austrian forces, rapidly concentrated his troops around Leutomischel, where he had extensive magazines. But Frederick, leaving Leutomischel far away on his right, pressed forward in a southerly direction, and on the 12th of May appeared before Olmütz. His march had been rapidly and admirably conducted, dividing his troops into columns for the convenience of road and subsistence.
To his mother he was very considerate in all his manifestations of filial affection, while, at the same time, he caused her very distinctly to understand that she was to take no share whatever in the affairs of government. When she addressed him, upon his accession to the throne, as “Your Majesty,” he replied, “Call me son. That is the title of all others most agreeable to me.” He decreed to her the title of “Her Majesty the Queen-mother.” The palace of Monbijou was assigned her, where she was surrounded with every luxury, treated with the most distinguished attention, and her court was the acknowledged centre of fashionable society.338 Just at that time, when all hope seemed lost, it so happened that a cannon-ball crushed the foot of the Austrian commander. This disaster, together with the darkness and the torrents of rain, caused the fire of the enemy to cease. The next morning some Prussian re-enforcements came to the rescue of the king, and he escaped.
“Constantinople! never. It is the empire of the world.”475 During this dismal winter of incessant and almost despairing labor the indefatigable king wrote several striking treatises on military affairs. It is manifest that serious thoughts at times occupied his mind. He doubtless reflected that if there were a God who took any cognizance of human affairs, there must be somewhere responsibility to Him for the woes with which these wars were desolating humanity. To the surprise of De Catt, the king presented him one evening with a sermon upon “The Last Judgment,” from his own pen. He also put upon paper his thoughts “On the new kind of tactics necessary with the Austrians and their allies.” He seems himself to have been surprised that he had been able so long to resist such overpowering numbers. In allusion to the allies he writes:
Frederick William, the Crown Prince, was at the time of the birth of his son Frederick twenty-four years of age. He was a22 very peculiar man, sturdy and thick-set in figure, of strong mental powers, but quite uneducated. He was unpolished in manners, rude in his address, honest and sincere, a stern, persevering worker, despising all luxurious indulgence, and excessively devoted to the routine of military duties.“‘No,’ I answered; ‘but I should like to make that journey. I am very curious to see the Prussian states and their king, of whom one hears so much.’ And now I began to launch out on Frederick’s actions.On the 16th the battered, smouldering, blood-stained city was surrendered, with its garrison of sixteen thousand men. The prisoners of war were marched off to Frederick’s strong places in the north. Prague was compelled to take the oath of allegiance to the emperor, and to pay a ransom of a million of dollars. Abundant stores of provision and ammunition were found in the city. It was a brilliant opening of the campaign.
“Yesterday noon,” said he, “I had Prince Charles in my parlor. His adjutants and people were all crowding about. Such a questioning and bothering. Hundreds came dashing in, and other hundreds were sent out. In and out they went all night. No sooner was one gone than ten came. I had to keep a roaring fire in the kitchen all night, so many officers were crowding to it to warm themselves. They talked and babbled. One would say that our king was marching upon them with his Potsdam parade guard. Another would say, ‘No, he dare not come. He will turn and run.’ But my delight is that our king has paid them for their fooleries so prettily this afternoon.”详情
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