The young lady was not beautiful, and there was no evidence of the slightest improprieties, or of any approach even to flirtation. But the infuriate king, who, without the shadow of reason, could accuse his own daughter of infamy, caused this young lady, under the pretext that she had been the guilty intimate of his son, to be taken from her parents, to be delivered to the executioners, and to be publicly conveyed in a cart and whipped on the bare back through the principal streets of the town. She was then imprisoned, and doomed to beat hemp as a culprit for three years.
“The king’s procedure,” added the unhappy mother, “is not in accordance with that law. He is doing violence to my daughter’s inclinations, thus rendering her wretched for the remainder of her days. He wishes to give her for a husband a brutal debauchee, a younger brother, who is nothing but an officer in the army of the King of Poland; a landless man, without the means of living according to his rank. I will write to England. But, whatever the answer, I had rather a thousand times see my child in the grave than hopelessly miserable.”
On the 25th of October a courier arrived, direct from Vienna, with the startling intelligence that the Emperor Charles VI. had died five days before. The king was at the time suffering from a severe attack of chills and fever. There was quite a long deliberation in the court whether it were safe to communicate the agitating intelligence to his majesty while he was so sick. They delayed for an hour, and then cautiously informed the king of the great event. Frederick listened in silence; uttered not a word; made no sign.36 Subsequent events proved that his soul must have been agitated by the tidings to its profoundest depths. The death of the emperor, at that time, was unexpected. But it is pretty evident that Frederick had, in the sombre recesses of his mind, resolved upon a course of action when the emperor should die which he knew would be fraught with the most momentous results. In fact, this action proved the occasion of wars and woes from which, could the king have foreseen them, he would doubtless have shrunk back appalled.
Early the next morning Frederick commenced the vigorous pursuit of the retiring foe. A storm arose. For twelve hours the rain fell in torrents. But the Prussian army was impelled onward, through the mud, and through the swollen streams, inspired by the almost supernatural energy which glowed in the bosom of its king. It seemed as if no hardships, sufferings, or perils could induce those iron men, who by discipline had been converted into mere machines, to wander from the ranks or to falter on the way. As we have mentioned, there were throughout all this region two religious parties, the Catholics and the Protestants. They were strongly antagonistic to each other. Under the Austrian sway, the Catholics, having the support of the government, had enjoyed unquestioned supremacy. They had often very cruelly persecuted the Protestants, robbing them of their churches, and, in their zeal to defend what they deemed the orthodox faith, depriving them of their children, and placing them under the care of the Catholic priests to be educated.
“My dear Voltaire,—France has been considered thus far as the asylum of unfortunate monarchs. I wish that my capital should become the temple of great men. Come to it, then, my dear Voltaire, and give whatever orders can tend to render a residence in it agreeable to you. My wish is to please you, and wishing this, my intention is to enter entirely into your views.“If the English Princess Amelia come here as the bride of my son, she will bring with her immense wealth. Accustomed to grandeur, she will look contemptuously upon our simplicity. With her money she can dazzle and bribe. I hate my son. He hates me. Aided by the gold of England, my son can get up a party antagonistic to me. No! I will never, never consent to his marrying the Princess Amelia. If he is never married it is83 no matter. Fortunately I have other sons, and the succession will not be disturbed.”10
In a very triumphant mood, the king, on the 19th of November, wrote a boastful and irreverent “Ode to Fortune,” in that easy rhyme which he called poetry. The substance of this ode, translated into prose, was as follows:
It is evident that the king, thus surrounded with perils and threatened with utter destruction, was anxious for the termination of the war. But still this inflexible man would not listen to any suggestions for peace but on his own terms. He wrote to Voltaire, urging him “to bring back peace.” At the same time he said,“My adorable Sister,—The Hanover doctor has wished to make himself important with you, my good sister; but the truth is, he has been of no use to me. The old must give place to the young, that each generation may find room clear for it; and life, if we examine strictly what its course is, consists in seeing one’s fellow-creatures die and be born. In the mean while, I have felt myself a little easier for the last day or two. My heart remains inviolably attached to you, my good sister. With the highest consideration, my adorable sister, your faithful brother and servant,“Munchberg, July 2, 1734.
In the court-yard there was a fountain with stone steps, where Frederick William loved to sit on summer evenings and smoke his pipe. He frequently took his frugal dinner here in the open air under a lime-tree, with the additional protection of an awning. After dinner he would throw himself down for a nap on a wooden bench, apparently regardless of the flaming sun.详情
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