The queen summoned firmness to reply: “You can inform the king that he will never make me consent to render my daughter miserable; and that, so long as a breath of life remains in me, I will not permit her to take either the one or the other of these persons.”“The emperor has a frankness of manner which seems natural to him. In his amiable character, gayety and great vivacity are prominent features.”“Asking me for peace is indeed a bitter joke. It is to Louis XV. you must address yourself, or to his Amboise in petticoats.129 But these people have their heads filled with ambitious projects. They wish to be the sovereign arbiters of sovereigns. That is what persons of my way of thinking will by no means put up with. I like peace as much as you could wish, but I want it good, solid, and honorable. Socrates or Plato would have thought as I do on this subject had they found themselves in the accursed position which is mine in the world.
If these words are true, which Milton places in the lips of the apostate fiend, it is appalling to think of the ungoverned and ungovernable spirit with which the king entered the unseen world. We know not that there is any power in the alembic of death to transform the character; and certain it is that if Frederick William carried with him to the abode of spirits the same character which he cherished in this world, there are but few who could be rendered happy by his society. But we must leave him with his God, and return to the stormy scenes upon which his son now entered.
Sir Thomas, somewhat discomposed, apologetically intimated that that was not all he had to offer.
In August, 1785, the king again visited Silesia to review his troops. A private letter, quoted by Carlyle, gives an interesting view of his appearance at the time:Battle of Hohenfriedberg.—Religious Antagonism.—Anecdote of the King.—Retreat of the Austrians.—Horrors of War.—“A slight Pleasantry.”—Sufferings of the Prussian Army.—The Victory of Fontenoy.—Frederick’s Pecuniary Embarrassments.—Executive Abilities of Maria Theresa.—Inflexibility of the Austrian Queen.—The Retreat to Silesia.—The Surprise at Sohr.—Military Genius of Frederick.—Great Victory of Sohr.
It is very evident, from the glimpses we catch of Fritz at this time, that he was a wild fellow, quite frivolous, and with but a feeble sense of moral obligation. General Schulenburg, an old soldier, of stern principles, visited him at Cüstrin, and sent an account of the interview to Baron Grumkow, under date of October 4th, 1731. From this letter we cull the following statement:It 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.
“What do you mean?” exclaimed the king, with an air of real or affected surprise. Then, turning to his secretary, M. Podewils, he inquired, “How much of Guelderland is theirs, and not ours already?”
“Almost none,” M. Podewils replied.Before the king released the Crown Prince he extorted from him an oath that he would be, in all respects, obedient to his father; that he would never again attempt to escape, or take any journey without permission; that he would scrupulously discharge all the duties of religion, and that he would marry any princess whom his father might select for him. The next morning, after the interview to which we have above alluded, the prince called upon his sister. They had a short private interview, Madam Sonsfeld alone being present. The prince gave a recital of his adventures and misfortunes during the many months since they last had met. The princess gave an account of her great trials, and how she had consented to a marriage, which was not one of her choice, to obtain her brother’s release.
On the 15th of September, two days before Frederick had written the despairing letter we have just given, Wilhelmina wrote again to him, in response to previous letters, and to his poetic epistle.
The wrath of the king was now ungovernable. He drew his sword, threatening to thrust it through the heart of his son, and seemed upon the point of doing so, when General Mosel threw himself before the king, exclaiming, “Sire, you may kill me, but spare your son.”12414 “This battle,” writes Frederick, “which began toward nine in the morning, was one of the bloodiest of the age. The enemy lost twenty-four thousand men, of whom four thousand were prisoners. The Prussian loss amounted to eighteen thousand fighting men, without counting Marshal Schwerin, who was alone worth above ten thousand. This day saw the pillars of the Prussian infantry cut down.”详情
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