Berlin was the capital of Brandenburg. K?nigsberg, an important sea-port on the Baltic, nearly five hundred miles east of Berlin, was the capital of the Prussian duchy. The ceremony20 of coronation took place at K?nigsberg. The road, for most of the distance, was through a very wild, uncultivated country. Eighteen hundred carriages, with thirty thousand post-horses, were provided to convey the court to the scene of coronation. Such a cavalcade was never beheld in those parts before. The carriages moved like an army, in three divisions of six hundred each. Volumes have been written descriptive of the pageant. It is said that the diamond buttons on the king’s coat cost seven thousand five hundred dollars each. The streets were not only tapestried with the richest cloth of the most gorgeous colors, but many of them were softly carpeted for the feet of the high-born men and proud dames who contributed, by their picturesque costume, to the brilliance of the spectacle. Frederick, with his own hands, placed the crown upon his brow. Thus was the kingdom of Prussia, ushered into being at the close of the year 1700.
“I forewarn you of this, that, if we should meet again in flesh and bone, you might not feel yourself too violently shocked by my appearance. There remains nothing to me unaltered but my heart, which, as long as I breathe, will retain sentiments of esteem and tender friendship for my good mamma. Adieu.”159
“Since this time he has spared no expense for the furtherance of his salutary intentions. He first established wise regulations and laws. He rebuilt whatever had been allowed to go to ruin in consequence of the plague. He brought and established there thousands of families from the different countries of Europe. The lands became again productive, and the country populous. Commerce reflourished; and at the present time abundance reigns in this country more than ever before. There are now half a million of inhabitants in Lithuania. There are more towns than formerly; more flocks, and more riches and fertility than in any other part of Germany.
“Ah! here you are. I am glad to see you.” Then, taking a light, he carefully examined her from head to foot. After a moment’s silence, he added, “How changed you are! I am sorry for you, on my word. You have not bread to eat, and but for me you might go a-begging. I am a poor man myself; not able to give you much; will do what I can. I will give you now and then twenty or thirty shillings, as my affairs permit. It will always be something to assuage your want. And you, madam,” turning to the queen, “will sometimes give her an old dress, for the poor child hasn’t a shift to her back.”
And notwithstanding our impatience,It was a serene, cloudless May morning when Frederick rode upon a small eminence to view the approach of his troops, and to form them in battle array. General Stille, who was an eye-witness of the scene, describes the spectacle as one of the most beautiful and magnificent which was ever beheld. The transparent atmosphere, the balmy air, transmitting with wonderful accuracy the most distant sounds, the smooth, wide-spreading prairie, the hamlets, to which distance lent enchantment, surmounted by the towers or spires of the churches, the winding columns of infantry and cavalry, their polished weapons flashing309 in the sunlight, the waving of silken and gilded banners, while bugle peals and bursts of military airs floated now faintly, and now loudly, upon the ear, the whole scene being bathed in the rays of the most brilliant of spring mornings—all together presented war in its brightest hues, divested of every thing revolting.65“It was in these hours of apparently insurmountable difficulty that the marvelous administrative genius of Frederick was displayed. No modern reader can imagine the difficulties of Frederick at this time as they already lay disclosed, and kept gradually disclosing themselves, for months coming; nor will ever know what perspicacity, what patience of scanning, sharpness of340 discernment, dexterity of management, were required at Frederick’s hands; and under what imminency of peril too—victorious deliverance or ruin and annihilation, wavering fearfully in the balance, for him more than once, or rather all along.”78
At Nimburg, about twenty miles from Kolin, where the retiring Prussians were crossing the Elbe, Frederick sat upon a green mound, lost in thought, as his troops defiled before him. He was scratching figures upon the sand with his stick.
It will be remembered that Prince Charles was at the head of a strong Austrian army, on the western banks of the Rhine. It numbered over fifty thousand combatants. The King of France had pledged himself to press them closely, so that they could not recross the Rhine and rush into Bohemia to thwart the operations of Frederick; but, unfortunately, Louis XV. was seized with a malignant fever, which brought him near to the grave. Taking advantage of this, Prince Charles, on the night of the 23d of August, crossed the Rhine with his whole army. It was bright moonlight, so that every movement was as visible as if it had been made by day. But the French officers, glad thus to be rid of the Austrian army, preferring much that Frederick334 should encounter it in Bohemia than that they should struggle against it on the Rhine, went quietly to their beds, even forbidding the more zealous subalterns from harassing Prince Charles in his passage of the river. It was then the great object of the French to take Freyburg. The withdrawal of Prince Charles, with his fifty thousand men, was a great relief to them.“Monsieur,—I believe that it is of the last importance that I should write to you, and I am very sad to have things to say which I ought to conceal from all the earth. But one must take that bad leap, and, reckoning you among my friends, I the more easily resolve to open myself to you.
THE BETROTHAL.In the presence of monarchs, of lords and ladies, of the highest dignitaries of Europe, the young heir apparent to the throne of Prussia, beautiful in person, high-spirited, and of superior genius, was treated by his father with studied contumely and insult. Every thing was done to expose him to contempt. He even openly flogged the prince with his rattan. It would seem that the father availed himself of this opportunity so to torture the sensibilities of his son as to drive him to suicide. Professor Ranke writes:Knobelsdorf was the bearer of a second letter from the Crown Prince. The first had not reached her. Frederick, having taken an hour or two of sleep at Hof, rose much refreshed, and, continuing his journey about fifteen miles farther, wrote this second letter as follows to his sister:
The Emperor Charles VI. left no son. He therefore promulgated a new law of succession in a decree known throughout213 Europe as the “Pragmatic Sanction.” By the custom of the realm the sceptre could descend only to male heirs. But by this decree the king declared that the crown of the house of Hapsburg should be transmitted to his daughter, Maria Theresa. This law had been ratified by the estates of all the kingdoms and principalities which composed the Austrian monarchy. All the leading powers of Europe—England, France, Spain, Prussia, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and the Germanic body—had bound themselves by treaty to maintain the “Pragmatic Sanction.” It was a peaceable and wise arrangement, acceptable to the people of Austria and to the dynasties of Europe as a means of averting a war of succession, which might involve all the nations of the Continent in the conflict.
Voltaire had, as a pet, a very vicious ape, treacherous, spiteful, who pelted passers-by with stones, and, when provoked, would bite terribly. The name of this hateful beast was Luc. Voltaire gave his friend Frederick the nickname of Luc. He corresponded freely with the enemies of his Prussian majesty. A few extracts will reveal the character of the friendship of the philosopher. Some days after the battle of Kunersdorf Voltaire wrote to D’Argental:详情
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