Poor Valori, the French embassador, was placed in a very embarrassing situation. The anger of the Prussian king vented itself upon him. He was in complete disgrace. It was his duty daily to wait upon Frederick. But the king would seldom speak to him, or even look upon him; and if he did favor him with a glance, it was with an expression of scorn.
It was now midwinter. Frederick, having established his troops in winter quarters, took up his residence in Breslau. His troubles were by no means ended. Vastly outnumbering foes still surrounded him. Very vigorous preparations were to be made for the sanguinary conflicts which the spring would surely introduce. Frederick did what he could to infuse gayety into the society at Breslau, though he had but little heart to enter into those gayeties himself. For a week he suffered severely from colic pains, and could neither eat nor sleep. “Eight months,” he writes, “of anguish and agitation do wear one down.”
There they informed her that they had each received a letter the night before from the king, the contents of which they were73 forbidden, under penalty of death, from communicating to any one but to her. The king wished them to say to her majesty that he would no longer endure her disobedience in reference to the marriage of Wilhelmina; that, in case this disobedience continued, there should be an entire separation between him and his wife—a divorce—and that she and her daughter should both be banished to the chateau of Oranienburg, about twenty miles from Berlin, and there held in close imprisonment. The king was willing that Sophie Dorothee should write once more, and only once more, to her brother, George II., and demand of him a categorical answer, yes or no, whether he would consent to the immediate marriage of the Prince of Wales and Wilhelmina. The king would wait a fortnight for an answer, or, if the winds were contrary, three weeks; but not a day more. Should no answer in that time be returned, or a negative or an evasive answer, then Wilhelmina was to make her immediate choice of a husband between either the Duke of Weissenfels or the Marquis of Schwedt, and to be married without delay.9
The Saxons were compelled to a precipitate retreat. Their march was long, harassing, and full of suffering, from the severe cold of those latitudes, and from the assaults of the fierce Pandours, every where swarming around. Villages were burned, and maddened men wreaked direful vengeance on each other. Scarcely eight thousand of their number, a frostbitten, starving, emaciate band, reached the borders of Saxony. Curses loud and deep were heaped upon the name of Frederick. His Polish majesty, though naturally good-natured, was greatly exasperated in view of the conduct of the Prussian king in forcing the troops into the severities of such a campaign. Frederick himself was also equally indignant with Augustus for his want of co-operation. The French minister, Valori, met him on his return from these disasters. He says that his look was ferocious and dark; that his laugh was bitter and sardonic; that a vein of suppressed rage, mockery, and contempt pervaded every word he uttered.“Frederick.
Here the young prince made the most solemn promises to try to regain his father’s favor. The king then asked: “Was it thou that temptedst Katte, or did Katte tempt thee?” Fritz promptly replied, “I tempted Katte.” “I am glad,” rejoined the king, “to hear the truth from you, at any rate.”
“High madam,” he said, fervently, “at this crisis, alliance with Frederick is salvation to Austria. His continued hostility is utter ruin. England can not help your majesty. The slightest endeavor would cause the loss of Hanover.”
But this victory on the Rhine was of no avail to Frederick in Bohemia. It did not diminish the hosts which Prince Charles was gathering against him. It did not add a soldier to his diminished columns, or supply his exhausted magazines, or replenish his empty treasury. Louis XV. was so delighted with the victory that he supposed Frederick would be in sympathy with him. He immediately dispatched a courier to the Prussian king with the glad tidings. But Frederick, disappointed, embarrassed, chagrined, instead of being gratified, was irritated by the news. He sent back the scornful reply “that a victory upon the Scamander,84 or in the heart of China, would have been just as important to him.”
“I am permitted,” the embassador said, “to offer your majesty the whole of Austrian Guelderland. It lies contiguous to your majesty’s possessions in the Rhine country. It will be a very important addition to those possessions. I am permitted to say the whole of Austrian Guelderland.”An embassador, Count De Gotter, was sent to Vienna to present this demand to Maria Theresa. He was authorized, in case these terms were not accepted, to declare war. But in the mean time, before the count could possibly reach Vienna, consequently before there was any declaration of war, or even any demand presented, Frederick, at the head of his troops, had entered Silesia, and was seizing its defenseless fortresses.42“Poor deaf Amelia (Frederick’s old love, now grown old and deaf) listened wildly for some faint sound from those lips now mute forever. George II. was no more. His grandson, George III, was now king.”160
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