With the last day threatened mankind.The queen remained firm in her determination that Wilhelmina should marry the Prince of Wales. The king was equally inflexible in his resolve that she should not marry the Prince of Wales. The queen occasionally had interviews with Wilhelmina, when they wept together over their disappointments and trials. The spirited young princess had no special predilections for the English prince, but she was firm in her resolve not to have a repugnant husband forced upon her. On the night of the 27th of January, 1731, as the queen was about to leave Berlin for Potsdam, she said to her daughter,“I answered that my regard for him had never been of an interested nature; that I would never ask any thing of him but the continuance of his friendship; and that I did not wish for one penny if it would in the least inconvenience him.
On the 11th it was announced that Frederick, with nearly the whole Prussian army, was within five days’ march of Berlin. The allies held him in such dread, when he had any thing like an equality of numbers with them, that they fled from him at the rate of thirty miles a day. But terrible were the ravages which they inflicted on the Prussian people during this retreat.
Besides the garrison of fifty thousand there were eighty thousand inhabitants in the city, men, women, and children. Large numbers perished. Some died of starvation; some were burned to death in their blazing dwellings; some were torn to pieces by shot and shell; some were buried beneath the ruins of their houses. In the stillness of the night the wails and groans of the sufferers were borne on the breeze to the ears of the Prussians in their intrenched camp. Starvation brought pestilence, which caused the death of thousands. The inhabitants, reduced to this state of awful misery, entreated the Austrian general to surrender. He refused, but forced out of the gates twelve thousand skeleton, starving people, who consumed the provisions, but could not contribute to the defense. Frederick drove the poor creatures back again at the point of the bayonet, threatening to shoot them all. The cruel act was deemed a necessity of war.Voltaire, speaking of this conflict, says, “It was the most inconceivable and complete rout and discomfiture of which history433 makes any mention. Thirty thousand French and twenty thousand imperial troops were there seen making a disgraceful and precipitate flight before five battalions and a few squadrons. The defeats of Agincourt, Cressy, and Poitiers were not so humiliating.”110
“Friedrich Wilhelm feels this sad contrast very much; the127 more, as the soldier is his own chattel withal, and of superlative inches. Friedrich Wilhelm flames up into wrath; sends off swift messengers to bring these judges, one and all, instantly into his presence. The judges are still in their dressing-gowns, shaving, breakfasting. They make what haste they can. So soon as the first three or four are reported to be in the anteroom, Friedrich Wilhelm, in extreme impatience, has them called in; starts discoursing with them upon the two weights and two measures. Apologies, subterfuges, do but provoke him farther. It is not long till he starts up growling terribly, ‘Ye scoundrels, how could you?’ and smites down upon the crown of them with the royal cudgel itself. Fancy the hurry-scurry, the unforensic attitudes and pleadings! Royal cudgel rains blows right and left. Blood is drawn, crowns cracked, crowns nearly broken; and several judges lost a few teeth and had their noses battered before they could get out. The second relay, meeting them in this dilapidated state on the staircases, dashed home again without the honor of a royal interview. This is an actual scene, of date, Berlin, 1731, of which no constitutional country can hope to see the fellow. Schlubhut he hanged, Schlubhut being only Schlubhut’s chattel. This musketeer, his majesty’s own chattel, he did not hang, but set him shouldering arms again after some preliminary dusting.”The loss of Silesia she regarded as an act of pure highway robbery. It rankled in her noble heart as the great humiliation and disgrace of her reign. Frederick was to her but as a hated and successful bandit, who had wrenched from her crown one of318 its brightest jewels. To the last day of her life she never ceased to deplore the loss. It is said that if any stranger, obtaining an audience, was announced as from Silesia, the eyes of the queen would instantly flood with tears. But the fortunes of war had now triumphantly turned in her favor. Aided by the armies and the gold of England, she was on the high career of conquest. Her troops had overrun Bohemia and Bavaria. She was disposed to hold those territories in compensation for Silesia, which she had lost.
The year 1739 was spent by the prince mostly at Reinsberg. Many distinguished visitors were received at the chateau. Frederick continued busily engaged in his studies, writing both prose and verse, and keeping up a lively correspondence with Voltaire and other literary friends. He engaged very earnestly in writing a book entitled Anti-Machiavel, which consisted of a refutation of Machiavel’s Prince. This book was published, praised, and read, but has long since been forgotten. The only memorable thing about the book now is that in those dark days of absolutism, when it was the almost universally recognized opinion that power did not ascend from the people to their sovereign, but descended from the monarch to his subjects, Frederick should have spoken of the king as the “born servant of his people.
Gravitant contre les rochers,On the 25th of August, 1756, the king wrote from Potsdam to his brother, the Prince of Prussia, and his sister Amelia, who were at Berlin, as follows:
“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.”
“Why,” asked the king, furiously, “did you attempt to desert?”
“I should think myself richer in the possession of your works than in that of all the transient goods of fortune.Mr. Carlyle has written the Life of Frederick the Great in six closely printed volumes of over five hundred pages each. It is a work of much ability and accuracy. There are, however, but few persons, in this busy age, who can find time to read three thousand pages of fine type, descriptive of events, many of which have lost their interest, and have ceased to possess any practical value. Still, the student who has leisure to peruse these voluminous annals of all the prominent actors in Europe during the reign of Frederick and of his half-insane father, will find a rich treat in the wonderfully graphic and accurate pages of Carlyle.详情
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