Dessau was a little independent principality embracing a few square miles, about eighty miles southwest of Prussia. The prince had a Liliputian army, and a revenue of about fifty thousand dollars. Leopold’s mother was the sister of the great Elector of Brandenburg’s first wife. The little principality was thus, by matrimonial alliance as well as location, in affinity with Prussia.“Will your majesty sleep, then?” inquired an attendant.
All Europe was thrown into commotion by this bold and successful267 invasion of Silesia. France was delighted, for Prussia was weakening Austria. England was alarmed. The weakening of Austria was strengthening France, England’s dreaded rival. And Hanover was menaced by the Prussian army at G?tten, under the Old Dessauer. The British Parliament voted an additional subsidy of ￡300,000 to Maria Theresa. Two hundred thousand had already been granted her. This, in all, amounted to the sum of two million five hundred thousand dollars. Envoys from all the nations of Europe were sent to Frederick’s encampment at Strehlen, in the vicinity of Brieg. Some were sent seeking his alliance, some with terms of compromise, and all to watch his proceedings. The young king was not only acquiring the territory which he sought, but seemed to be gaining that renown which he had so eagerly coveted. He did not feel strong enough to make an immediate attack upon the Austrian army, which General Neipperg held, in an almost impregnable position, behind the ramparts of Neisse. For two months he remained at Strehlen, making vigorous preparations for future movements, and his mind much engrossed with diplomatic intrigues. Strehlen is a pretty little town, nestled among the hills, about twenty-five miles west of Brieg, and thirty northwest of Neisse. The troops were mainly encamped in tents on the fields around. The embassadors from the great monarchies of Europe were generally sumptuously lodged in Strehlen, or in Breslau, which was a beautiful city about thirty miles north of Strehlen. Baron Bielfeld in the following terms describes the luxury in which the Spanish minister indulged:481 With the utmost exertions, inspired by terror, thirty thousand dollars were at length raised. The Russian general, Soltikof, naturally a humane man, seeing, at the close of a week of frantic exertions on the part of the magistrates of Frankfort, the impossibility of extorting the required sum, took the thirty thousand dollars, and kept his barbarian hordes encamped outside the gates.
Thus the employments of every hour were strictly specified for every day in the week. On Wednesday he had a partial36 holiday. After half past nine, having finished his history and “got something by heart to strengthen the memory, Fritz shall rapidly dress himself and come to the king, and the rest of the day belongs to little Fritz.” On Saturday he was to be reviewed in all the studies of the week, “to see whether he has profited. General Finkenstein and Colonel Kalkstein shall be present during this. If Fritz has profited, the afternoon shall be his own. If he has not profited, he shall from two o’clock till six repeat and learn rightly what he has forgotten on the past days. In undressing and dressing, you must accustom him to get out of and into his clothes as fast as is humanly possible. You will also look that he learn to put on and put off his clothes himself, without help from others, and that he be clean, and neat, and not so dirty.”Late in the fall of 1739 the health of Frederick William was so rapidly failing that it became manifest to all that his days on earth would soon be ended. He sat joylessly in his palace, listening to the moaning of the wind, the rustle of the falling leaves, and the pattering of the rain. His gloomy spirit was in accord with the melancholy days. More dreary storms darkened his turbid soul than those which wrecked the autumnal sky.
81 The object of Colonel Hotham’s mission was well known. The cordial reception he had met from the king indicated that his message was not an unwelcome one to his Prussian majesty. In the indecent hilarity of the hour, it was assumed that the marriage contract between Wilhelmina and the Prince of Wales was settled. Brains addled with wine gave birth to stupid jokes upon the subject. “A German ducat was to be exchanged for an English half guinea.” At last, in the semi-delirium of their intoxication, one proposed as a toast, “To the health of Wilhelmina, Princess of Wales.” The sentiment was received with uproarious jollity. Though all the company were in the same state of silly inebriation, neither the king nor the British ministers, Hotham and Dubourgay, for a moment lost sight of their settled policy. The king remained firm in his silent resolve to consent only to the marriage of Wilhelmina and the Prince of Wales. Hotham and Dubourgay could not swerve from the positive instructions which they had received, to insist upon both marriages or neither. Thus, notwithstanding this bacchanal jollification, neither party was disposed to swerve a hair’s breadth from its fixed resolve, and the question was no nearer a settlement than before.
The King of Prussia had an army of two hundred thousand men under perfect discipline. The Old Dessauer was dead, but many veteran generals were in command. It was manifest that war would soon burst forth. In addition to the personal pique of the Duchess of Pompadour, who really ruled France, Louis XV. was greatly exasperated by the secret alliance into which Frederick had entered with England. The brother of the Prussian king, Augustus William, the heir-apparent to the throne, disapproved of this alliance. He said to the French minister, Valori, “I would give a finger from my hand had it never been concluded.Both father and son had become by this time fully satisfied that their tastes and characters were so different that it was not best for them to live near each other. The prince spent much of his time with his flute. He also engaged in quite a wide range of reading to occupy the listless hours. Works of the most elevated and instructive character especially interested him, such as history, biography, moral and intellectual philosophy, and polite literature in its higher branches of poetry and the drama. “What mankind have done and been in this world,” writes Carlyle, “and what the wisest men, poetical or other, have thought about mankind and their world, this is what he evidently146 had the appetite for—appetite insatiable, which lasted him to the very end of his days.”
Frederick had been three days and nights at work upon his fortress before the allies ventured forward to look into it. It was then a Gibraltar. Still for eight days more the spade was not intermitted. Cogniazo, an Austrian, writes: “It is a masterpiece of art, in which the principles of tactics are combined with those of field fortifications as never before.”
“Grumkow led me to the young man in gray. Coming near, I recognized him, though with difficulty. He had grown much stouter, and his neck was much shorter. His face also was much changed, and was no longer as handsome as it had been. I fell upon his neck. I was so overcome that I could only speak in an unconnected manner. I wept, I laughed like a person out of her senses. In my life I have never felt so lively a joy. After these first emotions were subsided I went and threw myself at the feet of the king, who said to me aloud, in the presence of my brother,
With the utmost secrecy Frederick matured his plans. It could not be concealed that he was about to embark in some important military enterprise. The embassadors from other courts exerted all their ingenuity, but in vain, to ascertain in what direction the army was to march. Though the French had an embassador at Berlin, still it would seem that Voltaire was sent as a spy, under the guise of friendship, to attempt to ferret out the designs of the king. These men, who did not profess any regard to the principles of religion, seem also to have trampled219 under feet all the instincts of honor. Voltaire endeavored to conceal his treachery beneath smiles and flattery, writing even love verses to the king. The king kept his own secret. Voltaire was not a little chagrined by his want of success. In his billet of leave he wrote:The annoyances to which Wilhelmina was exposed, while thus preparing for her wedding, must have been almost unendurable. Not only her mother was thus persistent and implacable in her hostility, but her father reluctantly submitted to the connection. He had fully made up his mind, with all the strength of his inflexible will, that Wilhelmina should marry either the Margrave of Schwedt or the Duke of Weissenfels. It was with extreme reluctance, and greatly to his chagrin, that the stern old man131 found himself constrained, perhaps for the first time in his life, to yield to others.fff. Austrian Cavalry.
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