“You do not know,” said he to M. Bielfeld, “what I have lost in losing my father.”Objections to the British Alliance.—Obstinacy of the King.—Wilhelmina’s Journal.—Policy of Frederick William and of George II.—Letter from Fritz.—The Camp of Mühlberg.—The Plan of Escape.—The Flight arrested.—Ungovernable Rage of the King.—Endeavors to kill his Son.—Arrest and Imprisonment of Fritz.—Terror of his Mother and Sister.—Wilhelmina imprisoned.
“I have now the honor, and, what is still more, the pleasure of being with the king at Potsdam. I have the honor to dine and sup with him almost every day. He has more wit than I have wit to tell you; speaks solidly and knowingly on all kinds of subjects; and I am much mistaken if, with the experience of four campaigns, he is not the best officer of his army. He has several persons with whom he lives with almost the familiarity of a friend, but he has no favorite. He shows a natural politeness for every body who is about him. For one who has been four days about his person, you will say, I pretend to know a great deal about his character. But what I tell you you may depend upon. With more time I shall know as much of him as he will let me know, and no one of his ministry knows any more.”After the fifth charge, the Austrians, dispirited, and leaving the snow plain crimsoned with the blood and covered with the bodies of their slain, withdrew out of ball range. Torn and exhausted, they could not be driven by their officers forward to another assault. The battle had now lasted for five hours.262 Night was at hand, for the sun had already set. The repulsed Austrians were collected in scattered and confused bands. The experienced eye of General Schwerin saw that the hour for decisive action had come. He closed up his ranks, ordered every band to play its most spirited air, and gave the order “Forward.” An Austrian officer, writing the next week, describes the scene.
“What induced you to desert me?” inquired the king.
“Nobody here, great or small, dares make any representation to this young prince against the measures he is pursuing, though all are sensible of the confusion which must follow. A prince who had the least regard to honor, truth, and justice, could not act the part he is going to do. But it is plain his only view is to deceive us all, and conceal for a while his ambitious and mischievous designs.”Voltaire was, at this time, about forty years of age. His renown as a man of genius already filled Europe. He was residing,173 on terms of the closest intimacy, with Madame Du Chatelet, who had separated from her husband. With congenial tastes and ample wealth they occupied the chateau of Cirey, delightfully situated in a quiet valley in Champagne, and which they had rendered, as Madame testifies, a perfect Eden on earth. It is not always, in the divine government, that sentence against an evil work is “executed speedily.” Madame Du Chatelet, renowned in the writings of Voltaire as the “divine Emilie,” was graceful, beautiful, fascinating. Her conversational powers were remarkable, and she had written several treatises upon subjects connected with the pure sciences, which had given her much deserved celebrity.
It was Frederick’s aim to reach Oppeln, a small town upon the River Oder, about thirty miles from the field of battle. He supposed that one of his regiments still held that place. But this regiment had hurriedly vacated the post, and had repaired, with all its baggage, to Pampitz, in the vicinity of Mollwitz. Upon the retirement of this garrison a wandering party of sixty Austrian hussars had taken possession of the town.The plan of France, as conceived and pushed resolutely forward by the Count of Belleisle, the renowned minister of Louis XV., was to divide Germany into four small kingdoms of about equal power, Bavaria, Saxony, Prussia, and Austria. The King of Bavaria, as one of the protégés of France, was to be chosen Emperor of Germany. To accomplish this, Austria was to be reduced to a second-rate power by despoiling the young queen, Maria Theresa, of large portions of her territory, and annexing271 the provinces wrested from her to the petty states of Prussia, Bavaria, and Saxony, thus sinking Austria to an equality with them. France, the grand nation, would then be indisputably the leading power in Europe. By bribery, intimidation, and inciting one kingdom against another, the court of Versailles could control the policy of the whole Continent. Magnificent as was this plan, many circumstances seemed then combining to render it feasible. The King of Prussia, inspired simply by the desire of enlarging his kingdom by making war against Austria, and striving to wrest Silesia from the realms of Maria Theresa, was co-operating, in the most effectual way possible, to further the designs of France. And it had now also become a matter of great moment to Frederick that he should secure the alliance of the court of Versailles.“Would your majesty,” Lord Hyndford replied, “engage to stand by his excellency Gotter’s original offer at Vienna on your part? That is, would you agree, in consideration of the surrender to you of Lower Silesia and Breslau, to assist the Queen of Austria, with all your troops, for the maintenance of the Pragmatic Sanction, and to vote for the Grand-duke Francis as emperor?”
The friendship of these two remarkable men must have been of a singular character. Voltaire thus maliciously wrote of the king:“Of the coronation itself,” she writes, “though it was truly grand, I will say nothing. The poor emperor could not enjoy it much. He was dying of gout and other painful diseases, and could scarcely stand upon his feet. He spends most of his time302 in bed, courting all manner of German princes. He has managed to lead my margraf into a foolish bargain about raising men for him, which bargain I, on fairly getting sight of it, persuade my margraf to back out of; and, in the end, he does so. The emperor had fallen so ill he was considered even in danger of his life. Poor prince! What a lot he had achieved for himself!”
The weal or woe of a single human polyp was, in the view of Frederick, entirely unimportant in comparison with the great enterprises he was ambitious of achieving. For this dismemberment of Poland Frederick was severely assailed in a book entitled “Polish Dialogues.” In answer to a letter from Voltaire, he wrote, under date of March 2, 1775:The prince assumed to make a personal application of this. Herod meant the Crown Prince; Herodias, his boon companions; and John the Baptist was the chaplain. To punish the offender, the prince, with several brother officers, went at night, smashed the windows of the chaplain, and threw in a shower of fire-crackers upon him and his wife, who was in delicate health, driving them in dismay out into the stable-yard. The stern old king was very indignant at this conduct. Grumkow affirms, we hope falsely, that the prince threw the whole charge upon his associate officers, and that they were punished for the deed, while he escaped.
“My dear Jordan,—We are going to fight to-morrow. Thou knowest the chances of war. The life of kings is not more regarded than that of private people. I know not what will happen to me.
The officer drew up a statement of the facts, and sent it to the king, with the complaint that he had been dishonored in discharging the duties intrusted to him by his majesty. The king sent the following reply:Four days after, in anticipation of an immediate attack from the Russians, he again wrote to the same address, “Remain at Berlin, or retire to Potsdam. In a little while there will come some catastrophe. It is not fit that you suffer by it. If things take a good turn, you can be back to Berlin. If ill luck still pursue us, go to Hanover, or to Zelle, where you can provide for your safety.”详情
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