During all the day of Wednesday weeping friends stood around the bed, as the lamp of life flickered in its socket. Every moment it was expected that the emperor would breathe his last. At two o’clock the next morning the spirit took its flight, and the lifeless clay alone remained. The grief-stricken empress closed the eyes of her departed husband, kissed his hands, and “was carried out more dead than alive.” Thus ended the male line of the house of Hapsburg, after five centuries of royal sway. The emperor died on the 20th of October 1740, in the fifty-sixth year of his age.
In the mean time, Wilhelmina, disappointed in not finding her brother, wrote to him the following account of her adventures:
Many of the trenches were sixteen feet broad by sixteen feet524 deep. Under each battery there were two mines. In case of capture, the mines and the victors could be blown high into the air. Knowing that the batteries were all mined, the Russian and Austrian soldiers would be slow to make charges in which victory would be certain death. The small villages around were all strongly fortified.“I shall be in the front and in the rear of the army. I shall fly from one wing to the other. No squadron and no company will escape my observation. Those who act well I will reward, and will never forget them. We shall soon either have beaten the enemy or we shall see each other no more.”
A bomb bursting in the room could scarcely have created a greater panic. Katte and Quantz seized the flutes and music-books, and rushed into a wood-closet, where they stood quaking with terror. Fritz threw off his dressing-gown, hurried on his military coat, and sat down at the table, affecting to be deeply engaged with his books. The king, frowning like a thunder-cloud—for he always frowned when he drew near Fritz—burst into the room. The sight of the frizzled hair of his son “kindled the paternal wrath into a tornado pitch.” The king had a wonderful command of the vocabulary of abuse, and was heaping epithets of vituperation upon the head of the prince, when he caught sight of the dressing-gown behind a screen. He seized the glittering garment, and, with increasing outbursts of rage, crammed it into the fire. Then searching the room, he collected all the French books, of which Fritz had quite a library, and, sending for a bookseller near by, ordered him to take every volume away, and sell them for what they would bring. For more than an hour the king was thus raging, like a maniac, in the apartment of his son. Fortunately he did not look into the wood-closet. Had he done so, both Quantz and Katte would have been terribly beaten, even had they escaped being sent immediately to the scaffold.“If my destiny refuse me the happiness of being able to possess you, may I at least hope one day to see the man whom I have admired so long now from afar, and to assure you, by word of mouth, that I am, with all the esteem and consideration due those who, following the torch of truth for guide, consecrate their labors to the public, Monsieur, your affectionate friend,
BATTLE OF ZORNDORF, AUGUST 25, 1758.On the 22d of November the Austrians commenced their attack from five different points. It was a terrific conflict. Sixty thousand men stormed ramparts defended by twenty thousand as highly disciplined troops, and as desperate in valor, as ever stood upon a battle-field. The struggle commenced at three o’clock in the morning, and raged, over eight miles of country, until nine o’clock at night. Darkness and utter exhaustion terminated the conflict. The Austrians had lost, in killed and wounded, six thousand men, the Prussians eight thousand.
Frederick William was too stern a man to shed many tears over his father’s death. The old king was ostentatious in his tastes, fond of parade and splendor. The son had almost an insane contempt for all court etiquette and all the elegancies of24 life. As he stood by his father’s dying bed, his unamiable, rugged nature developed itself in the disgust, almost rage, with which he regarded the courtly pageantry with which the expiring monarch was surrounded. The remains of the king were allowed to be conveyed to the tomb with that pomp which had been dear to him while living.
“The evenings are devoted to music. The prince has a concert in his saloon, where no one enters who is not invited, and such invitation is regarded as an extraordinary favor. The prince has commonly performed a sonata and a concert for the flute, on which he plays in the greatest perfection. He fills the flute admirably well, has great agility with the fingers, and a vast fund of music. He composes himself sonatas. I have had the honor of standing behind him more than once while he was playing, and was charmed with his taste, especially in the adagio. He has a continual creation of new ideas.”
“It is true, sire,” Bielfeld replied, “but I know very well what you have gained in getting a kingdom. Your loss is great, but your motives for consolation are very powerful.”The alarm in Berlin was very great. The citizens were awake to the consciousness that there was danger; that the city itself would be assaulted. Great was the consternation in the capital when minute directions came from Frederick respecting the course to be pursued in the event of such a calamity, and the places of refuge to which the royal family should retreat.Three volunteered. It was so dark that the landlord of a little country inn walked with a lantern by the side of Frederick’s horse. Lissa was on the main road to Breslau. The landlord supposed that he was guiding one of Frederick’s generals, and was very communicative.
Some trifling unavailing efforts had been made for peace. In reply to a letter from Voltaire, alluding to this subject, Frederick wrote, under date of 2d July, 1759:Voltaire’s visit lasted about thirty-two months. He was, however, during all this time, fast losing favor with the king. Instead of being received as an inmate at Sans Souci, he was assigned to a small country house in the vicinity, called the Marquisat. His wants were, however, all abundantly provided for at the expense of the king. It is evident from his letters that he was a very unhappy man. He was infirm in health, irascible, discontented, crabbed; suspecting every one of being his enemy, jealous of his companions, and with a diseased mind, crowded with superstitious fears.
A few months after, in May, 1750, there was a grand review at Berlin. An Austrian officer who chanced to be there was invited by his friend, a Prussian officer, Lieutenant Colonel Chasot, to attend. The Austrian was not willing to ride upon the parade-ground without the permission of the king. Colonel Chasot called upon Frederick and informed him that an Austrian officer would be happy, with his majesty’s permission, to be present at the review.Arrangements were made for them to meet at eight o’clock Saturday morning, at the Lake House, situated on a small island in a beautiful artificial sheet of water a couple of miles north of Baireuth. The prince thus obeyed the letter of the order not to go to Baireuth. The following account of the interview which ensued is from the pen of Wilhelmina:详情
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