Silesia was at the mercy of the foe. Frederick regarded the calamity as irreparable. Still in a few hours he recovered his equanimity, and in public manifested his accustomed stoicism. The victorious Austrian soldiers in Silesia conducted themselves like fiends. Their plunderings and outrages were too shocking to be recited. “Nothing was spared by them,” writes Frederick, “but misery and ugliness.”On the 15th of March, 1763, Frederick left Leipsic, and on the 30th entered his capital of Berlin, from which he had been absent six years. It was nine o’clock in the evening when his carriage drove through the dark and silent streets to his palace. His arrival at that hour had not been anticipated. It is said that he repaired immediately to the queen’s apartment, where he met the several members of the royal family. As soon as it was known that the king had arrived, Berlin blazed with illuminations and rang with rejoicings.315 “The cardinal,” he said, “takes me for a fool. He wishes to betray me. I will try and prevent him.”
In this hour of peril the genius of the Prussian monarch was remarkably developed. He manifested not the slightest agitation or alarm. His plan was immediately formed. Indeed, there was no time for a moment’s delay. The Austrians had moved rapidly and silently, concealing their approach by a thick veil of hussars. They were already in solid columns, confident of victory, advancing upon the Prussian camp. Frederick was compelled to form his line of battle under fire of the Austrian batteries. The discipline of the Prussians was such that this was done with a recklessness of danger, rapidity, and mechanical precision which seemed almost miraculous, and which elicited the admiration of every one who beheld it.The camp was so utterly destroyed that Frederick could not even obtain pen and ink. He was obliged to write with a pencil. Not a loaf of bread nor a cup of wine was left for the exhausted king. The hungry soldiers, after a conflict of five hours, having had neither breakfast nor dinner, found no refreshments awaiting them; yet, without a murmur, they smoked their pipes, drank some spring water, and rejoiced in their great victory.
The morning of a hot August day dawned sultry, the wind breathing gently from the south. Bands of Cossacks hovered around upon the wings of the Prussian army, occasionally riding up to the infantry ranks and discharging their pistols at them. The Prussians were forbidden to make any reply. “The infantry457 pours along like a plowman drawing his furrow, heedless of the circling crows.” The Cossacks set fire to Zorndorf. In a few hours it was in ashes, while clouds of suffocating smoke were swept through the Russian lines.
“I should think myself richer in the possession of your works than in that of all the transient goods of fortune.Adolph Frederick was the heir to the throne of Sweden. Successful diplomacy brought a magnificent embassy from Stockholm to Berlin, to demand Princess Ulrique as the bride of Sweden’s future king. The course of love, whether true or false, certainly did in this case run smooth. The marriage ceremony was attended in Berlin with such splendor as the Prussian capital had never witnessed before. The beautiful Ulrique was very much beloved. She was married by proxy, her brother Augustus William standing in the place of the bridegroom.
FREDERICK ASLEEP IN THE HUT AT OETSCHER.In his “epistle” Frederick had expressed the opinion that428 there was no God who took any interest in human affairs. He had also repeatedly expressed the resolve to Wilhelmina, and to Voltaire, to whom he had become partially reconciled, that he was prepared to commit suicide should events prove as disastrous as he had every reason to expect they would prove. He had also urged his sister to follow his example, and not to survive the ruin of the family. Such was the support which the king, in hours of adversity, found in that philosophy for which he had discarded the religion of Jesus Christ.
On Tuesday, the 20th of November, 1731, Wilhelmina, eight months after her betrothal, was married to the Prince of Baireuth. The marriage ceremony was attended with great magnificence in the royal palace of Berlin. The father of Frederick William, who was fond of pageantry, had reared one of the most sumptuous mansions in Europe, and had furnished it with splendor which no other court could outvie. Entering the interior of the palace through the outer saloon, one passed through nine apartments en suite, of grand dimensions, magnificently decorated, the last of which opened into the picture-gallery, a room ninety feet in length, and of corresponding breadth. All these were in a line. Then turning, you entered a series of fourteen rooms, each more splendid than the preceding. The chandeliers were of massive solid silver. The ceilings were exquisitely painted130 by Correggio. Between each pair of windows there were mirrors twelve feet high, and of such width that before each mirror tables could be spread for twelve guests. The last of these magnificent apartments, called the Grand Saloon, was illuminated by “a lustre weighing fifty thousand crowns; the globe of it big enough to hold a child of eight years, and the branches of solid silver.”“I flatter myself that now nothing will be wanting of that valor which the state has a right to expect of you. The hour is436 at hand. I should feel that I had accomplished nothing were I to leave Silesia in the hands of Austria. Let me then apprise you that I intend to attack Prince Charles’s army, which is nearly thrice the strength of our own, wherever I can find it. It matters not what are his numbers, or what the strength of his position. All this by courage and by skill we will try to overcome. This step I must risk, or all is lost. We must beat the enemy, or perish before his batteries. If there be any one who shrinks from sharing these dangers with me, he can have his discharge this evening.”
Frederick made several unavailing efforts during the winter to secure peace. He was weary of a war which threatened his utter destruction. The French were also weary of a struggle in which they encountered but losses and disgraces. England had but little to hope for from the conflict, and would gladly see the exhaustive struggle brought to a close.Though Frederick, in his private correspondence, often spoke very contemptuously of Voltaire, it would seem, if any reliance can be placed on the testimony of Voltaire himself, that Frederick sedulously courted the author, whose pen was then so potential in Europe. By express invitation, Voltaire spent a week with Frederick at Aix la Chapelle early in September, 1742. He writes to a friend from Brussels under date of December 10:
564 “The sure fact, and the forever memorable, is that on Wednesday, the third day of it, from four in the morning, when the man?uvres began, till well after ten o’clock, when they ended, there was rain like Noah’s; rain falling as from buckets and water-spouts; and that Frederick, so intent upon his business, paid not the slightest regard to it, but rode about, intensely inspecting, in lynx-eyed watchfulness of every thing, as if no rain had been there. Was not at the pains even to put on his cloak. Six hours of such down-pour; and a weakly old man of seventy-three past! Of course he was wetted to the bone. On returning to head-quarters, his boots were found full of water; ‘when pulled off, it came pouring from them like a pair of pails.’”195
The king turned upon his heel, and, with angry voice and gesture, said, “Saldern, you refuse to become rich.”410 It became more and more manifest to Frederick that he must encounter a terrible conflict upon the opening of the spring. Early in January he took a short trip to Berlin, but soon returned to Dresden. Though he avoided all appearance of anxiety, and kept up a cheerful air, he was fully conscious of his peril. This is evident from the secret instructions he left with his minister, Count Finck, upon his departure from Berlin. The dispatch was dated January 10th, 1757:详情
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