Lafayette, Lord Cornwallis, and the Duke of York were his565 guests at the dinner-table that day. The king suffered from his exposure, was very feverish, and at an early hour went to bed. The next day he completed his review; and the next day “went—round by Neisse, inspection not to be omitted there, though it doubles the distance—to Brieg, a drive of eighty miles, inspection work included.”196
The king then hastened on to Schweidnitz, a few miles west from Breslau. This was a small town, strongly fortified, about equally distant from the three beleaguered fortresses—Neisse, Brieg, and Glogau. The young monarch was daily becoming more aware that he had embarked in an enterprise which threatened him with fearful peril. He had not only failed to secure a single ally, but there were indications that England and other powers were in secret deliberation to join against him. He soon learned that England had sent a gift or loan of a million of dollars—a large sum in those days—to replenish the exhausted treasury of Maria Theresa. His minister in Russia also transmitted to him an appalling rumor that a project was in contemplation by the King of England, the King of Poland, Anne, regent of Russia, and Maria Theresa, to unite, and so partition the Prussian kingdom as to render the ambitious Frederick powerless to disturb the peace of Europe. The general motives which239 influenced the great monarchies in the stupendous war which was soon evolved are sufficiently manifest. But these motives led to a complication of intrigues which it would be alike tedious and unprofitable to attempt to unravel.
The astounded Austrians bowed to the dust before him, escorted him to the best room, and, stealing out into the darkness, made their way as rapidly as possible to the bridge, which at the east end of the street crossed the Schweidnitz Water. At the farther end of the bridge Austrian cannon were planted to arrest the pursuit. The officers hurried across, and vanished in the gloom of night, followed by the river-guard. The Prussian cannoneers steadily pursued, and kept up through the night an incessant fire upon the rear of the foe.
A letter of the same date as the above, addressed to Count Algarotti,50 contains the following expressions:“You, as a follower of Epicurus, put a value upon life. As for me, I regard death from the Stoic point of view. Never shall I see the moment which will oblige me to make a disadvantageous peace. No persuasion, no eloquence, shall ever induce me to sign my own dishonor. Either I will bury myself under the ruins of my country, or, if that consolation appears too great to the Destiny which persecutes me, I shall know how to put an end to my misfortunes when it is no longer possible to bear them. I have acted, and continue to act, in pursuance of this conviction, and according to the dictates of honor, which have always directed my steps. My conduct shall continue, at all times, to be conformable to these principles.
149 “The queen can not console herself for this reverse. She vents her despair in the abuse of that poor princess. She wanted me to refuse the marriage decidedly, and told me that she should not mind my quarreling again with the king provided I would only show firmness, in which case she would be well able to support me. I would not follow her advice, and declared to her plainly that I did not choose to incur the displeasure of my father, which had already caused me so much suffering.
Sophie Dorothee tenderly loved her little Fritz, and, with a mother’s fondness, endeavored to shield him, in every way in her power, from his father’s brutality. Wilhelmina also clung to her brother with devotion which nothing could disturb. Thus both mother and daughter incurred in some degree the hatred with which the father regarded his son. It will be remembered that the mother of Fritz was daughter of George I. of England. Her brother subsequently became George II. He had a son, Fred, about the age of Wilhelmina, and a daughter, Amelia, six months older than Fritz. The mother, Sophie Dorothee, had set her heart upon a double marriage—of Wilhelmina with Fred,39 and of Fritz with Amelia. But many obstacles arose in the way of these nuptials.“His contempt,” writes Sir Thomas in his narrative, “was so great, and was expressed in such violent terms, that now, if ever, was the time to make the last effort. A moment longer was not to be lost, to hinder the king from dismissing us.”
“I must have my ships back again,” said Frederick to the British court. “The law’s delay in England is, I perceive, very considerable. My people, who have had their property thus wrested from them, can not conveniently wait. I shall indemnify them from the money due on the Silesian bonds, and shall give England credit for the same. Until restitution is made, I shall not pay either principle or interest on those bonds.”The queen, delighted in having obtained even this measure of acquiescence on the part of the king, now conferred with Wilhelmina. But, to her surprise and bitter disappointment, the young princess did not share in her mother’s joy. She was not disposed to be thus bartered away, and presented sundry objections. The poor mother, harassed by these interminable difficulties, now lost all patience. She broke out upon her equally unhappy daughter with cruel reproaches.
On Saturday, the 25th of October of this year, George II., King of England, died. The poor old gentleman, who had been endowed with but a very ordinary share of intelligence, was seventy-seven years of age. On Monday he had presided at a review of troops in Hyde Park. On Thursday he stood upon the portico of his rural palace in Kensington to see his Guards march by for foreign service. Saturday morning he rose at an early hour, took his cup of chocolate as usual, and, opening his windows, said the morning was so fine he would take a walk in his garden. It was then eight o’clock. His valet withdrew with the cup and saucer. He had hardly shut the door when he heard a groan and a fall. Hurrying back, he found the king upon the floor. Faintly the death-stricken monarch exclaimed, “Call Amelia,” and instantly died.The king, in a letter to Voltaire upon this occasion, writes:
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“Let him learn arithmetic, mathematics, artillery, economy, to the very bottom; history in particular; ancient history only slightly, but the history of the last hundred and fifty years to the exactest pitch. He must be completely master of geography, as also of whatever is remarkable in each country. With increasing years you will more and more, to an especial degree, go upon fortification, the formation of a camp, and other war sciences, that the prince may, from youth upward, be trained to act as officer and general, and to seek all his glory in the soldier profession. You have, in the highest measure, to make it your care to infuse into my son a true love for the soldier business, and to impress on him that, as there is nothing in the world which can bring a prince renown and honor like the sword, so he would be a despised creature before all men if he did not love it and seek his glory therein.”
“Yes,” the Crown Prince replied; “and I promise you that she will drive away your demon as well as mine.There was but one short war in which Frederick William engaged during his reign of twenty-seven years. That was with Charles XII. of Sweden. It lasted but a few months, and from it the Prussian king returned victorious. The demands of Frederick William were not unreasonable. As he commenced the brief campaign, which began and ended with the siege of Stralsund, he said: “Why will the very king whom I most respect compel me to be his enemy?” In his characteristic farewell order to his ministers, he wrote: “My wife shall be told of all things, and counsel asked of her. And as I am a man, and may be shot dead, I command you and all to take care of Fritz, as God shall reward you. And I give you all, wife to begin with, my curse that God may punish you in time and eternity if you do not, after my death, bury me in the vault of the palace church at Berlin. And you shall make no grand to-do on the occasion. On your body and life no festivals and ceremonials, except that the regiments, one after the other, fire a volley over me. I am assured that you will manage every thing with all the exactness in the world, for which I shall ever, zealously, as long as I live, be your friend.”“Russia may be counted as the bigger half of all he had to strive with; the bigger, or at least the far uglier, more ruinous, and incendiary; and, if this were at once taken away, think what a daybreak when the night was at the blackest.”170详情
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