Poniatowski was elected King of Poland on the 7th of September, 1764, and crowned on the 25th of November. He was then thirty-two years of age, and the scarcely disguised agent of Catharine. Two or three years passed of wars and rebellions, and all the usual tumult of this tumultuous world. In August, 1765, the Emperor Francis died. He was at Innsprück, attending the marriage festivities of his second son Leopold. About nine o’clock in the evening of the 18th, while sauntering through the rooms in the midst of the brilliant gala, he was struck with apoplexy. He staggered for a moment, fell into the hands of his son Joseph, and instantly died.“Even Gustavus Adolphus never did such great things. One must, indeed, pardon Frederick his verses, his sarcasms, and his little malices. All the faults of the man disappear before the glory of the hero.”
As we have mentioned, the agents of the King of Prussia were45 eager to kidnap tall men, in whatever country they could find them. This greatly exasperated the rulers of the various realms of all sizes and conditions which surrounded the Prussian territory. Frederick William was always ready to apologize, and to aver that each individual act was done without his orders or knowledge. Still, there was no abatement of this nuisance. Several seizures had been made in Hanover, which was the hereditary domain of George I., King of England. George was very angry. He was increasingly obstinate in withholding his assent to the double marriage, and even, by way of reprisal, seized several of the subjects of Frederick William, whom he caught in Hanover.315 “The cardinal,” he said, “takes me for a fool. He wishes to betray me. I will try and prevent him.”
It would seem that Frederick’s troops must have had iron sinews, and that they needed as little repose as did their master. Those not at work with the spade were under arms to repel an assault. Two or three times there was an alarm, when the whole fifty thousand, in an hour, were in battle-array. Frederick was fully aware of the crisis he had encountered. To be beaten there was irretrievable ruin. No one in the army performed more exhausting labor than the king himself. He seemed to be omnipresent, by day and by night. Near the chief battery, in a clump of trees, there was a small tent, and a bundle of straw in the corner. Here the king occasionally sought a few moments of repose. But his nervous excitement rendered him so restless, that most of the time he was strolling about among the guard parties, and warming himself by their fires.
Her sisters were now permitted occasionally to visit her, and her situation became somewhat ameliorated. On the 10th of May Wilhelmina received a letter from her mother which caused her to wring her hands in anguish. It informed her that the next day a deputation was to call upon her from the king, to insist upon her giving her consent to marry the Prince of Baireuth.Frederick, who had taken his position upon a windmill, saw, with much satisfaction, the successful operation of his plan. Suddenly, with almost miraculous swiftness of movement, his perfectly drilled troops, horse, foot, and artillery, every man reckless of life, poured forth with a rush and a roar as of a lava-flood upon the extreme left of the Austrians. It was one o’clock of the day. There was neither brook, bush, fence, nor marsh to impede the headlong impetuosity of the assault. At the point of attack the Prussians were, of course, most numerous. There were a few moments of terrible slaughter, and the left wing of the Austrian army was annihilated. The ground was covered with the wounded and the dead, and the fugitives, in dismay, were fleeing across the fields.New columns were formed. Soon after three another charge was ordered. It was sanguinary and unsuccessful as the first. Frederick himself was wounded by a nearly spent case-shot which struck him on the breast. The blow was severe and painful. Had the ball retained a little more impetus it would have passed through his body. It is said that the ball struck him to the earth, and that for some time he was void of consciousness. Upon reviving, his first words to his adjutant, a son of Old Dessauer, who was sorrowfully bending over him, were, “What are you doing here? Go and stop the runaways.
At the second repulse, the Saxon grenadiers, greatly elated, gave a shout of “victory,” and rushed from their works to pursue the retreating Prussians. This was their ruin.
The next morning they learned that Lieutenant Katte had been arrested. All the private papers of Fritz were left, under Katte’s charge, in a small writing-desk. These letters would implicate both the mother and the daughter. They were terror-stricken. Count Finckenstein, who was in high authority, was their friend. Through him, by the aid of Madam Finckenstein, they obtained the desk. It was locked and sealed. Despair stimulated their ingenuity. They succeeded in getting the letters. To destroy them and leave nothing in their place would only rouse to greater fury the suspicion and rage of the king. The letters were taken out and burned. The queen and Wilhelmina immediately set to work writing new ones, of a very different character, with which to replace them. For three days they thus labored almost incessantly, writing between six and seven hundred letters. They were so careful to avoid any thing97 which might lead to detection that paper was employed for each letter bearing the date of the year in which the letter was supposed to be written. “Fancy the mood,” writes Carlyle, “of these two royal women, and the black whirlwind they were in. Wilhelmina’s dispatch was incredible. Pen went at the gallop night and day. New letters of old date and of no meaning are got into the desk again, the desk closed without mark of injury, and shoved aside while it is yet time.”
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“Sire, here is Monsieur De Voltaire, who is come to receive the orders of your majesty.“I have already,” he wrote, “given your majesty my word of honor never to wed any one but the Princess Amelia, your daughter. I here reiterate that promise, in case your majesty will consent to my sister’s marriage.”“I hope to speak to you with open heart at Berlin. You may think, too, how I shall be embarrassed in having to act the lover without being it, and to feign a passion for mute ugliness; for I have not much faith in Count Seckendorf’s taste in this article. Monsieur, once more get this princess to learn by heart the Ecole des Maris and the Ecole des Femmes. That will do her much more good than True Christianity by the late Arndt. If, beside, she would learn steadiness of humor, learn music, become rather too free than too virtuous—ah! then, my dear general, then I should feel some liking for her; and a Colin marrying a Phillis, the couple would be in accordance. But if she is stupid, naturally I renounce the devil and her.
MAP OF THE EAST.The French, who, through their shrewd embassador, kept themselves informed of all that was transpiring, were quite alarmed in view of the approaching accommodation between Prussia and Austria. It is said that Frederick, on the 6th of June, in reply to the earnest remonstrances of the French minister, Marshal Belleisle, against his withdrawal from the alliance, frankly said to him,详情
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