Before the king released the Crown Prince he extorted from him an oath that he would be, in all respects, obedient to his father; that he would never again attempt to escape, or take any journey without permission; that he would scrupulously discharge all the duties of religion, and that he would marry any princess whom his father might select for him. The next morning, after the interview to which we have above alluded, the prince called upon his sister. They had a short private interview, Madam Sonsfeld alone being present. The prince gave a recital of his adventures and misfortunes during the many months since they last had met. The princess gave an account of her great trials, and how she had consented to a marriage, which was not one of her choice, to obtain her brother’s release.403 Frederick was in great perplexity. To wait for his enemies to complete their arrangements, and to commence the attack at their leisure, placed him at great disadvantage. To begin the attack himself, and thus to open anew the floodgates of war, would increase the hostility with which the nations were regarding him. As the diplomacy of the foreign cabinets had been secret, he would universally be regarded as the aggressor. England was Frederick’s only ally—a treacherous ally, influenced not by sympathy for Frederick, but by hatred of France, and by fear of the loss of Hanover. The British cabinet would abandon Prussia the first moment it should see it to be for its interest to do so.
On the 20th of April, Frederick, having secretly placed his army in the best possible condition, commenced a rapid march upon Prague, thus plunging into the very heart of Bohemia. He advanced in three great columns up the valley of the Elbe and the Moldau. His movements were so rapid and unexpected that he seized several Austrian magazines which they had not even time to burn. Three months’ provisions were thus obtained for412 his whole army. The first column, under the king, was sixty thousand strong. The second column, led by General Bevern, numbered twenty-three thousand, horse and foot. The third, under Marshal Schwerin, counted thirty-two thousand foot and twelve thousand horse. On the 2d of May the banners of Frederick were seen from the steeples of Prague. They appeared floating from the heights of the Weissenberg, a few miles west of the city. At the same time, the other two columns, which had united under Marshal Schwerin, appeared on the east side of the Moldau, upon both banks of which the city is built.
“My dear General Von Zastrow,—The misfortune which has befallen me is very grievous. But what consoles me in it is to see by your letter that you have behaved like a brave officer, and that neither you nor your garrison have brought disgrace or reproach upon yourselves. I am your well-affectioned king.The prince retired to his chamber, to be presented to the royal family at the review the next day. Wilhelmina passed a miserable night. She could not sleep, and in the morning found herself so ill that she begged to be excused from the review. She also greatly dreaded encountering the coarse jests of her father. But she could not be released from the review. Both she and her mother were compelled to go. In an open carriage, the queen and princess, with attendant ladies of the court, passed before the line. The Marquis of Schwedt, whom the princess had so emphatically discarded, was at the head of his regiment. He seemed “swollen with rage,” and saluted the royal party with his eyes turned away. The royal carriages were then withdrawn to a little distance that the ladies might witness the spectacle.Frederick.”
The correspondence carried on between Frederick and Voltaire, and their mutual comments, very clearly reveal the relations existing between these remarkable men. Frederick was well aware that the eloquent pen of the great dramatist and historian could give him celebrity throughout Europe. Voltaire was keenly alive to the consideration that the friendship of a monarch could secure to him position and opulence. And yet each privately spoke of the other very contemptuously, while in the correspondence which passed between them they professed for each other the highest esteem and affection. Frederick wrote from Berlin as follows to Voltaire:
“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.
And why was George II. so averse to the single marriage of the Prince of Wales to Wilhelmina? It is supposed that the opposition arose simply from his own mulish obstinacy. He hated his brother-in-law, the Prussian king. He was a weak, ill-tempered man; and having once said “Both marriages or none,” nothing could induce him to swerve from that position. In such a difficulty, with such men, there could be no possible compromise.The Palace of Wusterhausen.—Wilhelmina and Fritz.—Education of the Crown Prince.—Rising Dislike of the Father for his Son.—The Mother’s Sympathy.—The double Marriage.—Character of George I.—The King of England visits Berlin.—Wilhelmina’s Account of the Interview.—Sad Fate of the Wife of George I.—The Giant Guard.—Despotism of Frederick William.—The Tobacco Parliament.—A brutal Scene.—Death of George I.—The Royal Family of Prussia.—Augustus, King of Poland.—Corruption of his Court.—Cruel Treatment of Fritz.—Insane Conduct of the King.
Dickens at length ventured to ask the king directly, “What shall I write to England?”
At nine o’clock Frederick received one of the general officers, and arranged with him all the military affairs of the day, usually dismissing him loaded with business. At ten o’clock he reviewed some one of the regiments; and then, after attending parade, devoted himself to literary pursuits or private correspondence until dinner-time. This was the portion of the day he usually appropriated to authorship. He was accustomed to compose, both in prose and verse, while slowly traversing the graveled walks of his garden.
Wilhelmina was appalled in view of the difficulty and danger of the enterprise. It was a long distance from Dresden to the coast. Head winds might detain the vessel. The suspicious king would not long remain ignorant that he was missing. He would be pursued with energy almost demoniac. Being captured,80 no one could tell how fearful would be his doom. The sagacious sister was right. Fritz could not but perceive the strength of her arguments, and gave her his word of honor that he would not attempt, on the present occasion, to effect his flight. Fritz accordingly went to Dresden with his father, and returned.On the 9th of August he wrote from Grüssau to Wilhelmina herself: “Oh, you, the dearest of my family, you whom I have most at heart of all in this world, for the sake of whatever is most precious to you, preserve yourself, and let me have at least the consolation of shedding my tears in your bosom!”
It is probable that even Seckendorf was somewhat moved by this pathetic appeal. Fritz succeeded in sending a letter to the post-office, addressed to Lieutenant Keith at Wesel, containing simply the words “Sauvez vous; tout est decouvert” (Save yourself; all is found out). Keith received the letter but an hour or so before a colonel of gens d’armes arrived to arrest him. Seckendorf had an interview with the king, and seems to have endeavored to mitigate his wrath. He assured the infuriate monarch of his son’s repentance, and of his readiness to make a full confession if his father would spare those who had been led by their sympathies to befriend him. The unrelenting father received this message very sullenly, saying that he had no faith that his son would make an honest confession, but that he would see what he had to say for himself.详情
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