Frederick.”Wilhelmina’s Letter to her Mother.—Cruel Response.—The Court Festival.—First Interview with the Prince of Baireuth.—His Character and Appearance.—Interview between the King and Fritz.—The Partial Reconciliation.—Divine Decrees.—The King’s Sense of Justice.—The King’s Discipline of the Judges.—Character of Fritz.—Wilhelmina’s Annoyances.—Her Marriage.—Interview between Wilhelmina and Fritz.—The Departure.
War has its jokes and merriment, but the comedies of war are often more dreadful than the tragedies of peace. Frederick, in his works, records the following incident, which he narrates as “slight pleasantry, to relieve the reader’s mind:”83
Fritz went in the royal carriage, with suitable escort, to meet the young marquis on the Prussian frontier, as he came to his bridals. They returned together in the carriage to Potsdam with great military display. The wedding took place on the 30th of May, 1729. It was very magnificent. Fritz was conspicuous on the occasion in a grand review of the giant grenadiers. Wilhelmina, in her journal, speaks quite contemptuously of her new brother-in-law, the Marquis of Anspach, describing him as a foolish young fellow. It was, indeed, a marriage of children. The bridegroom was a sickly, peevish, undeveloped boy of seventeen; and the bride was a self-willed and ungoverned little beauty of fifteen. The marriage proved a very unhappy one. There was no harmony between them. Frederick writes: “They hate one another like the fire” (comme le feu). They, however, lived together in incessant petty quarrelings for thirty years. Probably during all that time neither one of them saw a happy day.Still, most of the courtly carousers did not comprehend this. And when the toast to Wilhelmina as Princess of Wales was received with such acclaim, they supposed that all doubt was at an end. The news flew upon the wings of the wind to Berlin. It was late in the afternoon of Monday, April 30. Wilhelmina writes:“The heresy about predestination,” writes Carlyle, “or the election by free grace, as his majesty terms it, according to which a man is preappointed, from all eternity, either to salvation or the opposite, which is Fritz’s notion, and indeed Calvin’s, and that of many benighted creatures, this editor among them, appears to his majesty an altogether shocking one. What! may not deserter Fritz say to himself, even now, or in whatever other deeps of sin he may fall into, ‘I was foredoomed to it? How could I or how can I help it?’ The mind of his majesty shudders as if looking over the edge of an abyss.”
But no sooner did Frederick get an intimation that Austria was contemplating this enlargement of her domains than he roused himself to prevent it with all the vigor of his earlier years. It was a very delicate matter; for Charles Theodore, the elector, and his nephew August Christian, heir to the electorate, a young gentleman of very illustrious pedigree, but of a very slender purse, had both been bribed by Austria secretly to co-operate in the movement. The reader will be interested in Carlyle’s account, slightly abbreviated, of Frederick’s skill in diplomacy:
Frederick, being constrained by the approach of General Daun to raise the siege of Dresden, retired to his intrenched camp at Schlettau. Leaving fifteen thousand men to guard the camp, he, on the 1st of August, before the dawn, crossed the Elbe, and was again on the rapid march toward Silesia. His army consisted of thirty thousand men, and was accompanied by two thousand heavy baggage-wagons. In five days the king marched over one hundred miles, crossing five rivers. Armies of the allies, amounting504 to one hundred and seventy-five thousand Austrians and Russians, were around him—some in front, some in his rear, some on his flanks.150
Therefore, instead of marching upon Neisse, the king directed his course to Steinau, twenty miles east of Neisse. The siege was abandoned, and the whole Prussian army, so far as was possible, was gathered around the king. On the 5th of April Frederick established his head-quarters at Steinau. On that same day, General Neipperg, with the advanced corps of his army, triumphantly entered Neisse. Apprehensive of an immediate attack, Frederick made all his arrangements for a battle. In the confusion of those hours, during which the whole Prussian army, with all its vast accumulation of artillery and baggage-wagons, was surging like an inundation through the streets of Steinau, the village took fire and was burned to ashes. With great difficulty the artillery and powder were saved, being entangled in the narrow streets while the adjoining houses were enveloped in flames. The night was intensely cold. The Prussian army bivouacked in the open frozen fields.Charles, feeling keenly the bereavement, and alarmed for the health of his wife, whom he loved most tenderly, hastened to his home in Brussels. The prince and princess were vice-regents, or “joint governors” of the Netherlands. The decline of the princess was very rapid. On the 16th of December, the young prince, with flooded eyes, a broken-hearted man, followed the remains of his beloved companion to their burial. Charles never recovered from the blow. He had been the happiest of husbands. He sank into a state of deep despondency, and could never be induced to wed again. Though in April he resumed, for a time, the command of the army, his energies were wilted, his spirit saddened, and he soon passed into oblivion. This is but one among the countless millions of the unwritten tragedies of human life.
“Formerly, my dear marquis, the affair of the 15th would have decided the campaign. At present it is but a scratch. A great battle must determine our fate. Such we shall soon have. Then, should the event prove favorable to us, you may, with good reason, rejoice. I thank you for your sympathy. It has cost much scheming, striving, and address to bring matters to this point. Do not speak to me of dangers. The last action cost me only a coat and a horse. That is buying victory cheap.151“At last, whether by accident or design, the princess broke a glass. This was the signal for our impetuous jollity, and an example that appeared highly worthy of our imitation. In an instant170 all the glasses flew to the several corners of the room. All the crystals, porcelain, mirrors, branches, bowls, and vases were broken into a thousand pieces. In the midst of this universal destruction, the prince stood, like the man in Horace who contemplates the crush of worlds, with a look of perfect tranquillity.Frederick was now in such deep pecuniary embarrassment that he was compelled to humble himself so far as to apply to the King of France for money. “If your majesty,” he wrote, “can not furnish me with any re-enforcements, you must, at least, send me funds to raise additional troops. The smallest possible sum which will enable me to maintain my position here is three million dollars.”
The young king, all unaccustomed to those horrors of war which he had evoked, was swept along with the inundation. The danger of his falling in the midst of the general carnage, or of his capture, which was, perhaps, still more to be dreaded, was imminent. His friends entreated him to escape for his life. Even Marshal Schwerin, the veteran soldier, assured him that the battle was lost, and that he probably could escape capture only by a precipitate flight.The battle of Rossbach was fought on the 5th of November, 1757. Frederick had but little time to rejoice over his victory. The Austrians were overrunning Silesia. On the 14th of the month, the important fortress of Schweidnitz, with all its magazines, fell into their hands. Then Prince Charles, with sixty thousand Austrian troops, marched upon Breslau, the principal city of Silesia, situated on the Oder. The Prince of Bevern held the place with a little over twenty thousand Prussian troops. His army was strongly intrenched outside of the walls, under the guns of the city.详情
Copyright © 2020