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Copyright, 1891












Nature, who has prepared certain countries and
constructed birthplaces for nations, did not foresee
Prussia. In fact, there does not exist a geograph-
ical Prussia either as a race or region: Germany is
the daughter of nature, but Prussia was made v by

In 1713, a man began to reign at Berlin, who was
born a military monomaniac. It pleased this sov-
ereign of eighteen hundred thousand poor subjects
to have as strong an army as that of Austria, that
is to say, of an empire of more than twenty million
people. This passion regulated the thoughts, habits,
and life of Frederick AVilliam I. As it was a morbid
and restricted mania, it was sufficient unto itself,
and required no exterior manifestations. The King-
Sergeant loved his army as Harpagon his treasure;
his eyes delighted at the sight of his battalions as
the miser's hands at the fluent contact of the gold
pieces. Harpagon took his gold from the coffer only
to contemplate it; when the regiments of Frederick
William left their garrisons it was for display at
grand reviews; they returned to them immediately.


T}iis king had, it is true, good reasons for not ven-
turing his military capital in enterprises; besides,
he had a religion, the fear of God and the fear of
the devil. The desire of gaining a few " shovelfuls
of sand" caused him to commit sins of cupidity,
but his Christian conscience and his scruples as an
honest man would have recoiled if an 'occasion for
some bold infamy had presented itself.

This king died in 1740. Another succeeded him,
at the same time alike and yet unlike; 1 alike in
methods of governing, in making and saving his
gold pieces, in regulating the increase of his army
by that of his finances, and by his sedulous attention
to details; unlike in ability for decisive action, in
power and genius manifested in action; in con-
tempt for all human and Divine law, and in the
serenity of this contempt.

In 1740, a conjunction was formed of a power,
the Prussian army, of a resolute man to make use
of it, Frederick II. and of an unforeseen event
which opened the way for this power and this man:
this opening was the Austrian succession. It de-
termined the whole destiny of Prussia.

In place of Frederick William I., who created the
power, put a king like Frederick I., an en j oyer of a
royal dignity, that was expended in magnificent
fetes and ostentatious ceremonies: you suppress
Prussia probably; assuredly you prorogue it. Place,
after the King-Sergeant, an honest, mediocre man,


or, simply, an honest man: Maria Theresa inherits
the paternal succession guaranteed by a number of
clear and authentic treaties, and Prussia does not
rise from third to first in rank. The whole course
of history is changed.

Frederick William I. and Frederick II. collabor-
ated equally in forming the character and physi-
ognomy of Prussia. The f athe r was an a utocr at by
Divine right, a priest as well as a soldier and a
king, a man of order and of prayer. He bent the
bodies and souls of his subjects; he moulded them,
body, and soul, into an attitude, into a uniform.
The son was one of the most liberal-minded m en 1/
that ever existed, a s oldi er also, but. at the same time
a man of letter s ; an autocrat, but a philosopher.
Military and intellectual Prussia the Berlin of
barracks and schools, where the university neigh-
bors the arsenal, where the statue of Humboldt
faces that of Blucher emanated from Frederick
William, the King-Sergeant, and from Frederick the
Great, the King-Philosoph er ; and barracks, univer-
sity, arsenal, statues of philosophers and marshals
sprang up around and in the shadow of the king's

A singular power, made up of liberty in thought
and discipline in action, where the boldest concep-
tions are given life within line, and remain there.

The principal interest of the history of Frederick's
youth, is that it points out to us the struggle of


contrary elements, the fusion of which was to con-
stitute Prussia. From the time that Frederick
reached manhood until the day, when forced into
an unwilling marriage, he became master of his own
household, "far from Jupiter and his thunder,"
the father and son were in continual strife. They
were conscious only of their dissimilarities. Except
in rare moments when they caught a glimpse of the
justice they owed each to the other, they hated and
despised each other. The son desired the death of
his father; the father promised a munificent reward
to the messenger who would bring him news of the
death of his son. Neither knew the value of the
other, nor that they worked, each in his own way,
the one as necessary as the other, to " decide," as
Frederick would say, the uncertainty of the birth
of Prussia.

I have related in detail the history of Frederick's
youth up to the time of his marriage, which eman-
cipated him. 2 I have been induced to do this by
reading preceding works upon this subject, 3 but
principally through the study of valuable docu-
ments, letters and orders of the king, letters of the
prince, official or secret correspondence, memoirs,
authentic accounts by eye witnesses of the chief
events, and official reports of the courts, that were
permitted to relate day by day, and, during the most
trying moments, hour by hour, the incidents of this
strife between father and son.


I have, also, studied from other documents, the
places where the drama was enacted. I imagined I
could see it revived in the Palace of Berlin, at the
Wusterhausen, and at the foot of the rampart at

In the great mass of detail, perhaps I may have
erred in some few instances; but my conscience
tells me that I have searched for the truth, and I
hope I have found it in the essential points, that
is to say, in the character of the two principal per-
sonages, and the motives of their conduct. I have
taken great pleasure in my task. At every turn,
I met with words, phrases, gestures, actions, that
we can hear or see repeated at the present time.
I have observed, in passing, that such an order of
William II., addressed to the officers of his army,
such a speech pronounced by him at Konigsberg,
and which excited so much provocation in Russia,
were mere reminiscences of Frederick William, but
there must be left a part for the reader to do in
the work which was written for him.

In seeing revealed the minds and morals of the
two sovereigns by a hundred anecdotes, sovereigns
who have made the little Kingdom of Prussia such
a great military State, to-day master of Germany
and a prevailing power in Europe, perhaps,
reader, you may wonder if these minds and morals,
of which the effects have developed in concentric
circles, will rule enlarged Prussia, Germany, and


Europe for a long period of time. The first circle
formed in the water by a stone that is thrown into
it, has the clearness of a relief; the relief dimin-
ishes as the circles multiply and enlarge; at a little
distance farther on the water retains its natural
tranquillity. In history all power has its limits
more or less contracted; the strongest is often of
the shortest duration, and the most exposed when
it passes beyond the bounds of its primitive sphere
to the reactions which destroy it.

Eenest Lavisse.


Preface, v

Bibliography, xiii


Birth. Grandfather. Accession of the Father, - 1
The Governess; the First Masters; the Preceptor

and the Sub-preceptor, 7

Instruction to the Preceptors, - - - - 20

The Germs of Conflict Between Father and Son, 33

The Ideas and Modes of Government of Frederick

William, - - 45

The King's Government, 61

The Creation of Prussian Power, - - - - 67

The Inaction of the King of Prussia, - - 75

The Individuality of Frederick William, - - 95

The Pleasures of Frederick William, - - 101

Acts of Violence, Folly and Despotism, - - 113

Frederick William's Religion, .... 120



First Symptoms and Causes of the Conflict, - - 128

The Mother of Frederick, 135

The Eldest Sister, - - - - 142

Mother, Daughter and Son, - - - - " 1^6

The Projects of Marriage for Frederick and Wil-


The~King and the Projects of Marriage, - - 158



The Prince's Party, 162

The Preceptor's Farewell. Forbidden Pleasures, 170

The Autumn of 1728 at Wusterhausen, - - 177

The Resumption of the Marriage Negotiations, - 186

The Mission of Sir Charles Hotham, - - 199


The Flight and the Arrest, 221

The Examination, 236

The Judgment, - - - 260

The Justice of the King, - 272

The Execution of Katte, - - - 277

The Pardon of the Prince, 288


The First Six Months in the Chamber of Adminis-
tration, - 304

The Royal Visit, 314

The New Regime of Life, 318

The Marriage of Wilhelmina, .... 332

The Crown Prince at the Marriage of His Sister, 346

The Last Days at Custrin, 353



The Intentions of Austria, - 369

The Declaration of the King, 375

The Double Play of the Crown Prince, - - 382

From the Betrothal to the Marriage, - - - 388

The Anglo-Austrian Intrigue, .... 400

The Marriage, - 406


Conclusion, 421

Notes, - 427



Political correspondence in the archives of the Minister of
Foreign Affairs of France, documents upon Prussia, years from
1725 to 1733, vols. LXXXIII. to XCVI.

Beitrag zur Lebensgeschichte Friedrichs des Grossen, wel-
cher einen merkivurdigen Brief wechsel ilber den ehemaligen
Aufenthalt des getachten Konigs zu Custrin enthdlt, Berlin,

Brief e Friedrich des Orossen und seiner erlauchter Bruder
Prinzen August Wilhelm und Heinrich von Preussen aus der
Zeit von 1121 bis 1162 an die Gebruder Friedrieh Wilhelm und
Friedrich Ludivig, Felix von Borcke, Potsdam. 1881. 4

JJrkundenbuch zu der Lebensgeschichte Friedrich Wilhelms
I., second part of vol. II. of Dr. Friedrich Forster's book, Fried-
rich Wilhelms I. Konig v. Preussen, 3 vols., Potsdam, 1734-35.
The third volume of this work comprises the Nachtrdge Zum
ersten Bande, and the Nachtrdge zum zweiten Bande, in which
is found a great number of the documents referred to in this

Works of Frederick the Great, 30 vols., Berlin, 1846-1857,
vols. XVI. to XXVII.

JJrkundenbuch zu der Lebensgeschicte Friedrichs des Gros-
sen, by J. D. E. Preuss, five parts, Berlin, 1832-4. In the sup-
plement to the first part, which is inserted in the second, is
found the Briefweschel Friedrichs des Grossen mit seinem
Vater (1730-1734).

Memoirs of Frederica Sophia Wilhelmina, Margravine of
Baireuth, 3d edition, Paris. 5


Vollstdndige Protocolle des Kopenicker Kreigsgerichts
ilber Kronprinz Friedrichs, Lieutenant von Katte, von Kait,
u. s. w., Berlin, 1861.


Bratuscheck, Die Erziehung Friedrichs des Grossen, Ber-
lin, 1885.

Due de Broglie, Frederick IT., and Maria Theresa, 2 vols.,
Paris, 1883.

Carlyle, History of Frederick II. of Prussia, 6 vol, London,
1858-65, German translation of Neuberg and Althaus, 6 vol.,
Berlin, 1858-69.

Cramer, Zur Geschichte Friedrich Wilhehns I. und Fried-
richs II., 2d edition, Leipsic, 1833.

Droysen (J. G.), Friedrich Wilhelm, Konig von Preussen,
2 vol., Leipsic, 1869; in the Geschichte der preussisschen Politik,
by the same author.

Fassmann, Leben und Thaten des Allerdurchlauchtigsten
und Grossmdchtigsten Konigs von Preussen Friederici-Wil-
helmi, Hamburg and Breslau, 1735.

Forster (cited above when mentioning the Urkunden-
buch zu der Lebensgeschichte Fr. W. I.)

Fontane, the second part of the Wanderungen durch die
Mark Brandenburg (das Oderland Barnim-Lebus) 4th edition,
Berlin, 1889

Koser, Friedrich der Grosse als Kronprinz, Stuttgart, 1886.

Kramer, Neue Bietrdge zur Geschichte August Herman
Francke's, Halle, 1875.

Pierson, Konig Friedrich Wilhelm I. in Den Denkwur-
digkeiten der Markgrdfin von Baireuth, Halle, 1890.

Preuss, Friedrichs des Grossen Jugend und Thronbesteig-
ung, Berlin, 1840. and Friedrich der Grosse mit seinen Ver-
wantden und Freunden, Berlin, 1836.

Ranke, Zwolf Biicher preussischer Geschichte, 5 vols., 2d
edition, Leipsic, 1878-79, vols. XXV-XXIX of the Sdmmtliche,


Raumer, Prenssen von Jahre 1730 bis 1740, Friederichs II.
Jugendzeit, to the vol. I. of 3d part, Leipsic, 1839, from the Bei-
trdge zur neueren Geschichte, ans dem britischen und franzo-
sischen Reichsarchive.

Waddington (Albert), The Acquisition of the Royal Crown
of Prussia by the Hohenzollerns, Paris, 1888.

Weber (Von) Von berliner Hofe water Konig Friedrich
Wilhelm I. in Aus vier, Jahrhunderten, Mittheilungen aus
dem Haupt-Staats Archive zu Dresden, Neue Folge, 2 vol.
Leipsic, 1861.






XpREDERICK THE GREAT was born in Berlin,
-J- January 24, 1712, to Frederick William, Crown
Prince of Prussia, and Sophia Dorothea of Hanover,
during the reign of his grandfather, Frederick, the
first Hohenzollern who wore the royal crown. * His
maternal grandfather, George, Elector of Hanover,
was the heir of Queen Anne of England, whom he
succeeded in 1714.

At the time of Frederick's birth, the Houses of
Brandenburg and Hanover were in the enjoyment of
great prosperity ; to the one it had come, by the other
it was with pleasure anticipated. During the eleven
years that he was king, Frederick I. was unwearied in
admiring and celebrating his royal dignity. He arose
very early in the morning that he might have a longer
time to enjoy the pleasure of being king, and officiated


until evening. There was majesty at the council, at
table, in the smoking-room ; majesty in the presence of
the qeeen. His garments were fastened with buttons
of gold and diamonds, and his perukes came from
Paris. When he traveled from place to place, it was
in great pomp. His journeys by land were long, slow,
magnificent processions of coaches. A boat from Hol-
land or a gondola bore him upon the water. He spoke
of himself and of the queen, his wife, with circumlocu-
tions of etiquette, enveloping in solemnity his name,
as well as his person. He was not a wicked man, on
the contrary, he was a good husband, and a good
father to his family. 6 He kept a mistress, only to
imitate Louis XIV. through a professional point of

The birth of Frederick was welcomed by him with
more than usual pleasure, as two of his grandsons had
already died at an early age. It was rumored in Ber-
lin that they had been victims of the contingencies
of royalty, neither one being able to bear, on his bap-
tismal day, the noise of the cannons and firecrackers,
the weight of the silk mantle, the diamond insignia
of the Black Eagle, and the golden crown in which
he was arrayed. In reality, the poor little things
died a very ordinary death from teething. So King
Frederick watched with anxiety for the first tooth of
little Fritz. This child appeared to him to be born
to a glorious destiny, because his birth took place in
January, that is to say, in the month of his own
coronation, at Konigsburg, eleven years before. He
desired that the baptism should be celebrated before


the end of the " month of coronation," and that his
grandson should be called Frederick, "the name of
Frederick having always brought good fortune to his

January 31st, the child, crown on head, clothed in
a robe of silver tissue, studded with diamonds, the train
of which was held up by six countesses, was carried
to the chapel of the palace, under a canopy supported
by a princess and two princes. The king, also, under
a canopy which was supported at the corners by four
chamberlains, its silk pendants held by four knights
of the Order of the Black Eagle, awaited him. The
godfathers and godmothers represented were the Em-
peror, Czar Peter, the States-General of Holland, the
Canton of Berne and the Elector of Hanover, the Em-
press Dowager, the Electress and the Electress-mother
of Hanover, the Duchess of Brunswick and the Dow-
ager Duchess of Mecklenburg. The States-General
sent, among other baptismal presents, a gold box, con-
taining a deed of annuity of four thousand florins.
All the bells of the city, three salvos of cannon, as well
as drums and trumpets, announced to the people of
Berlin that the world counted one more Christian. The
cortege in procession re-entered the apartments between
files of Swiss and a body-guard. 7

Fritz showed a desire to live. His grandfather saw
with pleasure how bravely he drew the breast. His
teeth came very quickly, six at the end of six months,
and without causing him the least inconvenience. "One
can see in this," wrote Frederick, "a kind of predes-
tination. May God preserve him to us a long time
yet." 8


It was the grandfather that God did not preserve
a long time to the grandson. Frederick I. died Feb-
ruary 27, 1713. The child, who had received at
birth the titles of Prince of Prussia and of Orange,
became the Crown Prince.

The new king, Frederick William, had manifested
from childhood a violent aversion for ceremonies and
luxury. One day, when quite a small child, curled,
powdered, clad in a gala costume, he hid himself in
a chimney, whence he was pulled out, black as a
chimney-sweep. He threw a brocaded night-robe into
the fire, soon after it was tried on him. The sight
of the big perukes made him furious. Finding some
courtiers in his father's antechamber, warming them-
selves, with their heads thrown back, so as not to
scorch their beautiful periwigs, which had cost them
200 thalers, he forced them to throw their wigs into the
fire. Another time, they picked up at the foot of the
staircase a maitre cle la cour whom he had kicked to the
bottom. He was extremely parsimonious, and kept
an exact account of his receipts and expenditures, in
a faultless register, on the first page of which he had
written: "Redlining iiber meine Ducaten, Account of
my Ducats." "Miser," exclaimed his mother, "and
at so tender an age ! " But no remonstrance corrected
it. Magnificence gave him nausea, and prodigality )
fits of rage.

After having received the last sigh of his father,
Frederick William left the chamber of death, passed
through the crowd of weeping chamberlains, pages
and people of the Court, and shut himself up in


his own apartments. After deliberating there a
short while, he requested the Grand-Marshal, Von
Printzen, to bring him the " Court Register." He ran
over the list of dignitaries, servitors and pensioners,
seized a pen, and made a great mark from top to
bottom, saying that he would do away with them all,
but wished each one to remain at his post, until after
the funeral ceremonies of his father. Printzen came
out, saying not a word, but he had so troubled a look
upon his face, that one of the courtiers, the best pro-
vided with titles and functions, Lieutenant von Tettau,
Chamberlain, Chief of the Body-guard, Governor of
Spandau, Knight of the Black Eagle, stopped him,
and took the paper out of his hands. He saw the big
mark. "Gentlemen," said he, "the king our good mas-
ter is dead, and the new king sends us all to the devil."
All of the long-peruked crowd were present May 2,
1713, at the obsequies of Frederick I. The son wished
to have his father interred, as he had lived, with great
pomp. The ceremonies lasted more than two months.
The body remained eight days in state, upon a bed of
red velvet, embroidered in pearls, enriched with crowns
and golden eagles ; upon his head was the crown ;
upon his shoulders, the mantle of purple and ermine;
on his chest, the Grand Cordon and Order of the Black
Eagle ; at right and left the scepter and the sword.
The chamber, hung with violet Velvet, was illuminated
with a profusion of wax candles. On March 4, the
body, clothed in cloth of gold, was placed in the
coffin, and carried to the palace chapel, which was
transformed into a Castmm doloris. On the second of


May, between lines of regiments nearly all the Prus-
sian army was there the funeral cortege proceeded
to the cathedral. Behind Count Dohna, the gen-
eral who held the standard, the new king advanced,
enveloped in a long mantle of mourning, the train of
which was carried by the grand equerry, the entire
Court following. In the church, transformed into a
mausoleum, the wiiite marble statues of the Hohen-
zollern Electors of Brandenburg were placed around
the catafalque, as a guard of honor for the first of their
descendants who had attained to the distinction of roy-
alty. Pictures and inscriptions recalled the principal
virtues of the deceased.

The solemn service ended, Frederick William himself
ordered the salvos. Then he returned to his own apart-
ments. He had given a rare proof of filial piety in
prolonging the ceremonies two months. It was a great
relief to him when he had interred this ceremonial life
with his father, and saw dispersed the grand officials,
the chamberlains, the pages, the twenty-six drum-
mers and trumpeters, who announced all the move-
ments of the king, the musicians of the royal
chapel, and the hundred Swiss 'guards clothed in silk,
velvet and gold. The useless ones, who did not ex-
change the gold key for the pistol, or pumps for the
boots of a cuirassier, went " to the devil." The pearls,
precious stones and diamonds were sold to pay the debts
of the late king, who was always sadly in need. Then
Frederick William commenced to live the life of a well-
to-do civilian, economical to avarice, ordering his house-
hold himself, keeping a strict account with his cook.


Thus two months had not elapsed before he had levied
two new battalions of grenadiers. 9




Frederick William wished his sons and daughters to
be educated, not as princes and princesses, but as chil-
dren of simple folk. He intended that the inheritors
of his crown should be otherwise dealt with, than the
young king Louis XV., whose least gesture and act the
journals related to the world, and whom the Emperor
called "the child of Europe." 10 As unassuming as he
was, however, the King of Prussia could not refuse to
give his son a governess, and at the proper age a pre-
ceptor and a tutor.

He had been educated by a French-woman, Madame
de Montbail, for whom he always had an affection-
ate remembrance, perhaps on account of the many
bad tricks he had played her. So he wished that
Madame de Montbail (she had become Madame de
Rocoulle) should educate his children, and he there-
fore appointed her "governess of the royal prince
and princesses." The royal princesses were, at that
time, in 1714, Sophia Frederica Wilhelmina, two
and a half years older than the prince, and Char-
lotte Albertina, a year and a half younger. Madame
de Rocoulle was to give the children religious instruc-
tion, and teach them to read the Bible. The same
year, while the King of Prussia was at the siege of
Stralsund, he noticed a young cavalier who seemed
pleased to place himself where there was the most dan-


ger. The king had this young officer presented, while
in a trench, by Count Dohna, who was acquainted with
him, for he had confided a part of the education of
his own son to him; Frederick William engaged him
to be, at the end of two years, the informator of
the prince. This young man called himself Jacques
Egide Duhan ; like Madame de Rocoulle, he was
French. Installed in his functions, in 1716, he had
to " explain maps to his pupil, teach him the history
of the last hundred years and no more, then the history

Online LibraryErnest LavisseThe youth of Frederick the Great → online text (page 1 of 31)