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History of Frederick the Second online

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upon her from the king, to insist upon her giving her consent to marry
the Prince of Baireuth.

The letter was as follows:

“All is lost, my dear daughter. The king is determined, at all hazards,
upon your marriage. I have sustained several dreadful contests on
this subject, but neither my prayers nor my tears have had any
effect. Eversman has orders to make the purchases necessary for your
marriage. You must prepare yourself to lose Madam Sonsfeld. The king
is determined to have her degraded with infamy if you do not obey
him. Some one will be sent to persuade you. In God’s name consent to
nothing, and God will support you in it. A prison is better than a
bad marriage. Adieu, my dear daughter! I expect every thing from your


A deputation of four ministers, headed by Baron Grumkow, the next day
presented themselves to the princess. To overawe Wilhelmina, they
approached her with all the solemnity of state. Grumkow opened the

“Obey the wishes of the king,” said he, “and the royal favor will be
restored to you. Refuse to do it, and no one can tell what will be the
doom which will fall upon your mother, your brother, and yourself.”

They all united their entreaties, arguments, prayers, and threats. The
princess was in a state of terrible agitation. Almost distracted she
paced the floor. That she might have a little time to reflect, the four
deputies retired into the recess of a window. One of them, M. Tulmier,
then approached the princess, and, in a low tone of voice, said to her,

“Do not resist any longer. Submit to whatever is required of you. I
will answer with my life that the marriage will never really take
place. It is necessary, at whatever cost, to appease the king for the
present. I will explain to the queen that this is the only means of
obtaining a favorable declaration from the King of England.”

Thus influenced, she yielded. Tears flooded her eyes, and her voice was
broken with sobs as she said, “I am ready to sacrifice myself for the
peace of the family.” The deputation withdrew, leaving the princess in
despair. Baron Grumkow conveyed to the king the pleasing intelligence
of her submission.



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.

Wilhelmina, having thus given her very reluctant assent to her marriage
with the Prince of Baireuth, wrote as follows to her mother:

“I have hardly strength enough to trace these lines. My state is
altogether worthy of pity. It is not through any menaces, however
violent they may have been, that I have yielded my consent to the
king’s wishes. An interest still more dear to me has determined me to
this sacrifice. I have been till now the innocent cause of all the
unhappiness which your majesty has endured. My too sensible heart has
been penetrated by the touching details you have latterly made of them.

“You have been willing to suffer for me. Is it not much more natural
that I should sacrifice myself for you, and that I should finish,
once for all, this fatal division in the family? Could I balance a
moment between the choice of unhappiness for myself and the pardon of
my brother? What dreadful discourses have there not been held to me
on this subject! I tremble when I think of them. All the objections I
could allege against the king’s proposal were refuted to me beforehand.
Your majesty yourself had proposed to him the Prince of Baireuth as
a fit alliance for me. I can not therefore imagine that you will
disapprove of my resolution. Besides, necessity is not to be resisted.
I shall have the honor to offer a more circumstantial detail of the
whole transaction to your majesty when I shall be permitted to throw
myself at your feet. I can understand easily what must be your grief on
the occasion. It is that which touches me the most.”

The king, in response to the report of Baron Grumkow, which was
so gratifying to him, sent the same evening the following note to

“I am delighted, my dear Wilhelmina, that you are so submissive to
the wishes of your father. The good God will bless you for it; and I
will never abandon you. I will take care of you all my life, and will
endeavor to prove to you that I am your very affectionate father.”

The next morning the princess received the following cruel epistle from
her mother:

“You have cut me to the heart, and have inflicted on me the greatest
misery I ever endured. I had placed all my hope in you, in consequence
of my ignorance of your character. You have had the address to disguise
to me the bad propensities of your heart, and the baseness of your
disposition. I repent a thousand times the kindness I have shown you,
the care I have taken of your education, and all that I have suffered
on your account. I no longer acknowledge you as my daughter, and shall,
in future, never regard you but as my most cruel enemy, since it is
you who have sacrificed me to my persecutors, who now triumph over me.
Never count upon me again. I vow eternal hatred to you, and will never
forgive you.”

Soon after, the king returned to Berlin and summoned his daughter to
his presence. He received her very graciously. The queen, however,
remained quite unreconciled, and was loud in the expression of her
anger: “I am disgraced, vanquished, and my enemies are triumphant!” she
exclaimed. Her chagrin was so great that she fell quite sick. To a few
words of sympathy which her child uttered, she replied, “Why do you
pretend to weep? It is you who have killed me.”

Frederick William was in high spirits. Many distinguished strangers
were invited to his court, and they were received with great
magnificence. There were costly and showy entertainments, served
by “six-and-twenty blackamoors,” bands of music, with much pomp of
etiquette, and reviews of the giant guard and of the marvelously
drilled army. Preparations were made for a review of great splendor on
Monday, the 28th of May. The Prince of Baireuth was invited, though
neither the queen nor Wilhelmina were aware of it. At the early hour of
seven o’clock of the preceding evening the king went to bed, that he
might be fresh for the review on the morrow. His high-born guests were
left to be entertained by the queen and the princess. Just as they were
passing in to supper, the sound of carriage wheels, approaching the
foot of the grand staircase, was heard in the court-yard. As that was
an honor conferred only upon princes, the queen was a little surprised,
and sent to inquire who had arrived. To her consternation, she found
that it was the Prince of Baireuth.

“The head of Medusa,” writes the princess, “never produced such horror
as did this piece of news to the queen. For some time she could not
utter a word, and changed color so often that we thought she would
faint. Her state went to my heart. I remained as immovable as she.
Every one present appeared full of consternation.”

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.

“Such a show for pomp and circumstance, Wilhelmina owns, as could
not be equaled in the world; such wheeling, rhythmic coalescing and
unfolding, accurate as clock-work, far and wide; swift, big column
here hitting big column there at the appointed place and moment; with
their volleyings and trumpetings, bright uniforms, and streamers, and
field-music, in equipment and manœuvre perfect all, to the meanest
drummer or black kettle-drummer; supreme drill sergeant playing on the
thing as on his huge piano, several square miles in area.”[18]

As the ladies of the court were gazing upon this spectacle, an officer
rode up to the royal carriage, cap in hand, and said that he was
directed to present to the queen and princess his Highness the Prince
of Baireuth. Immediately a tall young man, in rich dress and of very
courtly air, rode up to the carriage and saluted his future mother
and his destined bride. His reception was very chilling. The queen,
with frigid civility, scarcely recognized his low bow. Wilhelmina,
faint from fasting, anxiety, and sleeplessness, was so overcome by her
emotions that she fell back upon her seat in a swoon.

Wilhelmina had never seen the Prince of Wales. Her mother had not
attempted to conceal from her that he was exceedingly plain in person,
slightly deformed, weak in intellect, and debased by his debaucheries.
But the ambitious queen urged these considerations, not as objections,
but as incentives to the marriage. “You will be able,” she said, “to
have him entirely under your direction. You will thus be virtually King
of England, and can exert a powerful control over all the nations of
Europe.” These considerations, however, did not influence the princess
so much as they did her mother. She had never taken any special
interest in her marriage with the Prince of Wales. Indeed, at times,
she had said that nothing should ever induce her to marry him.

The first glance at the Prince of Baireuth prepossessed the princess in
his favor. She subsequently, when better acquainted with him, described
him in the following terms:

“The prince is tall, well made, and has a noble air. His features are
neither handsome nor regular; but his countenance, which is open,
engaging, and very agreeable, stands him in the place of beauty.
He is of a hasty temper, and replies with quickness and without
embarrassment. Though his nature is inclined to anger, he knows
so well how to overcome it that it is never perceived, and no one
has ever suffered by it. He is very gay. His conversation is very
agreeable, though he has some difficulty in making himself intelligible
from lisping so much. His conception is quick, and his intellect
penetrating. The goodness of his heart gains him the attachment of
all who know him. He is generous, charitable, compassionate, polite,
engaging, and enjoys very equal spirits. The only fault I know in him
is too much levity, which I must mention here, as otherwise I should
be accused of partiality. He has, however, much corrected himself of

The next Sunday, June 3d, the betrothal took place with great
magnificence. The ceremony was attended by a large concourse of
distinguished guests. Lord Dover says that the very evening of the
day of the betrothing a courier arrived from England with dispatches
announcing that the English court had yielded to all the stipulations
demanded by the King of Prussia in reference to the marriage of
Wilhelmina to the Prince of Wales. It was now too late to retract.
Probably both the king and Wilhelmina were gratified in being able to
decline the offer. But the chagrin of the queen was terrible. She fell
into a violent fever, and came near dying, reproaching her daughter
with having killed her.

There seems to be no end to the complications and troubles of this
royal family. It is said that Wilhelmina, to soothe her mother, treated
her betrothed with great coldness; that her younger sister Charlotte
fell deeply in love with the Prince of Baireuth, and endeavored to win
him to herself; and that the prince himself, attracted by warmth on the
one hand, and repelled by coldness on the other, was quite disposed
to make the exchange.[19] The king, irritated by these interminable
annoyances, and the victim of chronic petulance and ill nature,
recommenced his brutal treatment of his daughter.

While these scenes were transpiring, the Crown Prince was at Cüstrin,
upon probation, being not yet admitted to the presence of his father.
He seems to have exerted himself to the utmost to please the king,
applying himself diligently to become familiar with all the tedious
routine and details of the administration of finance, police, and the
public domains. Fritz was naturally very amiable. He was consequently
popular in the little town in which he resided, all being ready to do
every thing in their power to serve him. The income still allowed him
by his father was so small that he would have suffered from poverty had
not the gentry in the neighborhood, regardless of the prohibition to
lend money to the prince, contributed secretly to replenish his purse.

A year and a day had elapsed since the father had seen the son. On
the 15th of August, the king, being on a journey, stopped for a couple
of hours at Cüstrin, and held an interview with Fritz. The monarch
was attended by a retinue of several hundred persons. The scene which
ensued is described by Grumkow in his summary of what took place at
Cüstrin on the 15th of August, 1731. The king sent for the prince to be
brought before him at the government house. As Fritz entered he fell
upon his knees at his father’s feet. The king coldly ordered him to
rise, saying,

“You will now recall to mind what passed a year and a day ago - how
scandalously you behaved, and what a godless enterprise you undertook.
As I have had you about me from the beginning, and must know you
well, I did all in the world that was in my power, by kindness and by
harshness, to make an honorable man of you. As I rather suspected your
evil purposes, I treated you in the harshest and sharpest way in the
Saxon camp, in hopes you would consider yourself, and take another
line of conduct; would confess your faults to me, and beg forgiveness.
But all in vain. You grew ever more stiff-necked. You thought to carry
it through with your headstrong humor. But hark ye, my lad! if thou
wert sixty or seventy instead of eighteen, thou couldst not cross my
resolutions. And as up to this date I have managed to sustain myself
against any comer, there will be methods found to bring thee to reason

“Have I not, on all occasions, meant honorably by you? Last time I got
wind of your debts, did I not, as a father, admonish you to tell me
all? I would pay all; you were only to tell me the truth; whereupon you
said there were still two thousand thalers beyond the sum named. I paid
these also at once, and fancied I had made peace with you. And then it
was found, by-and-by, you owed many thousands more. And as you knew you
could not pay, it was as good as if the money had been stolen - not to
reckon how the French vermin, Montholieu and partner, cheated you with
their new loans.

“Nothing touched me so much as that you had not any trust in me. All
this that I was doing for the aggrandizement of the house, the army,
and the finances, could only be for you, if you made yourself worthy of
it. I here declare that I have done all things to gain your friendship,
and all has been in vain.”

The Crown Prince, either deeply touched with penitence or affecting
to be so, again threw himself upon his knees before his father, as if
imploring pardon. The king continued:

“Was it not your intention to go to England?”

“Yes,” the prince replied.

“Then hear what the consequences would have been. Your mother would
have got into the greatest misery. I could not but have suspected she
was the author of the business. Your sister I would have cast for life
into a place where she would never have seen sun or moon again. Then on
with my army to Hanover, and burn and ravage - yes, if it had cost me
life, land, and people. Your thoughtless and godless conduct, see what
it was leading to. I intended to employ you in all manner of business,
civil and military. But how, after such action, could I show your face
to my officers?”

Here the young prince made the most solemn promises to try to regain
his father’s favor. The king then asked: “Was it thou that temptedst
Katte, or did Katte tempt thee?” Fritz promptly replied, “I tempted
Katte.” “I am glad,” rejoined the king, “to hear the truth from you, at
any rate.”

The king then rattled on without waiting for replies: “How do you like
your Cüstrin life? Do you still have as much aversion to Wusterhausen,
and to wearing your shroud, as you called your uniform? Likely enough
my company does not suit you. I have no French manners, and can not
bring out witty sayings in the coxcomb way; and I truly consider all
that as a thing to be thrown to the dogs. I am a German prince, and
mean to live and die in that character. But you can now say what you
have got by your caprices and obstinate heart, hating every thing that
I liked, and if I distinguished any one, despising him. If an officer
was put in arrest, you took to lamenting about him. Your real friends,
who intended your good, you hated and calumniated. Those who flattered
you and encouraged your bad purpose you caressed. You see what that has
come to. In Berlin, in all Prussia, for some time back, nobody asks
after you, whether you are in the world or not. And were it not that
one or the other coming from Cüstrin reports you as playing tennis or
wearing French hair-bags, nobody would know whether you were dead, or

Grumkow then goes on to relate, quite in detail, that the king took up
the subject of theology. “He set forth the horrible results of that
_absolute decree_ notion which makes God the author of sin; and that
Jesus Christ died only for some.” The prince declared that he had
thoroughly renounced that heresy. The king then added:

“When godless fellows about you speak against your duties to God, the
king, and your country, fall instantly on your knees and pray with your
whole soul to Jesus Christ to deliver you from such wickedness, and
lead you on better ways. And if it come in earnest from your heart,
Jesus, who would have all men saved, will not leave you unheard.”

The Crown Prince, with what degree of sincerity we know not, was now in
tears. Prostrating himself before his majesty, he kissed his feet. The
king, much moved, was in tears also, and retired to another room.

“It being his majesty’s birthday,” writes Grumkow, “the prince, in
deep emotion, followed his father, and, again falling prostrate,
testified such heartfelt joy, gratitude, and affection over this
blessed anniversary as quite touched the heart of the king, who at
last clasped him in his arms, and hurried out to avoid sobbing aloud.
The Crown Prince followed his majesty, and, in the presence of many
hundred people, kissed his majesty’s feet, and was again embraced by
his majesty, who said, ‘Behave well, as I see you mean, and I will take
care of you.’ Which words,” writes Grumkow, “threw the Crown Prince
into such an ecstasy of joy as no pen can express.”

Two events occurred at this time highly characteristic of the king.
There was a nobleman by the name of Schlubhut, occupying a high
official position, who was found a defaulter to the amount of a sum
equal to twenty-five thousand dollars. The supreme court sentenced him
to three or four years’ imprisonment. The king was indignant at the
mildness of the sentence. “What,” said he, “when the private thief is
sent to the gallows, shall a nobleman and a magistrate escape with fine
and imprisonment?” Schlubhut was immediately sent to prison. All night
long he was disturbed with the noise of carpentering in the castle
square in front of his cell. In the morning he saw directly before his
window a huge gallows erected. Upon that gallows he was immediately
hung, and his body was left to swing in the wind for several days, some
say for weeks.


Soon after, a soldier, six feet three inches tall, the ringleader of
a gang, broke into a house and robbed it of property to the amount of
about five thousand dollars. He was sentenced to be hung. We give the
result in the words of Carlyle:

“Friedrich Wilhelm feels this sad contrast very much; the more, as the
soldier is his own chattel withal, and of superlative inches. Friedrich
Wilhelm flames up into wrath; sends off swift messengers to bring these
judges, one and all, instantly into his presence. The judges are still
in their dressing-gowns, shaving, breakfasting. They make what haste
they can. So soon as the first three or four are reported to be in the
anteroom, Friedrich Wilhelm, in extreme impatience, has them called in;
starts discoursing with them upon the two weights and two measures.
Apologies, subterfuges, do but provoke him farther. It is not long till
he starts up growling terribly, ‘Ye scoundrels, how could you?’ and
smites down upon the crown of them with the royal cudgel itself. Fancy
the hurry-scurry, the unforensic attitudes and pleadings! Royal cudgel
rains blows right and left. Blood is drawn, crowns cracked, crowns
nearly broken; and several judges lost a few teeth and had their noses
battered before they could get out. The second relay, meeting them in
this dilapidated state on the staircases, dashed home again without the
honor of a royal interview. This is an actual scene, of date, Berlin,
1731, of which no constitutional country can hope to see the fellow.
Schlubhut he hanged, Schlubhut being only Schlubhut’s chattel. This
musketeer, his majesty’s own chattel, he did not hang, but set him
shouldering arms again after some preliminary dusting.”

The king, after his apparent reconciliation with Fritz, granted him
a little more liberty. He was appointed to travel over and carefully
inspect several of the crown domains. He was ordered to study
thoroughly the practical husbandry of those domains - how they were
to be plowed, enriched, and sown. He was also to devote his attention
to the rearing of cattle; to the preparing of malt and the brewing of
ale. “Useful discourse,” said the king, “is to be kept up with him on
these journeys, pointing out why this is and that, and whether it could
not be better.” On the 22d of September the Crown Prince wrote to his
father as follows:

“I have been to Lebus. There is excellent land there; fine weather for
the husbandmen. Major Röder passed this way, and dined with me last
Wednesday. He has got a fine fellow for my most all-gracious father’s
regiment. I depend on my most all-gracious father’s grace that he will
be good to me. I ask for nothing, and for no happiness in the world
but what comes from him; and hope that he will some day remember me in
grace, and give me the blue coat to put on again.”

It is very evident, from the glimpses we catch of Fritz at this time,
that he was a wild fellow, quite frivolous, and with but a feeble
sense of moral obligation. General Schulenburg, an old soldier, of
stern principles, visited him at Cüstrin, and sent an account of the
interview to Baron Grumkow, under date of October 4th, 1731. From this
letter we cull the following statement:

“I found him much grown; an air of health and gayety about him. He
caressed me greatly. We went to dinner. He asked me to sit beside him.
Among other things, he said that he liked the great world, and was
charmed to observe the ridiculous, weak side of some people.”

The prince inquired, in quite an indifferent tone, respecting the
marriages his father had in contemplation for him. He objected to the
marriage with the Princess of Mecklenburg, niece of the Czar Peter,
that it would require him to change his religion, which he would not
do. He expressed himself as inclined to take the second daughter of the
Emperor of Germany, if the emperor would throw in a duchy or two.

“Since you speak so much of marriages,” said the general, “I suppose
you wish to be married?”

“No,” the prince replied; “but if the king absolutely will have it, I

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 10 of 52)