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History of Frederick the Second online

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will marry to obey him. After that I will shove my wife into a corner,
and live after my own fancy.”

Against this unprincipled declaration General Schulenburg remonstrated,
declaring it to be unchristian and dishonorable. But the prince seemed
to regard such suggestions very contemptuously. “I can perceive,” the
general adds, “that if he marries, it will only be that he may have
more liberty than now. It is certain that if he had his elbows free he
would strike out. He said to me several times, ‘I am young; I want to
profit by my youth.’”

A fortnight later General Schulenburg wrote, under date of the 19th
of October: “I introduced to the Crown Prince all the officers of my
regiment who are here. He received them in the style of a king. It is
certain he feels what he is born to; and if he ever get to it, he will
stand on the top of it. As to me, I mean to keep myself retired, and
shall see as little of him as I can. I perceive well he does not like
advice, and does not take pleasure except with men inferior to him in
mind. His first aim is to find out the ridiculous side of every one,
and he loves to banter and quiz.

“I assure you he is a prince who has talent, but who will be the
slave of his passions, and will like nobody but such as encourage him
therein. For me, I think all princes are cast in the same mould. There
is only a more and a less.”

[Illustration: BERLIN PALACE.]

On Tuesday, the 20th of November, 1731, Wilhelmina, eight months after
her betrothal, was married to the Prince of Baireuth. The marriage
ceremony was attended with great magnificence in the royal palace of
Berlin. The father of Frederick William, who was fond of pageantry,
had reared one of the most sumptuous mansions in Europe, and had
furnished it with splendor which no other court could outvie. Entering
the interior of the palace through the outer saloon, one passed
through nine apartments _en suite_, of grand dimensions, magnificently
decorated, the last of which opened into the picture-gallery, a room
ninety feet in length, and of corresponding breadth. All these were
in a line. Then turning, you entered a series of fourteen rooms, each
more splendid than the preceding. The chandeliers were of massive solid
silver. The ceilings were exquisitely painted by Correggio. Between
each pair of windows there were mirrors twelve feet high, and of such
width that before each mirror tables could be spread for twelve guests.
The last of these magnificent apartments, called the Grand Saloon, was
illuminated by “a lustre weighing fifty thousand crowns; the globe of
it big enough to hold a child of eight years, and the branches of solid
silver.”

Though Frederick the First had reared and originally furnished this
Berlin palace, yet the masses of solid silver wrought into its
ornamentation were mainly the work of Frederick William. Conscious
that his influence in Europe depended not only upon the power of his
army, but also upon the fullness of his treasury, he had been striving,
through all his reign, to accumulate coin. But the money, barreled up
and stored away in the vaults of his palace, was of no service while
thus lying idle. Banking institutions seem not then to have been
in vogue in his realms. But the silver, wrought into chandeliers,
mirror-frames, and music balconies, added to the imposing splendor of
his court, gave him the reputation of great wealth, and could, at any
time when necessary, be melted down and coined. The wealth thus hoarded
by the father afterward saved the son from ruin, when involved in wars
which exhausted his treasury.

The queen remained bitterly unreconciled to the marriage of Wilhelmina
with any one but the Prince of Wales. Stung by the sense of defeat, she
did every thing in her power, by all sorts of intrigues, to break off
the engagement with the Prince of Baireuth. When she found her efforts
entirely unavailing, she even went so far as to take her daughter aside
and entreat her, since the ceremony must take place, to refuse, after
the marriage, to receive the Prince of Baireuth as her husband, that
the queen might endeavor to obtain a divorce.

The annoyances to which Wilhelmina was exposed, while thus preparing
for her wedding, must have been almost unendurable. Not only her mother
was thus persistent and implacable in her hostility, but her father
reluctantly submitted to the connection. He had fully made up his mind,
with all the strength of his inflexible will, that Wilhelmina should
marry either the Margrave of Schwedt or the Duke of Weissenfels. It was
with extreme reluctance, and greatly to his chagrin, that the stern old
man found himself constrained, perhaps for the first time in his life,
to yield to others.

Even Wilhelmina had accepted the Prince of Baireuth, whom she had
never seen, only to avoid being sacrificed to men whom she utterly
loathed. Fortunately for the princess, her affections were not
otherwise engaged, and when introduced to her intended she became quite
reconciled to the idea of accepting him as her husband.

On the day of the marriage, the princess, having formally renounced all
her rights to the personal property of the family, dined with the royal
household and her intended, and then retired to her apartment to dress
for the wedding. It would seem that the queen must have become quite
insane upon this point. Even at this late hour she did every thing
she could to delay operations and to gain time, hoping every moment
that some courier would arrive from England with proposals which would
induce the king to break off the engagement. As fast as the princess’s
hair on one side was dressed the queen would contrive to undo it,
so that at last the hair would no longer curl, making her look, as
Wilhelmina said, “like a mad woman.” She adds:

“A royal crown was placed upon my head, together with twenty-four curls
of false hair, each as big as my arm. I could not hold up my head, as
it was too weak for so great a weight. My gown was a very rich silver
brocade, trimmed with gold lace, and my train was twelve yards long. I
thought I should have died under this dress.”

The marriage took place in the Grand Saloon. The moment the benediction
was pronounced, a triple discharge of cannon announced the event to
the inhabitants of Berlin. Then the newly-married pair, seated under
a gorgeous canopy, received the congratulations of the court. A ball
followed, succeeded by a supper. After supper there came, according to
the old German custom, what was called the _dance of torches_. This
consisted of the whole company marching to music in procession through
the rooms, each holding a lighted torch. The marriage festivities were
continued for several days, with a succession of balls each night.
Wilhelmina had not yet been permitted to see her brother since his
arrest. But the king had promised Wilhelmina, as her reward for giving
up the wretched Prince of Wales, that he would recall her brother and
restore him to favor. On Friday evening, the 23d, three days after the
wedding, there was a brilliant ball in the Grand Apartment. Wilhelmina
thus describes the event which then took place:

“I liked dancing, and was taking advantage of my chances. Grumkow came
up to me, in the middle of a minuet, and said, ‘_Mon dieu, madame_, you
seem to have got bit by the tarantula. Don’t you see those strangers
who have just come in?’ I stopped short, and, looking all around, I
noticed at last a young man, dressed in gray, whom I did not know. ‘Go,
then,’ said Grumkow, ‘and embrace the Crown Prince. There he is before
you.’ My whole frame was agitated with joy. ‘Oh, heavens, my brother!’
cried I; ‘but I do not see him. Where is he? For God’s sake show him to
me.’

“Grumkow led me to the young man in gray. Coming near, I recognized
him, though with difficulty. He had grown much stouter, and his neck
was much shorter. His face also was much changed, and was no longer as
handsome as it had been. I fell upon his neck. I was so overcome that
I could only speak in an unconnected manner. I wept, I laughed like a
person out of her senses. In my life I have never felt so lively a joy.
After these first emotions were subsided I went and threw myself at the
feet of the king, who said to me aloud, in the presence of my brother,

“‘Are you content with me? You see that I have kept my word with you.’

“I took my brother by the hand, and implored the king to restore his
affection to him. This scene was so touching that it drew tears from
all present. I then approached the queen. She was obliged to embrace
me, the king being close opposite. But I remarked that her joy was
only affected. I turned to my brother again. I gave him a thousand
caresses, to all which he remained cold as ice, and answered only in
monosyllables. I presented to him my husband, to whom he did not say
one word. I was astonished at this; but I laid the blame of it on the
king, who was observing us, and who I judged might be intimidating my
brother. But even the countenance of my brother surprised me. He wore a
proud air, and seemed to look down upon every body.”

[Illustration: THE RECONCILIATION.]

Neither the king nor the Crown Prince appeared at the supper. With
a select circle, to which neither Wilhelmina nor her mother were
admitted, they supped in a private apartment. At the report that the
king was treating the Crown Prince with great friendliness, the queen
could not conceal her secret pique. “In fact,” says Wilhelmina, “she
did not love her children except as they served her ambitious views.”
She was jealous of Wilhelmina because she, and not her mother, had
been the means of the release of Fritz. After supper the dancing was
resumed, and Wilhelmina embraced an opportunity to ask her brother why
he was so changed, and why he treated her so coldly. He assured her
that he was not changed; that his reserve was external only; that he
had reasons for his conduct. Still he did not explain his reasons, and
Wilhelmina remained wounded and bewildered.

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.

“He appeared,” she writes, “quite discountenanced at this last part
of my narrative. He returned thanks for the obligations I have laid
on him, with some caressings which evidently did not proceed from the
heart. To break this conversation he started some indifferent topic,
and, under pretense of seeing my apartment, moved into the next room,
where the prince, my husband, was. Him he surveyed with his eyes from
head to foot for some time; then, after some constrained civilities to
him, he went his way.”

Wilhelmina and her husband soon left for Baireuth. Though the princess
thus left the splendors of a royal palace for the far more quiet and
humble state of a ducal mansion, still she was glad to escape from a
home where she had experienced so many sorrows.

“Berlin,” she writes, “had become as odious to me as it once was dear.
I flattered myself that, renouncing grandeurs, I might lead a soft and
tranquil life in my new home, and begin a happier year than the one
which had just ended.”

As the king was about to take leave of his child, whom he had treated
so cruelly, he was very much overcome by emotion. It is a solemn hour,
in any family, when a daughter leaves the parental roof, never to
return again but as a visitor. Whether the extraordinary development of
feeling which the stern old monarch manifested on the occasion was the
result of nervous sensibility, excited by strong drink or by parental
affection, it is not easy to decide. Wilhelmina, in a few words of
intense emotion, bade her father farewell.

“My discourse,” she writes, “produced its effect. He melted into tears,
and could not answer me for sobs. He explained his thoughts by his
embracings of me. Making an effort at length, he said, ‘I am in despair
that I did not know thee. They had told me such horrible tales - I
hated thee as much as I now love thee. If I had addressed myself direct
to thee I should have escaped much trouble, and thou too. But they
hindered me from speaking. They said that thou wert ill-natured as the
devil, and wouldst drive to extremities, which I wanted to avoid. Thy
mother, by her intriguings, is in part the cause of the misfortunes
of the family. I have been deceived and duped on every side. But my
hands are tied. Though my heart is torn in pieces, I must leave these
iniquities unpunished.’”

“The queen’s intentions were always good,” Wilhelmina kindly urged. The
king replied, “Let us not enter into that detail. What is past is past.
I will try to forget it. You are the dearest to me of all the family.
I am too sad of heart to take leave of you. Embrace your husband on my
part. I am so overcome that I must not see him.”

Wilhelmina, with flooded eyes, entered her carriage, bidding a final
adieu to the home of her childhood, where she had passed through so
many scenes, eventful and afflictive. Though she afterward visited
Berlin, it was her home no more. The Crown Prince returned to Cüstrin,
where he impatiently awaited his future destinies.




CHAPTER VII.

THE MARRIAGE OF THE CROWN PRINCE.

Matrimonial Intrigues. - Letters from the King to his Son. - Letter
from Fritz to Grumkow. - Letter to Wilhelmina. - The Betrothal. -
Character of Elizabeth. - Her cruel Reception by the Prussian
Queen. - Letter from Fritz to Wilhelmina. - Disappointment and
Anguish of Elizabeth. - Studious Habits of Fritz. - Continued
Alienation of his Father. - The Marriage. - Life in the Castle at
Reinsberg.


Upon the return of the Crown Prince to Cüstrin after the marriage of
Wilhelmina, several of the officers of the army sent in a petition
to the king that he would restore to the prince his uniform and his
military rank. The king consented, and made out his commission anew as
colonel commandant of the Goltz regiment at Ruppin. This was a small
town about seventy-five miles northeast of Berlin. His commission
was signed on the 29th of February, 1732, he being then twenty years
of age. In this little hamlet, mainly engaged in the dull routine of
garrison duties, the prince passed most of his time for the next eight
years.

The Crown Prince was quite exasperated that the English court would not
listen to his earnest plea for the marriage of Wilhelmina to the Prince
of Wales, and accept his vows of fidelity to the Princess Amelia. The
stubborn adhesion of the King of England to the declaration of “both
marriages or none” so annoyed him that he banished Amelia from his
thoughts. In his reckless way he affirmed that the romance of marriage
was all over with him; that he cared not much what bride was forced
upon him, provided only that she were rich, and that she were not too
scrupulous in religious principle. The tongues of all the court gossips
were busy upon this theme. Innumerable were the candidates suggested
to share the crown of the future Prussian king. The Archduchess Maria
Theresa, subsequently the renowned Empress of Germany, was proposed
by Prince Eugene. But the imperial court could not wed its Catholic
heiress to a Protestant prince. Still the emperor, though unwilling
to give his daughter to the Crown Prince, was anxious for as close
an alliance as possible with Prussia, and recommended a niece of the
empress, the young Princess Elizabeth Christina, only daughter of
Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick Bevern. She was seventeen years of age,
rather pretty, with a fine complexion, not rich, of religious tastes,
and remarkably quiet and domestic in her character.

The Crown Prince did not fancy this connection at all. His first wish
was to journey about, through the courts of Europe, to select him
a wife. But that measure his father would not think of. Frederick
professed a willingness to submit to marry Anna, Princess of
Mecklenburg, or the Princess of Eisenach. Seckendorf, the embassador of
the emperor, aided by Grumkow, who had been bribed, urged the marriage
with Elizabeth. The king adopted their views. His decision was like a
decree of fate. The following letter, written by the king to his son,
dated Potsdam, February 4, 1732, very clearly expresses his views:

“MY DEAR SON FRITZ, - I am glad you need no more medicine. But
you must have a care of yourself some days yet, for the severe
weather gives me and every body colds. So pray be on your guard.

“You know, my dear son, that when my children are obedient I love
them much. So when you were at Berlin, I from my heart forgave
you every thing; and from that Berlin time, since I saw you, have
thought of nothing but of your well-being, and how to establish
you; not in the army only, but also with a right step-daughter,
and so see you married in my lifetime. You may be well persuaded
I have had the Princesses of Germany taken survey of, so far as
possible, and examined by trusty people what their conduct is,
their education, and so on. And so a princess has been found, the
eldest one of Bevern, who is well brought up, modest and retiring
as a woman ought to be.

“You will quickly write me your mind on this. I have purchased
the Von Katsch house. The field marshal, as governor of Berlin,
will get that to live in. His government house I will have made
new for you, and furnish it all, and give you enough to keep
house yourself there.

“The princess is not ugly nor beautiful. You must mention it to
no mortal. Write indeed to mamma that I have written to you. And
when you shall have a son, I will let you go on your travels;
wedding, however, can not be before next winter. Meanwhile I
will try and contrive opportunity that you see one another a few
times, in all honor, yet so that you get acquainted with her. She
is a God-fearing creature, will suit herself to you, as she does
to the parents-in-law.

“God give his blessing to it, and bless you and your posterity,
and keep you as a good Christian. And have God always before your
eyes, and don’t believe that damnable _predestination_ tenet; and
be obedient and faithful. So shall it here in time, and there in
eternity, go well with thee. And whosoever wishes that from the
heart, let him say Amen.

“Your true father to the death,
“FRIEDRICH WILHELM.

“When the Duke of Lorraine comes I will have thee come. I think
the bride will be here then. Adieu; God be with you.”

One week after the reception of this letter the Crown Prince wrote
to Baron Grumkow in the following flippant and revolting strain. He
probably little imagined that the letter was to be read by all Europe
and all America. But those whose paths through life lead over the
eminences of rank and power can not conceal their words or deeds from
the scrutiny of the world. Grumkow, a very shrewd man, had contrived to
secure influence over both the father and the son. The prince’s letter
was dated Cüstrin, February 11, 1732:

“MY DEAR GENERAL AND FRIEND, - I was charmed to learn, by your
letter, that my affairs are on so good a footing. You may depend
on it I am prepared to follow your advice. I will lend myself
to whatever is possible for me. And, provided I can secure the
king’s favor by my obedience, I will do all that is within my
power.

“Nevertheless, in making my bargain with the Duke of Bevern,
manage that my intended be brought up under her grandmother.[20]
I should rather have a wife who would dishonor me than to marry a
blockhead who would drive me mad by her awkwardness, and whom I
should be ashamed to produce.

“I beg you labor at this affair. When one hates romantic heroines
as heartily as I do, one dreads those timid virtues; and I had
rather marry the greatest profligate[21] in Berlin than a devotee
with half a dozen bigots at her beck. If it were still possible
to make her a Calvinist! But I doubt that. I will insist,
however, that her grandmother have the training of her. What you
can do to help me in this, my dear friend, I am persuaded you
will do.

“It afflicted me a little that the king still has doubts of me,
while I am obeying in such a matter diametrically opposite to my
own ideas. In what way shall I offer stronger proofs? I may give
myself to the devil, it will be to no purpose. Nothing but the
old song over again, doubt on doubt. Don’t imagine I am going to
disoblige the duke, the duchess, or the daughter, I beseech you.
I know too well what is due to them, and too much respect their
merits, not to observe the strictest rules of what is proper,
even if I hated their progeny and them like the pestilence.

“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.

“It is said she has a sister who at least has common sense. Why
take the eldest, if so? To the king it must be all one. There is
also a princess, Christina Marie, of Eisenach, who would be quite
my fit, and whom I should like to try for. In fine, I mean soon
to come into your countries, and perhaps will say, like Cæsar,
_Veni, vidi, vici_.”

In another letter to Grumkow, he writes: “As to what you tell me of
the Princess of Mecklenburg, could not I marry her? She would have a
dowry of two or three million rubles.[22] Only fancy how I could live
with that. I think that project might succeed. I find none of these
advantages in the Princess of Bevern, who, as many people even of the
duke’s court say, is not at all beautiful, speaks almost nothing, and
is given to pouting. The good empress has so little money herself that
the sums she could afford her niece would be very moderate.”

Again, on the 19th of February, 1732, the Crown Prince wrote from
Cüstrin to Baron Grumkow. From his letter we make the following
extracts:

“Judge, my dear general, if I have been much charmed with the
description you give of the abominable object of my desires. For the
love of God disabuse the king in regard to her. Let him remember that
fools are commonly the most obstinate of creatures. Let the king
remember that it is not for himself that he is marrying me, but for
_my_self. Nay, he too will have a thousand chagrins to see two persons
hating one another, and the most miserable marriage in the world; to
hear their mutual complaints, which will be to him so many reproaches
for having fashioned the instrument of our yoke. As a good Christian,
let him consider if it is well done to wish to force people, to cause
divorces, and to be the occasion of all the sins that an ill-assorted
marriage leads us to commit. I am determined to front every thing in
the world sooner. Since things are so, you may, in some good way,
apprise the Duke of Bevern that, happen what may, I never will have her.

“I have been unhappy all my life, and I think it is my destiny to
continue so. One must be patient, and take the time as it comes.
Perhaps a sudden tract of good fortune, on the back of all the chagrins
I have encountered since I entered this world, would have made me too
proud. I have suffered sufficiently, and I will not engage myself



Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 11 of 52)