John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

History of Frederick the Second online

. (page 26 of 52)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 26 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Grand-duke of Lorraine;” and universal and cordial was the response of
applause when the toast was proposed “to the brave Prince Charles.”

The treaty of Breslau was signed on the 11th of June, and ratified at
Berlin on the 28th of July. By this treaty, Silesia, Lower and Upper,
was ceded to “Frederick and his heirs for evermore,” while Frederick
withdrew from the French alliance, and entered into friendly relations
with her Hungarian majesty. Immediately after the settlement of this
question, Frederick, cantoning his troops in Silesia, returned to
Berlin. Elate with victory and accompanied by a magnificent suite, the
young conqueror hastened home, over green fields and beneath a summer’s
sun. Keenly he enjoyed his triumph, greeted with the enthusiastic
acclaim of the people in all the towns and villages through which he
passed.[67] At Frankfort-on-the-Oder, where a fair was in operation,
the king stopped for a few hours. Vast crowds, which had been drawn to
the place by the fair, lined the highway for a long distance on both
sides, eager to see the victor who had aggrandized Prussia by adding a
large province to its realms.

“His majesty’s entrance into Frankfort,” writes M. Bielfeld, who
accompanied him, “although very triumphant, was far from ostentatious.
We passed like lightning before the eyes of the spectators, and were
so covered with dust that it was difficult to distinguish the color
of our coats and the features of our faces. We made some purchases at
Frankfort, and the next day arrived safely in Berlin, where the king
was received with the acclamations of his people.”[68]

If we can rely upon the testimony of Frederick, an incident occurred
at this time which showed that the French court was as intriguing and
unprincipled as was his Prussian majesty. It is quite evident that the
Austrian court also was not animated by a very high sense of honor.

After the battle of Chotusitz, Frederick called upon General Pallant,
an Austrian officer, who was wounded and a prisoner. In the course of
the conversation, General Pallant stated that France was ready at any
moment to betray his Prussian majesty, and that, if he would give him
six days’ time, he would furnish him with documentary proof. A courier
was instantly dispatched to Vienna. He soon returned with a letter
from Cardinal Fleury, the prime minister of Louis XV., addressed to
Maria Theresa, informing her that, if she would give up Bohemia to the
emperor, France would _guarantee to her Silesia_. Frederick, though
guilty of precisely the same treachery himself, read the document with
indignation, and assumed to be as much amazed at the perfidy as he
could have been had he been an honest man.

“The cardinal,” he said, “takes me for a fool. He wishes to betray me.
I will try and prevent him.”

The French marshal, Belleisle, alarmed by the report that Frederick was
entering into a treaty of peace with Austria, hastened to the Prussian
camp to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the rumor. Frederick,
emboldened by the document he had in his pocket, was very frank.

“I have prescribed,” he said, “the conditions of peace to the Queen of
Hungary. She accepts them. Having, therefore, all that I want, I make
peace. All the world in my situation would do the same.”

“Is it possible, sire,” Marshal Belleisle replied, “that you can dare
to abandon the best of your allies, and to deceive so illustrious a
monarch as the King of France?”

“And you, sir,” responded the king, with an air of great disdain, at
the same time placing in his hand the cardinal’s letter, “do you dare
to talk to me in this manner?”

The marshal glanced his eye over the document, and retired, overwhelmed
with confusion. Thus ended the alliance between Prussia and France.
“Each party,” writes Frederick, “wished to be more cunning than the
other.”[69]

In the following terms, Frederick correctly sums up the incidents of
the two Silesian campaigns:

“Thus was Silesia reunited to the dominions of Prussia. Two years of
war sufficed for the conquest of this important province. The treasure
which the late king had left was nearly exhausted. But it is a cheap
purchase, where whole provinces are bought for seven or eight millions
of crowns. The union of circumstances at the moment peculiarly favored
this enterprise. It was necessary for it that France should allow
itself to be drawn into the war; that Russia should be attacked by
Sweden; that, from timidity, the Hanoverians and Saxons should remain
inactive; that the successes of the Prussians should be uninterrupted;
and that the King of England, the enemy of Prussia, should become, in
spite of himself, the instrument of its aggrandizement. What, however,
contributed the most to this conquest was an army which had been formed
for twenty-two years, by means of a discipline admirable in itself,
and superior to the troops of the rest of Europe. Generals, also, who
were true patriots, wise and incorruptible ministers, and, finally, a
certain good fortune which often accompanies youth, and often deserts a
more advanced age.”[70]

There was no end to the panegyrics which Voltaire, in his
correspondence with Frederick, now lavished upon him. He greeted him
with the title of Frederick the Great.

“How glorious,” he exclaimed, “is my king, the youngest of kings, and
the grandest! A king who carries in the one hand an all-conquering
sword, but in the other a blessed olive-branch, and is the arbiter of
Europe for peace or war.”

Frederick, having obtained all that, for the present, he could hope
to obtain, deemed it for his interest to attempt to promote the peace
of Europe. His realms needed consolidating, his army recruiting, his
treasury replenishing. But he found it much easier to stir up the
elements of strife than to allay them.

His withdrawal from the French alliance removed the menace from the
English Hanoverian possession. George II. eagerly sent an army of sixty
thousand men to the aid of Maria Theresa against France, and freely
opened to her his purse. The French were defeated every where. They
were driven from Prague in one of the most disastrous wintry retreats
of blood and misery over which the demon of war ever gloated. The
powerless, penniless emperor, the creature of France, who had neither
purse nor army, was driven, a fugitive and a vagabond, from his petty
realm of Bavaria, and was exposed to humiliation, want, and insult.

Maria Theresa was developing character which attracted the admiration
of Europe. She seriously contemplated taking command of her armies
herself. She loved Duke Francis, her husband, treated him very
tenderly, and was anxious to confer upon him honor; but by nature
vastly his superior, instinctively she assumed the command. She led;
he followed. She was a magnificent rider. Her form was the perfection
of grace. Her beautiful, pensive, thoughtful face was tanned by the
weather. All hearts throbbed as, on a spirited charger, she sometimes
swept before the ranks of the army, with her gorgeous retinue,
appearing and disappearing like a meteor. She was as devout as she was
brave, winning the homage of all Catholic hearts. We know not where, in
the long list of sovereigns, to point to man or woman of more imperial
energies, of more exalted worth.

[Illustration: MARIA THERESA AT THE HEAD OF HER ARMY.]

The loss of Silesia she regarded as an act of pure highway robbery. It
rankled in her noble heart as the great humiliation and disgrace of her
reign. Frederick was to her but as a hated and successful bandit, who
had wrenched from her crown one of its brightest jewels. To the last
day of her life she never ceased to deplore the loss. It is said that
if any stranger, obtaining an audience, was announced as from Silesia,
the eyes of the queen would instantly flood with tears. But the
fortunes of war had now triumphantly turned in her favor. Aided by the
armies and the gold of England, she was on the high career of conquest.
Her troops had overrun Bohemia and Bavaria. She was disposed to hold
those territories in compensation for Silesia, which she had lost.

In the mean time, during the two years in which Maria Theresa was
making these conquests, Frederick, alarmed by the aggrandizement of
Austria and the weakening of France, while unavailingly striving
to promote peace, was busily employed in the administration of his
internal affairs. He encouraged letters; devoted much attention to the
Academy of Arts and Sciences; reared the most beautiful opera-house in
Europe; devoted large sums to secure the finest musicians and the most
exquisite ballet-dancers which Europe could afford. He sought to make
his capital attractive to all those throughout Europe who were inspired
by a thirst for knowledge, or who were in the pursuit of pleasure.

One incident in this connection, illustrative of the man and of the
times, merits brief notice. His agent at Venice reported a female
dancer there of rare attainments, Señora Barberina. She was marvelously
beautiful, and a perfect fairy in figure and grace, and as fascinating
in her vivacity and sparkling intelligence as she was lovely in person.
Frederick immediately ordered her to be engaged for his opera-house
at Berlin, at a salary of nearly four thousand dollars, and sundry
perquisites.

But it so happened that the beautiful dancer had in the train of her
impassioned admirers a young English gentleman, a younger brother of
the Earl of Bute. He was opposed to Barberina’s going to Prussia,
and induced her to throw up the engagement. Frederick was angry, and
demanded the execution of the contract. The pretty Barberina, safe in
Venice, made herself merry with the complaints of the Prussian monarch.
Frederick, not accustomed to be thwarted, applied to the doge and the
Senate of Venice to compel Barberina to fulfill her contract. They
replied with great politeness, but did nothing. Barberina remained
with her lover under the sunny skies of Italy, charming with her
graceful pirouettes admiring audiences in the Venetian theatres.

In the mean time a Venetian embassador, on his way to one of the
northern courts, passed a night at a hotel in Berlin. He was
immediately arrested, with his luggage, by a royal order. A dispatch
was transmitted to Venice, stating that the embassador would be held
as a hostage till Barberina was sent to Prussia. “A bargain,” says
Frederick, in his emphatic utterance, “is a bargain. A state should
have law courts to enforce contracts entered into in their territories.”

The doge and senate were brought to terms. They seized the beautiful
Barberina, placed her carefully in a post-chaise, and, under an
escort of armed men, sent her, from stage to stage, over mountain and
valley, till she arrived at Berlin. The Venetian embassador was then
discharged. The young English gentleman, James Mackenzie, a grandson
of the celebrated advocate, Sir George Mackenzie, eagerly followed his
captured inamorata, and reached Berlin two hours after Barberina. The
rumor was circulated that he was about to marry her.

It is said that Frederick, determined not to lose his dancer in that
manner, immediately informed the young gentleman’s friends that he
was about to form a _mesalliance_ with an opera girl. The impassioned
lover was peremptorily summoned home. Hatred for Frederick consequently
rankled in young Mackenzie’s heart. This hatred he communicated to
his brother, Lord Bute, which subsequently had no little influence in
affairs of national diplomacy.

The king himself became much fascinated with the personal loveliness
and the sparkling intelligence of the young dancer. He even
condescended to take tea with her, in company with others. Not long
after her arrival in Berlin she made a conquest of a young gentleman of
one of the first Prussian families, M. Cocceji, son of the celebrated
chancellor, and was privately married to him. For a time Barberina
continued upon the stage. At length, in the enjoyment of ample wealth,
she purchased a splendid mansion, and, publicly announcing her
marriage, retired with her husband to private life. But the mother of
Cocceji, and other proud family friends, scorned the lowly alliance. A
divorce was the result. Soon after, Barberina was married to a nobleman
of high rank, and we hear of her no more.

Though Frederick, in his private correspondence, often spoke very
contemptuously of Voltaire, it would seem, if any reliance can be
placed on the testimony of Voltaire himself, that Frederick sedulously
courted the author, whose pen was then so potential in Europe. By
express invitation, Voltaire spent a week with Frederick at Aix la
Chapelle early in September, 1742. He writes to a friend from Brussels
under date of December 10:

“I have been to see the King of Prussia. I have courageously resisted
his fine proposals. He offers me a beautiful house in Berlin, a pretty
estate, but I prefer my second floor in Madame Du Châtelet’s here. He
assures me of his favor, of the perfect freedom I should have; and I am
running to Paris, to my slavery and persecution. I could fancy myself a
small Athenian refusing the bounties of the King of Persia; with this
difference, however, one had liberty at Athens.”

Again he writes, under the same date, to the Marquis D’Argenson:

“I have just been to see the King of Prussia. I have seen him as
one seldom sees kings, much at my ease, in my own room, in the
chimney-corner, whither the same man who has gained two battles would
come and talk familiarly, as Scipio did with Terence. You will tell me
I am not Terence. True; but neither is he altogether Scipio.”

Again he writes, under the same date, to Cardinal De Fleury, then the
most prominent member of the cabinet of Louis XV.:

“MONSEIGNEUR, - I am bound to give your excellency some account of my
journey to Aix la Chapelle. I could not leave Brussels until the second
of this month. On the road I met a courier from the King of Prussia,
coming to reiterate his master’s orders on me. The king had me lodged
in quarters near his own apartment. He passed, for two consecutive
days, four hours at a time in my room, with all that goodness and
familiarity which form, as you know, part of his character, and which
does not lower the king’s dignity, because one is duly careful not to
abuse it. I had abundant time to speak with a great deal of freedom on
what your excellency had prescribed to me, and the king spoke to me
with an equal frankness.

“First he asked me ‘if it were true that the French nation were so
angered against him, if the king was, and if you were.’ I answered
‘that there was nothing permanent.’ He then condescended to speak
fully upon the reasons which induced him to make peace. These reasons
were so remarkable that I dare not trust them to this paper. All that
I dare say is, that it seems to me easy to lead back the mind of this
sovereign, whom the situation of his territories, his interest, and
his taste would appear to mark as the natural ally of France. He said,
moreover, ‘that he earnestly desired to see Bohemia in the emperor’s
hands, that he renounced all claim on Berg and Jülick, and that he
thought only of keeping Silesia.’ He said ‘that he knew well enough
that the house of Austria would one day wish to recover that fine
province, but that he trusted he could keep his conquest. That he had
at that time a hundred and thirty thousand soldiers perfectly prepared
for war; that he would make of Neisse, Glogau, and Brieg fortresses as
strong as Wesel; that he was well informed that the Queen of Hungary
owed eighty million German crowns ($60,000,000); that her provinces,
exhausted and wide apart, would not be able to make long efforts; and
that the Austrians for a long time to come could not of themselves be
formidable.’”[71]

Frederick was accustomed to cover his deep designs of diplomacy by the
promotion of the utmost gayety in his capital. Never did Berlin exhibit
such spectacles of festivity and pleasure as during the winter of 1742
and 1743. There was a continued succession of operas, balls, fêtes,
and sleigh-parties. Frederick’s two younger sisters were at that time
brilliant ornaments of his court. They were both remarkably beautiful
and vivacious. The Princess Louise Ulrique was in her twenty-third
year. The following letter to Frederick from these two princesses will
be keenly appreciated by many of our young lady readers whose expenses
have exceeded their allowance. It shows very conclusively that there
may be the same pecuniary annoyances in the palaces of kings as in more
humble homes.

“Berlin, 1st of March, 1743.

“MY DEAREST BROTHER, - I know not if it is not too bold to
trouble your majesty on private affairs. But the great confidence
my sister and I have in your kindness encourages us to lay before
you a sincere avowal of our little finances, which are a good
deal deranged just now. The revenues, having for two years and
a half past been rather small, amounting to only four hundred
crowns ($300) a year, could not be made to cover all the little
expenses required in the adjustment of ladies. This circumstance,
added to our card-playing, though small, which we could not
dispense with, has led us into debt. Mine amounts to fifteen
hundred crowns ($1125); my sister’s, to eighteen hundred crowns
($1350). We have not spoken of it to the queen-mother, though we
are sure she would have tried to assist us. But as that could
not have been done without some inconvenience to her, and as she
would have retrenched in some of her own little entertainments,
I thought we should do better to apply directly to your majesty.
We were persuaded you would have taken it amiss had we deprived
the queen of her smallest pleasure, and especially as we consider
you, my dear brother, the father of the family, and hope you will
be so gracious as to help us. We shall never forget the kind acts
of your majesty. We beg you to be persuaded of the perfect and
tender attachment with which we are proud to be, all our lives,
your majesty’s most humble sisters and servants,

LOUISE ULRIQUE,
“ANNE AMELIA.

“P.S. - I most humbly beg your majesty not to speak of this to
the queen-mother, as perhaps she would not approve of the step we
are now taking.

ANN AMELIA.”[72]

About this time Frederick was somewhat alarmed by a statement issued
by the court of Austria, that the emperor, Charles Albert, was no
legitimate emperor at all; that the election was not valid; and that
Austria, which had the emperor’s kingdom of Bavaria by the throat,
insisted upon compensation for the Silesia she had lost. It was evident
that Maria Theresa, whose armies were every where successful, was
determined that her husband, Duke Francis, should be decorated with
the imperial crown. It now seemed probable that she would be able to
accomplish her design. Frederick was alarmed, and deemed it necessary
to strengthen himself by matrimonial alliances.

The heir to the Russian throne was an orphan boy, Peter Federowitz.
The Russian court was looking around to obtain for him a suitable
wife. Frederick’s commandant at Stettin, a man of renowned lineage,
had a beautiful daughter of fourteen. She was a buxom girl, full of
life as she frolicked upon the ramparts of the fortress with her young
companions. Frederick succeeded in obtaining her betrothal to the young
Prince of Russia. She was solemnly transferred from the Protestant to
the Greek religion; her name was changed to Catharine; and she was
eventually married, greatly to the satisfaction of Frederick, to the
young Russian czar.

Adolph Frederick was the heir to the throne of Sweden. Successful
diplomacy brought a magnificent embassy from Stockholm to Berlin, to
demand Princess Ulrique as the bride of Sweden’s future king. The
course of love, whether true or false, certainly did in this case run
smooth. The marriage ceremony was attended in Berlin with such splendor
as the Prussian capital had never witnessed before. The beautiful
Ulrique was very much beloved. She was married by proxy, her brother
Augustus William standing in the place of the bridegroom.

All eyes were dimmed with tears as, after a week of brilliant
festivities, she prepared for her departure. The carriages were at the
door to convey her, with her accompanying suite of lords and ladies, to
Stralsund, where the Swedish senate and nobles were to receive her.
The princess entered the royal apartment to take leave of her friends,
dressed in a rose-colored riding-habit trimmed with silver. The vest
which encircled her slender waist was of sea-green, with lappets
and collar of the same. She wore a small English bonnet of black
velvet with a white plume. Her flowing hair hung in ringlets over her
shoulders, bound with rose-colored ribbon.

The king, who was devotedly attached to his sister, and who was very
fond, on all occasions, of composing rhymes which he called poetry,
wrote a very tender ode, bidding her adieu. It commenced with the words

“Partez, ma sœur, partez;
La Suède vous attend, la Suède
vous désire.”

Go, my sister, go;
Sweden waits you, Sweden
wishes you.

“His majesty gave it to her at the moment when she was about to
take leave of the two queens. The princess threw her eyes on it and
fell into a faint. The king had almost done the like. His tears
flowed abundantly. The princes and princesses were overcome with
sorrow. At last Gotter judged it time to put an end to this tragic
scene. He entered the hall almost like Boreas in the ballet of “The
Rose” - that is to say, with a crash. He made one or two whirlwinds,
clove the press, and snatched away the princess from the arms of the
queen-mother, took her in his own, and whisked her out of the hall. All
the world followed. The carriages were waiting in the court, and the
princess in a moment found herself in hers.

“I was in such a state I know not how we got down stairs. I remember
only that it was in a concert of lamentable sobbings. Madame, the
Marchioness of Schwedt, who had been named to attend the princess to
Stralsund, on the Swedish frontier, this high lady, and the two dames
D’Atours, who were for Sweden itself, having sprung into the same
carriage, the door of it was shut with a slam, the postillions cracked,
the carriage shot away, and disappeared from our eyes. In a moment the
king and court lost sight of the beloved Ulrique forever.”[73]

Frederick was far from being an amiable man. He would often cruelly
banter his companions, knowing that it was impossible for them to
indulge in any retort. Baron Pöllnitz was a very weak old man, who
had several times changed his religion to subserve his private
interests. He had been rather a petted courtier during three reigns.
Now, in extreme old age, and weary of the world, he wished to renounce
Protestantism, and to enter the cloisters of the convent in preparation
for death. He applied to the king for permission to do so. Frederick
furnished him with the following sarcastic parting testimony. It was
widely circulated through many of the journals of that day, exciting
peals of laughter as a capital royal joke:

“Whereas the Baron De Pöllnitz, born of honest parents, so far
as we know, having served our grandfather as gentleman of the
chamber, Madame D’Orleans in the same rank, the King of Spain as
colonel, the deceased Emperor Charles VI. as captain of horse,
the pope as chamberlain, the Duke of Brunswick as chamberlain,
the Duke of Weimar as ensign, our father as chamberlain, and, in
fine, _us_ as grand master of ceremonies, has, notwithstanding
such accumulation of honors, become disgusted with the world, and
requests of us a parting testimony;

“We, remembering his important services to our house in diverting
for nine years long the late king our father, and doing the
honors of our court through the now reign, can not refuse such
request. We do hereby certify that the said Baron Pöllnitz has
never assassinated, robbed on the highway, poisoned, forcibly
cut purses, or done other atrocity or legal crime at our court;
but that he has always maintained gentlemanly behavior, making
not more than honest use of the industry and talents he has
been endowed with at birth; imitating the object of the drama -
that is, correcting mankind by gentle quizzing - following in
the matter of sobriety Boerhaave’s counsels, pushing Christian



Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 26 of 52)