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

History of Frederick the Second online

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hats were nearly a yard in diameter. Immense wigs reached to their
heels; and all other parts of the French court costume were caricatured
in the most grotesque manner possible. As soon as the French embassy
appeared, there was a great sound of trumpets and martial bands from
another part of the field, and these harlequins were brought forward
to the gaze of every eye, and conspicuously to the view of Count
Rothenburg and his companions. Military discipline prevented any
outburst of derisive laughter. Perfect silence reigned. The king sat
upon his horse as stolid and grim as fate. Count Rothenburg yielded to
this gross discourtesy of the king, and ever after, while he remained
in Berlin, wore a plain German costume.

Frederick William was very anxious that little Fritz should be
trained to warlike tastes and habits; that, like himself, he should
scorn all effeminacy; that, wearing homespun clothes, eating frugal
food, despising all pursuits of pleasure and all literary tastes, he
should be every inch a soldier. But, to the bitter disappointment
of the father, the child manifested no taste for soldiering. He was
gentle, affectionate, fond of books and music,[4] and with an almost
feminine love clung to his sister. The stern old king was not only
disappointed, but angered. These were qualities which he deemed
unmanly, and which he thoroughly despised.

[Illustration: THE LITTLE DRUMMER.]

One day the father, returning home, found, to his inexpressible
delight, little Fritz strutting about beating a drum, with Wilhelmina
marching by his side. The king could scarcely restrain his joy. At last
the military element was being developed in his child. He hastened
with the tidings to his wife, whom he called by the pet name of
“Phiekin” - a word apparently coined from Sophie. The matter was talked
about all over the palace. A painter was sent for to transfer the
scene to canvas. This picture, greatly admired, still hangs upon the
walls of the Charlottenburg palace. Of this picture Carlyle writes:
“Fritz is still, if not in ‘long-clothes,’ at least in longish and
flowing clothes of the petticoat sort, which look as of dark blue
velvet, very simple, pretty, and appropriate; in a cap of the same;
has a short raven’s feather in the cap, and looks up with a face and
eyes full of beautiful vivacity and child’s enthusiasm, one of the
beautifulest little figures, while the little drum responds to his bits
of drumsticks. Sister Wilhelmina, taller by some three years, looks on
in pretty stooping attitude, and with a graver smile. Blackamoor and
room-furniture elegant enough; and finally the figure of a grenadier on
guard, seen far off through an open window, make up the background.”

The early governess of little Fritz was a French lady of much
refinement and culture, Madame Racoule. She was in entire sympathy with
her pupil. Their tastes were in harmony. Fritz became as familiar with
the French language as if it were his mother tongue. Probably through
her influence he acquired that fondness for French literature and that
taste for French elegance which continued with him through life.

When the child was but six years of age his father organized a
miniature soldiers’ company for him, consisting of one hundred lads.
Gradually the number was increased to three hundred. The band was
called “The Crown Prince Cadets.” A very spirited, mature boy of
seventeen, named Rentzel, was drill-sergeant, while an experienced
colonel was appointed commander-in-chief. Fritz was very thoroughly
instructed in his duties, and was furnished with a military dress,
almost the fac-simile of that which his father wore. An arsenal was
also provided for the child on the palace grounds at Potsdam, where
he mounted batteries and practiced gunnery with small brass ordnance.
Nothing was omitted which could inspire the prince with military
enthusiasm, and render him skillful in the art of war. A Prussian
gentleman of letters testifies as follows respecting Fritz in his
seventh year:

“The Crown Prince manifests in this tender age an uncommon capacity,
nay, we may say, something quite extraordinary. He is a most alert
and vivacious prince. He has fine and sprightly manners, and shows a
certain kindly sociality and so affectionate a disposition that all
things may be hoped of him. The French lady who has had charge of him
hitherto can not speak of him without enthusiasm. ‘He is a little
angel,’ she is wont to say. He takes up and learns whatever is placed
before him with the greatest facility.”

[Illustration: THE ARSENAL.]

When Fritz was seven years of age, he was taken from the care of his
female teachers and placed under tutors who had been carefully selected
for him. They were all military officers who had won renown on fields
of blood. The first of these was M. Duhan, a French gentleman of
good birth and acquirements. He was but thirty years of age. By his
accomplishments he won the esteem, and by his amiability the love, of
his pupil. Count Finkenstein, the second, was a veteran general, sixty
years old, who also secured the affections of little Fritz. Colonel
Kalkstein was twenty-eight years of age. He was a thorough soldier
and a man of honor. For forty years, until his death, he retained the
regards of his pupil, who was ever accustomed to speak of him as “my
master Kalkstein.” In the education of the young prince every thing
was conducted in accordance with the most inflexible routine. From the
minute directions given to the teachers in a document drawn up by the
father, bunglingly expressed and wretchedly spelled, we cull out the

“My son must be impressed with love and fear of God, as the foundation
of our temporal and eternal welfare. No false religions or sects of
Atheist, Arian, Socinian, or whatever name the poisonous things have,
which can so easily corrupt a young mind, are to be even named in his
hearing. He is to be taught a proper abhorrence of papistry, and to
be shown its baselessness and nonsensicality. Impress on him the true
religion, which consists essentially in this, that Christ died for all
men. He is to learn no Latin, but French and German, so as to speak and
write with brevity and propriety.

“Let him learn arithmetic, mathematics, artillery, economy, to the
very bottom; history in particular; ancient history only slightly,
but the history of the last hundred and fifty years to the exactest
pitch. He must be completely master of geography, as also of whatever
is remarkable in each country. With increasing years you will more and
more, to an especial degree, go upon fortification, the formation of a
camp, and other war sciences, that the prince may, from youth upward,
be trained to act as officer and general, and to seek all his glory in
the soldier profession. You have, in the highest measure, to make it
your care to infuse into my son a true love for the soldier business,
and to impress on him that, as there is nothing in the world which
can bring a prince renown and honor like the sword, so he would be a
despised creature before all men if he did not love it and seek his
glory therein.”

In October, 1723, when the prince was eleven years of age, his
grandfather, George I., came to Berlin to visit his daughter and his
son-in-law, the mother and father of Fritz. From the windows of his
apartment he looked out with much interest upon Fritz, drilling his
cadet company upon the esplanade in front of the palace. The clock-work
precision of the movements of the boy soldiers greatly surprised him.

Every year Frederick William rigorously reviewed all his garrisons.
Though accompanied by a numerous staff, he traveled with Spartan
simplicity, regardless of exposure and fatigue. From an early age he
took Fritz with him on these annual reviews. A common vehicle, called
the sausage car, and which was the most primitive of carriages, was
often used by the king in his rough travels and hunting excursions.
This consisted of a mere stuffed pole, some ten or twelve feet long,
upon which one sits astride, as if riding a rail. It rested upon
wheels, probably with a sort of stirrup for the feet, and the riders,
ten or a dozen, were rattled along over the rough roads, through dust
or mud, alike regardless of winter’s frost or summer’s rain. The
cast-iron king, rejoicing in hardship and exposure, robbed his delicate
child even of needful sleep, saying, “Too much sleep stupefies a

[Illustration: THE SAUSAGE CAR.]

This rude, coarse discipline was thoroughly uncongenial to the Crown
Prince. He was a boy of delicate feelings and sensitive temperament.
The poetic nature very decidedly predominated in him. He was fond of
music, played the flute, wrote verses, and was literary in his tastes.
He simply hated chasing boars, riding on the sausage car, and being
drenched with rain and spattered with mud. The old king, a mere animal
with an active intellect, could not appreciate, could not understand
even, the delicate mental and physical organization of his child.
It is interesting to observe how early in life these constitutional
characteristics will develop themselves, and how unavailing are all
the efforts of education entirely to obliterate them. When Frederick
William was a boy, he received, as a present, a truly magnificent
dressing-gown, of graceful French fashion, richly embroidered with
gold. Indignantly he thrust the robe into the fire, declaring that he
would wear no such finery, and demanded instead a jacket of wholesome
homespun. Fritz, on the contrary, could not endure the coarse homespun,
but, with almost girlish fondness, craved handsome dress. He had no
money allowance until he was seventeen years of age. A minute account
was kept of every penny expended for him, and the most rigid economy
was practiced in providing him with the mere necessaries of life. When
Fritz was in the tenth year of his age, his father gave the following
curious directions to the three teachers of his son in reference to his
daily mode of life. The document, an abridgment of which we give, was
dated Wusterhausen, September 3, 1721:

“On Sunday he is to rise at seven o’clock, and, as soon as he has got
his slippers on, shall kneel at his bedside and pray to God, so as all
in the room may hear, in these words:

“‘Lord God, blessed Father, I thank thee from my heart that thou hast
so graciously preserved me through this night. Fit me for what thy holy
will is, and grant that I do nothing this day, nor all the days of my
life, which can divide me from thee; for the Lord Jesus my Redeemer’s
sake. Amen.’

“After which the Lord’s Prayer; then rapidly and vigorously wash
himself clean; dress, and powder, and comb himself. While they are
combing and queuing him, he is to breakfast on tea. Prayer, washing,
breakfast, and the rest to be done pointedly within fifteen minutes.

“This finished, his domestics and preceptor, Duhan, shall come in
and perform family worship. Prayer on their knees. Duhan to read a
chapter of the Bible, and sing some proper psalm or hymn. All the
domestics then withdraw, and Duhan reads my son the Gospel of the
Sunday, expounds it a little, adducing the main points of Christianity,
and questioning him from Noltenius’s Catechism. It will then be nine

“At nine o’clock he brings my son down to me, who goes to church and
dines with me at twelve o’clock. The rest of the day is his own. At
half past nine in the evening he shall come and bid me good-night;
shall then go directly to his room; very rapidly get off his clothes,
wash his hands, and, as soon as that is done, Duhan shall make a prayer
on his knees and sing a hymn, all the servants being there again.
Instantly after which my son shall get into bed; shall be _in_ bed at
half past ten.

“On Monday, as on all week-days, he is to be called at six o’clock, and
so soon as he is called he is to rise. You are to stand by him that
he do not loiter or turn in bed, but briskly and at once get up and
say his prayers the same as on Sunday morning. This done, he shall, as
rapidly as he can, get on his shoes and spatterdashes, also wash his
face and hands, but not with soap; shall put on his dressing-gown, have
his hair combed and queued, but not powdered. While being combed and
queued, he shall, at the same time, take breakfast of tea, so that both
jobs go on at once; and all this shall be ended before half past six.
Preceptor and domestics shall then come in with Bible and hymn-books,
and have family worship as on Sunday. This shall be done by seven

“From seven till nine Duhan takes him on history; at nine o’clock comes
Noltenius” (a clergyman from Berlin) “with the Christian religion till
a quarter to eleven. Then Fritz rapidly washes his face with water, his
hands with soap and water; clean shirt; powders and puts on his coat.
At eleven o’clock he comes to the king, dines with him at twelve, and
stays till two.

“Directly at two he goes back to his room. Duhan is then ready; takes
him upon maps and geography from two to three o’clock, giving account
of all the European kingdoms, their strength and weakness; the size,
riches, and poverty of their towns. From three o’clock till four Duhan
shall treat of morality; from four till five shall write German letters
with him, and see that he gets a good style. About five o’clock Fritz
shall wash his hands and go to the king; ride out, and divert himself
in the air, and not in his room, and do what he likes if it is not
against God.”

Thus the employments of every hour were strictly specified for every
day in the week. On Wednesday he had a partial holiday. After half
past nine, having finished his history and “got something by heart to
strengthen the memory, Fritz shall rapidly dress himself and come to
the king, and the rest of the day belongs to little Fritz.” On Saturday
he was to be reviewed in all the studies of the week, “to see whether
he has profited. General Finkenstein and Colonel Kalkstein shall be
present during this. If Fritz has profited, the afternoon shall be his
own. If he has not profited, he shall from two o’clock till six repeat
and learn rightly what he has forgotten on the past days. In undressing
and dressing, you must accustom him to get out of and into his clothes
as fast as is humanly possible. You will also look that he learn to put
on and put off his clothes himself, without help from others, and that
he be clean, and neat, and not so dirty.”



The Palace of Wusterhausen. - Wilhelmina and Fritz. - Education of
the Crown Prince. - Rising Dislike of the Father for his Son. - The
Mother’s Sympathy. - The double Marriage. - Character of George I. -
The King of England visits Berlin. - Wilhelmina’s Account of the
Interview. - Sad Fate of the Wife of George I. - The Giant Guard. -
Despotism of Frederick William. - The Tobacco Parliament. - A
brutal Scene. - Death of George I. - The Royal Family of Prussia. -
Augustus, King of Poland. - Corruption of his Court. - Cruel
Treatment of Fritz. - Insane Conduct of the King.

Wusterhausen, where the young Crown Prince spent many of these early
years of his life, was a rural retreat of the king about twenty miles
southeast from Berlin. The palace consisted of a plain, unornamented,
rectangular pile, surrounded by numerous outbuildings, and rising
from the midst of low and swampy grounds tangled with thickets and
interspersed with fish-pools. Game of all kinds abounded in those
lakelets, sluggish streams, and jungles.

In the court-yard there was a fountain with stone steps, where
Frederick William loved to sit on summer evenings and smoke his pipe.
He frequently took his frugal dinner here in the open air under a
lime-tree, with the additional protection of an awning. After dinner
he would throw himself down for a nap on a wooden bench, apparently
regardless of the flaming sun.

There seems to have been but little which was attractive about this
castle. It was surrounded by a moat, which Wilhelmina describes as a
“black, abominable ditch.” Its pets were shrieking eagles, and two
black bears ugly and vicious. Its interior accommodations were at
the farthest possible remove from luxurious indulgence. “It was a
dreadfully crowded place,” says Wilhelmina, “where you are stuffed into
garrets and have not room to turn.”

Still Wusterhausen was but a hunting-lodge, which was occupied by
the king only during a few weeks in the autumn. Fritz had many
playmates - his brothers and sisters, his cousins, and the children of
General Finkenstein. To most boys, the streams, and groves, and ponds
of Wusterhausen, abounding with fish and all kinds of game, with ponies
to drive and boats to row, with picturesque walks and drives, would
have been full of charms. But the tastes of Fritz did not lie in that
direction. He does not seem to have become strongly attached to any of
his young companions, except to his sister Wilhelmina. The affection
and confidence which united their hearts were truly beautiful. They
encountered together some of the severest of life’s trials, but
heartfelt sympathy united them. The nickname which these children gave
their unamiable father was _Stumpy_.

There were other abodes of the king, the Berlin and Potsdam palaces,
which retained much of the splendor with which they had been
embellished by the splendor-loving monarch, Frederick I. There were but
few regal mansions in the world which then surpassed them. And though
the king furnished his own apartments with Spartan simplicity and
rudeness, there were other portions of these royal residences, as also
their surroundings in general, which were magnificent in the highest
degree. The health of little Fritz was rather frail, and at times he
found it hard to devote himself to his sturdy tasks with the energy
which his father required.

Though Fritz wrote a legible business hand, was well instructed in most
points of useful knowledge, and had a very decided taste for elegant
literature, he never attained correctness in spelling. The father
was bitterly opposed to Latin. Perhaps it was the prohibition which
inspired the son with an intense desire to learn that language. He took
secret lessons. His vigilant father caught him in the very act, with
dictionary and grammar, and a teacher by his side. The infuriated king,
volleying forth his rage, would have caned the teacher had he not in
terror fled.[5]

The king soon learned, to his inexpressible displeasure and
mortification, that his boy was not soldierly in his tastes; that he
did not love the rude adventures of the chase, or the exposure and
hardships which a martial life demands. He had caught Fritz playing the
flute, and even writing verses. He saw that he was fond of graceful
attire, and that he was disposed to dress his hair in the French
fashion. He was a remarkably handsome boy, of fine figure, with a
lady’s hand and foot, and soft blonde locks carefully combed. All this
the king despised. Scornfully and indignantly he exclaimed, “My son is
a flute-player and a poet!” In his vexation he summoned Fritz to his
presence, called in the barber, and ordered his flowing locks to be cut
off, cropped, and soaped in the most rigid style of military cut.

The father was now rapidly forming a strong dislike to the character
of his son. In nothing were they in harmony. Five princesses had been
born, sisters of Fritz. At last another son was born, Augustus William,
ten years younger than Frederick. The king turned his eyes to him,
hoping that he would be more in sympathy with the paternal heart. His
dislike for Fritz grew continually more implacable, until it assumed
the aspect of bitter hatred.

Sophie Dorothee tenderly loved her little Fritz, and, with a mother’s
fondness, endeavored to shield him, in every way in her power, from his
father’s brutality. Wilhelmina also clung to her brother with devotion
which nothing could disturb. Thus both mother and daughter incurred
in some degree the hatred with which the father regarded his son. It
will be remembered that the mother of Fritz was daughter of George I.
of England. Her brother subsequently became George II. He had a son,
Fred, about the age of Wilhelmina, and a daughter, Amelia, six months
older than Fritz. The mother, Sophie Dorothee, had set her heart upon a
double marriage - of Wilhelmina with Fred, and of Fritz with Amelia.
But many obstacles arose in the way of these nuptials.

[Illustration: MAKING A SOLDIER OF HIM.]

George was a taciturn, jealous, sullen old man, who quarreled with his
son, who was then Prince of Wales. The other powers of Europe were
decidedly opposed to this double marriage, as it would, in their view,
create too intimate a union between Prussia and England, making them
virtually one. Frederick William also vexatiously threw hinderances
in the way. But the heart of the loving mother, Sophie Dorothee, was
fixed upon these nuptials. For years she left no efforts of diplomacy
or intrigue untried to accomplish her end. George I. is represented by
Horace Walpole as a stolid, stubborn old German, living in a cloud of
tobacco-smoke, and stupefying his faculties with beer. He had in some
way formed a very unfavorable opinion of Wilhelmina, considering her,
very falsely, ungainly in person and fretful in disposition. But at
last the tact of Sophie Dorothee so far prevailed over her father, the
British king, that he gave his somewhat reluctant but positive consent
to the double matrimonial alliance. This was in 1723. Wilhelmina was
then fourteen years of age. Fritz, but eleven years old, was too young
to think very deeply upon the subject of his marriage. The young
English Fred bore at that time the title of the Duke of Gloucester.
He soon sent an envoy to Prussia, probably to convey to his intended
bride presents and messages of love. The interview took place in the
palace of Charlottenburg, a few miles out from Berlin. The vivacious
Wilhelmina, in the following terms, describes the interview in her

“There came, in those weeks, one of the Duke of Gloucester’s gentlemen
to Berlin. The queen had a soiree. He was presented to her as well
as to me. He made a very obliging compliment on his master’s part. I
blushed and answered only by a courtesy. The queen, who had her eye on
me, was very angry that I had answered the duke’s compliments in mere
silence, and rated me sharply for it, and ordered me, under pain of her
indignation, to repair that fault to-morrow. I retired all in tears to
my room, exasperated against the queen and against the duke. I vowed I
would never marry him.

“Meanwhile the King of England’s time of arrival was drawing nigh. We
repaired on the 6th of October to Charlottenburg to receive him. My
heart kept beating. I was in cruel agitations. King George arrived on
the 8th about seven in the evening. The King of Prussia, the queen, and
all their suite received him in the court of the palace, the apartments
being on the ground floor. So soon as he had saluted the king and queen
I was presented to him. He embraced me, and, turning to the queen,
said, ‘Your daughter is very large of her age.’ He gave the queen his
hand and led her into her apartment, whither every body followed them.
As soon as I came in he took a light from the table and surveyed me
from head to foot. I stood motionless as a statue, and was much put out
of countenance. All this went on without his uttering the least word.
Having thus passed me in review, he addressed himself to my brother,
whom he caressed much and amused himself with for a good while.

“The queen made me a sign to follow her, and passed into a neighboring
apartment, where she had the English and Germans of King George’s suite
successively presented to her. After some talk with these gentlemen she
withdrew, leaving me to entertain them, and saying, ‘Speak English to
my daughter; you will find she speaks it very well.’ I felt much less
embarrassed when the queen was gone, and, picking up a little courage,
entered into conversation with these English. As I spoke their language
like my mother tongue I got pretty well out of the affair, and every
body seemed charmed with me. They made my eulogy to the queen; told her
I had quite the English air, and was made to be their sovereign one
day. It was saying a great deal on their part; for these English think
themselves so much above all other people that they imagine that they
are paying a high compliment when they tell any one he has got English

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 3 of 52)