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Copyright, 1901,



Catharine II., Empress of Russia Frontispiece

Hand-painted photogravure after Rosselin.

Frederick the Great Playing His Flute 131

Photogravure after Gerome.

Empress Maria Theresa 261

Photogravui'e after StaaL



/ 1 14

PIQUANT entertainment used to be found by our grand-
sires and dames in "secret memoirs" and "Mys-
teries " of high life. London and Paris each main-
tained its school for scandal, with an organ department
in which the merest snatch of table-tattle was worked up
into a fine fantasia of delicious mischief. In those ante-
diluvian days there was a great gulf fixed between Peo-
ple who were People, and the people who were not.
"Middle" and "Upper-Middle" — class scientific culture
had not yet extended much beyond the musical glasses
and a pious craze to explore the polar region of the court
circle. The conscious nether world revelled in envious
awe as it got these glimpses of distant spheres and gloried
as it found their denizens frail. It was the day of a
Paul Pry press, before the advent of the instrument with
telescopic range and microscopic penetration, which could
not but slacken interest in one constellation by revealing
so much of so many.

There has been too pharisaical a view taken of the old-
fashioned secret memoir. The gathering of facts known
to the entourage of great personages, which throw even
the fiercest glare upon those whose prominence chal-
lenges it, is not strictly a scandalous act though it may
include scandals. The strong man bade his artist paint
"warts and all." If society's head is sufficiently impor-
tant to be portrayed for posterity, as it assuredly is, bet-
ter it should be a portrait than a picture. Court
chronicles were historical counterfeits. The demi-godded
folk whose diplomatic marriages were deftly contrived to
keep the business in the family, were by these veracious
records of personal observations shown to be really humans.
Rummage collections of faded letters with fadeless memories
completed the Garlands which Friendship placed on the brovr
of the Great. The only corrective of pseudo-historical biog-
raphy was the "secret" memoir, to which posterity owes



more substantial acknowledgements than its afTccted blush
fully expresses or hides.

Frederick the uniquely great is one of the few about
whom we cannot know too much. Mirabcau came late
on the scene, but brought with him such qualifications
as a chronicler of royal and courtly and plebeian every-
day passion-play acting as have seldom been so handily
combined under one hat. He had passed the stiffest
courses in the university of the world with honors and
dishonors. A stranger career was never run to a sad-
der and more momentous ending. The wine may drink
as lusciously out of a pipkin as a golden goblet, but
only an exceptionally gifted observer is competent to
make a study of outlandish men, manners, or movements.

Mirabeau's father was of the very last type that should
have been chosen to pose, or rather impose, paternally
over such a son. Born with a giant's capacity for public
service and private mischief the young Count's unfortu-
nate physiognomy won him the positive hatred of his
Marquis father, who printed himself for the world to
admire as "The Friend of Humanity," though he dropped
the r in the case of his brilliant son. Young Mirabeau
early became an expert in prison life, although not a legal
prisoner. His boy-amours were the excuse for the father's
lavish use of lettres-de-cacJiet^ by means of which con-
venient rod he chastised the lad with years of prison
odium. Philosopher though the Marquis supposed him-
self to be it was beyond him to perceive that thrashing
a flour-sack or a boy is an excellent way to waste the
fine and retain the course. The sorely handicapped youth
lost his army chance by one escapade. Next, to facilitate
affairs with a somewhat reluctant heiress, he used her
maid, by arrangement, to hasten the gainful marriage.
His. income was small, but his debts did honor to his
rank and talent. For this a paternal lettre-de-cachet placed
him again in limbo, which was not cheered by the
quarreling that accompanied his wife's visits. Three
years after the marriage Mirabeau's confessedly forbidding
face did not hinder a romantic attachment with Sophie
de Ruffey, the eighteen-year-old wife of a rich man of
sixty. Once again a lettre caged him but he escaped to


Holland, where the adoring Sophie followed him. This
was in 1776, Gabriel in his twenty-seventh year. He
dwelt in the Dutch Grub Street for a year, expert and
diligent at all pen-work, solaced by the news that only
his effigy had been duly executed under the death sen-
tence his parent had secured. The confiscation also pro-
nounced did not add to his poverty. By and by both
were spied out, arrested, and brought back, the result
being three years and a half in Vincennes Castle, apart
from his Sophie. The outcome of his confinement was a
batch of books, the ^'•Erotica Biblion," and such like effusions
of a genius, goaded like Burns's, when its tottery steps
should have been gently led.

Being free once more in 1780 Mirabeau made his first
effort in forensic pleading, urging the annulment of the
extreme sentence. This his eloquence won, but not his
repeated pleas for the restitution of conjugal rights with
Sophie, now enjoying a separate income from her divorced
husband. In 1784 Mirabeau went to England, accom-
panied by the daughter of a well-to-do citizen of Holland.
He was received into distinguished society, and justice
was done to his great talents, without condonation of his
least pardonable faults. On returning to Paris he fell
into the toils of a shameless creature who had ulterior
schemes in view. His desertion of the devoted Madame
de Nehra is still inexplicable.

He had established a certain claim to statesmanship by
some writings, and Franklin had moved him to write his
famous plea for the order of the Cincinnati, which was
translated into English. In 1786 he went on a secret
mission to the Prussian Court. Events in France were
leading up to the breach between King and commoners.
Mirabeau never sold a principle nor advocated for a fee
a cause in which he had no faith, but it is true that his
impecuniosity, at mid-age and at the turning point be-
tween drifting and leadership, led him to accept from
the King's friends the wherewithal to clear his debts and
take up the patriotic work which he alone had the sagacity,
opportunity, and the genius effectively to do. The rest
is familiar. He saw where the nation was being whirled,
his eloquence and experience of the English compromise


government devolved on him the high duty of guiding
the helm of state. His hour had come, but the ripened
statesman found it was also his hour of doom for the
sins of a defiant physique. Strong and tall, bulldog
mien, Goethe's eyes, sensual, ambitious, vain of person,
and of an eloquence that could have saved his country
one indelible reproach, he died when supremely needed
by his people, and was only forty-two. The picture re-
calls Gambetta.

Mirabeau conversed with Frederick in the old man's last
illness. His report went up to the French King through
M. Calonne and the Duke de Lauzun. It led to nothing
in the way of definite assistance for the monarchy. He
gathered materials for his masterly work on the Prussian
monarchy, and the Prussian and Saxon States, published
in four volumes in 1788. Next year Mirabeau issued the
present work, in two volumes, '"'■ Histoire Secrete et Anec-
dotes de la cour de Berlin^" in two octavo volumes. A
little reign of terror was inaugurated in royalty circles
by this startling work. Some sort of demonstration had
to be made, so, in cousinly affection as between King
and King poor Mirabeau's rich book was condemned by
the Parliament of Paris to be publicly burned by the com-
mon hangman, an honor once appreciated by Voltaire.
Its offense was the disrespectful treatment of the reign-
ing King and other great personages in the course of its
exposure of intrigues by princes and courtesans in the
shadow of the Court.

As for the great Frederick himself, even scandals took
on a greatness to which they had no claim, by flickering
around his crown. The religious world was scandalized
by his anticipation of Huxleyan agnosticism, which was then,
too, dubbed "atheism." Goody-goodyism languished into
fits at his masculine toleration of fancy faiths. A man so
bad must be a worse King. His training, temperament,
and ascetic habits in all but eating were well known, but
the peccadilloes of any youthful lordling must necessarily
magnify into unspeakable vices if stumbled into by wearers
of purple, who are the wicked world's mark for temptation.

Frederick married to please his father, who out-Mira-
beaued Mirabeau pi:re in outrageous misrule of his son.


He married at twenty-two and took the crown at twenty-
eight. Thenceforward his heart went out to strong men,
to men of genius, men of his own stamp, men and not ^
women. For the last half of his reign Frederick dined
with his amiable consort; when they met at table the
King bowed to the Queen and the Queen to the King,
but they never conversed. He paid her the customary
pretty gift courtesies on anniversary days, and once went
to her room to tell his regrets over her gouty seizure,
but converse they never did all those years, and she sur-
vived him by eleven.

The Court of Frederick had its full sheaf of eight-
eenth century scandals. His relations, his henchmen, the
distinguished writers, musicians, philosophers (alas!) had
their foibles and met their fascinating fates in that once
upon a time Liberty Hall. As already observed, even these
small-beer chronicles have their legitimate and even ad-
mirable historical uses. The flamboyant schools always
paint "personages" posing as sublimities, and it requires
the faithful pencil of the old Dutch realist to complete
the vraisembla7ice to life. Frederick, as King at least, was
no voluptuary. Indeed it was thought an act of pious
duty to vindicate his memory from a slander of the most
unlikely kind, by making a post-mortem examination akin
to that decreed to be made prior to the election of each
Pope. He was first and last a soldier and a martinet,
afflicted with a weakness for mistaking feminine grace
for insipidity and womanliness as either wanton or prud-
ish extremes. He showered alternate contempt and fe-
rocious hatred on men he had thought were proof to
sparkling eyes. And yet, no court more than his was
swayed by the mysterious influence that blows where it
listeth and is not seen until its work is virtually done.
These secret memoirs are, of course, excellent reading,
racy of the temper of the writer and of his subject and
the times.


Introduction ix

Editor's Preface i

Letter I. Recommends the Abbe de P6rigord, afterward Prince

de Talleyrand 17

Letter II. Last illness of Frederick the Great 20

Letter III. The Duke of Brunswick, his public and private

character 22

Letter IV. Prospects in the event of the King's death .... 30

Letter V. Talk of an alliance between France, England, and
Prussia. The King dropsical, but will not give up his
favorite eel pies 41

Letter VI. The author receives a snub and prepares to dissemble 44

Letter VII. Court gossip; Frederick devotes more time to pine-
apples than politics 46

Letter VIII. Thinks the King cannot survive longer than two

months. The Heir Apparent and Mademoiselle Voss ... 49

Letter IX. Rumor that the King of Sweden has turned Catholic;

Russian intrigues 50

Letter X. The King very unwilling to die ; resents the mention of

dropsy 52

Letter XI. Erysipelas and gangrene set in 54

Letter XII. His dangerously voracious appetite 55

Letter XIII. Uncertainties as to the policy of the King-to-be;
doubtful if he has system, understanding, or character. The
old King eats of ten or twelve highly seasoned dishes at dinner
every day 56

Letter XIV. Death of Frederick the Great ; ate a lobster a few
hours before the end; the author's efforts to forestall the
French Ambassador in sending the news by pigeon express . 6r

Letter XV. The new King leans toward the French as against

the English system 65

Letter XVI. Prince Henry aflfirms that the King is entirely
French ; the will of Frederick the Great; his affection for his
dogs; the new Ministry 68

Letter XVII. Character sketch of Prince Henry; the author as

diplomatist 73

Letter XVIII. The King reforms his habits, does not look at

Mademoiselle Voss ; is somewhat penurious 76




Lktter XIX. His favorites; Goltz the Tartar, Houlct the honest,

Goertz the able 80

Lktter XX. Remonstrance with the Due de ; Prince Henry

.stranded on the rock of vanity ; a strong plea for friendly ap-
proaches to the King by the French government 83

Letter XXL The ' ' gallomania " of Prince Henry is prejudicing the
cause of France ; the Duke of Brunswick the coming strong
man ; troubles over Holland ; the King ennobles his son by
Madame Rietz 87

Letter XXH. The Duke plays with Prince Henry ; a Grand Duchess

Delilah ; manoeuvering for Russia's friendship 94

Letter XXIIL Interment of Frederick the Great; neither in taste

nor splendor equal to state funerals in Paris 100

Letter XXIV. Plea for more active and shrewd diplomacy by

France 103

Letter XXV. A weak ruler and intriguing counselors . . . .105

Letter XXVI. Stuterheim and Gudschmidt, prudent Ministers;
qualifications for successful diplomatists; sketch of the Elector
of Bavaria 107

Letter XXVII. Dufour, exjourneyman barber, his influence over

the Heir Apparent; objections to an Austro- Prussian alliance. 112

Letter XXVIII. Frederick the Great, his long defiance of a disease

which would have killed ten men 116

Letter XXIX. Russia's project to steal a march on India ; possible

alliance between France and England 119

Letter XXX. Social blunder of a clumsy Princess ; card-table pre-
cedence; the gay Madame de Vibraye 122

Letter XXXI. Homage to the new King ; mischief-making amateur

diplomatists; brawls and jealousy from Madame Rietz . . . 131

Letter XXXII. King Frederick William's violent temper; plays

the violoncello ; an out-and-out German 137

Letter XXXII I. An undesirable representative; Austria strong

but weakly governed 143

Letter XXXIV. The author's laborious efforts to collect trust-
worthy information; reported accident to the King; growing
power of the Duke 146

Letter XXXV. Concerning Holland, Austria, and Russia; the

Duke of York, a character sketch ; English insolence . . . 152

Letter XXXVl. The case of the unfortunate Lieut. Col. Szekely;

sentenced and pardoned 159

Letter XXXVII. The Duke hopes France will act to prevent war

by Holland; significant conversation with the Duke .... 167

Letter XXXVIII. The Duke meditates the building of a German

empire ; the King hastens to Mademoiselle Voss 174

Letter XXXIX. Secret orgies of the King; does not hate the

French, does not love any nation ; triumph of the Lady Voss . 179

Letter XL. Downfall of Count Herzberg ; Launay. finance minis-
ter, retires ; possibility of the Duke going over to the Emperor. 185



Letter XLI. On French finance and the commercial treaty with

England 190

Letter XLII. Quarrels in the royal household ; Madame Rietz and
Mademoiselle Voss ; the Empress of Russia said to drink too
much champagne 194.

Letter XLIII. Empress Catherine II. a model of sobriety; secret

suppers in the King's palace 194

Letter XLIV. The King rises early; his Court an Augean stable

without a Hercules; Prussian power rotten before ripe . . . 204

Letter XLV. Honors to the son of a cookmaid ; Anhalt threatens

to go over to the Emperor; the baboon-like Voss 209

Letter XLVI. Mirabeau's aspect terrifies the court; is crippled

pecuniarily ; hopes for the Anglo-French alliance 216

Letter XLVII. A scheming woman uses the author to aid her
siege of the King; suspects her as the go-between of Ma-
demoiselle Voss ; the shade of Caesar at a supper .... 220

Letter XLVIII. The King faithful to his old friends; soldiers'
coats that shrank skin-tight; army aristocrats and morals; the
King withdraws a threatened tax 224

Letter XLIX. Fear of a coalition between Austria and Prussia;

the King's debts; the questionable Madame de F . . 231

Letter L. Discontent of the army ; the tobacco monopoly ; free

speech in peril ; the divorced consort of the King .... 236

Letter LI. Industry and commerce in Prussia; urges the natural
force of reciprocity between France and England ; indolence
of the King ; a plea for La Grange 243

Letter LII. A mysterious messenger; Baron Nold6, a friend of
France; a left-handed marriage for Mademoiselle Voss; the
King's four sorts of children; rascally courtiers . . . .251

Letter LIII. The King and his ministers, meddling and muddling;

the mystics in favor; manuscripts of Frederick the Great . . 261

Letter LIV. Character of the King, deceitful, vain, avaricious;
the leading courtiers libertines, shallow flatterers, and adven-
turers 267

Letter LV. The Queen bribed to consent to the King's marriage
with Mademoiselle Voss ; prodigal yet not generous ; building
at Potsdam 275

Letter LVI. Sketch of the King's officers; new taxes imposed,
the King orders his subjects to be numbered ; the ladies Rietz
and Voss and the screen scene 278

Letter LVII. The cup of Circe filled with beer; the magic of a

yellow riband; court snarls; troubles in the silk trade . . 284

Letter LVIII. Madame Rietz asks for an estate; Corporal Schlag;
Prince Henry discouraged; the kingdom neglected because
the King is in love 290

Letter LIX. The peculiarities of Count Nostitz ; Madame Rietz

wants a Margraviate ; gambling forbidden ; the land question . 295



Letter LX. The Queen blind to her husband's amours ; the Prince
Royal an echo of Frederick the Great; unfair treatment of
Launay ; pays a debt incurred by Frederick the Great when
Prince 301

Letter LXI. Miscellaneous distribution of honors; the question-
able marriage deferred ; memorial against the capitation tax . 306

Letter LXII. The Dutch envoy makes overtures to Mirabeau;
delicate position of affairs between France, Prussia, and Hol-
land; hopeless confusion around the King 314

Letter LXIII. Affairs in Russia; more gossip about the sus-
pended marriage ; difficulty of suppressing lotto ; Launay de-
parts incognito 325

Letter LXIV. Gambling with Poland; Frederick the Great ne-
gotiates a loan by the gift of a smoked salmon; Voltaire
expected a famous diamond and got a keg of wine ; Mirabeau
demands adequate recognition of his services 330

Letter LXV. A Sans Souci house for Mademoiselle Voss ; pros-
pects of her growing power; smuggling the King into heaven
under the bishop's coat tail 338

Letter LXVL Mirabeau's final letter; endowing Mademoiselle

Voss; new taxes on cards, wines, oysters, etc. ; the outlook . 345

Appendix. Memorial presented to Frederick William II., King of
Prussia, on the Day of bis Accession to the Throne, by Comte
de Mirabeau.

This was published as the author's reply to the accusation
of having "presented the reigning King of Prussia with a
libel against the immortal Frederick II." 353-85


To *^ The Secret History of the Court of Berlin,**
AND to the ** Key * of that History.

Mirabeau, exiled to Prussia on a secret mission, has
left behind him, in the following work, a curious
account of his sojourn at the Court of Frederick
the Great. It is generally supposed that these letters
were addressed to Calonne.

The last moments of Frederick are therein depicted in
a vivid and lifelike manner, and every portrait that Mira-
beau essayed to paint bears the mark of a master's hand.
However, Frederick dies, and the writer has no longer
anything but low intrignes to depict, as he is now sur-
rounded only by little men and little interests.

If he is reproached with including in this work several
scandalous revelations, it must be remembered that ** The
Secret History ** was never intended to see the light of
day, and that it was quite contrary to the author's wishes
that it was published. It was also in direct opposition
to his wishes that the " Lettres h Sophie, ** and others of
his productions, were issued.

The manuscript of " The Secret History " was stolen,
sold to Malassis, a printer of Alengon, and published by
him as a work by an unknown traveler who had died
about a year previously in a village in Germany. Twenty
thousand copies of the book were speedily disposed of.

The original manuscript, in Mirabeau's handwriting,
remained in the printer's possession, and great care was
taken that, in every edition issued by him, all the names
and certain passages were suppressed and indicated by
asterisks only. Unfortunately, the manuscript was sub-
sequently burned. M. Dubois-du-Desert, who had the
privilege of inspecting this manuscript before its destruc-
tion, has communicated to us all the names, of which he
had taken a note. This it is that is known as the " Key "
I (I)


to ** The Secret History. " A very small number of the
names have been lost, and it is impossible for us, after
this lon^ interval, to repair these omissions.

The following are some appropriate reflections included
in the Preface, written by M. Brissot-Thivars, for the
edition of 1821 :

" The ministerial modesty, which so easily reconciled
itself to the secret picture of the licentiousness of a
neighboring Court, grew much alarmed at the prospect
of a similar picture of their own Court being exhibited
to the public gaze. The Government received orders to
confiscate the book, and to prosecute the author, who
had disappeared under an anonymous name. Meanwhile
the public were much rejoiced at the ill humor displayed
by the Court.

" The Etats-G^n&aux were convoked, the nobility re-
pulsed Mirabcau, the Commons welcomed him with open
arms, and the privileged classes heaped insults and abuse
upon the author of * The Secret History. * "

Among the most noticeable pamphlets issued at this
period, was one entitled " L ' Examen politique et critique
de I Histoire secrite de la Cour de Berlin^'*'* par Fr^d&ic,
Baron dc Trenck*

^* The Baron de Trenck was a Prussian, and had, there-
fore, some right to enter the lists. It was also to his
interest to do so, as for some time he had been in bad
odor with his Government, and he was only too re-
joiced to purchase his pardon by breaking a lance in
honor of his country.

" Mirabeau pretends that the Prussians are a dull people.
The Baron de Trenck admits that this is the case; but,
he adds, they are so systematically.

" Mirabeau hints that the two sons of Prince Ferdi-
nand are really the sons of the Comte de Schmettau. The
' Baron de Trenck replies that he has closely examined
the children of Princess Ferdinand. *They are,^ he says,
* destined to occupy glorious positions in the House of

*« Political and Critical Examination of the Secret History of the
Court of Berlin, » by Fr^d^ric, Baron de Trenck. A thick 8vo volume.
The Baron de Trenck was known by his misfortunes and by his sundry


Brandenburg. I would never guarantee,* he adds, *the
birth of any man; all that I can certify is that he is the
son of a man. It is to be hoped that, in certain Euro-
pean royal families, they will act as they do in England
toward the race horses. It is unnecessary and absurd
to try and discover who are the fathers of the kings who
rule over us. It is often much better that they owe
their existence to wise and vigorous plebeians than to
a self-styled " noble " race, which is in no way superior
to others, save by an opinion based upon absurd prej-
udices. I heartily congratulate Prince Ferdinand on be-
ing the head of so interesting a family.*

" Mirabeau, having related some amorous scenes of
Frederick William, the Baron gravely examines the two
following questions:

" I. Is it true that the King of Prussia is fond of
women? Nobody doubts it.

" 2. Is this a crime in a king? William, in love, is
capable of a tender attachment. He understands how
to value his mistress. Refined and sensitive, it is by
the personal interest that he inspires, that he endeavors
to find favor in the eyes of the woman he loves. He

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