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Title: History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 01
Author: Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 01" ***

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By Thomas Carlyle


Book I. -- BIRTH AND PARENTAGE. -- 1712.


About fourscore years ago, there used to be seen sauntering on the
terraces of Sans Souci, for a short time in the afternoon, or you might
have met him elsewhere at an earlier hour, riding or driving in a rapid
business manner on the open roads or through the scraggy woods
and avenues of that intricate amphibious Potsdam region, a highly
interesting lean little old man, of alert though slightly stooping
figure; whose name among strangers was King FRIEDRICH THE SECOND, or
Frederick the Great of Prussia, and at home among the common people, who
much loved and esteemed him, was VATER FRITZ,--Father Fred,--a name of
familiarity which had not bred contempt in that instance. He is a King
every inch of him, though without the trappings of a King. Presents
himself in a Spartan simplicity of vesture: no crown but an old military
cocked-hat,--generally old, or trampled and kneaded into absolute
SOFTNESS, if new;--no sceptre but one like Agamemnon's, a walking-stick
cut from the woods, which serves also as a riding-stick (with which he
hits the horse "between the ears," say authors);--and for royal robes,
a mere soldier's blue coat with red facings, coat likely to be old, and
sure to have a good deal of Spanish snuff on the breast of it; rest of
the apparel dim, unobtrusive in color or out, ending in high over-knee
military boots, which may be brushed (and, I hope, kept soft with an
underhand suspicion of oil), but are not permitted to be blackened or
varnished; Day and Martin with their soot-pots forbidden to approach.

The man is not of godlike physiognomy, any more than of imposing stature
or costume: close-shut mouth with thin lips, prominent jaws and nose,
receding brow, by no means of Olympian height; head, however, is of
long form, and has superlative gray eyes in it. Not what is called a
beautiful man; nor yet, by all appearance, what is called a happy.
On the contrary, the face bears evidence of many sorrows, as they are
termed, of much hard labor done in this world; and seems to anticipate
nothing but more still coming. Quiet stoicism, capable enough of what
joy there were, but not expecting any worth mention; great unconscious
and some conscious pride, well tempered with a cheery mockery of
humor,--are written on that old face; which carries its chin well
forward, in spite of the slight stoop about the neck; snuffy nose rather
flung into the air, under its old cocked-hat,--like an old snuffy lion
on the watch; and such a pair of eyes as no man or lion or lynx of that
Century bore elsewhere, according to all the testimony we have.
"Those eyes," says Mirabeau, "which, at the bidding of his great soul,
fascinated you with seduction or with terror _(portaient, au gre de son
ame heroique, la seduction ou la terreur)_." [Mirabeau, _Histoire
Secrete de la Cour de Berlin,_ Lettre 28?? (24 September, 1786) p. 128
(in edition of Paris, 1821)]. Most excellent potent brilliant eyes,
swift-darting as the stars, steadfast as the sun; gray, we said, of the
azure-gray color; large enough, not of glaring size; the habitual
expression of them vigilance and penetrating sense, rapidity resting on
depth. Which is an excellent combination; and gives us the notion of a
lambent outer radiance springing from some great inner sea of light and
fire in the man. The voice, if he speak to you, is of similar
physiognomy: clear, melodious and sonorous; all tones are in it, from
that of ingenuous inquiry, graceful sociality, light-flowing banter
(rather prickly for most part), up to definite word of command, up to
desolating word of rebuke and reprobation; a voice "the clearest and
most agreeable in conversation I ever heard," says witty Dr. Moore.
[Moore, View of Society and Manners in France, Switzerland and Germany
(London, 1779), ii. 246.] "He speaks a great deal," continues the
doctor; "yet those who hear him, regret that he does not speak a good
deal more. His observations are always lively, very often just; and few
men possess the talent of repartee in greater perfection."

Just about threescore and ten years ago, [A.D. 1856,--17th August, 1786]
his speakings and his workings came to finis in this World of Time; and
he vanished from all eyes into other worlds, leaving much inquiry about
him in the minds of men;--which, as my readers and I may feel too well,
is yet by no means satisfied. As to his speech, indeed, though it had
the worth just ascribed to it and more, and though masses of it were
deliberately put on paper by himself, in prose and verse, and continue
to be printed and kept legible, what he spoke has pretty much vanished
into the inane; and except as record or document of what he did, hardly
now concerns mankind. But the things he did were extremely remarkable;
and cannot be forgotten by mankind. Indeed, they bear such fruit to the
present hour as all the Newspapers are obliged to be taking note of,
sometimes to an unpleasant degree. Editors vaguely account this man the
"Creator of the Prussian Monarchy;" which has since grown so large
in the world, and troublesome to the Editorial mind in this and other
countries. He was indeed the first who, in a highly public manner,
notified its creation; announced to all men that it was, in very deed,
created; standing on its feet there, and would go a great way, on the
impulse it had got from him and others. As it has accordingly done; and
may still keep doing to lengths little dreamt of by the British Editor
in our time; whose prophesyings upon Prussia, and insights into Prussia,
in its past, or present or future, are truly as yet inconsiderable, in
proportion to the noise he makes with them! The more is the pity for
him,--and for myself too in the Enterprise now on hand.

It is of this Figure, whom we see by the mind's eye in those Potsdam
regions, visible for the last time seventy years ago, that we are now to
treat, in the way of solacing ingenuous human curiosity. We are to try
for some Historical Conception of this Man and King; some answer to the
questions, "What was he, then? Whence, how? And what did he achieve and
suffer in the world?"--such answer as may prove admissible to ingenuous
mankind, especially such as may correspond to the Fact (which stands
there, abstruse indeed, but actual and unalterable), and so be sure of
admissibility one day.

An Enterprise which turns out to be, the longer one looks at it, the
more of a formidable, not to say unmanageable nature! Concerning which,
on one or two points, it were good, if conveniently possible, to come
to some preliminary understanding with the reader. Here, flying on loose
leaves, are certain incidental utterances, of various date: these, as
the topic is difficult, I will merely label and insert, instead of
a formal Discourse, which were too apt to slide into something of a
Lamentation, or otherwise take an unpleasant turn.


This was a man of infinite mark to his contemporaries; who had witnessed
surprising feats from him in the world; very questionable notions and
ways, which he had contrived to maintain against the world and its
criticisms. As an original man has always to do; much more an original
ruler of men. The world, in fact, had tried hard to put him down, as it
does, unconsciously or, consciously, with all such; and after the
most conscious exertions, and at one time a dead-lift spasm of all its
energies for Seven Years, had not been able. Principalities and powers,
Imperial, Royal, Czarish, Papal, enemies innumerable as the seasand,
had risen against him, only one helper left among the world's Potentates
(and that one only while there should be help rendered in return); and
he led them all such a dance as had astonished mankind and them.

No wonder they thought him worthy of notice. Every original man of any
magnitude is;--nay, in the long-run, who or what else is? But how much
more if your original man was a king over men; whose movements were
polar, and carried from day to day those of the world along with them.
The Samson Agonistes,--were his life passed like that of Samuel Johnson
in dirty garrets, and the produce of it only some bits of written
paper,--the Agonistes, and how he will comport himself in the Philistine
mill; this is always a spectacle of truly epic and tragic nature. The
rather, if your Samson, royal or other, is not yet blinded or subdued
to the wheel; much more if he vanquish his enemies, not by suicidal
methods, but march out at last flourishing his miraculous fighting
implement, and leaving their mill and them in quite ruinous
circumstances. As this King Friedrich fairly managed to do.

For he left the world all bankrupt, we may say; fallen into bottomless
abysses of destruction; he still in a paying condition, and with
footing capable to carry his affairs and him. When he died, in 1786, the
enormous Phenomenon since called FRENCH REVOLUTION was already growling
audibly in the depths of the world; meteoric-electric coruscations
heralding it, all round the horizon. Strange enough to note, one
of Friedrich's last visitors was Gabriel Honore Riquetti, Comte de
Mirabeau. These two saw one another; twice, for half an hour each time.
The last of the old Gods and the first of the modern Titans;--before
Pelion leapt on Ossa; and the foul Earth taking fire at last, its vile
mephitic elements went up in volcanic thunder. This also is one of the
peculiarities of Friedrich, that he is hitherto the last of the
Kings; that he ushers in the French Revolution, and closes an Epoch of
World-History. Finishing off forever the trade of King, think many; who
have grown profoundly dark as to Kingship and him.

The French Revolution may be said to have, for about half a century,
quite submerged Friedrich, abolished him from the memories of men;
and now on coming to light again, he is found defaced under strange
mud-incrustations, and the eyes of mankind look at him from a singularly
changed, what we must call oblique and perverse point of vision. This is
one of the difficulties in dealing with his History;--especially if you
happen to believe both in the French Revolution and in him; that is to
say, both that Real Kingship is eternally indispensable, and also that
the destruction of Sham Kingship (a frightful process) is occasionally
so. On the breaking-out of that formidable Explosion, and Suicide of his
Century, Friedrich sank into comparative obscurity; eclipsed amid the
ruins of that universal earthquake, the very dust of which darkened all
the air, and made of day a disastrous midnight. Black midnight,
broken only by the blaze of conflagrations;--wherein, to our terrified
imaginations, were seen, not men, French and other, but ghastly
portents, stalking wrathful, and shapes of avenging gods. It must be
owned the figure of Napoleon was titanic; especially to the generation
that looked on him, and that waited shuddering to be devoured by him.
In general, in that French Revolution, all was on a huge scale; if not
greater than anything in human experience, at least more grandiose. All
was recorded in bulletins, too, addressed to the shilling-gallery; and
there were fellows on the stage with such a breadth of sabre, extent of
whiskerage, strength of windpipe, and command of men and gunpowder, as
had never been seen before. How they bellowed, stalked and flourished
about; counterfeiting Jove's thunder to an amazing degree! Terrific
Drawcansir figures, of enormous whiskerage, unlimited command of
gunpowder; not without sufficient ferocity, and even a certain heroism,
stage-heroism, in them; compared with whom, to the shilling-gallery, and
frightened excited theatre at large, it seemed as if there had been
no generals or sovereigns before; as if Friedrich, Gustavus, Cromwell,
William Conqueror and Alexander the Great were not worth speaking of

All this, however, in half a century is considerably altered. The
Drawcansir equipments getting gradually torn off, the natural size is
seen better; translated from the bulletin style into that of fact and
history, miracles, even to the shilling-gallery, are not so miraculous.
It begins to be apparent that there lived great men before the era
of bulletins and Agamemnon. Austerlitz and Wagram shot away more
gunpowder,--gunpowder probably in the proportion of ten to one, or a
hundred to one; but neither of them was tenth-part such a beating to
your enemy as that of Rossbach, brought about by strategic art, human
ingenuity and intrepidity, and the loss of 165 men. Leuthen, too, the
battle of Leuthen (though so few English readers ever heard of it) may
very well hold up its head beside any victory gained by Napoleon or
another. For the odds were not far from three to one; the soldiers were
of not far from equal quality; and only the General was consummately
superior, and the defeat a destruction. Napoleon did indeed, by immense
expenditure of men, and gunpowder, overrun Europe for a time: but
Napoleon never, by husbanding and wisely expending his men and
gunpowder, defended a little Prussia against all Europe, year after year
for seven years long, till Europe had enough, and gave up the enterprise
as one it could not manage. So soon as the Drawcansir equipments are
well torn off, and the shilling-gallery got to silence, it will be found
that there were great kings before Napoleon,--and likewise an Art
of War, grounded on veracity and human courage and insight, not upon
Drawcansir rodomontade, grandiose Dick-Turpinism, revolutionary madness,
and unlimited expenditure of men and gunpowder. "You may paint with a
very big brush, and yet not be a great painter," says a satirical friend
of mine! This is becoming more and more apparent, as the dust-whirlwind,
and huge uproar of the last generation, gradually dies away again.


One of the grand difficulties in a History of Friedrich is, all along,
this same, That he lived in a Century which has no History and can have
little or none. A Century so opulent in accumulated falsities,--sad
opulence descending on it by inheritance, always at compound interest,
and always largely increased by fresh acquirement on such immensity of
standing capital;--opulent in that bad way as never Century before was!
Which had no longer the consciousness of being false, so false had it
grown; and was so steeped in falsity, and impregnated with it to the
very bone, that--in fact the measure of the thing was full, and a French
Revolution had to end it. To maintain much veracity in such an element,
especially for a king, was no doubt doubly remarkable. But now, how
extricate the man from his Century? How show the man, who is a Reality
worthy of being seen, and yet keep his Century, as a Hypocrisy worthy of
being hidden and forgotten, in the due abeyance?

To resuscitate the Eighteenth Century, or call into men's view, beyond
what is necessary, the poor and sordid personages and transactions of an
epoch so related to us, can be no purpose of mine on this occasion. The
Eighteenth Century, it is well known, does not figure to me as a lovely
one; needing to be kept in mind, or spoken of unnecessarily. To me the
Eighteenth Century has nothing grand in it, except that grand universal
Suicide, named French Revolution, by which it terminated its otherwise
most worthless existence with at least one worthy act;--setting fire to
its old home and self; and going up in flames and volcanic explosions,
in a truly memorable and important manner. A very fit termination, as
I thankfully feel, for such a Century. Century spendthrift,
fraudulent-bankrupt; gone at length utterly insolvent, without real
MONEY of performance in its pocket, and the shops declining to take
hypocrisies and speciosities any farther:--what could the poor Century
do, but at length admit, "Well, it is so. I am a swindler-century,
and have long been,--having learned the trick of it from my father and
grandfather; knowing hardly any trade but that in false bills, which I
thought foolishly might last forever, and still bring at least beef
and pudding to the favored of mankind. And behold it ends; and I am a
detected swindler, and have nothing even to eat. What remains but that
I blow my brains out, and do at length one true action?" Which the poor
Century did; many thanks to it, in the circumstances.

For there was need once more of a Divine Revelation to the torpid
frivolous children of men, if they were not to sink altogether into
the ape condition. And in that whirlwind of the Universe,--lights
obliterated, and the torn wrecks of Earth and Hell hurled aloft into the
Empyrean; black whirlwind, which made even apes serious, and drove most
of them mad,--there was, to men, a voice audible; voice from the heart
of things once more, as if to say: "Lying is not permitted in this
Universe. The wages of lying, you behold, are death. Lying means
damnation in this Universe; and Beelzebub, never so elaborately decked
in crowns and mitres, is NOT God!" This was a revelation truly to be
named of the Eternal, in our poor Eighteenth Century; and has greatly
altered the complexion of said Century to the Historian ever since.

Whereby, in short, that Century is quite confiscate, fallen bankrupt,
given up to the auctioneers;--Jew-brokers sorting out of it at this
moment, in a confused distressing manner, what is still valuable or
salable. And, in fact, it lies massed up in our minds as a disastrous
wrecked inanity, not useful to dwell upon; a kind of dusky chaotic
background, on which the figures that had some veracity in them--a small
company, and ever growing smaller as our demands rise in strictness--are
delineated for us.--"And yet it is the Century of our own Grandfathers?"
cries the reader. Yes, reader! truly. It is the ground out of which we
ourselves have sprung; whereon now we have our immediate footing, and
first of all strike down our roots for nourishment;--and, alas, in large
sections of the practical world, it (what we specially mean by IT)
still continues flourishing all round us! To forget it quite is not yet
possible, nor would be profitable. What to do with it, and its forgotten
fooleries and "Histories," worthy only of forgetting?--Well; so much of
it as by nature ADHERES; what of it cannot be disengaged from our Hero
and his operations: approximately so much, and no more! Let that be our
bargain in regard to it.


With such wagon-loads of Books and Printed Records as exist on the
subject of Friedrich, it has always seemed possible, even for
a stranger, to acquire some real understanding of him;--though
practically, here and now, I have to own, it proves difficult beyond
conception. Alas, the Books are not cosmic, they are chaotic; and turn
out unexpectedly void of instruction to us. Small use in a talent of
writing, if there be not first of all the talent of discerning, of
loyally recognizing; of discriminating what is to be written! Books born
mostly of Chaos--which want all things, even an INDEX--are a painful
object. In sorrow and disgust, you wander over those multitudinous
Books: you dwell in endless regions of the superficial, of the nugatory:
to your bewildered sense it is as if no insight into the real heart
of Friedrich and his affairs were anywhere to be had. Truth is, the
Prussian Dryasdust, otherwise an honest fellow, and not afraid of labor,
excels all other Dryasdusts yet known; I have often sorrowfully felt
as if there were not in Nature, for darkness, dreariness, immethodic
platitude, anything comparable to him. He writes big Books wanting in
almost every quality; and does not even give an INDEX to them. He has
made of Friedrich's History a wide-spread, inorganic, trackless
matter; dismal to your mind, and barren as a continent of Brandenburg
sand!--Enough, he could do no other: I have striven to forgive him.
Let the reader now forgive me; and think sometimes what probably my
raw-material was!--

Curious enough, Friedrich lived in the Writing Era,--morning of that
strange Era which has grown to such a noon for us;--and his favorite
society, all his reign, was with the literary or writing sort. Nor have
they failed to write about him, they among the others, about him and
about him; and it is notable how little real light, on any point of his
existence or environment, they have managed to communicate. Dim indeed,
for most part a mere epigrammatic sputter of darkness visible, is the
"picture" they have fashioned to themselves of Friedrich and his Country
and his Century. Men not "of genius," apparently? Alas, no; men fatally
destitute of true eyesight, and of loyal heart first of all. So far as
I have noticed, there was not, with the single exception of Mirabeau for
one hour, any man to be called of genius, or with an adequate power of
human discernment, that ever personally looked on Friedrich. Had many
such men looked successively on his History and him, we had not found it
now in such a condition. Still altogether chaotic as a History; fatally
destitute even of the Indexes and mechanical appliances: Friedrich's
self, and his Country, and his Century, still undeciphered; very dark
phenomena, all three, to the intelligent part of mankind.

In Prussia there has long been a certain stubborn though planless
diligence in digging for the outward details of Friedrich's
Life-History; though as to organizing them, assorting them, or even
putting labels on them; much more as to the least interpretation or
human delineation of the man and his affairs,--you need not inquire
in Prussia. In France, in England, it is still worse. There an immense
ignorance prevails even as to the outward facts and phenomena of
Friedrich's life; and instead of the Prussian no-interpretation, you
find, in these vacant circumstances, a great promptitude to interpret.
Whereby judgments and prepossessions exist among us on that subject,
especially on Friedrich's character, which are very ignorant indeed.

To Englishmen, the sources of knowledge or conviction about Friedrich, I
have observed, are mainly these two. FIRST, for his Public Character: it
was an all-important fact, not to IT, but to this country in regard to
it, That George II., seeing good to plunge head-foremost into German
Politics, and to take Maria Theresa's side in the Austrian-Succession
War of 1740-1748, needed to begin by assuring his Parliament and
Newspapers, profoundly dark on the matter, that Friedrich was a robber
and villain for taking the other side. Which assurance, resting on
what basis we shall see by and by, George's Parliament and Newspapers
cheerfully accepted; nothing doubting. And they have re-echoed and
reverberated it, they and the rest of us, ever since, to all lengths,
down to the present day; as a fact quite agreed upon, and the
preliminary item in Friedrich's character. Robber and villain to begin
with; that was one settled point.

Afterwards when George and Friedrich came to be allies, and the grand
fightings of the Seven-Years War took place, George's Parliament and
Newspapers settled a second point, in regard to Friedrich: "One of the
greatest soldiers ever born." This second item the British Writer fully
admits ever since: but he still adds to it the quality of robber, in a
loose way;--and images to himself a royal Dick Turpin, of the kind known
in Review-Articles, and disquisitions on Progress of the Species, and
labels it FREDERICK; very anxious to collect new babblement of lying
Anecdotes, false Criticisms, hungry French Memoirs, which will confirm
him in that impossible idea. Had such proved, on survey, to be the
character of Friedrich, there is one British Writer whose curiosity
concerning him would pretty soon have died away; nor could any amount of
unwise desire to satisfy that feeling in fellow-creatures less seriously
disposed have sustained him alive, in those baleful Historic Acherons
and Stygian Fens, where he has had to dig and to fish so long, far away
from the upper light!--Let me request all readers to blow that sorry
chaff entirely out of their minds; and to believe nothing on the subject
except what they get some evidence for.

SECOND English source relates to the Private Character. Friedrich's
Biography or Private Character, the English, like the French, have
gathered chiefly from a scandalous libel by Voltaire, which used to
be called _ Vie Privee du Roi de Prusse _ (Private Life of the King
of Prussia) [First printed, from a stolen copy, at Geneva, 1784; first
proved to be Voltaire's (which some of his admirers had striven to
doubt), Paris, 1788; stands avowed ever since, in all the Editions of
his Works (ii. 9-113 of the Edition by Bandouin Freres, 97 vols.,
Paris, 1825-1834), under the title _ Memoires pour servir a Vie de M. de
Voltaire, _--with patches of repetition in the thing called _Commentaire
Historique,_ which follows ibid. at great length.] libel undoubtedly
written by Voltaire, in a kind of fury; but not intended to be published
by him; nay burnt and annihilated, as he afterwards imagined; No line of
which, that cannot be otherwise proved, has a right to be believed;
and large portions of which can be proved to be wild exaggerations and
perversions, or even downright lies,--written in a mood analogous to
the Frenzy of John Dennis. This serves for the Biography or Private
Character of Friedrich; imputing all crimes to him, natural and
unnatural;--offering indeed, if combined with facts otherwise known, or
even if well considered by itself, a thoroughly flimsy, incredible
and impossible image. Like that of some flaming Devil's Head, done in
phosphorus on the walls of the black-hole, by an Artist whom you had
locked up there (not quite without reason) overnight.

Poor Voltaire wrote that _ Vie Privee _ in a state little inferior to
the Frenzy of John Dennis,--how brought about we shall see by and by.
And this is the Document which English readers are surest to have read,
and tried to credit as far as possible. Our counsel is, Out of window
with it, he that would know Friedrich of Prussia! Keep it awhile, he
that would know Francois Arouet de Voltaire, and a certain numerous
unfortunate class of mortals, whom Voltaire is sometimes capable of
sinking to be spokesman for, in this world!--Alas, go where you will,
especially in these irreverent ages, the noteworthy Dead is sure to be
found lying under infinite dung, no end of calumnies and stupidities
accumulated upon him. For the class we speak of, class of "flunkies
doing _ saturnalia _ below stairs," is numerous, is innumerable; and can
well remunerate a "vocal flunky" that will serve their purposes on such
an occasion!--

Friedrich is by no means one of the perfect demigods; and there are
various things to be said against him with good ground. To the last,
a questionable hero; with much in him which one could have wished not
there, and much wanting which one could have wished. But there is one
feature which strikes you at an early period of the inquiry, That in his
way he is a Reality; that he always means what he speaks; grounds his
actions, too, on what he recognizes for the truth; and, in short, has
nothing whatever of the Hypocrite or Phantasm. Which some readers will
admit to be an extremely rare phenomenon. We perceive that this man was
far indeed from trying to deal swindler-like with the facts around
him; that he honestly recognized said facts wherever they disclosed
themselves, and was very anxious also to ascertain their existence where
still hidden or dubious. For he knew well, to a quite uncommon degree,
and with a merit all the higher as it was an unconscious one, how
entirely inexorable is the nature of facts, whether recognized or not,
ascertained or not; how vain all cunning of diplomacy, management and
sophistry, to save any mortal who does not stand on the truth of things,
from sinking, in the long-run. Sinking to the very mud-gods, with all
his diplomacies, possessions, achievements; and becoming an unnamable
object, hidden deep in the Cesspools of the Universe. This I hope
to make manifest; this which I long ago discerned for myself, with
pleasure, in the physiognomy of Friedrich and his life. Which indeed
was the first real sanction, and has all along been my inducement and
encouragement, to study his life and him. How this man, officially a
King withal, comported himself in the Eighteenth Century, and managed
not to be a Liar and Charlatan as his Century was, deserves to be seen a
little by men and kings, and may silently have didactic meanings in it.

He that was honest with his existence has always meaning for us, be he
king or peasant. He that merely shammed and grimaced with it, however
much, and with whatever noise and trumpet-blowing, he may have cooked
and eaten in this world, cannot long have any. Some men do COOK
enormously (let us call it COOKING, what a man does in obedience to
his HUNGER merely, to his desires and passions merely),--roasting
whole continents and populations, in the flames of war or other
discord;--witness the Napoleon above spoken of. For the appetite of man
in that respect is unlimited; in truth, infinite; and the smallest of
us could eat the entire Solar System, had we the chance given, and then
cry, like Alexander of Macedon, because we had no more Solar Systems to
cook and eat. It is not the extent of the man's cookery that can much
attach me to him; but only the man himself, and what of strength he had
to wrestle with the mud-elements, and what of victory he got for his own
benefit and mine.


French Revolution having spent itself, or sunk in France and elsewhere
to what we see, a certain curiosity reawakens as to what of great
or manful we can discover on the other side of that still troubled
atmosphere of the Present and immediate Past. Curiosity quickened, or
which should be quickened, by the great and all-absorbing question, How
is that same exploded Past ever to settle down again? Not lost forever,
it would appear: the New Era has not annihilated the old eras: New Era
could by no means manage that;--never meant that, had it known its own
mind (which it did not): its meaning was and is, to get its own well out
of them; to readapt, in a purified shape, the old eras, and appropriate
whatever was true and NOT combustible in them: that was the poor New
Era's meaning, in the frightful explosion it made of itself and its
possessions, to begin with!

And the question of questions now is: What part of that exploded Past,
the ruins and dust of which still darken all the air, will continually
gravitate back to us; be reshaped, transformed, readapted, that so, in
new figures, under new conditions, it may enrich and nourish us again?
What part of it, not being incombustible, has actually gone to flame and
gas in the huge world-conflagration, and is now GASEOUS, mounting aloft;
and will know no beneficence of gravitation, but mount, and roam
upon the waste winds forever,--Nature so ordering it, in spite of any
industry of Art? This is the universal question of afflicted mankind at
present; and sure enough it will be long to settle.

On one point we can answer: Only what of the Past was TRUE will come
back to us. That is the one ASBESTOS which survives all fire, and comes
out purified; that is still ours, blessed be Heaven, and only that. By
the law of Nature nothing more than that; and also, by the same
law, nothing less than that. Let Art, struggle how it may, for or
against,--as foolish Art is seen extensively doing in our time,--there
is where the limits of it will be. In which point of view, may not
Friedrich, if he was a true man and King, justly excite some curiosity
again; nay some quite peculiar curiosity, as the lost Crowned Reality
there was antecedent to that general outbreak and abolition? To many
it appears certain there are to be no Kings of any sort, no Government
more; less and less need of them henceforth, New Era having come.
Which is a very wonderful notion; important if true; perhaps still more
important, just at present, if untrue! My hopes of presenting, in this
Last of the Kings, an exemplar to my contemporaries, I confess, are not

On the whole, it is evident the difficulties to a History of Friedrich
are great and many: and the sad certainty is at last forced upon me that
no good Book can, at this time, especially in this country, be written
on the subject. Wherefore let the reader put up with an indifferent
or bad one; he little knows how much worse it could easily have
been!--Alas, the Ideal of history, as my friend Sauerteig knows, is very
high; and it is not one serious man, but many successions of such, and
whole serious generations of such, that can ever again build up History
towards its old dignity. We must renounce ideals. We must sadly take up
with the mournfulest barren realities;--dismal continents of Brandenburg
sand, as in this instance; mere tumbled mountains of marine-stores,
without so much as an Index to them!

Has the reader heard of Sauerteig's last batch of _ Springwurzeln, _ a
rather curious valedictory Piece? "All History is an imprisoned Epic,
nay an imprisoned Psalm and Prophecy," says Sauerteig there. I wish,
from my soul, he had DISimprisoned it in this instance! But he
only says, in magniloquent language, how grand it would be if
disimprisoned;--and hurls out, accidentally striking on this subject,
the following rough sentences, suggestive though unpractical, with which
I shall conclude:--

"Schiller, it appears, at one time thought of writing an _ Epic Poem
upon Friedrich the Great, _ 'upon some action of Friedrich's,' Schiller
says. Happily Schiller did not do it. By oversetting fact, disregarding
reality, and tumbling time and space topsy-turvy, Schiller with his fine
gifts might no doubt have written a temporary 'epic poem,' of the kind
read an admired by many simple persons. But that would have helped
little, and could not have lasted long. It is not the untrue imaginary
Picture of a man and his life that I want from my Schiller, but the
actual natural Likeness, true as the face itself, nay TRUER, in a sense.
Which the Artist, if there is one, might help to give, and the Botcher _
(Pfuscher)_ never can! Alas, and the Artist does not even try it; leaves
it altogether to the Botcher, being busy otherwise!--

"Men surely will at length discover again, emerging from these dismal
bewilderments in which the modern Ages reel and stagger this long while,
that to them also, as to the most ancient men, all Pictures that cannot
be credited are--Pictures of an idle nature; to be mostly swept out of
doors. Such veritably, were it never so forgotten, is the law! Mistakes
enough, lies enough will insinuate themselves into our most earnest
portrayings of the True: but that we should, deliberately and of
forethought, rake together what we know to be not true, and introduce
that in the hope of doing good with it? I tell you, such practice was
unknown in the ancient earnest times; and ought again to become unknown
except to the more foolish classes!" That is Sauerteig's strange notion,
not now of yesterday, as readers know:--and he goes then into "Homer's
Iliad," the "Hebrew Bible," "terrible Hebrew VERACITY of every line of
it;" discovers an alarming "kinship of Fiction to lying;" and asks,
If anybody can compute "the damage we poor moderns have got from our
practices of fiction in Literature itself, not to speak of awfully
higher provinces? Men will either see into all this by and by,"
continues he; "or plunge head foremost, in neglect of all this, whither
they little dream as yet!--

"But I think all real Poets, to this hour, are Psalmists and Iliadists
after their sort; and have in them a divine impatience of lies, a divine
incapacity of living among lies. Likewise, which is a corollary, that
the highest Shakspeare producible is properly the fittest Historian
producible;--and that it is frightful to see the _ Gelehrte Dummkopf _
[what we here may translate, DRYASDUST] doing the function of History,
and the Shakspeare and the Goethe neglecting it. 'Interpreting events;'
interpreting the universally visible, entirely INdubitable Revelation
of the Author of this Universe: how can Dryasdust interpret such things,
the dark chaotic dullard, who knows the meaning of nothing cosmic or
noble, nor ever will know? Poor wretch, one sees what kind of meaning
HE educes from Man's History, this long while past, and has got all the
world to believe of it along with him. Unhappy Dryasdust, thrice-unhappy
world that takes Dryasdust's reading of the ways of God! But what
else was possible? They that could have taught better were engaged
in fiddling; for which there are good wages going. And our damage
therefrom, our DAMAGE,--yes, if thou be still human and not
cormorant,--perhaps it will transcend all Californias, English National
Debts, and show itself incomputable in continents of Bullion!--

"Believing that mankind are not doomed wholly to dog-like annihilation,
I believe that much of this will mend. I believe that the world will not
always waste its inspired men in mere fiddling to it. That the man
of rhythmic nature will feel more and more his vocation towards the
Interpretation of Fact; since only in the vital centre of that, could
we once get thither, lies all real melody; and that he will become, he,
once again the Historian of Events,--bewildered Dryasdust having at last
the happiness to be his servant, and to have some guidance from him.
Which will be blessed indeed. For the present, Dryasdust strikes me
like a hapless Nigger gone masterless: Nigger totally unfit for
self-guidance; yet without master good or bad; and whose feats in that
capacity no god or man can rejoice in.

"History, with faithful Genius at the top and faithful Industry at
the bottom, will then be capable of being written. History will then
actually BE written,--the inspired gift of God employing itself to
illuminate the dark ways of God. A thing thrice-pressingly needful to
be done!--Whereby the modern Nations may again become a little less
godless, and again have their 'epics' (of a different from the Schiller
sort), and again have several things they are still more fatally in want
of at present!"--

So that, it would seem, there WILL gradually among mankind, if Friedrich
last some centuries, be a real Epic made of his History? That is to
say (presumably), it will become a perfected Melodious Truth, and duly
significant and duly beautiful bit of Belief, to mankind; the essence of
it fairly evolved from all the chaff, the portrait of it actually given,
and its real harmonies with the laws of this Universe brought out,
in bright and dark, according to the God's Fact as it was; which poor
Dryasdust and the Newspapers never could get sight of, but were always
far from!--

Well, if so,--and even if not quite so,--it is a comfort to reflect that
every true worker (who has blown away chaff &c.), were his contribution
no bigger than my own, may have brought the good result NEARER by a
hand-breadth or two. And so we will end these preludings, and proceed
upon our Problem, courteous reader.


Friedrich of Brandenburg-Hohenzollern, who came by course of natural
succession to be Friedrich II. of Prussia, and is known in these ages
as Frederick the Great, was born in the palace of Berlin, about noon,
on the 24th of January, 1712. A small infant, but of great promise or
possibility; and thrice and four times welcome to all sovereign and
other persons in the Prussian Court, and Prussian realms, in those cold
winter days. His Father, they say, was like to have stifled him with his
caresses, so overjoyed was the man; or at least to have scorched him
in the blaze of the fire; when happily some much suitabler female nurse
snatched this little creature from the rough paternal paws,--and saved
it for the benefit of Prussia and mankind. If Heaven will but please
to grant it length of life! For there have already been two little
Princekins, who are both dead; this Friedrich is the fourth child; and
only one little girl, wise Wilhelmina, of almost too sharp wits, and
not too vivacious aspect, is otherwise yet here of royal progeny. It
is feared the Hohenzollern lineage, which has flourished here with such
beneficent effect for three centuries now, and been in truth the very
making of the Prussian Nation, may be about to fail, or pass into
some side branch. Which change, or any change in that respect, is
questionable, and a thing desired by nobody.

Five years ago, on the death of the first little Prince, there had
surmises risen, obscure rumors and hints, that the Princess Royal,
mother of the lost baby, never would have healthy children, or even
never have a child more: upon which, as there was but one other
resource,--a widowed Grandfather, namely, and except the Prince Royal
no son to him,--said Grandfather, still only about fifty, did take the
necessary steps: but they have been entirely unsuccessful; no new son
or child, only new affliction, new disaster has resulted from that third
marriage of his. And though the Princess Royal has had another little
Prince, that too has died within the year;--killed, some say on the
other hand, by the noise of the cannon firing for joy over it! [Forster,
_ Friedrich Wilhelm I., Konig von Preussen _ (Potsdam, 1834), i. 126
(who quotes Morgenstern, a contemporary reporter). But see also Preuss,
_ Friedrich der Grosse mit seinen Verwandten und Freunden _ (Berlin,
1838), pp. 379-380] Yes; and the first baby Prince, these same parties
farther say, was crushed to death by the weighty dress you put upon it
at christening time, especially by the little crown it wore, which had
left a visible black mark upon the poor soft infant's brow! In short, it
is a questionable case; undoubtedly a questionable outlook for Prussian
mankind; and the appearance of this little Prince, a third trump-card in
the Hohenzollern game, is an unusually interesting event. The joy
over him, not in Berlin Palace only, but in Berlin City, and over the
Prussian Nation, was very great and universal;--still testified
in manifold dull, unreadable old pamphlets, records official and
volunteer,--which were then all ablaze like the bonfires, and are now
fallen dark enough, and hardly credible even to the fancy of this new

The poor old Grandfather, Friedrich I. (the first King of
Prussia),--for, as we intimate, he was still alive, and not very
old, though now infirm enough, and laden beyond his strength with
sad reminiscences, disappointments and chagrins,--had taken much to
Wilhelmina, as she tells us; [_ Memoires de Frederique Sophie Wilhelmine
de Prusse, Margrave de Bareith, Soeur d Frederic-le-Grand _ (London,
1812), i. 5.] and would amuse himself whole days with the pranks and
prattle of the little child. Good old man: he, we need not doubt,
brightened up into unusual vitality at sight of this invaluable little
Brother of hers; through whom he can look once more into the waste dim
future with a flicker of new hope. Poor old man: he got his own back
half-broken by a careless nurse letting him fall; and has slightly
stooped ever since, some fifty and odd years now: much against his will;
for he would fain have been beautiful; and has struggled all his days,
very hard if not very wisely, to make his existence beautiful,--to make
it magnificent at least, and regardless of expense;--and it threatens to
come to little. Courage, poor Grandfather: here is a new second edition
of a Friedrich, the first having gone off with so little effect: this
one's back is still unbroken, his life's seedfield not yet filled with
tares and thorns: who knows but Heaven will be kinder to this one?
Heaven was much kinder to this one. Him Heaven had kneaded of more
potent stuff: a mighty fellow this one, and a strange; related not only
to the Upholsteries and Heralds' Colleges, but to the Sphere-harmonies
and the divine and demonic powers; of a swift far-darting nature this
one, like an Apollo clad in sunbeams and in lightnings (after his sort);
and with a back which all the world could not succeed in breaking!--Yes,
if, by most rare chance, this were indeed a new man of genius, born
into the purblind rotting Century, in the acknowledged rank of a king
there,--man of genius, that is to say, man of originality and veracity;
capable of seeing with his eyes, and incapable of not believing what
he sees;--then truly!--But as yet none knows; the poor old Grandfather
never knew.

Meanwhile they christened the little fellow, with immense magnificence
and pomp of apparatus; Kaiser Karl, and the very Swiss Republic being
there (by proxy), among the gossips; and spared no cannon-volleyings,
kettle-drummings, metal crown, heavy cloth-of-silver, for the poor soft
creature's sake; all of which, however, he survived. The name given him
was Karl Friedrich (Charles Frederick); Karl perhaps, and perhaps also
not, in delicate compliment to the chief gossip, the above-mentioned.
Kaiser, Karl or Charles VI.? At any rate, the KARL, gradually or from
the first, dropped altogether out of practice, and went as nothing:
he himself, or those about him, never used it; nor, except in some
dim English pamphlet here and there, have I met with any trace of it.
Friedrich (RICH-in-PEACE, a name of old prevalence in the Hohenzollern
kindred), which he himself wrote FREDERIC in his French way, and at last
even FEDERIC (with a very singular sense of euphony), is throughout, and
was, his sole designation. Sunday 31st January, 1712, age then precisely
one week: then, and in this manner, was he ushered on the scene, and
labelled among his fellow-creatures. We must now look round a little;
and see, if possible by any method or exertion, what kind of scene it


Friedrich Wilhelm, Crown-Prince of Prussia, son of Friedrich I. and
Father of this little infant who will one day be Friedrich II., did
himself make some noise in the world as second King of Prussia; notable
not as Friedrich's father alone; and will much concern us during the
rest of his life. He is, at this date, in his twenty-fourth year: a
thick-set, sturdy, florid, brisk young fellow; with a jovial laugh in
him, yet of solid grave ways, occasionally somewhat volcanic; much given
to soldiering, and out-of-door exercises, having little else to do
at present. He has been manager, or, as it were, Vice-King, on an
occasional absence of his Father; he knows practically what the state
of business is; and greatly disapproves of it, as is thought. But
being bound to silence on that head, he keeps silence, and meddles with
nothing political. He addicts himself chiefly to mustering, drilling and
practical military duties, while here at Berlin; runs out, often enough,
wife and perhaps a comrade or two along with him, to hunt, and take his
ease, at Wusterhausen (some fifteen or twenty miles [English miles,--as
always unless the contrary be stated. The German MEILE is about five
miles English; German STUNDE about three.] southeast of Berlin), where
he has a residence amid the woody moorlands.

But soldiering is his grand concern. Six years ago, summer 1706,
[Forster, i. 116] at a very early age, he went to the wars,--grand
Spanish-Succession War, which was then becoming very fierce in the
Netherlands; Prussian troops always active on the Marlborough-Eugene
side. He had just been betrothed, was not yet wedded; thought good to
turn the interim to advantage in that way. Then again, spring 1709,
after his marriage and after his Father's marriage, "the Court being
full of intrigues," and nothing but silence recommendable there, a
certain renowned friend of his, Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, of
whom we shall yet hear a great deal,--who, still only about thirty, had
already covered himself with laurels in those wars (Blenheim, Bridge
of Casano, Lines of Turin, and other glories), but had now got into
intricacies with the weaker sort, and was out of command,--agreed
with Friedrich Wilhelm that it would be well to go and serve there as
volunteers, since not otherwises. [Varnhagen von Ense, _ Furst Leopold
von Anhalt-Dessau _ (in _ Biographische Denkmale, _ 2d edition, Berlin,
1845), p. 185. _ Thaten und Leben des weltberuhmten Furstens Leopoldi
von Anhalt-Dessau _ (Leipzig, 1742), p. 73. Forster, i. 129.] A
Crown-Prince of Prussia, ought he not to learn soldiering, of all
things; by every opportunity? Which Friedrich Wilhelm did, with
industry; serving zealous apprenticeship under Marlborough and Eugene,
in this manner; plucking knowledge, as the bubble reputation, and all
else in that field has to be plucked, from the cannon's mouth. Friedrich
Wilhelm kept by Marlborough, now as formerly; friend Leopold being
commonly in Eugene's quarter, who well knew the worth of him, ever since
Blenheim and earlier. Friedrich Wilhelm saw hot service, that campaign
of 1709; siege of Tournay, and far more;--stood, among other things, the
fiery Battle of Malplaquet, one of the terriblest and deadliest feats of
war ever done. No want of intrepidity and rugged soldier-virtue in the
Prussian troops or their Crown-Prince; least of all on that terrible
day, 11th September, 1709;--of which he keeps the anniversary ever
since, and will do all his life, the doomsday of Malplaquet always a
memorable day to him. [Forster, i. 138.] He is more and more intimate
with Leopold, and loves good soldiering beyond all things. Here at
Berlin he has already got a regiment of his own, tallish fine men; and
strives to make it in all points a very pattern of a regiment.

For the rest, much here is out of joint, and far from satisfactory to
him. Seven years ago [1st February, 1705.] he lost his own brave Mother
and her love; of which we must speak farther by and by. In her stead
he has got a fantastic, melancholic, ill-natured Stepmother, with whom
there was never any good to be done; who in fact is now fairly mad,
and kept to her own apartments. He has to see here, and say little,
a chagrined heart-worn Father flickering painfully amid a scene much
filled with expensive futile persons, and their extremely pitiful cabals
and mutual rages; scene chiefly of pompous inanity, and the art of
solemnly and with great labor doing nothing. Such waste of labor and of
means: what can one do but be silent? The other year, Preussen (PRUSSIA
Proper, province lying far eastward, out of sight) was sinking under
pestilence and black ruin and despair: the Crown-Prince, contrary to
wont, broke silence, and begged some dole or subvention for these poor
people; but there was nothing to be had. Nothing in the treasury, your
Royal Highness:--Preussen will shift for itself; sublime dramaturgy,
which we call his Majesty's Government, costs so much! And Preussen,
mown away by death, lies much of it vacant ever since; which has
completed the Crown-Prince's disgust; and, I believe, did produce some
change of ministry, or other ineffectual expedient, on the old Father's
part. Upon which the Crown-Prince locks up his thoughts again. He has
confused whirlpools, of Court intrigues, ceremonials, and troublesome
fantasticalities, to steer amongst; which he much dislikes, no man more;
having an eye and heart set on the practical only, and being in mind as
in body something of the genus ROBUSTUM, of the genus FEROX withal. He
has been wedded six years; lost two children, as we saw; and now again
he has two living.

His wife, Sophie Dorothee of Hanover, is his cousin as well. She is
brother's-daughter of his Mother, Sophie Charlotte: let the reader
learn to discriminate these two names. Sophie Charlotte, late Queen of
Prussia, was also of Hanover: she probably had sometimes, in her quiet
motherly thought, anticipated this connection for him, while she yet
lived. It is certain Friedrich Wilhelm was carried to Hanover in early
childhood: his Mother,--that Sophie Charlotte, a famed Queen and lady
in her day, Daughter of Electress Sophie, and Sister of the George who
became George I. of England by and by,--took him thither; some time
about the beginning of 1693, his age then five; and left him there on
trial; alleging, and expecting, he might have a better breeding there.
And this, in a Court where Electress Sophie was chief lady, and Elector
Ernst, fit to be called Gentleman Ernst, ["Her Highness (the Electress
Sophie) has the character of the merry debonnaire Princess of Germany;
a lady of extraordinary virtues and accomplishments; mistress of the
Italian, French, High and Low Dutch, and English languages, which she
speaks to perfection. Her husband (Elector Ernst) has the title of the
Gentleman of Germany; a graceful and," &c. &c. W. Carr, _ Remarks of
the Governments of the severall Parts of Germanie, Denmark, Sweedland
_ (Amsterdam, 1688), p. 147. See also _ Ker of Kersland _ (still more
emphatic on this point, _ soepius _)] the politest of men, was chief
lord,--and where Leibnitz, to say nothing of lighter notabilities, was
flourishing,--seemed a reasonable expectation. Nevertheless, it came to
nothing, this articulate purpose of the visit; though perhaps the deeper
silent purposes of it might not be quite unfulfilled.

Gentleman Ernst had lately been made "Elector" (_ Kurfurst, _ instead
of _ Herzog _),--his Hanover no longer a mere Sovereign Duchy, but an
Electorate henceforth, new "NINTH Electorate," by Ernst's life-long
exertion and good luck;--which has spread a fine radiance, for the time,
over court and people in those parts; and made Ernst a happier man than
ever, in his old age. Gentleman Ernst and Electress Sophie, we need not
doubt, were glad to see their burly Prussian grandson,--a robust,
rather mischievous boy of five years old;--and anything that brought her
Daughter oftener about her (an only Daughter too, and one so gifted) was
sure to be welcome to the cheery old Electress, and her Leibnitz and her
circle. For Sophie Charlotte was a bright presence, and a favorite with
sage and gay.

Uncle George again, "_ Kurprinz _ Georg Ludwig" (Electoral Prince and
Heir-Apparent), who became George I. of England; he, always a taciturn,
saturnine, somewhat grim-visaged man, not without thoughts of his own
but mostly inarticulate thoughts, was, just at this time, in a deep
domestic intricacy. Uncle George the Kurprinz was painfully detecting,
in these very months, that his august Spouse and cousin, a brilliant not
uninjured lady, had become an indignant injuring one; that she had gone,
and was going, far astray in her walk of life! Thus all is not radiance
at Hanover either, Ninth Elector though we are; but, in the soft
sunlight, there quivers a streak of the blackness of very Erebus withal.
Kurprinz George, I think, though he too is said to have been good to the
boy, could not take much interest in this burly Nephew of his just now!

Sure enough, it was in this year 1693, that the famed Konigsmark tragedy
came ripening fast towards a crisis in Hanover; and next year the
catastrophe arrived. A most tragic business; of which the little Boy,
now here, will know more one day. Perhaps it was on this very visit, on
one visit it credibly was, that Sophie Charlotte witnessed a sad scene
in the Schloss of Hanover high words rising, where low cooings had
been more appropriate; harsh words, mutually recriminative, rising ever
higher; ending, it is thought, in THINGS, or menaces and motions towards
things (actual box on the ear, some call it),--never to be forgotten
or forgiven! And on Sunday 1st of July, 1694, Colonel Count Philip
Konigsmark, Colonel in the Hanover Dragoons, was seen for the last time
in this world. From that date, he has vanished suddenly underground,
in an inscrutable manner: never more shall the light of the sun, or any
human eye behold that handsome blackguard man. Not for a hundred and
fifty years shall human creatures know, or guess with the smallest
certainty, what has become of him.

And shortly after Konigsmark's disappearance, there is this sad
phenomenon visible: A once very radiant Princess (witty, haughty-minded,
beautiful, not wise or fortunate) now gone all ablaze into angry tragic
conflagration; getting locked into the old Castle of Ahlden, in the
moory solitudes of Luneburg Heath: to stay there till she die,--thirty
years as it proved,--and go into ashes and angry darkness as she may.
Old peasants, late in the next century, will remember that they used
to see her sometimes driving on the Heath,--beautiful lady, long black
hair, and the glitter of diamonds in it; sometimes the reins in her own
hand, but always with a party of cavalry round her, and their swords
drawn. [_ Die Herzogin von Ahlden _ (Leipzig, 1852), p. 22. Divorce was,
28th December, 1694; death, 13th November, 1726,--age then 60.] "Duchess
of Ahlden," that was her title in the eclipsed state. Born Princess of
Zelle; by marriage, Princess of Hanover (_ Kurprinzessin _); would
have been Queen of England, too, had matters gone otherwise than they
did.--Her name, like that of a little Daughter she had, is Sophie
Dorothee: she is Cousin and Divorced Wife of Kurprinz George; divorced,
and as it were abolished alive, in this manner. She is little Friedrich
Wilhelm's Aunt-in-law; and her little Daughter comes to be his Wife in
process of time. Of him, or of those belonging to him, she took small
notice, I suppose, in her then mood, the crisis coming on so fast. In
her happier innocent days she had two children, a King that is to be,
and a Queen; George II. of England, Sophie Dorothee of Prussia; but must
not now call them hers, or ever see them again.

This was the Konigsmark tragedy at Hanover; fast ripening towards its
catastrophe while little Friedrich Wilhelm was there. It has been, ever
since, a rumor and dubious frightful mystery to mankind: but within
these few years, by curious accidents (thefts, discoveries of written
documents, in various countries, and diligent study of them), it has at
length become a certainty and clear fact, to those who are curious about
it. Fact surely of a rather horrible sort;--yet better, I must say,
than was suspected: not quite so bad in the state of fact as in that
of rumor. Crime enough is in it, sin and folly on both sides; there is
killing too, but NOT assassination (as it turns out); on the whole
there is nothing of atrocity, or nothing that was not accidental,
unavoidable;--and there is a certain greatness of DECORUM on the part
of those Hanover Princes and official gentlemen, a depth of silence,
of polite stoicism, which deserves more praise than it will get in our
times. Enough now of the Konigsmark tragedy; [A considerable dreary mass
of books, pamphlets, lucubrations, false all and of no worth or of less,
have accumulated on this dark subject, during the last hundred and fifty
years; nor has the process yet stopped,--as it now well might. For there
have now two things occurred in regard to it FIRST: In the year 1847,
a Swedish Professor, named Palmblad, groping about for other objects in
the College Library of Lund (which is in the country of the Konigsmark
connections), came upon a Box of Old Letters,--Letters undated, signed
only with initials, and very enigmatic till well searched into,--which
have turned out to be the very Autographs of the Princess and her
Konigsmark; throwing of course a henceforth indisputable light on their
relation. SECOND THING: A cautious exact old gentleman, of diplomatic
habits (understood to be "Count Von Schulenburg-Klosterrode of
Dresden"), has, since that event, unweariedly gone into the whole
matter; and has brayed it everywhere, and pounded it small; sifting,
with sublime patience, not only those Swedish Autographs, but the whole
mass of lying books, pamphlets, hints and notices, old and recent; and
bringing out (truly in an intricate and thrice-wearisome, but for the
first time in an authentic way) what real evidence there is. In which
evidence the facts, or essential fact, lie at last indisputable enough.
His Book, thick Pamphlet rather, is that same _ Herzogin von Ahlden _
(Leipzig, 1852) cited above. The dreary wheelbarrowful of others I had
rather not mention again; but leave Count von Schulenburg to mention and
describe them,--which he does abundantly, so many as had accumulated up
to that date of 1852, to the affliction more or less of sane mankind.]
contemporaneous with Friedrich Wilhelm's stay at Hanover, but not
otherwise much related to him or his doings there.

He got no improvement in breeding, as we intimated; none at all; fought,
on the contrary, with his young Cousin (afterwards our George II.), a
boy twice his age, though of weaker bone; and gave him a bloody nose. To
the scandal and consternation of the French Protestant gentlewomen and
court-dames in their stiff silks: "Ahee, your Electoral Highness!" This
had been a rough unruly boy from the first discovery of him. At a very
early stage, he, one morning while the nurses were dressing him, took to
investigating one of his shoe buckles; would, in spite of remonstrances,
slobber it about in his mouth; and at length swallowed it down,--beyond
mistake; and the whole world cannot get it up! Whereupon, wild wail of
nurses; and his "Mother came screaming," poor mother:--It is the same
small shoe-buckle which is still shown, with a ticket and date to it,
"31 December, 1692," in the Berlin _ Kunstkammer _; for it turned out
harmless, after all the screaming; and a few grains of rhubarb
restored it safely to the light of day; henceforth a thrice-memorable
shoe-buckle. [Forster, i. 74. Erman, _ Memoires de Sophie Charlotte _
(Berlin, 1801), p. 130.]

Another time, it is recorded, though with less precision of detail, his
Governess the Dame Montbail having ordered him to do something which was
intolerable to the princely mind, the princely mind resisted in a very
strange way: the princely body, namely, flung itself suddenly out of a
third-story window, nothing but the hands left within; and hanging on
there by the sill, and fixedly resolute to obey gravitation rather than
Montbail, soon brought the poor lady to terms. Upon which, indeed, he
had been taken from her, and from the women altogether, as evidently now
needing rougher government. Always an unruly fellow, and dangerous
to trust among crockery. At Hanover he could do no good in the way of
breeding: sage Leibnitz himself, with his big black periwig and large
patient nose, could have put no metaphysics into such a boy. Sublime _
Theodicee _ (Leibnitzian "justification of the ways of God") was not an
article this individual had the least need of, nor at any time the least
value for. "Justify? What doomed dog questions it, then? Are you
for Bedlam, then?"--and in maturer years his rattan might have been
dangerous! For this was a singular individual of his day; human soul
still in robust health, and not given to spin its bowels into cobwebs.
He is known only to have quarrelled much with Cousin George, during the
year or so he spent in those parts.

But there was another Cousin at Hanover, just one other, little Sophie
Dorothee (called after her mother), a few months older than himself; by
all accounts, a really pretty little child, whom he liked a great deal
better. She, I imagine, was his main resource, while on this Hanover
visit; with her were laid the foundations of an intimacy which ripened
well afterwards. Some say it was already settled by the parents that
there was to be a marriage in due time. Settled it could hardly be; for
Wilhelmina tells us, [_ Memoires de la Margrave de Bareith, _ i. l.] her
Father had a "choice of three" allowed him, on coming to wed; and it is
otherwise discernible there had been eclipses and uncertainties, in the
interim, on his part. Settled, no; but hoped and vaguely pre-figured,
we may well suppose. And at all events, it has actually come to pass;
"Father being ardently in love with the Hanover Princess," says our
Margravine, "and much preferring her to the other two," or to any and
all others. Wedded, with great pomp, 28th November, 1706; [Forster, i.
117.]--and Sophie Dorothee, the same that was his pretty little Cousin
at Hanover twenty years ago, she is mother of the little Boy now born
and christened, whom men are to call Frederick the Great in coming

Sophie Dorothee is described to us by courtier contemporaries as "one
of the most beautiful princesses of her day:" Wilhelmina, on the other
hand, testifies that she was never strictly to be called beautiful, but
had a pleasant attractive physiognomy; which may be considered better
than strict beauty. Uncommon grace of figure and look, testifies
Wilhelmina; much dignity and soft dexterity, on social occasions;
perfect in all the arts of deportment; and left an impression on you at
once kindly and royal. Portraits of her, as Queen at a later age, are
frequent in the Prussian Galleries; she is painted sitting, where I best
remember her. A serious, comely, rather plump, maternal-looking Lady;
something thoughtful in those gray still eyes of hers, in the turn of
her face and carriage of her head, as she sits there, considerately
gazing out upon a world which would never conform to her will. Decidedly
a handsome, wholesome and affectionate aspect of face. Hanoverian in
type, that is to say, blond, florid, slightly PROFUSE;--yet the better
kind of Hanoverian, little or nothing of the worse or at least the worst
kind. The eyes, as I say, are gray, and quiet, almost sad; expressive of
reticence and reflection, of slow constancy rather than of SPEED in
any kind. One expects, could the picture speak, the querulous sound
of maternal and other solicitude; of a temper tending towards the
obstinate, the quietly unchangeable;--loyal patience not wanting, yet
in still larger measure royal impatience well concealed, and long
and carefully cherished. This is what I read in Sophie Dorothee's
Portraits,--probably remembering what I had otherwise read, and come to
know of her. She too will not a little concern us in the first part
of this History. I find, for one thing, she had given much of her
physiognomy to the Friedrich now born. In his Portraits as Prince-Royal,
he strongly resembles her; it is his mother's face informed with youth
and new fire, and translated into the masculine gender: in his later
Portraits, one less and less recognizes the mother.

Friedrich Wilhelm, now in the sixth year of wedlock, is still very fond
of his Sophie Dorothee,--_ "Fiechen" (Feekin_ diminutive of _ Sophie _),
as he calls her; she also having, and continuing to have, the due wife's
regard for her solid, honest, if somewhat explosive bear. He troubles
her a little now and then, it is said, with whiffs of jealousy; but they
are whiffs only, the product of accidental moodinesses in him, or of
transient aspects, misinterpreted, in the court-life of a young and
pretty woman. As the general rule, he is beautifully good-humored, kind
even, for a bear; and, on the whole, they have begun their partnership
under good omens. And indeed we may say, in spite of sad tempests that
arose, they continued it under such. She brought him gradually no fewer
than fourteen children, of whom ten survived him and came to maturity:
and it is to be admitted their conjugal relation, though a royal, was
always a human one; the main elements of it strictly observed on both
sides; all quarrels in it capable of being healed again, and the feeling
on both sides true, however troublous. A rare fact among royal wedlocks,
and perhaps a unique one in that epoch.

The young couple, as is natural in their present position, have many
eyes upon them, and not quite a paved path in this confused court of
Friedrich I. But they are true to one another; they seem indeed to have
held well aloof from all public business or private cabal; and go along
silently expecting, and perhaps silently resolving this and that in
the future tense; but with moderate immunity from paternal or other
criticisms, for the present. The Crown-Prince drills or hunts, with his
Grumkows, Anhalt-Dessaus: these are harmless employments;--and a man may
have within his own head what thoughts he pleases, without offence so
long as he keeps them there. Friedrich the old Grandfather lived only
thirteen months after the birth of his grandson: Friedrich Wilhelm was
then King; thoughts then, to any length, could become actions on the
part of Friedrich Wilhelm.


Friedrich Wilhelm's Mother, as we hinted, did not live to see this
marriage which she had forecast in her maternal heart. She died, rather
suddenly, in 1705, [1st February (Erman, p. 241; Forster, i. 114): born,
20th October, 1666; wedded, 28th September 1684; died, 1st February,
1705.] at Hanover, whither she had gone on a visit; shortly after
parting with this her one boy and child, Friedrich Wilhelm, who is then
about seventeen; whom she had with effort forced herself to send abroad,
that he might see the world a little, for the first time. Her sorrow
on this occasion has in it something beautiful, in so bright and gay
a woman: shows us the mother strong in her, to a touching degree. The
rough cub, in whom she noticed rugged perverse elements, "tendencies
to avarice," and a want of princely graces, and the more brilliant
qualities in mind and manner, had given her many thoughts and some
uneasy ones. But he was evidently all she had to love in the world;
a rugged creature inexpressibly precious to her. For days after his
departure, she had kept solitary; busied with little; indulging in
her own sad reflections without stint. Among the papers she had been
scribbling, there was found one slip with a HEART sketched on it, and
round the heart "PARTI" (Gone): My heart is gone!--poor lady, and after
what a jewel! But Nature is very kind to all children and to all mothers
that are true to her.

Sophie Charlotte's deep sorrow and dejection on this parting was the
secret herald of fate to herself. It had meant ill health withal, and
the gloom of broken nerves. All autumn and into winter she had felt
herself indefinitely unwell; she determined, however, on seeing Hanover
and her good old Mother at the usual time. The gloomy sorrow over
Friedrich Wilhelm had been the premonition of a sudden illness which
seized her on the road to Hanover, some five months afterwards, and
which ended fatally in that city. Her death was not in the light style
Friedrich her grandson ascribes to it; [_ Memoires de Brandebourg _
(Preuss's Edition of _ OEuvres, _ Berlin, 1847 et seqq.), i. 112.] she
died without epigram, and though in perfect simple courage, with the
reverse of levity.

Here, at first hand, is the specific account of that event; which, as it
is brief and indisputable, we may as well fish from the imbroglios, and
render legible, to counteract such notions, and illuminate for moments
an old scene of things. The writing, apparently a quite private piece,
is by "M. de la Bergerie, Pastor of the French Church at Hanover,"
respectable Edict-of-Nantes gentleman, who had been called in on the
occasion;--gives an authentic momentary picture, though a feeble and
vacant one, of a locality at that time very interesting to Englishmen.
M. de la Bergerie privately records:--

"The night between the last of January and the first of February, 1705,
between one and two o'clock in the morning, I was called to the Queen of
Prussia, who was then dangerously ill.

"Entering the room, I threw myself at the foot of her bed, testifying to
her in words my profound grief to see her in this state. After which
I took occasion to say, 'She might know now that Kings and Queens are
mortal equally with all other men; and that they are obliged to appear
before the throne of the majesty of God, to give an account of their
deeds done, no less than the meanest of their subjects.' To which her
Majesty replied, 'I know it well (_ Je le sais bien _).'--I went on to
say to her, 'Madam, your Majesty must also recognize in this hour the
vanity and nothingness of the things here below, for which, it may be,
you have had too much interest; and the importance of the things of
Heaven, which perhaps you have neglected and contemned.' Thereupon the
Queen answered, 'True (_ Cela est vrai _)!' 'Nevertheless, Madam,' said
I, 'does not your Majesty place really your trust in God? Do you not
very earnestly (_ bien serieusement_) crave pardon of Him for all the
sins you have committed? Do not you fly (_ n'a-t-elle pas recours _) to
the blood and merits of Jesus Christ, without which it is impossible
for us to stand before God?' The Queen answered, '_ Oui _ (Yes).'--While
this was going on, her Brother, Duke Ernst August, came into the Queen's
room,"--perhaps with his eye upon me and my motions?"As they wished to
speak together, I withdrew by order."

This Duke Ernst August, age now 31, is the youngest Brother of the
family; there never was any Sister but this dying one, who is four
years older. Ernst August has some tincture of soldiership at this time
(Marlborough Wars, and the like), as all his kindred had; but ultimately
he got the Bishopric of Osnabruck, that singular spiritual heirloom, or
HALF-heirloom of the family; and there lived or vegetated without
noise. Poor soul, he is the same Bishop of Osnabruck, to whose house,
twenty-two years hence, George I., struck by apoplexy, was breathlessly
galloping in the summer midnight, one wish now left in him, to be with
his brother;--and arrived dead, or in the article of death. That was
another scene Ernst August had to witness in his life. I suspect him
at present of a thought that M. de la Bergerie, with his pious
commonplaces, is likely to do no good. Other trait of Ernst August's
life; or of the Schloss of Hanover that night,--or where the sorrowing
old Mother sat, invincible though weeping, in some neighboring room,--I
cannot give. M. de la Bergerie continues his narrative:--

"Some time after, I again presented myself before the Queen's bed,
to see if I could have occasion to speak to her on the matter of her
salvation. But Monseigneur the Duke Ernst August then said to me, That
it was not necessary; that the Queen was at peace with her God (_ etait
bien avec son Dieu _)."--Which will mean also that M. de la Bergerie may
go home? However, he still writes:--

"Next day the Prince told me, That observing I was come near the Queen's
bed, he had asked her if she wished I should still speak to her; but she
had replied, that it was not necessary in any way (_ nullement _), that
she already knew all that could be said to her on such an occasion; that
she had said it to herself, that she was still saying it, and that she
hoped to be well with her God.

"In the end a faint coming upon the Queen, which was what terminated
her life, I threw myself on my knees at the other side of her bed, the
curtains of which were open; and I called to God with a loud voice,
'That He would rank his angels round this great Princess, to guard her
from the insults of Satan; that He would have pity on her soul; that He
would wash her with the blood of Jesus Christ her heavenly Spouse; that,
having forgiven her all her sins, He would receive her to his glory.'
And in that moment she expired." [Erman, p. 242.]--Age thirty-six and
some months. Only Daughter of Electress Sophie; and Father's Mother of
Frederick the Great.

She was, in her time, a highly distinguished woman; and has left, one
may say, something of her likeness still traceable in the Prussian
Nation, and its form of culture, to this day. Charlottenburg
(Charlotte's-town, so called by the sorrowing Widower), where she lived,
shone with a much-admired French light under her presidency,--French
essentially, Versaillese, Sceptico-Calvinistic, reflex and
direct,--illuminating the dark North; and indeed has never been so
bright since. The light was not what we can call inspired; lunar rather,
not of the genial or solar kind: but, in good truth, it was the best
then going; and Sophie Charlotte, who was her Mother's daughter in this
as in other respects, had made it her own. They were deep in literature,
these two Royal Ladies; especially deep in French theological polemics,
with a strong leaning to the rationalist side.

They had stopped in Rotterdam once, on a certain journey homewards from
Flanders and the Baths of Aix-la-Chapelle, to see that admirable sage,
the doubter Bayle. Their sublime messenger roused the poor man, in his
garret there, in the Bompies,--after dark: but he had a headache that
night; was in bed, and could not come. He followed them next
day; leaving his paper imbroglios, his historical, philosophical,
anti-theological marine-stores; and suspended his never-ending scribble,
on their behalf;--but would not accept a pension, and give it up.
[Erman, pp. 111, 112. Date is 1700 (late in the autumn probably).]

They were shrewd, noticing, intelligent and lively women; persuaded that
there was some nobleness for man beyond what the tailor imparts to him;
and even very eager to discover it, had they known how. In these very
days, while our little Friedrich at Berlin lies in his cradle, sleeping
most of his time, sage Leibnitz, a rather weak but hugely ingenious old
gentleman, with bright eyes and long nose, with vast black peruke and
bandy legs, is seen daily in the Linden Avenue at Hanover (famed Linden
Alley, leading from Town Palace to Country one, a couple of miles long,
rather disappointing when one sees it), daily driving or walking towards
Herrenhausen, where the Court, where the old Electress is, who will have
a touch of dialogue with him to diversify her day. Not very edifying
dialogue, we may fear; yet once more, the best that can be had in
present circumstances. Here is some lunar reflex of Versailles, which
is a polite court; direct rays there are from the oldest written Gospels
and the newest; from the great unwritten Gospel of the Universe itself;
and from one's own real effort, more or less devout, to read all these
aright. Let us not condemn that poor French element of Eclecticism,
Scepticism, Tolerance, Theodicea, and Bayle of the Bompies versus the
College of Saumur. Let us admit that it was profitable, at least that it
was inevitable; let us pity it, and be thankful for it, and rejoice that
we are well out of it. Scepticism, which is there beginning at the very
top of the world-tree, and has to descend through all the boughs with
terrible results to mankind, is as yet pleasant, tinting the leaves with
fine autumnal red.

Sophie Charlotte partook of her Mother's tendencies; and carried them
with her to Berlin, there to be expanded in many ways into ampler
fulfilment. She too had the sage Leibnitz often with her, at Berlin; no
end to her questionings of him; eagerly desirous to draw water from that
deep well,--a wet rope, with cobwebs sticking to it, too often all she
got; endless rope, and the bucket never coming to view. Which, however,
she took patiently, as a thing according to Nature. She had her learned
Beausobres and other Reverend Edict-of-Nantes gentlemen, famed Berlin
divines; whom, if any Papist notability, Jesuit ambassador or the like,
happened to be there, she would set disputing with him, in the Soiree at
Charlottenburg. She could right well preside over such a battle of the
Cloud-Titans, and conduct the lightnings softly, without explosions.
There is a pretty and very characteristic Letter of hers, still pleasant
to read, though turning on theologies now fallen dim enough; addressed
to Father Vota, the famous Jesuit, King's-confessor, and diplomatist,
from Warsaw, who had been doing his best in one such rencontre before
her Majesty (date March, 1703),--seemingly on a series of evenings, in
the intervals of his diplomatic business; the Beausobre champions
being introduced to him successively, one each evening, by Queen Sophie
Charlotte. To all appearance the fencing had been keen; the lightnings
in need of some dexterous conductor. Vota, on his way homeward, had
written to apologize for the sputterings of fire struck out of him
in certain pinches of the combat; says, It was the rough handling the
Primitive Fathers got from these Beausobre gentlemen, who indeed to me,
Vota in person, under your Majesty's fine presidency, were politeness
itself, though they treated the Fathers so ill. Her Majesty, with
beautiful art, in this Letter, smooths the raven plumage of Vota;--and,
at the same time, throws into him, as with invisible needle-points,
an excellent dose of acupuncturation, on the subject of the Primitive
Fathers and the Ecumenic Councils, on her own score. Let us give some
Excerpt, in condensed state:--

"How can St. Jerome, for example, be a key to Scripture?" she
insinuates; citing from Jerome this remarkable avowal of his method of
composing books; "especially of his method in that Book, _ Commentary on
the Galatians, _ where he accuses both Peter and Paul of simulation and
even of hypocrisy. The great St. Augustine has been charging him with
this sad fact," says her Majesty, who gives chapter and verse; ["Epist.
28*, edit. Paris." And Jerome's answer, "Ibid. Epist. 76*."] "and Jerome
answers: 'I followed the Commentaries of Origen, of'"--five or six
different persons, who turned out mostly to be heretics before Jerome
had quite done with them in coming years!--"'And to confess the honest
truth to you,' continues Jerome, 'I read all that; and after having
crammed my head with a great many things, I sent for my amanuensis, and
dictated to him now my own thoughts, now those of others, without much
recollecting the order, nor sometimes the words, nor even the sense.'
In another place (in the Book itself farther on [_ "Commentary on the
Galatians, _ chap. iii."]), he says: 'I do not myself write; I have an
amanuensis, and I dictate to him what comes into my mouth. If I wish to
reflect a little, to say the thing better or a better thing, he knits
his brows, and the whole look of him tells me sufficiently that he
cannot endure to wait.'"--Here is a sacred old gentleman, whom it is not
safe to depend on for interpreting the Scriptures, thinks her Majesty;
but does not say so, leaving Father Vota to his reflections.

Then again, coming to Councils, she quotes St. Gregory Nazianzen
upon him; who is truly dreadful in regard to Ecumenic Councils of the
Church,--and indeed may awaken thoughts of Deliberative Assemblies
generally, in the modern constitutional mind. "He says, [_ "Greg.
Nazian. de Vita sua." _] No Council ever was successful; so many mean
human passions getting into conflagration there; with noise, with
violence and uproar, 'more like those of a tavern or still worse
place,'--these are his words. He, for his own share, had resolved to
avoid all such 'rendezvousing of the Geese and Cranes, flocking together
to throttle and tatter one another in that sad manner.' Nor had St.
Theodoret much opinion of the Council of Nice, except as a kind of
miracle. 'Nothing good to be expected from Councils,' says he, 'except
when God is pleased to interpose, and destroy the machinery of the

--With more of the like sort; all delicate, as invisible needle-points,
in her Majesty's hand. [Letter undated (datable "Lutzelburg, March,
1708,") is to be found entire, with all its adjuncts, in _ Erman, _ pp.
246-255. It was subsequently translated by Toland, and published here,
as an excellent Polemical Piece,--entirely forgotten in our time (_ A
Letter against Popery by Sophia Charlotte, the late Queen of Prussia:
Being, _ &c. &c. London, 1712). But the finest Duel of all was probably
that between Beausobre and Toland himself (reported by Beausobre, in
something of a crowing manner, in _ Erman, _ pp. 203-241, "October,
1701"), of which Toland makes no mention anywhere.] What is Father Vota
to say?--The modern reader looks through these chinks into a strange old
scene, the stuff of it fallen obsolete, the spirit of it not, nor worthy
to fall.

These were Sophie Charlotte's reunions; very charming in their time. At
which how joyful for Irish Toland to be present, as was several times
his luck. Toland, a mere broken heretic in his own country, who went
thither once as Secretary to some Embassy (Embassy of Macclesfield's,
1701, announcing that the English Crown had fallen Hanover-wards), and
was no doubt glad, poor headlong soul, to find himself a gentleman and
Christian again, for the time being,--admires Hanover and Berlin very
much; and looks upon Sophie Charlotte in particular as the pink of
women. Something between an earthly Queen and a divine Egeria; "Serena"
he calls her; and, in his high-flown fashion, is very laudatory. "The
most beautiful Princess of her time," says he,--meaning one of the most
beautiful: her features are extremely regular, and full of vivacity;
copious dark hair, blue eyes, complexion excellently fair;--"not
very tall, and somewhat too plump," he admits elsewhere. And then
her mind,--for gifts, for graces, culture, where will you find such a
mind? "Her reading is infinite, and she is conversant in all manner of
subjects;" "knows the abstrusest problems of Philosophy;" says admiring
Toland: much knowledge everywhere exact, and handled as by an artist
and queen; for "her wit is inimitable," "her justness of thought, her
delicacy of expression," her felicity of utterance and management, are
great. Foreign courtiers call her "the Republican Queen." She detects
you a sophistry at one glance; pierces down direct upon the weak point
of an opinion: never in my whole life did I, Toland, come upon a swifter
or sharper intellect. And then she is so good withal, so bright and
cheerful; and "has the art of uniting what to the rest of the world are
antagonisms, mirth and learning,"--say even, mirth and good sense. Is
deep in music, too; plays daily on her harpsichord, and fantasies, and
even composes, in an eminent manner. [_ An Account of the Courts of
Prussia and Hanover, sent to a Minister of State in Holland, _ by Mr.
Toland (London, 1705), p. 322. Toland's other Book, which has reference
to her, is of didactic nature ("immortality of the soul," "origin of
idolatry," &c.), but with much fine panegyric direct and oblique: _
Letters to Serena _ ("Serena" being _ Queen _), a thin 8vo, London,
1704.] Toland's admiration, deducting the high-flown temper and manner
of the man, is sincere and great.

Beyond doubt a bright airy lady, shining in mild radiance in those
Northern parts; very graceful, very witty and ingenious; skilled to
speak, skilled to hold her tongue,--which latter art also was frequently
in requisition with her. She did not much venerate her Husband, nor the
Court population, male or female, whom he chose to have about him: his
and their ways were by no means hers, if she had cared to publish her
thoughts. Friedrich I., it is admitted on all hands, was "an expensive
Herr;" much given to magnificent ceremonies, etiquettes and solemnities;
making no great way any-whither, and that always with noise enough,
and with a dust vortex of courtier intrigues and cabals encircling
him,--from which it is better to stand quite to windward. Moreover, he
was slightly crooked; most sensitive, thin of skin and liable to sudden
flaws of temper, though at heart very kind and good. Sophie Charlotte is
she who wrote once, "Leibnitz talked to me of the infinitely little
(_ de l'infiniment petit): mon Dieu, _ as if I did not know enough of
that!" Besides, it is whispered she was once near marrying to Louis
XIV.'s Dauphin; her Mother Sophie, and her Cousin the Dowager Duchess of
Orleans, cunning women both, had brought her to Paris in her girlhood,
with that secret object; and had very nearly managed it. Queen of France
that might have been; and now it is but Brandenburg, and the dice have
fallen somewhat wrong for us! She had Friedrich Wilhelm, the rough boy;
and perhaps nothing more of very precious property. Her first child,
likewise a boy, had soon died, and there came no third: tedious
ceremonials, and the infinitely little, were mainly her lot in this

All which, however, she had the art to take up not in the tragic way,
but in the mildly comic,--often not to take up at all, but leave lying
there;--and thus to manage in a handsome and softly victorious manner.
With delicate female tact, with fine female stoicism too; keeping all
things within limits. She was much respected by her Husband, much loved
indeed; and greatly mourned for by the poor man: the village Lutzelburg
(Little-town), close by Berlin, where she had built a mansion for
herself, he fondly named _ Charlottenburg _ (Charlotte's-town), after
her death, which name both House and Village still bear. Leibnitz found
her of an almost troublesome sharpness of intellect; "wants to know
the why even of the why," says Leibnitz. That is the way of female
intellects when they are good; nothing equals their acuteness, and their
rapidity is almost excessive. Samuel Johnson, too, had a young-lady
friend once "with the acutest intellect I have ever known."

On the whole, we may pronounce her clearly a superior woman, this Sophie
Charlotte; notable not for her Grandson alone, though now pretty much
forgotten by the world,--as indeed all things and persons have, one day
or other, to be! A LIFE of her, in feeble watery style, and distracted
arrangement, by one _ Erman,_ [Monsieur Erman, Historiographe de
Brandebourg, _ Memoires pour servir a l'Histoire de Sophie Charlotte,
Reine de Preusse, las dans les Seances, &c. _ (1 vol. 8vo, Berlin,
1801.)] a Berlin Frenchman, is in existence, and will repay a cursory
perusal; curious traits of her, in still looser form, are also to be
found in _ Pollnitz: _[Carl Ludwig Freiherr von Pollnitz, _ Memoiren
zur Lebens-und Regierungs-Geschichte der vier letzten Regenten des
Preussischen Staats _ (was published in French also), 2 vols. 12mo,
Berlin, 1791.] but for our purposes here is enough, and more than


The Prussian royalty is now in its twelfth year when this little
Friedrich, who is to carry it to such a height, comes into the world.
Old Friedrich the Grandfather achieved this dignity, after long and
intricate negotiations, in the first year of the Century; 16th November,
1700, his ambassador returned triumphant from Vienna; the Kaiser had at
last consented: We are to wear a crown royal on the top of our periwig;
the old Electorate of Brandenburg is to become the Kingdom of Prussia;
and the Family of Hohenzollern, slowly mounting these many centuries,
has reached the uppermost round of the ladder.

Friedrich, the old Gentleman who now looks upon his little Grandson
(destined to be Third King of Prussia) with such interest,--is not a
very memorable man; but he has had his adventures too, his losses and
his gains: and surely among the latter, the gain of a crown royal into
his House gives him, if only as a chronological milestone, some place
in History. He was son of him they call the Great Elector, Friedrich
Wilhelm by name; of whom the Prussians speak much, in an eagerly
celebrating manner, and whose strenuous toilsome work in this world,
celebrated or not, is still deeply legible in the actual life and
affairs of Germany. A man of whom we must yet find some opportunity
to say a word. From him and a beautiful and excellent Princess Luise,
Princess of Orange,--Dutch William, OUR Dutch William's aunt,--this,
crooked royal Friedrich came.

He was not born crooked; straight enough once, and a fine little boy of
six months old or so; there being an elder Prince now in his third year,
also full of hope. But in a rough journey to Konigsberg and back (winter
of 1657, as is guessed), one of the many rough jolting journeys this
faithful Electress made with her Husband, a careless or unlucky
nurse, who had charge of pretty little Fritzchen, was not sufficiently
attentive to her duties on the worst of roads. The ever-jolting carriage
gave some bigger jolt, the child fell backwards in her arms; [Johann
Wegfuhrer, _ Leben der Kurfurstin Luise, gebornen Prinzessin von
Nassau-Oranien, Gemahlin Friedrich Wilhelm des Grossen_ (Leipzig, 1838),
p. 107.] did not quite break his back, but injured it for life:--and
with his back, one may perceive, injured his soul and history to an
almost corresponding degree. For the weak crooked boy, with keen and
fine perceptions, and an inadequate case to put them in, grew up
with too thin a skin:--that may be considered as the summary of his
misfortunes; and, on the whole, there is no other heavy sin to be
charged against him.

He had other loads laid upon him, poor youth: his kind pious Mother
died, his elder Brother died, he at the age of seventeen saw himself
Heir-Apparent;--and had got a Stepmother with new heirs, if he
should disappear. Sorrows enough in that one fact, with the venomous
whisperings, commentaries and suspicions, which a Court population,
female and male, in little Berlin Town, can contrive to tack to it. Does
not the new Sovereign Lady, in her heart, wish YOU were dead, my Prince?
Hope it perhaps? Health, at any rate, weak; and, by the aid of a little
pharmacy--ye Heavens!

Such suspicions are now understood to have had no basis except in the
waste brains of courtier men and women; but their existence there can
become tragical enough. Add to which, the Great Elector, like all the
Hohenzollerns, was a choleric man; capable of blazing into volcanic
explosions, when affronted by idle masses of cobwebs in the midst of his
serious businesses! It is certain, the young Prince Friedrich had at one
time got into quite high, shrill and mutually minatory terms with his
Stepmother; so that once, after some such shrill dialogue between them,
ending with "You shall repent this, Sir!"--he found it good to fly
off in the night, with only his Tutor or Secretary and a valet, to
Hessen-Cassel to an Aunt; who stoutly protected him in this emergency;
and whose Daughter, after the difficult readjustment of matters, became
his Wife, but did not live long. And it is farther certain the same
Prince, during this his first wedded time, dining one day with his
Stepmother, was taken suddenly ill. Felt ill, after his cup of coffee;
retired into another room in violent spasms, evidently in an alarming
state, and secretly in a most alarmed one: his Tutor or Secretary, one
Dankelmann, attended him thither; and as the Doctor took some time to
arrive, and the symptoms were instant and urgent, Secretary Dankelmann
produced "from a pocket-book some drug of his own, or of the
Hessen-Cassel Aunt," emetic I suppose, and gave it to the poor
Prince;--who said often, and felt ever after, with or without notion
of poison, That Dankelmann had saved his life. In consequence of
which adventure he again quitted Court without leave; and begged to
be permitted to remain safe in the country, if Papa would be so good.
[Pollnitz, _ Memoiren, _ i. 191-198.]

Fancy the Great Elector's humor on such an occurrence; and what a
furtherance to him in his heavy continual labors, and strenuous swimming
for life, these beautiful humors and transactions must have been! A
crook-backed boy, dear to the Great Elector, pukes, one afternoon; and
there arises such an opening of the Nether Floodgates of this Universe;
in and round your poor workshop, nothing but sudden darkness, smell of
sulphur; hissing of forked serpents here, and the universal alleleu of
female hysterics there;--to help a man forward with his work! O reader,
we will pity the crowned head, as well as the hatted and even hatless
one. Human creatures will not GO quite accurately together, any more
than clocks will; and when their dissonance once rises fairly high, and
they cannot readily kill one another, any Great Elector who is third
party will have a terrible time of it.

Electress Dorothee, the Stepmother, was herself somewhat of a hard
lady; not easy to live with, though so far above poisoning as to have
"despised even the suspicion of it." She was much given to practical
economics, dairy-farming, market-gardening, and industrial and
commercial operations such as offered; and was thought to be a very
strict reckoner of money. She founded the _ Dorotheenstadt, _ now
oftener called the _ Neustadt, _ chief quarter of Berlin; and planted,
just about the time of this unlucky dinner, "A.D. 1680 or so," [Nicolai,
_ Beschreibung der koniglichen Residenzstadte Berlin und Potsdam _
(Berlin, 1786), i. 172.] the first of the celebrated Lindens, which (or
the successors of which, in a stunted ambition) are still growing there.
_ Unter-den-Linden: _ it is now the gayest quarter of Berlin, full
of really fine edifices: it was then a sandy outskirt of Electress
Dorothee's dairy-farm; good for nothing but building upon, thought
Electress Dorothee. She did much dairy-and-vegetable trade on the great
scale;--was thought even to have, underhand, a commercial interest in
the principal Beer-house of the city? [Horn, _ Leben Friedrich Wilhelms
des Grossen Kurfursten von Brandenburg _ (Berlin, 1814).] People did not
love her: to the Great Elector, who guided with a steady bridle-hand,
she complied not amiss; though in him too there rose sad recollections
and comparisons now and then: but with a Stepson of unsteady nerves it
became evident to him there could never be soft neighborhood. Prince
Friedrich and his Father came gradually to some understanding, tacit or
express, on that sad matter; Prince Friedrich was allowed to live, on
his separate allowance, mainly remote from Court. Which he did, for
perhaps six or eight years, till the Great Elector's death; henceforth
in a peaceful manner, or at least without open explosions.

His young Hessen-Cassel Wife died suddenly in 1683; and again there was
mad rumor of poisoning; which Electress Dorothee disregarded as below
her, and of no consequence to her, and attended to industrial operations
that would pay. That poor young Wife, when dying, exacted a promise from
Prince Friedrich that he would not wed again, but be content with the
Daughter she had left him: which promise, if ever seriously given,
could not be kept, as we have seen. Prince Friedrich brought his Sophie
Charlotte home about fifteen months after. With the Stepmother and with
the Court there was armed neutrality under tolerable forms, and no open
explosion farther.

In a secret way, however, there continued to be difficulties. And such
difficulties had already been, that the poor young man, not yet come
to his Heritages, and having, with probably some turn for expense, a
covetous unamiable Stepmother, had fallen into the usual difficulties;
and taken the methods too usual. Namely, had given ear to the Austrian
Court, which offered him assistance,--somewhat as an aged Jew will to a
young Christian gentleman in quarrel with papa,--upon condition of his
signing a certain bond: bond which much surprised Prince Friedrich when
he came to understand it! Of which we shall hear more, and even much
more, in the course of time!--

Neither after his accession (year 1688; his Cousin Dutch William, of the
glorious and immortal memory, just lifting anchor towards these shores)
was the new Elector's life an easy one. We may say, it was replete with
troubles rather; and unhappily not so much with great troubles, which
could call forth antagonistic greatness of mind or of result, as with
never-ending shoals of small troubles, the antagonism to which is apt to
become itself of smallish character. Do not search into his history;
you will remember almost nothing of it (I hope) after never so many
readings! Garrulous Pollnitz and others have written enough about him;
but it all runs off from you again, as a thing that has no affinity
with the human skin. He had a court _ "rempli d'intrigues, _ full of
never-ending cabals," [Forster, i. 74 (quoting _ Memoires du Comte de
Dohna); _ &c. &c.]--about what?

One question only are we a little interested in: How he came by the
Kingship? How did the like of him contrive to achieve Kingship? We may
answer: It was not he that achieved it; it was those that went before
him, who had gradually got it,--as is very usual in such cases. All that
he did was to knock at the gate (the Kaiser's gate and the world's),
and ask, "IS it achieved, then?" Is Brandenburg grown ripe for having
a crown? Will it be needful for you to grant Brandenburg a crown? Which
question, after knocking as loud as possible, they at last took the
trouble to answer, "Yes, it will be needful."--

Elector Friedrich's turn for ostentation--or as we may interpret it, the
high spirit of a Hohenzollern working through weak nerves and a crooked
back--had early set him a-thinking of the Kingship; and no doubt, the
exaltation of rival Saxony, which had attained that envied dignity (in
a very unenviable manner, in the person of Elector August made King of
Poland) in 1697, operated as a new spur on his activities. Then also
Duke Ernst of Hanover, his father-in-law, was struggling to become
Elector Ernst; Hanover to be the Ninth Electorate, which it actually
attained in 1698; not to speak of England, and quite endless prospects
there for Ernst and Hanover. These my lucky neighbors are all rising;
all this the Kaiser has granted to my lucky neighbors: why is there no
promotion he should grant me, among them!--

Elector Friedrich had 30,000 excellent troops; Kaiser Leopold, the
"little man in red stockings," had no end of Wars. Wars in Turkey, wars
in Italy; all Dutch William's wars and more, on our side of Europe;--and
here is a Spanish-Succession War, coming dubiously on, which may prove
greater than all the rest together. Elector Friedrich sometimes in
his own high person (a courageous and high though thin-skinned man),
otherwise by skilful deputy, had done the Kaiser service, often signal
service, in all these wars; and was never wanting in the time of need,
in the post of difficulty with those famed Prussian Troops of his. A
loyal gallant Elector this, it must be owned; capable withal of doing
signal damage if we irritated him too far! Why not give him this
promotion; since it costs us absolutely nothing real, not even the price
of a yard of ribbon with metal cross at the end of it? Kaiser Leopold
himself, it is said, had no particular objection; but certain of his
ministers had; and the little man in red stockings--much occupied in
hunting, for one thing--let them have their way, at the risk of angering
Elector Friedrich. Even Dutch William, anxious for it, in sight of the
future, had not yet prevailed.

The negotiation had lasted some seven years, without result. There is no
doubt but the Succession War, and Marlborough, would have brought it to
a happy issue: in the mean while, it is said to have succeeded at last,
somewhat on the sudden, by a kind of accident. This is the curious
mythical account; incorrect in some unessential particulars, but in the
main and singular part of it well-founded. Elector Friedrich, according
to Pollnitz and others, after failing in many methods, had sent 100,000
_ thalers _ (say 15,000 pounds) to give, by way of--bribe we must call
it,--to the chief opposing Hofrath at Vienna. The money was offered,
accordingly; and was refused by the opposing Hofrath: upon which the
Brandenburg Ambassador wrote that it was all labor lost; and even
hurried off homewards in despair, leaving a Secretary in his place. The
Brandenburg Court, nothing despairing, orders in the mean while, Try
another with it,--some other Hofrath, whose name they wrote in cipher,
which the blundering Secretary took to mean no Hofrath, but the Kaiser's
Confessor and Chief Jesuit, Pater Wolf. To him accordingly he hastened
with the cash, to him with the respectful Electoral request; who
received both, it is said, especially the 15,000 pounds, with a _ Gloria
in excelsis; _ and went forthwith and persuaded the Kaiser. [Pollnitz,
_ Memoiren, _ i. 310.]--Now here is the inexactitude, say Modern Doctors
of History; an error no less than threefold. 1. Elector Friedrich was
indeed advised, in cipher, by his agent at Vienna, to write in person
to--"Who is that cipher, then?" asks Elector Friedrich, rather puzzled.
At Vienna that cipher was meant for the Kaiser; but at Berlin they
take it for Pater Wolf; and write accordingly, and are answered with
readiness and animation. 2. Pater Wolf was not official Confessor, but
was a Jesuit in extreme favor with the Kaiser, and by birth a nobleman,
sensible to human decorations. 3. He accepted no bribe, nor was any
sent; his bribe was the pleasure of obliging a high gentleman who
condescended to ask, and possibly the hope of smoothing roads for St.
Ignatius and the Black Militia, in time coming. And THUS at last, and
not otherwise than thus, say exact Doctors, did Pater Wolf do the thing.
[G. A. H. Stenzel, _ Geschichte des Preussischen Staats _ (Hamburg,
1841), iii. 104 _ (Berliner Monatschrift, _ year 1799); &c.] Or might
not the actual death of poor King Carlos II. at Madrid, 1st November,
1700, for whose heritages all the world stood watching with swords half
drawn, considerably assist Pater Wolf? Done sure enough the thing was;
and before November ended, Friedrich's messenger returned with "Yes"
for answer, and a Treaty signed on the 16th of that month. [Pollnitz (i.
318) gives the Treaty (date corrected by his Editor, ii.589).]

To the huge joy of Elector Friedrich and his Court, almost the very
nation thinking itself glad. Which joyful Potentate decided to set out
straightway and have the coronation done; though it was midwinter;
and Konigsberg (for Prussia is to be our title, "King in Prussia," and
Konigsberg is Capital City there) lies 450 miles off, through tangled
shaggy forests, boggy wildernesses, and in many parts only corduroy
roads. We order "30,000 post-horses," besides all our own large stud, to
be got ready at the various stations: our boy Friedrich Wilhelm, rugged
boy of twelve, rough and brisk, yet much "given to blush" withal (which
is a feature of him), shall go with us; much more, Sophie Charlotte our
august Electress-Queen that is to be: and we set out, on the 17th of
December, 1700, last year of the Century; "in 1800 carriages:" such a
cavalcade as never crossed those wintry wildernesses before. Friedrich
Wilhelm went in the third division of carriages (for 1800 of them could
not go quite together); our noble Sophie Charlotte in the second; a
Margraf of Brandenburg-Schwedt, chief Margraf, our eldest Half-Brother,
Dorothee's eldest Son, sitting on the coach-box, in correct insignia,
as similitude of Driver. So strict are we in etiquette; etiquette indeed
being now upon its apotheosis, and after such efforts. Six or seven
years of efforts on Elector Friedrich's part; and six or seven hundred
years, unconsciously, on that of his ancestors.

The magnificence of Friedrich's processionings into Konigsberg, and
through it or in it, to be crowned, and of his coronation ceremonials
there: what pen can describe it, what pen need! Folio volumes with
copper-plates have been written on it; and are not yet all pasted in
bandboxes, or slit into spills. [British Museum, short of very many
necessary Books on this subject, offers the due Coronation Folio, with
its prints, upholstery catalogues, and official harangues upon nothing,
to ingenuous human curiosity.] "The diamond buttons of his Majesty's
coat [snuff-colored or purple, I cannot recollect] cost 1,500 pounds
apiece;" by this one feature judge what an expensive Herr. Streets were
hung with cloth, carpeted with cloth, no end of draperies and cloth;
your oppressed imagination feels as if there was cloth enough, of
scarlet and other bright colors, to thatch the Arctic Zone. With
illuminations, cannon-salvos, fountains running wine. Friedrich had made
two Bishops for the nonce. Two of his natural Church-Superintendents
made into Quasi-Bishops, on the Anglican model,--which was always a
favorite with him, and a pious wish of his;--but they remained mere cut
branches, these two, and did not, after their haranguing and anointing
functions, take root in the country. He himself put the crown on his
head: "King here in my own right, after all!"--and looked his royalest,
we may fancy; the kind eyes of him almost partly fierce for moments, and
"the cheerfulness of pride" well blending with something of awful.

In all which sublimities, the one thing that remains for human memory is
not in these Folios at all, but is considered to be a fact not the less:
Electress Charlotte's, now Queen Charlotte's, very strange conduct
on the occasion. For she cared not much about crowns, or upholstery
magnificences of any kind; but had meditated from of old on the
infinitely little; and under these genuflections, risings, sittings,
shiftings, grimacings on all parts, and the endless droning eloquence
of Bishops invoking Heaven, her ennui, not ill-humored or offensively
ostensible, was heartfelt and transcendent. At one turn of the
proceedings, Bishop This and Chancellor That droning their empty
grandiloquences at discretion, Sophie Charlotte was distinctly seen to
smuggle out her snuff-box, being addicted to that rakish practice, and
fairly solace herself with a delicate little pinch of snuff. Rasped
tobacco, _ tabac rape, _ called by mortals _ rape _ or rappee: there is
no doubt about it; and the new King himself noticed her, and hurled back
a look of due fulminancy, which could not help the matter, and was only
lost in air. A memorable little action, and almost symbolic in the first
Prussian Coronation. "Yes, we are Kings, and are got SO near the stars,
not nearer; and you invoke the gods, in that tremendously long-winded
manner; and I--Heavens, I have my snuff-box by me, at least!" Thou
wearied patient Heroine; cognizant of the infinitely little!--This
symbolic pinch of snuff is fragrant all along in Prussian History.
A fragrancy of humble verity in the middle of all royal or other
ostentations; inexorable, quiet protest against cant, done with such
simplicity: Sophie Charlotte's symbolic pinch of snuff. She was always
considered something of a Republican Queen.

Thus Brandenburg Electorate has become Kingdom of Prussia; and the
Hohenzollerns have put a crown upon their head. Of Brandenburg, what it
was, and what Prussia was; and of the Hohenzollerns and what they were,
and how they rose thither, a few details, to such as are dark about
these matters, cannot well be dispensed with here.


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