The fourth day after this dreadful defeat the king received the tidings of the death of Wilhelmina. It was apparently the469 heaviest blow he had ever encountered. The anguish which her death caused him he did not attempt to conceal. In a business letter to Prince Henry we find this burst of feeling:
CHAPTER IX. THE DEATH OF FREDERICK WILLIAM.
Frederick, while equally complimentary, while lavishing gifts and smiles upon his guest, to whom he had written that as there “could be but one God, so there could be but one Voltaire,” wrote from Ruppin to M. Jordan, on the 28th of November, just before Voltaire took his leave.
“I will obey your commands as to sending those unpublished pieces. Your criticism will be my reward. It is a price few sovereigns can pay. I am sure of your secrecy. Your virtue and your intellect must be in proportion. I should indeed consider it a precious happiness to come and pay my court to your royal highness. One travels to Rome to see paintings and ruins. A prince such as you is a much more singular object, worthier of a long journey.
All thoughts of the double marriage were for the moment relinquished. The Czar of Russia had a son and a daughter. It was proposed to marry Wilhelmina to the son and Fritz to the daughter, and thus to secure a Russian instead of an English alliance. Harassed by these difficulties, Frederick William grew increasingly morose, venting his spite upon his wife and children. Fritz seriously contemplated escaping from his father’s abuse by flight, and to take refuge with his uncle George in England, and thus to secure his marriage with Amelia. The portraits of the62 princess which he had seen proved her to be very beautiful. All reports pronounced her to be as lovely in character as in person. He was becoming passionately attached to her. Wilhelmina was his only confidante. Regard for her alone restrained him from attempting to escape. “He would have done so long ago,” writes Dubourgay, under date of August 11, 1729, “were it not for his sister, upon whom the whole weight of his father’s resentment would then fall. Happen what will, therefore, he is resolved to share with her all the hardships which the king, his father, may be pleased to put upon her.”Olmütz was found very strongly fortified. It was so situated that, with the force Frederick had, it could not be entirely invested. Baron Marshal, a very brave and energetic old man, sixty-seven years of age, conducted the defense.
Frederick had caused signal cannon to be placed at suitable points between Breslau and Strehlin, which, by transmitting reports, should give him as early intelligence as possible of the success of the enterprise. About noon, in the midst of the grand man?uvrings on the parade-ground, one distant cannon-shot was heard, to the great satisfaction of Frederick, who alone understood its significance.
The king turned upon his heel, and, with angry voice and gesture, said, “Saldern, you refuse to become rich.The Encampment at Brieg.—Bombardment.—Diplomatic Intrigues.—Luxury of the Spanish Minister.—Rising Greatness of Frederick.—Frederick’s Interview with Lord Hyndford.—Plans of France.—Desperate Prospects of Maria Theresa.—Anecdote of Frederick.—Joint Action of England and Holland.—Heroic Character of Maria Theresa.—Coronation of the Queen of Hungary.
Thus the employments of every hour were strictly specified for every day in the week. On Wednesday he had a partial36 holiday. After half past nine, having finished his history and “got something by heart to strengthen the memory, Fritz shall rapidly dress himself and come to the king, and the rest of the day belongs to little Fritz.” On Saturday he was to be reviewed in all the studies of the week, “to see whether he has profited. General Finkenstein and Colonel Kalkstein shall be present during this. If Fritz has profited, the afternoon shall be his own. If he has not profited, he shall from two o’clock till six repeat and learn rightly what he has forgotten on the past days. In undressing and dressing, you must accustom him to get out of and into his clothes as fast as is humanly possible. You will also look that he learn to put on and put off his clothes himself, without help from others, and that he be clean, and neat, and not so dirty.”详情
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