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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Whose grandmother was a Hapsburg


The

king insisted that he should be formally tried; but the court-martial, while deciding that "Colonel Fritz" was guilty, as an officer, asserted that it had no authority to condemn the Crown-Prince. The king overruled the decision, and ordered his son to be executed. This course excited such horror and indignation among the officers that Frederick was pardoned, but not released from imprisonment until his spirit was broken and he had promised to obey his father in all things. For a year he was obliged to work as a clerk in the departments of the Government, beginning with the lowest position and rising as he acquired practical knowledge. He did not appear at Court until November, 1731, when his sister Wilhelmine was married to the Margrave of Baireuth. The ceremony had already commenced when Frederick, dressed in a plain suit of grey, without any order or decoration, was discovered among the servants. The King pulled him forth, and presented him to the Queen with these words: "Here, Madam, our Fritz is back again!"

In 1732 Frederick was forced to marry the Princess Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, whom he disliked, and with whom he lived but a short time. His father gave him the castle of Rheinsberg, near Potsdam, and there, for the first time, he enjoyed some independence: his leisure was devoted to philosophical studies, and to correspondence with Voltaire and other distinguished French authors. During the war of the Polish Succession he served

for a short time under Prince Eugene of Savoy, but had no opportunity to test or develop his military talent. Until his father's death he seemed to be more of a poet and philosopher than anything else: only the few who knew him intimately perceived that his mind was occupied with plans of government and conquest.

When Frederick William I. died, the people rejoiced in the prospect of a just and peaceful rule. Frederick II. declared to his ministers, on receiving their oath of allegiance, that no distinction should be allowed between the interests of the country and the king, since they were identical; but if any conflict of the two should arise, the interests of the country must have the preference. Then he at once corrected the abuses of the game and recruiting laws, disbanded his father's body-guard of giants, abolished torture in criminal cases, reformed the laws of marriage, and established a special Ministry for Commerce and Manufactures. When he set out for Koenigsberg to receive the allegiance of Prussia proper, his whole Court travelled in three carriages. On arriving, he dispensed with the ceremony of coronation, as being unnecessary, and then succeeded in establishing a much closer political union between Prussia and Brandenburg, which, in many respects, had been independent of each other up to that time.

[Sidenote: 1740.]

The death of the Emperor Karl VI. was the signal for a general disturbance. Maria Theresa, as the events of her reign afterwards proved, was a woman of strong, even heroic, character; stately, handsome and winning in her personal appearance, and morally irreproachable. No Hapsburg Emperor before her inherited the crown under such discouraging circumstances, and none could have maintained himself more bravely and firmly than she did. The ministers of Karl VI. flattered themselves that they would now have unlimited sway over the Empire, but they were mistaken. Maria Theresa listened to their counsels, but decided for herself: even her husband, Francis of Lorraine and Tuscany, was unable to influence her judgment. The Elector Karl Albert of Bavaria, whose grandmother was a Hapsburg, claimed the crown, and was supported by Louis XV. of France, who saw another opportunity of weakening Germany. The reigning Archbishops on the Rhine were of course on the side of France. Poland and Saxony, united under Augustus III., at the same time laid claim to some territory along the northern frontier of Austria.


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