Research Subjects: Miscellaneous

A Cursory View of Prussia from the Death of Frederick II to the Peace of Tilsit

LETTER X: The Queen Becomes Involved and War is Declared


AT this moment of such grievous censure, and public disregard to the royal authority, the King felt himself inexpressibly unhappy, and her Majesty was inconsolable.  She had hitherto never meddled with politics:  but, the French journalists had employed their wit to ridicule Hardenberg’s administration, and even accused him of being bribed by England, he so far forgot himself as to be seriously offended at their false accusations, which, at the same time, no one believed.  Yet, as proof of his innocence, he insisted on permission to retire from public affairs.  The Queen now ventured to interfere, and, by letter, requested him not to resign.  He had already written an answer to his accusers; and, with this in hand, he went to the King, and, as a condition of his remaining in the cabinet, besought his Majesty’s permission to publish his defence.  The condition was accepted, and Hardenberg remained.  The Queen had thus taken on step, and, to entice her to another, the party of Hardenberg irritated the feelings of the whole woman, by showing her the caricatures and pasquinades which were handing about, and commented upon them in such a manner as was most proper to excite her indignation.  At length, they also succeeded in their endeavours to convince her that it was Bonapartè’s determined plan to overthrow every dynasty which would not submit to ally itself to this family; if, therefore, Prussia did not soon and powerfully oppose these arrogant pretensions, she, with all her children, must be lost; and it was, they said, in her power alone to determine the King’s wavering disposition.  The Queen had frequently witnessed the violent desire of several generals, and other officers, for a vigorous war; she had read many publications, pointing out the dangerous consequences of Bonapartè’s absolute power on the continent; Prince Louis, in particular, was continually throwing out to her his sarcastic remarks on the present pusillanimous government; in short, roused by every mean the party could devise, she was at length brought to argue the point with the King.

In the mean time, the opposite party did every thing they could to create a misunderstanding between this exemplary royal pair.  A momentary interview which his Majesty accidentally had with an opera dancer in his garden, at Charlotenburg, seems to have given them a subject to raise a suspicion; and his Majesty’s then depressed state of mind was apparently attributed to such a cause, as might, by designing insinuations, possibly excite some little jealous sensation, especially when we consider, that even conjugal affections may sometimes sink into a short slumber, under such anxiety as the King now suffered; for, whenever he turned his eyes, he saw dissatisfaction with his feeble government, and petitions were frequently presented him, not to alienate any more of his provinces:  nay, they even went so far as to cause one to be printed, with the answer of Frederick William I, on a similar occasion, affixed to it—“that he must be either intoxicated or insane, were he to think of changing such faithful subjects against such Mameluke fellows as the French.”

At this distressing period Luchesini wrote from Paris, “that Bonapartè’s promises were not to be relied upon; that he meditated the destruction of the whole Hohenzoller branch; and that he soon would drop the mask of friendship.”  This filled the cup; and his Majesty is said to exclaimed, “Why has Heaven destined me for a throne?”

It was now that the King began to feel his impolitic forbearance on Bonapartè’s infringement of Anspach, and the consequent loss of that whole district; which, as the foundation of the Hohenzoller family, he regretted so much, that he ordered Haugwitz to intimate this, as a motive for Bonapartè to spare it—“ Poogh!” answered the dictator, “when one grows up, we may throw the cradle away.”

Many considerations brought Frederick William, at length, to doubt the wisdom of his old neutral system; and, whilst his thoughts were busied on this, and on his own critical situation, the Queen made an excursion to Pyrmont.  This temporary absence from his Majesty, at such a juncture, was attributed to various causes.  On her return she was received with the greatest tenderness; and, very soon afterwards, his Majesty ordered his adjutants forthwith to send off couriers to put his whole army in motion, and war against France was declared.



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