William the First: His Life and Times

William the First: His Life and Times

William the First: His Life and Times

William the First: His Life and Times

Excerpt

On the 17TH OF AUGUST, 1786, Frederick dies at Sanssouci. After the Silesian wars his life had settled down into one of terrible loneliness; not only had the position between him and the Hohenzollern family become intolerable, but the Prussian State, which owed its rise solely to his genius, was suffering under his harsh rule. The financial administration of the impoverished country was bad; Berlin was in serious want of money, and hardly could a hundred louis d'or be raised, even on the best security. The King commands the Privy Council to hold an inquiry into the causes of the depreciation. Its members draw up a memorandum unanimously putting the blame on the new Bank and the commercial policy pursued. Privy Councillor Ursinus is arrested, sentries are posted on the Jägerbrücke, the Governor is seen riding about, and the town is patrolled. The King threatens the whole Council with the fate of one of its members. The "Old Periwigs" protest against Prussia's domestic affairs being entrusted to the French Fermier Général, who has been summoned to Berlin. Caudry, Director of the State Tobacco monopoly, fights a duel with his colleague, de Ladre, in the Tiergarten, and is found stabbed to the heart. Ferdinand von Wreech, a lieutenant in the Gendarmerie, commits suicide during a review. The infuriated King blames General von Schwerin for the want of discipline amongst his officers, which he attributes to the influence of foreign ambassadors, who put such foolish ideas into their heads that they are no longer happy in their calling; Young Wreech had been ruined by the stoical Englishman O'Reilly. The Governor, von Ramin, is so harsh that he is universally detested. The soldiers of the Berlin garrison shoot down their officers and non-commissioned officers because they have to drill all through the winter.

Prince Henry, the King's painted, depraved brother, drives through the town at night in a sleigh with Ludwig von Wreech, who is dressed as a woman, and Count Ernest von Lehndorff, one of the King's gentlemen, and rouses the two Princesses of Brunswick from their slumbers; Prince Frederick, in his short red jacket, looks as absurd as a clown. After an open scandal at . . .

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