MoboReader> Literature > History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 10

   Chapter 2 — THE HOMAGINGS.

History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 10 By Thomas Carlyle Characters: 26922

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02


Young Friedrich, as his Father had done, considers it unnecessary to be crowned. Old Friedrich, first of the name, and of the King series, we did see crowned, with a pinch of snuff tempering the solemnities. That Coronation once well done suffices all his descendants hitherto. Such an expense of money,-of diluted mendacity too! Such haranguing, gesturing, symbolic fugling, all grown half false:-avoid lying, even with your eyes, or knees, or the coat upon your back, so far as you easily can!

Nothing of Coronation: but it is thought needful to have the HULDIGUNGEN (Homagings) done, the Fealties sworn; and the young Majesty in due course goes about, or gives directions, now here now there, in his various Provinces, getting that accomplished. But even in that, Friedrich is by no means strait-laced or punctilious; does it commonly by Deputy: only in three places, Konigsberg, Berlin, Cleve, does he appear in person. Mainly by deputy; and always with the minimum of fuss, and no haranguing that could be avoided. Nowhere are the old STANDE (Provincial Parliaments) assembled, now or afterwards: sufficient for this and for every occasion are the "Permanent Committees of the STANDE;" nor is much speaking, unessential for despatch of business, used to these.

"STANDE-of Ritterschaft mainly, of Gentry small and great-existed once in all those Countries, as elsewhere," says one Historian; "and some of them, in Preussen, for example, used to be rather loud, and inclined to turbulence, till the curb, from a judicious bridle-hand, would admonish them. But, for a long while past,-especially since the Great Elector's time, who got an 'Excise Law' passed, or the foundations of a good Excise Law laid; [Preuss, iv. 432; and Thronbesteigung, pp. 379-383.] and, what with Excise, what with Domain-Farms, had a fixed Annual Budget, which he reckoned fair to both parties,-they have been dying out for want of work; and, under Friedrich Wilhelm, may be said to have gone quite dead. What work was left for them? Prussian Budget is fixed, many things are fixed: why talk of them farther? The Prussian King, nothing of a fool like certain others,"-which indeed is the cardinal point, though my Author does not say so,-"is respectfully aware of the facts round him; and can listen to the rumors too, so far as he finds good. The King sees himself terribly interested to get into the right course in all things, and avoid the wrong one! Probably he does, in his way, seek 'wise Advice concerning the arduous matters of the Kingdom;' nay I believe he is diligent to have it of the wisest:-who knows if STANDE would always give it wiser; especially STANDE in the haranguing condition?"-Enough, they are not applied to. There is no Freedom in that Country. "No Freedom to speak of," continues he: "but I do a little envy them their Fixed Budget, and some other things. What pleasure there can be in having your household arrangements tumbled into disorder every new Year, by a new-contrived scale of expenses for you, I never could ascertain!"-

Friedrich is not the man to awaken Parliamentary sleeping-dogs well settled by his Ancestors. Once or twice, out of Preussen, in Friedrich Wilhelm's time, there was heard some whimper, which sounded like the beginning of a bark. But Friedrich Wilhelm was on the alert for it: Are you coming in with your NIE POZWALAM (your LIBERUM VETO), then? None of your Polish vagaries here. "TOUT LE PAYS SERA RUINE (the whole Country will be ruined)," say you? (Such had been the poor Marshal or Provincial SPEAKER'S Remonstrance on one occasion): "I don't believe a word of that. But I do believe the Government by JUNKERS [Country Squires] and NIE POZWALAM will be ruined,"-as it is fully meant to be! "I am establishing the King's Sovereignty like a rock of bronze (ICH STABILIRE DIE SOUVERAINETAT WIE EINEN ROCHER VON BRONZE)," some extremely strong kind of rock! [Forster, b. iii. (Urkundenbuch, i. 50); Preuss, iv. 420 n. "NIE POZWALAM" (the formula of LIBERUM VETO) signifies "I Don't Permit!"] This was one of Friedrich Wilhelm's marginalia in response to such a thing; and the mutinous whimper died out again. Parliamentary Assemblages are sometimes Collective Wisdoms, but by no means always so. In Magdeburg we remember what trouble Friedrich Wilhelm had with his unreasonable Ritters. Ritters there, in their assembled capacity, had the Reich behind them, and could not be dealt with like Preussen: but Friedrich Wilhelm, by wise slow methods, managed Magdeburg too, and reduced it to silence, or to words necessary for despatch of business.

In each Province, a Permanent Committee-chosen, I suppose, by King and Knights assenting; chosen I know not how, but admitted to be wisely chosen-represents the once Parliament or STANDE; and has its potency for doing good service in regard to all Provincial matters, from roads and bridges upwards, and is impotent to do the least harm. Roads and bridges, Church matters, repartition of the Land-dues, Army matters,-in fact they are an effective non-haranguing Parliament, to the King's Deputy in every such Province; well calculated to illuminate and forward his subaltern AMTmen and him. Nay, we observe it is oftenest in the way of gifts and solacements that the King articulately communicates with these Committees or their Ritterschafts. Projects for Draining of Bogs, for improved Highways, for better Husbandry; loans granted them, Loan-Banks established for the Province's behoof:-no need of parliamentary eloquence on such occasions, but of something far different.

It is from this quiescent, or busy but noiseless kind of STANDE and Populations that Friedrich has his HULDIGUNG to take;-and the operation, whether done personally or by deputy, must be an abundantly simple one. He, for his part, is fortunate enough to find everywhere the Sovereignty ESTABLISHED; "rock of bronze" not the least shaken in his time. He will graciously undertake, by Written Act, which is read before the STANDE, King or King's Deputy witnessing there, "To maintain the privileges" of his STANDE and Populations; the STANDE answer, on oath, with lifted hand, and express invocation of Heaven, That they will obey him as true subjects; And so-doubtless with something of dining superadded, but no whisper of it put on record-the HULDIGUNG will everywhere very quietly transact itself.

The HULDIGUNG itself is nothing to us, even with Friedrich there,-as at Konigsberg, Berlin, Cleve, the three exceptional places. To which, nevertheless, let us briefly attend him, for the sake of here and there some direct glimpse we may get of the then Friedrich's actual physiognomy and ways. Other direct view, or the chance of such, is not conceded us out of those sad Prussian Books; which are very full on this of the HULDIGUNG, if silent on so many other points. [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 382.]

FRIEDRICH ACCEPTS THE HOMAGES, PERSONALLY, IN THREE PLACES.

To Konigsberg is his first excursion on this errand. Preussen has perhaps, or may be suspected of having, some remnants of sour humors left in it, and remembrances of STANDE with haranguings and even mutinies: there if anywhere the King in person may do good on such an occasion, He left Berlin, July 7th, bound thitherward; here is Note of that first Royal Tour,-specimen of several hundreds such, which he had to do in the course of the next forty-five years.

"Friend Algarotti, charming talker, attended him; who else, official and non-official, ask not. The Journey is to be circuitous; to combine various businesses, and also to have its amusements. They went by Custrin; glancing at old known Country, which is at its greenest in this season. By Custrin, across the Neumark, into Pommern; after that by an intricate winding route; reviewing regiments, inspecting garrisons, now here now there; doing all manner of inspections; talking I know not what; oftenest lodging with favored Generals, if it suited. Distance to Konigsberg, by the direct road, is about 500 miles; by this winding one, it must have been 800: Journey thither took nine days in all. Obliquely through Pommern, almost to the coast of the Baltic; their ultimatum there a place called Coslin, where they reviewed with strictness,-omitting Colberg, a small Sea-Fortress not far rearward, time being short. Thence into West-Preussen, into Polish Territory, and swiftly across that; keeping Dantzig and its noises wide enough to the left: one night in Poland; and the next they are in Ost-Preussen, place called Liebstadt,-again on home-ground, and diligently reviewing there.

"The review at Liebstadt is remarkable in this, That the regiments, one regiment especially, not being what was fit, a certain Grenadier-Captain got cashiered on the spot; and the old Commandant himself was soon after pensioned, and more gently sent his ways. So strict is his Majesty. Contrariwise, he found Lieutenant-General von Katte's Garrison, at Angerburg, next day, in a very high perfection; and Colonel Posadowsky's regiment specially so; with which latter gentleman he lodged that night, and made him farther happy by the ORDER OF MERIT: Colonel Posadowsky, Garrison of Angerburg, far off in East-Preussen, Chevalier of the Order of Merit henceforth, if we ever meet him again. To the good old Lieutenant-General von Katte, who no doubt dined with them, his Majesty handed, on the same occasion, a Patent of Feldmarschall;-intends soon to make him Graf; and did it, as readers know. Both Colonel and General attended him thenceforth, still by a circuitous route, to Konigsberg, to assist in the solemnities there. By Gumbinnen, by Trakehnen,-the Stud of Trakehnen: that also his Majesty saw, and made review of; not without emotion, we can fancy, as the sleek colts were trotted out on those new terms! At Trakehnen, Katte and the Colonel would be his Majesty's guests, for the night they stayed. This is their extreme point eastward; Konigsberg now lies a good way west of them. But at Trakehnen they turn; and, Saturday, 16th July, 1740, after another hundred miles or so, along the pleasant valley of the Pregel, get to Konigsberg: ready to begin business on Monday morning,-on Sunday if necessary." [From Preuss, Thronbesteigung, pp. 382, 385; Rodenbeck, p. 16; &c.]

On Sunday there did a kind of memorability occur: The HULDIGUNGS-PREDIGT (Homage Sermon)-by a reverend Herr Quandt, chief Preacher there. Which would not be worth mentioning, except for this circumstance, that his Majesty exceedingly admired Quandt, and thought him a most Demosthenic genius, and the best of all the Germans. Quandt's text was in these words: "Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou Son of Jesse; Peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thine helpers; for thy God helpeth thee." [First Chronicles, xii. 18.] Quandt began, in a sonorous voice, raising his face with respectful enthusiasm to the King, "Thine are we, O Friedrich, and on thy side, thou Son of Friedrich Wilhelm;" and so went on: sermon brief, sonorous, compact, and sticking close to its text. Friedrich stood immovable, gazing on the eloquent Demosthenic Quandt, with admiration heightened by surprise;-wrote of Quandt to Voltaire; and, with sustained enthusiasm, to the Public long afterwards; and to the end of his days was wont to make Quandt an exception, if perhaps almost the only one, from German barbarism, and disharmony of mind and tongue. So that poor Quandt cannot ever since get entirely forgotten, but needs always to be raked up again, for this reason when others have ceased: an almost melancholy adventure for poor Quandt and Another!-

The HULDIGUNG was rather grand; Harangue and Counter-harangue permitted to the due length, and proper festivities following: but the STANDE could not manage to get into vocal covenanting or deliberating at all; Friedrich before leaving Berlin had answered their hint or request that way, in these words: "We are likewise graciously inclined to give to the said STANDE, before their Homaging, the same assurance which they got from our Herr Father's Majesty, who is now with God,"-general assurance that their, and everybody's, "Rights shall be maintained [as we see they are],-with which, it is hoped (HOFFENTLICH), they will be content, and get to peace upon this matter (SICH DABEI BERUHIGEN WERDEN)." [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 380.] It will be best for them!

Friedrich gave away much corn here; that is, opened his Corn-Granaries, on charitable terms, and took all manner of measures, here as in other places, for relief of the scarcity there was. Of the illuminations, never so grand, the reader shall hear nothing. A "Torch-Procession of the Students" turned out a pretty thing:-Students marching with torches, with fine wind-music, regulated enthusiasm, fine succinct address to his Majesty; and all the world escorting, with its "Live Forever!" Friedrich gave the Students "a TRINK-GELAG (Banquet of Liquors)," how arranged I do not know: and to the Speaker of the Address, a likely young gentleman with VON to his name, he offered an Ensigncy of Foot ("in Camas's Fusileer Regiment,"-Camas now gone to Paris, embassying), which was joyfully accepted. Joyfully accepted;-and it turned out well for all parties; the young gentleman having risen, where merit was the rule of rising, and become Graf and Lieutenant-General, in the course of the next fifty years. [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 387.]

Huldigung and Torch

-Procession over, the Royal Party dashed rapidly off, next morning (21st July), homewards by the shortest route; and, in three days more, by Frankfurt-on-Oder (where a glimpse of General Schwerin, a favorite General, was to be had), were safe in Berlin; received with acclamation, nay with "blessings and even tears" some say, after this pleasant Fortnight's Tour. General Schwerin, it is rumored, will be made Feldmarschall straightway, the Munchows are getting so promoted as we said; edicts are coming out, much business speeding forward, and the tongues of men keep wagging.

Berlin HULDIGUNG-and indeed, by Deputy, that of nearly all the other Towns-was on Tuesday, August 2d. At Berlin his Majesty was present in the matter: but, except the gazing multitudes, and hussar regiments, ranked in the Schloss-Platz and streets adjoining, there was little of notable in it; the upholstery arrangements thrifty in the extreme. His Majesty is prone to thrift in this of the Huldigung, as would appear; perhaps regarding the affair as scenic merely. Here, besides this of Berlin, is another instance just occurring. It appears, the Quedlinburg people, shut out from the light of the actual Royal Countenance, cannot do their Homaging by Deputy, without at least a Portrait of the King and of the Queen: How manage? asks the Official Person. "Have a Couple of Daubs done in Berlin, three guineas apiece; send them these," answers the King! ["On doit faire barbouiller de mauvaises copies a Berlin, la piece a 20 ecus.-FR." Preuss, ii. (Urkundenbuch, s. 222).]

Here in the Berlin Schloss, scene the Large Hall within doors, there is a "platform raised three steps; and on this, by way of a kind of throne, an arm-chair covered with old black velvet;" the whole surmounted by a canopy also of old black velvet: not a sublime piece of upholstery; but reckoned adequate. Friedrich mounted the three steps; stood before the old chair, his Princes standing promiscuously behind it; his Ritters in quantity, in front and to right and left, on the floor. Some Minister of the Interior explains suitably, not at too great length, what they are met for; some junior Official, junior but of quality, responded briefly, for himself and his order, to the effect, "Yea, truly:" the HULDIGUNGENS-URKUNDE (Deed of Homage) was then read by the proper Clerk, and the Ritters all swore; audibly, with lifted hands. This is the Ritter Huldigung.

His Majesty then steps out to the Balcony, for Oath and Homage of the general Population. General population gave its oath, and "three great shouts over and above." "ES LEBE DER KONIG!" thrice, with all their throats. Upon which a shower of Medals, "Homage-Medals," gold and silver (quantity not mentioned) rained down upon them, in due succession; and were scrambled for, in the usual way. "His Majesty," they write, and this is perhaps the one point worth notice, "his Majesty, contrary to custom and to etiquette, remained on the Balcony, some time after the ceremony, perhaps a full half-hour;"-silent there, "with his look fixed attentively on the immeasurable multitude before the Schloss; and seemed sunk in deep reflection (BETRACHTUNG):"-an almost awfully eloquent though inarticulate phenomenon to his Majesty, that of those multitudes scrambling and huzzaing there! [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 389.]

These, with the Cleve one, are all the Hornagings Friedrich was personally present at; the others he did by Deputy, all in one day (2d August); and without fuss. Scenic matters these; in which, except where he can, as in the Konigsberg case, combine inspections and grave businesses with them, he takes no interest. However, he is now, for the sake chiefly of inspections and other real objects, bent on a Journey to Cleve;-the fellow of that to Konigsberg: Konigsberg, Preussen, the easternmost outlying wing of his long straggling Dominions; and then Cleve-Julich, its counterpart on the southwestern side,-there also, with such contingencies hanging over Cleve-Julich, it were proper to make some mustering of the Frontier garrisons and affairs. [In regard to the Day of HULDIGUNG at Cleve, which happily is not of the least moment to us, Preuss (Thronbesteigung, p, 390) and Helden-Geschichte, (i. 423) seem to be in flat contradiction.] His Majesty so purposes: and we purpose again to accompany,-not for inspection and mustering, but for an unexpected reason. The grave Journey to Cleve has an appendage, or comic side-piece, hanging to it; more than one appendage; which the reader must not miss!-Before setting out, read these two Fractions, snatched from the Diplomatist Wastebag; looking well, we gain there some momentary view of Friedrich on the business side. Of Friedrich, and also of Another:-

Sunday, 14th August, 1740, Dickens, who has been reporting hitherto in a favorable, though in a languid exoteric manner, not being in any height of favor, England or he,-had express Audience of his Majesty; being summoned out to Potsdam for that end: "Sunday evening, about 7 P.M."-Majesty intending to be off on the Cleve Journey to-morrow. Let us accompany Dickens. Readers may remember, George II. has been at Hanover for some weeks past; Bielfeld diligently grinning euphemisms and courtly graciosities to him; Truchsess hinting, on opportunity, that there are perhaps weighty businesses in the rear; which, however, on the Britannic side, seem loath to start. Britannic Majesty is much at a loss about his Spanish War, so dangerous for kindling France and the whole world upon him. In regard to which Prussia might be so important, for or against.-This, in compressed form, is what Dickens witnesses at Potsdam that Sunday evening from 7 P.M.:-

"Audience lasted above an hour: King turned directly upon business; wishes to have 'Categorical Answers' as to Three Points already submitted to his Britannic Majesty's consideration. Clear footing indispensable between us. What you want of me? say it, and be plain. What I want of you is, These three things:-

"1. Guarantee for Julich and Berg. All the world knows WHOSE these Duchies are. Will his Britannic Majesty guarantee me there? And if so, How, and to what lengths, will he proceed about it?

"2. Settlement about Ost-Friesland. Expectancy of Ost-Friesland soon to fall heirless, which was granted me long since, though Hanover makes hagglings, counter-claimings: I must have some Settlement about that.

"3. The like about those perplexities in Mecklenburg. No difficulty there if we try heartily, nor is there such pressing haste about it.

"These are my three claims on England; and I will try to serve England as far in return, if it will tell me how. 'Ah, beware of throwing yourself into the arms of France!' modestly suggests Dickens.-'Well, if France will guarantee me those Duchies, and you will not do anything?' answers his Majesty with a fine laugh: 'England I consider my most natural friend and ally; but I must know what there is to depend on there. Princes are ruled by their interest; cannot follow their feelings. Let me have an explicit answer; say, at Wesel, where I am to be on the 24th,'" ten days hence. Britannic Majesty is at Hanover, and can answer within that time. "This he twice told me, 'Wesel, 24th,' in the course of our interview. Permit me to recommend the matter to your Lordship,"-my Lord Harrington, now attending the Britannic Majesty.

"During the whole audience," adds Dickens, "the King was in extreme good humor; and not only heard with attention all the considerations I offered, but was not the least offended at any objections I made to what he said. It is undoubtedly the best way to behave with frankness to him." These last are Dickens's own words; let them modestly be a memorandum to your Lordship. This King goes himself direct to the point; and straightforwardness, as a primary condition, will profit your Lordship with him. [Dickens (in State-Paper Office, 17th August, 1740).]

Most true advice, this;-and would perhaps be followed, were it quite easy! But things are very complicated. And the Britannic Majesty, much plagued with Spanish War and Parliamentary noises in that unquiet Island, is doubtless glad to get away to Hanover for a little; and would fain be on holiday in these fine rural months. Which is not well possible either. Jenkins's Ear, rising at last like a fiery portent, has kindled the London Fog over yonder, in a strange way, and the murky stagnancy is all getting on fire; the English intent, as seldom any Nation was, to give the Spaniards an effectual beating. Which they hope they can,-though unexpected difficulties will occur. And, in the mean while, what a riddle of potentialities for his poor Majesty to read, and pick his way from!-

Bielfeld, in spite of all this, would fain be full of admiration for the Britannic Majesty. Confesses he is below the middle size, in fact a tiny little creature, but then his shape is perfect; leg much to be commended,-which his Majesty knows, standing always with one leg slightly advanced, and the Order of the Garter on it, that mankind may take notice. Here is Bielfeld's description faithfully abridged:-

"Big blue eyes, perhaps rather of parboiled character, though proud enough; eyes flush with his face or more, rather IN RELIEF than on a level with it,"-A FLEUR DE TETE, after the manner of a fish, if one might say so, and betokening such an intellect behind them! "Attitude constrained, leg advanced in that way; his courtiers call it majestic. Biggish mouth, strictly shut in the crescent or horse-shoe form (FERMEE EN CROISSANT); curly wig (A NOEUDS, reminding you of lamb's-wool, color not known); eyebrows, however, you can see are ashy-blond; general tint is fundamentally livid; but when in good case, the royal skin will take tolerably bright colors (PREND D'ASSEZ BELLES COULEURS). As to the royal mind and understanding, what shall Bielfeld say? That his Majesty sometimes makes ingenious and just remarks, and is laudably serious at all times, and can majestically hold his tongue, and stand with advanced leg, and eyes rather more than flush. Sense of his dignity is high, as it ought to be; on great occasions you see pride and a kind of joy mantling in the royal countenance. Has been known to make explosions, and to be very furious to Prince Fred and others, when pricked into:-but, my friend, what mortal is exempt from failings? Majesty reads the English Newspapers every morning in bed, which are often biting. Majesty has his Walmoden, a Hanoverian Improper Female, Countess of Yarmouth so called; quiet, autumnal, fair complexioned, stupid; who is much a comfort to him. She keeps out of mischief, political or other; and gives Bielfeld a gracious nod now and then." [Bielfeld, i. 158.] Harrington is here too;-and Britannic Majesty and he are busy governing the English Nation on these terms.-We return now to the Prussian Majesty.

About six weeks after that of Dickens,-Cleve Journey and much else now ended,-Praetorius the Danish Envoy, whom we slightly knew at Reinsberg once, gives this testimony; writing home to an Excellency at Copenhagen, whose name we need not inquire into:-

"To give your Excellency a just idea of the new Government here, I must observe that hitherto the King of Prussia does as it were everything himself; and that, excepting the Finance Minister von Boden, who preaches frugality, and finds for that doctrine uncommon acceptance, almost greater even than in the former reign, his Majesty allows no counselling from any Minister; so that Herr von Podewils, who is now the working hand in the department of Foreign Affairs, has nothing given him to do but to expedite the orders he receives from the Cabinet, his advice not being asked upon any matter; and so it is with the other Ministers. People thought the loss of Herr von Thulmeyer," veteran Foreign Minister whom we have transiently heard of in the Double-Marriage time, and perhaps have even seen at London or elsewhere, [Died 4th August (Rodenbeck, p. 20).] "would be irreparable; so expert was he, and a living archive in that business: however, his post seems to have vanished with himself. His salary is divided between Herr von Podewils," whom the reader will sometimes hear of again, "Kriegsrath (Councillor of War) von Ilgen," son of the old gentleman we used to know, "and Hofrath Sellentin who is RENDANT OF THE LEGATIONS-KASSE" (Ambassadors' Paymaster, we could guess, Ambassador Body having specialty of cash assigned it, comparable with the specialty of value received from it, in this strict frugal Country),-neither of which two latter names shall the reader be troubled with farther. "A good many resolutions, and responses by the King, I have seen: they combine laconic expression with an admirable business eye (GESCHAFTSBLICK). Unhappily,"-at least for us in the Diplomatic line, for your Excellency and me unhappily,-"there is nobody about the King who possesses his complete confidence, or whom we can make use of in regard to the necessary introductions and preliminary movements. Hereby it comes that,-as certain things can only be handled with cautious foresight and circumlocution, and in the way of beginning wide,-an Ambassador here is more thrown out of his course than in any other Court; and knows not, though his object were steadily in sight, what road to strike into for getting towards it." [Preuss, Thronbesteigung, p. 377 (2d October, 1740).]

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares