Burgermeisters of small towns have been carried off; in one case, "a rich merchant in Magdeburg," whom it cost a large sum to get free again. [Stenzel, iii. 356.] Prussian recruiters hover about barracks, parade-grounds, in Foreign Countries; and if they see a tall soldier (the Dutch have had instances, and are indignant at them), will persuade him to desert,--to make for the country where soldier-merit is understood, and a tall fellow of parts will get his pair of colors in no-time.
But the highest stretch of their art was probably that done on the Austrian Ambassador,--tall Herr von Bentenrieder; tallest of Diplomatists; whom Fassmann, till the Fair of St. Germain, had considered the tallest of men. Bentenrieder was on his road as Kaiser's Ambassador to George I., in those Congress-of-Cambrai times; serenely journeying on; when, near by Halberstadt, his carriage broke. Carriage takes some time in mending; the tall Diplomatic Herr walks on, will stretch his long legs, catch a glimpse of the Town withal, till they get it ready again. And now, at some Guard-house of the place, a Prussian Officer inquires, not too reverently of a nobleman without carriage, "Who are you?" "Well," answered he smiling, "I am BOTSCHAFTER (Message-bearer) from his Imperial Majesty. And who may you be that ask?"--"To the Guard-house with us!" Whither he is marched accordingly. "Kaiser's messenger, why not?" Being a most tall handsome man, this Kaiser's BOTSCHAFTER, striding along on foot here, the Guard-house Officials have decided to keep him, to teach him Prussian drill-exercise;--and are thrown into a singular quandary, when his valets and suite come up, full of alarm dissolving into joy, and call him "Excellenz!" [Pollnitz, ii. 207-209.]
Tall Herr von Bentenrieder accepted the prostrate apology of these Guard-house Officials. But he naturally spoke of the matter to George I.; whose patience, often fretted by complaints on that head, seems to have taken fire at this transcendent instance of Prussian insolency. In consequence of this adventure, he commenced, says Pollnitz, a system of decisive measures; of reprisals even, and of altogether peremptory, minatory procedures, to clear Hanover of this nuisance; and to make it cease, in very fact, and not in promise and profession merely. These were the first rubs Queen Sophie met with, in pushing on the Double-Marriage; and sore rubs they were, though she at last got over them. Coming on the back of that fine Charlottenburg Visit, almost within year and day, and directly in the teeth of such friendly aspects and prospects, this conduct on the part of his Britannic Majesty much grieved and angered Friedrich Wilhelm; and in fact involved him in considerable practical troubles.
For it was the signal of a similar set of loud complaints, and menacing remonstrances (with little twinges of fulfilment here and there) from all quarters of Germany; a tempest of trouble and public indignation rising everywhere, and raining in upon Friedrich Wilhelm and this unfortunate Hobby of his. No riding of one's poor Hobby in peaoe henceforth. Friedrich Wilhelm always answered, what was only superficially the fact, That HE knew nothing of these violences and acts of ill-neighborship; he, a just King, was sorrier than any man to hear of them; and would give immediate order that they should end. But they always went on again, much the same; and never did end. I am sorry a just King, led astray by his Hobby, answers thus what is only superficially the fact. But it seems he cannot help it: his Hobby is too strong for him; regardless of curb and bridle in this instance. Let us pity a man of genius, mounted on so ungovernable a Hobby; leaping the barriers, in spite of his best resolutions. Perhaps the poetic temperament is more liable to such morbid biases, influxes of imaginative crotchet, and mere folly that cannot he cured? Friedrich Wilhelm never would or could dismount from his Hobby: but he rode him under much sorrow henceforth; under showers of anger and ridicule;--contumelious words and procedures, as it were SAXA ET FAECES, battering round him, to a heavy extent; the rider a victim of Tragedy and Farce both at once.
QUEEN SOPHIE'S TROUBLES: GRUMKOW WITH THE OLD DESSAUER, AND GRUMKOW WITHOUT HIM.
Queen Sophie had, by delicate management, got over those first rubs, aud arrived at a Treaty of Hanover, and clear ground again; far worse rubs lay ahead; but smooth travelling, towards such a goal, was not possible for this Queen. Poor Lady, her Court, as we discern from Wilhelmina and the Books, is a sad welter of intrigues, suspicions; of treacherous chambermaids, head-valets, pickthank scouts of official gentlemen and others striving to supplant one another. Satan's Invisible World very busy against Queen Sophie! Under any terms, much more under those of the Double-Marriage, her place in a kindly but suspicious Husband's favor was difficult to maintain. Restless aspirants, climbing this way or that, by ladder-steps discoverable in this abstruse element, are never wanting, and have the due eavesdropping satellites, now here, now there. Queen Sophie and her party have to walk warily, as if among precipices and pitfalls. Of all which wide welter of extinct contemptibilities, then and there so important, here and now become minus quantities, we again notice the existence, but can undertake no study or specification whatever. Two Incidents, the latter of them dating near the point where we now are, will sufficiently instruct the reader what a welter this was, in which Queen Sophie and her bright little Son, the new Major of the Potsdam Giants, had to pass their existence.
Incident First fell out some six years ago or more,--in 1719, year of the Heidelberg Protestants, of Clement the Forger, when his Majesty "slept for weeks with a pistol under his pillow," and had other troubles. His Majesty, on one of his journeys, which were always many, was taken suddenly ill at Brandenburg, that year: so violently ill, that thinking himself about to die, he sent for his good Queen, and made a Will appointing her Regent in case of his decease. His Majesty quite recovered before long. But Grumkow and the old Dessauer, main aspirants; getting wind of this Will, and hunting out the truth of it,--what a puddling of the waters these two made in consequence; stirring up mire and dirt round the good Queen, finding she had been preferred to them! [Wilhelmina, i. 26, 29.] Nay Wilhelmina, in her wild way, believes they had, not long after, planned to "fire a Theatre" about the King, one afternoon, in Berlin City, and take his life, thereby securing for themselves such benefit in prospect as there might be! Not a doubt of it, thinks Wilhelmina: "The young Margraf, [Born 1700 (see vol. v. p. 393.] our precious Cousin, of Schwedt, is not he Sister's-son of that Old Dessauer? Grandson of the Great Elector, even as Papa is. Papa once killed (and our poor Crown-Prince also made away with),--that young Margraf, and his blue Fox-tiger of an Uncle over him, is King in Prussia! Obviously they meant to burn that Theatre, and kill Papa!" This is Wilhelmina's distracted belief; as, doubtless, it was her Mother's on the day in question: a jealous, much-suffering, transcendently exasperated Mother, as we see.
Incident Second shows us those, two rough Gentlemen fallen out of partnership, into open quarrel and even duel. "Duel at the Copenick Gate," much noised of in the dull old Prussian Books,-- though always in a reserved manner; not even the DATE, as if that were dangerous, being clearly given! It came in the wake of that Hanover Treaty, as is now guessed; the two having taken opposite sides on that measure, and got provoked into ripping up old sores in general. Dessau was AGAINST King George and the Treaty, it appears; having his reasons, family-reasons of old standing: Grumkow, a bribable gentleman, was FOR,--having also perhaps his reasons. Enough, it came to altercations, objurgations between the two; which rose ever higher,--rose at length to wager-of-battle. Indignant challenge on the part of the Old Dessauer; which, however, Grumkow, not regarded as a BARESARK in the fighting way, regrets that his Christian principles do not, forsooth, allow him to accept. The King is appealed to; the King, being himself, though an orthodox Christian, yet a still more orthodox Soldier, decides That, on the whole, General Grumkow cannot but accept this challenge from the Field-marshal Prince of Dessau.