This is the fourth post in a series retelling Luise Mühlbach’s Friedrich der Grosse und sein Hof (Frederick the Great and His Court), originally published in serial form in Germany and later reprinted by the Baltimore newspaper Der Deutsche Correspondent in 1858. Special thanks to Jill Fosse for translating the story from German as it was published in Der Deutsche Correspondent.
In today’s post, we finally meet the namesake of the story, Frederick the Great.
At the palace of Rheinsberg, the king has returned. He locks himself in his library, ignoring even his favorite flute, and busies himself with maps and plans, astrolabes and land surveyors.
While courtiers worry over what the king is up to, he himself is preparing to take the part of Brutus in Voltaire’s Death of Caesar. However, he is suddenly felled by a fever and takes to his bed. His doctor has no idea what to do to help, except—there is one possible remedy but he cannot not give it to the king as its safety and efficacy has not been tried out yet on a lesser mortal. The doctor and the king tussle back and forth over the medicine, the king insisting on trying it, the doctor hesitating. It is a brown powder from Peru that the Peruvians call quinine. Several courtiers come into the room, wanting to relay important news.
It appears that Emperor Charles IV has died.
“Oh, such a fuss about such unimportant news,” says the king, lying back on his pillows. “It just means that Maria Theresa is now Empress of Germany [sic]. That’s all and it doesn’t concern us. But, it is also important that the king should be completely well when he hears this news. It should not be said that the news made me ill. Give me that powder!”
Once again the king and the doctor argue about the quinine, but of course the king wins and takes the powder. Now he feels totally restored and ready to enjoy the festivities of the play the court is about to perform. He gets up, dresses, dictates three letters requesting the immediate presence of certain powerful men at his court, then goes to the music room and his waiting court, where he is the life and soul of the party, playing his flute better than ever, and ignoring the news about the emperor’s death.
The next day, the three important men arrive at the palace…
Cliffhanger! Who are these three important men that Frederick has summoned to his court? And what is Fredrick really up to?