Frederick the Great and His Court: Appearances can be deceiving

This is the sixth and final 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. Jill Fosse of the Division of Digital Systems and Stewardship has been translating the story from Der Deutsche Correspondent for our enjoyement. At the end of last month, Jill retired after nine years of service to the Libraries. A huge thanks to Jill for, not only her willingness to translate snippets of Der Deutsche Correspondent for us, but for her genuine enthusiasm for the task. I hope you all have enjoyed the fruits of Jill’s labor as much as the staff of the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project has!

Unfortunately for us readers, Jill’s departure means that we’ll be leaving the story right before a masked ball AND a war. Don’t despair! To finish reading the story in German, head over to the January 19, 1858, issue of Der Deutsche Correspondent on Chronicling America. The story continues thru the February 20, 1858, issue and is found on page 1 in the sixth column of each issue. Those of us who require an English translation can access a copy through Project Gutenberg and resume the story in Book III, Chapter IX, “The Masquerade.”

In out last installment, Frederick is ready to go to war to reclaim Silesia, an region that is his by royal birthright but is currently under Austrian control.

January 15, 1858.

To his people, their new, 28 year-old king is quite satisfactory, apparently dedicating his time to pleasure and fun. Nobody suspects that behind the jokes, smiles, and concerts—where he plays the flute—he is planning to upset the whole of European politics and create a new direction for Germany. Tonight, during the glittering masked ball that will be the climax of the season, he plans to march out of Berlin with his regiments of soldiers towards Silesia and battle.

After a final briefing with his generals, Friedrich’s servant comes to dress him in his new suit in the latest French style, so he could appear to the court at his most magnificent, before turning himself into a rough warrior. At a last glance in the mirror, he murmurs that the Marquis von Botta, the Austrian Ambassador, will be totally bluffed by this dandy.

January 16, 1858.

Count Mannteuffel, a member of King Friedrich’s cabinet, urges the marquis to leave as soon as possible and make all haste to Vienna to warn the Empress Maria Theresa to ready her army, or Friedrich and his troops will swarm over Silesia and conquer it. He sows a seed of doubt in the Marquis’s mind.

The king beckons to the marquis for the exchange of farewells and polite wishes for a good journey. The marquis piles on the horrors of having to travel through Silesia, such as terrible roads, the like of which are unknown in the rest of Austria and weather that has made them worse.

“Then you stay here in Berlin, and I will go to Silesia and tell the Empress with the voice of my cannons that those terrible roads are too dangerous for Austrians, but very comfortable for Prussia. And I’ll take my army with me, to keep my wagons from falling over.” The marquis is dismayed and rebukes the king for his plans. The generals in the room put their hands on their swords.

January 18, 1858.

The king waves his generals back and assures the marquis he is not going to attack the lands belonging to Austria, but claim what is his by right, by inheritance, and by treaty. With that the audience is ended, and the ambassador leaves the room, which is dead silent.

We hope you’ve all enjoyed our series on Frederick the Great and His Court! If you find any other works of fiction in Der Deutsche Correspondent, let us know in the comments!

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