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THE FÜRSTENBUND: FRIEDRICH'S LAST YEARS.
At Vienna, on November 29th, 1780, the noble Kaiserinn Maria Theresa, after a short illness, died. Her end was beautiful and exemplary, as her course had been. The disease, which seemed at first only a bad cold, proved to have been induration of the lungs; the chief symptom throughout, a more and more suffocating difficulty to breathe. On the edge of death, the Kaiserinn, sitting in a chair (bed impossible in such struggle for breath), leant her head back as if inclined to sleep. One of her women arranged the cushions, asked in a whisper, “Will your Majesty sleep, then ?” No," answered the dying Kaiserinn; “I could sleep, but I must not; Death is too near.
He must not steal upon These fifteen years I have been making ready for him; I will meet him awake.” Fifteen years ago her beloved Franz was snatched from her, in such sudden manner: and ever since, she has gone in Widow's dress; and has looked upon herself as one who had done with the world. The 18th of every month has been for her a day of solitary prayer; 18th of every August (Franz's death-day) she has gone down punctually to the vaults in the Stephans-Kirche, and sat by his coffin there;last August, something broke in the apparatus as she 1780-1785. descended; and it has ever since been an omen to her. Omen now fulfilled.
On her death, Joseph and Kaunitz, now become supreme, launched abroad in their ambitious adventures with loose rein. Schemes of all kinds; including Bavaria still, in spite of the late check; for which latter, and for vast prospects in Turkey as well, the young Kaiser is now upon a cunning method, full of promise to him,—that of ingratiating himself with the Czarina, and cutting out Friedrich in that quarter. Summer 1780, while the Kaiserinn still lived, Joseph made his famous First Visit to the Czarina (May - August 1780),2not yet for some years his thrice-famous Second Visit (thrice - famous Cleopatra - Voyage with her down the Dnieper ; dramaturgic cities and populations keeping pace with them on the banks, such the scenic faculty of Russian Officials, with Potemkin as stage-manager) in the course of which First Visit, still more in the Second, it is well known the Czarina and Joseph came to an understanding. Little articulated of it as yet; but the meaning already clear to both. "A frank partnership, high Madam: to you, full
your glorious notion of a Greek Capital and Empire, Turk quite trampled away, Constantinople a Christian metropolis once more" (and your next Grandson a Constantine, - to be in readiness): “why not, if I may share too, in the Donau Countries, that lie handy? To you,
I Empire; to me, a Western: Revival of the poor old Romish Reich, so far as may be; and no hindrance upon Bavaria, next time. Have not we had enough of that old Friedrich, who stands perpetually upon status quo, and to both of us is a mere stoppage of the way ?”
} Hormayr, Oesterreichischer Plutarch, iv. (2tes) 94; Keith, ii. 114. 2 Hermann, vi. 132-135.
say, an Eastern
Czarina Catharine took the hint; christened her next Grandson “ Constantine” (to be in readiness);' and from that time, stiffly refused renewing her Treaty with Friedrich;—to Friedrich's great grief, seeing her, on the contrary, industrious to forward every German scheme of Joseph's, Bavarian or other, and foreshadowing to himself dismal issues for Prussia when this present term of Treaty should expire. As to Joseph, he was busy night and day, — really perilous to Friedrich and the independence of the German Reich. His young Brother, Maximilian, he contrives, Czarina helping, to get elected Coadjutor of Köln; Successor of our Lanky Friend there, to be Kur-Köln in due season, and make the Electorate of Köln a bit of Austria henceforth.4 Then there come · Panis-Briefe,5—who knows what?-usurpations, graspings and pretensions without end :-finally, an open pretension to incorporate Bavaria, after all. Bavaria, not in part now, but in whole: "You, Karl Theodor, injured man, cannot we give you Territory in the Netherlands; a King there you shall be, and have your vote as Kur-Pfalz still; only think! In return for which, Bavaria ours in fee-simple, and so finish that?” Karl Theodor is perfectly willing, -only perhaps some others are not.
Then and there, these threatening complexities, now gone like a dream of the night, were really life-perils for 1780-1785. the Kingdom of Prussia; never to be lost sight of by a veteran Shepherd of the People. They kept a vigilant King Friedrich continually on the stretch, and were a standing life-problem to him in those final Years. Problem nearly insoluble to human contrivance; the Russian card having palpably gone into the other hand. Problem solved, nevertheless; it is still remembered how.
* This is the Constantine who renounced, in favour of the late Czar Nicholas; and proved a failure in regard to “ New Greek Empire," and otherwise.
• Lengthy and minute account of that Transaction, in all the steps of it, in Dohm, i. 295-379.
5 Panis (Bread) Brief is a Letter with which, in ancient centuries, the Kaiser used to furnish an old worn-out Servant, addressed to some Monastery, some Abbot or Prior in easy circumstances : "Be so good as provide this old Gentleman with Panis (Bread, or Board and Lodging) while he lives.” Very pretty in Barbarossa's time ;—but now—!
On the development of that pretty Bavarian Project, the thing became pressing ; and it is well known by what a stroke of genius Friedrich checkmated it; and produced instead a “ Fürstenbund,” or general “ Confederation of German Princes,” Prussia atop, to forbid peremptorily that the Laws of the Reich be infringed. Fürstenbund : this is the victorious summit of Friedrich's Public History, towards which all his efforts tended, during these five years : Friedrich's last feat in the world. Feat, how obsolete now,---fallen silent everywhere, except in German Parish-History, and to the students of Friedrich's character in old age! Had no result whatever in European History; so unexpected was the turn things took. A Fürstenbund which was swallowed bodily within few years, in that World-Explosion of Democracy, and War of the Giants; and, unless Napoleon’s “ Confederation of the Rhine” were perhaps some transitory ghost of it?—left not even a ghost behind. A Fürstenbund of which we must say something, when its Year comes; but obviously not much.
Nor are the Domesticities, as set forth by our Prussian authorities, an opulent topic for us. Friedrich's Old Age is not unamiable; on the contrary, I think it would have made a pretty Picture, had there been a Limner to take it, with the least felicity or physiognomic coherency ;-as there was not. His Letters, and all the 1780-1785. symptoms we have, denote a sound-hearted brave old man; continually subduing to himself many ugly troubles; and, like the stars, always steady at his work. To sit grieving or desponding is, at all times, far from him: “Why despond? Won't it be all done presently; is it of much moment while it lasts?” A fine, unaffectedly vigorous, simple and manful old age;--rather serene than otherwise; in spite of electric outbursts and cloudy weather that could not be wanting.
Of all which there is not, in this place, much more to be said. Friedrich's element is itself wearing dim, sombre of hue; and the records of it, too, seem to grow dimmer, more and more intermittent. Old friends, of the intellectual kind, are almost all dead; the new are of little moment to us, --not worth naming in compari
The chief, perhaps, is a certain young Marchese Lucchesini, who comes about this time, and continues in more and more favour both with Friedrich and his Successor,-employed even in Diplomatics by the latter. An accomplished young Gentleman, from Lucca ; of fine intelligence, and, what was no less essential to him here, a perfect propriety in breeding and carriage. One makes no acquaintance with him in these straggling records, nor desires to make any. It was he that brought the inane, ever-scribbling Denina hither, if that can be reckoned a merit. Inane Denina came as Academician, October 1782; saw Friedrich, at least once (“Academician, Pension ; yes, yes!")—and I know not whether any second time.
Friedrich, on loss of friends, does not take refuge in solitude; he tries always for something of substitute;
o 'Chamberlain' (titular, with Pension &c.), '9th May 1780, age then 28' (Preuss, iv. 211) ;-arrived, when or how is not said.
· Rödenbeck, iii. 285, 286.