Make your own free website on Tripod.com

BackHomeForwardUrsula's History Web




Nothing was the same at home, most of his old friends had passed on. On November 29, 1780, the Empress of Austria and Hungary, Maria Theresa, died. She had been suffering from tuberculosis for months. Now his greatest enemy was gone too. He lived quietly in his beloved Sans Souci. A year before his death in 1785, he made a treaty with the United States of America, which had declared their independence in 1776. The young nation overseas, although recognized by its former colonial master Great Britain, was isolated in trade politics. On September 10, 1785 the two young nations, Prussia and the USA signed a friendship and trade contract, which would last 132 years until 1917, the year America entered the first world war. When the contract came in effect in the beginning of 1786, Frederick was seventy-four years old. Forty years later, the American President John Quincy Adams told the assembled congress "In the youth of our political existence a great and philosophical European Sovereign was the only one, where our envoys found understanding with their liberal ideas."

In July 1786 he rode for the last time in the park of Sans Souci. He noticed that he did not have enough strength to hold himself on his horse. From day to day he became weaker; a severe cough forced him to sit up in his armchair. In the early morning hours of August 17, 1786 he was alone with his valet Struetzki. His personal physician Professor Selle, Minister von Hertzberg and three generals were in the adjacent room. Frederick had a severe coughing spell, and when it was over he whispered to his valet "La montagne est passee; nous irons mieux." Struetzki knelt beside him and held him up that he could breathe easier. Der Alte Fritz whispered "Cela sera bon". These were the last words he spoke. Twenty minutes past two o'clock in the morning, Frederick died.

In his Last Will and Testament he left instructions to be buried on the terrace of Sans Souci, besides his beloved dogs. But his successor, his nephew Frederick William II, thought it below the dignity of a king and ordered that his coffin be placed beside that of his father in the Potsdamer Garnison Church. There Frederick rested until the last days of World War 2, when the two coffins were transported to the Hohenzollern castle of Hechingen in Swabia, because of the advancing Red Army troops.

The esteemed German author Wolfgang Venohr, who wrote this magnificent account of Frederick's life, and from which I have quoted many passages in this story, asked the question in 1985 "When will he ever rest again in Prussian soil?"

Potsdam had been in the former East Germany. On October 3, 1990 the unification of Germany took place. A few months later, in 1991, thousands of people lined the streets when the coffins were returned to Potsdam. Finally, two hundred and five years after his death, his wish was honored. He found his last resting place beside his beloved greyhound dogs on the terrace of Sans Souci.


BackHomeForwardUrsula's History Web