With the King were the two older of his four sons, neither of whom had been at the Imperial coronation. The Crown Prince, his father's namesake, was twenty-three, his brother Louis twenty. It was an unfortunate circumstance that on August 3, 1770, two sons were born to Frederick William II, who was then Crown Prince of Prussia. One was the child of his wife, the other of his mistress, Wilhelmine Ritz. The love child was spoiled and pampered, while the existence of Frederick Wilhelm, the legitimate son was overlooked. After the age of seven he saw little of his mother, a vague woman who spent most of her time playing cards and trying to settle the debts she had incurred. Second in line to the throne, Frederick William led a lonely life in Potsdam with his tutors. Occassionally the boy was taken to walk in the gardens of Sans Souci. There he would meet a frail old gentleman with compelling eyes. It was the King, Frederick II, his great- uncle. To the end of his life the boy would remember some of their conversations. Most memorable of all was their final meeting. The old King had grown very feeble; he stroked the boys cheek and called him his dear Fritz. He spoke of honor. "Never pretend to be what you are not. Always be more than you seem..... much depends on you..... for after my death, I am afraid, all will go topsy-turvy here...with this trouble in France, when the breaking point comes, the very devil will be let loose. I fear you will have a hard time of it. So, stand firm and remember me."
The great King died on August 17, 1786. The new King and the new Crown Prince were summoned to Sans Souci, for once, Frederick William, now sixteen was not forgotten. No sooner was Frederick the Great buried in the crypt of the garrison church at Potsdam, Count Bruehl was appointed as tutor to the Crown Prince. Bruehl was a cultivated man who tried to interest his pupil in the classics. It was too late for that. Fritz was intelligent in practical everyday affairs, kindhearted, conscientious, upright and hardworking. He detested luxury and prided himself on his reserve; and a deep dislike of his extroverted father made him appear more cold and withdrawn than he was. But a change came over him after he met Princess Luise.