This story published Feb. 14, 1997; written by Ursula Grosser Dixon

ForwardUrsula's History Web

1. Introduction
2. The Times of the Crown Prince
3. A Rendezvous With Glory
4. The Years of Peace and Reconstruction
5. A Day in the King's Life at Sans Souci
6. The First Servant of His State
7. Voltaire's Visit
8. The Seven Year War
9. Der Alte Fritz
10. The Division of Poland
11. 1778: Another Conflict
12. The Last Years
13. Postscript
14. The House of Hohenzollern
15. Sources and References

On the first day of June 1740, the capital of the kingdom of Prussia was alive with excitement and expectations. The people of Berlin gathered in the streets, and it seemed as if they were all caught up in some kind of euphoria "We have a new young King" they shouted.

The day before, on May 31, Prussia's King Friedrich Wilhelm I, commonly known as the soldier King, had died in Potsdam after a lengthy illness. He had made Potsdam near Berlin his royal residence. Of the 25000 inhabitants of Potsdam, a third was military personnel.

All of Berlin was buzzing that surely the young King would once again make Berlin the residence of the Royal family, after all, it was the capital. The dignitaries, the generals and the burghers waited at the big Schloss in the center of Berlin, ready with a reception. But Frederick had swung himself on his horse and rode from Potsdam to the Palace of Charlottenburg, a village at that time, 12 km west of the center of Berlin. Frederick had heard rumors about the celebrations of the people in the streets. Although he had felt a deep hatred for his father, he considered it scandalous to be acclaimed amidst such jubilation, when the old King laid dead in Potsdam.

Very few people recognized the young man when he arrived at the Charlottenburg Palace. He lifted his tricorn hat and greeted the staff with the words "Bon soir, mes amis." Struck as if by lightning, trying to curtsy and bow, they had suddenly realized who it was that stood before them. Frederick spent the night in Charlottenburg; for hours he stood in the evening at the windows overlooking the beautiful park behind the castle, seemingly in deep thought. Word had reached the Main Palace in the center of Berlin that the new King is in Charlottenburg. The next morning a regiment lined up in front of the Charlottenburg Palace , and Frederick heard their shouts "Vivat".

He stepped out and greeted the assembled generals and troops. Then he addressed them with a few words that none who heard them would ever forget:" Meine Herren, troops must not only be pleasant to look at, they must be useful. It is the duty of every soldier to be unafraid and brave. Meine Herren ( to the generals ) I know all your names, and I know of the complaints of greed and cruelty against you. See to it that in time I will be able to forget them. Let me advise you as your friend and warn you as your King."

The generals looked at each other, shock registering on their faces, what was this? Such authority they knew nothing about. But instinctively they knew that from this day on, there would only be one authority in the kingdom of Prussia: the authority of Frederick II.

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