Attendants, Hertzberg, Selle and one or two others, were in the outer room; none in Friedrich's but Strutzki, his Kammerhussar, one of Three who are his sole valets and nurses; a faithful ingenious man, as they all seem to be, and excellently chosen for the object. Strutzki, to save the King from hustling down, as he always did, into the corner of his chair, where, with neck and chest bent forward, breathing was impossible,--at last took the King on his knee; kneeling on the ground with his other knee for the purpose,-- King's right arm round Strutzki's neck, Strutzki's left arm round the King's back, and supporting his other shoulder; in which posture the faithful creature, for above two hours, sat motionless, till the end came. Within doors, all is silence, except this breathing; around it the dark earth silent, above it the silent stars. At 20 minutes past 2, the breathing paused,--wavered; ceased. Friedrich's Life-battle is fought out; instead of suffering and sore labor, here is now rest. Thursday morning, 17th August, 1786, at the dark hour just named. On the 31st of May last, this King had reigned 46 years. "He has lived," counts Rodenbeck, "74 years, 6 months and 24 days."
His death seems very stern and lonely;--a man of such affectionate feelings, too; "a man with more sensibility than other men!" But so had his whole life been, stern and lonely; such the severe law laid on him. Nor was it inappropriate that he found his death in that poor Silesian Review; punctually doing, as usual, the work that had come in hand. Nor that he died now, rather than a few years later. In these final days of his, we have transiently noticed Arch- Cardinal de Rohan, Arch-Quack Cagliostro, and a most select Company of Persons and of Actions, like an Elixir of the Nether World, miraculously emerging into daylight; and all Paris, and by degrees all Europe, getting loud with the DIAMOND-NECKLACE History. And to eyes of deeper speculation,--World-Poet Goethe's, for instance,--it is becoming evident that Chaos is again big. As has not she proved to be, and is still proving, in the most teeming way! Better for a Royal Hero, fallen old and feeble, to be hidden from such things.
"Yesterday, Wednesday, August 16th," says a Note which now strikes us as curious, "Mirabeau, smelling eagerly for news, had ridden out towards Potsdam; met the Page riding furiously for Selle ('one horse already broken down,' say the Peasants about); and with beak, powerful beyond any other vulture's, Mirabeau perceived that here the end now was. And thereupon rushed off, to make arrangements for a courier, for flying pigeons, and the other requisites. And appeared that night at the Queen's Soiree in Schonhausen [Queen has Apartment that evening, dreaming of nothing], 'where,' says he, 'I eagerly whispered the French Minister,' and less eagerly 'MON AMI Mylord Dalrymple,' the English one;--neither of whom would believe me. Nor, in short, what Calonne will regret, but nobody else, could the pigeons be let loose, owing to want of funds.'" [Mirabeau, HISTOIRE SECRETE, &c. (LETTRE xiv.), pp. 58-63.]-- Enough, enough.
Friedrich was not buried at Sans-Souci, in the Tomb which he had built for himself; why not, nobody clearly says. By his own express will, there was no embalming. Two Regiment-surgeons washed the Corpse, decently prepared it for interment: "At 8 that same evening, Friedrich's Body, dressed in the uniform of the First Battalion of Guards, and laid in its coffin, was borne to Potsdam, in a hearse of eight horses, twelve Non-commissioned Officers of the Guard escorting. All Potsdam was in the streets; the Soldiers, of their own accord, formed rank, and followed the hearse; many a rugged face unable to restrain tears: for the rest, universal silence as of midnight, nothing audible among the people but here and there a sob, and the murmur, 'ACH, DER GUTE KONIG!'
"All next day, the Body lay in state in the Palace; thousands crowding, from Berlin and the other environs, to see that face for the last time. Wasted, worn; but beautiful in death, with the thin gray hair parted into locks, and slightly powdered. And at 8 in the evening [Friday, 18th], he was borne to the Garnison- Kirche of Potsdam; and laid beside his Father, in the vault behind the Pulpit there," [Rodenbeck, iii. 365 (Public Funeral was not till September 9th).] where the two Coffins are still to be seen.
I define him to myself as hitherto the Last of the Kings;--when the Next will be, is a very long question! But it seems to me as if Nations, probably all Nations, by and by, in their despair,-- blinded, swallowed like Jonah, in such a whale's-belly of things brutish, waste, abominable (for is not Anarchy, or the Rule of what is Baser over what is Nobler, the one life's misery worth complaining of, and, in fact, the abomination of abominations, springing from and producing all others whatsoever?)--as if the Nations universally, and England too if it hold on, may more and more bethink themselves of such a Man and his Function and Performance, with feelings far other than are possible at present. Meanwhile, all I had to say of him is finished: that too, it seems, was a bit of work appointed to be done. Adieu, good readers; bad also, adieu.
End of History of Friedrich II of Prussia V 21
History of Friedrich II of Prussia V 3