Youth of the Great Elector - George Upton

The Departure

In the year 1626 a genealogical work was published in Berlin, containing a fine copperplate engraving of the Prince Frederick William.

He was then six years of age. The attractive young face, framed in abundant hair, shows the same expressive features which later characterized the Great Elector. He wears a jacket of flowery embroidered stuff and white breeches, besides ruffles' and collar.

When the Electoral Prince reached his seventh year (1627) Baron Leuchtmar was instructed to enter upon his duties as educator. He was summoned to the castle and proceeded at once to the antechamber leading to the audience-room. Stepping to the window he saw the Prince crossing the narrow wooden bridge where afterwards stood the majestic castle bridge adorned with marble groups. His preceptor, Muller, an elderly but still active man, who had instructed him in a general way during the previous two years, walked by his side. Upon being summoned to the audience-chamber, Leuchtmar found the Electoress seated at a marble table, upon which were the instructions which she had just read over again. She beckoned him to her side and said:

My dear Baron, my husband and I have finally decided upon the castle of Custrin as the Prince's abode so long as these troublesome times continue. Many warlike bands have traversed our country of late to our sorrow, and now we hear that Wallenstein has been summoned and will sweep over the land with his army. He has made fine promises to spare Brandenburg, but he means to play the part of the wolf toward our country, which he regards as the lamb. In these times of tumult, whose end is not yet visible, my husband and I are deeply concerned about the education of our oldest son. The confusion and excitement of war would deprive him of the quiet and peace which are indispensable, if his education is to be of any benefit. The strong castle of Custrin is at present a secure place. You will accompany him there. During the summer season you may take him to the hunting-castle of Letzlingen. Consider, my dear Baron, the sacrifice my husband and I are making for the welfare of the fatherland, the separation of our family, my husband in distant Prussia, I here, our oldest son in Custrin. Tell me, does it not all show that we are an afflicted family, and that the favors we enjoy are but of little consequence as compared with the calamities which our position forces us to endure?"

"Gracious Princess," said Leuchtmar, the people fully recognize that, and also that—"

"My dear Baron," interrupted the Electoress, "I have had some unfortunate experiences with the people, but we will not talk about them. It will greatly please me if you will cherish my last words and let them sink deep into your heart." She took the instructions from the table. "My dear Baron, in these papers you will find the substantial features of the system you are to follow in the education and upbringing of my son. But I must add some words from my heart. Above all else, educate my son to be a pious, Christian man. Then take the utmost care that the pious soul dwells in a strong body. May our Heavenly Father grant you clear insight and bless your work! Then my son will prove an exemplar for our own people in soul and body. Finally, my dear Baron, see to it that my son is spared as far as possible from the knowledge that a bloody war is raging around us. May this curse keep far away from his retreat. Now I ask you before God, will you strive with all your might and daily implore divine assistance to accomplish what these instructions set forth and what my heart has told you? If you will, confirm it, not by an oath, but in knightly fashion, by the clasp of the hand."

This was done, and Leuchtmar, bowing low, said, with great emotion: "Gracious Princess, I will strive to the utmost of my ability to accomplish what you desire, with the help of God."

A few days later, on the fourth of May, the Prince, Leuchtmar, Muller his preceptor, and a little band of attendants, made ready to depart. No one saw the tears the mother shed in parting with her beloved son. The weeping Prince at last left her apartment; Leuchtmar led him to the coach, drawn by powerful horses; it rolled over the long bridge, through Saint George's street, and out through Saint George's Gate. The Baron did not intrude upon the Prince's grief at parting from his mother, but the change of scene, the bright sky, the green of the trees, and the songs of the lark and other birds, gradually softened the bitter sorrow in the child's heart.