Youth of the Great Elector - George Upton

The Prince's Flight

While the campaigns of Banner in Bohemia and of the heroic Bernhard von Weimar upon the Rhine were in progress, George William summoned the Electoral Prince from Holland. The court residence was removed from Berlin to the strong fortress of Spandau. The Prince arrived there with Leuchtmar and Muller, whose functions had ceased. The jovial and patriotic Colonel von Burgsdorf was also there. Speaking of the Prince, and the events of the day upon one occasion when Leuchtmar was visiting Burgsdorf, the former said: "The Prince would have been in Holland to-day had it not been for him." (Leuchtmar made three crosses in the air.)

"Schwarzenberg! Yes, he sits upon our necks like the Evil One himself! They say he can do anything he wishes with the Elector. He has even asserted that the Prince must marry a Catholic lady. And whom do you suppose he has in mind? The Archduchess Isabella Clara. The Elector knows nothing about it as yet, but Schwarzenberg believes the Prince will be greatly pleased."

Leuchtmar smiled. "If he thinks the Prince can be moulded and pressed to suit his pleasure he is mistaken. There are surely few young men of his age who show an equal force of character. Here is one example out of many. In The Hague, as you well know, there are many young and distinguished people, sons of princes, counts, and others. A clear-headed man can learn much from association with them, while a frivolous man would only learn things destructive of body and soul alike. When I received the letter requesting me to take the Prince to The Hague I implored divine help to keep his life blameless. The Prince surprised me reading it and asked what troubled me. I told him frankly what disquieted me, and that in my trouble I had sought divine assistance. The Prince, deeply moved, took my hand and said that he would always heed my admonitions. I was consoled for a time, but anxiety returned when we arrived at The Hague and I thought of the young men who would be his associates. Many of them had been to Paris. I knew the Prince's strength of character but I feared the insidious temptations to which he might be exposed. I had no outward way of protecting him. What power can a governor have over a nineteen-year-old prince? But he is not a hypocrite, I can tell you. He likes jolly company and a beaker of good wine, and he is very jovial. These young gentlemen of the Paris school were in the habit of giving suppers at which some handsome but not very reputable young women were present. Think of it! And to one of these suppers the Prince was invited."

"I should like to have wrung the necks of those who invited him!" exclaimed the Colonel.

"Listen further. The Prince went to the designated place with young Von Loewen, from whom I learned the particulars. At first he could not trust his own eyes. But when he was convinced of the kind of company he had fallen into, he took his hat and indignantly left the place."

Interrupting the Baron, Burgsdorf exclaimed, "Did the Prince do that?"

"Why should you doubt it?" replied Leuchtmar. He did still more. Some of these sons of princes and counts sprang up and followed him, seized him by the arm and hand and tried to induce him to stay. But he shook them off and said: You may justify yourselves in what you are do doing; but I know what I owe to my parents, to my country, and to myself.'"

Burgsdorf vainly strove to keep back the tears. Pacing the floor to and fro he exclaimed, "Lord, my God, he is every inch a prince. If he were my child I would love him to death—that old ass—but what am I saying? He is the Electoral Prince, and will he not be my Prince every day? Whom have we to thank for such a Prince, whom else than—"

"Than God," replied Leuchtmar.

"Yes," replied the Colonel; "your first thanks for everything are due to Him. But we also have to thank you for your judicious course, excellent man. Believe me, if Frederick William turns out to be a great prince, your name will not be forgotten. And should a thankless posterity forget him, he will not be forgotten by God. Of one thing I am sure, the Prince himself will be grateful to you as long as he lives."

"He has already more than repaid me for my efforts," replied Leuchtmar. "I will show you in the morning a deed of gift which I lately received from the Prince. But be seated. I have not yet finished what I wish to say. A few days after this incident, the Prince left The Hague."

"Why? Did he fear that sometime he might yield to temptation?"

"It may be. But where did he go? Can you guess? To the camp. The Prince of Orange was investing Breda at the time. He offered his services to him, and there he had daily experience in the art of war under the eyes of distinguished field officers. When Orange learned the cause of his flight from The Hague, he said to him: 'My Prince, your flight displays more heroic spirit than the taking of Breda will do. He who can conquer himself so early will always be great.'

Their further conversation was devoted to matters in Holland.