Louise - Queen of Prussia - George Upton

Louise In Misfortune

From the abyss of the French Revolution Napoleon Bonaparte arose, to be emperor of the French, the rod of princes, and the scourge of God for the people of Europe. Austria had been conquered, southern Germany lay at the feet of its "Protector," and Prussia too must be crushed. In 1805 Austria and Russia had allied themselves with England and Sweden to bring the conqueror to terms. All the countries were preparing for war. Prussia alone remained quiet and refused every call to arms. Napoleon offered Hanover as the price of an alliance; Austrian and Russian envoys were endeavoring to gain the King over to their side. He, however, could not decide for either, and clung to his neutrality.

Czar Alexander sent word that he should march 100,000 men through southern Prussia and Silesia to join the Austrians. If the King permitted this, it would mean war with France. He had scarcely taken steps to avert this danger when Napoleon made another decisive move. Without either giving notice or asking permission he sent a division under General Bernadotte, October 7, 1805, through the Prussian territory of Ansbach, to avoid a detour and to fall on the rear of the Austrians. The consequence of this violent measure was the penning up of the Austrian General Mack in Ulm and the downfall of Austria. This disregard of territorial rights in thus entering Prussian domain, called forth a storm of indignation in Berlin, and with reason. The King declared that without ample reparation, war with France was no longer to be avoided. And what did Napoleon do? In a message to the King he treated the whole matter as trifling. Perhaps no one was more deeply affected by this indignity and by the misfortunes of Austria than the tender, pure-hearted Queen. She had never been accustomed to concern herself with political affairs; but when her eldest son, on his tenth birthday, October 15, 1805, appeared for the first time in the new uniform which his father had given him, she expressed the deepest feelings of her heart in the words: "I hope, my son, that on the day when you shall make use of this coat, your first object will be to revenge your brothers."

Russia and Austria wished to take quick advantage of the indignation against Napoleon in order to bring Prussia over to their side. The Czar and Grand Duke Anton, brother of Emperor Franz, both came to Berlin. The result of this conference was the treaty of November 3. According to this, Prussia was to mediate between Napoleon and the Allies. In case Napoleon did not accept the peace proposals, then Prussia promised to join the Allies with 180,000 men. Before the Czar left Potsdam he expressed a desire to visit the tomb of Frederick the Great. After midnight, together with the King and Queen, he visited the Garrison Church of Potsdam and the illuminated crypt. He kissed the coffin, offered the King his hand across it, and swore eternal friendship. On leaving the church he entered his travelling carriage and drove away to join the army.

Unfortunately the man entrusted with the Prussian negotiations was the entirely incompetent Minister Haugwitz. He was completely in the hands of the French party at court and, like it, was without love of country, sincerity, or real devotion, but on the contrary was bent on neutrality. Unfortunately the King, distrustful of himself by too severe education, did not possess enough independence of character and strength of will to see through and to break up the powerful clique which surrounded him and was leading the State to destruction. By nature he was more inclined to consideration and procrastination than to quick decision and prompt execution. The most capable statesmen, like Stein and Hadenberg, who alone could have saved the State, could do nothing against the so-called neutral party. Had the King only had some of the decision of the gifted Prince Louis Ferdinand, a son of the youngest brother of Frederick the Great, it might have been otherwise. This Prince, full of burning enthusiasm for the honor of the Prussian State and the army of Frederick the Great, was at the head of the patriotic party which Napoleon called the war party. He criticised that so-called highest statesmanship, which wished Prussia to be friendly with all its neighbors, and in consequence of which it was regarded with suspicion by all the States. "By love of peace," said Prince Louis, with clear insight, "Prussia maintains a peaceful attitude toward all the powers, and some day when they are ready for war, it will be mercilessly crushed. Then we shall fall without hope, and perhaps even without honor."

Louise would have nothing to do with Prince Louis Ferdinand, who wasted his powers recklessly in a round of pleasures. Soon after Louise had come to Berlin, he became enamoured of the beautiful Crown-princess and attempted, with the help of her inexperienced sister Frederika, to ingratiate himself with her and thus destroy the happiness of the princely pair. But the virtue of this pure woman spared herself and her family this tragedy.

On which side the Queen stood in this burning question of the day need hardly be asked. Inspired by the glory of Frederick the Great, completely devoted to her Prussia and its people, she was concerned only with Prussia's honor. With all the strength of her soul she held to Schiller's motto: "The nation is unworthy which will not sacrifice all to its honor." It is true that, entirely unfitted by nature and by calling for politics, she had lived in the sweet belief that her country, guided by its peace-loving King, would be able to maintain peace. But now she realized, quoting Schiller once more, that "even the most pious cannot keep the peace, when it does not please his quarrelsome neighbor." She took Napoleon's deed of violence in Ansbach as a personal insult to her beloved husband, and saw visions of a still darker future. Therefore she preferred war or even annihilation to such humiliation. In the Fall of 1805 the celebrated Field-marshal Gneisenau wrote: "The Queen is very much in favor of war. She has told the French ambassador that the King would himself take command of the troops, and that the nation would sacrifice its blood and treasure to preserve its independence."

When Napoleon heard of the alliance with Russia and Austria he is said to have exclaimed: "The King of Prussia shall suffer for this!" While he was rapidly preparing to take the field against the Russian and Austrian armies in Moravia, Count Haugwitz was not at all in a hurry. He did not reach Brunn until November 28, then found no time during an audience of four hours to accomplish his mission in the spirit of the Potsdam agreement, but allowed himself to be despatched next day, out of this dangerous neighborhood, to Vienna. Here he waited until, on December 2, the battle of the three Emperors, at Austerlitz, was fought, an armistice concluded between Napoleon and the Austrians, and the Russian army forced to retreat.

When at last, on December 13, Haugwitz obtained another interview with Napoleon he was greeted with the angry words: "It would have been far more honorable if your master had openly declared war on me; then at least he might have been of some service to his new allies. But you wish to be everybody's friend, and that is impossible; you must choose between me and my enemies. I want sincerity, or I withdraw. Open enemies are preferable to false friends. My enemies I can attack wherever I find them." Then he laid before the Prussian Minister an agreement whereby Prussia was to enter into an alliance, offensive and defensive, with France to give up Ansbach to Bavaria and Neuenburg to France in exchange for Hanover. On December 15 Haugwitz signed this treaty by means of which Prussia was to become the first vassal of France. What astonishment it caused in Berlin when Haugwitz presented the Schonbrunn treaty, on December 25! The King did not wish to accept it, but could not refuse, for that would virtually mean a declaration of war against the conqueror of Russia and Austria.

Hanover was indeed occupied, but the army was placed on a peace footing, and Haugwitz was to transform the offensive and defensive alliance into a purely friendly understanding. But Napoleon well knew what he could offer the good, undecided, badly counselled King. "No power in the world shall make me uphold the treaty. If Prussia now wants Hanover, she shall pay dearly for it. Your King does not know what he wants; some reckless spirits are urging him toward war. I tell you it cannot end well." On February 15, Haugwitz was forced to sign a still more distasteful treaty, which was likely to cost the friendship of England. The King, who was unprepared for war, was obliged to sign this Paris treaty, March 3. After this first humiliation of Prussia, Napoleon proceeded to exhaust the patience of the most patient, until Prussia was obliged, as Napoleon had desired, to declare war, but now without allies.

Queen Louise was sorely troubled by all this. Her health had suffered during the Winter and in April she was still more shaken by the death of her sixteen-months-old son. With this death her saddest days began, — for one who had looked upon the world so gayly and been accustomed to dispense happiness to others. She first sought and found strength at the baths of Pyrmont, where she met her beloved father, who had become Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Not until her six weeks' stay at the sanatorium was ended did she learn, on returning to Berlin, that war had been determined upon. Concessions had become useless, for Napoleon already treated Prussia as a vassal. On August 9 the King had given orders for the mobilization of the entire army. Negotiations were under way with Austria, Russia, and England in order to effect an understanding. But Austria was too much weakened, Russia too far away, and even England could not give immediate assistance. So Prussia remained isolated, and its shortsightedness and slothfulness during the previous year brought forth sad fruit.

One more attempt was made to conciliate Napoleon. He declared that he would attack Prussia with all his forces before Russia could come to its assistance, but that all might still be well, if Prussia would immediately disarm. What Napoleon expected of the King when he was disarmed was clear to everybody, and to no one more so than to the Queen. When, on her return, she learned what had been determined upon as consistent with the honor and well-being of the fatherland, she advocated the war, highly as she valued peace. The arch-enemy of Prussia learned this and made use of it by charging that she instigated the war. The newspapers which he controlled began rude attacks upon this splendid woman in order to lower her in the eyes of her people.

Had she suspected the real condition of the army, a state of affairs which the King only began to realize when war was at hand, she might have counselled otherwise. But her high opinion of the army of Frederick the Great was confirmed by the confidence of its officers. General Rachel, who had retaken Frankfort from the French, was so fatuous as to declare that the Prussian army had plenty of field-marshals equal to General Bonaparte. A colonel deplored the fact that the heroic army of the great Frederick should be furnished with cannon, rifles, and swords for the battle with the French, instead of clubs with which "to beat back these dogs." "Why do we need fortifications?" asked another. "Our fortress is the army, behind whose invincible ranks we can defy the enemy." Even a few days before the battle, when the Prussian army was virtually surrounded, a Prussian general staff officer declared that the enemy was already cut off by their clever strategy and Napoleon "as certainly ours as if we already had him in this hat." But what was the real state of affairs?

The fortresses were in bad condition, the commanders were weak dotards, the strategetical points unoccupied, so that in case of retreat the road to the capital was open to the enemy. The superior officers were old and graduates of Frederick's antiquated school of war, and the younger ones full of patrician insolence. The army itself was not in training, and consisted principally of recruited foreigners. The commander-in-chief was superannuated.

In the conduct of the war, as in the King's cabinet, there was discord and indecision. The King at length became sadly conscious of this. "It cannot end well," said he. "There is indescribable confusion; the gentlemen will not believe this, and say that I am too young and do not understand. I hope that I may be wrong."

But the clear-sighted Prince Louis Ferdinand uttered these sad words three days before the engagement at Saalfeld, in which he fell: "Alas! we are in a bad way, and so is our whole Prussian army; I consider it already lost, but I shall not outlive its fall."

The Prussian troops were to concentrate in Thuringia under the leadership of the old Duke of Brunswick for a decisive battle against the thus far unconquered one. The previous year, when war seemed imminent, Louise, with her children, had bidden the departing troops a hearty and enthusiastic farewell on the Wilhelmsplatz. Napoleon reproached her with this as though she had been the demon of war. When, in September, 1806, the Queen's dragoon regiment left Berlin to take the field in Thuringia she received it at the Brandenburg Gate clad in the colors of the regiment, and rode at its head through the streets which it traversed. This also gave her enemies food for comment. But when, on September 21, she even accompanied the King, who was lost without her, by way of Magdeburg and Halle to join the army at Naumburg, Napoleon found even more fault with her. The celebrated politician Gentz, who was Austrian court-councillor at the time, had an interview with the Queen in Erfurt. This temperate statesman had heard so many praises of the high-born lady that he was quite prepared to find them only false flatteries. But in a conversation lasting three-quarters of an hour, she charmed him completely. He could not say enough about the decision and independence which she displayed, the fire and at the same time the wisdom of her language. "And yet, in all that she said she showed such deep feeling that one could not forget for a moment that it was a feminine intellect which attracted one's admiration." This man of the world and of courts declared that he had never seen such a combination of dignity, benevolence, and charm as in this wonderful woman.

Louise was most anxious to be assured that public opinion was in favor of the campaign. "I do not ask to give myself courage — for, thank God! that is not necessary!" said she, during the conversation, in which she showed an astonishing knowledge of even the most unimportant events and minute affairs. Her womanly nature manifested itself most touchingly when her eyes would fill with tears at the mention of Austria's misfortunes. Commenting on the public criticisms of her political conduct, she cried: "God knows that I have never been consulted in public affairs and have never wished to be. Had I ever been asked, I should—I will admit it — have declared for war, as I believed it was necessary. Our condition had become so critical that we were in duty bound, and at all costs, to extricate ourselves; it was most necessary to put an end to the suspicion and reproaches which were heaped upon us, as though the King had not been in earnest in regard to the war all the time. By every principle of honor and therefore of duty, as 1 understand it, we were compelled to follow that road, apart from any selfish considerations."

The accusation of any partiality for the Russians she denied, and although she did justice to the personal virtues of the Czar Alexander, she did not look upon Russia as the saviour of Europe from the usurper. She sought the principal means of help solely in the close union of all those who bore the German name.

Among those surrounding the King, opinions were divided as to whether or not the Queen should be allowed to go farther. She herself preferred to be at headquarters rather than to hear disquieting rumors at a distance. Since the King had allowed her to accompany him beyond Erfurt, she was resolved not to leave him until he desired it. Headquarters were established in Weimar, October 11, and there the King and Queen received the first bad news. The vanguard had been defeated by the French and their leader, the brave Prince Louis, had fallen at Saalfeld, October 10. Three days later the Queen left Weimar to follow her husband to Auerstadt. On the way she learned that the road was beset by the enemy, and she was obliged to return to Weimar amid the cheers of thousands of eager soldiers, whose valiant spirit she had imbued with fresh life. Here she was urged by General Ruchel no longer to expose herself needlessly to the dangers of war, and to return to Berlin. This was possible only by means of a great detour, in order to be safe from the enemy's scouting parties. Ruchel designated the road and the stations. The route, which would take four days to traverse, was to be by way of Muhlhausen, Brunswick, Magdeburg, and Brandenburg.

On the morning of October 14 the Queen left Weimar with the Countess Tauentzien. A company of cuirassiers formed their escort for several miles; thick mist enveloped the landscape and the travellers' hearts were heavy with forebodings. As Louise listened to the distant thunder of cannon she trembled for the husband of her heart and the father of her children. She knew that he would shun no danger in this battle and it deeply affected her that she could not share it with him.

The double battle at Jena and Auerstadt raged all day long. On the road the Queen received only uncertain news, sometimes good and sometimes bad.

"I have suffered unutterably," she declared, "between mountains of hope and abysses of despair, and have learned the meaning of we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

Not until the fourth day did a messenger sent by Colonel von Kleist, adjutant of the King, overtake her in the neighborhood of Brandenburg. The rider approached the carriage door and handed the Queen a letter. She opened it quickly, glanced at it, and appeared crushed. The letter contained only the words: "The King is alive; the battle is lost." Tears streamed from her eyes at this terrible news, The handkerchief, wet with her tears in this hour of distress, which she gave as a remembrance to the Prince of Anhalt, her protector, at his request, is still preserved among the treasures of the royal family, and is certainly not one of the least valuable.

"The King is alive "— but where and how? Truly the King considered himself fortunate to have barely escaped being taken prisoner. Napoleon wrote triumphantly to his consort, the Empress Josephine, that he had very nearly taken the King. Although Louise did not know this, she knew that the battle was lost. Dark pictures of the present and future haunted her. She knew what it meant to be vanquished by Napoleon; knew with what boundless arrogance the heartless conqueror treated princes and people, and what terms of peace he was likely to dictate.

The carriage passed rapidly through Potsdam on its way to Berlin, where the Queen arrived late on the evening of October 17. Her children were not there. That morning, Lieutenant von Dorville, adjutant of Field-marshal von Mollendorf, whom the King had despatched to Berlin with the bad news from the battlefield, had arrived, and the Governor, Count Von der Schulenburg, had at once ordered the removal of the royal children to Schwedt-on-the-Oder. Scarcely had the Queen entered her home, when, hearing of the arrival of the Lieutenant, she had him summoned to her presence.

"Where is the King?" she asked.

I do not know, Your Majesty," answered Dorville.

"But is the King not with the army?" she asked again.

"With the army!" answered Dorville. "The army no longer exists!"

So great had been the confidence of victory that the news of the defeat was all the more crushing. Consternation and despair reigned in Berlin. The Governor sought to quiet the inhabitants by the proclamation: "The King has lost a battle: the first duty of the citizens is to be calm. I require this of all our citizens. The King and his brothers are alive." Such were the men in power at a time when all the available strength of the people should have been called forth to enduring devotion and determined resistance.

After a terrible night, at six o'clock in the morning of October 18 the Queen summoned the court physician, Dr. Hufeland. He found her in despair, with eyes swollen with weeping and hair in disorder.

All is lost. I must fly to my children, and you must go with us," she said as he entered. At ten o'clock the carriage was ready and the Queen drove to Schwedt, where her children were. The sight of them renewed and accentuated the mother's distress. They ran tenderly to meet her at the great staircase of the castle, but she whom they were accustomed to see gay and smiling now embraced and greeted them with the words "You see me in tears. I am weeping for the cruel fate which has befallen us. The King has been deceived in the ability of his army and its leaders, and we have been defeated and must fly!"

To the tutor of the two eider children, Delbruck, she said: "I see a structure destroyed in one day, upon whose erection great men have labored through two centuries. The Prussian State, Prussian army, and Prussian glory exist no longer."

"Ah, my sons," she cried to the eleven-year-old Fritz and nine-year-old William, "you are already old enough to understand these trials. In the future, when your mother no longer lives, recall this unhappy hour and let a tear fall in remembrance of it, as I now weep for the destruction of my country. But do not be satisfied with tears. Act, develop your powers! Perchance the guardian angel of Prussia will protect you. Then free your people from the shame, the reproach, and the humiliation into which it has fallen! Try, like your great-grandfather, the Great Elector, to reconquer from the French the darkened fame of your ancestors, as he revenged the defeat and shame of his father, against the Swedes at Fehrbellin. Do not be corrupted by the degeneracy of the times. Become men and heroes, worthy of the name of princes and grandsons of the great Frederick. But if you cannot with all your efforts uplift the down-trodden State, then seek death as did Prince Louis Ferdinand!”

From Schwedt, the sorrowing but heroic Queen travelled to Stettin. There, on her own responsibility, she caused the arrest of the cabinet councillor Lombard, who had originally been a wig-maker and was now universally considered a traitor, and who had fled from Berlin to escape the threatening anger of the populace. Subsequently the King released Lombard, but deposed him and never saw him again. The King had gone from the battlefield to Sommerda, where he collected a few scattered detachments of troops about him. Learning that the enemy had already passed round his left flank, he went on to Magdeburg, accompanied by a squadron of dragoons, reached Berlin on the eve of October 2o, but did not enter the city, and arrived, on the morning of the same day at the fortress of Custrin, where his wife also arrived in the evening at ten o'clock. What a meeting after only a week!

Louise and her two sons.


On the road she had not even been able to get fresh horses at Barwalde. Rather than furnish them the steward had turned them loose. So far had some of their subjects already fallen from their allegiance. Bad feeling, cowardice, treachery, and incompetence had spread since the misfortune at Jena, through military, official, and citizens' circles. One fortress and one division of troops after another were needlessly surrendered to the enemy. It became evident that since the last years of Frederick the Great social decay had spread, not only in the army, which was insolently resting on its former laurels, but in official circles and even in the life of the people. Of this few had had any inkling, least of all the thoroughly upright King and the noble Louise. "Disaster had to come, or we should have burst with pride," acknowledged a Prussian years afterwards.

The whole country between the Weser and the Oder became a prey to the enemy after the reserves under the Prince of Wurttemberg had been defeated and destroyed near Halle. Napoleon arrived in Potsdam October 24 and made his entry into Berlin on the twenty-seventh. Here he gave free vent to his ill-humor. According to him, Queen Louise and the Prussian nobles were to blame for everything. "I will bring these patricians down to beg their bread on the streets." He pursued the Queen with the most violent abuse. He called her the "cause of all the troubles which had befallen Prussia." He brought contempt upon her by pictures and writings. Even when, three years later, Major Schill marched from Berlin with six hundred hussars, called on the people of Germany to rise for their liberties, and fell fighting at Stralsund, this also was attributed to Louise, and Napoleon caused an engraving to appear in Paris, which represented her in the uniform of the Schill hussars. The attempt made by Frederick Staps in Schonbrunn at that time to assassinate the tyrant, Napoleon declared was planned in Berlin and Weimar. When a general doubted this, he exclaimed, "Women are capable of anything."

These unworthy attacks and slanders of course did not injure her in the eyes of her subjects, as Napoleon wished. On the contrary, the Queen grew dearer to every good Prussian because of this abuse, and many heroic hearts were burning to avenge her wrongs. These attacks of her ignoble opponent could not always be kept from the Queen, and cost her much agitation and many tears. "Can this wicked creature not be content to rob the King of his State? Must the honor of his wife be sacrificed also, by this contemptible wretch who spreads the most shameful lies abroad concerning me?"

As prospects for a favorable turn of affairs were very slight, the King thought it advisable to open peace negotiations. Napoleon already demanded (October 22), at Wittenberg, that the Elbe should be the western boundary of Prussia, and that the King should pay one hundred million francs as war indemnity; but he was willing to permit him to keep Magdeburg. These demands appeared too harsh after but one defeat, and ambassadors were sent to Napoleon at Berlin to secure more favorable terms.

In the meantime, however, Prince Hohenlohe had been obliged to lay down his arms, with twelve thousand men, at Prenzlau. The fortresses of Erfurt, Spandau, Magdeburg, and others were surrendered to the enemy by their cowardly commanders with incredible quickness, and Napoleon would no longer consider the Wittenberg conditions. He determined to keep as much territory as possible, so that he could force the English, as allies of Prussia, to hand over as many of the conquered French colonies as possible. He offered an armistice on condition that the principal fortresses in Silesia and on the Weichsel should be turned over to him, that the Prussian army should withdraw to the northeast corner of the dominion, and the assistance of Russia be declined. By means of this treaty, which the plenipotentiaries of the King accepted November 16 in Charlottenburg, Napoleon would have had Prussia completely in his power. The King who had gone with his consort from Custrin by way of Graudenz to Osterode, held counsel with his generals and ministers, most of whom were in favor of confirming the treaty. Stein, however, persuaded him to reject it, as it gave no guarantee of lasting peace and threatened the very existence of Prussia. At this, Napoleon declared: "If the King will not separate his affairs from Russia, he must take the consequences of the war. Should we conquer the Czar, there will no longer be a Prussian King."

Louise took fresh courage from her devotion to Prussia's honor and favored rejection of the treaty, in accord with the Minister Stein. She had always recognized in him one of the bulwarks of Prussia, and she placed in the King's hands his memorial on the changes in systems of government. However, the two men did not understand one another, and the King, considering him an obstinate, pig-headed person, gave him permission to resign.

In political affairs Louise held to the faith which "is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Her motto was: "Only enduring resistance can save us." But on receiving news of one disaster after another; seeing nothing but good fortune attending Napoleon and nothing but misfortune the Prussians; seeing nothing but misery, the strong woman had her weak moments, when doubts tortured her as to whether she had been right in preaching resistance to the conqueror, or whether it was not presumptuous rebellion against the cruel fate which seemed to have overtaken her house and her country. On the way from Koenigsberg, at Ortelsburg, December 5, 1806, she wrote in her journal these verses from Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister":

"Who never ate his bread in sorrow,

Who never spent the darksome hours

Weeping and watching for the morrow,

He knows ye not, ye gloomy powers!

"To earth, this weary earth, ye bring us,

To guilt ye let us heedless go,

Then leave repentance fierce to wring us:

A moment's guilt, an age of woe!"

This was indeed a depth of despair in which the stars of faith and hope seem to have been extinguished. But by God's providence she found just at this time a guide and consoler. This was the pious Madame von Krudener, who at that period exercised such a mighty awakening influence, especially among the higher classes, and also upon the Czar. Five years before, as wife of the Russian ambassador, she had seen the Queen in undimmed splendor at the court of Berlin. Now she no longer found a gay young princess, but a downcast, unhappy woman, who gladly accompanied her through the hospitals of Koenigsberg bringing comfort to the suffering victims of war. It was under her tutelage that the Queen devoted herself more and more earnestly to religion and the study of the Bible. Louise wrote to her later:

"I owe you a confidence which I am sure you will receive with tears of joy. Your earnest conversation, our talks on religion and Christianity, have left the deepest impression upon me. I have been pondering more earnestly on these things, whose existence and value I certainly felt before, but suspected rather than appreciated. They have been of great solace to me. I drew nearer to God, my faith has strengthened, and so, in the midst of misfortune and numberless insults and injustices, I have never been without fortitude or wholly unhappy. It is surely the mercy of the God of love, which has never allowed my heart to become hardened or permitted me to lose my love and sympathy for my fellow men or the desire to serve and help them. I have seen the vanity of earthly greatness, and its poverty compared with heavenly treasures. Yes! I have attained a quietness of soul and an inner peace, which leads me to hope that I may be enabled to bear with the composure and humility of a true Christian all that God in His providence may send for nay purification. From this standpoint I regard all the temptations which beset us here below."

Thus she found at last sure hope, though her ship of life and her heart were to ride stormy seas of trouble, and she was often fain to cry out with Peter: "Lord, save me!"

Under the stress of this time of anxiety her health began to suffer. In Koenigsberg she was stricken with typhoid fever. Her youngest son, Prince Karl, had first succumbed to it. The court physician, Dr. Hufeland, who was called from Danzig to Koenigsberg, tells us:

"Never shall I forget the night of December 22, 1806, when the Queen's life was in mortal danger. I sat watching by her bedside, and a terrible storm was raging that blew down one of the gables of the old castle where she lay. But here, as in the case of Prince Karl, through God's blessing the treatment was successful, and she began to mend. But suddenly the news came that the French were approaching. She declared emphatically: 'I would rather be in the hands of God than of these creatures.' During a terrible snowstorm and intensely cold weather (January 3, 1807) she was placed in a carriage and taken twenty miles across the marshes of Courland to Memel. We passed three days and three nights, travelling during the days, partly through the surf and partly over the ice, and passing the nights in the most miserable shelters. The first night the Queen lay in a room where the windows were broken, and the snow drifted across her bed. She had no refreshing food. Never has a queen known such hardships. I watched her in constant anxiety, fearing hemorrhages. Her courage never wavered nor her trust in God, and this encouraged us all. Even the fresh air seemed to be restorative; instead of becoming worse, she improved on this terrible journey. At last we espied Memel on the opposite shore. For the first time the sun burst forth and mildly illuminated the city, which was to be our goal and resting-place. We accepted this as a good omen."

The King and the two children also came soon afterwards to this town, two miles distant from the Russian border. The inhabitants gave the royal pair the most touching proofs of their sympathy and loyalty.

The King had gradually gathered together an army of 40,000 men; and they were now joined by 60,000 Russians under General Bennigsen. The new campaign was begun December 26. There was a fresh gleam of hope when, in the bloody battle at Eylau (February 7-8, 1807), the remains of the Prussian army with the Russians fought so heroically against Napoleon that five days after the battle he offered the King a favorable peace if he would desert Russia. But the honorable man kept faith with the Czar, who had come to Memel with reinforcements, and answered in the negative. Louise, filled with fresh hopes, went back to Koenigsberg with her husband.

On the way, one morning a peasant and his wife presented themselves before the royal pair. She brought the Queen several pounds of fresh butter wrapped in cabbage-leaves. She thought, she said, that supplies might be rather low, and would the Queen accept a few pieces of perfectly fresh snow butter from a poor peasant. Louise took the gift with hearty thanks.

But the King interrupted with: "Aha! I see you have brought me the cheese."

But the peasant answered: "No! we Mennonites have learned that Your Majesty's war-chest has a hole in it, and you must have lost your small change. So we have been looking into our savings-boxes and each has contributed to a present for our poor, gracious King."

"No, no, not poor," cried the King; "not so long as I have such subjects."

Greatly to his astonishment he saw the peasant pour out two thousand bright gold pieces. He accepted them gratefully, and afterwards, when the peasant was in need, he paid them all back again with interest.

In Koenigsberg Louise lived in a modest dwelling and devoted herself to charity. She cared for the wounded and assisted the destitute. She visited no theatres, concerts, or balls, but assiduously attended the church of the gifted preacher, the evangelical Bishop Borowsky. The letters which she wrote at the time to her father, Duke of Mecklenburg, show us her inmost heart. One of them, written in the Spring of 1807, reads:


"The departure of General Blucher gives me a safe opportunity of writing frankly to you. Ah! how long I have been deprived of that pleasure and how much I have to say to you! Until the third week of my illness, each day was marked by a fresh misfortune. The despatch of the excellent Blucher to Pomerania, the patriotism which animates every one, — of which the reserve battalions, the first that have been organized in months, are a proof,—all this gives me fresh hope. Some of these reserves are moving to the front, and some have already fought well. Yes, dear father, I am convinced that all will yet be well, and that we shall meet happily once more.

"The siege of Danzig is progressing satisfactorily; the inhabitants make the soldiers' burden easier by providing them with meat and wine in abundance. They will not hear of giving up. They would rather be buried in the ruins of their city than turn traitors to the King. Kolberg and Graudenz are of the same mind. Had it only been thus with all the fortresses! — But enough of past evils. Let us turn our eyes to God, to Him who guides our destinies, who never forsakes us when we do not forsake Him!

"The King is with the Czar and the army. He will remain there as long as the Czar does. This splendid unanimity, founded on unshakable steadfastness in misfortune, gives the best promise of endurance. Surely, by perseverance we must conquer sooner or later; of that I am firmly convinced."

It proved to be so, but this long-deferred hope was not to be realized during Louise's lifetime and not until the Prussian people had made ample penance. On May 24 Danzig was taken by the French after a brave defence under General Kalkreuth. After several engagements Napoleon was victorious over Prussians and Russians in the battle of Friedland, in consequence of which, Koenigsberg and the country as far as the Niemen was occupied by him. Louise, then in Memel, writes to her father, June 17:

"With profound emotion and tears of grateful tenderness I read your letter of April last. How can I thank you, best and tenderest of fathers, for the many proofs of your love, your favor, and indescribable goodness! What a comfort this is in my trouble, and what a support! When one is so loved, one cannot be wholly unhappy.

"Another terrible disaster has now overtaken us, and we are on the point of leaving the kingdom. Imagine what my feelings are! But I pray you, do not mistake your daughter. Do not think that my head is bowed in cowardice. I am upheld by two thoughts. The first is that we are not the victims of blind chance, but that we are in God's hands, and that He is directing us; the second, that we fall with honor. The King has given proof to the world that he desires honor, not disgrace. Prussia would not bear the chains of slavery willingly. The King could not have acted otherwise in a single point without being untrue to himself and a traitor to his people. What a solace this is, no one who has not a true feeling of honor can imagine. But to the point.

"In consequence of the unfortunate battle of Friedland, Koenigsberg fell into French hands. We are pressed by the enemy, and if the danger becomes greater, I shall be obliged to leave Memel with my children. The King will again join the Czar. As soon as the danger becomes imminent I shall go to Riga. God help me at the moment that I have to abandon my country. That will require courage, but I shall look upward, from whence come all good and evil; and my firm belief is, that He will not send more than we are able to bear.

"Once more, dear father, I repeat, we go down to defeat in honor, respected by the nations; and we shall always retain friends, because we have deserved them. I cannot tell you how comforting this thought is. I bear all this with a quietness and composure that can only come from a clear conscience and pure faith. Therefore be assured, dear father, that we can never be wholly unhappy and that many who are clothed with power and good fortune are not so content as we. God gives peace to the just, and we may always have reason for joy.

"Let me assure you for your comfort, that nothing will be done by us that is not consistent with strictest honor or with our actions in the past. Rest assured of this, and I know it will be a comfort to you, as to all who belong to me. I am always your faithful, obedient, loving daughter and—thank God that I can say it as your favor assures me of it — your affectionate friend.


On June 24 she writes again:

"My letters are still here, as wind and storms have prevented all vessels from leaving port. Now, I shall provide a reliable messenger and continue to send you news from here. The army has been obliged to retreat farther and farther, and on the twenty-first an armistice of four weeks was arranged by the Russians. The sky often clears when one expects only cloudy weather; it may be so now. No one longs for it more than I, but wishes are only wishes and not realities. Everything comes from above, Thou merciful Heavenly Father!

"My faith shall not waver, but I can hope no more. I refer again to my letter, which was written from the depths of my soul. You will understand me thoroughly when you have read it, dear father. I will live and die in honor and even eat bread and salt, if it must be. I shall never be totally unhappy; only I can hope no more. One who has been overwhelmed as I have been, can have no more hope. Should good fortune come, oh! no human being could be more grateful than I should be; but I no longer expect it. If misfortune come, it may surprise me for the moment, but it cannot overwhelm me, if it is undeserved. Only wrongdoing on our part would bring me to the grave, and to that we shall not come, for we are above it. You see, dear father, the enemy of mankind has no power over me. The King has been with the Czar since the nineteenth; and since yesterday they have been in Tauroggen, only a few miles from Tilsit where the French Emperor is.

"I am at your feet, devotedly yours,