The Making of Frederick the Great Author:Edith Simon "I am in uttermost despair," wrote the young Crown Prince of Russia to his mother in 1729. "The king has entirely forgotten that I am his son. I am driven to extremity. I have too much honour to endure such treatment, and am resolved to put an end to it one way or another." Not many months later, King Frederick William discovered his son secretl... more »y making plans to flee the country. Never had the royal temper been so provoked. The eighteen-year-old Frederick was cashiered from the army, imprisoned for many months, and as a climax to one bitter audience, nearly run through by his father's sword. From his prison cell, he was forced to witness the beheading of his closest friend, an accomplice in the "desertion." A pardon was eventually granted Frederick, but not before the King had predicted that he would sit in his grave and laugh when his heir made a hash of things.
The royal grave at Potsdam was silent during the reign of Frederick the Great. The "worthless son" whom the father had ridiculed for his tennis playing and French hairbangs was proceeding to make a reality of his father's wildest dream: the rise of Prussia from an insignificant principality of the Holy Roman Empire into a world power.
In THE MAKING OF FREDERICK THE GREAT Edith Simon examines all the confluent circumstances which shaped Frederick's character and career and thereby decisively affected two centuries of Western history. Here is the threadbare court of the Prussian kingdom, country cousin among the family of nations, here is the tragicomic monster of perverted good intentions who was Frederick's father, the cynical free-for-all of eighteenth-century politics, the intellectual optimism of the Enlightenment; here are the seeds of modern wars, revolutions, and reforms, and above all the lurid melodrama of Frederick's formative years - the dramatic process by which a sensitive, gifted youth was turned into a restless monarch whose need for recognition made nothing less than the impossible worth achieving.
Showing Frederick in reaction against his father, Frederick William I - with whom a strong love-hate relationship connected him - the book closes when Frederick has been king for seven years, has fought and won the War of the Austrian Succession and the first of the Silesian Wars, and has finally routed the spectre of his domineering father. A second volume is planned, one which will explore Frederick in further action on his own behalf and trace the nature of his mordant brilliance and of his fluctuating position in subsequent history.« less