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Peter III. had been left an orphan, and titular Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, when eleven years of age. His mother was a daughter of Peter the Great. His aunt, the Czarina Elizabeth, who had determined not to marry, adopted the child, and pronounced him to be her heir to the throne. Being at that time on friendly terms with Frederick, the Empress Elizabeth had consulted him in reference to a wife for the future czar. It will be remembered that the king effected a marriage between Peter and Sophia, the beautiful daughter of a Prussian general, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, and at that time commandant of Stettin. His wife was sister to the heir-apparent of Sweden. Carlyle, speaking of this couple, says:
Carice could scarcely restrain a cry of joy; it was such a relief to know that Bergan was alive, and able to write. But her immediate perception that something was kept back, saved her self-possession.
"Do you intend to stop here long?"
Here Frederick, with the remainder of the army from Leitmeritz, joined his brother, against whom he was greatly incensed, attributing the disasters he had encountered to his incapacity. At four oclock of the 30th of July the king met the Prince of Prussia and the other generals of the discomfited army. Both parties approached the designated spot on horseback. The king, who was accompanied by his suite, upon his arrival within about two hundred feet of the place where his brother, with his officers, was awaiting him, without saluting the prince or recognizing him in the slightest degree, dismounted, and threw himself in a reclining posture upon the greensward. General Goltz was then sent with the following message to the prince:
Frederick received the disastrous news on the 24th of July, the day after the calamity. In the exercise of an unusual spirit of forbearance, he sent word to the defeated general, It is not your fault; I dreaded something of the kind. The kings brother Henry was in command of a few thousand men near Bautzen, in Saxony. Frederick wrote to him to forward his troops immediately, so as to form a union with the retreating army under Wedell. Henry himself was to repair to the vicinity of Landshut, and take command of the army which was to be left in that vicinity confronting General Daun. The king took about thirty thousand picked troops, and hurried to the north to gather up by the way the troops of Henry and of Wedell, and with that combined force of forty-eight thousand men make a new attack upon the ninety-six thousand Russians.131
But Frederick was now a full-grown man. His heirship to the throne rendered him a power among the courts of Europe. It was doubtful whether he would again submit to a caning. The infirm old king, gouty, dropsical, weakened, and lamed by ulcers, could not conceal from himself that his power, with his energies, was rapidly waning. Indeed, at times, he even talked of abdicating in favor of his son. Whenever there was a transient abatement in his maladies, he roused himself to the utmost, took short journeys, and tried to deceive himself into the belief that he was well again.