With her sure and witty touch Nancy Mitford carefully unravels the complex character of one of the most brilliant rulers Europe has ever known. She recreates Frederick's unhappy youth, dominated by an ill-tempered father; his very special relationship with Wilhelmine, the sister who resembled him so uncannily; his reforming zeal, which paved the way for a united Germany; and his spectacular wars, which proved him beyond doubt the greatest commander of his age.
Among all the famous figures Nancy Mitford portrayed, none, she confessed, has made a greater appeal to her than Frederick; whether she is discussing his glee when he persuaded Voltaire to leave Versailles for Prussia, the rococo splendours of his palaces, or his cunning diplomacy, her enthusiasm shines out of every page of this lavishly illustrated biography.
‘It is written with all the author’s skill, is
really hard to put down once its rhythm
and energy take hold, and yet imparts an
astounding quantity of information.’
‘After losing his first two grandsons in infancy Frederick I, by then a widower, married again, thinking to secure the succession. It was an unfortunate move, and unnecessary, as his daughter-in law soon had a third son, Frederick the Great, and thereafter eleven more children. At fifty, Frederick I was incapable of making love; his second wife was a perfect nuisance and proved the death of him. She went mad and surged into his room in her underclothes. Frederick, not expecting the apparition, thought she was a certain White Lady who appears to the Hohenzollerns presaging death. ‘Weisse Frau’, he cried, fell unconscious and died a few days later. The Queen had to be kept, an expensive lunatic, for another twenty years.’