Frederick II., third king of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great, eldest son of the preceding and the princess Sophia Dorothea, daughter of George I. of England, born in Berlin, Jan. 24, 1712, died at the chateau of Sans Souci, near Potsdam, Aug. 17, 1786. Up to the age of 20 he was subjected to a cruel paternal tyranny. Educated chiefly by French refugees, he conceived a strong passion for French literature, and knew nothing of any other foreign language. Latin his father positively forbade. He was passionately fond of music, attained a high perfection as a player on the flute, and gave concerts at which his own compositions were performed, and to which he invited eminent musicians, who admired his masterly performance in adagio. He gave employment to Graun in his chapel at Rheinsberg, and after his accession to the throne appointed him chapel master and sent him to Italy to engage vocalists for the projected new opera at Berlin, the establishment of which was thus due to Frederick. He was also very fond of poetry, but, ignorant of Dante or Shakespeare, Virgil or Homer, surrendered himself to Voltaire and the Henriade. My royal titles," he wrote to his French idol, "shall run thus: 'By the grace of God, king of Prussia, elector of Brandenburg, possessor of Voltaire,' etc." Within a week he wrote to Algarotti that he knew Voltaire was a scoundrel, but that he could make use of him.

Je veux savoir son francais; que m'importe sa morale ? After narrowly escaping death from his father's hand, he determined to seek safety in England with his uncle George II. He was overtaken, brought a prisoner to Kiis-trin, compelled to witness the execution of Katt, a young officer who had been privy to his flight (1730), was himself condemned as a deserter, and was only saved by the interposition of the emperor of Germany, the kings of Sweden and Poland, and the states of Holland. His father caused him, to be informed that if he would renounce the throne he might study, travel, or do whatever he pleased. I accept," said Frederick,if my father will declare that I am not his son." After a long imprisonment, he was appointed a councillor of war, and charged with duties which virtually banished him from court. In 1733 his father required him to marry Elizabeth Christina, daughter of the duke of Brunswick-Bevern, and in 1734 permitted him to take up his residence at the castle of Rheinsberg, where ho could pursue his favorite amusements unmolested.

Here he wrote many of his works, including the Anti-Machiavel (the Hague, 1740). Meantime the heart of the old king grew softer; a reconciliation followed; and the father, pressing his son to his heart, sobbed forth with almost his latest breath (1740):My God, my God, I die content, since I have such a noble son and successor." Frederick's character had been wholly misconceived by his subjects and by the world. One class thought him a mere sensualist, a rhapsodical voluptuary; others looked forward to a reign of moderation, peace, and universal benevolence. Both of these classes of judges, with Anti-Machiavel before them, and a knowledge of the epicurean abode at Rheinsberg, might find ground for their predictions; and both were equally confounded at the almost instantaneous transformation effected by the crown. A military despot, listening to no council, confiding in no friend, bent upon the single purpose of enlarging his monarchy, he regarded himself as an instrument appointed to elevate Prussia, and embody in the parvenu title of Prussian king that substantial possession of royal power which could only come from enlarged dominion.

The pragmatic sanction of Charles VI., guaranteed solemnly by Europe, and by no member of the family of nations more solemnly than by Prussia, had, it was supposed, secured the peaceful inheritance of the Austrian dominions to the young Maria Theresa as archduchess of Austria and queen of Hungary and Bohemia. Frederick, immediately on her father's death, sent her an offer of pecuniary aid and his vote for her husband Francis as emperor of Germany, on condition of the cession of the duchies of Glogau and Sagan, to which, as well as the greater part of Silesia, the house of Hohenzollern laid claim. This being rejected, in December he entered Lower Silesia at the head of his army, routed the handful of Austrians who were quartered on the frontier, and overran the province. In six weeks he returned to Berlin in triumph. Frederick officially pretended to justify himself, but privately acknowledged that " ambition, interest, the desire to make people talk about me, carried the day; and I decided to make war." He had inherited from his father a splendid army of 70,000 men, formed by his general Leopold of Dessau, at that period the finest troops in the world.

There was in the treasury a surplus of $6,000,000. He felt that a bold stroke might be made, and that by means of a strong military organization he could obtain for his two and a quarter million subjects a foremost place among the great nations around him. Hastening in the spring (1741) to rejoin his troops, he fought his first battle at Mollwitz. His army was victorious, but its leader had fled. He had beheld real war for the first time, and so completely lost his self-command as to gallop miles from the field. His personal courage had been previously well established, when a volunteer under Prince Eugene against the French; but he saw during that campaign nothing of the fury and carnage of war. The battle of Mollwitz (April 10, 1741) decided the fate of Silesia. It was, however, the signal for a general war in Europe, known as that of the Austrian succession. Bavaria, with France, now took up arms. A French, Saxon, and Bavarian army invaded Bohemia, while Frederick marched into Moravia. The fortunes of the youthful queen grew darker still when England, her last ally, determined upon neutrality.

Frederick gained a second victory at Chotusitz, near Czaslau, May 17, 1742, and at once effaced by personal prowess the blot upon his victory at Mollwitz. Accepting English mediation, Maria Theresa made peace with Prussia by a treaty concluded at Breslau, June 11, and ceded Silesia and the county of Glatz. Frederick withdrew from Moravia, while the Austrians everywhere triumphed against France and Bavaria. He profited by this interval of peace to strengthen his army and organize new conquests. England meanwhile declared for Austria, and British troops fought at Dettingen. On the death of the last count of East Friesland, in 1744, Frederick took possession of that country, which by the grant of the emperor Leopold in 1094 was to revert to the house of Brandenburg. He grew anxious in the midst of ceaseless Austrian victories, and fearing to be dispossessed of Silesia, in August, 1744, he marched into Bohemia at the head of 100,000 men, took Prague, and threatened Vienna. He confesses that this campaign was filled with blunders; that no general ever committed graver faults; and it appears that during this year he first learned to be a general. He retreated rapidly, but only to retrieve the past.