Page:The Hessians and the other German auxiliaries of Great Britain in the revolutionary war.djvu/17

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
5
THE PRINCES.

tested. If, as one writer on politics explained, it was the duty of the subject to submit in case his prince should take his life in mere wantonness, it was to be hoped that another writer was equally correct in saying that "in princely houses all virtues are hereditary."[1]

Let us now look a little nearer at those special inheritors of all the virtues who sent mercenaries to America. The most important of them was Frederick II., Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel (not to be confounded with his great namesake and contemporary of Prussia). This prince was the Catholic ruler of a Protestant country. His first wife had been an English princess, a daughter of George II. She had separated herself from the Landgrave on his conversion to Catholicism, and had retired to Hanau, with her precious son, of whom I shall presently speak.

Frederick had led a merry life of it at Cassel. He had taken unto himself a cast-off mistress of the Duc de Bouillon, but set up no pretensions to fidelity, and is said to have had more than a hundred children. A French theatre and opera, with a French corps de ballet, were maintained. French adventurers with good letters obtained a welcome and even responsible positions in the state. The court was ordered on a French model. French was, moreover, then, and has remained almost to our own day, the language of princes, courtiers, and diplomatists. In that language Frederick the Great corresponded with many of his relations, in it his sister wrote her private memoirs, and French was spoken at the court of that smaller Frederick whom we have in hand.

  1. Biedermann, vol. i. pp. 161, 163, n.