1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Moltke, Adam Gottlob, Count

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MOLTKE, ADAM GOTTLOB, Count (1710-1792), Danish courtier, was born on the 10th of November 1710, at Riesenhof in Mecklenburg. Though of German origin, many of the Moltkes were at this time in the Danish service, which was considered a more important and promising opening for the young north German noblemen than the service of any of the native principalities; and through one of his uncles, young Moltke became a page at the Danish court, in which capacity he formed a life-long friendship with the crown prince Frederick, afterwards Frederick V. He never had any opportunity of enriching his mind by travel or study, but he was remarkable for a strongly religious temperament and seems for some time to have been connected with the Moravians. Immediately after his accession, Frederick V. made him hofmarskal (court marshal), and overwhelmed him with marks of favour, making him a privy councillor and a count and bestowing upon him Bregentved and other estates. As the inseparable companion of the king, Moltke's influence soon became so boundless that the foreign diplomatists declared he could make and unmake ministers at will. Fortunately he was no ordinary favourite. Naturally tactful and considerate, he never put difficulties in the way of the responsible ministers. Especially interesting is Moltke's attitude towards the two distinguished statesmen who played the leading parts during the reign of Frederick V., Johan Sigismund Schulin and the elder Bernstorff. For Schulin he had a sort of veneration. Bernstorff irritated him by his grand airs of conscious superiority. But though a Prussian intrigue was set up for the supersession of Bernstorff by Moltke, the latter, convinced that Bernstorff was the right man in the right place, supported him with unswerving loyalty. Moltke was far less liberal in his views than many of his contemporaries. He looked askance at all projects for the emancipation of the serfs, but, as one of the largest landowners of Denmark, he did much service to agriculture by lightening the burdens of the countrymen and introducing technical and scientific improvements which greatly increased production. His greatest merit, however, was the guardianship he exercised over the king, whose sensual temperament and weak character exposed him to many temptations which might have been very injurious to the state. Frederick had the good sense to appreciate the honesty of his friend and there was never any serious breach between them. On the death of Queen Louisa the king would even have married one of Moltke's daughters had he not peremptorily declined the dangerous honour. On the decease of Frederick V., who died in his arms (Jan. 14, 1766), Moltke's dominion was at an end. The new king, Christian VII., could not endure him, and exclaimed, with reference to his lanky figure: “He's stork below and fox above.” He was also extremely unpopular, because he was wrongly suspected of enriching himself at the public expense.[1] In July 1766 he was dismissed from all his offices and retired to his estate at Bregentved. Subsequently, through the interest of Russia, to whom he had always been favourable, he regained his seat in the council (Feb. 8, 1768), but his influence was slight and of brief endurance. He was again dismissed without a pension, on the 10th of December 1770, for refusing to have anything to do with Struensee. He lived in retirement till his death on the 25th of September 1792.

His memoirs, written in German and published in 1870, have considerable historical importance. See H. H. Langhorn, Historische Nachricht über die danischen Moltkes (Kiel, 1871).

(R. N. B.)

  1. He was said to be worth 10 million rix-dollars, but proved that he had less than one million.