1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Seckendorf, Friedrich Heinrich, Count von

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SECKENDORF, FRIEDRICH HEINRICH, Count von (1673–1763), German soldier, nephew of Veit Ludwig von Seckendorf (q.v.), was born at Königsberg in Franconia. His father was an official of Saxe-Gotha. In 1693 he served in the allied army commanded by William III. of England, and in 1694 became a cornet in a Gotha cavalry regiment in Austrian pay. Leaving the cavalry he became an infantry officer in the service of Venice, and (1697) in that of the margrave of Anspach, who in 1698 transferred the regiment in which Seckendorf was serving to the imperial army. In 1699 he married and returned to Anspach as a court officer, but the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession called him into the field again as lieutenant-colonel of an Anspach regiment, which was taken into the Dutch service. He distinguished himself at Oudenarde (1708), and was severely wounded at the siege of Ryssel. Disappointed of promotion in Holland and Austria, he entered the Polish-Saxon army as a major-general, and fought as a volunteer at the siege of Tournai and the battle of Malplaquet. He continued to serve in Flanders to the end of the war, acted in a diplomatic capacity in the peace negotiations, and in 1713 suppressed an insurrection in Poland. In 1715, as a lieutenant-general, he commanded the Saxon contingent at the siege of Stralsund, defended by Charles XII. of Sweden. In 1717 Seckendorf once more entered the service of the emperor, with the rank of lieutenant field marshal, and he was present at the siege of Belgrade by Prince Eugene. In 1718 and 1719 he fought in Italy, and in the latter year he was made a count of the empire. In 1726, at the instance of Prince Eugene, he was made the Austrian representative at the court of Prussia. He remained at Berlin, with short intervals, up to 1735, and for the greater part of this time exercised a strong influence over Frederick William II. He was deeply involved in the family quarrels which embittered the lives of Frederick William, his queen and the crown prince (Frederick the Great), which culminated in the prince’s condemnation to death by court martial, and is presented by Carlyle (Frederick the Great, vol. ii.) as a cold, passionless intriguer, taciturn, almost stolid, and absolutely unscrupulous in the furtherance of Austrian political aims. In 1726 Seckendorf was appointed general of cavalry of the army of the Holy Roman Empire, and served with such distinction as was to be gained in a war of positions in the Rhine campaigns of the War of the Polish Succession (1734–35). His dissensions with Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau (q.v.) the “old Dessauer” was Seckendorf's declared enemy at the Prussian court—made the conduct of operations impossible, and, after placing the Austrian and German armies in favourable positions, Seckendorf departed to Hungary to report on the state of the Austrian army there—a task which brought him fresh enemies. In 1737 the emperor Charles VI., however, made Seckendorf commander-in-chief in Hungary, at the same time giving him the baton of field marshal. The new commander began well, but failed at the end, and his numerous enemies at Vienna brought about his recall, trial and imprisonment. He remained a prisoner till 1740, and was then reinstated by order of Maria Theresa, but being denied his arrears of pay he laid down all his Austrian and imperial offices and accepted from the emperor Charles VII., elector of Bavaria, the rank of field marshal in the Bavarian service. His last campaigns were those of 1743 and 1744 in the Austrian Succession War (q.v.), and, after the death of Charles VII. and the election of Maria Theresa's husband to the imperial dignity, he became reconciled with the Austrian court. From 1745 his life was spent more or less in retirement at Meuselwitz, near Altenburg. In 1757 the death of his wife, for whom, harsh and unamiable as he was, he had a deep and abiding affection, broke down his already failing health. He fell into the hands of a Prussian hussar party in December 1758, and was for five months held prisoner by Frederick the Great, who had little love for him either as his former court enemy or as his unsatisfactory ally in the first Silesian war. He died at Meuselwitz on the 23rd of November 1763.

See Wurzbach’s Biogr. Lexikon, pt. 33, “Versuch einer Lebensbeschreibung des F. M. Seckendorf” (Leipzig, 1792–1794); Seelander, Graf Seckendorf und der Friede v. Passau (Gotha, 1883); Carlyle, Frederick the Great, vols. i.-v. passim; and memoir in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie.