Frederick the Great project: Digital correspondence

from the correspondence of frederick the great — tranche 1

I fear it may be some kind of venereal disease and as you can count on my friendship and on my discretion I beg you to let me know. I will make sure you have all the necessary medicine from Dr Miraux of Potsdam. No-one will know a word, and I assure you that you can confide your secret to me . . .

— Translation from French into English of
Frederick II, king of Prussia to unknown,
Saturday, 20 December 1732;
EE letter ID: fred02EE0010001a1c

In April 1732 Crown Prince Frederick had been made Colonel of the Goltz infantry regiment in Neuruppin, thirty miles north-west of Berlin.

This letter is evidently written in response to news from an officer of similar rank, conveyed by a lower ranking officer. It gives a glimpse of regular visits to Berlin brothels among the officer class and the health hazards involved. Frederick’s concern to provide medical advice is characteristic of a lifelong interest in diseases and their cures.

Very few such informal, personal letters by Frederick survive from this period of his life as a young officer, and it provides a rare insight into his choice of language: while he uses French for ordinary discourse, he resorts to German in military matters.

Katrin Kohl
Fellow and Tutor in German,
Professor of German Literature,
Faculty of Modern Languages

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