Frederick II: soldier’s diagnosis

The king of Prussia Frederick the Great had quite a traditional for all self-satisfied monarchs habit. Every time he took notice of a soldier nearby, he considered that it was his holy royal duty to ask that unlucky officer several questions. Frederick the Great used to come up to some soldier and ask him kindly (with almost parental notes in his royal voice) how old he was, how many years of his life he gave in order to serve to the king and the country and , finally, he asked whether the soldier was satisfied with his salary and with military service on the whole.

The “depth” of monarch’s questions and the fact of their inalterability can give us a hint that the king of Prussia Frederick the Great (just like a lot of other rulers of royal blood) didn’t really care at all about the age of his loyal soldiers, and sure enough he never cared about their satisfaction with salary. Thus, the true purpose of such brotherly behaviour was perhaps to be reputed among common people to be a kind merciful, and humane ruler. But for what its worth, the king didn’t always received the answers. The reason was that in the army of Prussia there were a large number of foreign soldiers who had been hired from other countries to fight for Prussia. Unfortunately, they couldn’t speak German and they didn’t know what the king of Prussia tried to ask them, and therefore soldiers of fortune couldn’t give comprehensible answers.

Since this sad fact made Frederick the Great really upset, his loyal non-commissioned officers decided to do something about it. They made up a cunning plan and its purpose was to free the ruler of all distressful pains and rueful feelings. The point was that foreign soldiers could simply learn the answers by heart and satisfy their king with good laconic answers. Thus, when the next time Frederick (who by the way never changed the questions that he liked to ask or the order of these questions), would address to a foreigner, he was going to receive fast and clear answers. No sooner said than done. Since then every time the king Frederick the Great came up to his next victim and started shooting questions, he immediately received appropriate answers and, totally satisfied, went to dancing to some ball or somewhere else. That plan went on very well until one day His Majesty (perhaps because he was getting older and his memory so not so good anymore or maybe it was some troublesome disease which made him forgetful) mixed the order of his questions. The following dialogue happened between the king and a plain serviceman (by the way, this conversation came down to history forever). “How long have you served to the country, soldier?” asked Frederick the Great. “Twenty three years” hurried to answer the soldier of fortune. “Well, really?” the king seemed to be surprised by such reply. “And how old are you, then?” “Three years” reported a young soldier. The king seemed to be quite embarrassed. He thought for a while and finally uttered: “Either I am crazy or you are!” “Yes! Both!” was the answer. Thus, using such a curious method, a plain soldier of fortune gave the king a horrifying diagnosis. Of course, the diagnosis was false, and evidently it was absolutely accidental, but still the monarch’s desire to bother soldiers with his ‘fatherly’ questions faded away at once.