Frederick II

aka Frederick the Great
(1712–1786)
Frederick II

Anecdote 1...

Frederick’s cook Noël one day served some marvelous pastry to which the king paid due honor. After complimenting Noël, he added, “But don’t serve this too often. Gluttony is a sin, and we may both in consequence have to burn in hell.” The cook replied, “That shouldn’t frighten us — everyone knows that neither of us is afraid of fire.”

Anecdote 2...

Frederick arranged a tour of inspection of the prison in Berlin. The prisoners fell on their knees before him, all vigorously protesting their innocence. One man alone remained silent and aloof. Frederick called to him, “You there. Why are you here?”

“Armed robbery, Your Majesty.”

“And are you guilty?”

“Yes, indeed, Your Majesty. I entirely deserve my punishment.”

Frederick summoned the warden. “Guard, release this guilty wretch at once. I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people who occupy it.”

Biographical Note: 

Frederick II was King of Prussia (1740–86). He pursued a program of enlightened despotism that brought Prussia for the first time to the forefront of the European powers and confirmed its military supremacy. His palace of Sans Souci, near Potsdam, was a center for musicians and intellectuals, including Voltaire.