It was still a nation of soldiers, whose valor
had been proved in all the battlefields of Europe
In the former century the republic of Venice
had employed them against the Turks, and they had taken part in the siege of Athens
The landgrave, Frederick
the Second, was at that time about fifty six, and had ruled for nearly sixteen years. He had been carefully educated; but his nature was coarse and brutish and obstinate.
The wife of his youth, a daughter of George the Second, was the mildest and gentlest of her race; yet she was forced to fly from his inhumanity to his own father for protection.
At the age of fifty three he married again, but lived with his second consort on no better terms than with his first.
The landgrave had been scrupulously educated in the reformed church, of which the house of Hesse
had ever proudly regarded itself as a bulwark; but he piqued himself on having disburdened his mind of the prejudices of the vulgar; sought to win Voltaire
's esteem by doubting various narratives in the Bible
; and scoffed alike at the Old Testament and the New
. In his view, Calvinism had died out even in Geneva
; and Luther, though commendable for having loved wine and women, was but an ordinary man; he therefore turned Catholic in 1749, from dislike to the plebeian simplicity of the established worship of his people.
He had learnt to favor toleration, to abolish the use of torture, and to make capital punishments exceedingly rare; at the same time he was the coarse representative of the worst licentiousness of his age; fond of splendor and luxurious living; parading his vices publicly, with shameless indecorum.