Right royal mistake – Derby Mercury, 26 October 1786:

Frederick II (the Great), King of Prussia, from 1740 to 1786 Anton Graff, wikimedia commons

ANECDOTE of the late KING of PRUSSIA. It is well known, that amongst the numerous Body of Prussian Troops, the King formed one Regiment which he call the “Immortal Corps of tall Grenadiers;” so named, because as soon as one died, his Place was supplied by another, and his Stature required to be above six Feet two Inches: The requisite Qualification insisted on by the King to admit a Man into his favourite Troop was that of HITTING A MARK at a certain Distance (about eighty Yards).

When a Vacancy happened, the several Candidates to fill it were ordered to appear before the King, early in a Morning, on the Parade.

About twenty Years since, when these would-be Troopers were summoned before the Monarch at Potsdam, the first who presented himself was asked by the immortal Frederic “If he was a good Shot.”—The poor Man replied, “Pretty good.”—“Do you see that Centinel yonder?”

“Yes,” replied the Fellow, “Can you fetch him?” re-asked the King.

“I believe so,” says the Man.

“Do it then,” ordered Frederic, (not supposing it possible from the Distance).

The man let fly, and down dropped the Centinel:- the King’s Astonishment and Concern was inexpressible;—the Man’s Horror of Mind in the extreme.

“My God says the humane Monarch, what have you done? I have ordered a Murder to be perpetrated; you are guiltless.”—The Act was irreparable—the King did all he could to shew his Regret for the Deed—he provided for the Centinel’s Widow and 3 children.