There were drawbacks to being a European monarch. For Friedrich II the Great, philosopher, flute player, and Prussian soldier-king, the public scrutiny of his royal life got on his nerves. He sketched out his ideal summer home, a cozy little private palace he could reign from, tend his hunting dogs, and entertain the likes of Voltaire and Goethe. He called it Sanssouci—”no worries.”
One look at the terraced gardens and great stairway to Sanssouci in Potsdam and it’s hard to believe this was Old Fritz’s idea of cozy. The marble and gilding of the baroque interiors give you the urge to stand up straighter and tuck in your shirt. Partly, it’s the fault of the king’s descendants who expanded Sanssouci, adding two side wings to the original architectural confection. The effect is late baroque, a transition in style from the soft and whimsical baroque to the firm lines of classicism.
As romantic as Sanssouci feels to us now, it was no lovers nest. Most of the time, Friedrich the Great preferred his Sanssouci sans femmes—without women.