Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Maria Theresa on "Freedom"

Yesterday on the airplane en route from New York to Dallas I finished Julia P. Gelardi's new book In Triumph's Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters, and the Price They Paid for Glory. Drawing parallels between the lives of Queen Isabella I of Castile (1451-1504) and her daughter Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England (1485-1536), Empress Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary & Bohemia (1717-1780) and her daughter Marie Antoinette, Queen of France (1755-1793), and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (1819-1901) and her daughter Victoria, German Empress (1840-1901), it's a good read that I would recommend to anyone interested in those royal personalities.

Coming across this quotation on the "Enlightenment," from a letter of the great Empress to one of her sons, I thought readers might find it particularly interesting, as relevant today as it was in the 18th century.

Nothing is more pleasant, nothing more suitable to flatter our egos as a freedom without restrictions. "Freedom" is the word with which our enlightened century wants to replace religion. One condemns the whole past as a time of ignorance and prejudice, while knowing nothing of that past and very little of the present. If I could see these so-called enlightened figures, these philosophes, more fortunate in their work and happier in their private lives, then I would accuse myself of bias, pride, prepossession, and obstinacy for not adjusting to them. But unfortunately daily experience teaches me the opposite. No one is weaker, no one more spiritless than these strong spirits; no one more servile, no one more despairing at the least misfortune as they. They are bad fathers, sons, husbands, ministers, generals, and citizens. And why? Because they lack substance. All of their philosophy, all of their axioms are conceived only in their egotism; the slightest disappointment crushes them beyond hope, with no resources to fall back upon.

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