This Week in History

Voltaire’s Philosopher Becomes King: May 31, 1740

Prince “Fritz” — who became King Friedrich the Great of Prussia — in the 1840s

The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. It continues a story we began last August, which you may read here. For ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here.

Reconciled at last with his father, Fritz had to attend to his duties as crown prince. One of these duties was to marry. The match Friedrich Wilhelm chose for his son was the Princess Elizabeta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, the niece of the Habsburg empress. Fritz was not happy with this marriage; but to please his father, he went along with it. The couple were married in 1733 and, three years later, went to live at an estate called Rheinsberg.

Fritz spent some of the happiest years of his life at Rheinsberg. There, friends visited him; he was entertained each day by musical concerts and plays (often by Voltaire), and he enjoyed conversation in French (the only language spoken at Rheinsberg) and French cooking. He became an avid buyer of books (for which he ran up great debts), studied “philosophy,” conducted experiments in physics and chemistry, and continued his attempts at composing good French verse.


This Week in History

Victory in the Vendée: May 25, 1793

The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. For ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here.

The dangers threatening the revolution were indeed grave. France was surrounded by foreign enemies. She was at war with Austria, Prussia, Holland, Great Britain, Spain, and the Italian kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. Revolutionary armies were retreating before the enemy; Prussian and Austrian armies threatened to march on Paris. But threats to the revolution came not only from outside France. They came from within, and from people that few in France might have thought would become dangerous enemies.

Map of the Department of the Vendée

The peasants of western France (in Lower Poitou, Anjou, Lower Maine, and Brittany) had not benefited much from the revolution. Especially in the region falling within the department of the Vendée, the peasants were discontent because of the revolutionary government’s attacks on their religion. Both in the Marais (a seaside, low-lying, marshy area along the lower Loire River) and in the more heavily forested Bocage, the Vendeans protected nonjuror priests and resisted the new state Church. In these regions of the poor, the Middle Ages still lived and the Catholic Faith remained the center of life.


This Week in History

A New Government for Germany and Austria’s Defiance: May 18, 20, 1848

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. It continues the story of the 1848 revolutions in Europe. To see the four previous installments of this series, please see posts for March 1, March 8, March 15, and March 22.  For ordering information on our books, please go here.

Ferdinand I, Emperor of Austria (also king of Hungary, Bohemia, and Lombardy-Venetia)

On March 14, 1848, the day following Metternich’s resignation, the [Austrian] government agreed to form a National Guard — which, like the Paris National Guard during the French Revolution, would be entirely under the control of the revolutionaries. The next day, the government suggested forming a central committee of all the local diets in the empire, but this did not please the revolutionaries. Nor did they like a constitution the Council of State suggested in late April, because it gave the imperial government too much control over the making of laws.

Impatient with the government, students and national guardsmen began forming revolutionary committees. On May 15, 1848, these committees joined to form a Central Committee to organize all revolutionary activities and to direct the city government of Vienna. The Council of State at first refused to recognize the revolutionary committee; but when students and workers again took to rioting, the ministers gave in. They recognized the Central Committee as legal and agreed to call a National Convention or Reichsrat (imperial assembly) to draw up a constitution for all of the Austrian Empire, except Hungary and Lombardy-Venezia. Delegates to the Reichsrat would be elected by universal manhood suffrage.


LOS ANGELES— Michael Van Hecke, M.Ed., headmaster of a Top 50 ranked Catholic school and founder of the Catholic Textbook Project publishing company, has accepted an invitation by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education to participate in its World Congress on Catholic Education. This invitation-only Congress will be held in Rome, November 18-21, and aims to formulate and refresh core education principles, guidelines for Catholic schools and universities.

“The aim of this Congress echoes everything I’ve strived for in my work—from teaching and leading as a principal,” says Van Hecke, “ to the formation of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education; to the launch of a new Catholic Textbook publishing company. The issues of this Congress are the same issues I’ve been discussing with colleagues, superintendents and bishops for … (more…)

This Week in History

King Charles Betrays His Friend:

May 10, 1641

The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The Development of Christian Civilization. For ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here.

Charles did not abandon his hopes of finally subduing the Covenanters. But to do this, he needed to raise a larger army. The problem was, neither his extraordinary ways of getting money nor the ship money gave him enough funds to do this. Since he could not levy taxes without Parliament’s approval, Charles was forced to summon it for the first time since 1629.

File:Sir Anthony Van Dyck - Charles I (1600-49) - Google Art Project.jpg

King Charles I

Charles’s enemies, the Puritans, controlled Parliament when it met on April 13, 1640. Headed by the radical country gentleman, John Pym, the Puritans said they would vote the king funds if he first gave Parliament greater powers. This Charles refused to do; and in frustration, he dissolved Parliament on May 5. Because it was in session for less than a month, it became known as the Short Parliament.