This Week in History

Voltaire’s Philosopher Becomes King: May 31, 1740

Prince “Fritz,” the “Philosopher King”

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

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.


This Week in History

Uprising in the Vendée: March 10, 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 Bomb Blast Inspires a “Red Scare”: June 2, 1919

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

A. Mitchell Palmer (right) with President Woodrow Wilson

Dread of the German “Hun” conquering the world gave way, after the World War, to fear of Russian Bolshevism and its stated aim to spark a worldwide proletarian revolution. Some, like A. Mitchell Palmer, whom Wilson appointed attorney general in June 1919, thought Bolshevism threatened the United States with unrest and revolution. In 1920, Palmer described the state of things as he saw them in 1919:

Like a prairie-fire, the blaze of revolution was sweeping over every American institution of law and order a year ago. It was eating its way into the homes of the American workmen, its sharp tongues of revolutionary heat were licking the altars of the churches, leaping into the belfry of the school bell, crawling into the sacred corners of American homes, seeking to replace marriage vows with libertine laws, burning up the foundations of society.

This account perhaps did not seem so exaggerated to men whose imaginations had been stirred up by war and war propaganda and who, in the summer of 1919, had experienced a good deal of social conflict. The movement of blacks from the South to the factories and cities of the North during the war had already caused a good deal of social unrest. White workers feared that black competition would affect their wages. A riot between blacks and whites in East St. Louis in 1917 left 47 dead and hundreds wounded. Another race riot in Washington, D.C. in July of 1919 was so violent that thousands of troops had to be called in to quell it. The same month, 36 died in a three-day riot in Chicago. The same year, racial tensions made themselves felt in New York, Omaha, and in the South. (more…)

This Week in History

A Pope Dies in Exile: May 23, 1085

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. To peruse sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Light to the Nations I and our other texts, please click here.

A depiction of Pope Gregory VII, from an 11th century manuscript

Freed themselves from lay control, the popes now tried to free the rest of the Church from lay control. The Church’s champion in this struggle was Hildebrand, archdeacon of Rome and advocate of the Cluniac reforms. Hildebrand was elected pope in 1073 as Gregory VII.

To reform the rest of the Church, Gregory VII sent out legates, who encouraged local Church councils to attack abuses and appoint only men of virtue and learning as clergymen. Like the popes before him, Gregory also forbade the practice of simony.

Simony, however, was just what Emperor Henry IV, the son of Henry III, was practicing. Henry IV not only appointed bishops, but he sold the appointments. As kings and lords had been doing for two centuries,Henry invested new bishops-elect with the symbols of their office, the ring and crosier. Pope Gregory, however, declared that this practice of lay investiture must stop. Only the Church, said the pope, had the right to invest bishops because a bishop’s authority comes not from kings and emperors, but from God through the Church. (more…)