The Conflict Between Frederick and His Father
IN THE GREAT autocratic monarchies, the hopes and wishes of an ever-present but powerless opposition have often made common cause with the natural impatience of the heir to the throne. Throughout the true monarchical period, the opposition and liberalism of crown princes were nuclei and gathering points for political parties; it did not matter whether these parties spoke for older power structures against the country’s bold innovators, or for a newer world against the inflexible protectors of the old. Even the decision about the young future ruler’s education (To what philosophy would he be exposed? Who would educate him?) was a matter of state, overtly or secretly influenced by factions. It was as important a question as is the question of public education generally in modern mass societies. Fénelon, for example, leader of those opposed in principle to the system and philosophy of Louis XIV’s government, wrote Télémaque a political and educational roman-à-clef, for his pupil, the heir apparent. In this book he contrasted a humanitarian, pacific, ideal state, serving the civic welfare of the masses, with the heroic, bellicose tendencies of the Great King aiming at the glory and enlargement of France. In most cases, however, opposition leaders and the partisans attached to the crown prince experienced bitter disappointment on the “Day of the Duped,” when the new ruler, on reaching power, quickly grasped the iron necessity of his country’s interests and policies that in the idle contemplation of his days as crown prince he had thought he might easily change.
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