Montesquieu

Rica to the same


Here is a great exam­ple of conju­gal affec­tion, not only in a woman, but in a queen. The queen of Sweden, deter­mi­ned to asso­ciate her hus­band the prince to the crown, in order to smooth out all the dif­fi­culties sent to the Estates a decla­ra­tion by which she with­draws from the regency should he be elec­ted.1

Sixty-some years ago ano­ther queen named Christina abdi­ca­ted the throne to devote her­self wholly to phi­lo­so­phy.2 I do not know which of these two exam­ples should cause us the most won­der.

Although I rather approve that eve­ryone should hold fast to the posi­tion in which nature has pla­ced him,3 and can­not praise the weak­ness of those who, fin­ding them­sel­ves beneath their sta­tion, aban­don it like a sort of deser­tion, I am never­the­less struck by the gene­ro­sity of spi­rit of these two prin­ces­ses, and to see the mind of the one and the heart of the other lof­tier than their for­tune. Christina sought know­ledge at a time when others seek only enjoy­ment ; and the other wan­ted to enjoy only to place all her hap­pi­ness in the hands of her august spouse.

Paris this 27th day of the moon of Maharram 1720

This event was current. After the death of Charles XII in December 1718, his sister Ulrica Eleanore, wife of prince Frederick von Hesse-Kassel, proclaimed her accession to the throne and convened the Estates of Sweden (see letter 130, note 7). But Swedish traditions excluded a married queen. She accepted to declare the throne vacant and to recognize the power of the Estates, after which she was elected queen of Sweden on 21 February 1719. She abdicated in favor of her husband on the 29th of the month, less than a month before the date borne by this letter of Rica’s.

Queen Christina (1626-1689) was renowned for her intelligence and for having attracted Descartes to her court (1649), but also for her intrigues and her sensational conversion to Catholicism : she left Sweden in 1654 and died in Rome, where she is buried in the basilica of St Peter.

“Nature” in this instance would mean her royal blood. In the case of Ulrica Eleanore, who was married, the succession was less clear, but she was nevertheless the sister of Charles XII, and thereby inherited a certain obligation with respect to the state.