Disloyalty to one’s people and a loss of authenticity amidst court pleasantries

May 9, 2011

 

Frederick II of Prussia

One day, Frederick II asked the members of his court: “What would each of you do if you were king of Prussia?”

Everyone tried to please the king with their answer. When it was his turn, the French Count d’Argenson did not bother with flattery and said: “I would quickly sell the kingdom of Prussia and buy a province in France.”

“Well now,” the king replied “clearly one of the most beautiful dreams of a king of Prussia is to become king of France too.”

 

Count Louis-Philippe de Ségur, Souvenirs et anécdotes sur le règne de Louis XVI (Paris: Arthème Fayard, 1824), p. 136. (Nobility.org translation.)

 

[Commentary: While the Count d’Argenson was understandably standing up for France in a foreign court, nevertheless, we disagree wholesale with his proposal. Kingdoms are not real estate. True Christian lordship is always twofold: it is exercised over a specific place, which can be small for a lower noble, but can be an extensive region for a higher noble; but most importantly, lordship is exercised over those who dwell on the land. By selling the kingdom of Prussia, the king would break faith with the people that live there. Likewise, with no historical, family or personal ties to a French region, what gives him the right to buy it and exercise lordship over its residents? ]

 

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 73

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