Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


There is not a single prince in Europe who does not assume the title of sovereign of a country possessed by his neighbor. This political madness is unknown in the rest of the world. The king of Boutan never called himself emperor of China; nor did the sovereign of Tartary ever assume the title of king of Egypt.

The most splendid and comprehensive pretensions have always been those of the popes; two keys, saltier, gave them clear and decided possession of the kingdom of heaven. They bound and unbound everything on earth. This ligature made them masters of the continent; and St. Peter’s nets gave them the dominion of the seas.

Many learned theologians thought, that when these gods were assailed by the Titans, called Lutherans, Anglicans, and Calvinists, etc., they themselves reduced some articles of their pretensions. It is certain that many of them became more modest, and that their celestial court attended more to propriety and decency; but their pretensions were renewed on every opportunity that offered. No other proof is necessary than the conduct of Aldobrandini, Clement VIII., to the great Henry IV., when it was deemed necessary to give him an absolution that he had no occasion for, on account of his being already absolved by the bishops of his own kingdom, and also on account of his being victorious.

Aldobrandini at first resisted for a whole year, and refused to acknowledge the duke of Nemours as the ambassador of France. At last he consented to open to Henry the gate of the kingdom of heaven, on the following conditions:

1. That Henry should ask pardon for having made the sub-porters — that is, the bishops — open the gate to him, instead of applying to the grand porter.

2. That he should acknowledge himself to have forfeited the throne of France till Aldobrandini, by the plenitude of his power, reinstated him on it.

3. That he should be a second time consecrated and crowned; the first coronation having been null and void, as it was performed without the express order of Aldobrandini.

4. That he should expel all the Protestants from his kingdom; which would have been neither honorable nor possible. It would not have been honorable, because the Protestants had profusely shed their blood to establish him as king of France; and it would not have been possible, as the number of these dissidents amounted to two millions.

5. That he should immediately make war on the Grand Turk, which would not have been more honorable or possible than the last condition, as the Grand Turk had recognized him as king of France at a time when Rome refused to do so, and as Henry had neither troops, nor money, nor ships, to engage in such an insane war with his faithful ally.

6. That he should receive in an attitude of complete prostration the absolution of the pope’s legate, according to the usual form in which it is administered; that is in fact, that he should be actually scourged by the legate.

7. That he should recall the Jesuits, who had been expelled from his kingdom by the parliament for the attempt made to assassinate him by Jean Châtel, their scholar.

I omit many other minor pretensions. Henry obtained a mitigation of a number of them. In particular, he obtained the concession, although with a great deal of difficulty, that the scourging should be inflicted only by proxy, and by the hand of Aldobrandini himself.

You will perhaps tell me, that his holiness was obliged to require those extravagant conditions by that old and inveterate demon of the South, Philip II., who was more powerful at Rome than the pope himself. You compare Aldobrandini to a contemptible poltroon of a soldier whom his colonel forces forward to the trenches by caning him.

To this I answer, that Clement VIII. was indeed afraid of Philip II., but that he was not less attached to the rights of the tiara; and that it was so exquisite a gratification for the grandson of a banker to scourge a king of France, that Aldobrandini would not altogether have conceded this point for the world.

You will reply, that should a pope at present renew such pretensions, should he now attempt to apply the scourge to a king of France, or Spain, or Naples, or to a duke of Parma, for having driven the reverend fathers, the Jesuits, from their dominions, he would be in imminent danger of incurring the same treatment as Clement VII. did from Charles V., and even of experiencing still greater humiliations; that it is necessary to sacrifice pretensions to interests; that men must yield to times and circumstances; and that the sheriff of Mecca must proclaim Ali Bey king of Egypt, if he is successful and firm upon the throne. To this I answer, that you are perfectly right.

Pretensions of the Empire; extracted from Glafey and Schwedar.

Upon Rome (none). Even Charles V., after he had taken Rome, claimed no right of actual domain.

Upon the patrimony of St. Peter, from Viterbo to Civita Castellana, the estates of the countess Mathilda, but solemnly ceded by Rudolph of Hapsburg.

Upon Parma and Placentia, the supreme dominion as part of Lombardy, invaded by Julius II., granted by Paul III., to his bastard Farnese: homage always paid for them to the pope from that time; the sovereignty always claimed by the seigneurs of Lombardy; the right of sovereignty completely ceded to the emperor by the treaties of Cambray and of London, at the peace of 1737.

Upon Tuscany, right of sovereignty exercised by Charles V.; an estate of the empire, belonging now to the emperor’s brother.

Upon the republic of Lucca, erected into a duchy by Louis of Bavaria, in 1328; the senators declared afterwards vicars of the empire by Charles IV. The Emperor Charles VI., however, in the war of 1701, exercised in it his right of sovereignty by levying upon it a large contribution.

Upon the duchy of Milan, ceded by the Emperor Wincenslaus to Galeas Visconti, but considered as a fief of the empire.

Upon the duchy of Mirandola, reunited to the house of Austria in 1711 by Joseph I.

Upon the duchy of Mantua, erected into a duchy by Charles V.; reunited in like manner in 1708.

Upon Guastalla, Novellara, Bozzolo, and Castiglione, also fiefs of the empire, detached from the duchy of Mantua.

Upon the whole of Montferrat, of which the duke of Savoy received the investiture at Vienna in 1708.

Upon Piedmont, the investiture of which was bestowed by the emperor Sigismund on the duke of Savoy, Amadeus VIII.

Upon the county of Asti, bestowed by Charles V., on the house of Savoy: the dukes of Savoy always vicars in Italy from the time of the emperor Sigismund.

Upon Genoa, formerly part of the domain of the Lombard kings. Frederick Barbarossa granted to it in fief the coast from Monaco to Portovenere; it is free under Charles V., in 1529; but the words of the instrument are “In civitate nostra Genoa, et salvis Romani imperii juribus.”

Upon the fiefs of Langues, of which the dukes of Savoy have the direct domain.

Upon Padua, Vicenza, and Verona, rights fallen into neglect.

Upon Naples and Sicily, rights still more fallen into neglect. Almost all the states of Italy are or have been in vassalage to the empire.

Upon Pomerania and Mecklenburg, the fiefs of which were granted by Frederick Barbarossa.

Upon Denmark, formerly a fief of the empire; Otho I. granted the investiture of it.

Upon Poland, for the territory on the banks of the Vistula.

Upon Bohemia and Silesia, united to the empire by Charles IV., in 1355.

Upon Prussia, from the time of Henry VII.; the grand master of Prussia acknowledged a member of the empire in 1500.

Upon Livonia, from the time of the knights of the sword.

Upon Hungary, from the time of Henry II.

Upon Lorraine, by the treaty of 1542; acknowledged an estate of the empire, paying taxes to support the war against the Turks.

Upon the duchy of Bar down to the year 1311, when Philip the Fair, who conquered it, did homage for it.

Upon the duchy of Burgundy, by virtue of the rights of Mary of Burgundy.

Upon the kingdom of Arles and Burgundy on the other side of the Jura, which Conrad the Salian, possessed in chief by his wife.

Upon Dauphiny, as part of the kingdom of Arles; the emperor Charles IV. having caused himself to be crowned at Arles in 1365, and created the dauphin of France his viceroy.

Upon Provence, as a member of the kingdom of Arles, for which Charles of Anjou did homage to the empire.

Upon the principality of Orange, as an arrièrefief of the empire.

Upon Avignon, for the same reason.

Upon Sardinia, which Frederick II. erected into a kingdom.

Upon Switzerland, as a member of the kingdoms of Arles and Burgundy.

Upon Dalmatia, a great part of which belongs at present wholly to the Venetians, and the rest to Hungary.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01