Saturday, July 28, 2007

Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and Freemasonry

In 1738, Pope Clement XII prohibited Catholics from becoming Freemasons, on the grounds that the order required secret oaths, involved paganistic rituals, and encouraged religious indifferentism. But like papal decrees before and after, many Catholics blithely decided to ignore the prohibition and joined the masons, anyway. They thought that those who took such bans seriously were being stuffy and getting in the way of progress. Lawyers, doctors, merchants, artists, writers, ladies, aristocrats, kings and emperors, who were otherwise practicing Catholics, were initiated into various lodges, lodges which often rivaled each other with different goals and endeavors.

In the family of Marie-Antoinette there were some members who were masons, including her father Emperor Francis I. Her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, was vehemently against masonry. The Empress sent the police to raid one of the lodges while her husband the Emperor was at a meeting, and he had to escape by a back staircase.

While there is no evidence that Marie-Antoinette was herself ever initiated into a lodge, she went through a time when she was favorable to freemasonry. Her close friend, the virtuous Madame de Lamballe, presided over the Lodge of the Social Contract, one of the ladies' lodges or loges d'adoption. In 1781, Madame de Lamballe became Grand Mistress of all of the Lodges of Adoption in France. That same year, Marie-Antoinette wrote to a friend, praising the good works of the masonic sisterhood, and how they provided dowries for poor girls and were very pious. She also praised them in a letter to her sister Marie-Christine, saying: "It is only a society of benevolence and pleasure." (see Nesta Webster's Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette Before the Revolution, p. 237-238) She and Louis XVI both saw the masons as a means of charitable works to benefit society, and they both may have at one point visited certain lodges, so that to this day, some masonic groups claim them as their own.

There is also evidence that Marie-Antoinette's best friend Madame de Polignac was a member of a ladies' lodge, although not to the extent that Madame de Lamballe was involved; it was considered the fashionable thing to do. Nesta Webster, who blames the masons for practically everything, said that the Lodges of Adoption were harmless enough ladies' clubs. They were probably one step away from the Mopses, but still, in my opinion, Catholics should not have joined, since masonry was forbidden by the Church.

As for Louis XVI, there has long been a debate as to if he was ever formally initiated into a lodge as his brothers probably were. When he ascended the throne, Louis XVI was quite liberal and progressive; like all young progressives at the time he saw the masons not only as harmless, but as a group who would benefit society by active good works. Some of this explains his initial acquiescence to certain measures in the beginning of the Revolution which were damaging to the Church, especially the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. He admits as much in the Vow to the Sacred Heart which he made under house arrest in the Tuileries in 1791.

It is true that many monarchists were masons and many revolutionaries were not masons. However, in the years preceding the Revolution of 1789, masonic lodges formed a network that fomented discord, spread propaganda against the King and especially against the Queen. The lodges were used by a core of aristocrats and politicians who wanted to secularize society, and destroy the Church, or at least enervate it, by destroying or by seizing the crown.

Marie-Antoinette came to see this quite clearly. In August of 179o she wrote to her brother Emperor Leopold of Austria: "Be well on your guard where you are with regard to all associations of Freemasons. You must already have been warned that it is by this means that all monsters here count on attaining the same end in every country. Oh, God, preserve my Fatherland and you from such misfortunes." ( Lettres de Marie-Antoinette, edited by Maxime de la Rocheterie, 2 vol., 1895) For Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, the warnings had not been heeded, until it was too late. Share

14 comments:

alaughland said...

All I can say is that most of the U.S. Presidents were Masons and the one who wasn't, Richard Nixon, got kicked out of office. Draw your own conclusions.

Coffee Catholic said...

This is TOTALLY off the topic of your post but I just wanted to tell you: I received my first issue of "Canticle" magazine the other day and was absolutely DELIGHTED to find that you were featured!!! Soooo cool. And you've inspired me to get back into writing my book instead of "waiting until I get settled here on the farm" - Life is dynamic so when are we EVER truly settled in life?? GOD BLESS!!!

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, alaughland, it is interesting, for sure....

Coffee, you definitely should not wait to write your book. The time is now....

An Donnuartach said...

Interesting. I suppose that although women are more influential now than historically historically women's lodges were more influential than they are today. May you continue Elena to expose the devil's work.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, I'll do my best.

pimprenelle said...

Congratulations ! This is the most balanced and clever article I ever read on this subject !

Hans Lundahl said...

I wonder if masons claim ME as their own ... sigh ... at least they have shown their cloven foot more than once in my life, and my grandfather refused some endowment from them

elena maria vidal said...

Really? I would love to learn more....

Matterhorn said...

I've heard some religious people make rather harsh comments about Louis XVI and M-A, because of this naïve liberalism and favorable attitude to the masons. But if the king and queen had been totally liberal, I doubt they would have been overthrown, because they wouldn't have been a threat to the revolutionaries' plans. I think they 'fell between two stools', being Catholic monarchs at heart but not shrewd enough about the nature of the opposition.

elena maria vidal said...

I think they were trying to be open-minded according to the spirit of the age.

La Poetessa said...

Very interesting article Elena, I fully agree that freemasonry played it's role back then as it still does today. The very thought of it makes me shudder!
I so love to read all you write about our beloved queen!
And to see pim on here warms my heart, (Hi Pim, "Bella here!)
Blessings!!

Dave Welf Masters said...

Freemasons destroyed my country, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. They bribed Borbonic Generals with Turkish piastre (I don't know the English word). They financied the Conquest of Two Sicilies, the pseudo-unification. Indeed it was a subjugation, a colonization. Also if these sectarians were now a honest philanthropic society, I never will forget that they destroyed my Homeland.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

There may be freemasons on lower levels who are honestly philanthropic in their way - which may in certain ways be bad ways even with honesty.

The societies as such include higher level masons, whom I would not reckon on being all that honest. They include anti-Catholic and antimedieval (except for medieval dissidents like Albigensians and Jacques Molay) prejudices, which make them less than honest about Catholic Church and other things legitimately hailing from the Middle Ages.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Two more things to Dave Welf Masters:

- admiring Freemasons in the 18th C before the Revolution is not same thing as admiring what they did to the Two Sicilies (introducing the possibly first Concentration Camps for its old soldiers) once you have seen the 19th C. to the end;

- in English it's called piasters (Elena Maria will correct me if I am wrong, I am not English myself).