Thursday, July 29, 2010

Queen Elisabeth's Religion

In Elisabeth: A Biography (1997), Wanda Larson describes the approach to religion embraced by the consort of King Albert I. Although endowed with a genuine Catholic piety, the heritage of her staunch Braganza mother, Elisabeth was also strongly influenced by her more free-thinking Wittelsbach father:
She was a religious person in the widest sense of the word. All faiths interested her, as ways by which the human spirit attempts to approach the Divine nature, each suited to its environment. She respected the Dominicans in Jerusalem for their piety and learning, but the behavior of some of the other religious orders disgusted her by their pettiness and bigotry. Among religious conceptions, Dr. Albert Schweitzer's respect for life held a high place in her regard. This lover of men who put his precepts into practice and sacrificed a great career as a musician to live his theories at Lambarene was her personal friend and a great artist who loved God and his neighbor in a way that few had been able to achieve.
All faiths interested Elisabeth. She read and studied Lamaistic Buddhism and Hinduism. When in southern Italy, she pursued with professorial enthusiasm the traces of Mithraism in the Napolese villages. She was interested in astrology. At heart, however, she was a pious Catholic, and although all religious manifestations commanded her respect and interest, the faith into which she was born held her allegiance, which she practiced until her passing. The Benedictines of Mont César near Louvain knew her as one of their staunchest supporters (p. 117).
Elisabeth's heterodox tendencies worried her husband. (Despite my admiration for the Queen, I would be a bit concerned, too). Although a tolerant man, Albert was much more theologically conservative.  He feared that his wife's more liberal approach to religion might prove a harmful influence on their children. At times, the King would shyly reproach the Queen for being too aloof, as he saw it, from traditional Catholicism. Elisabeth, however, had a mind very much her own....

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