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Landgrave George II of Hesse-Darmstadt, Political Testament (June 4, 1660)

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In such a high and important office he should be diligently sober, because the Holy Word describes to us the faithful people, who have retained the blessings of God, with a sober lifestyle. He who desires wine will never be wise, and no one who is not wise is capable of governing. What kind of ruefulness can a regent cause, when he is too much given to drinking! He deprives his spouse and children of the best of their worldly treasures, divests his siblings of their comfort, robs his churches, schools, chancelleries, councilors, servants, lands, and people of their superior, robs the commonwealth of its protector, robs his own fatherland of its father, and even robs himself of his life and princely renown. There are also examples that God, out of justified wrath, has removed his hand from high heads, so that they fell into drunkenness and almost visibly fell into sinfulness.

We faithfully warn all of our dear children against whoring and fornication, especially our dear son and successor, the future regent. He himself should not only keep himself chaste and unsullied, but should foster the virtue of chastity and punish the vice of fornication in the whole land. He should do this in Christian consideration that ecclesiastical and worldly histories have proven that entire kingdoms, principalities, counties, and territories have often fallen due to the sin of fornication, and that almost no sin is found that God rewards so gruesomely with flood, fire, hunger, and war.

The [Holy] Roman Imperial Majesty is the superior authority over him and all the estates of the Holy [Roman] Empire, and he should hold him in great honor and dignity and show all proper and dutiful obedience in all things that are not contrary to God's honor and teaching, or to German liberty (which is not to be expected from His Imperial Majesty, as a most worthy emperor and ruler). He, our son and successor, should reasonably work and try and strive, on and on, to venerate from his whole heart the [Holy] Roman Emperor as the one anointed by the Lord, and to give thanks to God that the Almighty has protected our fatherland, the German nation, from deleterious anarchy and has blessed us with a Christian and wise ruler. [ . . . ]

Our aforementioned son and successor should happily serve everyone and strive to do much that is useful and good, and consider any day he did not do something virtuous as lost. He should work hard to be a pillar of the fatherland; an honor to our house; a comfort to all of our princely relatives and dependents; an ease for himself; a good, pious, and appreciative father to his councilors and servants; a crown and a shield to his subjects; and a sanctuary for everyone.

Source of original German text: Politische Testamente und andere Quellen zum Fürstenethos der frühen Neuzeit [Political Testaments and other Sources on the Princely Ethos of the Early Modern Age], edited by Heinz Duchhardt. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1987, pp. 43-76.

Reprinted in Helmut Neuhaus, ed., Zeitalter des Absolutismus 1648-1789 [The Era of Absolutism, 1648-1789]. Deutsche Geschichte in Quellen und Darstellung, edited by Rainer A. Müller, volume 5. Stuttgart: P. Reclam, 1997, pp. 192-96.

English translation: Ben Marschke

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