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Looks like but is not

Louis XVI of France was a man to whom destiny and history threw down a great challenge. He was the last king of France before the 1789 Revolution, and he was beheaded in 1793.

He loved hunting and being on his own. It seems that he never wanted to be king and never showed any inclination to involve himself in matters of state. He was described as feeble and lacking the firmness and decisiveness needed to be a king in the old Europe.

When the first signs of the Revolution appeared Louis XVI, an avid reader, went to his library to re-read David Hume’s History of England to learn what not to do so he wouldn’t end up beheaded like Charles I of England.

As Stefan Sweig says in his biography of Maria Antoniette, that was a terrible mistake. 

What worked in England didn’t work in France. The King wanted to understand the French Revolution through English history.

As Sweig puts it, in decisive moments a king cannot make decisions following other models. Only his genius and visionary character can distinguish the correct answer.

When facing challenges in our lives we can try to understand a situation that defies our comprehension by looking at books and other peoples’ answers. Reading and learning how others have addressed similar challenges can be useful, but reality always reinvents itself. The right answers are not the ones that come from those who have gone through something similar but from those who understand what is really going on.



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