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[278] forming a confederacy of the Catholic powers; while
chap. XII.} 1757.
George the Second, though he personally disliked his nephew, Frederic, was driven irresistibly to lean on his friendship.

A deep, but perhaps unconscious, conviction of approaching decrepitude bound together the legitimate Catholic sovereigns. In all Europe, there was a striving after reform. Men were grown weary of the superstitions of the Middle Age; of idlers and beggars, sheltering themselves in sanctuaries; of hopes of present improvement suppressed by the anxious terrors of hell and purgatory; the countless monks and priests, whose vows of celibacy tempted to licentiousness. The lovers and upholders of the past desired a union among the governments that rested upon mediaeval traditions. For years had it been whispered that the House of Austria should unite itself firmly with the House of Bourbon;1 and now the Empress Maria Theresa, herself a hereditary queen, a wife and a mother, religious even to bigotry, by an autograph letter caressed endearingly the Marchioness de Pompadour, once the French king's mistress, now the procuress of his pleasures, to win her influence for the alliance. Kaunitz, the minister who alone had her confidence, a man who concealed political sagacity and an inflexible will under the semblance of luxurious ease, won favor as ambassador at the court of Versailles by his affectations and his prodigal expense. And in May, 1756, that is, in the two hundred and eightieth year of the jealous strife between the Houses of Hapsburg and of Capet, France and Austria

1 Sir Charles Hanbury Williams to a private friend. Dresden, 27 August, 1747, in Appendix to Walpole's Memoires, II. 474.

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