1817-1898: In the 81 years of Marie Eugenie’s life, seven political regimes followed one another in France. It was a troubled time, though from the point of view of social, political, artistic and ecclesial life, it was rich in change and innovation.
The French Revolution of 1789 signaled a break with the past: new ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity shook the foundations of monarchy, not only in France, but throughout Europe.
New philosophies challenged traditional understanding of human thought; there was a new consciousness of self, the world and others; people became increasingly interested in their own emotions and passions – human nature itself became a fascinating field for study.
School of thought, such as the Romantics and the Symbolists, succeeded each other in literature and painting, putting the accent on feelings, emotions, and imagination.
The new scientific method and mentality gained ground and shaped minds, sharpening the conflict between science and faith, the latter all too often paralyzed by scrupulosity, guilt and fear of offending God.
Industrialization, too, was beginning to transform not only economic structures but also the lifestyle of society, relationships and ambitions.
The German philosopher Hegel (1770-1831) had proposed a theory of progress in which, it seemed, the poor paid the price.
Social reformers and theorists invented the vocabulary used and spread by Karl Marx (1859-1913) to explain history in terms of economic theory. Working men began to organize themselves and France discovered the power of popular movements.
Such a historical upheaval bring about profound changes in a culture and destabilize the structures of society – its government, social order, economy, education – and its Church.