Leopold was both a hard working and an ambitious man. He was, in several ways, a part of the Enlightenment then sweeping through the educated middle classes, especially in tune with The Rights of Man. He was also a man of tradition, too, and a pious one. He felt that if God had made Wolfgang and given genius into his care, that it was his a duty to display what God had so well made to the world.
The children and their father set off on their first journey 12 January, 1762, about two weeks before Wolfgang’s sixth birthday. His sister was ten. They both played violin and klavier. Wolfgang could also play the organ and sing. The rigors and dangers of traveling with children in that time can hardly be overstated.
Leopold held that vaccination was interference with the Will of God. His decision not to allow the children this new treatment left Wolfgang and his sister Nannerel open to infection by smallpox. In fact, friends at the Paris Court pleaded with Leopold to allow the children to be vaccinated, and he refused, and later detailed his pious reasoning in a letter. Both children suffered through the awful disease in the house of a brave and generous stranger.
Nevertheless, Leopold did give his children the best education a man of his class could manage. They were instructed to keep diaries in the language of the countries they visited, and Nannerel’s travel diary still exists.
She did the best she could in Dutch, French, and English. The constant bombardment of experience in foreign courts and along the road would have necessarily made sophisticates of them both children, but it is touching how often the love and trust between parents and children is remarked upon by strangers. As Wolfgang would often say “Next to God comes Papa.” And who are we, at this distance of 200+ years, to argue otherwise?
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