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Absolutism in the 17th century

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Absolutism in the 17th century

Absolutism in the Seventeenth Century

In the second half of the 1600's, monarchial systems of both England and France were changing. In England, the move was away from an absolute monarch, and toward a more powerful Parliament. In France, the opposite was happening as Louis XIV strengthened his own office while weakening the general assembly of France, the Estates

General. Absolutism, the political situation in which a monarch controls all aspects of government with no checks or balances, had been introduced in England by James I and Charles I, but never quite took hold. In France, on the other hand, Louis XIV took absolutism to extremes, claiming to be a servant of God (the "divine right of Kings") and dissolving France's only general assembly. Why absolutism failed in England but flourished in France is due mainly to the political situation in each country when the idea was first introduced (internet 1).

In England, during the first half of the 17th century, two monarches came to power that attempted to develop royal absolutism in that country. Both James I (James VI of Scotland) and Charles I tried to rule without consenting Parliament, but Parliament had so much control at the time that neither James nor Charles successfully decreased the role of Parliament in English government. The English had been under the combined rule of both the king and the assembly for so long that they weren't ready to give all the power of government to a single person. The merchants and land-owning nobles

supported Parliament, where members could be elected and changed in necessary, rather than an absolute monarch with no restraints. In 1642, differences between Charles I and Parliament sparked England's civil war, which was caused partly by royal stubbornness to share control of the country, and partly by Parliament's refusal to give up their power in government (internet 2). This was the major turning point for absolutism in England. Monarches, beginning with Charles II, realized how much power Parliament had and knew that they had to work with, not against, each other. It is because Parliament was so

strongly ingrained into the English process of government, and was so centralized (only one parliament-type assembly in all of England) that Parliament survived while absolute government died miserably (internet 1). Parliament continued to gain power over the King through the end of the 1600's, and would eventually become the leading

governmental body of England. In France, around the middle of the 17th century, a revolution against the current monarch, Cardinal Mazarin, by the various and scattered parlements, who wanted the

right to claim royal edicts unconstitutional, and nobility, who hoped to gain power by sanctioning the monarch or removing him from office, threw France into disarray. Nobles led bands of fighters around the country, pillaging and terrorizing the lower classes at will in an attempt to weaken the King's power. They eventually hired Spanish

troops to carry on their fight, even though France and Spain were currently at war. The movement failed, but it left a lasting impression in the general public as to the value of having a powerful monarch to protect ...

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