Compare and contrast French and English political development during the 17th century.Whose development was most influential and why?

Expert Answers
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Actually, at a time when the rulers of France were becoming more and more absolutist, England was moving away from absolutism.

The seventeenth century was the time of Louis XIV, who presumably once stated "l'etat c'est moi." He was known as the Sun King, and declared himself nec pluribus impar (without equal.) He is generally considered to be the most powerful monarch to ever rule in Western Europe. Louis ruled with an iron fist, and never became dependent on a single advisor. He often spied on ministers, even opening their mail. In one instance, Louis visited a minister whom he planned to remove, and was served on gold plates with gold flatware, and even saw large salt water pools filled with fish. Louis ostensibly took offense at this ostentatious display, ordered the minister arrested, and confiscated the minister's mansion for himself. In religious matters, Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes primarily to prevent religious differences from erupting into a civil conflict.

In England, the English people had been proud of their "rights as Englishmen" which dated to the Magna Carta of 1215. They were never ruled by an absolute monarch and had no intention of submitting. When Charles I attempted to dissolve Parliament and ultimately declared war on it, he was executed for treason, the first monarch to be executed by his own people. After a brief experiment with the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, Charles II returned to England as monarch. He was succeeded by James II who also alienated the English people and was forced to flee. At the invitation of Parliament William of Orange (in the Netherlands) and James' daughter Mary were invited to assume the English throne; (this was the "Glorious Revolution of 1688) but were required as a condition of accepting the Throne to sign the Engish Bill of Rights, which stated the monarch could not suspend laws passed by Parliament,

judges would hold office "during good behavior, and

the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by Law.

In other words, only Protestants were allowed to keep and bear arms; Catholics could not. This was because the Protestant majority in Parliament feared there might be a rebellion led by Catholics.

The Glorious Revolution forever ended the idea of divine right or absolute monarchy in England. It was to support the Glorious Revolution that John Locke wrote his Two Treatises on Civil Government, the second of which was relied upon by Thomas Jefferson in writing the American Declaration of Independence.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were several differences between France and England during this period. Perhaps the greatest was religious, with England having a national protestant church and France being Roman Catholic. England, in the wake of Cromwell and the ensuing religious conflicts, developed a policy of religious toleration. Although in the Edict of Nantes, France attempted something of the same, the Edict was repealed and France lost many important Huguenot members of the bourgeois class to Holland and Britain as a result of that repeal. While France was centralizing power in the monarchy, England moving increasingly in direction of representative government and constitutional monarchy, leading to a gradual diminution in the power of the monarch rather than a violent overthrow, as was to happen in France.

The British model seems to have predominated in modern European states.