What was royal absolutism? How did this political system rise in early modern Europe (17th-18th centuries)? What was its theoretical foundation? What were its major components? What policies did...

What was royal absolutism? How did this political system rise in early modern Europe (17th-18th centuries)? What was its theoretical foundation? What were its major components? What policies did monarchs such as Louis XIV of France pursue to expand the power of their governments as well as their personal authorities?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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By looking at the term “royal absolutism,” we can get a fairly good idea of what that idea was.  This was the idea that the monarch of a country had and should have absolute power.  This idea stood in stark contrast, for example, to the English idea that the monarch should also have to allow parliament to have some power.   In theory, the monarch in an absolutist system was answerable only to God.  No monarch actually achieved such complete power, but there were monarchies, like that of France, that came close.

The idea of royal absolutism comes from at least two sources.  One of these sources is the idea of the divine right of kings.  This idea held that God had chosen royal families to rule.  Since God had chosen them, no human beings had the right to question them or their decisions.  A second source of support for royal absolutism was found in the political philosophy of this era.  For example, Thomas Hobbes argued that absolute monarchy was necessary.  He said that only a powerful king could prevent society from descending into chaos.  Thus, the idea of absolutism had support from both religious and secular thinkers.

In the transition to absolute monarchy, monarchs like Louis XIV typically tried to reduce the power of the aristocrats.  This allowed more power to flow to the king.  They also took advantage of circumstances.  For example, under Henry IV of France, the French people were tired of chaos and upheaval and were willing to give the government (and, thereby, the king) more power if only it would keep order in society.  This allowed the government to expand its reach.

Thus, royal absolutism is a philosophy, with roots in both religion and political philosophy, that holds that the monarch should have absolute power.

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