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• Form of monarchical power when a ruler has a
complete authority over the government and lives of
the people
• Two types of A.: 1. Ruler
2. Ruler + Chief Minister
• Took place in: Spain, France, Prussia, Russia,
Map of states under Absolutism
Setting the Stage
• Europe was in a period after Reformation. Still
divided religiously.
– Catholic territory: Spain, France, Italy, Southern
– Protestant territory: England, Netherlands,
Northern Germany
• Spain, France, and England had colonies in
Asia, the Americas, and Africa.
(Charles V: King of 2 Crowns)
• Grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella:
Inherited Spain and Austrian
Hapsburg empire in 1519.
• Struggled to suppress Protestant
movement in German states as well
as the Ottoman empire led by
• Tired of the constant warfare of this
diverse empire, Charles V gave up
his title and entered a monastery.
• Division of his empire:
• Hapsburg land→brother
• Spain, Netherlands, southern
Italy→son Philip
(Philip II)
• Thanks to silver from Americas,
his empire became the wealthiest
in Europe.
• Absolute monarch: complete
authority over government and
lives of people.
• Ruled by divine right: believed his
authority to rule came directly
from God.
• Sought to protect and strengthen
the Catholic Church. Counterreformation; turned Inquisition
against Protestants. Enforced
Catholic unity in his lands.
(The Wars of Philip II)
• Defeated Ottoman Muslims in the Mediterranean
• Battled Protestant rebels in Netherlands who resisted
Philip’s efforts to crush Protestantism there. Also
opposed high taxes and autocratic rule.
• Netherlands eventually won independence from
Spain after many years of war and became known as
the Dutch Netherlands in 1648.
(The Wars of Philip II)
• Queen Elizabeth I was chief
Protestant enemy who supported
the Dutch rebellions.
• She also knighted Sir Francis
Drake, a pirate who looted
Spanish treasure ships.
• In response, Philip II Prepared a
huge Armada (fleet of 130 ships)
against England.
• Due to storm on English
Channel, armada was destroyed.
England won and suprassed
Spanish power thereafter. Victory
for Elizabeth I
Spanish Golden Age: 1550-1650
Philip II was a patron of the
arts and founded academies for
science and math.
El Greco: religious pictures
and royal portraits
Diego Velázquez: best
known court painter.
Miguel de Cervantes:
wrote Don Quixote, the
first modern novel in
Europe. Mocks medieval
Spain’s Economic Decline: 1600s
• Economic decline because:
1.There were less able successors after Philip II
2.Wars overseas drained Spain financially.
3.Expulsion of Muslim and Jew= deprived the
economy of many skilled artisans and
4.France (and England) replaced Spain as most
powerful European nation.
• From 1560s-1590s, religious war between Huguenots
(French Protestants) and the Catholic majority tore
France apart.
• Worst incident: Charles IX: Bartholomew´s Day
Massacre. 3,000 were killed. Symbolized complete
breakdown of order in France.
(Henry IV)
• Henry IV: In 1589, a Huguenot prince inherited the
• Issued Edict of Nantes in 1598: protected Protestants
and promote religious tolerance.
• He ruled alone but royal officials helped him. Strong
central government to restore order.
• Royal officials: 1. Administered justice
2. Improved roads,built bridges
3. Revived agriculture
***Laid foundations for royal absolutism.
(Louis XIII)
• Henry IV assassinated→ 9 years old son Louis
XIII inherited throne.
• Young Louis XIII appoited Cardinal Armand
Richelieu as his chief minister and ruled with
his help.
• Richelieu further strengthened central
Richelieu sought to destroy the power of Huguenots and nobles so he:
• Smashed the
Huguenots cities
and outlawed
their armies
• BUT he allowed
them to practice
their own
• Defeated the
private nobles
armies and
destroyed their
• BUT he tied
nobles to king
by giving them
high posts at
court or in
royal army
(Louis XIV & Marazin)
• Richelieu handpicked his
successor Cardinal Jules
• Reign of Louis XIV:
1. Ruled with Marazin´s help
2. Disorder again swept France
• After Marazin died Louis took
the government under his
• Claimed “I Am The State” or
the “Sun King.” Believed in
divine right to rule. Took sun
as symbol of absolute power.
(Louis XIV)
• Never called a meeting of the Estates General, a
council that was established to check royal power.
• Appointed intendants to collect taxes, recruit
soldiers, and carry out his policies throughout
• Under Louis XIV, French army became the strongest
in Europe.
• His finance minister, Jean Baptiste Colbert followed
mercantilist policies, helping make France the
wealthiest state in Europe.
(Louis XIV & Versailles)
• Built palace of Versailles,
the most magnificent
building in Europe.
• Versailles became symbol of
the Sun King’s wealth and
power. Housed 10,000
• No expense was too great.
Lavish lifestyle.
• Court of Louis supported
splendid century in the arts.
French academies
(Louis XIV)
• Reigned for 72 yrs, longer than any other monarch.
• French culture, manners, and customs replaced those
of Renaissance Italy as the standard for European
• Revoked Edict of Nantes forcing over 100,000
Huguenots to flee France. Caused serious blow to
French econ.
• Also drained economy with warfare. Refused Philip
V of Spain’s attempt to unite the two crowns.
• By the time Louis XV inherited throne, France was
in a state of chaos.
England (The Tudors & Parliament)
• Power was maintained far
differently in England than
in France and Spain.
• Tudor dynasty reigned from
• Henry VII believed in
divine right, but valued
Parliament and maintained
good relationships.
• Elizabeth I was popular and
successful thanks to good
Parliamentary relations.
English Parliament
• House of Lords:
– Upper house
– Hereditary rule or
appointed by
– Lord Spiritual and
Lord Temporal lead
this house.
• House of Commons
– Lower house
– Democratically
elected body.
– Prime Minister leads
this house.
England (The Stuarts & Parliament)
• When Elizabeth died without a direct heir, the throne passed
to the Stuarts, the ruling family of Scotland.
• James I, the first Stuart monarch contested Parliament and
sought absolute rule.
• Leaders in the House of Commons (body of Parliament)
resisted his claim to divine right.
• In 1625, Charles I inherited the throne. Also behaved like an
absolute monarch. Imprisoned foes without trial and created
bitter enemies.
• For 11 years, he ruled the nation without Parliament. When
he finally summoned Parliament to get help suppressing a
Scottish rebellion, it launched its own revolt.
Parliamentary Rebellion and Civil War
• When Parliament finally reconvened they staged the
greatest political revolution in English history.
• Charles lashed back against the reforms they
• When he attempted to arrest the most radical
leaders, they escaped and formed an army.
• A civil war ensued, lasting from 1642-1649. In the
end, revolutionary forces triumphed.
• Oliver Cromwell led the triumphant New Model
Army for Parliament, and by 1647, the king was in
the hands of parliamentary forces.
Execution of King Charles
• After the war, Parliament
set up court to put King
Charles on trial.
• He was condemned as
tyrant, traitor, and public
enemy, and beheaded.
• 1st time in history that a
monarch had been tried
and executed by his own
• Sent clear message that in
England, no ruler could
claim absolute power and
ignore the rule of law.
The Commonwealth
• After execution of Charles I,
House of Commons abolished
monarchy, House of Lords, and
Church of England.
• Declared England a republic
called the Commonwealth, which
was led by Oliver Cromwell.
Enforced strict military rule.
• Under the Commonwealth,
Puritans replaced the Church of
England. Strict piety.
• After Cromwell died, Puritans
lost their grip on England.
Charles II
• Many English were tired of military rule and strict
Puritan ways
• After a decade of kingless rule, Parliament invited
Charles II to return to England from exile.
• Unlike his father, Charles II was a popular ruler who
avoided his father’s mistakes in dealing with
• Restored Church of England and promoted religious
James II, William & Mary
• Charles II’s brother James II
inherited the throne.
• Unlike Charles II, he angered
Parliament and attempted to
restore Catholic Church.
• Parliament invited his Protestant
daughter Mary and her husband
William of Orange to become
rulers of England.
• When they arrived, James fled to
France. Non-violent overthrow
known as the Glorious
English Bill of Rights
• Before they could be crowned, William and Mary had to
accept several acts passed by Parliament that became known as
the English Bill of Rights.
• It ensured superiority of Parliament over the monarchy.
• Required monarch to summon Parliament regularly and
forbade monarch from interfering with debate or suspending
• Also restored trial by jury and affirmed principle of habeas
corpus in which no one could be held in prison without first
being charged with a specific crime.
• Created a limited monarchy form of government. Set England
apart from the rest of Europe.
Austria & Prussia
• Struggle between Protestant North and Catholic
South in Germany triggered the Thirty Years’ War.
• The war led to severe depopulation. As many as 1/3
of the people in the German states died during the
• Finally exhausted combatants accepted treaties like
the Peace of Westphalia.
• Left Germany divided into more than 360 separate
Hapsburg Austria
• Though weakened by war Hapsburgs wanted
to create a strong united state.
• Focused attention on expanding their own
lands. Added Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland
to Austria.
• Difficult to unite these diverse lands.
• When Hapsburg emperor Charles VI died,
many did not recognize his daughter, Maria
Theresa’s right to rule.
Maria Theresa
• Maria Theresa appealed to
Hungarian assembly for help .
They agreed.
• Despite resistance, she was able to
preserve her empire and win
support of most of her people.
• She strengthened Hapsburg
power by reorganizing the
bureaucracy and improving tax
• Forced nobles to pay taxes, easing
the tax burden on peasants.
• Formed strong Catholic state.
Rise of Prussia
• Meanwhile, Prussia
emerged as a new Protestant
• Under Prussian ruler
Frederick William I, a great
army was assembled . He
became known as Frederick
the Great.
• Prussia emerged along with
Austria, France, England,
and Russia, as one of the
great powers of Europe.
• Russia was in a period called “Time of troubles”
• Untouched by Renaissance and European
reformations and completely isolated
• Conservative Russians held onto Russian Orthodox
Church and traditions
• Not until 1682 did a czar emerge who was strong
enough to regain order and maintain absolute power
of earlier czars.
• Peter Mikhailov (Peter the Great) was that czar who
pushed Russia to become a great modern power.
Peter The Great and The Romanovs
• The most dominant figure in the
Russian history
• He learned from European
cultures and was inspired by
them to completely reform
• Traveled around Europe
examining the way modern
government, technology, and
culture were managed in Western
Europe. Wanted to catch Russia
up to them.
Peter The Great
• Embarked on a policy of westernization, or adoption of
western ideas, technology, and culture.
• Had difficulty convincing Russians to change their way of life.
• To impose his will, he became the most autocratic of Europe’s
monarchs. Tortured and killed those who challenged him.
• Also strengthened military, expanded Russian borders,
• Brought Russian Orthodox Church under his control, and
expanded serfdom (like feudalism/slavery).
• Used serfs to serve the state. They were used to work on
government projects like building roads, canals, etc.
• Enforced mercantilist policies and expanded trade.
St. Petersburg
• Built new capital city at St.
Petersburg. Called it a
“window on the West.”
• Just as Versailles was a
monument to French
absolutism, St. Petersburg
became symbolic of Russian
absolutism as well as a
symbol of modern Russia.
Catherine The Great
• A German princess, who got to the
throne by marrying Russian heir
• Continued at what Peter started –
extended Russian territory, brought
even more reforms
• Intelligent and educated woman, a
student of French thinkers, who led
• Many similiarities in her reign to
that of Peter the Great. Strong ruler,
but often ruthless.
Russian absolutism
• Absolute power of the czars was inherited.
• Cruel, almost tyrannical reign of Peter was
necessary in order to tame turmoil and
prevent upheaval of power in Russia.