Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Western Europe
In the absolutist state, sovereignty resided in kings--not the nobility or the
parliament--who considered themselves responsible to God alone.
Absolute kings created new state bureaucracies and standing armies, regulated
all the institutions of government, and secured the cooperation of the nobility.
Some historians deny that absolutism was a stage of development that
followed feudalism, but, instead, was "administrative monarchy."
The absolutist state foreshadowed the modern totalitarian state but lacked its
total control over all aspects of its citizens' lives.
The foundations of French absolutism: Henry IV, Sully, and Richelieu
Henry IV cared for his people, lowered taxes, achieved peace, and curtailed the
power of the nobility.
His minister, Sully, brought about financial stability and economic growth.
Cardinal Richelieu, the ruler of France under King Louis XIII, broke the power of
the French nobility.
His policy was total subordination of all groups and institutions to the French
He changed the royal council, leveled castles, and crushed aristocratic
He established an efficient administrative system using
further weakened the local nobility.
They delivered royal orders, recruited men for the army, collected taxes, and
Through the Edict of Nantes, Henry IV and given religious freedom to Protestants
(Huguenots) in 150 towns, but Louis XIII decided otherwise.
He defeated the city of La Rochelle in 1628 and re-instituted the Catholic
Richelieu and the French kings faced many urban protests over high taxes
and food shortages.
Local authorities usually let local riots "burn themselves out."
Under Richelieu, France sought to break Habsburg power.