Absolute monarchs spent exorbitant sums on warfare and extravagant build- ings, such as the Palace of Versailles (see above), for themselves and the nobil- ity. They often required the nobles to live at court for some time, while state of- ficials ruled their lands in their absence. Behind this was the idea to reduce the 5 10 15 20 25 30
effective power of the nobility by making them become reliant upon the munifi- cence* of the monarch. Foundations of Royal Absolutism Absolute monarchies often gave birth to ideologies that eloquently justified the power exercised by the absolutist monarch. Political and religious doctrines* of royal absolutism were either based on the Divine Right of Kings* or a variation of the Social Contract* Theory. Divine Right of Kings The Divine Right of Kings states that a monarch is subject to no earthly author- ity since he derives the right to rule directly from God. As a consequence, he is not subject to the will of his people, the clergy or the nobility. The Divine Right of Kings implies that whoever might attempt to remove the king from his office or restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and thus commits heresy.* The first author to come forward with this theory was Jean Bodin (1530– 1596), a French professor of law and political philosopher, who based it on his interpretation of Roman law. He defined sovereignty* as “the absolute and per- petual power” and emphasized that “the sovereign prince […] is only account- able to God” ( Six Books of the Commonwealth , 1576). In England the same theory surfaced under the reign of King James I of Eng- land (1603–25). In the book The True Law of Free Monarchies (1598), James categorically proclaimed his own ideas of kingship, explaining that for biblical reasons kings are higher beings than other men: "Kings are called gods […] be- cause they sit upon God His throne in earth”. This special status allows them to impose new laws by royal prerogative* (that is without consulting Parliament). However, this does not mean that kings use their powers arbitarily; James’ read- ing of The True Law of Free Monarchies allowed that “a good king will frame all his actions to be according to the law, yet is he not bound thereto but of his good will.” During the reign of King Louis XIV of France, the theory of divine right was strongly promoted by the French bishop and theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627–1704). Court preacher to Louis XIV, Bossuet was a strong advo- cate of political absolutism. When chosen to be the tutor of the Dauphin,* oldest 5 10 15 20 25 30
child of Louis XIV, he wrote several works intended as schoolbooks, one of which was Politics Derived from the Words of Holy Scripture , published posthu- mously in 1709. Bossuet states that “God establishes kings as his ministers, and reigns through them over the people”; at the same time he stresses that “the prince must be obeyed on principle, as a matter of religion and of conscience”, which practi- cally makes the king a sacred* person. Although he declares the absolute author-
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