Compare and Contrast – Absolute and Parliamentary Monarchy
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Since the postclassical period, feudal monarchy had defined Western politics.This finally came to an end when the power balance kept between king and nobles was undone in the 17th century.
In many countries, after religious wars, monarchs had gained new powers; reducing the pressure from nobles and chances of revolt. France was the model for this new pattern, now the most important nation in the West. French kings steadily built up their power in the 17th century; they stopped c onvening medieval parliament and passed laws as they saw fit, though some provincial councils remained strong.
Kings would blow up the castles of nobles who disagreed with him, a sign that gunpowder was undermining the military basis by which feudalism was supported. A growing bureaucracy was being appointed, the mainstay drawn from merchants and lawyers. They sent direct representatives to outlying provinces and professionazlied their army; giving more formal training to officers, providing uniforms and support, and creating military hospitals as well as pensions.
The French system way of government was known as an absolute monarchy, due to the tremendous power of the king. King Louis XIV summed up the principles of absolute monarchy ably with a simple statement,”I am the state.” King Louis became the major patron of the arts, giving his government a cultural role not found anywhere else in the West. His academies encouraged science and worked to standardize the French language. In order to keep the nobles busy from interfering with government functions, a lavish palace was built in Versailles.
While many countries in the West took steps to emulate France, Britain and the Netherlands stood out; both of these growing commercial and colonial powers emphasized the role of the central state but also built parliamentary regimes in which the king shared power with representatives. These representatives were selected by the nobility and upper urban classes.
The English civil wars established the ultimate policital statement in 1688 and 1689; parliament won basic sovereignty over the king. The English Parliament no longer had to depend on the king to convene, regular sessions were scheduled. The rights of parliament to approve taxation allowed it to monitor or initate most major policies.
In addition to the English civil wars and their result, a growing body of political theory arose in the 17th, building upon ideas of parliament. John Locke and others arguest that power came from the people, not a divine mandate to rule. Kings therefore must be restrained by institutions that protect public interest including: general rights to freedom and property. Revolution could legimately oppose unjust rule.
Overall, Western Europe developed two important new political forms, that of absolute and parliamentary monarchies. Feudal monarchy was a thing of the past, power was now moving to the king or to the people’s representatives.