Absolutism in the Seventeenth Century

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Increasing Power in the 17th Century

Governmental systems in both France and England were greatly changing during the 17th Century. In England, absolute monarchies lost power while Parliament gained supremacy. France, on the other hand, saw Louis XIV strengthening his own offices and weakening both the Estates General and the local nobility. Absolutism, a political theory holding that all power should be vested in one ruler, was attempted by James I and Charles I of England, and Louis XIV of France. However, neither English king could establish an absolute monarchy as successfully as Louis XIV. Louis has been hailed as the extreme absolutist; he epitomized the ideal of kingship. "Seventeenth-century France, in contrast to England, saw both discontent among the nobility and religious pluralism smothered by the absolute monarchy and the closed Catholic state of Louis XIV. An aggressive ruler who sought glory in foreign wars, Louis XIV subjected his subjects at home to 'one king, one law, one faith'" (The Western Heritage 430).

Louis succeeded in establishing an absolute monarchy while English rulers struggled with a power hungry Parliament.

Both James I and Charles I of England tried to establish absolute monarchies by ruling without consenting Parliament. James developed other sources of income to avoid calling Parliament, and Charles only called Parliament when he needed money for a war against Scotland. Parliament, however, was too strong an institution to be dissolved so quickly. The English people had always been dependant upon the joint rule of both Parliament and a king. Both the noble and middle classes supported Parliament because it was a representation of the people, whereas the king was a sole ruler. When Charles I tried to gain complete control, Parliament reacted negatively, and as a result, Charles I and Parliament continued to vie for supremacy...