The period of absolutism refers to the exercise of monarchial power which was never questioned by other social institutions like the legislature and the church. The monarchs mainly reigned from the early period of the seventeenth century up to the end of the nineteenth century.
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Absolutism entailed ending the feudal partitioning, emergence of state power, harmonization of state laws, and there was also a decline in the power of the nobility. Many scholars contend that the French Revolution marked the end of the monarch in Europe or the early modern European period.
This paper seeks to analyze the monarchy with specific reference to France and Mughal Empires respectively. The paper will explore the development of absolutism in each case after which there will be a conclusion to contrast the practice of absolutism in both cases.
The exercise of absolute monarchy in the French territory began in the16th century, and it was preceded by the era of renaissance monarchy that was exercised on the basis of political consensus among the social classes and the monarch. France during the sixteenth century experienced numerous conflicts that occurred due to the establishment of Calvinism.
During this period, French kings struggled to increase their power and this culminated to the rise of royal absolutism. In 1661 Louis XIV took over the French monarchy. He was in power from 1643 till 1715. During his reign, France became the most influential nation in the whole of Europe after supplanting Spain. The long reign of Louis XIV marked the pinnacle of royal absolutism, and he encouraged other monarchs to embrace his way of leadership.
The beginning of French absolutism is associated with Henry IV’s reign. He ruled from 1589 to 1610. Before 1589, France had been plagued by a series of religious conflicts especially between the Catholics and their Protestant counterparts. Other political factions also engaged in these wars. These wars greatly affected the stability of France.
Therefore, when Henry started exercising his authority, he was determined to end the chaos and restore stability in France. In this regard, Henry IV formulated new plans that would foster social economic prosperity. He also made arrangements on how to secure France from external aggression. Nonetheless, he was assassinated in 1610 when he was planning to attack his rivals.
Marie de Medicos’, who was Henry IV’s wife reigned for several years as a regent for Louis XIII who was then their young son. Marie was able to challenge her opponents, but she did very little to strengthen the monarchy.
In 1624, Cardinal Richelieu was appointed chief minister and he soon begun wielding his authority behind the throne. He had a twofold plan for developing a supreme royal power and also to make France occupy a dominant position in Europe. With his full control of the royal army, he destroyed all the king’s opponents.
In order to destabilize local units of political authority, Richelieu came up with thirty administrative districts and each was ruled by an authoritative intend ant that was answerable to the throne. Finally, he subjected France to thirty years of conflict with Germany.
In this case, he aimed at weakening Habsburg. Richelieu managed to have a firm grip on the royal power by 1642 when he died. Besides this, he managed to fulfill his dream of elevating France to a dominant position in Europe. Cardinal Jules Mazarin succeeded Richelieu.
In order to elevate his status, Louis XIV introduced several construction projects that led to the popularity of his government. His new palace was one of his greatest architectural projects. In 1682, he relocated to Versailles. Initially, it was not easy to exercise absolutism monarchy in France due to the following reasons. First, the nobles had the chance to build private armies and fortifications.
Secondly, lesser kings who were literate had the chance to become agents of the king. They dispensed justice and collected taxes on behalf of the king, and this gave them some authority. In order to consolidate his power, Louis XIV employed the following strategies in his administration.
He limited the authority of the nobles by ensuring that they at least stayed in Versailles for a period of time annually. He used this as a strategy to closely monitor the nobles so that they could not conspire to topple him. In addition to this, he also abolished Protestantism.
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This led to the migration of Protestants to other places which still allowed the practice of Protestantism. As they migrated, they spread their civilization in other territories. Louis XIV was also determined to expand his frontiers in Europe. Absolutism became very strong during the reign of Louis XIV.
The Mughal Empire occupied a dominant position in India from the second phase of the 16th century until the first half of the 18th century. It was established from 1526 and it survived up to 1858, when the British Raj supplanted it.
“While many monarchs strived to centralize their powers, authoritative rulers emerged in Asian territories”. With time, the emperors became stable enough to challenge western powers. Even though the Mughals never focused much on international trade, they however allowed business revenue into their treasuries.
Mughal Empire reached its height during Aurangzeb’s leadership. Following his death in 1707, his regime was weakened by a series of several military campaigns, corruption, and killing of the Hindus.
“As the Mughal Empire disintegrated his rivals quickly took over power and by mid 18th century, the land controlled by Aurangzeb’s successors had dwindled to Delhi”. The Mughal Empire had remarkable contributions in art and architecture.
From the above discussion on the Empire of France and Mughal, it can be concluded that that they were both ruled by authoritative kings who were mainly concerned with consolidating their power and influence over their subjects. These two societies were both stratified with the nobles occupying the administrative positions.
Most of the kings in France were keen on expanding their territories, and this always subjected them into a series of military campaigns with their neighboring countries. However, the Mughal Empire under the governance of Aurangzeb was not keen on territorial expansion as compared to France under the rule of Louis XIV.
Even though absolute monarchy existed in France and Mughal Empires, it was more entrenched in the former than in the latter. “The end of the early modern is usually also associated with the industrial revolution which began in Britain in the mid 18th century”. The history of the early modern period as a whole therefore enables us to have a better understanding of the social and political developments of various European societies.
Cameron, Euan. Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History. London: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Sherman, Dennis and Joyce Salisbury. The West in the World, Volume II: From 1600. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2010.