Absolutism: Palace of Versailles and Nobility

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Prompt 3: In what ways and to what extend did absolutism affect the power and status of the European nobility in the period 1650 to 1750? Use examples from at least two countries.
Absolutism was the beginning of the end for Europe’s nobility when it came to political power and influence. This period is often described as a bridge between Europe’s feudal society in which nobles held ultimate power and status to the capitalist society which eliminated the nobility’s influence over government and politics. Absolute monarchs like France’s King Louis XIV, Russia’s Peter the Great, and Prussia’s Hohenzollern kings, wanted to control their governments with no interference from the nobility. Absolutism greatly diminished the political power of the European nobility while still offering the nobles an opportunity to maintain their economic status and prosperity.

King Louis XIV famously declared, “I am the state,” and there is no question that he identified himself as the sole ruler of France. During the so-called Sun King’s absolute monarchy, the nobility had little or no role in or control over the French government. Instead, King Louis built the glamorous palace at Versailles and invited members of the nobility to live on the palace grounds. Most didn’t pay taxes and led an indulgent lifestyle but with no political influence. Most of King Louis’s reign was spent fighting foreign wars that also kept the nobles occupied as soldiers. The French nobility retained their status in high society under King Louis XIV but were never given the powerful political titles that were reserved for men of great intelligence.

Russia’s Peter the Great wielded the absolute power of an autocratic tsar and never shared it with the nobility of his royal court. In fact, Peter the Great moved Russia’s capital to St. Petersburg in order to take advantage of western intellectual and cultural trends. The Russian leader also forced his nobles to cut off their beards, wear western clothes, and...
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