Absolutism vs Constitutional Monarchy

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The seventeenth century saw the evolution of two new types of government mainly because of the instability that was caused by religious wars. One type of government was a constitutional monarchy in which rulers were confined to the laws of the state, giving the people some liberties, best exemplified by William and Mary during the Stuart monarchial rule. Constitutional monarchy was successful in mainly in England because of the Magna Carta, which kept the king’s power in check. The other type was absolute monarchy, in which the king has power over everything, shown by the French under Louis XIV. Although these two different types of monarchies had some similarities, ultimately the constitutional monarchies were more successful because they allowed civilians to have more freedoms in everyday life and made the government less prone to rebellion.

Though the systems of government differed in monarchial power, there were many similarities. Both constitutional and absolute monarchies were headed by single rulers, which allowed for some sort of corruption through their power. Since they usually ruled for life, rulers were able to spend large sums of money for personal gain as shown by Louis XIV with his palace of Versailles. To be effective, monarchs had to find ways to control the treasury, maintain a standing army, control religious protests, and expand a bureaucracy as shown by Louis XIV’s motto of “one king, one state, one God.”

The two monarchies differed, however, in achieving their aims. Constitutional rulers believed that kings and nobles had to make a social contract and sacrifice some power to unite the country. The absolute monarchs believed that they acquired power from God. Bossuet said in his Treatise on Politics “Royal authority is sacred: God established kings as ministers and rules peoples by them,” The constitutional monarchies had evolved to give some power to the nobles, as well as the gentry and high middle class. Representative...
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