Were Enlightened Monarchs Truly Enlightened or Was Their Enlightenment Merely a Machiavellian Tactic?

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Many places that were enlightened during around the Enlightened Age were actually absolute monarchs. The question here is where these monarchs lead by truly enlightened leaders or were they just using a scheme to promote themselves and to keep their positions. It is hard to tell which Catherine the Great is. To find out, you must look at her personality, situation, foreign policies, and economical, social, and political domestic policies. By looking at these, you can see she was, for the most part, enlightened to her in her reign of power and to gain support.

Catherine was a Polish princess who was arranged to marry a Russian czar named Peter. Catherine despised her marriage. She had many lovers and affairs which was costly since she gave her loves high official positions and lavish lifestyles. Catherine plotted against her husband to murder him. She was later on the Russian throne illegally. She then needed the support of the nobles to stay in power and maintain her lavished life. To get their support she gave them tax exemptions. Because of this, she would need to get more money from the serfs. To make sure the serfs' tax money was collected, she also gave the nobles more status and complete control over their serfs and local governments. This strengthened serfdom and gave nobles more power over their areas. Although she condemned serfdom in theory, it was strengthened in her reign. She was enlightened in her own life since she wrote plays read Voltaire and Boyle. She continued to support and bring in Western culture, literature, and arts. Catherine always spoke her mind and loved to talk about opinions and ideas. She gathered up information about Russia and tried to modernize it. She even published the Encyclopedia in Russia. This proved to be the enlightened side of her. Economically, Catherine tried to set up a system to eliminate trade barriers like taxes and tariffs. She also worked hard to build up the Russian middle class. She worked hard to build...
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