In the wake of the Reformation, two countries experienced a century of great change, and whether growth or decline, this change was drastic. After Elizabeth I died at the turn of the century, James I took the throne of England and took absolutism with him. He and the next five successors would oversee the growth of England from an erratic, absolutist monarchy to a working, stable Constitutional monarchy. France was not fortunate enough to experience such growth. In contrast, it experienced great decline because the country did not evolve and continued with absolutism even a century after England had proven that type of governing was not effective.
There are several aspects of each country that are interesting to compare. The foremost of these aspects being the political, economic, religious and social situations. Despite numerous similarities in some of these categories, the extreme differences, in the end, caused them to take different courses in their evolution toward modern government.
The politics of England during the 17th century follow two absolute monarchs, a dictator, two more monarchs, and then the first constitutional monarch ever.
When James I became the first Stuart king of England in the dawn of the 17th century, he was completely unfamiliar with the English Parliament. He believed in the Divine Right of Kings, or the belief that kings had a divine right to their authority and were responsible only to him. He did not feel responsible to Parliament or his people, or that he had to share his power with anyone. In this way he introduced absolutism to England.
His son Charles I became England's second absolute monarch in 1625. He was similarly foolish in terms of relations with Parliament; however, because of his many foolish wars he needed the money that Parliament guaranteed him. There was already tension because the monarchy was Anglican, while most of Parliament was Puritan. After several quarrels in which Parliament was dissolved and then recalled twice, Parliament sends Charles a document to sign admitting Parliament's supremacy over the monarch. Because Charles I believed himself an absolute monarch who shared power with no one, he was outraged and thus began the Civil War of England.
This civil war was multi-faceted because the defenders of the king, or Anglicans, were known as Cavaliers and the defenders of Parliament, or Puritans, were known as Roundheads. Oliver Cromwell led the Roundheads to victory in 1646, beheaded the former monarch and formed his own government in England. This government, called the Commonwealth, was a dictatorship in which the military controlled everything, and Cromwell controlled the military. The Commonwealth forbade alcohol, theater, and foul language because of the Puritan basis.
Shortly after Cromwell died in 1658, the Stuart monarchy was restored because of exhaustion from Puritan rules. Charles II was made king, followed by James II. As James intensified his Catholic policies and became increasingly insane though, William of Orange was asked by Parliament to step in as king. No blood was shed in this turn of power because James' army did not even attempt a fight. They were simply no competition. When William of Orange became the King of England, he became the first Constitutional Monarch. His power was limited to follow the rules of the Constitution and the Parliament had successfully proven its superiority over the monarchy.
For the duration of this century, not only did the politics improve, but so did the economics. England continued to be mainly agricultural with very slow movements toward urbanization and although much money was squandered with James I, Charles I, and the Civil War, Cromwell made sure that did not happen. He was a Puritan, and therefore he believed that your success, or wealth, was a measure of whether you were one of the elect. He, Parliament, and several rulers of the century used a policy called mercantilism in which,...
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