Melo Essay

Submitted By Yousguey16
Words: 586
Pages: 3

Most historians would argue that the years 1660 to 1789—that is, the period from the Restoration in England and the personal rule of Louis XIV up to the early days of the French Revolution—can be characterized as an Age of Absolutism. There is little doubt that the figure of Louis XIV, the Sun King, looms large in such a conception. Building his lavish court just outside Paris at Versailles, Louis was able to keep an eye on his nobility, who were, perhaps, the most contentious and quarrelsome men in France. Louis ruled as an absolute monarch, meaning that he could levy taxes, declare war, appoint favorites to high position, and make (or break) laws, without consulting the Church, the army, the Estates General, or local authorities. The age of the Sun King was a great age for France, but that greatness was certainly short-lived, as Louis overextended himself and could not finance his many wars of aggression. However, Louis set the stage for other self-proclaimed absolute monarchs to follow. In France, both Louis XV and Louis XVI tried to follow in his footsteps. But it was not to be. By June 1789, the first stage of the French Revolution proclaimed what most Frenchmen already knew—the age of the ancien régime was not an age in which an absolute monarch would rule.
Outside of France one can identify two tendencies—the English conducted their great experiment in limited, or constitutional, monarchy, while Prussia, the Hapsburgs, Sweden, and the Russia of Catherine the Great toyed with the notion of enlightened monarchy. Although Louis XIV ruled under the banner of social harmony, in reality he was the sovereign. In the case of limited monarchies, the practice was to produce social harmony by giving subjects something in return: public education, careers open to talent, the promise of military advancement, and some form of religious toleration. The record of these enlightened monarchs was far from satisfactory. Just the same, the more enterprising individuals—mostly from the ranks of the rising middle orders—were able to make some headway throughout the eighteenth century. Under Frederick the Great, Prussia was able to build up a state with a strong military whose discipline and style were…