The Age of Absolutism
When kings and queens had absolute power!
What does “absolute”
mean?
• Something that does not depends on
anything else and is beyond human
control;
– Absolute Loyalty
– Absolute Silence
– Absolute Truth
Absolute Power?
• Monarchs who have
complete control of
government and
people.
Absolutism?
• It is a hard concept
for Americans.
– Since 1787 we have
always put limits on
power.
• Power is temporary
and checked by
dividing power between
branches of
government and THE
PEOPLE.
Why would you give that
much power to one person?
• Divine Right Theory
– God chooses our
rulers.
– Chosen by God, a
monarch is
accountable only to
Him, and need answer
only before God for
his actions.
Why would you give that
much power to one person?
• It was in your blood.
• “Blue Blood” in
English.
• Other languages
have the concept too:
– Sange azul (Spanish)
– Sang Bleu (French)
Other cultures have the
concept of blue blood
• Bulgarian синя кръв
(sinya krăv)
• Catalan sang blava
Czech modrá krev
Croatian plava krv
Danish blåt blod
• Dutch blauw bloed
Estonian sinivereline
Filipino/Tagalog dugong
bughaw
• Finnish siniverisyys
German blaues Blut
Greek γαλαζοαίματος
(galazoaímatos)
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Hungarian kékvérű
Icelandic blátt blóð
Italian sangue blu
Latvian zilās asinis
Lithuanian mėlynas kraujas
Macedonian сина крв
Persian Najabat or ‫نجابت‬
Polish błękitna krew
Portuguese sangue azul
Romanian sânge albastru
Russian голубая кровь (golubaya
krov’)
Serbian плава крв (plava krv)
Slovak modrá krv
Slovenian modra kri
Swedish blått blod or blåblodig
Turkish Soylu
Where does the concept of
blue blood come from?
• First Reference:
Visigoths in the 9th
Century Spain.
– Used to hold up
their sword arm
before battle to
show the blue veins
on their paler skin
than the more olive
skinned opponents.
Some Royal Families believed there
was a “sign” of God’s will on them.
• The Merovingians (ruled
France 400 – 700) had
people believing they
were descended from
Jesus and Mary
Magdalene.
• A birthmark identified
their divine blood and to
harm them was to harm
God.
• Covered the birthmark
but never cut their hair –
so people could see they
were different.
Blue Blood meant
Nobility and Privilege
• Rulers typically
commanded
resources from the
lower ranks of society
– Food
– Money
– Labor.
• Religious or political
power as well.
To defy a king was to
defy God!
• We know how that
often ended!
Nobles also had similar
powers
They could tax the people,
collect rents and food –
but didn’t “owe” anything
back to the people
“beneath” them.
Droit de Seigneur an
example of how much
power a noble had over
their peasants, tenants,
and people.
Right to tax, right to
hunt, right to land, rights
to a bride on the wedding
night.
Time Period of
Absolutism
• 1550 – 1800
• Transition from
Feudalism to Modern
Times.
Feudalism
• “Loyalty” to one another.
– Peasants gave oaths to the
noble.
• Vowed to work so many
days for the lord or give a
certain share of their labor
or crops.
• The noble vowed to
protect them if there was
an invasion and manage
the estate so everyone
would have something to
live on.
Feudalism
• The noble swore
loyalty to the king /
queen.
– Promised to fight for
the ruler to protect the
country.
– The king promised to
reward the noble with
land, wealth, and
protection from
invasion.
So why absolutism?
• The last time a king
actually went into
battle was Henry
VIII.
• When kings began
hanging back and
letting others do the
“dirty work” the
loyalty oaths
weren’t the same.
So why absolutism?
• Nobles weren’t spending
time at their feudal
homes.
• Showing concern for
those “beneath” them
was a lack of class.
• They collected taxes and
spent a fortune on
surrounding themselves
with beauty while others
starved.
Why Absolutism? – FF
to Queen Elizabeth
• Elizabeth I (Tudor)
ruled England from
1558 – 1603.
• She died childless
and the last Tudor.
• Who should be next?
As Elizabeth was dying – she
named her cousin to succeed
after her.
James of Scotland.
Elizabeth had made
him an orphan by
beheading his mother
years before!
` Mary Queen of
Scots.
King James
• Religious problems
resurfaced.
• This time it was
Protestant v. Protestant –
particularly PURITANS.
– Wanted to “purify” the
Church.
• Problems with the Bible.
• Problems with church
ceremonies and how
churches looked.
King James thought if he
showed understanding …
• It would bring people
together.
• Brought Protestants
together to create
The King James
Bible.
– Used in many
Protestant religions
today.
Do you think it worked?
The “other” problem for
King James
• PARLIAMENT:
– A group of nobles,
merchants and churchmen
who tended to
“rubberstamp” what kings
did.
– But King James Parliament
thought they had better
ideas than their king about
what was good for
England.
The English Parliament
• Guy Fawkes tried to
blow up the
Parliament building to
have Catholics take
over England again.
– Found just before he
lit the fuse.
Guy Fawkes Day
• Or – Bonfire Night.
• November 5 every
year.
• Combination
Halloween night with
some anti-Catholic
feeling.
King James died in 1625
• His son Charles
became king.
• NOT a good choice
for a king.
– Wanted everything
“his” way.
– His wife didn’t help!
• Henrietta Marie urged
him to be a bully.
Henrietta Marie
• Proud of her French
Catholicism and
looked down on
Protestants and the
English.
• Refused to be
crowned Queen in a
Protestant ceremony.
• Urged her husband
not to compromise.
King Charles
• Imprisoned his
“enemies” without
trial or cause.
• Spent the nation’s
money on palaces
and art.
• Showed sympathy for
Catholics in a radical
Protestant land.
King Charles and his
Parliament
• 1629 – Charles is out
of money.
• Had to call on
Parliament to raise
taxes so he could
continue his lifestyle.
King Charles and his
Parliament
• Parliament agreed to
get more money for
the king - BUT ….
– Wanted him to sign a
PETITION OF RIGHT.
• The king would agree
to:
– Not jail people
without a trial.
– Not try to tax the
people without
Parliament’s consent.
King Charles?
• He signed the
Petition.
– Agreed to not tax
without Parliament’s
consent.
– Not to jail people
without a trial.
King Charles?
• After he got his money …
– He dissolved (disbanded)
Parliament.
– Ruled by himself for 11
years.
– Kept arresting people
without a trial.
– Began putting “Catholic”
ceremonies in Anglican
churches.
King Charles is in over
his head.
• 1640 – he is a war he
needs money for.
• Calls Parliament back.
• This time, Parliament
isn’t so nice!
– The LONG PARLIAMENT:
1640 – 1653.
• Refused to leave when
the king saw they weren’t
going to give him money.
The English Civil War
• 1642 – King Charles
comes with his army
to force out
Parliament.
• Parliament members
escaped out the back
door and went to
raise their own army
against the king.
The English Civil War
• 1642 – 1651
• Cavaliers v.
Roundheads.
Cavaliers
• The rich nobles
• Proud of their plumed
hats and long hair.
• Good at dueling with
swords, pistols and
horses.
• Thought their blue blood
meant they were natural
leaders for the
battlefields.
• Strong loyalty to their
king.
Roundheads
• Tended to be country
gentry, town merchants,
and Puritans.
• Roundheads because
they wore their hair short
and close to the head so
their helmets fit better.
• Used guns and chose
leaders based on skill
rather than social class.
The Roundheads get a
leader
• Oliver Cromwell
– Came from lower
gentry.
– Good general who
created a disciplined
fighting force with skill
making someone get
promotions, not social
class.
– 1647 – captured the
king!
What happened to King
Charles?
• Parliament couldn’t
trust him to make any
agreement and stick
to it.
• But he is a Blue
Blood Royal.
• To kill a king is to kill
God???
They executed King
Charles in 1649
The reaction of Europe
• Kings had been
assassinated or killed in
battle.
• But commoners deciding
to kill a king??
• Parliament and Cromwell
wanted to say that not
even a ruler can claim
absolute power.
Cromwell and the
Commonwealth
• Parliament abolished
the monarchy.
• Made Cromwell the
Protector of England
Oliver Cromwell
• Strict Puritan
• Forced his ideas of
religion on the people.
– No wearing of bright
colors.
– No lace or adornments.
– Women covering hair.
– No celebrations like
Christmas or Easter – too
Catholic.
– Laughing on Sundays or
singing anything but a
hymn a crime.
Cromwell
• HATED Catholics.
– Thought they were the
children on Satan.
– Executed them.
– Went to Ireland and
murdered thousands
in battle, executions,
and policies to force
them to give up their
religion.
Oliver Cromwell and the
Levellers
Group of people that
had fought in
Cromwell’s army who
wanted equality for all
men – to LEVEL the
social classes.
People were terrified!
• Cromwell found and
executed the leaders
of the Levellers.
– But he did allow all
Protestant religions.
– Allowed Jews back
into England after
being banished for
350 years.
Cromwell dies
• 1658
• His son Richard and
Parliament tries to
continue – but people
wanted a king back.
Enter Charles II
• Return of Charles II –
the eldest son of the
executed king.
• Return to Royal
Right.
– A king was only
answerable to God.
The Age of Absolutism
• Because of what
happened in England,
the thought in Europe
was that the king had
to be ABSOLUTELY
in control and
brought order for
everyone.
Absolutism
• Depended on
everyone knowing
their “place” and
following it without
question.
– Music followed that
ideal.
– Religion followed that
ideal.
– Art followed that ideal.
Next:
• Absolute Monarchs
– The Good
– The Decent
– The VERY BAD.
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The Age of Absolutism