At the beginning of the 1600s, England and France had one goal in mind, complete and absolute power. In the second half of the seventeenth century, we see England evolve from an absolutist monarchy into a monarchy that could only rule by consent of the parliament. France, on the other hand, continued with an almighty king. When Louis XIV came into power, he was too young to rule the nation on his own for he was only 5 years old. His chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, who ruled until his death in 1661, had one goal in mind, absolute rule by the royal administration.
For 3 years, French noblemen rebelled against this with the claim that they were not rioting against the king, but merely the appointed. At the same time, James VI of Scotland became James I of England and created the Stuart Dynasty. The Stuart Dynasty’s main objective was the same as France, absolute power, leaving the nobles and the elites handicapped. They, however, rebelled victoriously against the new law. In both countries, the monarchy wanted complete absolutism. One prevailed and the other compromised. After Charles II was run out of England, William of Orange III and his wife Mary II became the new royalty of England.
Under their reign, the Bill of Rights was created limiting the powers of the monarchy and secured the rights of the English nobles, or the parliament. The monarchy could not assert any dominance over the land without the clearance of the parliament, which only met every 3 years. With parliament being pressured by the population and the monarchy having restricted powers, democracy flourished. Public debates, freedom of speech, freedom of association all thrived. England became the example that political liberty did not have to compromise with military strength, which many countries who opposed absolutism could copy.
Louis XIV, on the other hand, held total rule over France until his death in 1715. He appeased the Fronde by allowing their social and political institutions to remain locally and never limited their powers. Instead, he created the Palace of Versailles as his home and the home to many important nobles. The palace was enormous in size and luxurious; it was also the best place to have the king’s attention, so many nobles went there in hopes of speaking personally with the King. The elaborate ceremonies, however, distracted the nobles from conducting any real government business.
With all or most of the nobles in the Palace of Versailles, the king took advantage of their distraction to rule the land with absolute power. Although his idea of royal authority originally came from his tutor, Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet. Bossuet believed in the “divine right of kings”. He believed that no one could judge a king by his actions other than God. In other words, the king should not answer to anyone other than God, least of all nobles. His hopes of unifying France religiously backfired, forcing millions of people to flee and join their rivals.
The king used all his money and power to go to various wars that he lost, leaving the nation fragile. Their example of absolutism, however, was used as a model for many other countries to duplicate. In conclusion, though France and England started with the same mind-set politically speaking, they ended the 17th century with completely different ways of ruling. France continued to rule with absolutism that led to their government being weakened, while England became a parliamentary government and eventually a world power.