Absolutism is a type of national monarchy in which the monarch has great power and tends to be looked up to with awe and reverence.
In spite of the name, the power ofthe monarch is limited by the need to have some measure of support by the landed aristocracy. The aristocracy is subordinate to the monarchy, provides political and military support for the monarchy,yet may also, from time to time, challenge its authority.
France is the prime example of absolutism in the early modern era.
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were hard times in Europe. TheReformation produced a trail of strife and difficulty as the implications of Reformation thought began to be imagined in areas outside of religion. In particular, the Reformation doctrines ofindividual liberty, the priesthood of all believers, in which everyone shared religious authority equally, and the Calivinist idea of "voluntary associations," spread political dissension and doubt acrossthe face of Europe.
Political philosophers attempted to extricate themselves from these matters through two different, contradictory approaches: "natural law" or "the Divine Right of Kings."According to natural law political thinkers, there were immutable natural laws which should govern states and their relations to their citizens and to other states. According to the doctrine of the DivineRight of Kings, a system of thought derived ultimately from medieval theories of kingship, certain kings ruled because they were specifically chosen by God to be kings. Surprisingly, both of theseapproaches could yield the same result: the idea that the best form of government is an autocracy, or rule by a single person. This person was not to be questioned or disobeyed; this became known as...