Staging Absolutism

Staging Absolutism The Model for Absolute Royal Authority began with absolute monarchy during the fifteenth century in Europe. The ultimate goal of maintaining power and wealth was the primary focus for the rulers of Spain, France, Italy and Germany. The strategies developed by kings and nobility during this period were successful and as a result, yielded complete authority over the government and the lives of people. It was well noted, upon the succession of kings in France, the country served as a model for absolutist government for other countries to follow.

From King Henry IV through King Louis XIV absolute monarchy was challenged by nobility. The intention for King Louis XIV was to rule with sovereignty. Absolutism reached its peak during Louis XIV reign. The king was viewed as a God ordained through his possession of absolute blood right. This view caused for the unconditional acceptance of the King Louis XIV and the successors that he represented (Marc Bloch, 1924-1946). The king further elaborated intentions through the integration of policies, military and provinces.

The reign of King Louis XIV completed the process of consolidating royal authority. As it emerged it was strengthened and reinforced by public displays of royal power to the masses, including the people of France and the rest of the world. Traditional privileges continued to create appearances regionally and within social groups. Nobles were still prevalent with political power and very highly visible as the French Estates General and provincial assemblies. While many nobles still held positions of judges they had the power of a congress to counteract royal edicts from becoming a decree.

The Sun King, Louis XIV ruled Europe as Spain had in the 1500’s and his motto was “none his equal” (Weisner) The primary focus was to rule France with a skill and power unmatched by any other ruler in Europe and this tenacity helped to destroy the feudal monarchy. This newly designed governmental development was revived by building a intrinsic hierarchy for the bureaucracy. While new organs of administration were required there were limits that were inevitable for this idea of royal power. During these periods France also experienced significant population growth and the provinces created caused regional differences.

The culture of the French people was vastly different. These issues were no easy tasks for the kings to address and overcome. “The antiquity of the monarchic institution is reflected in the developed terminology for kingship” to be precise the kings, created a “Cult of Kingship” to overcome these obstacles. (Chaney) This strong presence of nobility began to cease due to the inspirational writings and the creation of Versailles. According to the writings of Jean Bodin and Jacques Benigne Bossuet the origins of sovereignty were biblical.

Bodin suggests laws were put in to place by godly rule. “The first and principal function of sovereignty is to give laws to the citizens generally and individually, and, it must be added, not necessarily with consent of superiors, equals, or inferiors” Bodin further justifies absolute authority by stating, “Law, on the other hand, comes forth in one moment at the order of him who has the power to command” Bodin, he uses this passage to justify the difference and effectiveness of custom and that of law. “Customs proposes neither rewards nor penalty; law carries one or the other.. In other words, it is the final will of the sovereign ruler who is divinely appointed to rule and no advice or guidance from nobility or council is required. Bossuet a well respected priest and confessor for the King himself, Bossuet seemed to worship authority. He believes that God exists and that he shape and governs the course of human affairs. Bousset speaks to Monseigneur Le Dauphin, heir to the French throne. He indicates that the conduct established for absolutism solely comes from God. “Accordingly we have established by means of scripture that monarchical government comes from God”.

In Book III, The Nature of Royal Authority, he states the essential characteristics for royal authority. Royal authority is sacred. God established kings as his ministers and reigns over people through them. Second proposition, the person of the king is sacred. Like God, who is sovereign and sacred and royal authority is designated from him. From scriptures, he quotes “God has chosen my son Solomon to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of Jehovah over Israel. He further adds from Ecclesiastes “God gives each people the governor an Israel is manifestly reserved to him”.

In the third preposition he writes, that obedience to rulers is necessary so that rulers may have the ability to exercise moral judgment. “Religion and conscience demand that we obey the prince” “Therefore submit yourselves to the order established among men for love of God; be subjected to the king as the God”. Louis XIV early on had excursions from St. Germains for outings but, primarily for privacy to be with his mistress. These were the cause for the “immense buildings he erected” memoirs of court life from the Duke of Saint-Simon, Louis de Rouvroy who had greatly admired Louis VIII and a defender of the older style of kingship.

The king expected absolute loyalty from everyone. This lavish display of power, wealth and etiquette was performed by him every day. Royal architects deliberately designed the palace to impart a message to all who entered. Everything that the King engaged in was a ceremony. The waking and dressing for the privilege few who attended to him. His royal bedroom was a cathedral itself richly decorated and paintings with biblical scenes. The painting of Louiv XIV “Taking Up Personal Government” hanging from the ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors for everyone who enters there to see.

This painting is symbolic of his equality to God he has bestowed upon him by the presence of angels and France itself being under his rule. With this painting on the ceiling the king has erased any doubts that he is the final rule of authority only next to God himself. Hyacinthe-Francois-Honoree, Pierre- Andre’ Rigaud, has captured the royal pose of the king. The king’s attire conveyed in this portrait is symbolic of king. This self portrait proudly displays the kings wealth and powwealth and power. His adorned wig, robe, trousers and shoes are made of the finest quality and design for this period.

The background of the portraits reveals the richness of drapes and fabrics hanging from beams and his crown displayed prominently next to him. Not a smile on his face but, a image of determination fit for a king. The mask of Apollo, God of Light, is reminicent of how the sun warms and protects the earth. As king, he is also the protector of France and its people. The Garden of Facades, there creatively centered, a sculpture of the King and his angel with cherub divinely displayed as God’s anointed choice.

This is the new voice and conduct of government. Another illustration of absolute royalty was the Chateau of Marly, 1724 a portrait by Pierre Denis Martin. No one can overlook the scale of this palace and wonder what it could be compared to. Its architectural design has his residence at the very top, at the palace grounds. The 12 pauvillions representing the months of the year The architectural design and the size of this garden undoubtedly conveyed to anyone that entered absolute royal power of King Louis XIV.

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