Absolutism in Europe – Summary

During the 17th century two future rulers, Peter the Great of Russia and Louis XIV of France, were born who would push absolutism to new heights. Absolutism is a form of government where all the power is in the hands of one individual. Absolute monarchies are the most common form of absolutism. Peter the Great and Louis XIV had similar traumatic experiences involving people with traditional power during their childhoods. Louis’ was the Fronde, a rebellion by nobles. The Fronde began in 1650 when Louis was a young boy.
Many times during the uprising his life was put in danger as his mother and himself were occasionally treated as prisoners. They also had to retreat from Paris. Peter the Great’s traumatic childhood experience was the Streltsy uprising of 1682. The Streltsy, the traditional guards of the nobles in Russia, mobbed the Kremlin after rumors were circulated that Peter’s half brother, Ivan, had been killed. They lynched many nobles including two of Peter’s uncles. The killings were quite brutal, including some being thrown off of balconies unto the Streltsy’s bayonets.
The young Peter witnessed this and it began his deep mistrust and hatred of traditional ways in Russia. Another similarity of Peter and Louis was their handling of their nobles. They both took power from them in different ways. Louis built the luxurious palace of Versailles. The grand building project of Versailles employed many artisans and common builder for a lifetime. Thus it was supported by the population of France. Many of the most prominent nobles were forced to live there for about half a year in apartments. Their actual power was essentially traded for social pomp and court life.

They filled their days with various social acts like watching the rising of the King in the morning and the pursuits of the frivolous fashions of the day. Another purpose of Versailles was to show the sheer might of Louis XIV. Peter the Great pushed very hard for modernization of Russia. His need to imitate the west led him to have his own massive building project, St. Petersburg. Conscripted laborers primarily built this new city. The conditions were harsh and over 60,000 died. This contrasted sharply with Louis XIV’s building of Versailles.
Another push way forced modern ways upon his constituents was to have dress codes for the royals. He had them dress in western clothing. This was disliked by many, especially the women, for their impracticality for the harsh landscapes of Russia. He also had the men shaved their beards. If they refused he’d cut them off himself. War campaigns Louis XIV and Peter the Great contrasted drastically. Peter was the first ruler of Russia to turn its army from amateur to professional. He abandoned the Streltsy that he had formed a hate from in childhood and began to train his soldiers using modern techniques.
His love of the military started in childhood when he would play war with real men. Western generals were brought in to teach the young Peter different formation which they would practice often. Eventually this play army became the beginnings of his real army. In addition to an army he created a navy. Most of Peter’s wars had a purpose and were led by the king directly from the battlefield. His first war against the Tartars, who were backed by the Ottomans, and mostly in the southeast area of the empire.
This war was used to secure the border which often fell victim to horrific raids by the Tartars. His second major war was against Sweden. While the Great Northern War was long, 21 years, it gave Peter the land he needed for the port city of St. Petersburg. Also, it marked the last time Sweden was ever a military power. To Louis XIV war was usually just a way to show the glory of France, thus the glory of its ruler Louis. Some of the wars included, the war of devolution, the war against Holland, the war of the league of Augsburg, and the war of Spanish Succession.
Most of these wars resulted in little actual benefits for the victor. That is because they had been mostly for glory. One last notable similarity is how both Louis XIV and Peter the Great dismissed their main advisors at a young age. Louis dismissed his advisors at the age of 23 when he began to truly become the absolute rule her was. Peter the Great did the same at the younger age of 17. Overall Peter and Louis both had major affects on the entire continent of Europe from their reigns onwards. They are both the best examples of absolutism that the world will probably see.

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