The Age of Monarchy

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

Time Line


1643 Louis XIV becomes King of France
1649 Charles I of England is executed; English monarchy abolished
1653 Oliver Cromwell becomes “Lord Protector” of England
1660 Restoration of monarchy in England; Charles II crowned king
1661 Mazarin dies; Louis XIV becomes chief minister as well as king
1682 Peter I becomes czar of Russia
1688 Glorious Revolution; James II deposed; William and Mary become king and queen of Great Britain
1689 English Bill of Rights
1700 Philip V becomes king of Spain
1701 War of Spanish Succession begins
1740 Maria Theresa becomes empress of Austria; Frederick II becomes king of Prussia
1762 Catherine II becomes empress of Russia
1780 Maria Theresa dies; Joseph II becomes emperor of Austria


The Age of Monarchy

The period from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 to the French Revolution in 1789 was truly the age of the absolute ruler. Powerful monarchs ruled all the nations and principalities of Europe. They believed in the doctrine of the divine right of kings.

Certain conditions were necessary to maintain a strong central monarchy. The monarch must control the aristocracy, ensure the loyalty and obedience of the army, run the administration efficiently from the seat of government, and pursue a clear foreign policy.

In the past, struggles for thrones had been common. Members of royal families had been known to murder one another or engage in civil wars in their desire for power. Once a monarch had power, he or she could never feel secure. One of the best ways to protect the throne was to keep control over the nobles, the most likely and most powerful source of any conspiracy against the monarch.

During the Middle Ages and beyond, armies were made of small, localized units. These troops usually remained loyal to the lord for whom they fought. The seventeenth century saw the birth of the national standing army, which owed its loyalty to the monarch as the head of state. A loyal army would not support an uprising among the common people or the nobility; instead, the monarch would use the army to crush the rebellion.

Ancient Rome had existed as a centrally controlled empire with a vast bureaucracy. In the seventeenth century, European states began to pattern themselves on the Roman model. The civil service was essential to control all the territory outside the capital city. It was responsible for collecting taxes, settling court cases, and so on. No central government could maintain control over the people without having an efficient civil service.

Defending the national borders was an important aspect of maintaining power. No ruler could remain secure on his throne without a clear foreign policy. Monarchs had to maintain defensive alliances and strive to maintain the balance of power among nations; they also had to take steps to avoid being overwhelmed by hostile neighbors.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

The Age of Monarchy Practice Test

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