Justification for Royal Absolutism

Lucius

Forum Staff
Jan 2007
16,363
Nebraska
I'm not saying that God (of any religion) in fact supports monarchs; my purpose here was to see if anything other than theological arguments were used to prop up royal absolutism.
If I were the hereditary absolutist, and if the question ever came up, I would probably just point to the rest of the world and make some observation about how "everybody knows" that hereditary absolutism is the way to go.

In other words, I don't know. Sorry.
 

prr

Dec 2008
62
For what its worth, after perusing James I's Basilikon Doron, I have still not come across too many utilitarian arguments, just more of the same of what was already linked to above--arguments based on analogy of God ruling the universe, the father his family, as well as that of the divine origin of monarchy.

Interesting. Now all of this is just based on James I, but I would have expected a bit more of the type of "before the Stuart monarchs, England was beset with economic problems, etc." Or something to that effect. There was one short statement about how society would be better off under a tyrannical king, than under complete anarchy. But that was it.
 
Dec 2008
6
Hobbes was a proponent of absolutism as the only really effective way of controlling the masses and anarchy, but most other philosophers, Locke and Montesquieu favored more checks and balances on royal power
 

Edgewaters

Ad Honorem
Jul 2007
9,098
Canada
I doubt that many would argue that Henry VIII, for example, didn't run what was in effect, although not in name, an absolute monarchy, for all his protestantism, and of course, the absence of the pope and the downgrading of priestly power, (the need for him to intercede between man and God), merely promoted functional, utilitarian ideas amongst some Protestants, even. Kings were presented as fathers, and within the family, fathers as kings, and much of the language found in the bible was played up to back this. Christ is frequently alluded to as "Lord, king of kings" etc. However, the absolutionist idea tended to work here in England- until some damned fool king (Charles I) made the mistake of mentioning it!
Absolutism never really existed in England, not even under the Tudors. At times parliamentary approval may have been little more than a formality, but the fact that the monarch had to even symbolically seek the approval of an assembly renders the English monarchy something less than true absolutism. Parliament conferred legitimacy, even to the Tudors; in true absolutist systems, legitimacy was exclusively held by the monarch himself, alone. That's the whole point of absolutism: Romans 13. God created the rulers, put them in their positions of power, and their positions of power give evidence of a legitimacy backed by God himself. Such monarchs had no need to seek approval from any assembly of any sort to cement their legitimacy. Absolutist legitimacy proceeded from the crown itself, and no other source.
 

Black Dog

Ad Honorem
Mar 2008
9,990
Damned England
Yes, constitutionally, Absolutism never existed in England, apart from, perhaps William I, but many a monarch aspired to it, believed it to be right. Kings like Henry II, for example. As you say, no monarch openly claimed absolute power, but most tried to bend parliament to their will or to diminish its role- or to restrict membership of the people who could constrain royal authority. Hence Simon De Montfort's baron's rebellion.

My point being: whilst you're absolutely right constitutionally, in actual practice, plenty of monarch were able to use parliament as a rubber stamp, as it were. I believe, incidentally, that it is interesting to note that countries who had truly absolute monarchs no longer have monarchies (France, Spain, Russia- for the latter, the Duma was powerless and the Tsar could ignore it as he pleased), whilst the more "restrained" monarchies learnt to bend somewhat, and survive, albeit in a diminished role.
 

Edgewaters

Ad Honorem
Jul 2007
9,098
Canada
Well, William wasn't absolutist ... it's an anachronism to the period. William appealed to all kinds of other powers, including the church, something an absolute monarch doesn't do. Absolutism is about more than just how much power the monarch exercises: it has to do with the source of legitimate government. William's legitimacy was founded on the support of his vassals and the church, but an absolutist monarch - such as those of the 1700s - depends on nothing but possession of the crown. They paid no attention to popes or even to nobles: the latter were sometimes even confined, almost like hostages, to the royal palace while officials were assigned by the monarch to manage their estates.
 

Comet

Forum Staff
Aug 2006
8,702
IA
Absolutism never really existed in England, not even under the Tudors. At times parliamentary approval may have been little more than a formality, but the fact that the monarch had to even symbolically seek the approval of an assembly renders the English monarchy something less than true absolutism. Parliament conferred legitimacy, even to the Tudors; in true absolutist systems, legitimacy was exclusively held by the monarch himself, alone. That's the whole point of absolutism: Romans 13. God created the rulers, put them in their positions of power, and their positions of power give evidence of a legitimacy backed by God himself. Such monarchs had no need to seek approval from any assembly of any sort to cement their legitimacy. Absolutist legitimacy proceeded from the crown itself, and no other source.
I think this is one of those cases in which "things aren't always as they appear". While absolutism was never legalized, the ideology was put into practice by at least one Stuart king. Charles I's rule without parliament from 1629-1640 did make him an absolutist. It was the one of the main reasons why there was a Civil War.
 
Dec 2008
6
One of Charles' faults was aspiring to an autocracy in a nation that wouldnt allow it. Unlike the Tsars or his later peer Louis XIV, he didnt have a consistent source of income other than parliament, and thus he would have to answer for the absolutist actions of Laud, Wentworth and himself to a querulous Short and more importantly, Long Parliament.
 

Comet

Forum Staff
Aug 2006
8,702
IA
One of Charles' faults was aspiring to an autocracy in a nation that wouldnt allow it. Unlike the Tsars or his later peer Louis XIV, he didnt have a consistent source of income other than parliament, and thus he would have to answer for the absolutist actions of Laud, Wentworth and himself to a querulous Short and more importantly, Long Parliament.
Exactly...which is why his attempt did not succeed. Success can be measured in several different ways. He did succeeded in ruling on his own without Parliament for several years...that, to me, is absolutist ideology in practice. However, as you and Edge have pointed out, he did not succeed...for the many reasons you have pointed out.