crown Modern World History:  Chapter 5 Absolute Monarchs in Europe



Several countries in Europe come under the control of absolute monarchs, and Parliament challenges the monarch's authority in Great Britain.


Age of Absolutism (1500-1800): Time period when absolute monarchs are ruling the major countries of Europe.


Three major types of government: 


          Autocracy:  Rule by one person.

          2 types

·         Dictatorship: a government with a single ruler who holds ALL the power and is not responsible to the people for anything.


·         Monarchy: a government ruled by a single person (who is royalty) called a king/queen, emperor/empress, or czar/czarina.  His/her power is hereditary in nature.


- 2 types

          Absolute monarchs:  A single ruler who has unlimited power and rules through the power of Divine Right.  The title is hereditary.


Divine Right:  the idea that God created the monarchy and that the monarch acted as God’s representative on earth. An absolute monarch answered only to God, not to his or her subjects.


          Constitutional monarchs:  A single ruler whose power is limited by law.  He/she rules with elected legislators.  Mostly ceremonial leaders.


Oligarchy:  a government ruled by a few powerful people whose source of power is wealth, military strength, social position, religion or any combination of these.


·         Claim the group rules for the people.

·         May have elections, but they are “fixed” so the outcome is what the leaders want.

·         May have a legislature, but it is just a “rubber stamp” of want the leaders want.

·         Suppresses ALL political opposition.

·         The people have no direct control in their government.


Democracy:  a government that is ruled by the people.




§  Individual liberty

§  Majority rule with respect to minority rights

§  Free elections

§  Competing political parties


-      2 types

Direct democracy:  a type of democracy in which all citizens discuss and vote on everything. (Not very practical in large societies today.)  Ancient Athens is the only true direct democracy in history.


Representative democracy:  a type of democracy in which the citizens delegate authority to elected representatives.  Representatives are most commonly chosen in elections by a plurality of those who are both eligible to cast votes and actually do so.


Absolutism: is the political doctrine and practice of unlimited, centralized authority and absolute sovereignty, especially as vested in a monarchy.  Its essence is that the ruling power is not subject to regular challenge or check by any judicial, legislative, religious, economic, or electoral agency.


Though it has been used throughout history, the form that developed in early modern Europe (16th – 18th century) became the prototype; Louis XIV is seen as the epitome of European absolutism. Religious authority was assumed by the monarch, who became the head of the church as well as the state, on the basis that the right to rule came from God.


What was the Age of Absolutism?

    • Period of time when Europe’s monarchs got stronger.
    • Caused by the Reformation & Age of Exploration.
    • Reformation weakens churches; Age of Exploration brings in lots of money (mercantilism).
    • Monarchs ruled with absolute power.
    • It was background to French Revolution and also to the Enlightenment.
    • Absolutism was very practical - it developed state bureaucracies and standing armies to make its claims work.   

Absolutism was by and large motivated by the crises and tragedies of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Reformation had led to a series of violent and cruel wars of religions; states erupted into civil war and thousands of innocents met their deaths in the name of national religions.



ABSOLUTISMthe idea that God created the monarchy and that the monarch acted as God’s representative on earth. This individual answered only to God, not to his or her subjects.



          * Religious and territorial conflicts created fear and uncertainty.

          * The growth of armies to deal with conflicts caused rulers to raise taxes to pay troops.

          * Heavy taxes led to additional unrest and peasant revolts.



          * Rulers regulated religious worship and social gatherings to control the spread of ideas.

          * Rulers increased the size of their courts to appear more powerful.

          * Rulers created bureaucracies to control their countries’ economies.

Absolute monarchies were originally proposed as a solution to these violent situations, and Europeans were more than willing to have local autonomy (independence) taken away in exchange for peace and safety.

Absolutism in Europe


The Theory of Absolutism

  • Rulers want to be absolute monarchs—rulers with complete power
  • Believe in divine right—idea that monarchs represent God on earth


Growing Power of Europe’s Monarchs

  • Decline of feudalism, rise of cities help monarchs gain power
  • Decline in Church authority also increases power


Crises Lead to Absolutism

  • The 17th century (1600s) is period of great upheaval
  • Monarchs impose order by increasing their own power



Section 1: Spain's Empire and European Absolutism


During a time of religious and economic instability, Philip II rules Spain with a strong hand.


A Powerful Spanish Empire and a New Spanish Ruler


  • In 1556, Philip II begins ruling Spain and its possessions.
  • Philip II was shy, serious, and—like his father—deeply religious. He was also very hard working. Yet Philip would not allow anyone to help him.  Deeply suspicious, he trusted no one for long.


Philip II's Empire

  • Philip seizes Portugal in 1580
  • Gold and silver from Americas make Spain extremely wealthy


Defender of Catholicism

  • Philip defends Catholicism against Muslims, Protestants
  • Spanish fleet helps defeat Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571
  • Spanish Armada defeated by British in 1588


Golden Age of Spanish Art and Literature


El Greco and Velázquez

  • El Greco uses unusual style to convey religious themes

            - Domenikos Theotokopoulos, was his real name but Spaniards called him El Greco, meaning "the Greek."


                        * His art:

                                1.) Often puzzled the people of his time.

                                2.) He chose brilliant, sometimes clashing colors.

                                3.) He distorted the human figure.

                                4.) He expressed emotion symbolically in his paintings.                          

                                5.) El Greco’s techniques showed the deep Catholic faith of Spain.

                                6.) He painted saints and martyrs as huge, long-limbed figures that have a supernatural air.


  • Works of Velázquez show Spanish court life


            Diego Velazquez’s painting reflected the pride of the Spanish monarchy. Velázquez was the court painter to

                                        Philip IV of Spain. He is best known for his portraits of the royal family and scenes of court

                                        life. Like El Greco, he was noted for using rich colors.


Don Quixote

  • In 1605, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is published.  It is about a poor Spanish nobleman who went a little crazy after reading too many books about heroic knights.


            - Critics: Some critics believe that Cervantes was mocking chivalry, the knightly code of the Middle Ages.   

                          Others maintain that the book is about an idealistic person who longs for the romantic past because

                          he is frustrated with his materialistic world.


  • Novel marks birth of modern European novel



The Spanish Empire Weakens


Inflation and Taxes

  • Inflation weakens Spain’s economy
  • Taxes on lower class prevents development of middle class


Making Spain’s Enemies Rich

  • Spaniards buy goods abroad, making Spain’s enemies rich
  • Philip declares bankruptcy three times due to weak economy


The Dutch Revolt

  • Protestants in Netherlands win independence from Spain in 1579



Philip II - Quick Facts

o    He tried to end Protestantism in all his domains (Hence he was an enemy to all Protestants)

o    Was married to Mary Tudor (Mary I of England)

o    Known as the “Prudent King”

o    Was cautious, hardworking and suspicious of others

o    He made all decisions and signed all papers he received

o    Was concerned about the loyalty of the large religious minorities in Spain

o    He supported the Spanish Inquisition. He used the Inquisition as a method of control, and thousands of Protestants were killed or exiled.

o    He launched the Spanish Armada in 1588 against England.  This was a fleet of 130 ships and 33,000 men.  Due to storms, English pirates 40 ships and 15,000 soldiers were lost. This was an irreparable disaster which inaugurated Spain's naval decline.



The Independent Dutch Prosper - A Different Society

  • Netherlands is a republic and practices religious toleration Dutch Art
  • In 1600s, Netherlands becomes center of European art


Famous Dutch painters


Rembrandt van Rijn (REHM•BRANT vahn RYN) was the greatest Dutch artist of the period. Rembrandt painted portraits of wealthy middle-class merchants. He also produced group portraits. Rembrandt used sharp contrasts of light and shadow to draw attention to his focus.


Jan Vermeer(YAHN vuhr•MEER). Like many other Dutch artists, he chose domestic, indoor settings for his portraits.

The work of both Rembrandt and Vermeer reveals how important merchants, civic leaders, and the middle class in general were in 17th-century Netherlands.


Dutch Trading Empire

  • Dutch merchants engage in world trade
  • Dutch have world’s largest trading fleet
  • Dutch replace Italians as Europe’s bankers




Section 2: The Reign of Louis XIV


After a century of war and riots, France was ruled by Louis XIV, the most powerful monarch of his time.


Religious Wars and Power Struggles


Henry of Navarre

  • Henry ascends to French throne in 1589 and adopts Catholicism
  • Issues Edict of Nantes—a declaration of religious toleration


Henry IV - Quick facts

o    Founder of the Bourbon dynasty in 1589. (This dynasty ruled in to the 1800's)

o    Was Protestant, but converted to Catholicism to please his subjects.

o    Issued the Edict of Nantes 1598, which granted partial religious freedom to the Huguenots.

o    Agriculture, manufacturing, and commerce were encouraged.

o    Introduced the silk industry into France.

o    Repaired roads and bridges throughout France.

o    Put all his policies into effect without the approval of the Estates General, paving the way for other absolute French monarchs.

o    Henry IV's genial informality, bravery, gallantry, perseverance in adversity, and readiness to bend religious principle to political advantage has earned him a special place in French history.



Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu

  • Cardinal Richelieu—Louis XIII’s minister who rules France
  • Increases power of the Bourbons by limiting Huguenots’ freedom
  • Also weakens power of the nobility





Louis XIII - Quick facts

o    He was sensitive, quiet, not intelligent, inclined to suspicion and loved working with his hands. He could make a pair of shoes better than most cobblers and had his own forge, gun room, printing press and carpenter's shop. He enjoyed cooking and had an ear for music.

o    Ruled in a in a regency with his mother, Marie de Medici, and then Cardinal Richelieu.

o    He never truly ruled France on his own.



Cardinal Richelieu (regent for Louis XIII) - Quick facts


o    By vigorous and effective measures, he succeeded in breaking the political power of the great families of France—making the king an absolute ruler—and in establishing France as the first military power of Europe.

o    In his role as chief of the Royal Council, and later First Minister and Chief of State, had control of almost every facet of French politics, from the daily activities of the court to foreign policy and affairs.

o    Had a clear idea of how society should function. Everyone played a specific role in the system, making their unique contributions: the clergy through prayer; the nobility with arms under the control of the king, and the common people through obedience. 

o    He believed in the divine right of the king, whose role it was to promote peace and order in society.

o    Insisted that the king apply the law with severity otherwise the state could not survive. He emphasized that rigorous punishment of even small crimes would forestall greater ones. Through this reasoning, Richelieu provided his sovereign a rationale for the harsh rule he knew to be requisite with strengthening and maintaining the authority of the French State.

o    Set out to build a strong monarchy in France (with or without Louis)

o    Employed intendants – non-noble special agents who would not challenge the king’s authority.

o    Took away the Huguenots’ right to independent fortified towns, but allowed them to keep their religious freedom.

o    Strengthened the French army.

o    Encouraged French exploration and colonization in Canada and the Indies.

o    Supported French culture in an effort to strengthen national unity.

o    Rebuilt the Sorbonne in Paris, supported promising writers and organized the French Academy in 1635, which worked to make French the preferred language of European diplomacy.



Writers Turn Toward Skepticism


A New Attitude

  • Skepticism—the idea that nothing can be known for certain


Montaigne and Descartes

  • Montaigne explores ideas about life’s meaning in essays
  • Descartes uses observation and reason to create new philosophy



Louis XIV Comes to Power


A New French Ruler

  • Louis XIV - the most powerful ruler in French history


Louis, the Boy King

  • Hatred of Cardinal Mazarin - young Louis’s minister - leads to riots


Louis Weakens the Nobles’ Authority

  • Louis takes control in 1661
  • Appoints intendants - government agents—to collect taxes



Economic Growth

  • Jean Baptiste Colbert - finance minister - helps economy grow
  • In 1685, Louis cancels Edict of Nantes; Huguenots flee France



The Sun King’s Grand Style


A Life of Luxury

  • Louis lives very well; with every meal a feast to say the least


Louis Controls the Nobility

  • Louis keeps nobles at palace to increase his power over them
  • Builds magnificent palace at Versailles


Patronage of the Arts

  • Versailles is a center of arts during reign of Louis XIV
  • Purpose of the arts is to glorify Louis



Louis Fights Disastrous Wars


Attempts to Expand France’s Boundaries

  • Louis fights wars in 1660s, 1670s to expand France
  • In 1680s, many countries unite against him in League of Augsburg
  • France is weakened by poor harvests, warfare, high taxes


War of the Spanish Succession

  • War of the Spanish Succession begins in 1701
  • Attempts to prevent union of the French and Spanish thrones
  • Ends in 1714; France and Spain lose some possessions


Louis’s Death and Legacy

  • Louis dies leaving mixed legacy
  • Rule makes France a major military and cultural power in Europe
  • His wars and palace leave France with heavy debts


Louis XIV - Quick Facts

o    Know as "The Sun King" - his was the longest reign in European history – 72 years.

o    He was styled the Grand Monarch, and his brilliant court at Versailles became a model and the despair of other less rich and powerful princes who accepted his theory of absolute monarch.

o    He is quoted saying, "L’etat, c’est, moi!" – "I am the state!"

o    Under his direction, France achieved unprecedented dominance in Europe, and her culture flourished. His court was renowned for its splendor and sophistication. He helped advance the arts in every field through his enlightened patronage.

o    Everything French was in vogue on the Continent.

o    When he came to rule France in 1661, Louis decided to build a royal palace away from Paris. In 1682, he moved his government to Versailles, 13 miles southwest of Paris.  It had 10,000 rooms! - During his early years, France was dominated by a series of rebellions known as the Fronde (1648-1653). These rebellions took place mainly in major cities and consisted largely of aristocrats attacking the government. The Fronde made a lasting impression on Louis, creating a lifelong fear of rebellion. It also left him with a distaste for Paris, the largest city in his kingdom and the center of royal government.

o    He had the nobility attend court at Versailles... so he could control them.

o    Freed the nobility from paying taxes.

o    Failed to adjust France's unfair tax system (the clergy, nobles and government officials were tax exempt).




Section 3: Central European Monarchs Clash


After a period of turmoil, absolute monarchs rule Austria and the Germanic state of Prussia.


Central European Monarchs Clash

Rising Tension

  • Tension rises between Lutherans and Catholics in central Europe
  • Bohemian Protestants Revolt
  • In 1618, Protestants revolt against Catholic Hapsburg rulers
  • Result is Thirty Years’ War—conflict over religion, land, power


The Thirty Years’ War


Hapsburg Triumphs

  • From 1618 to 1630, Hapsburg armies have many victories
  • Troops plunder many German villages


Hapsburg Defeats

  • In 1630, tide turns in favor of Protestants


Peace of Westphalia

  • War ruins German economy, greatly decreases population
  • Peace of Westphalia (1648) ends war
  • Treaty weakens Hapsburgs, strengthens France
  • Treaty introduces idea of negotiating terms of peace


Beginning of Modern States

  • Treaty recognizes Europe as group of independent states

Economic Contrasts with the West

  • Economy in central Europe still based on serfs, agriculture


Several Weak Empires

  • Landowning nobles in central Europe block growth of kings’ power
  • Ottoman and Holy Roman empires are also weak



Austria Grows Stronger

  • Hapsburgs in Austria take more lands, rule large empire


Maria Theresa Inherits the Austrian Throne

  • Maria Theresa becomes empress of Austria, faces years of war



Maria Theresa - Quick facts

o    She ruled under the Pragmatic Sanction. Without money, a strong army, and knowledge of state affairs, Maria Theresa knew she had to rely on her judgment and strength of character.  This attitude helped her become a clever and resourceful leader.

o    She was courageous, generous and kind.

o    Under her direction, the government accepted responsibilities such as public health, prisons, and roads.

o    Due to the threat of famine in the eighteenth century, she introduced the potato as a new staple food.

o    She ended the traditional tax-free status of the nobility and clergy making them responsible for paying property and income taxes like the rest of the people in Austria.

o    She invited foreign businesses into the country to help develop natural resources such as minerals and timber.

o    She adopted a social legislation protecting workers and ending child labor in Austria.

o    To improve education, she established compulsory schools in every locality.

o    Made reforms in local universities and started colleges for education and medicine.



The Rise of Prussia

  • Hohenzollern rulers of Prussia build Europe’s best army
  • Call themselves kings and become absolute monarchs
  • Nobles resist royal power, but king buys loyalty


Frederick the Great

  • Frederick the Great becomes king of Prussia
  • Enforces father’s military policies but softens some of his laws


Prussia Challenges Austria


War of the Austrian Succession

  • In 1740, Frederick starts war against Austria to gain Silesia
  • Maria Theresa resists Prussian power but loses Silesia in treaty
  • As result of war, Prussia becomes a major power in Europe


The Seven Years' War

  • Austria allies with France against Britain and Prussia
  • In 1756, Frederick attacks Saxony, launching Seven Years’ War
  • France loses colonies in North America; Britain gains India


Frederick II (the Great) - Quick facts

o    His coarse and tyrannical father despised the prince, who showed a taste for French art and literature and no interest in government and war. At the age of 18 Frederick, who had been repeatedly humiliated and ill-treated, planned to escape to England. He was arrested, imprisoned, and forced to witness the beheading of his friend and accomplice, Lieutenant Katte. Frederick submitted to his father and was released.

o    He:

§  Became one of the greatest military geniuses in history.

§  Studied philosophy, history, and poetry and corresponded with the French philosophers, notably Voltaire.

§  Introduced new methods of agriculture and manufacturing.

§  Drained marshes, providing new lands for cultivation and colonization.

§  Introduced freedom of the press.

§  Was a patron of the arts, of the sciences, and of culture in general.

§  The institution of serfdom, while not abolished, was somewhat liberalized.

§  Under his personal supervision the efficiency and size of the army were increased. He reviewed the troops frequently, concerned himself with the discipline of his officers and men, taught them to march in unison, and wrote works for his generals on the science of warfare.

§  Gave 50% of the state's revenues to the army (a unique feat at the time) and will start a new military tradition in Prussia.

§  Abolished the use of torture.

§  Enjoyed learning history, poetry and philosophy.

§  Was a musician, spending many hours with his flute.

§  Wrote Antimachiavelli, in which he idealistically opposed the political doctrines of the Italian statesman and philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, favoring peaceful and enlightened rule.

§  Was one of the best examples of an "enlightened despot" in history.

o    His armies faced Austria, Russia, Sweden, Saxony, and France... and won against all of them.

o    His Prussian army became the model admired and imitated by other nations.

o    Frederick the Great remains one of the most famous German rulers of all time for his military successes and his domestic reforms that made Prussia one of the leading European nations.



Section 4: Absolute Rulers of Russia


Peter the Great makes many changes in Russia to try to make it more like western Europe.


The First Czar


Ivan the Terrible

  • In 1533, Ivan the Terrible becomes king of Russia
  • Struggles for power with boyars—landowning nobles
  • Seizes power and is crowned czar, meaning "Caesar"


Rule by Terror

  • In 1560, Ivan turns against boyars, kills them, seizes lands


Rise of the Romanovs

  • Ivan's heir is weak, leading to period of turmoil
  • In 1613, Michael Romanov becomes czar


 Ivan the Terrible - Quick facts

o    Was one of Russia's most brutal, and notorious rulers.

o    During his youth, Ivan is reported to have exhibited numerous acts of extraordinary sadism, an inclination toward cruelty that was displayed later in his reign.

o    Was also paranoid about the thought that everyone was out to destroy him - He thought everyone was a traitor.

o    He had many of his closest advisors arrested, exiled, or executed (He even killed his own son.).  In 1581, Ivan killed his son Ivan, the successor to the throne, in a fit of rage.

o     Was the first Russian prince to take that title tsar (from the Roman imperial title Caesar) to the traditional title of grand prince.

o    Started the Oprichina in 1565. The outward goal of the Oprichina was to remove treason from Russia. The real reason for the founding of the Oprichina was to spill blood. This was Ivan's cruel side released from the bonds that had held it in check for years. He wanted power, money and blood and he did everything to get what he wanted.

o    Set up the first printing press in Moscow in 1581.

o    Brought skilled craftsmen to teach his people new trades to help them into the modern world.



Peter the Great Comes to Power


The Rise of Peter

  • Peter the Great becomes czar in 1696, begins to reform Russia


Russia Contrasts with Europe

  • Land of boyars and serfs
  • Cut off geographically from Europe
  • Culturally isolated, little contact with Western Europe
  • Religious differences widen gap


Peter Visits the West

  • In 1697, Peter visits Western Europe to learn European ways


Peter Rules Absolutely

  • Goal of westernization—using Western Europe as model for change



Peter’s Reforms

  • Brings Orthodox Church under state control
  • Reduces power of great landowners
  • Modernizes army by having European officers train soldiers


Westernizing Russia

  • Introduces potatoes to Russia
  • Starts Russia’s first newspaper
  • Raises women’s status
  • Adopts Western fashion
  • Advances education


Establishing St. Petersburg

  • Peter wants a seaport that will make travel to West easier
  • Fights Sweden to win port on Baltic Sea
  • In 1703, begins building new capital called St. Petersburg
  • Building city takes many years; many serfs die in process
  • By the time of Peter’s death, Russia is a force to be reckoned with in Europe


Peter the Great - Quick facts


o    Was very tall, tremendously strong, fantastically energetic, and an intellectually precocious child, he received no extensive systematic education, barely being taught to read and write.

o    Instead, from an early age he began to absorb information on his own and to pursue a variety of interests.

o    Was very mechanically inclined.

o    Chose to live in the quarter for foreigners in Moscow became his favorite locale. There he learned from a variety of specialists what he wanted to know most about military and naval matters, geometry, and the erection of fortifications.

o    Always judged people not by their background, but by what they knew and what they were able to do. As a result, throughout his reign his assistants constituted a remarkably diverse group, ranging socially from the old, established Russian aristocracy to able newcomers from lower classes and including a great variety of foreigners.

o    His goal was to Westernize and modernize the entire Russian government, society, and culture.

o    Ordered member of his court to wear western style clothing, and all men to shave their breads or pay a fine upon entering Moscow.

o    Allowed women to attend social gatherings.

o    Sent Russians to study abroad to study shipbuilding, naval warfare, mathematics, and foreign languages.

o    Invited foreign experts to teach the Russians.

o    Built a new capital at St. Petersburg, located at the mouth of Neva River near the Baltic Sea. This became his "window to the west."

o    Changed the calendar (Gregorian) to the same style used in most of Europe (Julian).

o    Through a series of military campaigns, and sweeping reforms, and nearly single handedly thrust Russia to the forefront of European power.

o    Increased the Russian military from around 30,000 men in 1695, to nearly 300,000 men in 1725, and that included the newly formed navy.

o    Modernized the army and navy.

o    Changed the tax laws to increase government income and efficiency.

o    Initiated the most profitable tax , ahead tax in which nearly every Russian male had to pay solely because they lived in Russia.

o    Made the nobles pay no taxes.

o    Provided new production centers land, money, and workers.

o    Made workers tied to their trades for life.

o    Peter the Great was virtually unconditionally admired, almost worshipped, in his native country by the educated public during the Age of Enlightenment, which followed after his death and which he had done so much to introduce.


Catherine II the Great - Quick facts


o    In 1762, with the support of the Imperial Guard, she overthrew her husband Peter III. She was crowned Empress of All Russia on September 22, 1762.  Her rule was one of the most prosperous periods of the Russian Empire.

o    Made her considerable mark in history by her extremely successful and expansive foreign policy as well as by her energetic and fruitful continuation of the process of Westernization in the footsteps of Peter the Great.

o    Truly earned the respect of her people.

o    Was greatly influenced by the leading Western European philosophers.

o    She built and founded the Hermitage Museum, commissioned buildings all over Russia, founded academies, journals, and libraries.

o     Although she considered freeing the Russian serfs, she forced more peasants into serfdom than ever before, and the conditions for the peasants worsened.

o    Common people in Russia had fewer rights than anywhere else in Europe.

o    Brutally crushed peasant uprisings.

o    Achieved the goal of securing a warm-water port on the Black Sea.

o    Considered it her mission to civilize Russia.

o    Established the beginnings of a more general educational system for Russia, although on a very small scale considering the needs of the country.

o    Journalism, in which the empress participated personally, flourished.

o    Founded hospitals, led the way in the struggle against infectious diseases, and decreed that Russia be equipped to produce its own medicines and surgical equipment.

o    Considered to be the last of the great absolute monarchs of the 1700's.

o    Left Russia much stronger and more prosperous and beautiful than she found it.



Section 5: Parliament Limits the English Monarchy


Wars of the Roses & the English Absolute monarchs – Welcome The Tudors

  • War of the Roses - was a civil war in England that is also an internal battle among members of the English Royal family.
  • A series of civil wars between the English houses of Lancaster and York, the Wars of the Roses derived its name from the crests designating both sides -- the red rose for the House of Lancaster and the white rose for the House of York.
  • Both houses laid claim to the throne based upon their common lineage from king Edward III was the last Plantagenet king. (Plantagenet is a family name.)
  • Edward has seven sons; two die early and are therefore irrelevant. The remaining six are therefore have a claim to the throne.
  • Both the Lancasters and Yorks are descended from Edward III's sons.
  • The Wars of the Roses broke the feudal power of the nobles and effectively marked the end of the Middle Ages in England
    Many of the ruling nobles had been slain during the wars, and their estates were confiscated by the Crown.
  • People longed for a strong government that would bring peace and prosperity.
  • Henry VII seized the opportunity to reestablish the royal power and launch policies that marked the beginning of modern England.



Henry VII - Quick facts


o    First Tudor monarch of England.

o    Chose his advisors from the gentry and merchant class.  This way they were dependent upon (hence loyal to) the king.

o    Helped rebuild England’s commercial prosperity.

o    Encouraged the expansion of foreign trade.

o    Promoted the improved collection of taxes.

o    Was very careful with government spending.

o    Avoided war.

o    Used diplomacy and marriage to strengthen England’s interests abroad.

o    The reorganization in 1487 of the Star Chamber was one of several means by which Henry strengthened the royal power over the nobles.


Henry VIII of England - Quick facts


o    Most powerful Tudor monarch.

o    Began making England a great naval power.

o    Broke away from the Catholic Church and started his own Protestant denomination.

o    He was declared supreme head of the church in England, and all of the payments normally made to the pope now went to the crown. 

o    His greatest achievement was to initiate the Protestant Reformation in England.

o    He ruthlessly increased the power of royal government, using Parliament to sanction his actions.

o    He was married six times in search of a male heir.  His daughters were the future Mary I and Elizabeth I.

o    His wife, Jane Seymour, finally provided Henry with his male heir, the future Edward VI, although she died in childbirth.

o    Henry's next three marriages occurred in rapid succession.



Mary I of England - Quick facts


o    The first child of Henry VIII, suffered through a terrible childhood of neglect, intolerance, and ill-health

o    Married Philip II of Spain in 1554, but they produce no heir to the  throne.

o    Began her reign by sweeping away the religious innovations of her father by restoring Catholicism as the official religion of England.

o    Her major goal was the re-establishment of Catholicism in England, a goal to which she was totally committed. This persecution resulted more from a desire for purity in faith, than from vengeance.  Yet the fact remains that nearly 300 people (including former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer and many of the most prominent members of society) were burned at the stake for heresy, earning Mary the nickname, "Bloody Mary."

o    Most of these "heretics" were ordinary villagers and not preachers or intellectuals. These simple people had been confused by years of religions swinging back and forth.

o    Involved England in a war with France and lost control of the port of Calais; England's only foothold on the European continent.



Elizabeth I of England - Quick facts


o    Her reign was one of the greatest cultural periods in history (English Renaissance).

o    Was the longest-reigning English monarch in nearly two centuries.

o    Was the first woman to successfully occupy the English throne.

o    Called Glorianna, the Virgin Queen, and Good Queen Bess.

o    Enjoyed enormous popularity during her life and became an even greater legend after her death.

o    Her reign was marked by her effective use of Parliament and the Privy Council, a small advisory body of the important state officials, and by the development of legal institutions in the English counties.

o    Restored Protestantism in England -the Anglican Church.

o    Was educated, shrewd, forceful/assertive.

o    Used her authority for the common good.

o    Earned the loyalty and confidence of her people.

o    Sponsored William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlow.

o    Created a very stratified society: Royalty, Nobility, Gentry, and yeomen.

o    Spent money lavishly.

o    To raise funds, she sold off royal lands, offices, licenses, monopolies, and the right to collect customs.

o    Her government enacted legislation known as the Poor Laws, which made every local parish responsible for it's own poor, created workhouses, and severely punished homeless beggars.

o    One of the queen's most important economic decisions was to issue a new currency that contained a standard amount of precious metal. This raised confidence in the currency and also allowed businesses to enter into long-term financial contracts.

o    Built the strongest navy of the time period.

o    Worked hard to ensure a balance of power between England and other powerful nations.

o    Supported the Dutch rebels in their struggle against Philip II of Spain.

o    Defended the nation against the powerful Spanish naval force known as the Spanish Armada. The defeat of Spain established the glory of the English navy and inspired merchants and explorers toward colonization of a wider world

o    Made Scotland a Protestant ally of England.

o    Appointed her cousin, Mary Stuart as Mary, Queen of Scots.  Later, under extreme pressure, had Mary Stuart executed for treason.

o    She was the last of the Tudor monarchs, never marrying or producing an heir, and was succeeded by her cousin, James VI of Scotland, who becomes James I of England.



Absolute rulers in England are overthrown, and Parliament gains power.


Monarchs Defy Parliament


James’s Problems

  • James I of Scotland becomes king of England in 1603
  • Struggles with Parliament over money, Church reform


Charles I Fights Parliament

  • James’s son, Charles I, becomes king in 1625
  • Also fights with Parliament over money
  • Parliament forces him to sign Petition of Right in 1628
  • Petition limits Charles’s power, but he ignores it


English Civil War... again


War Topples a King

  • In 1641, Parliament passes laws to limit king’s power
  • Result is English Civil War (1642–1649) between Puritans, king
  • In 1644, Oliver Cromwell becomes general on Puritan side
  • After Puritans win, Charles faces trial and execution in 1649


Oliver Cromwell

  • Oliver Cromwell occupies a unique place in English history. Between 1653 and 1658 he ruled the UK, with more or less the same powers as a monarch, but as he was 'Lord Protector' of the Commonwealth, he had no crown.
  • He was a skilled politician, with a strong personal power base.
  • He had the foresight, determination and strength of will that carried the parliamentarian cause through the crucial trial and execution of King Charles I and its messy political aftermath.
  • He defended the rights of Parliament.
  • He won all the battles he fought.
  • He was responsible for the execution of the King.
  • He allowed Jewish people to live in England for the first time since 1291.
  • He took land from the Irish and gave it to his followers.
  • He picked his officers because of their ability not nobility.
  • He ensured that England was a secure country at a time when it was very vulnerable.
  • He hated the Irish, largely because their loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church.
  • He also desired to exact revenge on the Irish for a massacre of English Protestants that had occurred there in 1641.
  • The two great battles of Cromwell's war in Ireland were the Siege of Drogheda in September 1649 and the Siege of Wexford in October. In both battles, Cromwell's forces behaved brutally, slaughtering civilians as well as Irish soldiers. Cromwell condoned and even encouraged this violence, which he viewed as just punishment for 1641. At Wexford, over 2000 inhabitants were killed inside the city after resisting the English for nine bloody days. The siege at Drogheda was equally brutal. The town resisted for eight days before English cannons brought down the steeple of Saint Mary's Catholic Church on September 11. The first attempt through the breach failed, and Cromwell himself joined in the second assault, which was successful. The English army swept through the town, massacring its citizens. Among those whom Cromwell specifically ordered to be killed were the members of Catholic religious orders, priests, monks, and nuns.


Cromwell’s Rule

  • In 1649, Cromwell abolishes monarchy, House of Lords
  • Becomes military dictator
  • Suppresses rebellion in Ireland


Puritan Morality

  • Puritans abolish activities they find sinful



Restoration and Revolution


Cromwell’s End

  • After Cromwell dies in 1658, government collapses
  • Next year, Parliament asks son of Charles I to rule


Charles II Reigns

  • Restoration— the return of monarchy under Charles II
  • Habeas corpus—law requiring king to charge prisoner with crime


James II and the Glorious Revolution

  • Charles’s Catholic brother James becomes king in 1685
  • Glorious Revolution—bloodless overthrow of James in 1688


Limits on Monarch’s Power


A New Type of Monarchy

  • Protestants William and Mary become rulers of England
  • Agree to constitutional monarchy—legal limits on royal power


Bill of Rights

  • In 1689, Parliament drafts Bill of Rights
  • Sets limits on royal power


Cabinet System Develops

  • In 1700s, cabinet, a group of government ministers, develops
  • Ministers link majority party in Parliament with monarch