Absolutism in 17th Century Europe
Absolutism in Europe changed the role of nobility completely in every country. For example, in France, nobles lost a lot of their power due to Louis XIV and his predecessors; also, in Eastern Europe, rulers such as Frederick William of Prussia changed the status of the nobility with his polices. In France, starting with Henry IV, the status of nobility started to fall when Henry started the idea of “nobles of the robe” in which middle class citizens could buy nobility from the king. This diluted the nobles, which weakened their power and hurt them considerably.
Louis XIII and his son continued this and took more of their power away as well. Cardinal Richelieu started the intendant system, which recruited members of the middle class t watch the nobles and report back to the king. This took away power from the nobles to have less influence in the government of France. Continuing the intendant system, Louis XIV had also built the palace of Versailles and forced the nobles to move in. This caused the nobles to fight for the attention of the king and they focused less on the issues of France.
Also, living in the palace of the king, one could always watch the nobles to make sure they weren’t planning, for example, an uprising. In conclusion, French kings took steps to ensure absolute power and took away the power of the nobles. In Eastern Europe, however, the nobility was dealt with in a different way. For example, in Prussia, nobles gave power to Frederick William for a few reasons: one, to stop Swedish and Polish influence; second, to stop the invasion of Tartars from Russia.
For this decision, nobles lost political power in Prussia, but in 1653, Frederick William gave them more power in something else, controlling serfs: he allowed a hereditary subjugation of the serfs in order to appease the Junkers, or noble class. While Frederick William was in power, he believed in a strong, standing army. He increased military spending through taxation, which was twice the amount of Louis XIV. He forced the Prussian nobility to pay the taxes by having soldiers act as tax collectors and policemen.
This effectively decreased the power of the nobility by seizing power for the king. In conclusion, Frederick William took away power from the nobles, while also giving them power over other areas, such as serfdom. Absolutism in Europe differed from East to West. How the power of the nobles was affected depended on the king and the area of the country, such as Louis XIV of France or Frederick William of Prussia. Each king had their own ways of effectively limiting the political power of the nobles.