Power and authority



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Power and authority
Rival visions of the state – the sovereign monarchy vs the feudal monarchy.
Dynastic states under hereditary monarchs emerging as most powerful polities in Europe:

- Legitimised by claims of Divine Right of Kings -

- William Shakespeare, Richard II: ‘Not all the water in the rough rude sea. Can wash the balm from an anointed king; The breath of worldly men cannot depose. The deputy elected by the Lord.’

- Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) - ‘kings are the living images of God’.

- James VI of Scotland – rebellion is blasphemous: ‘it please God to cast such scourges of princes and Instruments of his furie into the fire’.

- Jean Bodin – sovereignty in a state must be single and indivisible: ‘It is the distinguishing mark of the sovereign that he cannot in any way be subject to the commands of another’.


Constraints on kings

- Medieval legacy - vital functions of state practised only for the king by quasi-autonomous local corporate institutions.

J.H. Elliott: ‘Europe of composite monarchies’:

- Monarchs rule over territories that retain different legal and political traditions, different institutions and identities.

e.g. Spain – Union of Aragon and Castile (1469) paves way for encroachment over Catalonia, Valencia, Sicily, Naples, Portugal, the Netherlands.

- France – no single official language before 1539; 1515, only one royal official for every 4,700 inhabitants.

1500 – Holy Roman Empire divided into six ‘imperial circles’ with own parliaments; four more created in 1512.

- Since enactment of ‘Golden Bull’ constitution (1356), Holy Roman Emperor chosen by seven prince-electors.

- Princes of the empire themselves constrained by privileges of the nobility and representative institutions: duke of Bavaria swears at his accession a pledge to protect the ‘freedoms, ancient customs and respected rights’ of prelates, nobles, towns and cities’.


Representative institutions

- Spanish cortes, French parlements, parliaments of England, Scotland and Ireland.

- Claim right to remonstrate with princes, responsibility for local taxation, legal adjudication.

- Can be useful to monarchs e.g. Tudors and Reformation legislation.

- Often organised on principle of representation from different ‘estates’ of a realm e.g. peerage, church, commons.

- Dominant section of the assemblies = aristocracy: main counterweight to royal authority.

-Power of monarchs constrained at local level by reliance on unpaid public service of provincial elites e.g. England – magistrates, sheriffs; France – baillis, senenchaux.
Internal and external expansion of royal power:

1) External conquests – Spanish/ French/ Austrian expansion in Italy; creation of global

empires.
2) The Church - increase of monarchical control in Catholic as much as Protestant counties.

- Act in Restraint of Appeals (England, 1533): that ‘this realm of England is an empire... governed by one supreme head and king having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial crown of the same, unto whom a body politic... be bounden and owe to bear next to God a natural and humble obedience’.

- 1516 – Concordat of Bologna – French monarch granted right of nomination of bishops.

- Principle of cuius region, eius religio as basis for Peace of Augsburg, 1555.


3) Expansion of the court into centre of government.

-1561 – Permanent Spanish court fixed at Madrid – 1,200 letters signed by Philip II in May 1571 alone.

- Emergence of professional government administrators as key royal advisers from outside ranks of the aristocracy e.g. Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell under Henry VIII, Baron de Châteauneuf under Henri II.
4) Attempts at greater uniformity over provinces – make monarchies less ‘composite’.

-1536-53 – Tudor crown incorporates Wales into English system of government; imposes closer control over Ireland through English Lord Deputies, policy of ‘surrender and regrant’.

- Richelieu’s France - creation of intendant officials, 12 out of 16 provincial governors dismissed.

- Count of Olivares under Philip IV at Spain – aim at ‘one king, one law, one coinage’,

- 1632 – Castilian cortes stripped of control over cities; creation of the Union of Arms.

Over 1 ,000 independent polities in Europe – 1400; by 1700, only 350.
Resistance to royal centralisation creates regional, provincial, aristocratic rebellions:

- 1567 – 1602 – revolt in the Netherlands against Spain leads to creation of Dutch Republic.

- Rebellions against Elizabeth I in Ireland 1569-73, 1579-83, 1594-1603.

- 1638-42 – Rebellions in Scotland and Ireland precipitate English Civil War.

- 1640-48 – Rebellions against Philip IV in Naples and Catalonia, breakaway of Portugal,

- Urban, peasant and aristocratic unrest against policies of Richelieu and French monarchy.

- 1648-53 – Fronde Rebellion creates civil war in France.
Motivations of rebellions:

- Rebels claim to stand for legal and political tradition – defence of older institutions and methods of government.

- Most explosive rebellions happen when a region possesses different religious identity to a king e.g. Protestant Netherlands vs Catholic Spain; Catholic Ireland vs Protestant England.

- Radical doctrines sparked by Reformation and Counter-Reformation justify taking up arms against a heretic prince.

- John Knox (Scottish Calvinist) - ‘whether obedience is to be rendered to a magistrate who enforces idolatry and condemns true religion’.

- James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald (Irish rebel, 1570) – the English crown ‘not satisfied with our worldly goods, bellies and lives’ is forcing Irish ‘forsake the Catholic faith by God unto His Church given, and by the See of Rome hitherto prescribed to all Christian men’.

- Catholic fanatics assassinate William of Orange (1584) Henri III (1589), Henri IV (1610).

- James VI of Scotland attacks religious extremists who believe that ‘killing of Kinges is an acte meritorious to the purchase of the crowne of Martyrdome’.


Conclusion – gradual encroachment of royal power in Europe, but a contested process:

- Kingship by mid-C17th still rests on compromise and negotiation between monarchs, provinces and institutions.
Directory: fac -> arts -> history -> students -> modules -> hi203 -> programme
programme -> The European World Lecture: week 1 x. 2010) The Historiography of Early Modernity Professor Steve Hindle
programme -> The Historiography of Early Modernity Part II: Historiographical Approaches
programme -> Absolutism in Early Modern Europe The theory and language of absolutism
programme -> European Overseas Expansion in the Age of the Renaissance Origins and history of European Empire Origins of European empires
programme -> The European World, 1500-1750 Naomi Pullin Week 17 – Power and Authority
programme -> The European World, 1500-1700 Naomi Pullin Week 18 – Rebellions Key case studies
programme -> European World Rebellions Key case studies
programme -> Lecture Outline
programme -> The World Beyond Europe
programme -> European World Lecture: Catholicism beyond Europe introduction


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