Absolute monarchy

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Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government where the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, thus wielding political power over the sovereign state and its subject peoples. In an absolute monarchy, the transmission of power is twofold; hereditary and marital. As absolute governor, the monarch’s authority is not legally bound or restricted by a constitution as in a limited monarchy.

In theory, the absolute monarch exercises total power over the land and its subject peoples, yet in practice the monarchy is counter-balanced by political groups from among the social classes and castes of the realm: the aristocracy, clergy (see caesaropapism), bourgeoise, and proletarians.

Some monarchies have powerless or symbolic parliaments and other governmental bodies that the monarch can alter or dissolve at will. Despite effectively being absolute monarchies, they are technically constitutional monarchies due to the existence of a constitution and national canon of law.

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Historical examples

One of the best proverbial examples of an absolute monarch was Louis XIV of France. His alleged statement, L'État, c'est moi (The state, it is me), summarizes the fundamental principle of absolute monarchy (sovereignty being vested in one individual). Although often criticized for his extravagance, such as the Palace of Versailles, he reigned over France for a long period, and some historians consider him a successful absolute monarch. More recently, revisionist historians have questioned whether Louis' reign should be considered 'absolute', given the reality of the balance of power between the monarch and the nobility.[1]

Absolutism was underpinned in a written constitution for the first time in Europe in the 1665 Kongeloven ("King's Law") of Denmark-Norway, whose § 2 stipulates that the monarch shall from this day forth be revered and considered the most perfect and supreme person on the Earth by all his subjects, standing above all human laws and having no judge above his person, neither in spiritual nor temporal matters, except God alone. [2][3] This law consequently authorized the king to abolish all other centers of power. Most important was the abolition of the Council of the Realm.

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