Question by Judi R: How did the power of the King increase at the same time the towns increased during the Commercial Revolution?
I know that during the late middle ages, the towns broke free and started governing themselves. At the same time, the power of the King increased.
How did both the power of the towns and the power of the King increase at the same time?
Answer by Erik Van Thienen
The power of the King didn’t increase everywhere in Medieval Europe. The kings adhered to the theory of “Absolute Monarchy”, and wanted to fill in the power vacuum left by the waning influence of the Church after the Reformation. But many of them had very limited practical power.
Germany was a patchwork of little kingdoms, principalities and bishoprics, where the Emperor had to be elected.
Italy was torn between the Emperor and the Pope, and towns like Florence, Sienna, Pisa and Milan gained power by playing them against each other.
France was officially a Kingdom, but the King had only real power around Paris, the rest of France was run by his powerful Princes, Dukes and Counts. Not until Louis XIV France became a really centralized monarchy.
Russia only became centralized under Ivan the Terrible and later again under Peter the Great. Again the Monarch had to deal with powerful vassals, who were sometimes more powerful and richer then the Monarch.
And then there were the regions in the peripheries of the monarchies. Like Flanders, where the Count was technically a vassal of th French King, but was also partially a vassal of the German Emperor, and the towns like Bruges, Ghent and Ypres blossomed in that grey zone.
The only real Absolute Monarchies were Spain under Philip II and England under Henry VIII. But the former had the riches of the New World to pay his troops with, and the latter had to launch his own Church..
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