The reign of France’s Louis XIV (1638-1718), known as the Sun King, lasted for 72 years, longer than that of any other known European sovereign. In that time, he transformed the monarchy, ushered in a golden age of art and literature, presided over a dazzling royal court at Versailles, annexed key territories and established his country as the dominant European power. During the final decades of Louis XIV’s rule, France was weakened by several lengthy wars that drained its resources and the mass exodus of its Protestant population following the king’s revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
In many respects the rise of absolutism was a natural response to the chaos of the religious wars. The theory of cuius regio, eius religio which evolved from the Peace of Augsburg (1555) was the first step on the road to empowering the monarchy. Absolute monarchs already had a foundation on which to build, the New Monarchs of Europe had created larger territorial states, which required a new, more effective form of government.
The rulers of Central and Eastern Europe shared many of the same structures (as Western Absolutist states). Each had a strong ruler who maintained ties with the nobility through dispensing concessions. The concessions granted to the nobility gave them far more autonomy than in the west. Consequently, the peasants suffered significantly more in eastern Europe than in the west because of enforced serfdom.
In eastern Europe during the seventeenth century the rights of the peasants were taken away. As a labor shortage swept eastern Europe workers became a necessity and as a result the movement of peasants was restricted. Peasants lost their land and were forced into more obligations for their lords. Between 1500 and 1650 conditions worsened and serfs could be killed for nothing.
In 1415 the Hohenzollern family began to rule as electors of Brandenburg. The Hohenzollern family had little real power. Choosing the Holy Roman Emperor was of little value and they had no military strength. The Hohenzollern power-base was Brandenburg and was cut off from Prussia, which was part of Poland. In 1618 the Hohenzollern prince died and Prussia returned to the Elector of Brandenburg. Gradually they increased the size of their land until they were second only to the Hapsburgs. The Hohenzollern family formed an alliance with the Junkers (unlike the monarchy of France).