chapter  6
41 Pages

Monarchs and despots: tensions within the state

Every state in eighteenth-century Europe, with a few relatively unimportant exceptions, was a monarchy. Almost everywhere the monarch was, and was expected to be, the moving force behind the machinery of government. At their highest level the internal politics of the European states were the politics of monarchy. The Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany presents a more difficult problem. He was the most remarkable and most interesting of all the 'enlightened despots'. In the kingdom of Savoy-Piedmont, whose ruler was one of the most absolute to be found anywhere in Europe, a series of remarkable reforms throughout the century went far, at least in theory, towards creating a modern state and society. Charles Emmanuel III was certainly influenced by the humanitarian ideals of the Enlightenment. Nevertheless it seems likely that change was forced on him, as earlier on such 'empirical' despots as Peter I in Russia and Frederick William I in Prussia, by the need for greater practical efficiency.