During the period 1450-1750, the leaders of powerful nations used various ways to legitimize their authority. One of the most common ways of doing this was through the idea of divine right. Many European countries as well as Asian countries legitimized the rule of their leaders with the idea that their power was God given and they themselves are god’s extension of himself on the earth. Called different things in different places, divine right or the mandate of heaven followed the same basic principles regarding their rulers. Another common way leaders legitimized their power throughout their empire was portraying their towns and palaces as places of grandeur. This made their citizens proud to live in such a successful and fine nation. Although the portrayal of the wealth and power of an empire through luxurious palaces and art helped leaders legitimize their authority, more significantly, rulers claimed divine right to the throne which helped them secure power and legitimize authority through theism.
The splendor of a wealthy and successful nation often showed the strength of a leader. When citizens noted the success of a nation, they were often for the rule of the leader, not against. In a painting by Jean Leon Gerome, he depicts the French court as beautiful and well managed (Document 4). The purpose of this document is to shine light on the wealthy and magnificent parts of the empire in order to keep citizens happy about the state of the country and the power of the ruler. In a drawing of Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire, the artist depicts the city as busy with boats suggesting a booming trading industry, and many well-built homes (Document 2). The success of the capital city often reflects the rest of the country. The purpose of this document is to show the success of the Ottoman empire’s capital city. Again, the ruler can be accredited to the success of the economy and cities which is a reason to legitimize the authority of a leader. The success and legitimacy of a leader can dictate how long an empire lasts, which could be a reason that the Ottoman empire lasted until WWI.
Divine right, comparable to the Mandate of Heaven in Asia, follows the main belief that a ruler was given their authority and right to rule from god and anyone who disagrees with their divine rule is a heretic. In a speech to the English parliament in 1610, James I explains that monarchs are soldiers of god on earth and even god believes that these rulers are divine (Document 3). The purpose of this document was to legitimize the rule of all monarchs in English territories, including himself. By using religion, a driving force in most people’s lives at the time, this was an effective and common way rulers could keep their authority and power. This happened not only in European countries, but also Asian countries. Venetian merchants from the Safavid Empire during the reign of Ismail explain that the soldiers believed this ruler was a prophet whose every idea was divine and holy (Document 1). The purpose of this document is to show how soldiers to the shah truly believed he was divine and would not forsake him because of his holiness. This is a similar idea to what happened in other parts of the world.