prompt: Evaluate the extent to which the methods used by rulers to legitimize their authority were similar in the period 1450-1750 CE.
The early modern period marks a time period in which states were becoming extremely focused with expanding their size and influence through trade and conquering lands. On the eve of 1450, European empires were beginning to heavily focus on expanding and building their empires, while widening and expanding the global trade market system. Other states, such as the Ottoman and Mughal empires, needed to legitimize their rule over their people while European maritime superiority was growing. Rulers of different states utilized many methods to try and legitimize their authority. Although some rulers in the period 1450-1750 utilized monumental acts of beautiful architecture to legitimize their rule over their states, to a greater extent, rulers utilized divine right to confirm and legitimize their authority in the early modern period. Rulers constructed monumental architectural projects to legitimize their authority. For example, a Drawing titled “Panorama of Constantinople (Sheet 8, 1559)” by Danish artist Melchior Lorck, during his travel around the Ottoman Empire from 1555 to 1559 dysplays how the city of Constantinople was covered lavishly with large buildings with extravagant domes, and large minerettes. This artist was Dutch, and had to have traveled to the city of Istanbul and been awed by the beautiful mosques and extravagant boats. An artist would paint this scene if it was something worth being painted, and it was because of its monumental architecture. The state of Constantinople under the Ottomans in the 14th century looks awe-inspiring, and makes the empire seem much more wealthy and powerful. This drawing makes the Europeans witnessing it think that Suleman is a great, powerful, and worthy ruler. Another example of a ruler that used monumental architecture to legitimize his authority is a painting of the Reception of Le Grande Condé by Louis XIV at Versailles in 1674, by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 19th century painter, depicting the French nobility made to reside at the Palace of Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715 CE) that displays a very lavish palace with beautiful steps and sculptures. The palace makes France seem powerful, and wealthy. The purpose of this painting is to show off to anybody that sees it that the place the painting is hanging is of great power and wealth because of how beautiful the architecture is. This makes Louis XIV seem like a reliable ruler, as the painting makes it seem that France is prospering, and full of wealth. The use of monumental architecture in states to make them seem more powerful and legit will be utilised throughout history, as it is an obvious display of wealth. The construction of a beautiful temple, such as the Taj-mahal, displays a golden age of prosperity within a state, making the rulers seem more powerful and great. Rulers utilized diving right to legitimize their authority. For example, Reports from Venetian merchants from the Safavid Empire during the early reign of Shah
Ismail, c1502 CE describes how Ismali, their ruler, holds divine power, and because of that, has authoritative power to act however he pleases and always be doing the right thing. The merchants reporting in this document are sure to approve of any decisions made by Ismali because they believe he acts with divine-inspiration. Similarly, James I (of Scotland) and IV (of England) in a speech to the English Parliament c1610 CE explains how they hold divine power above the rest of parliament. They explain that to dispute the word of monarchy is the same as disputing the word of god. Their purpose in saying this is to convince parliament that any command they give should not be went against. Giving themselves divine power, their rule and commands are legitimized, and parliament is more inclined to listen to everything they say and not dispute it. Emperor Kangxi (r. 1661 to 1722), the second Qing emperor, “On Ruling”, part of Kangxi’s autobiographical reflections on leadership tries to give advice to anybody that could become future ruler of China. The document explains that to be a good ruler, one must act like the other people he rules, not above them. Unlike the other rulers that make it clear that acting with divine superiority will allow them to have a more convincing hold on their subjects, Kangxi explains that a ruler should not act above everyone else, making him stand out and untimely divine in character. Kangxi is an emperor, and his purpose for writing this document is that he wants to be able to guide other rulers on how to properly legitimize rule over the chinese public. Knowing that the chinese public during the Qing empire was predominantly confucian, a more simpler approach to divinity would be necessary to win the affections of the people, which would in turn legitimize a ruler’s authority. The usage of divine rule will be tested by secular thinkers throughout history, but the manipulation of subjects by rulers to believe their rules is of divine status is an effective method to legitimize a ruler’s rule, as all their decisions are approved by a god.