Absolute monarchy


The foundation of the welfare state

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Absolute monarchy in Denmark refers not just to a type of government, it also refers to the period 1660-1848. During this period, Denmark as a state and society underwent fundamental changes. Compared with other countries, the period of the absolute monarchs in Denmark was unique - partly because the king held all legislative, judicial and executive power, partly because this power was used against the nobility. Ironically, absolutism in Denmark made it easier to implement democracy.

Autumn 1660 marks a turning point in the efforts to abolish absolute monarchy in Denmark. The event was an Assembly of the Estates of the Realm in Copenhagen. The nobility, the bourgeoisie and the clergy all took part; peasants were not invited. The assembly was called to rectify the kingdom’s financial situation after the Swedish Wars had left it in tatters. Non-noble Estates, not least the Copenhagen bourgeoisie, saw themselves as the heroes of the Swedish Wars, and the nobility as the goats. And for this reason, the meeting was held under a pall of mutual mistrust.

Common front against the nobility
During the meeting, the bourgeoisie, the clergy and royal cliques interested in undermining the nobility banded together to form a common front. The alliance proposed hereditary monarchy to replace the system of elected kings. With the military also supporting the proposal, the nobility had little choice but to accept. Representatives from the…

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