WE have seen the mediaeval inclination towards control of government by oligarchic parliaments displaced by a growth in the prestige of monarchy in the sixteenth century. All over Europe embryonic parliamentary institutions were suppressed. For half a dozen generations (approximately 1600-1750) the theory was elaborately argued that kings were descended from the first rulers whom God gave to mankind, and that resistance to the Lord's anointed was therefore a form of blasphemy.
This view was accompanied by the pre-eminence of France in war and politics and the arts of peace throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially during the manhood (1661-1715) of Louis XIV. His position had been prepared by Sully, Richelieu, and Mazarin-the ministers of his grandfather and parents-and his system, when complete, meant government by royal officials, closely controlled by the ministers of the King, who himself worked hard at administration; it meant a narrowly national and military outlook, a protectionist policy in trade and industry, the construction of palaces, the maintenance of ceremonial, and the enforcement of orthodoxy in politics, religion, and art. The French system was imitated by every princeling in Europe.
The seventeenth century saw the last religious wars. The uneasy Peace of Augsburg (1555) broke down in 1618, and the war raged throughout Germany until 1648. The Thirty Years' War was relatively the bloodiest of modern times: in it one-third of the German population died. The Roman Catholic cause was supported by the Habsburg emperors, while the weaker Protestant princes received help from Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and from France, Cardinal Richelieu disregarding the interests of the Church in serving those of the King of France. It ended with France's acquisition of most of Alsace, of which she had already taken part, and was later to take the remainder, and of Lorraine. After this war the independence of the minor German states was complete. The Roman Church could not now hope to crush the German Protestants, and all the heart had gone out of religious faction by the end of this most frightful of all religious contests. England and Holland alone had reason to be glad of it: England, because it kept continental powers from meddling in her Civil war (1642-51);
Holland, because she gained a lead in Eastern trade.