The essential question we studied in class was “were enlightened absolute monarchs more enlightened or more absolute?” We did two activities in class to answer this question. One activity we did was read about three enlightened absolute monarchs and made a venn-diagram. The three monarchs are Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great, and Joseph II. The venn-diagram we created distinguished the enlightened and absolute things the rulers did. When we were done and discussed, it turned out that Frederick was the most absolutist, along with Catherine and Joseph II was the most enlightened. The next activity we did was split into small groups to make a propaganda poster. Each group chose one of the monarchs and made a poster. The point of these posters were show the enlightened things the ruler did, so the posters were biased towards them being enlightened rulers. These activities helped us answer the question, were enlightened absolute monarchs more enlightened or absolute.
An enlightened monarch was one was benevolent. They have a well informed and rational outlook when they rule and look at different perspectives, appealing to everyone’s needs. Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great and Joseph II all considered themselves enlightened. But they were also absolute rulers, so they are enlightened absolute monarchs. An absolute monarch is one who has total and complete power of the citizens of the country. By the mid 1600’s, citizens were fed up with the lavish lifestyles and costly wars of absolute monarchs. So, many philosophers and scholars decided that reforms needed to happen. They believed that these reforms would be best if they came from enlightened, benevolent monarchs. But, these enlightened monarchs were not completely enlightened and ended up being enlightened absolute monarchs.
My group had the ruler Joseph II. Our poster’s slogan is “The Peasant Emperor makes excellent happen”, much like the New Balance slogan “Let's make excellent happen.” We chose that slogan because Joseph was the most enlightened out of the three rulers and we wanted to shine a light on what he did. Unlike many monarchs, Joseph II granted toleration to Protestants and Jews in his Catholic Empire. Also, he traveled in disguise among his subjects to learn their problems and improve their lives. This got him the nickname of “The Peasant Emperor”, which ties back to the slogan of the poster. Joseph II also ended censorship, which is why we have a picture of it on our poster. Lastly, Joseph II built hospitals, but he sold property of monasteries and convents to get the money. Selling the property was absolute, but he used it for good deeds. One thing Joseph II did that was more absolute than enlightened was attempting to bring the Catholic Church under royal control. Although Joseph II did some absolute things, he was truly a more enlightened ruler than Frederick the Great and Catholic the Great and I believe that enlightened absolute rulers were more enlightened than absolute.