The elective monarchies of central Europe appeared increasingly quaint when set against the ruthless Realpolitik of ‘enlightened’ despots such as Catherine the Great of Russia, and Frederick the Great of Prussia. Poland was partitioned out of existence (1772–95), while the millennium-long survival of the Holy Roman Empire and the Venetian Republic would be finally extinguished through the conquests of the uber despot of the enlightenment, Napoleon. Unenlightened despotism also hit hard times: the Ottomans were defeated repeatedly in wars with Russia, losing territory and control over their Christian Balkan subjects, while the indolent Charles IV of Spain (1788–1808) saw the French Revolution as grounds for repression rather than reform, and ended up being forced to abdicate and replaced by a Bonaparte. While the Napoleonic empire would prove short lived, the reforms introduced during his occupation would lay the foundations for the formation of unified German and Italian nation states in the coming century.
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