Charles III of Spain and the concept of enlightened absolutism

To be able to better understand the reign of Charles III and its influence on Madrid, we have to understand his mentality and how it affected his decision-making which, in turn, would leave its mark on not only how Madrid would look but also influence the lifestyle of its inhabitants.


Enlightened Absolutism was a political concept which appeared in the second half of the eighteenth century. Its motto and main idea was summarized in the phrase: “Everything for the people but without the people.”  It drew its inspiration from the French Illustration but differentiated itself from that particular movement in that in that the popular classes did not participate in the decision-making process. Its primary objective was, with the aid of a cultured governing class, to improve the way government operated, educate the masses and improve the quality of citizens’ lives by gradually enforcing political and economic policies which were geared toward those objectives. Charles III’s  reign was so important and influential on Madrid, as we will be seeing in upcoming articles on his legacy, that he is known locally as ”Madrid’s best mayor.”

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