Percent of a country's "GDP" used to directly support a "typical" absolute monarch?

Many absolute monarchs enjoyed lives of near-unimaginable opulence (I suppose several of the French Bourbons, Philip III and IV of Spain, and Catherine the Great of Russia are good examples of such). In fact, even some more recent sovereigns, despite having to contend with the constraints and demands imposed by their country’s government, still lived in lavish excess (here, Leopold II of Belgium comes to mind, at least as described in King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild).

In terms of percent GDP (or similar), do we have any sense how much these royal lifestyles cost their countries? What percent of their countries wealth was consumed simply in supporting and financing their monarchs’ personal enjoyment and life of splendor (i.e. their palaces, their families, their courts and all their trappings, their furnishings, arts, jewels, clothes, travels, “hobbies”, and overall lifestyle)?


I’m not sure how you want to quantify this.

Would you include the Kims of North Korea as a dynasty of near-absolute monarchs? If so, does the North Korean military, which they use in large part to retain their power and privilege, as part of the expense of maintaining their lifestyle? Even in more traditional monarchies, you have a large military/police and tax revenue system, to protect the royals and to squeeze money out of their subject. Does that count?

Also, there’s a question of size. Not to say the monarchy in, say, Monaco is absolute, but if it were, it would presumably be using a MUCH higher proportional of its wealth on its royal family than a larger country like France

Most absolute monarchies (unless you count dictators and modern-day quasi-Monarchs) were in a time when economy and therefore GDP were very different from today, both total and percentagewise. Mercantilism, the precursor to modern economy and industry, had just started before Louis XVI, for example. And the noble class wasn’t taxed back then.

You don’t compare bread prices directly for 1812 and 2012, you express them in terms of work-hours, and then use them as baseline for other goods. But in the 17th century, people weren’t working at a factory for an hourly wage, they were mostly farmers earning food to eat and some money for extras if lucky.