The Modern Divine Right of Kings

Posted By on August 21, 2012

For the past few months I have been allowing a few ideas to pollinate, seed, sprout some roots and grow before just spouting off. Now I have some of these ready to write, so you will see some new articles in the coming days. Also, I’ve been bouncing the ideas and concepts off of my friends to watch them mature and endure the adversity of argumentation. The first of these has actually been coming to the point of the written page for a number of years, it has only recently been elevated to the first priority by some current events and through meeting some new people.

During the 18th Century, the 1700’s for those of you in Rio Linda (to steal the phrase from the Rushmeister), the people in the American colonies and Europe were in the final waning years of the practice of a doctrine called, “The Divine Right of Kings.” The freedoms sought by the English citizens in the earlier revolution in the mid- to late 1600’s were in direct opposition to this doctrine. Further, the migrations of immigrants from various countries to America were efforts to free themselves of the chains and bondages imposed by the monarchs throughout Europe.

divine right of kings, doctrine in defense of monarchical absolutism, which asserted that kings derived their authority from God and could not therefore be held accountable for their actions by any earthly authority such as a parliament. Originating in Europe, the divine-right theory can be traced to the medieval conception of God’s award of temporal power to the political ruler, paralleling the award of spiritual power to the church. By the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the new national monarchs were asserting their authority in matters of both church and state. King James I of England (reigned 1603–25) was the foremost exponent of the divine right of kings[i]

Notice this is the “doctrine…of monarchical absolutism”, the king, the monarch or the crown had absolute, unquestionable power within the borders of his/her realm. Since the crown’s authority came directly from God, then the crown was the law of the land, and as such was above the law. This was often referred to in Latin as Rex Lex, or very simplistically, the king (rex) is the law (lex).

The bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627–1704), one of the principal French theorists of divine right, asserted that the king’s person and authority were sacred; that his power was modeled on that of a father’s and was absolute, deriving from God; and that he was governed by reason (i.e., custom and precedent). In the middle of the 17th century, the English Royalist squire Sir Robert Filmer likewise held that the state was a family and that the king was a father, but he claimed, in an interpretation of Scripture, that Adam was the first king and that Charles I (reigned 1625–49) ruled England as Adam’s eldest heir. [ii] (underline emphasis added)

Again, notice, “the state was a family and that the king was the father,” does that sound a little bit familiar? As the “father” the king, or the monarch, was to take care of the people, the subjects of the realm. He made sure they were fed, albeit not well, and protected, also, when it came to defending against aggressor armies the peons, of course, were required to voluntarily – and at their expense – join the army. It was later, late 17th and 18th centuries when the armies began to be supported by the king, the government.

With the Protestant Reformation, and the Enlightenment, the doctrine began to come under attack. One of the first shots fired across the proverbial bow of the divine right of kings came from an obscure corner of the British Empire, Scotland, and from an oft unassuming Scottish Presbyterian minister, Samuel Rutherford. In 1645 Reverend Rutherford published a book that would shake the very foundations of the British monarchy, Lex Rex, or in contraposition to the above, the law is King, therefore even the king is subject to the law.

Those who have read anything about American history, and the sources of our governmental philosophies have heard of John Locke. Even the Encyclopædia Britannica mentions Locke in the cited article:

The antiabsolutist philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) wrote his First Treatise of Civil Government (1689) in order to refute such arguments. [iii]

But few if any have heard Rutherford was a source, if not possibly a primary source from which Locke received some of his inspiration.

Our forebears were a hearty lot, self-sufficient and resilient. They chaffed at the various encroachments into their lives by the crown. The crown controlled the imports, the exports and later began taxing the very restricted products allowed to come ashore here in the colonies. The crown and the parliament began controlling the prices of our goods, and the prices of the goods we purchased. Why? We were family, and the crown knew better than we did what our needs were. All of these were even further encroachments limiting our freedoms, our self-determination, our rights. This led, eventually, to the American Revolution and independence from our “father,” the king.

With the establishment of the Constitutional Federal Republic our founding fathers limited the power of the government to impact, or control our lives. The greatest gift of heaven was freedom, self-determination and individual responsibility, and our founders gave us all these with a limited, compact Federal government.

Fast forward to today and we find an all pervasive, out-of-control federal government which strives to control everything. We have even seen this to the municipal level in New York City as Mayor Bloomberg declares he knows better than we what we should drink, and how much, and what we should feed our babies. We are witnessing the final stages of the reincarnation of the divine right of kings, only this time it has wrapped itself in the garments of the Constitution, and disguised itself in the halls of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Executive Branch, the various State governments and those of our counties and cities.

Our government now determines the safety of our food products, our work habits, our furniture, our toys, our medicines, our electronics, our cars, our boats, our clothes, and on and on. The government now controls the formulation of our gasoline, diesel fuels, our milk, our building materials, our air conditioning gas, our household cleaning products, and on and on. The all-knowing governmental branches now control our work hours, our pay, our insurance, our taxation, our investments, our… Well, you get the point, the government thinks and acts as if it knows better than we how to take care of us. A modern manifestation of absolute power, of a sacred right and the divine right of kings.

It is time for us to rise up, assert our divine rights, our inalienable rights and our right of revolution at the ballot box. It is time to fire as many of these illegitimate usurpers, and pretenders to being servants of the people and replace them with men and women of integrity who are and will be true servants of the people. It is time we once and for all drove a spike through the heart of the evil divine right of kings, and finally nailed its coffin closed, so it never rise from the ash heap of history.

[i]divine right of kings.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 20 Aug. 2012. <>.

[ii] ibid

[iii] ibid

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