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Old 05-06-2011, 01:17 PM
PrincessKaimi's Avatar
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The Divine Right of Kings

I'm reading about Henry III and Edward I of England, and it really struck me how much they believed that they were divinely chosen and backed up by God in all their actions. They were favored in war up until the Battle of Lewes, and so they thought God was literally on their side. God could not allow bad things to happen to his chosen King. Then, when they lost at the Battle of Lewes, both were very shaken up in their religious views.

I've been wondering about later monarchs and whether they truly believed they were divinely chosen and supported. For example, Henry VIII strikes me as someone who cynically manipulated his relationship to the Church; he clearly thought of himself as the Head of the CoE, but did he really believe he was divinely chosen? Does anyone know if he ever spoke to that issue? Would Queen Elizabeth I have been able to think she was divinely chosen, given how there were other claims to the throne? Seems to me that if she truly trusted God to protect her on the throne, she wouldn't have needed to deal with Mary, Queen of Scots, as she did.

Louis XIV, it is said, truly believed he was chosen of God and favored by Him, therefore his belief in himself as the Sun King and his extraordinary extravagance (and certainty that everyone would accept everything he did). Just one generation later, the French were openly questioning the legitimacy of monarchy (under Louis XV) and of course, openly demonstrating that God was not going to intervene to rescue his "chosen" King by guillotining Louis XVI.

I've asked people who know Russian history questions about this, and they seem to think that the Tsars, especially those descended from Vladimir I, believed they were chosen by God to make Russia into a Christian nation (and perhaps the site of the New Jerusalem).

Anyway, I'm interested in all your expertise about various monarchs and their views of their relationship to God/Divine Right. If and when the idea of the Divine Right disappears, how does that change the monarchy? Do some existing monarchies still have this belief (I'm wondering in particular about some of those outside Europe). Is this doctrine still articulated today (even in minor ways, as by titles or styles - or by rhetoric at courtly events)?

I know the idea was prominent in Egypt, of course, but was surprised to see how strongly (according to the people I'm reading) that English kings believed this and I am especially curious how this view finally went away (if it did) in England and France.

Thanks for any viewpoints or comments!

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Old 05-06-2011, 01:50 PM
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Unfortunately, I am not very strong in history of religion, but I think in the Gothic Period, the belief in God was so extremely different from today.
In any case, we all, king or not king, are chosen and supported by God, always.

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Old 05-06-2011, 02:07 PM
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I am really interested, I guess, in the history of how royals think about religion (not so much, the rest of us - at least not on this forum). I just don't see how English Kings, past Edward I or so, could have maintained this view - but I'm guessing that some of them still had the idea that they were God's special agents on earth.
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Old 05-06-2011, 08:40 PM
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I don't know the thoughts of royals but would imagine that if one were a King of Queen or a heir to the throne or a prince that they would believe that they they are special in some way. Not everyone is born titled or born with a silver spoon in their mouth. I believe that everyone is born into this world with a purpose, royals are no different.

I think all monarchs (regardless of where they come from,) believe that they are special. Ditto for other royalty. Some may actually believe that they are divine or have a special relationship with God but would never say so in public in modern times (keep this to themselves) or never show that they believe this. A monarch or any other royal who said this openly would be subject to criticism.

In some countries divine right of Kings and and the belief that the monarch and his family having a special relationship with God still prevails. This belief has been around for a very long time (since the beginning of time).

Because of the things that have happened over the centuries to monarchs and their families as well as other royals (tragedies, bad luck, illness, early death, deaths of children at young ages), God certainly didn't shine down on them. I wonder if they thought about that when these things happened since some of them might have believed that God thought that they were special or divine above everyone else. If this were the case, then things like tragedies, bad luck, illness, early death or deaths of children at early ages) would not occur.

Too many times centuries ago divine right of kings caused people's rights to be violated or trampled upon. It was used as a justification for just about anything (invading another country or rounding up and killing opponents or innocent people). God's name was also used for this purpose sadly.
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Old 05-06-2011, 11:41 PM
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French, English and Scottish Kings were believed to have the divine power to cure scrofula during the Middle Age. Scrofula also was called King's Evil. Even Bonnie Prince Charlie touched people to cure them from skin deseases. It seems that Queen Anne was the last one to perform this kind of healing.
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Old 05-07-2011, 12:38 AM
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So interesting. That's what I've been wondering about - what the Kings and Queens thought they could do, what records we have of them doing things they thought were divine, and what they said or did when things didn't work out so well.

I didn't know that that Bonnie Prince Charlie touched to heal skin disease - or that such practices were going on as late as Queen Anne.
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Old 05-30-2011, 07:38 AM
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In Denmark too, divine rights played a part - especially following the reformation in 1536. But both before and after it became a political game where the nobility and the burghers/peasants joined or opposed the king and as such the divinity of it all became a matter of ritual rather than something that was closely adhered to. It certainly played a minor role in the day-to-day workings of the kingdom.
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Old 06-28-2011, 06:30 PM
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I'm reading several pieces about Henry II and his various sons. From what I can tell, Henry II thought he had more to do with remaining on his own throne than God did - he doesn't seem to have had the view that God put him and kept him safe on the throne.

King Richard is a bit more complicated. He clearly felt called to the Cross for the crusades and that any true Prince or King should be battling for God and the Holy Land. King John, I think, was much more like his father in being a bit cynical about God's role in establishing monarchic dynasties.
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Old 06-28-2011, 07:15 PM
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It was the "big sell". It was God's will. Poor God. So,men who wielded big swords and, often, murdered whole towns and villages, had the strength to proclaim that, "God" put them there. God put no monarch on his throne, except King David, and I am sure that taught God to stay out of this type of business.
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Old 07-03-2011, 10:14 PM
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Countess, you are cracking me up.
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Old 07-03-2011, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by COUNTESS View Post
It was the "big sell". It was God's will. Poor God. So,men who wielded big swords and, often, murdered whole towns and villages, had the strength to proclaim that, "God" put them there. God put no monarch on his throne, except King David, and I am sure that taught God to stay out of this type of business.
The bolded part needs to be a signature and put on a bumper sticker. LoL
Not only the divine rights of kings, but even in every day life there are people who will use God to prove the rightness of their position. I recall some politicians who claim it was God's will to go to war with another country, and if we will it proves that God was "on our side".
Princess Grace, April 19, 1956
Princess Margaret Rose, May 6, 1960
Crown Princess Mette-Marit, August 25, 2001
Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy, September 12, 1953
Countess Stephanie of Belgium October 20, 2012
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Old 10-21-2011, 02:00 AM
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Louis XVI seemed to believe this quite strongly, but it cost him his life! I guess you can't really blame him, he grew up raised to believe that it was his divine right. But he still wasn't a very good king.
- Supreme Lord and Emperor of the Flood
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Old 10-21-2011, 06:37 PM
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Bad kings claiming to be God's chosen ruler do not reflect well on God, that's for sure.
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Old 02-21-2014, 06:12 PM
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One of the first English texts supporting the Divine Right of Kings was written in 1597-1598 by James I before his accession to the English throne. He was King James VI of Scotland in 1597 and 1598. Basilikon Doron was the title of the manual on the duties of a king.
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Old 02-21-2014, 06:25 PM
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Interesting subject and as I am about to embark on reading a Trilogy about Henry II (Becket) and his sons, I shall bear this idea in mind.

What does seem apparent to me reading the posts is that the majority are considering the idea of Divine Right from the 21st century, educated perspective. I think to understand it, you need to consider what it was like when knowledge was in the hands of the few; the idea of an all-powerful God was an accepted fact and that free and individual thinking was either unknown or only slowly emerging

Just look at the art, illustrated manuscripts, statues and carvings and you will see that this was real to the people at the time. They are not wrong in their thinking as they did not have our education and access to information. IT all made sense in the world they inhabited. Some truly believed; some used their power for themselves and some were too exhausted by trying to survive to worry about it at all. It is more interesting IMO to consider it from the perspective of those who lived with this idea, than merely to dismiss it because it doesn't sit with current thinking or life style.

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Old 02-21-2014, 06:30 PM
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The concept of divine rights also contained conditions. An obligation towards God on behalf of the king and his people.

For example: Christian IV of Denmark was one of the most active witch-hunter kings of his time.
Not because he was a fool or a religious fanatic, even though he was a devout Christian and personally firmly believed in witches and witchcraft.
But because he genuinely believed it was his duty, perhaps even his first duty, to protect his people and realm from the Devil and his agents and as far as it was possible to purge his realm from these agents thus ensuring that his realm and people remained Christian.
It was after all Gods will that he was king, but that also meant he was directly answerable to God for working in His interests.

We should not make the mistake of judging or even assessing kings back then by the 21st century standards.
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Old 02-24-2014, 07:58 PM
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I would imagine you would find royals today who believe that they are special or gifted by God due to their position in life. Most would probably never say so in public.

I believe that there are a few royals who are favored by God and this has a lot to do with how they conduct themselves and how they have lived their lives.

In the past and present some royals use their position in life for good and for not so good. Since God judges individuals by their actions and deeds rather than their social standing or position in life and doesn't play favorites, royals had no advantages over others when they had to face their maker.

Many Kings or other royals who used their position of power to do bad or evil things weren't favored by God, even though they thought so and used this as justification for what they did as God was on their side. If they were favored by God, then they wouldn't be suffering multiple or a very high number of tragedies in their lives and some of them died rather horrible painful deaths.

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divine right, monarchy, religion

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