On the divine right of kings

Posted on Oct 26, 2021

One thing I certainly do not believe in is the divine right of kings. When considering why this is, I originally thought it was because I am American, and come from a country whose founders rejected the monarchy. But that can’t be it. Americans love monarchies, especially the British one. I realized that my feelings about it go deeper, and distract from my enjoyment of the fairy tale movies and stories my kids consume, which very frequently include princes and princesses whose right to wealth and power is never questioned.

People can accrue power in various ways: being strong, wise, skillful, or charismatic are just a few. However, I think that there is limit to how much power these positive traits would give a person. They could lead a clan, but not a kingdom. To exert power over a kingdom requires ruthlessness, egoism, and violence.

I believe that, at the dawn of history and before, ancient kings and pharaohs accrued their power over others through conquest. They didn’t earn their land. They took it. They didn’t earn their wealth. They stole it. They didn’t earn the subservience of their followers. They forced it.

This line of thought leads me to believe that all modern nations could trace themselves back to powerful people who stole their wealth from others. Furthermore, they used their power to invent religions and rules of thumb—such as hereditary monarchy and the divine right of kings—to justify and perpetuate their position at the top of society.

To this day, these ideas still have appeal and currency. We don’t question them, even those of us who live in democratic republics. To believe someone is a prince, you have to believe in princes.

I don’t believe in princes anymore. Nor kings, nor queens, nor princesses. These are just people who, by chance of birth, benefitted from ancient theft and conquest, and perpetuate the myth that they deserve it.