Divine right of kings
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Divine Right of Kings is a political and religious doctrine of royal absolutism. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving his right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm, including the church. The doctrine implies that any attempt to depose the king or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute heresy.
The remoter origins of the theory are rooted in the medieval idea that God had bestowed earthly power to the king, just as God had given spiritual power and authority to the church, centering on the pope. The immediate author of the theory was Jean Bodin, who based it on the interpretation of Roman law. With the rise of nation-states and the Protestant Reformation, the theory of divine right justified the king's absolute authority in both political and spiritual matters. The theory came to the fore in England under the reign of King James I of England (1603–25, having been King James VI of Scotland from 1567). King Louis XIV of France (1643–1715), though Catholic, strongly promoted the theory as well.
The theory of divine right was abandoned in England during the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89. The American and French revolutions of the late eighteenth century further weakened the theory's appeal, and by the early twentieth century, it had been virtually abandoned.
Such doctrines are, in the English speaking world, largely associated with the House of Tudor and the early House of Stuart in Britain and the theology of the Caroline divines who held their tenure at the pleasure of James I of England (VI of Scotland), Charles I and Charles II.
The Scots textbooks of the divine right of kings were written in 1597-98 by James VI of Scotland before his accession to the English throne. His Basilikon Doron, a manual on the duties of a king, was written to edify his four-year-old son Henry Frederick, who died young. According to the text, a good king "acknowledgeth himself ordained for his people, having received from the god a burden of government, whereof he must be countable". The idea of the divine right to rule has appeared in many cultures Eastern and Western spanning all the way back to the first god king Gilgamesh.