divine right of kings

the right to rule derived directly from God, not from the consent of the people.
[1735-45]

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      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, but the doctrine virtually disappeared from English politics after the Glorious Revolution (1688–89). In the late 17th and the 18th centuries, kings such as Louis XIV (1643–1715) of France continued to profit from the divine-right theory, even though many of them no longer had any truly religious belief in it. The American Revolution (1775–83), the French Revolution (1789), and the Napoleonic wars (French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars) deprived the doctrine of most of its remaining credibility.

 The bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (Bossuet, Jacques-Bénigne) (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 (Filmer, Sir Robert) 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. The antiabsolutist philosopher John Locke (Locke, John) (1632–1704) wrote his First Treatise of Civil Government (1689) in order to refute such arguments.

      The doctrine of divine right can be dangerous for both church and state. For the state it suggests that secular authority is conferred, and can therefore be removed, by the church, and for the church it implies that kings have a direct relationship to God and may therefore dictate to ecclesiastical rulers.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Divine right of kings — Right Right, n. [AS. right. See {Right}, a.] 1. That which is right or correct. Specifically: (a) The straight course; adherence to duty; obedience to lawful authority, divine or human; freedom from guilt, the opposite of moral wrong. (b) A true… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • divine right of kings — The authority of a monarch to rule a realm by virtue of birth. Dictionary from West s Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. divine right of kings The authority of a monarch to rule a realm by virtu …   Law dictionary

  • divine right of kings — divine′ right′ of kings′ n. why the right to rule derived directly from God, not from the consent of the people • Etymology: 1735–45 …   From formal English to slang

  • divine right of kings — n. the former belief that royal authority to rule comes only from God …   English World dictionary

  • Divine right of kings — This article covers the Western tradition. For the Eastern tradition, see Mandate of Heaven. See also God Emperor for various rulers who claim a divine relationship. Part of the Politics series on …   Wikipedia

  • Divine Right of Kings — [ Louis XIV as the sun] The Divine Right of Kings is a general term that refers to the philosophy and ideas used to justify the authority and legitimacy of monarchs in medieval and early modern Europe. The doctrine broadly holds that a monarch… …   Wikipedia

  • divine right of kings — noun the doctrine that kings derive their right to rule directly from God and are not accountable to their subjects; rebellion is the worst of political crimes the doctrine of the divine right of kings was enunciated by the Stuarts in Britain in… …   Useful english dictionary

  • divine right of kings — noun especially regarding kings as monarchs. Syn: divine right See Also: divine right …   Wiktionary

  • divine right of kings — The old theory that the king derived his power from God. There has never been any sensible reason for asserting that the title to the throne of England was by divine right. 1 Bl Comm 191 …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • divine right of kings — The right of a king to rule as posited by the patriarchal theory of government, especially under the doctrine that no misconduct and no dispossession can forfeit the right of a monarch or his heirs to the throne, and to the obedience of the… …   Black's law dictionary

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