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Thursday 4 January 2024

The Importance of Kings


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One of the most consistent themes I see in reading the history of Europe, is how much of an asset kings were to their people. The stereotype that people have of kings is that they were basically tyrants, some were ok, but many were terrible, and we are better off without them because they had too much power.

But I question that assumption because the historical facts don't support it.

The kings were often champions of justice. Here is one example from A History of France by William Stearns Davis, about St Louis, the just king,

“In 1254 he came back to France, and for the next fifteen years devoted himself to the happiness of his kingdom. He was undoubtedly the most powerful monarch of his age. Delightful are the pictures given us of how he used to love to award shrewd and speedy justice alike to high and low, sitting with his legal counselors under an oak in the royal forest at Vincennes. The Popes listened attentively to the respectful but very plain counsels he sometimes gave them about their miserable quarrels over secular issues. The great barons submitted their differences to him for arbitration, even when under feudal usage they were entitled to draw the sword. Turbulent factions or dynasts in England and Lorraine (not then part of France) requested him to judge between them. All this meant that the King of France was adding to his physical power that imponderable but often irresistible moral power which comes when worldly greatness, intellectual force, and spiritual worthiness are all united in the same person.[1]

The kings were also often the champions of the people. Sometimes for selfish reasons, they wanted to weaken their competitors amongst the nobles. But often just simply because they knew their role was to be the chief servants of their realm (Like St. Louis). But still, this inherent desire they had to counterbalance the wealthiest nobles often worked in the favour of the peasants of Medieval Europe and was a powerful protector of people's rights. As Davis writes,

“Such drastic economies and the cutting off of fine perquisites or spoils of course awakened violent outcry in powerful quarters, but Henry IV stood by his Minister. King and lieutenant alike seem to have had a real desire to benefit the lower classes, not merely because a rich peasantry would add to the royal income, but because of a genuine benevolence toward their people. Frenchmen loved to repeat the wish of the King "that soon there might be a fowl in the pot of every peasant on Sunday"; and Sully with more practical energy, used the royal precept and treasure not to maintain an extravagant court, but to build roads, to make canals, and especially to introduce better methods of agriculture, asserting that fertile fields and pastures of fat cattle were "the real mines and treasures of Peru" for France.[2]

Kings would advocate for the low born in many ways. They would do things like free peasants who were on the lands of troublesome nobles, to weaken the power base of those lords. They would at times promote diligent peasants to positions of power to oversee justice for their fellow peasants. They would give land grants and freehold grants to towns so that they did not have to live under a tyrannical lord or Count. They were the chief defender of the people and their faith, in a real, not just symbolic way, using the force of their arms to literally defend their people from threats foreign and domestic. They were capable of using their wealth to foster markets and other production in their land, to empower the people to live free of dependence on some Feudal Lord.

They often frustrated the plans of the wealthier nobles, stood in the way of nobles giving their land and power to foreigners, so that the nation was protected. They had the power to outlaw all kinds of injustices, without necessarily needing to get the approval of a bickering parliament. Most kings were good and average administrators, some were really evil, but some were really, really good.

This is important and key to understand why our western civilisation has declined so quickly without them: They did not have to compromise to get to the top, like modern politicians do. They were born to the purple, and so it was much more likely, especially in Christendom, that you would have a king take the throne with a strong faith in Jesus, because they had not been trained to keep it quiet to advance up the political ladder like our modern politicians. They could be openly devout, and were expected to be, and did not have to worry about offending some interest group who wanted to fund them from behind closed doors.

When you read about how monarchies were overturned in Europe, especially in Britian and similar countries, you will know that they were not popular uprisings. We didn't vote kings out. The overthrows were done by elite Aristocrats to weaken or break the power of kings, so they sat at the top of the pile instead.

Today, the real power is the financial oligarchs who buy the politicians, and make sure no one with principles gets anywhere near a real position of power. When you have read how these groups did this in Britain through parliament, in France through Revolutions, in other places by other means, you understand why they really got rid of effective kings: they were too uncontrollable and unpredictable, and were just as likely, or even more likely, to favour the ordinary man and woman over the elite classes. The Aristocrats did not like that, so they created a system where we now vote for a version of themselves, and only get the illusion of choice.

How kings are presented in media, and what the histories actually say are often worlds apart. Who would have thought, hey?

List of References

[1] Davis, William Stearns. A History of France from the Earliest Times to the Treaty of Versailles (p. 58). Lecturable. Kindle Edition.

[2] Davis, William Stearns. A History of France from the Earliest Times to the Treaty of Versailles (p. 113). Lecturable. Kindle Edition.

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