The Rabble vs the King

King Charles 1,with a Letter in His Hands

“Charles the First,
he could ride a horse,
despite being short and sickly.
He grew up fast,
with a Spanish lass,
then lost his head rather saintly.”

I’ve read two books now, in a fairly short span of time, on Charles the I.  I wrote the above little ditty intending it to be a sort of child’s rhyme to help characterize his life.  The two books were biographies, one by Jacob Abbott and the other by Hilaire Belloc – both excellent, though each had a different emphasis and view of Charles.

Belloc paints him as a doomed and tragic hero, while Abbott makes him a well-meaning villain.  This might be expected since Abbott was writing from an American’s perspective while Belloc was English.

I read these two books (almost back to back) because Charles the I fascinates me.  He’s very important on his own, but as I read about him, I found that many of the questions raised were relevant for today’s political situation as well.

Charles the I was the King of England (and Scotland, Wales, and Ireland) during the time of the English Civil War.  Reading his biography is to learn about the circumstances leading to the war, who Oliver Cromwell was, why the King was executed, and, essentially, confronts one with the biggest questions in political philosophy, especially pertaining to the nature of monarchies verses the nature of republics.

I’ll spare my readers an overview of his life and the times in which he lived; I do recommend you read about him, though.  His life (especially concerning the Spanish lass mentioned in my little rhyme) is fascinating.

Instead, I’d like to make a few points:

1.  Reading these books convinced me of the “rightness” of monarchy.  I was dibbling my toes in monarchist thought before reading them, but post-Belloc – I’m as dedicated to it as any merry ol’ Brit.

For those new to monarchy and feudalism, consider the following illustration:

Suppose your family moves onto a 1000 acre farm.  As the father, you’re ultimately responsible for the entire land, but the mother has her responsibilities and authorities as well, and the children have some stake in the claim.

But now suppose 100 workers swear their loyalty to you, and agree to work the land in exchange for you devoting a small portion of it for them to live on.

This is the basic set up of feudalism.  One man (and his family) own a giant portion of land, and everyone else lives and works it by their good graces.

———-

2. During the reign of Charles, these workers rebelled against him and took all his family’s land for themselves, claiming unity, *not* under the King, but under an abstract banner of nationalism.

During his ludicrous show trial, Charles brought up this very point:  “by whose authority do you bring these charges????”  The real answer was: they had no authority other than that of brute force.

———-

3.  But this raises some perplexing issues that I’m still trying to work through.

Going back to our 1000 acre farm analogy, if the workers came to live on the land under certain specified conditions, then for this contract to be valid, the conditions must be agreed upon.  So, the “people” (the rabble) living under Charles, had a right to expect certain “privileges” which were to be clarified and adjudicated according to the legal system.

All well and good – but even if the “contract” were violated by the King, that doesn’t mean he forfeits his entire kingdom, does it?  (Using a modern analogy – if you don’t pay your electric bill one month, should your neighbors kill you and take your house?  Doesn’t seem right).

And as a matter of fact, going on what I’ve read from Belloc and Abbott, I don’t think Charles the I violated the rabble’s “privileges” anyway.

I suppose it must be granted that Charles and his friend Buckingham had juvenile antics.  They engaged in mismanagements and petty tyrannies from time to time.  On the other hand, there were also periods of peace and wise monetary policy.  But even assuming all the worst charges against Charles are justified, by what right did the people have to try and execute him?

———–

4.  If the rabble replies by saying “our rights before God, because of the contract we had with the king“, then by what right did they have to try governing themselves after the execution?

Is there a God-ordained right to corporate land ownership?

To be consistent, every citizen who owned a bit of land in England, would have (essentially) become the king of his own tiny kingdom.   But the minute they try creating a government that has jurisdiction over *all* the tiny kingdoms, they’re stepping outside of a God-ordained monarchical system, and into a propositional nation or a commune of some sort.  (Actually, in the days following the execution of Charles, they referred to the state as “the common wealth”, so they might have realized this point).

There may be some precedent for this in Scripture, in pre-monarchial Israel, where the various tribes (and the clans there-in) governed themselves.  But in each tribe, there was an “elder” or, as John Frame points out in his book on ethics, an “eldest elder” who ruled each tribe, and so there was a sort of feudal system there, if not in name, at least in practice.

This is very similar to the pre Anglo-Saxon era in Britain, and also in Sweden and Denmark (as witnessed in epics like Beowulf).  You had “kingdoms” but, in reality, they were simply large tribes who owned and fought for the land they lived on.

The minute you say that land is no longer owned by individuals, but by the aggregate of citizens, you’ve moved from a Godly propriety, and into a rebellious system.

—————–

5.  How can I, as a protestant, oppose the majority protestant rabble, and support the King?

Learning history from Calvinists tends to bias one towards Cromwell, who, according to some zealous “chosen” folk, was a saint.  I’m in the odd position of agreeing with some (not all) of the protestants theologically, but disagreeing with their usage of these truths to further political agendas; as if precious theological truths are mere fodder for public debates.

The fallout from this time period affects the Protestant movement to this day; we even see traces of it in the Kinist camp, many of whom are die hard presbyterians who still support the Solemn League and Covenant.

This requires much more thought on my part – but as of now, I’m a dedicated monarchist and would have sided against the puritans in the civil war.

——————

Much more can be said; these questions, insights, and data will give me something to chew on for years to come.

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7 Responses to The Rabble vs the King

  1. Monarchy!

    Charles I is a good choice because of his convictions and his association with the also-martyred, Anglo-Catholic Abp. Laud

    A.J.P.

  2. rogerunited says:

    I am noticing a trend towards favoring a stricter hierarchy on some of the Christian sites I read, even a drift towards Orthodoxy on some of them. I think its just the pendulum of human nature swinging back from the extremes of individuality which have been the rule in the West for over 200 years.

    On the subject of God ordained government, the only truly ordained form were the OT judges. The reason the Israelites moved away from that system is that they wanted to be like everybody else and have a king. Or that’s my understanding.

    My current thinking is that the power structure doesn’t matter as much as the power wielder.

    • shotgunwildatheart says:

      That was the case in the Old Covenant Israel, certainly.

      It’s my view that, these days, all the world has become something like the nation of Israel; and like Israel, the whole world (at least, that redeemed part of it), is congregated tribally.

      And, within those tribes, there are tribal elders, property rights, and all the rest of the necessities that allow for a medieval feudalist system.

      When the day comes that there are many Christian nations, I hope we do rule ourselves as you’ve described – with elders from each nation acting as a sort of confederacy.

      This is obviously a very complicated topic however, and I’ve got much thought left to put into it and don’t intend to stand dogmatically on any position I’ve put forward thus far.

    • “rogerunited”

      I’m glad you brought that up because I am afraid that is a common concern for many people living in a republic today, and I wanted to address it.

      If ordained means to establish by order, decree, or law – then indeed, God did ordain the Israelite monarchy in 1 Samuel 8: 22.

      Scripture from the K.J.V.
      “And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.”

      Yes, it’s true that the Almighty had said earlier in the same chapter that the people “…have rejected me”. (7th verse)

      However, the Lord God in his Wisdom acknowledged reasons that the Israelites wanted their own king, such as “…to fight [their] battles”. (20th verse)

      In the middle of the chapter is a litany of potential problems that the king would bring to the Israelite nation, so the Prophet Samuel went back and forth from God to the People and then back again. The Israelites insisted and God O.K.ed it… The whole process is intended to make the people realize the weight of the decision. Because, a king ordained on a whim would be a king that would not be readily obeyed, honored, or respected. The good Lord made sure that the People knew what they were getting into because that is how God governs his people… with love. However, the king is still a man, and so the second purpose of 1st Samuel 8 is to make well known that having a king is not a requirement, and suggests that the king, if ruling badly, is not beyond reproach.

      The chapter seems to make a lot of sense and it (like the rest of the Holy Bible) is certainly recommended reading.

      Best regards,

      A.J.P.

      • rogerunited says:

        You are right, of course, God did ordain a monarchy after a lot of back and forth. My point was that when God said, “this is the form of gov I want you to use” it was judges and monarchy was a concession to human desire.

        I think the current trend (at least online it looks like a trend) towards monarchy stems as much from seeing what rule by bureaucrat actually is as from a desire to return to biblical forms. Its also a rejection of egalitarianism.

        I can’t quite get on board with monarchy, though. There’s a fine line between the king of a people and the emperor of many peoples and I worry that today’s rulers would leap over that line with gusto.

      • Psalm 149 is comforting in this regard…

        From the fifth verse:

        Let the saints be joyful with glory; let them rejoice in their beds. Let the praises of God be in their mouth; and a two-edged sword in their hands; To be avenged of the nation, and to rebuke the peoples;

        **To bind their kings in chains, and their nobles with links of iron; To execute judgment upon them;**

        as it is written, Such honour have all his saints.

        The question for me is not so much as IF kingship is the answer, but to which man is willing to be under the “sword-wielding” might of God-fearing people (the saints).

  3. The above quote is from the Great Bible, from the year 1538.

    A.J.P.

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