A selection of famous Kings and Queens who claimed a divine right to rule or even that they were divine themselves.
Sri Krishna (3/4th Century BC) – Krishna was the King of Dwarka in India as well as adviser to Arjuna during the Battle of Kurushetra. In Hinduism, he is recognised as an Avatar of Vishnu – which means God in human form. Krishna’s teachings to Arjuna form the basis of the Bhagavad Gita, which is considered one of the most sacred texts of Hinduism.
Menes (c 3200-3000 BCE) is a legendary Egyptian king (based on the Pharoah Narmer) who is credited with uniting Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom. All the Egyptian Pharaohs claimed a ‘divine right to rule.’ Menes was one of the more powerful and influential rulers.
Sargon of Akkad (reigned c. 2334–2279 BC) Ancient Mesopotamian ruler. His empire included Mesopotamia. His name Sargon could be taken to mean “He [the God] has established the king.” He was a powerful ruler considered to have been imbued with mythical powers
Tutankhamun (1332–1323 BC) Tutankhamun means “the living image of Amun”. Amun-Ra was the most powerful God in Egyptian religion and came to be regarded as the “King of Gods” Tutankhamun changed his name from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun so priests could claim his greater divinity. Tutankhamun owned all of Egypt’s wealth. His elaborate tomb displayed an array of riches, including his coffin being lined with sheet gold.
Rameses II (c. 1303 – 1213 BC) Known as Ramesses the Great, he is considered the greatest Egyptian Pharoah of the New Kingdom. Rameses means “Ra is the one who bore him” Ra was the Egyptian deity of the sun. He reigned for over 30 years, building cities, temples, and monuments and then expanding the control of Egypt into Canaan and Nubia.
King Soloman (990- 931 BC) King of Isreal from 970 to 931 BC who succeeded his father, King David. Soloman was renowned as a wise and just king. He is regarded as a prophet and man of God, who ruled according to divine justice.
Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) Tutored by Aristotle, the great philosopher, Alexander the Great emerged as one of the greatest military leaders. A legend was created that Zeus fathered Alexander when his mother Olympias was struck by lighting. By the age of 30, Alexander had created an Empire which stretched from his Macedonian home to the Himalayas in India. Alexander became a legendary leader, even during his life, and he inspired great loyalty from his army.
Emperor Qin Shi Huang (260–210 BC) Huang led the state of Qin and conquered all warring states of China, creating the first unified state of China, which at the time was the largest Empire in the world. He was the first king to claim the title ‘Emperor’ He also introduced a central bureaucracy with a legal framework and unified rules and regulations. Huang was ruthless in dealing with any opposition but is considered the creator of modern China.
Julius Caesar (100 BC–44 BC) Under Caesar, the Roman Empire stretched to its furthers points – crossing the Rhine and into Britain for the first time. However, Caesar oversaw the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the age of the Roman Emperors. Caesar’s motto: ‘ I came, I saw, I conquered’. In 42 BC, he was given the official title Divus Iulius (“The Divine Julius”). His claimed divinity was a justification for his assassination by Brutus.
Charlemagne (742 – 814) King of the Franks. Crowned Emperor of the Romans in 800 by Pope Leo III. Ruled over much of western Europe. Charlemagne was the most powerful Christian monarch who exercised the ‘divine right to rule.
Queen Isabella I of Castile (1451 – 1504) Isabella ruled Castile with her husband King Ferdinand of Aragon, effectively united the Spanish provinces. She was a committed Catholic who felt she it was her duty to govern the country to strengthen the Catholic Church. She set up the Spanish Inquisition to quell dissent.
King Canute (995 – 1035) Danish prince who became King of England and Denmark. Canute was widely regarded as a wise ruler who succeeded in ending Viking invasions and brought a degree of peace and stability to England. He was also generous to the Christian church and sponsored religious projects. His followers considered him to have divine powers. But, he demonstrated in a famous anecdote that he could not stop the tides and he was only a king of earthly matters.
Charles I (1600 – 1649) Charles I was King of England, Scotland and Wales from 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles I saw his role as an absolute monarch with power vested from God. His refusal to compromise with Parliament led to the English Civil War and the ultimate defeat of Royalist forces. Charles I’s execution symbolised the passing of a king with unlimited power and the ‘divine right of kings’, and increased the influence of Parliament.
Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) ‘The Sun King’ – Louis XIV was King of France from 1643 until his death 72 years later. He is the longest-serving monarch in European history, setting the tone for Seventeenth-Century France. Louis XIV adhered to the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ and his absolutism increased a sense of inequality that ultimately led to the French Revolution.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Divine Rulers”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net. Published 20 July 2019.
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