James I, Speeches to Parliament (1609)

james.jpg (14179 bytes)The following speeches of James I summarize his views on the divine right theory of kingship and were addressed to Parliament in 1609 and are noted in in James Harvey Robinson, Readings in European History, 2 vols (Boston: Ginn & Company, 1906), 2: 219-220.

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Estate of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only God's lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God's throne, but even by God himself they are called gods. There be three principal similitudes that illustrate the state of monarchy: one taken out of the word of God; and the two other out of the grounds of policy and philosophy. In the Scriptures kings are called the gods, and so their power after a certain relation compared to the divine power. Kings are also compared to fathers of families; for a king is truly parens patriae, the politic father of his people. And lastly, kings are compared to the head of this microcosm of the body of man.

Kings are justly calls gods, for that they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth; for if you will consider the attributes to God, you shall see how they agree in the person of a king. God hath power to create or destroy, make war or unmake at his pleasure, to give life or send death, to judge all and to be judged nor accountable to none, to raise low things and to make high things low at his pleasure, and to God are both soul and body due. And the like power have kings: they make and unmake their subjects, they have power of raising and casting down, of life and of death, judges over all their subjects and in all causes and yet accountable to none but God only. They have power to exalt low things and abase high things, and make of their subjects, like men at the chess, -- a pawn to take a bishop or a knight -- and to cry up or down any of their subjects, as they do their money. And to the King is due both the affection of the soul and the service of the body of his subjects. . . .

I would wish you to be careful to avoid three things in the matter of grievances:

First, that you do not meddle with the main points of government; that is my craft: tractent fabrilia fabri, -- to meddle with that were to lessen me. I am now an old king; for six and thirty years have I governed in Scotland personally, and now I have accomplished my apprenticeship of seven years here; and seven years is a great time for a king's experience in government; therefore there should not be too many Phormios to teach Hannibal: I must not be taught my office.

Secondly, I would not have you meddle with such ancient rights of mine as I have received them from my predecessors, possessing them more majorum; such things I would be sorry should be accounted for grievances. All novelties are dangerous as well in a politic as in a natural body, and therefore I would be loath to be quarreled in my ancient rights and possessions; for that were to judge my unworthy of that which my predecessors had and left me.

And, lastly, I pray you beware to exhibit for grievance anything that is established by settled law, and whereunto (as you have already had a proof) you know I will never give a plausible answer; for it is an undutiful part in subjects to press their king, wherein they know beforehand he will refuse them.

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