On January 30, 1649, Charles I, having been tried and convicted of high treason, was led to a scaffold outside the palace of Whitehall and was summarily beheaded in public with but a single stroke of the executioner’s axe. Charles I was a practitioner and believer in the political doctrine of the divine right of kings, meaning God wanted him and him alone to rule. He was the Lord’s earthly embodiment and a direct descendant of the first king, Adam. His words, will and actions were beyond question or reproach by mere mortals. What was to follow? Famine, pestilence, or plague? What price was there to pay for killing the anointed numen king?

The next morning, the sun rose just as it always had. The sky hadn’t fallen. No heavenly retribution, no hellfire. The world did not stop. Life went on. Indeed, in the years that followed, the average Anglo-Saxon prospered. Led by the commoner Oliver Cromwell, England became a republic for the next 11 years. This period became known as the Commonwealth, a time of parliamentary rule. Never again (although some did try) would England face the tyranny of monarchical absolutism under the guise of religion and divinity. It was a great time to be English.

On September 1, 1715, Louis XIV died in his bed chamber of Gangrene. Louis was an ardent fan and supporter of the divine right of kings. He was a vain, extravagant, and often inglorious leader prone to self-aggrandizement and pompous exaggeration. Proclaiming himself the source of light for all his subjects, he adopted the title of “Roi-Soleil” (Sun King).

His claim to infallibility led to propaganda in art and literature equating Louis’ eternal youth and vitality to that of Apollo, the Greek god of the sun. He was portrayed as beyond the tellurian ravages of time and fragility of age. He would rule in regal splendor, forever. Eventually, he grew old and frail, and unlike old sol, he died. His death itself spawned a major public relations disaster for future divine interventionists in the making. When word leaked out about his actual physical condition, things for the wannabee super-humans among us went from awful to worse. Louis’ terrestrial maladies included diabetes, periostalgia, dental abscesses, boils, gout, dizziness, hot flashes and headaches. Such afflictions were surely not compatible with claims of absolute power and privilege fitting a being with celestial, extra-terrestrial, Olympian and solar powered DNA. The man, and the legend, died together.

With the royal myth of eternal and everlasting life broken, or at least severely dented, the reign of the House of Bourbon lasted for a few more years until Citizen Louis XVI and his lovely, somewhat selfish and clearly out of touch wife Marie Antoinette met their fate at the wrong end of public execution by guillotine, followed shortly by a little diversion from nobility called the French Revolution, leading to the birth of the First Republic.  All issues of the Reign of Terror aside, it was a great day to be French.

Today is a great day to be an American. Next Tuesday, I will tell you why.

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