What follows is a short excerpt from a book published by James VI of Scotland, who would become King of England after Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1603. Here he explains his understanding of the rights and powers of kings. Does he believe Kings should have any restraints? If they do wrong, who is to judge or punish them? How are kings chosen?
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The Trew Law of Free Monarchies (1598)
James I, King of England
The king towards his people is rightly compared to a father of children, and to a head of a body composed of divers members, for as fathers the good princes and magistrates of the people of God acknowledged themselves to their subjects….The head cares for the body: so does the king for his people….
Whereunto, for answer, I grant indeed that a wicked king is sent by God for a curse to his people, and a plague for their sins. But that it is lawful to them to shake off the curse at their own hand, which God has laid on them, that I deny, and may so do justly…
The duty and allegiance which the people swears to their prince is not only bound to themselves, but likewise to their lawful heirs and posterity, the lineal succession of crowns being begun among the people of God and happily continued in divers Christian Commonwealths. So as no objection either of heresy, or whatsoever private statute or law may free the people from their oath-giving to their king and his succession [as] established by the old fundamental laws of the kingdom. For as he is their heritable overlord, and so by birth, not by any right in the coronation, comes to his crown, it is alike unlawful (the crown ever standing full) to displace him that succeeds thereto or to eject the former. For at the very moment of the expiring of the king reigning the nearest and lawful kin enters in his place. And so to refuse him, or intrude another, is not to hold out one coming in, but to expel and put out their righteous king. . .
Not that by all this former discourse of mine, and apology for kings, I mean that whatsoever errors and intolerable abominations a sovereign prince commit, he ought to escape all punishment, as if thereby the world were only ordained for kings, adn they without controlment to turn it upside down at their pleasure. But by the contrary, by remitting them to God, who is their only ordinary judge). . . But remitting to the justice and providence of God to stir up such scourges as pleases him for punishment of wicked kings. . . .” pp. 105-106.
EARLY ACCESS: Transcription is under editorial review and may contain errors.
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