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What Makes a King?

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    Posted: 07 Aug 2020 at 12:46
Researching Medieval politics (especially on Central Europe) one can often find an odd characterization of Christianized and non-Christianized Monarchs.

At the Congress of Gniezno in 1000, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III met the Duke of the Polonians: Boleslaw the Brave (Chrobry). The story says that after long discussions and lavish treatment, the Emperor removed his crown from his own head, placed it upon the head of Boleslaw, and stated, "It is not appropriate for this man and one so great, as one among the assembled dignitaries, to be addressed as duke or count, but rather to elevate him on a royal throne and garland him with a crown." Of course Boleslaw wasn't actually crowned king in 1000. He had himself crowned king officially in 1025 on permission of the Bishop of Rome. This is when Poland became recognized as a monarchy and a kingdom.

Poland's neighbor, Bohemia, wouldn't become a kingdom until almost 200 years later, yet it was baptized before Poland and was even a vassal of the Empire before the crowning of Ottokar I.

The heir apparent to the Holy Roman Emperor was given the title of King of the Romans, which later became King of Germany. The title of Holy Roman Emperor was only to be granted by the Bishop of Rome, and some rulers of the Empire we consider Emperors today were never technically granted the title, often because they died before being able to make the pilgrimage to Rome.

Now the actual title of "King" granted in the Medieval period was of course Latin. A noble was crowned "Rex" and the nation "Regnum." The title of Emperor was in Latin, "Imperator." In German this was "Kaiser" which comes from "Caesar." In the later centuries of the Roman Empire, after the dynasty of Caesar had died off, emperors declared themselves "Caesar" which turned a name into a title and was basically synonymous with "Imperator." The title of "Rex" was established by Romulus when he took control of Rome, but those kings were overthrown, and the new emperors after Caesar did not take this title simply because it would've been unpopular.

Why are the non-Chriatinized nations not considered kingdoms, and why are their leaders not considered kings? The rule of Ottokar and Boleslaw did not change when they were crowned Rex. They were absolute monarchical leaders before, and continued to be after.

Calling Boleslaw, or his father Mieszko, a king would still be accurate when speaking about their reign. Of course our modern English concepts don't fit the history properly.

The barbarians had nobles and rulers, but they were lesser. They weren't true kings, they weren't crowned as Rex.

So it seems to me that King is not an arbitrary title granted to any hereditary monarch of a nation. It's both a Latin title, and a Christian title. It's a statement that one not only has the right to rule their people, but that God has granted them that right. The Holy Roman Emperor has accepted them as Rex, and more importantly, the Bishop of Rome has allowed them to be declared Rex.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Aug 2020 at 23:40
Quote Why are the non-Chriatinized nations not considered kingdoms, and why are their leaders not considered kings? The rule of Ottokar and Boleslaw did not change when they were crowned Rex. They were absolute monarchical leaders before, and continued to be after.
Excellent subject, Sean13.
In Rome of 1000 AD we are still seeing Charlemagne's influence. Yes he unites the people of Western Europe but they remain essentially city states or more accurately independent kingdoms. The Emperor resides in Rome as Charlemagne did, the monarchs have control in their region but Charlemagne deferred to the Pope(Leo lll) out of reverence for the Empire of Byzantium, the source of all the theology/alchemy and power in Rome. 

Non Christianized Nations were not friends of the Roman church and Eastern kingdoms wanted to reclaim the glory of Byzantium, even the Eastern Orthodox Christians would find themselves cast as Heretics a few hundred years after Charlemagne. 

Quote Calling Boleslaw, or his father Mieszko, a king would still be accurate when speaking about their reign. Of course our modern English concepts don't fit the history properly.

The barbarians had nobles and rulers, but they were lesser. They weren't true kings, they weren't crowned as Rex.

So it seems to me that King is not an arbitrary title granted to any hereditary monarch of a nation. It's both a Latin title, and a Christian title. It's a statement that one not only has the right to rule their people, but that God has granted them that right. The Holy Roman Emperor has accepted them as Rex, and more importantly, the Bishop of Rome has allowed them to be declared Rex.

Agree. Before the days of the Church of Rome, before Rome invaded Briton the King is directly tied to the success of the land, of the harvest and of the weather. He is subject to sacrificial death when illness or famine occur, the "bog bodies" of Colchester found in the mossy depths were ritually killed. 

The bodies are well groomed and healthy barring death blows and it is inferred that these were kings who met their end as a sacrifice for the lack and suffering of the people and the land.
Early antiquarian Stuart Stukeley recovered a story about the Bull Ritual when Kings in the time of the Druids would soak themselves in a cauldron of broth made from boiling a bull. The King had to dip n sip every bit of that broth as the King was every bit the Servant of the land and the people. Roman Church changed everything with the knowledge of the Byzantine builders and became an Empire State.

Earlier in the Greek Cult of Diana Nemorensis the King protects the Sacred Grove-

Sir James George Frazer writes of this sacred grove in the often-quoted opening of The Golden Bough, basing his interpretation on brief remarks in Strabo (5.3.12), Pausanias (2,27.24) and Servius' commentary on the Aeneid (6.136) Legend tells of a tree that stands in the center of the grove and is guarded heavily. No one was to break off its limbs, with the exception of a runaway slave, who was allowed, if he could, to break off one of the boughs. He was then in turn granted the privilege to engage the Rex Nemorensis, the current king and priest of Diana in the region, in one-on-one mortal combat. If the slave prevailed, he became the next king for as long as he could defeat challengers.[16]

By the time Caligula interfered in the succession of priest-kings, the murder-succession had devolved into a gladiatorial combat before an audience.[17]

Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Aug 2020 at 23:46
Thank you for that information, Vanuatu. I wasn't aware of the sacrificial deaths of kings practiced by the pagan Britons.

I am curious as to how the Slavic and Germanic practices changed after their Christianization. Did Rome change the meaning of every king across the new Christendom? We tend to view historical Christian kings as the ultimate authority of their kingdom, the one who judges and delivers justice to his subjects.

Obviously being crowned Rex had a significant change in the way you are viewed by your neighbors, but how did it change the way your subjects and the nobility within your kingdom viewed you?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Novosedoff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2020 at 00:44
Originally posted by Sean13 Sean13 wrote:

Thank you for that information, Vanuatu. I wasn't aware of the sacrificial deaths of kings practiced by the pagan Britons.

I am curious as to how the Slavic and Germanic practices changed after their Christianization.

If you read Ibn Fadlan's records, the Rus used to kill their king (kogan) if he ruled them more than 40 years. Apparently Christianization could have changed some of the most ruthless laws. Peter the Great ruled Russia 43 years.


Edited by Novosedoff - 12 Aug 2020 at 00:48
I teach history to children, and I am proud that they leave my classes permeated with sh*t and hatred to meet the real world. I see my personal historic mission in bringing madness to juvenile masses.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2020 at 09:31
Is that the Kievan Rus? They did this before the nation was baptized?

Edited by Sean13 - 12 Aug 2020 at 09:33
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Novosedoff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2020 at 10:20
Originally posted by Sean13 Sean13 wrote:

Is that the Kievan Rus? They did this before the nation was baptized?

https://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/199906/among.the.norse.tribes-the.remarkable.account.of.ibn.fadlan.htm

https://www.amazon.com/Ibn-Fadlans-Journey-Russia-Tenth-Century/dp/155876366X

Right-click in Chrome on the following page (originally in Russian) and choose Translate to English:
http://www.hist.msu.ru/ER/Etext/fadlan.htm
Quote  Продолжительность (правления) их царя97 – сорок лет. Если он
переживет их (хотя бы)  один  день,  то  подданные  и  его  знать
убивают его и говорят:  "Он таков,  что уже уменьшился его ум,  и
его суждение (стало) неосновательным".

Clearly, 40 years practically means Vikings never killed their ruler Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Novosedoff Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2020 at 10:26
In 13th warrior Ibn Fadlan was portrayed by Antonio Banderas 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2020 at 10:46

Sean13 I assume that you saw the wiki page-  a paragraph;

In the 4th century, the early process of Christianization of the various Germanic people was partly facilitated by the prestige of the Christian Roman Empire among European pagans. Until the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes who had migrated there (with the exceptions of the SaxonsFranks, and Lombards, see below) had converted to Christianity.[1] Many of them, notably the Goths and Vandals, adopted Arianism instead of the Trinitarian (a.k.a. Nicene or orthodox) beliefs that were dogmatically defined by the church in the Nicene Creed.[1] The gradual rise of Germanic Christianity was, at times, voluntary, particularly among groups associated with the Roman Empire. From the 6th century, Germanic tribes were converted (or re-converted from Arianism) by missionaries of the Catholic Church.[2][3]


This portion is relevant to the question of kings bc it explains the need for the primacy of Rome, to crush Heretics. The end of the Albigensian(Rome's word for the Cathars)Crusade marked the establishment of a monastery in the Hall of the Consolamentum.
 Consolamentum, known as heretication to its Catholic opponents, was the unique sacrament of the Cathars. Cathars believed in original sin, and—like Gnostics—believed temporal pleasure to be sinful or unwise.

Once Cathars are defeated (1350) Rome established a monastery, the first with a dogmatic approach to prayers, meals, penance etc..this SOP would be repeated in every monastery or abbey under Rome.

Before the Dominican Chapel replaced the Cathar Chateau all monks who followed Jesus Christ under Rome lived in "God's house" it would become Rome's House with the beginning of a rigid standard for the faithful.

The strict observance of the Church of Rome's edicts and uniformity like the Roman Army were very effective at herding the people and creating fear of disobeying the power of Rome. The Pope gained political power among all the wealthy old families and Rome exerted her influence and dominance across Europe.
Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2020 at 19:43
Thank you guys for the additional information and topics to research.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Aug 2020 at 10:20
I seem to remember that divine right of kings ultimately was thought to originate with Adam, some might have carried that further and had (their) kings originate from Jesus.  (Merovingians??)

Heathen "kings" would not trace their lineage back to Jesus or Adam, and therefore, according to "divine right of kings" would not be kingly enough to be called proper kings, but rather nobles i would venture to guess.

Pity the poor lizard who says, "my ancestor was a brontosaurus!" he may have nothing else to brag about.   [sayings of Lazarus Long, Robert Heinlein]
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Aug 2020 at 13:27
I agree with your statement about some Kings alleged link to Adam or King David.

In order to bolster their own claims of regalty and infallibility many show an hereditary path back to almost the beginning of human habitation.

For example
Quote The oldest surname in the world is KATZ (the initials of the two words – Kohen Tsedek). Every Katz is a priest, descending in an unbroken line from Aaron the brother of Moses, 1300 B.C.Apr 17, 2016
from Wiki.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Oct 2020 at 20:57
Quote The barbarians had nobles and rulers, but they were lesser. They weren't true kings, they weren't crowned as Rex.

When Odoacer ordered Romulus Augustulus to step down as leader of the Western Empire, he applied to the Pope for permission to become king of the Romans. This was granted. Becoming a king is a matter of ceremony and recognition. If you want to argue about the scale of an individual kings power, fine, but note that the Romans always recognised monarchical status among their neighbours society even if they didn't think much of their neighbours.
http://www.unrv.com/forum/blog/31-caldrails-blog/
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