The author, the Very Reverend Archpriest Michael Protopopov, is the parish priest of the Church of Our Lady’s Dormition, Dandendong, Australia. He is also the senior clergyman and Chancellor of the Sydney, Australia and New Zealand Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. His diocese encompasses two of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s realms, where she was the constitutional head of state.
“By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; by me princes govern...” [Proverbs 8:15].
St Philaret (Drozdov) 1792–1867, Metropolitan of Moscow, speculated that when mankind forgets its Divine Master then He, the God of All, takes upon Himself the governorship of the world. In the Psalms it is said; “The King of kings and Lord of lords, by Whom all kings rule. The Almighty rules the realm of mankind and those to whom He gives power.” [Psalms 21]
This relationship between the Heavenly and the worldly kingdoms is clearly seen in the appointment of David as king of Israel. “And the Lord said unto Samuel, go, I sent you to Jesse in Bethlehem, for I have seen amongst his sons a King for you.” [1 Samuel 16:1] Samuel anointed David as a visible sign of the power and effectual operation of the Holy Spirit in the Royal Ministry. For it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord was upon David from that day forth.” [1 Kings 16:13] The anointing also indicates that the king was not accidently appointed, nor was he chosen by the people, but elevated to the kingship by God Himself. That this miracle occurred because; “Nothing is impossible with God.” [Luke 1:37]
Queen Elizabeth was always acutely aware of the fact that she was an Anointed Queen and consequently, promised in her salad years that whether her life be long of short she would always serve her people. Indeed, she commenced her public service during the war of 1939–1945 in uniform and as queen attended to the Red Boxes and public engagements. She upheld her promise of public service until the very last of her long and illustrious life.
St Philaret did not used the word miracle lightly, he supported its use with the words of St Paul; “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But, God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.” In this way, God chose Constantine from amongst the pagan Romans and Vladimir from the barbarian Slavs.
Therefore, it is that God in His Divine Individuality established on earth the king, as a reflection of His own autocracy, to be a monarch from generation to generation—that the king put all in order and so that his subjects may glorify God and preserve the harmony of the realm. Furthermore, those who disturb the harmony of the realm rise up not only against the king, but also against God Himself.
God willed to call Constantine to be the sole ruler of the Roman Empire and thus bring peace and prosperity to all its subjects. In Kievan Rus, St. Vladimir did the same and brought the future Russian state into the communion of civilized nations. There are many examples of such rulers in the histories of other Christian nations. St Philaret concludes: “The wellbeing of the people and the realm, in which the single source of purpose and direction is governed by a Godly monarch, who has the good-fortune of his people as his greatest concern, is akin to the love and concern that the King of Heaven has for all Creation.”
On the topic of inheritance of royal power, St Philaret draws one’s attention to the sacred nature of fidelity to the monarch. In the Book of Psalms it records: An oath of fidelity becomes a bond of eternal union with the king (Ps. 65:12), it is given freely and without reservation, one who refuses to give the oath is seen as by St Philaret as having no worth and a cause of disharmony in the natural order of things. We too must not take an oath lightly. We make oath when we become Australian citizens or when we accept a position of authority or high office within the nation. Our service thus becomes one of public benefit and not one for personal gain.
However, St Philaret also warns that the “spirit of the times” as mentioned in St Paul’s letter to Timothy (4:1-3 and 3:4) grows in strength and if one is not vigilant then the good order and wellbeing of the family and the nation can be undermined. The saint warns; “As the darkness falls outside, we must not sleep but increase the light within so as not to be lost in darkness.” The unseen warfare between the powers of good and evil surround the thrones of kings and seeks to destroy the harmony of kingly realms so that the nation can be divided and individual souls lost.
Certainly, we are all witnesses to the truth of this observation. The First World War became the vehicle for the destruction of the kingdoms of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Russia, and the Ottomans, whilst the Second World War continued this decline into anarchy with the destruction of the kingdoms of Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Italy, and Romania. Between the wars, the kingdoms of Afghanistan and Iraq, and after WW2, Egypt and Persia also fell to revolution. The history of many nations during the twentieth century is a litany of death, torture, dysfunction and human misery.
When the subjects of a king think about the high calling and responsibilities laid upon the monarch, they should also recognize their obligations to the king. The king is bound by divine obligation to care for his subjects; to guard them from harm; to tend to their physical and emotional needs. The king must provide for his subjects, he must curb that which is unlawful or evil, repair that which is damaged and strengthen that which is important to the wellbeing and growth of the kingdom.
The symbols of royal authority express these duties in a clear and unambiguous way. The Crown of precious stones, (1 Chronicles 20:2) symbolizes the wisdom needed to rule commendably. The Sceptre reflects the need to hold power effectively and not disperse it amongst those who are not solely interested in the good estate of all, but may have ulterior motives of their own. The orb is the symbol of nationhood, strongly held by the monarch to show his daily concern for the wellbeing of his subjects, and finally, the sword—firstly of justice and secondly symbolizing the king’s duty to be ever ready to defend his kingdom and those who live in it.
In return for the king’s diligence towards his realm and subjects, those same subjects have a duty of loyalty towards their monarch. This expression of fidelity in the words of St. Matthew concludes that we must; Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, (22:21) and becomes the basis of our duty to our Sovereign Lord. St. Peter proclaims: “Fear God and honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) Again, we come across the thought that when we render unto one, i.e. God, we also render unto the other, i.e. the King. St Philaret extols his belief in the following terms: “If St Peter calls us to honour the king, when the king was a pagan and cruel persecutor of Holy Church and to pray for him; how much more sweet and dutiful it should be for us to now pray for our Anointed Monarch and honour him. A nation worthy of having a God-blessed monarch, must honour him as they would the Lord Himself, for a king is created by God.”
St. Paul writing to Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, instructs him: First of all, then, I counsel that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all human beings, including kings and all in positions of authority; so that we may lead quiet and peaceful lives, being godly and upright in everything. This is what God, our Deliverer, regards as good; this is what meets his approval (1 Timothy 2:1).
Considering the harsh times that Christians lived in during the early centuries of The Church, one can only wonder at the tolerance and love that abided in them to pray for their persecutors and tormentors, and the inner strength of St Paul to admonish his spiritual children to honour Caesar with their loving prayers. You have heard that our fathers were told, `Love your neighbours - and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Then you will become children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44) St Paul goes one step further, showing that he was not only a teacher but a true spiritual guide, and calls upon his spiritual children to not only pray for Caesar, but also to give thanks for him. “I beg you not only to pray, but also to give thanks for the king and all those in authority.” [Colossians 1:3]. Here we are faced with the challenge to prayer for and give thanks for the monarch we are given—that there is no good or bad king—there is just the king.
Eusebius takes up the theme of prayer for Caesar saying; “The Church was admonished to pray with fear and through their tears for Caesar, who was foreign to their nature and yet given to rule of them.” In our times we are given pious and righteous monarchs, who spread the Faith and defend the Church—for these we are called to pray in peace, with joy in our hearts and thanksgiving to God. I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. It is he that gives salvation unto kings (Psalm 44:9-10). St Philaret concludes: that in this psalm we feel the triumphant nature of David’s gratitude to God for giving the king salvation and that we too should rejoice in the king; for If we are admonished to rejoice in the king then we are also admonished to other duties of fidelity. St Peter writes; Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well (1 Peter 2:13-14). Consequently, St Philaret emphasises that we should submit ourselves to the rule of the monarch’s God’s Protected One and concludes, “He, who obeys for fear of punishment, or out of a desire for personal gain, awards or honours, is unworthy of God, for he only serves himself.”
It is impossible to think that the King of Kings, who gives to each individual person according to his deeds, will not give to whole realms and peoples according to their deeds. Yet, it seems easier to consider individual wrongs and transgressions rather than a corporate sinning of a nation. The truth is that the moral state of a nation will bring down upon itself the blessing of God, or His righteous wrath. This was true of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament and is true of nations and empires throughout history.
The good and evil of individuals, brings with it the general good or evil of the nation, concludes St Philaret. “Let truth and righteousness elevate the nation for this will bring wellbeing to all.”
St Philaret concludes his teachings on royalty and royal power with the words; “Oh, if only kings were fully aware of their heavenly merit and of the awesome duties placed upon them, where their thoughts and actions should be governed by piety and a fear of God. If only all the nations could comprehend the heavenly honour of the monarch, where the earthly kingdom is a reflection of the heavenly. Then all which is done would be a blessing.” Surely, Queen Elizabeth was one such monarch who understood and cherished the “awesome duties placed upon her” and whose thoughts and actions were “governed by piety and a fear of God”
Take care to hold that which is given to you; That no one will steal the crown given to you (Rev. 3:11) Remember the words of Apostle, Fear God and Honour the Emperor! (1 Peter 2:17).
In today’s climate of secularism, many of the propositions made by St Philaret appear fanciful and outdated. However, that is the result of our living in a society that prizes the rights of the individual over and above the common good. Democracy is the by-word of living a free and self-willed existence. Consequently, all those issues which are alien and abhorrent to the Christian psyche; abortions, euthanasia, same sex relationships, suicide and genetic manipulation are accepted as the free expression of the individual, and as long as it does no harm to others—is “perfectly acceptable”.
St Philaret reminds us that his teachings are based upon having a relationship with God, rather than with self, which lead us into a spiritual existence where the common good is prized; where we all move towards salvation together, for it is God’s desire that we all come to salvation. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Our beloved Queen of blessed memory, understood that royal power is a gift of God and that her subjects need to be educated before they can understand the deep implications of a government instituted by God and which is a reflection of the Divine Kingdom of God.
The Queen was a perfect sovereign reigning within the bounds of Christian principles and not on the desire for personal power and authority; and she had the understanding that a true monarchical structure is a divine partnership in which God, the sovereign and the people all have an important role to play.
Today’s secular world is diametrically opposed to the concept of royal power because of its need to have freedom and individuality, which looks to the desires of the individual and not the common good. Today’s democracy is only in name; and in fact, real democracy, i.e., the rule of the people, is usurped by the rule of interested factions and power groups. Queen Elizabeth was for seventy years, a bulwark against political opportunism and social disunity.
May the Queen rest in peace and her memory be eternal.