In the essay "Of Empire", Francis Bacon wrote:

All precepts concerning kings are in effect comprehended in those two remembrances: Memento quod es homo and Memento quod es Deus or vice Dei—the one bridleth their power, and the other their will.

The Latin sentences mean "Remember that you are a man" and "Remember that you are God, or God's vicegerent"—that is, God's delegate, standing in for God.

I'm interested in the analogy between arrangements like a king's appointing a governor-general in a far-off province to perform the king's duties and speak with royal authority in the king's absence, and thinking of the king as a sort of governor-general appointed by God to tend to the king's Earthly kingdom, in God's "absence". My question is:

  • What's an example of a king clearly acting on the principle that he is God's governor-general on Earth?

The closest thing I've found so far is a speech given to Parliament by King James VI & I in 1609 or 1610, in which he said:

The state 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 similarities 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 gods, and so their power after a certain relation compared to the Divine power. Kings are also compared to the 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. [Source]

I understand the speech to basically argue, "As king, I've got certain divine responsibilities, and that means I've got certain divine rights, so stay out of my way." It doesn't describe an action that James or another king felt compelled by divine responsibility to do even though he might have had personal or political reasons against it. Such an action would be an ideal answer to this question.

By the way, even though Bacon was writing in the European tradition, I'd be happy with any classic or well-known example of this phenomenon from any culture or period in history.

*I believe this is a reference to John 10:34, which refers to Psalm 82:6, "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High" (thanks to this answer).

  • 1
    Is the question when were the will/desires of a king curtailed by the Church, or specifically within the text mention? I am unfamiliar with Bacon - but when it comes to the Church an obvious example would seem to be Henry VIII. Is this the track you are looking for?
    – Anaryl
    Aug 2, 2016 at 12:55
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    @Anaryl I'm looking for a historical example, not an example from Of Empire. Regarding Henry VIII, isn't he most famous for using his political power to rebel against papal authority? That would be opposite of what I'm asking here. Ideally, an example would involve someone without much political power persuading a king to "bridle his will" on the grounds that the king is supposed to play the role of a benevolent god in regard to his people.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Aug 2, 2016 at 13:02
  • To clarify further: I'm interested in the history: actions (or refrainings from action) of the kind that Bacon is describing—not in anything specific to Francis Bacon. The Bacon quote just appears to me to be evidence that he was referring to something commonly known at the time. (Of course, if I'm misunderstanding the Bacon quote, I'd certainly like to know about that, too.)
    – Ben Kovitz
    Aug 2, 2016 at 13:09
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    Henry II springs to mind?
    – TheHonRose
    Aug 3, 2016 at 16:32
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    @BenKovitz I've possibly misunderstood your question, but my understanding is that Henry struck a deal with the Pope which more or less gave the Church all Becket had demanded - even leaving aside Henry having to perform penance for Becket's murder!
    – TheHonRose
    Aug 12, 2016 at 21:48


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