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The Divine Right of Kings in Europe for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jan 2

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European notions of the divine right of kings is an illustrative example in the Empires: Administration topic of Unit 3 of AP World History. Read more about the European belief in the divine right of kings below!



Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France/public domain


The concept of the Divine Right of Kings was a political and religious doctrine that gained prominence in Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries. Rooted in the belief that monarchs derived their authority directly from God, this doctrine held significant sway over European monarchies, shaping the political landscape and justifying absolute rule.


The Divine Right of Kings found its theological basis in the idea of the monarch as God’s representative on Earth. Proponents argued that monarchs were chosen by divine will, and their authority was equivalent to a sacred mandate. This concept drew on biblical references, such as the biblical passage Romans 13:1, which stated, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God.”


The acceptance of the Divine Right of Kings had profound political implications, particularly in reinforcing absolute monarchy. Monarchs, such as Louis XIV of France and James I and Charles I of England, used the doctrine to legitimize their rule without being accountable to parliamentary or popular oversight. The monarch’s authority was seen as absolute and immune from challenge, as any resistance was perceived as a rebellion against God’s chosen leader.


Despite its widespread acceptance, the Divine Right of Kings faced criticism from various quarters. Enlightenment thinkers, including John Locke, challenged the idea, asserting that political authority should derive from the consent of the governed rather than divine mandate. The English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution in the late 17th century marked significant challenges to the Divine Right doctrine, leading to the establishment of constitutional monarchies in England.


The legacy of the Divine Right of Kings can be seen in the historical development of European political systems. While the doctrine waned in influence, it left an indelible mark on the struggle for political rights, constitutionalism, and the development of modern democratic principles. The shift towards constitutional monarchies and the assertion of individual liberties in the wake of challenges to divine authority played a pivotal role in shaping the political evolution of Europe. The concept’s enduring impact is evident in the ongoing discussions surrounding the relationship between political authority and religious legitimacy.



Free Printable Reading Passage on the Divine Right of Kings


Divine Right of Kings Free Reading Passage



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Empires: Administration

Unit 3: Land-Based Empires

AP World History



European Divine Right of Kings

#APWorldHistory #divinerightofkings

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jan 2

0

0

0

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