Even though I was a late-comer to the Netflix series The Crown, when I did watch it, I was riveted. Lots of thoughts ran through my mind at this picture of royalty. The concept of royalty in human history is vast and multi-faceted, however in this blogpost I am only pulling on a few threads that tugged at me as I watched this show.
I laughed as people greeted the Queen and said, “your highness.” Does that make the rest of us lownesses? And where did all this pomp come from anyway? And why is the British monarch the head of the Church of England which is a bible-based Christian religion?
Monarchy, religion and war have always seemed so connected in our culture. Indeed, during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, she was handed “the sword of state” as if she would actually be using it. (I looked it up, true to the ceremony).
The choir sang Zadok the Priest, an anthem by Handel recounting the anointing of King Solomon in 1Samuel. Of course, biblical material! The following are words from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation:
Priests and prophets were anointed And as Solomon was anointed . . . .king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so be thou anointed, blessed, and consecrated Queen over the peoples, whom the Lord thy God hath given thee to rule and govern, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
There you have it – A god-approved system of royalty/government. And the war part? By all accounts, the current royal family of Britain are all descendants of William the Conqueror. Of course, the opprobrium “conqueror” tells us how William came to the throne which is how most modern monarchs originally gained their “royal” designations.
What does the Bible say about royalty? The first king according to 1Samuel was Saul when the people asked for a king to protect them. The LORD warned the people about what they would need to give up in order to have a king. (1Samuel 8:11 ff) That involved fealty to a warlord who could take people, their lands and whatever else he wanted and when he wanted. In other words, it was a protection racket from the get-go.
Saul was originally a warlord known for marshalling military forces. His successor, King David was originally a “bandit chief” who ascended to the throne by a mixture of murder and subterfuge. Historically he’s considered a paragon of morality with virtues that don’t hold up to closer scrutiny. As authors Finkelstein and Silberman tell it, “He benefits from the execution of his bitterest rivals; he steals another man’s wife and has her husband killed; he weeps uncontrollably at the news of the death of his rebel son. Absalom.”
But there are symbols that represent an even older template of royalty which are pertinent to the topic of feminism and are seen still today; that royalty was a gift of power from the Great Goddess. One particular symbol of royalty with a clear goddess connection is the throne.
Authors Sjöö and Mor point to the throne as an ancient representation of empowerment and connection to the earth. They write, “Images of the pregnant Goddess were also found in the excavations of Tell Haraf,dating from 5000 B.C. This Goddess is shown sitting on the earth, embodying the earth that belongs to her. . . In later matriarchal times, she was the throne – the throne symbolized her lap. The Queen came to power by sitting on this lap or womb of the Goddess, so becoming one with her power.”
In the rush towards patriarchy, these roots were clearly obscured.
Two other symbols have a fascinating history as well which connect earthly energies with heavenly ones and male with female; the crown and the scepter. One theory is that they come from the biblical god’s name EL. El is made of up two Hebrew letters; aleph and lam. Here they are written in Semitic Ancient script.
As the theory goes, lam, is a shepherd’s staff, the inspiration for the scepter. The bull/cow aleph with its horns is the crown. Aleph has connections to both male and female deities; the bull god and cow goddess (Isis). Picture bull horns worn around one’s head. They can easily be envisioned as a crown connecting the wearer to divinity; on one hand to victory in war (traditionally masculine), and on the other hand, representing illumination, radiance and an ecstasy that comes from the goddess (arguably feminine).
The writers of The Crown put stunning words into the mouth of David, [the abdicated King Edward] doing commentary on the Queen’s fictional coronation. They are words completely uncharacteristic to the man. I think we can safely assume they are creative, poignant commentary by the writers.
David: “Oils and oaths, Orbs and scepters. Symbol upon symbol. An unfathomable web of arcane mystery and liturgy. Blurring so many lines no clergyman or historian or lawyer could ever untangle any of it.”
Guest: “It’s crazy.”
David: “On the contrary. It’s perfectly sane. Who wants transparency when you can have magic? Who wants prose when you can have poetry? Pull away the veil and what are you left with? An ordinary young woman of modest ability and little imagination. But wrap her up like this, anoint her with oil, and hey presto, what do you have? A goddess. God save the Queen!”
Can we continue to exist in a world that is shrouded in such veils? Transparency may be more mundane and even painful but without it, I would argue, the veils hide too much. Magic is interwoven in the mystery of life. Shrouding it in arcane dysfunctional patterns only obscures earth-based spirituality further.
 Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible’s Sacred Kings and the Roots of Western Tradition, 2006; 91-94.
 Considered to be the palace of an Aramaean king, located in present day north-west Syria.
 Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, 1975; 72.
Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a Shaman, When Eve Was a Goddess, (now available in Spanish, Cuando Eva era una Diosa), and One Gods. In Ardor and Adventure, Janet.now available in Spanish. Cuando Eva era una Diosa
13 thoughts on “Musings on The Crown by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph”
I too was mesmerized by The Crown, though rationally, I do not believe in monarchy. Thanks for reminding us that monarchy is one with war and the divine rights of the monarch. And let us not forget that Britainia ruled the waves right in much more recent history than William the Conquerer. Conquer and pillage Britainia did right up to through the reign of the current Queen. Sigggghhhh. As for the throne as a symbol of matriarchy, I doubt it. I think the whole idea of kingship and queenship came in along with patriarchy and war. In matriarchy there was no rule by a single individual.
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Amen Carol, matriarchy is interesting and has lots of threads. I agree, it is in general, a more communal way of life.
I once studied and was initiated in a shamanic pathway called Divine Humanity. It recognizes that we are all divine in our soul substance and human in our earth substance (our bodies). When I put all these aspects together, I have come to believe that queenship and kingship at their core are more templates of individual journeys for each and everyone of us – more in line of what we consider to be the hero’s journey – a journey we all take in the course of our lifetimes. What if the concept of “ruling” meant not ruling over others, but being able to “rule” ourselves in the meaning of taking that inner journey to our inner divinity?
I am in the process of writing another blogpost with this theme.
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Janet, of course I have heard these re-interpretations of kingship and queenship. Of course we are free to re-interpret. The problem here is that kings and queens came to power through violence and conquest that included rape and pillage. The “archetypes” are not universal but rather a legacy of violent conquest. I do not need or want such symbols to be part of my spiritual journey. Why? Because I feel compassion for the victims of kings and queens throughout patriarchal history up to the present day.
Thanks Carol, you always challenge me to think in different ways and I really do appreciate that. It does make sense to think about old symbols and what can be salvaged and what cannot be. For example what became the Nazi swastika was once a beautiful symbol of the 4 directions in motion but now its been so corrupted it just can’t be used anymore. Isis is a powerful Egyptian goddess and now She shares Her name with a violent group known for atrocities.
As I’ve written previously, I tend to come down to finding the roots of the ancient symbols because if they have lasted for thousands of years, I assume that is because they speak to us in some very deep ways and tapping into that depth has value. I will consider your words and thoughts as I continue this work – thank you for that.
Oooh yes, very interesting. I also started to wonder where this came from and started researching (googling) the first kings/queens of England/the UK.
Something that came to my mind was how differently the female monarchs have been to the males. Victoria and Elizabeth are celebrated and we strive to imitate them. They are locked up, unable to show emotion or empathy, symbols of chaste and properness.
The celebrated kings of the past are exuberant, warriors, have multiple wives, conquering other planes.
Yet another example of so much ingrained sexism and control of the feminine.
Love to hear your thoughts on this idea ……
Yes, there is quite the difference between the expectations for male kings and female queens. That truly does mirrors cultural expectations at large. Thanks for making that point, it is an important one and it certainly is a rich field to explore. In fact, a lot of authors on this site and elsewhere have grappled with these issues in far greater depth than can be done on one blogpost.
I always go back to Jackie Kennedy when I think about women having to lock up their emotions. In the day she was so praised for not crying at her husband’s funeral and to this day I can’t see how that is something to be held up as a standard or to emulate in any way.
Thanks for your comments!
I’ve never seen that TV series, but having studied a lot of English Renaissance literature (Shakespeare and that bunch, as I like to say), I’ve read a lot of history to put the literature in context. The Tudors (Henry VII to Elizabeth I) reigned for about a century, and Henry VIII was one of the worst tyrants in history, nearly as bad as the Plantagenets who came before the Tudors. The primary aim of Henry VIII and his children was to establish themselves as god-like rulers, which (to simplify things a lot), is why Henry broke from the Roman church and set himself as the head (god-king?) of the Established Church in Britain. I doubt that anybody living in Britain had any inner divinity. All the first Elizabeth basically cared about was self-preservation, keeping herself on the throne and wearing the crown. .
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Thank you for your research and your reflections. Fascinating (and often appalling) how Biblical stories have been, and continue to be, used to confer some sort of divine sanction on whoever is in power. I have heard David invoked not as a moral exemplar but as morally flawed–and nonetheless God’s chosen. The upside of that argument is that any of us poor mortal screw-ups can serve God. The downside of that story we have seen all too recently. That is how some people on the religious right justify their support of Trump.
People do draw on stories to tell their stories, to give them meaning. Liberation theology is also inspired by the bible. What a mixed bag we are.
I wish we would all sit down or curl up on the lap of the earth and remember where we come from and where will return. Earth to earth.
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Good points Elizabeth. I think that is why stories such as these have such staying power – they can be read on so many level and each one has its merits and truth. I do love that lesson that we can be “mortal screw-ups” and still reach a higher calling. Mixed bag, indeed!
Love your last line: “I wish we would all sit down or curl up on the lap of the earth and remember where we come from and where will return. Earth to earth.”
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Thanks for the extra does of history Barbara, I must claim ignorance to this history. My main understanding of British royalty before The Crown came from when some horrible family dysfunction broke through to the press. I was born when King Edward abdicated but I do remember as a child that it was generally uttered in hushed terms as something shameful. And I don’t think I need to even mention modern royal scandals.
Its hard to know how much a fictionalized account is true and how much is artistic license but there is clearly deep and abiding dysfunction in this all.
Barbara, I was also thinking about what you wrote and how successful Henry VIII was as a god-king. I guess the ground that he was plowing had already been well seeded.
I’m reminded of Riane Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade and her theory of societies where the feminine aspect was revered, which gave rise to what she termed:
– the dominator model (popularly referred to as patriarchy or matriarchy) – the ranking of one half of humanity over another and
– the partnership model – based on the principle of linking, affiliation and cooperation
Hence the title The Chalice (the life-generating and nurturing powers of the universe – in our time symbolized by the ancient chalice or grail) and the Blade the power to take rather than give life that is the ultimate power to establish and enforce domination.
I’ve only just started watching the series, so I’m really just observing for now, but was shocked at how the Queen’s education was narrowed to make her an expert in constitutional matters and ignorant of everything else.
The connection of the Crown to divinity and it being a calling from a Higher Source, as her grandmother Queen Mary explains, was new to me and clearly a source of struggle for the young Queen. It does seem strange as their does not appear to be anything spiritual about the role, it’s mostly pageantry and formality and the last bastion of a diminishing power.
Thank you Clare for reminding me of Riane Eisler’s book. I read it a very long time ago and loved it.
As the words that David says in the series about magic and poetry, I think the spiritual aspect is designed to give out that aura of mystery and to give “we public” a justification for allowing the monarchy to continue. As Barbara Ardinger points out, it’s all been part of the scheme to hold onto power in perpetuity.
Enjoy the rest of the series!