Finally, let us discuss briefly the nature of monarchical rule. The throne of a Christian Emperor, King, or ruling Prince, is not an earthly contrivance but is of a much higher order. It is ordained and blessed by God and belongs to Him. It is written in the Old Testament that, “Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD.” The throne, thus, was not Solomon’s but was God’s. The thrones in all Christian monarchies are the same; they belong to God and are occupied by God’s anointed.
In the Orthodox Church, the monarch is anointed in a Mysteriological (or “Sacramental”) act. At the coronation of Saint Edgar the Peaceable in 973, for example, “[t]he climax of the ceremony was not the crowning, but the anointing with holy oil which conferred near-priestly status….” Precisely the same was true of the coronation of Saint Nicholas the Tsar Martyr in 1896, almost a thousand years later. As Bishop Nektary of Seattle (1905-1983) writes, “The Tsar was and is the anointed of God.” After the anointing, the monarch’s person is sacred and, consequently, to lay violent hands on an Orthodox monarch is a grave sacrilege; in fact, among the worst sacrileges possible.
Conversely, a monarch is held by God to a much higher standard than ordinary men and women, for the monarch holds, by God’s Grace, special powers in his hands, which powers he is sworn to use in a God-pleasing manner. He is also an example to his subjects, on which, if his example is a wholesome one, those subjects should model their own lives, to the extent possible. Monarchs, consequently, must use their powers with fear and trembling, not arbitrarily, and must be mindful that the eyes of God and of His people are ever upon him. The monarch’s purpose or role is to uphold the law of God in his country, to protect his country and people from adversaries, to shelter the poor, widows, and orphans, to contribute to the prosperity of his people, and to provide, through the Church and in cooperation with the Church, spiritual sustenance, thereby guiding his subjects to eternal salvation.
Protopresbyter James Thornton, Pious Kings and Right-believing Queens: An Encyclopedia of the Royal and Imperial Saints of the Orthodox Church (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 2013), Preface.
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