[Literary passages] In the presence of the King

These three excerpts convey beautifully the magnetism that authentic kingship has for those people who have not succumbed to the “special disease of democracy”, that “stunted and envious sort of mind which hates all superiority”.

Ancient Egyptian painting of Pharaoh Ramses II holding a bow

From The Adventures of Sinuhe, an ancient Egyptian text:

I found His Majesty on the great throne, on a podium of gold and silver. Prostrating myself on the ground, I lost my senses in his presence. This god addressed me in friendliness, yet I was like a man seized by darkness: my soul had gone, my body trembled, my heart was no longer in my chest.


From Christopher Scarf, in The Ideal of Kingship:

I have a vivid memory of being part of the excited crowd when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother were visiting Birmingham in 1950. I was at the time a late teenager. The experience that stays with me the most poignantly is while looking at the royal visitors standing graciously on the steps of the Council House, a fine Victorian building in the city centre, I became suddenly aware of a feeling of “Presence”. Like C. S. Lewis’s character Jane Studdock in That Hideous Strength, I “tasted the word king“. I was conscious of almost hearing words in my mind, thinking to myself, “He is not just an ‘important man’, not just an ‘authority-figure’, nor yet even a President: he is a… a King!”

King George VI and his wife Elizabeth the Queen Mother stand side by side in formal attire
King George VI and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother


The Count of Chambord was the last legitimate descendant by the male line of French King Louis XV. Though his country became a republic, and the Count lived and died in exile, French royalists considered him the rightful King of France, and strove to restore his throne. One of these royalists was Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey, known to history as Marshal Lyautey. In 1875, when he was twenty years old, Lyautey travelled to Gorizia to meet the Count of Chambord. The following excerpt is taken from the letter Lyautey wrote to a close friend right after his audience with the Count:

I have just left him. The emotion is such, the impression so intense, that I can’t regain the consciousness of my own personality, which was surrendered, diluted in him during a few hours of rapture. The King of France! I saw him, touched him, listened to him. (…) He spoke much of my trip to Rome, which surprised me deeply, of the favourable disposition of Leo XIII (…) and all ended with these words: “It is necessary that His Holiness should know there still exists in France a royalist youth, active and full of faith; that behind me there is something more than the old military establishment. He must feel it. You must meet the Holy Father and speak to him in all frankness.” You can’t imagine how I quivered. Surely my imagination exaggerated things, but the truth is, I had the impression of an investiture of the Royal Word which I should transmit.

Letter from Lyautey to Antonin de Margerie, in Lettres de Jeunesse

Drawing of the Count of Chambord, pretender to the throne of France
The Count of Chambord


When equality is treated not as a medicine or a safety-gadget but as an ideal we begin to breed that stunted and envious sort of mind which hates all superiority. That mind is the special disease of democracy (…) The man who cannot conceive a joyful and loyal obedience on the one hand, nor an unembarrassed and noble acceptance of that obedience on the other, the man who has never even wanted to kneel or to bow, is a prosaic barbarian.

C. S. Lewis, from the essay Equality, in Present Concerns

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