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Divine Right of Kings

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"I did not make myself king. God did. King by divine right! Now you come to me with this document seeking to limit the authority given to me by God!?"
King John Plantagenet of England, Robin Hood (2010)

For most of history, in most of the world, people were subjects of the kingdom, governed by a king and his royal family. The details varied—sometimes the ruler was called something else (duke, prince, sultan, khan, emperor, etc.), sometimes they let a woman sit in the big chair, sometimes the monarch had to consult with some other power—but monarchy in some form has been the rule of the day in most settled societies for most of history. Across history, wars were fought between Kings, the people remained governed and lived in the kingdom, excepting of course the oases of self-governments in small city-states scattered here and there. It wasn't long before people asked questions why some were born Kings, and why people needed Kings, and how do Kings rule.

One of the most popular and common idea is The Divine Right of Kings, the idea being that God appointed Kings, Queens and Emperors as His earthly representatives, therefore defying them is defying God's will. The Good Kingdom and The Empire exists because God willed it as the ideal earthly form of government. (Or the gods, Heaven, etc.) Most royal bloodlines used some variant of this rule to justify their power. This concept was especially prevalent in European nations where rulers in France, England, Russia and other nations were deeply invested with their respective religious organizations, and obeisance for royalty was invoked as part of the religious ceremonies. In history, the divine right evolved over a period of contentious exchanges between Church and State. The Church formerly exercised all rights to legitimize the authority of kingdoms in Western Europe, driving many to seek favor and leverage over the Pope. The Kings gradually eroded the power of the Church to enforce their decrees. The Divine Right was the final contract between crown and church, designed to eternally validate the other in the eyes of the people and for all its ancient sounding name, it was specifically a product of the Early Modern Era: between The Renaissance and The Enlightenment. It was first promulgated by King James I of England and later Louis XIV of France.

In other nations, such as Imperial Japan, the Emperor was regarded as a god, while in The Roman Empire and Ancient Egypt, rulers, their family and other favorites were deified after their deaths. The Divine Right of Kings has a parallel concept called "Mandate of Heaven" in Chinese culture, where the kingdom was born because the king mastered his circumstances and convinced his peers of his skills and abilities. The word "mandate" imposes on the ruler an obligation of duty and responsibility, and unlike the European Divine Right of Kings, a ruler can lose this mandate and the mandate of his dynasty if he failed in his obligation. In the Chinese view, a ruler being overthrown and usurped is in and of itself proof that the Mandate of Heaven had been revoked and transferred to the usurper, because otherwise the usurper couldn't possibly have succeeded. Some speculate the Mandate only becomes non-explicit even after the 1912 abolishment of monarchy: the Nationalists once claimed "China's destiny lies fully with Kuomintang" and the Communists view "Chinese Socialism is the only way to achieve the Great Reconnaissance of the Chinese Nation" but "the Party must stay in touch with the people if it want to rule long-term" (implying it can lose the Mandate otherwise).

In fantasy works, this right can overlap with Royalty Superpower, with actual gods and other supernatural entities granting royals their favor. That doesn't mean the royals are immune to corruption or poor decisions, however. See also Blue Blood. Compare/contrast God-Emperor, where the monarch claims or is attributed the whole package of divinity. The Kingslayer is what happens when someone kills a king (and this is treated as a horrific thing because of his divine right) and Tyrannicide revolves around the conditions when one can legally revolt and topple a King. When applied to an entire culture, then they're The Chosen People.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Nasuverse: The Fate Series, especially, deals a lot with people from different eras, so there's a lot about how divine right works in a world where divine power is very real.
    • Gilgamesh was the half-divine king of ancient Uruk, born to rule the entire world. Gilgamesh was designed before his birth to connect humanity and the gods, as the gods were already fading as humanity rose. Gilgamesh was a rather terrible person but a decent king, and he grew into a Well-Intentioned Extremist who mostly kept his people safe. His treasure vault contained everything that existed at the time, and when he reappears in the modern world, due to the way magic works there is a strong argument to be made that he still owns everything. He is therefore almost always a villain whenever he appears, as he insists that it is his right to do absolutely whatever he wants, including killing off ninety percent of the population so that the survivors will be "worthy" of his rule.
    • King Arthur was the prophecized king of Britain, proven by pulling Caliburn from the stone. After Caliburn was shattered, Arthur was given Excalibur, an even more powerful weapon forged by fairies from the magical heart of the world itself, thus symbolizing that the world approves of Arthur's rule.
  • The Twelve Kingdoms: The rulers are divinely chosen and revealed by means of the Kirin. One effect of this is less reverence for the gods, as the rulers are human and fallible.

    Comic Book 
  • Black Panther rules Wakanda by dynastic inheritance and divine right and serves as Emperor Scientist. In the 2016 series by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze, they explore whether a modern technologically advanced state can coexist with Divine Right, as the people of Wakanda lose confidence in the ability of their King to protect them.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Robin Hood (2010): Robin Longstride and England's barons make a deal with King John that they'll follow him into battle against a French invasion if he agrees to sign a charter limiting his power as king. After the battle, John goes back on his word, invoking divine right, and declares Robin an outlaw for impersonating a nobleman. This by the way is an anachronism and historical license, since Divine Right is not, strictly speaking, a medieval concept.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Arthur recounts how he was gifted Excalibur by the Lady of the Lake and that by divine right this makes him the King of England. The literal Mud-farmer he recounts this to calls this out for the Insane Troll Logic that it is and explains that supreme executive power such as those of monarchs like him is done through social contract by the citizenry and not magic and divine declaration.

  • 1066 and All That: Parodied. The Divine Right of Kings, as explained by Charles I, essentially boils down to saying that Kings are divine and right.
    (a) He was King, and that was right.
    (b) Kings were divine, and that was right.
    (c) Kings were right, and that was right.
    (d) Everything was all right.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces: The arch-reactionary Ignatius J. Reilly, who pines for medieval Europe despite living in 1960s New Orleans, is challenged by his arch-leftist girlfriend Myrna Minkoff to come up with a means of becoming politically involved. He comes up with an idea to elect a president by divine right.
  • Deryni: King Kelson Haldane very specifically distinguishes his "Haldane" powers from those of ordinary Deryni and associates them with his right to rule. He's quite explicit about this when testifying before Archbishop Cardiel in the matter of Duncan McLain's marriage.
  • Discworld:
    • A lot of people on the Disc believe in this, which Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch hates. He bitterly notes that people are willing to put up with a lot of crap just because someone royal said so. His own ancestor, Stone-Faced Vimes, killed the last king of Ankh-Morpork, a horrific Caligula who was known for "entertaining" children in the palace dungeons. Old Stone-Face still gets made out as the villain of the tale, somehow.
    • Carrot Ironfoundersson is almost certainly the rightful king of Ankh-Morpork, and is a kind and friendly soul who loves everyone and is loved by everyone. In fact, he's such an excellent king that he refuses to take the throne (or even acknowledge his right), as Vimes and Vetinari are doing a fine job of ruling the city. Despite his affable nature, it's repeatedly made clear that the "divine right" of his ancestors revolved mostly around being really good at killing anyone who disagreed with them.
    • The ridiculous nature of the Disc's approach to kings is best demonstrated in Feet of Clay, when Nobby (a possibly human degenerate who is generally described as "common as muck") is "discovered" to be Earl of Ankh-Morpork as part of a ploy to put him on the throne as an easily-manipulated stooge. Everyone who meets him goes from being disgusted to being awed the moment they find out he is the Earl, and bow and scrape every chance they get. Thankfully, the plan is derailed when Nobby himself finds out about it, as he quickly realizes that Vimes would never allow him to take the throne. When the nobles point out Nobby could have him killed, Nobby decides that would just make Vimes angrier, and runs as fast as he can without ever looking back.
  • Foundation Series: "The Mayors": The Scam Religion set up by the Foundation props up the petty kings ruling the neighboring Four Kingdoms by affording them a measure of divinity. However, when Prince Regent Wienis of Anacreon tries to conquer the Foundation, Mayor Hardin reveals that Terminus can revoke that divine right and turn the devout populace against them.
  • He Who Fights With Monsters: Interestingly, the divine right comes from one specific god, the God of Domination. The rest of the gods have nothing to do with kings and queens. Domination only grants the right to people who impress him by absolutely refusing to bow even to him.
  • The Lotus War: The series is set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Japan at its absolute worst. As far as their culture is concerned, defying the Emperor is practically blasphemy, despite the fact that he is a murdering, raping Caligula who is killing the entire planet with pointless wars powered by an evil plant that causes horrific pollution. The captain of the Emperor's guard is a kind and generous man who becomes the Big Bad because he hates the main character for fighting against the Emperor—even though the Emperor killed her mother for politely asking for her husband to be allowed to retire.
  • Mistborn:
    • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy: The Steel Ministry teaches that when the Lord Ruler used his divine powers to take over the world, only his closest friends stood by him. These friends and their descendants were granted Allomancy and noble titles, while everyone else was enslaved as the skaa. For a thousand years, the nobles ruled over the skaa with absolute authority, allowed to rape and murder (even required to murder in some cases) with impunity. Even the skaa rebels fighting to overthrow the government occasionally wonder if it is right that they do so, since the Lord Ruler is God, and he determines what is right. The Lord Ruler doesn't actually care if anyone believes in his religion or not; he is fully capable of killing every person in the world by himself if need be. He only cares that they obey.
    • Wax and Wayne: In the sequel series, things have changed. The new god, Harmony, is much more open about everything. He wrote a book detailing how the Lord Ruler rose to power and how Harmony himself rose to power. However, he does not demand to be worshiped (though he did create a simple, meditative religion for people who wish to do so), and the people use a form of democracy to govern themselves. The nobles from the Lord Ruler's time are still mostly in power, but they no longer have any claim to divine right. They mostly remain in charge due to economic reasons.
  • The Powder Mage Trilogy: This is known as Kresimir's Promise. The god Kresimir established a number of bloodlines as the rightful rulers of the various kingdoms. If one of the bloodlines is removed from the throne, Kresimir would return and destroy the nation who dared to defy his will. The king of Adro is extremely wasteful, weak minded and Lethally Stupid and Field Marshal Tamas decides to remove him from power and execute the entire royal family and most of the aristocracy. Tamas then discovers that Kresimir's Promise is not just a story told to keep the common people in line, and that the country's enemies are planning to summon Kresimir so he can fulfill the Promise and destroy Adro.
  • Quintaglio Ascension: The Quintaglio royal family bases their legitimacy on being descendants of Larsk, who's believed to be God's prophet.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is set in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of early-to-late medieval era with various theories and ideas of Kingship tossed into the fray, and the relationship between Gods and Kings:
    • King Aegon I Targaryen and his dynasty ruled first by right of conquest. They converted to the Faith of the Seven, the main organized religion of Westeros but they gained significant concessions though they faced numerous revolts by the Faith over the years. Later, Robert Baratheon toppled the Targaryens by dint of his Targaryen ancestor and conquest. His wife Queen Cersei later courts the Faith to legitimize and approve King Tommen I because of his contentious issue.
    • In addition to Robert being a Targaryen descendent, he is also descended from House Durrandon through the female line. According to legends, its founder Durran Godsgrief married Elenei, daughter of the Sea God and the Wind Goddess and became the first Storm King. Despite Elenei having forsaken her immortality to be with Durran, their descendants still boasted divine heritage and governed the Stormlands for centuries until the Orys Baratheon married the last Durrandon princess.
    • The Starks have strong ties to the Old Gods and the North, and have a quasi-divine reputation among the people of the North ("There must always be a Stark in Winterfell"), which leads Robb Stark to declare himself King in the North and secede from the Iron Throne. Stannis Baratheon claims Kingship based on legality but also partners with Melisandre the Rhillorite Priestess who declares him champion and divinely appointed conqueror. His own private definition of Kingship is that of his down-to-earth Seven-Worshipping friend Davos ("A king protects his people or he's no true king at all").
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Vorin religion teaches that the lighteyes are marked for rule by the Almighty due to their light-colored eyes, and the darkeyes are marked for service. It is possible for a darkeyes to become a lighteyes, but only by capturing one of the astonishingly rare Shardblades, which hasn't happened in living memory. Dalinar's visions imply that all current lighteyes are descended from the first darkeyes who stole the Blades left behind by the Knights Radiant when they disbanded, meaning it's all little more than Asskicking Leads to Leadership writ large.
    • Discussed twice in the second book, Words of Radiance:
      • As Dalinar is taking more and more power from his nephew King Elhokar, he muses to Hoid that he should just step back and let Elhokar rule. When pressed, Dalinar admits that even if there is some divine right of kings (which he doubts because the Almighty is dead), it doesn't apply to them, because Dalinar's brother claimed the throne through violence and conquest, not by appealing to some inherited right of their family.
      • Elhokar, on the other hand, is greatly annoyed because his ardents keep telling him that as a 1st-dahn lighteyes, he was chosen by the Almighty to rule, but Elhokar is well aware that he is a terrible king.
        Elhokar: When I try to be strong, I make a fool of myself. When I try to be merciful, people walk all over me. When I try to listen to counsel, it turns out I've picked the wrong men! When I try to do everything on my own, Dalinar has to take over lest I ruin the kingdom.
  • Trash of the Count's Family:
    • Played with with the Roan royal family, the Crossmans. They have golden hair and blue eyes as "proof" that they were blessed by the Sun God. Nothing says that this is proof of their right to rule, but it definitely legitimizes it. And the Crossmans have managed to rule the oldest Kingdom on the continent since the time it was founded, so it must mean something to the people.
    • The Mogoru Imperial family plays this straight. They were also blessed by the Sun god, and their eyes glow golden in the sun to show it.
  • Under Heaven: Discussed — Kitai is seen as the pinnacle of known civilization, and the Emperor is the pinnacle of the ruling dynasty. To criticize his rule is to show a lack of confidence in his rule, the achievements of their country, or both. That said, if it can be shown that the government is growing weak (as Roshan attempts during the story), then it's the duty of a good Emperor to stand aside so his replacement can start fixing things.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kings: This is a major plot element. The show is set in a sort of Present Day Setting Update with the modern western-ish nation-state of Gilboa ruled by an absolute monarchy, as it loosely adapts various stories from the Bible about Judaic monarchs. King Silas Benjamin rose to power with explicit consent from God, or so he claims from a story where he was given a divine message when butterflies flocked on his head to form a crown. His conflict with his protegé David is based on the fact that the latter is his prophesied successor, and Silas himself worries that he has fallen out of favor with God.
  • The Windsors: Charles attempts to invoke this, but William and Kate tell him he can't believe in this concept and science at the same time.

  • The 18th-century satirical song "The Vicar of Bray" describes a clergyman living in a tumultuous period of history who always preaches that the current monarch rules by divine right and with noble principles, even if they overthrew the previous incumbent and have entirely opposed principles.
    To teach my flock, I never missed: Kings are by God appointed
    And damned are those who dare resist or touch the Lord's anointed!
    And this be law, that I'll maintain until my dying day, sir
    That whatsoever king may reign, still I'll be the Vicar of Bray, sir.
  • Sabaton: "Carolus Rex" is about Carolus declaring that he has this trope and believing it so fanatically that it comes close to A God Am I, thinking that being king makes him an agent of God's will who is destined for greatness.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • As an example of Unbuilt Trope, The Bible has God disliking the idea of His people forming Kingdoms, and the first Jewish kings suffered as a result, with some wondering if obeisance to the King was a form of idolatry or not.
    • Saul was specifically chosen by God to be king... until he ticked God off, at which point He had a boy named David secretly anointed as Saul's successor. God says that there will never be any true kings outside of David's descendants; Christians and Jews both agree that the Messiah has to be from his family. However, only about half of the Davidic kings managed to keep God's favor, and the fact that they eventually got overthrown by Babylon (with the promise of being restored one day), plus other calamities over the years, shows that this trope isn't a blank check to do whatever you want.
    • In the Book of Romans, Paul writes "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." (Romans 13:1-2, ESV) This bit tends to be rather tough for modern-day Christians, especially when, say, a President is elected who appears to be antithetical to Christian beliefs. One popular interpretation is that God's playing a long game, so even if He allows someone horrible to take office now, it will ultimately lead to a net positive result somewhere down the line. It's also not a call for blind obedience, as working to change the government through legal means doesn't necessarily count as "resisting the authorities".

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The rulers of the Capellan Confederation, House Liao, proclaim themselves to be literal gods made flesh and thus heirs of divine wisdom. As insanity runs in the family, this does nothing helpful for their mental well-being and more than one Liao developed a literal god complex.
  • Birthright: The old deities perished during the battle at Mount Deismaar, several millennia ago. The spilled blood of those deities intermingled with that of their witnessing mortal followers, granting a divine spark that they passed to their descendants via potent abilities called Bloodlines. Since then, Blooded mortals who carry this small trace of divinity have been the rulers of Cerilia (and most of the upper class) more often than not.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: The elected kings of the high elves must pass unharmed through the Flame of Asuryan, their god, to be judged worthy of rule. While he appears to largely accept the choice and the ceremony has not prevented the coronation of kings who are reckless, feckless, or otherwise poor stewards of the country, this is not an empty ritual and when Malekith murdered his way to the throne he barely managed to throw himself back out of the fire, hideously burned.

  • King Charles III: In a dramatic speech to the assembled members of Parliament, the character of Prince Charles argues that he was "born and raised" to rule the country, monarchy and authority making up an intrinsic part of his being. He claims that as the king he is answerable to all citizens of the United Kingdom for all his life, while the members of the Parliament are answerable only to their constituents and only during their elected terms:
    Prince Charles Unlike you all, I'm born and raised to rule.
    I do not choose, but like an Albion oak
    I'm sown in British soil, and grown not for
    Myself but reared with single purpose meant.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed: Unity set during The French Revolution, has the Big Bad Francois-Thomas Germain scoffing at this concept during the execution of Louis XVI: "The divine right of kings is nothing more than the reflection of sunlight on gold."
  • Elden Ring: The Elden Lord is the de-facto ruler of the Lands Between, and likely the world itself, and effectively ascends to divinity at the same time they ascend to royalty. However, to become Elden Lord, you most not only be chosen by God, you must marry God, in this case Queen Marika the Eternal, vessel of the Elden Ring itself. She can also strip away that title and power just as easily, as First Elden Lord Godfrey found out. And then it's revealed that Marika herself is also subject to this, as the reason she's allowed to become a physical god is because she was chosen by the Greater Will, a divine cosmic entity, and she has potential successors in the forms of the Empyreans who are similiarly chosen.
  • The Elder Scrolls: All of the recognized Cyrodiilic Emperors of Tamriel (the Alessian, Reman, and Septim dynasties) claim Divine Parentage from Akatosh, the draconic God of Time and chief deity of the Eight (later Nine) Divines pantheon, in the metaphysical sense (imbued with "Dragon Blood"), dating back to Akatosh's covenant with St. Alessia, founder of the First Empire. In addition to the patronage of the Divines for the Empire, these Emperors serve as Barrier Maidens, sealing and protecting Mundus (the mortal plane) from Oblivion. And the founder of the Septim dynasty is commonly believed to have ascended as the god Talos.
  • Final Fantasy XII: Deconstructed. Sure, Princess Ashe is guided and favored by the gods themselves, but the gods are assholes and would rather she Nuke 'em than be a benevolent ruler.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The Carja worship the sun as divine, and the Sun-King as its holy voice. This caused quite a few problems when the Sun-King went insane and instituted massive wars to fuel Human Sacrifice in a desperate attempt to appease the sun and stop various natural disasters. His son Avad killed him, took the throne, and immediately instituted reforms, but a number of traditionalists hate him for the crime of defiling the Sun-King.
    Aloy: And how many more would the Mad Sun-King have killed, if Avad hadn't stopped him?
    Jahamin: The sun called for blood. There was no choice but to obey.
  • Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven: A major plot point is that, after a series of disasters, the people of Enroth start to believe that the Ironfist dynasty has lost that mandate. Interestingly, despite this obvious Chinese influence Enroth is otherwise a pretty classic Medieval European Fantasy Kingdom (although it is by far the largest country on the planet).
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild discusses this in its backstory. The Royal Family of Hyrule is descended from the mortal incarnation of the Goddess Hylia. Their lineage allows them to wield divine power, which has historically been used to defend Hyrule from evil. However, the current Princess Zelda struggles to master her powers, giving rise to whispers that she is "heir to a throne of nothing."
  • Red Alert 3: Despite being the highest-tech faction, the Empire fully believes Emperor Yoshiro is a god, and he himself believes that it is Japan's divine destiny to conquer and rule the world. So when he learns that time travel is real, and that the Empire didn't even exist in the previous timeline, he takes it very badly. His son Tatsu is notably more pragmatic, although he never actually goes against the Emperor's wishes.

    Web Original 
  • Dream SMP: Played with in a very meta sense. Dream believes that he should be the ultimate authority of the server because it was his server to begin with and sees the infinite lands of the SMP as his property, and considers L'Manburg's secession from the "Greater SMP" as an act of tyranny, even though secession was never against the server rules to begin with. However, the lands of the SMP have existed in-universe long before Dream came into the picture (as seen in many Tales From the SMP episodes that took place in the past) and the SMP is only Dream's in the sense that Dream the content creator is the one owning it, so the closest approximation for Dream the character's opinion on the "ownership" of the server would be this trope mixed with his own Control Freak tendencies, perhaps with a slight dash of his pride and eventual god complex thrown into the mix.

  • Blindsprings: The Orphics, a Mage Species, claimed that they needed to be in charge to satisfy the spirits and keep both the land and the magic alive. All this is true. Unfortunately, only Orphics can see spirits, so the common people assumed that they were just lying to justify their rule. It certainly didn't help that the ruling family was caring less and less for their kingdom as time went on, instead amusing themselves with trinkets made by the new academic magic. The first academist eventually used these trinkets to overthrow and execute all of them except one, who escaped with the spirits.
  • Erfworld: Royals are an actual type of unit, who have slightly higher stats and level faster than regular units. They insist that the Titans created them to rule Erfworld. Stanley the Tool, a commoner Overlord who (probably) committed regicide to earn his throne, claims that the fact that he has attuned to one of the greatest Titanic artifacts means that there is now a new Titanic mandate. This does little more than unite all the Royal sides against him, and his side is quickly whittled down to one city, soon to be conquered. And then the comic starts with the summoning of Parson Gotti, the Perfect Warlord, who immediately turns the tide in Stanley's favor.
  • Girl Genius:
    • The novels poke fun at this, noting that all the royals are really just descendants of cutthroats and brigands, who are now annoyed that (with the industrial revolution and the rise of the Spark), their power is significantly less meaningful than it once was.
    • There is a century-old prophecy that claims Europa will never know peace again until the Storm King and the Heterodyne Girl are wed. Therefore, there are quite a few people who believe strongly that any rule that does not descend from the Storm King is inherently illegitimate, even though there hasn't been a Storm King for over two hundred years. One of Baron Wulfenbach's biggest problems is that he is continuously seen as an usurper despite the fact that he didn't actually usurp anyone, he built his empire with his own hands. The Knights of Jove are willing to cheat the prophecy with a hand-picked Storm King and a fake Heterodyne Girl, but when the heirs discover the real Heterodyne Girl, they believe in the prophecy even more, and try to claim her. Tarvek tries to win her to his side with charm, friendship, and intelligence, but most of the other claimants think coring her brain and turning her into a mindless zombie is a fine alternative.
    • Het'rok Din, Agatha's ancestor and the founder of House Heterodyne, became known as the consort of a battle-goddess after drinking from a holy spring. Said spring has since become the Dyne, mystical water which powers Castle Heterodyne and is critical in the process of making Jagermonsters.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Played with. Whenever people talk about the divine right of kings, they're actually talking about Might Makes Right. Kings are expected to embody all the violence of the multiverse; royalty is defined as "a continuous cutting motion." One quote mentions how kings who believed in normal divine right and had chariots with gilded wheels were conquered and slaughtered by the warrior god-kings who had chariots with wheels of heavy iron or steel.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender (the original show): Azula references this, claiming that the reason Long Feng lost to her in the bid for control of Ba Sing Se is because he lacked "the divine right to rule". An unusual example in that it's not clear whether either of them really believe this, or indeed whether it matters if they do; Azula's extremely high level of competence makes any "divine right" a moot point as she can win through her own skill, and she had thoroughly beaten Long Feng by this point so his apparent acceptance of what she says could just be an acknowledgement of her victory. However, there are subtle hints that, for all the string-pulling manipulations Long Feng and the Dai Li engage in under the naive and oblivious Earth King, they are not able to completely free themselves from the cultural baggage of living under a theoretically divine ruler, giving them a predisposition to submit to a royal figure, especially one as formidable as Azula.
    • It's mentioned that the Fire Nation was formerly more of a constitutional monarchy, with a group of sages retaining a large amount of political authority and acting as a check against the Fire Lord. Sozin eventually removed all of their power and made the Fire Lord position one of absolute authority. In keeping with the Fire Nation's Social Darwinist viewpoints, Divine Right is often backed by combat ability; members of the aristocracy are encouraged to duel one another, with the Royal Family being expected to be, by their nature, the best at it. We never actually find out whether this is true; while they are undeniably formidable, we never see them fight a non-royal master like Jeong Jeong to confirm whether they truly are the best. The comics later reveal that the core of the Fire Lord’s legitimacy is derived from history—there was a time when the Fire Islands (the geographical archipelago that the present-day Fire Nation governs over) were in an aeon of strife until the first Fire Lord united all tribes and factions, and from this act earned the respect of all.
    • The Legend of Korra: Amon claims that the divine right granted to the Avatar by the spirits has been rescinded, and that he has the new right to bring balance to the world by destroying all benders. He then proves it by removing the bending powers of a number of criminal captives. He's actually an incredibly powerful waterbender combining bloodbending with chi-blocking to essentially surgically block a bender's chi permanently. Though he does believe his own claims about bending being evil, the spirits have nothing to do with it.

      Since Legend of Korra takes place in what's (more or less) this universe's version of the twentieth century, there's a noticeable backlash against the concept of Divine Right in the world and its practice is beginning to die out, but remains relevant for the Avatar, who is the reincarnation of a divine figure herself. After Amon's defeat, Republic City institutes a democratically elected president. The Northern Water Tribe operates under a hereditary monarchy system, but the Southern Water Tribe (which is noticeably more modernized and less traditional) elects its leaders. The Earth Kingdom is still ruled by a (selfish and cruel) monarch, but many of its citizens are unhappy with this system and increasingly discuss how it's become an outdated concept. This gets Played for Drama in the final season when the Big Bad (a charismatic military leader) uses this argument to de-legitimize the claim of the Earth Kingdom's next heir (a friendly, harmless, egocentric and incompetent guy), and appoints herself autocratic leader of the country. After the Big Bad is defeated, the heir decides to step aside and let the Earth Kingdom reorganize into a democracy. As stated above, the Fire Nation still doesn’t use this concept as much, even if under hereditary rule.
  • The Owl House: Emperor Belos claims that his right to rule comes from being able to hear the voice of the Titan whose corpse makes up the Boiling Isles. How legitimate this claim is is yet to be seen, but he's willing to put words in the Titan's mouth at the very least. Unsurprisingly, it’s revealed in “Hollow Mind” that he’s just a genocidal, puritanical fraud and that his claims are nothing more than calculated lies, as he was able to manipulate the Boiling Isles population with False Flag Operations and brainwashing propaganda. Of course it's also implied some of the advice he claimed he was taking from the Titan actually came from the Collector, who is a cosmic, god-like figure.

    Real Life 
  • As noted above, Divine Right was a product of the Early Modern Era, a reactionary backlash against The Renaissance and the Reformation, in fear of further encroachments and challenges upon bastions of tradition.
    • Before the Divine Right, when the Church was a powerful government and military authority unto itself, it held the authority to invest and validate any ruler of any state across Europe, and wars were fought between King and Church to erode this privilege and authority. Protestantism developed in the final stage of this conflict. Rivals and rebels could court the support of the Church to legitimize their usurpation/conquest. This led to the Guelphs and Guibellines and the Avignon Papacy.
    • The inherent conflict between the concept of divine right as a justification for authoritarianism, espoused by King Charles I Stuart, versus the concept of rule by consent of the governed and a limited monarchy, was one of the factors that led to the English Civil War in the mid-1600s.
    • The concept of the Divine Right suffered a serious blow during The French Revolution with the execution of King Louis XVI, while the Revolution was succeeded by an Empire and a French restoration that followed, the returning Bourbons ruled by constitutional monarchy with more limitations than the one Louis XVI faced in the first years of the Revolution.
    • Despite the French Revolution, the concept of divine right was revived in the 19th century as a cornerstone of the reactionary order established during the Concert of Europe. In that era, absolutist monarchs emphasized that as monarchs were God's chosen rulers, adopting a constitutional monarchy would interfere with the direct relationship between ruler and subject that God had ordained. This kind of absolutism was abandoned in Western and Central Europe after the Revolutions of 1848—whose main lasting achievement was forcing most European monarchs to adopt constitutions of some kind, even if they were mostly just window-dressing for continued royal power. However, Tsarist Russia was spared revolution in 1848, and after the assassination of the reformist Emperor Alexander II in 1881, doubled down on the divine right thing. The last emperor Nicholas II's insistence on his divine right was a major factor in his ultimate downfall....
  • The Roman Emperors would occasionally associate themselves with gods in official works, note  but most would stop short with outright calling themselves such. They did however invoke the concept of cultus, which held that the Roman Emperors ruled with divine sanction. Some Emperors would be deified posthumously, which their successors would hold up as further indication of the right to rule.
    • The Roman Empire's would be successors, the Holy Roman and Byzantine Empires claimed Divine Right through their respective Christian denominations, which held the other to be illegitimate. As one might expect, the empires had a tendency not to get along.
  • The Chinese Mandate of Heaven is first recorded as being used by the Zhou dynasty to justify their overthrow of the previous Shang dynasty in the 11th century BC, in turn Qin Shihuang claimed to seize the Mandate from the Zhou and the Han dynasty took it after his death. The idea was that the Emperor was the Celestial Bureaucracy's governor of Earth and like China's provincial governors he could be removed if he demonstrated incompetence.
  • While Japan during the feudal era largely copied China's system of government, they explicitly rejected the notion of a Mandate of Heaven which could be revoked. Japanese belief was that the Emperor himself was divine, and his fellow gods certainly weren't going to revoke his right to rule. Though for most of Japanese history, the Emperors were only nominally ruling Japan anyway, with shoguns and other regents usually holding the actual power, and they certainly were overthrown by rivals in many cases, with the Emperor as a figurehead.
    • The shoguns themselves claimed something of a version of this, because in theory they ruled Japan with the Emperor's sanction, and because the Emperor was considered divine, it was held that the shogun's rule was also divinely sanctioned.
  • The Sunni/Shia schism in Islam started as a Succession Crisis after the death of Muhammad. The Shia faction believed that God had invested the Prophet's bloodline, represented by his son-in-law Ali, with the right to rule, while the Sunnis wanted an Elective Monarchy. In the end, they got neither—while the first 5 Caliphs were in fact elected (per Sunni preference) and Ali himself got to be Caliph (per Shia preference), the fifth guy, Muawiyah, established a Sunni dynasty (the Umayyad Caliphate). From then on the Sunni/Shia split has mostly been about ritual and doctrine, with various (mostly Sunni) dynasties exercising political control.
  • Timur the Lame was a Muslim warlord that declared himself as being a conqueror "ordained by God" as he could not take the title of caliph, since it was currently taken by the Abbasids and it was limited to the Prophet's tribe.
  • Though a few more ambitious pharaohs would proclaim themselves literal gods, the Ancient Egyptians had something similar to the Chinese in that the pharaoh was, if nothing else, the gods' appointed representative on Earth, and as such, his role was to maintain Ma'at (order). As Ma'at was the lynchpin of Egyptian religious and social belief, to defy the pharaoh was to defy the very notion of divinely ordained universal order itself. However, like the Mandate of Heaven, the concept gave rebels and would-be usurpers a tool to legitimate their actions, by claiming that the pharaoh was no longer upholding Ma'at—and if the rebel/usurper won the throne, people would see it as him being correct in this claim.

Alternative Title(s): Mandate Of Heaven