Every history book is wrong, where it tries to summarise each king or ruler in a sentence, for a history book is a narrative written in a single dimension, but kingship is, or should be, driven by a multitude of competing factors and principles in an ever-changing matrix of circumstances, some random and some influenced by the king, or by his enemies.
Many think they know a ruler, and then feel betrayed when they behave in an unexpected way, against what they seemed to say, but Solomon wrote as a memorandum for all time:
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.
The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable.
Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.
Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.
Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:
For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
He added, for those of the lobby:
By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.
If this is familiar, that is unsurprising. Solomon was wise for all time, not just for Bronze Age Israel. Man conceals, but Kings will search out the truth in order to bring justice and order.
(These were the words of Solomon, compiled in a later age, as Hobbes observes in his Leviathan:
The Proverbs, being a Collection of wise and godly Sayings, partly of Solomon, partly of Agur the son of Jakeh; and partly of the Mother of King Lemuel, cannot probably be thought to have been collected by Solomon, rather then by Agur, or the Mother of Lemues; and that, though the sentences be theirs, yet the collection or compiling them into this one Book, was the work of some other godly man, that lived after them all.)
In a well-governed kingdom there are laws, sometimes wise ones, but a king and his government do not then sit back while a machine whirs smoothly: governments must prise open secrets and understand what is the material to which to apply the art of the ruler needs to be worked, and how the ground is changing.
The practice of our administrators today is that they make rules which are meant to guard against criticism, and sit on those rules however ridiculous they become, but a wise ruler will search out how the people and the industries of his kingdom are developing and match the rules and practice to the people, not force the people into predetermined assumptions.
To approach a king may be a duty, to help him to understand all those things which the mortal frame cannot be expected to know without searching. Then the rest of Solomon’s words are a reminder, that the lobbyist must take care not to think himself or herself to great in the presence of princes, which is a perilous place.
Also, having gained the ear of the ruler, he must not make assumptions as to the whole course of the king’s actions: a petitioner may have a single cause my believe their whole philosophy is bound up in that cause: if he persuades the king of its rightness, he must not expect the king to be led about by his ear: the King (or a prime minister) may speak and even act according to that idea, but not with the same extremity of devotion, not following all the other ideas the petitioner has. There is no cause to feel betrayed: a king (or a prime minister) must take account of innumerable competing factors to make any decision, balancing priorities and expectations.
It was observed on this web log in 2019, when Boris Johnson was being led by his cheering supporters into No. 10 that one of the sure predictions one could make is that many would be disappointed and someone would cry betrayal, and that was certainly proven true.
The heart of a king is unsearchable, and that of a prime minister should be too. The cry of betrayal is inevitable, but proof not of hypocrisy nor inconstancy nor infidelity but of dutiful adherence to the principles of the ruler’s position, in a web of circumstances in dynamic tension. (In any case, how can a subject dare to think he is betrayed by one who owes him no submissive loyalty: the king is owed loyalty, and gives none. A prime minster too is duty-bound only to the Queen, not to his supporters, to fulfil the functions of his or her office and not the wishes of those supporters.
All this may seem obvious, but in the heat of political passions, it does not seem that way. Whoever steps onto the steps of Downing Street next month, the knives will be out within a week and the cries of betrayal also.
- Put not your trust in princes
- Moderation, in moderation
- Boris, the chosen one
- Aristotle was wrong about moderation
- Dissolution Of Common-wealths: proceedeth from:
- The natural Condition of Mankind as concerning their Felicity and Misery
- By Thomas Hobbes:
- By Anthony Burgess:
- By Aldous Huxley:
- By George Orwell:
- By Jordan Peterson: