Musings on The Crown



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.”[1]

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,[2]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.”[3]

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.

[1] 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.
[2] Considered to be the palace of an Aramaean king, located in present day north-west Syria.
[3] Monica Sjöö and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, 1975; 72.

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