America is a country that does not like kings! We threw off George III in the late 18th century and have (with the exception of FDR) limited our presidents to two terms in office.
And yet, most Americans harbor a fascination with the throne and the crown. We love to follow the ins and outs of the British royal family, we flock to fantasy films that feature strong and courageous kings, and we patronize renaissance festivals that recreate a world run by noble lords and ladies clad in magnificent clothing and possessed of genteel manners.
Though most Americans grow up with an almost innate distrust of class distinctions (our Constitution actually forbids the granting of hereditary titles), we devour The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia—books that rejoice in medieval hierarchy and pageantry. The reason for this, I would suggest, is that the Creator implanted in us a yearning to honor and serve something greater than ourselves. And though that yearning will not be fully consummated until we stand before the throne of Christ the King, I believe that something deep within us longs for the glory and splendor that surrounds true earthly kingship
Though Lewis understood that democracy was, practically speaking, the most successful form of government and allowed for the most individual freedom, he knew that a desire for kingship was written in the collective heart of the human race. Not, of course, for tyrannical monarchs who rob their people of their wealth, their liberty, and their dignity, but for true God-appointed kings who rule with truth, justice, and honor.
Near the end of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lewis explains to us what true kingship means when King Caspian announces that he will abandon his ship, forsake his crown, and sail on to the end of the world in search of adventure. Though Reepicheep the mouse is a loyal subject of the Narnian throne, he makes it clear to Caspian that he cannot do what he wishes: “‘You are the King of Narnia. You break faith with all of your subjects . . . if you do not return. You shall not please yourself with adventures as if you were a private person.’”
Though the king has power and authority, he is not to use it to please himself but to bring order and stability to his realm. The king is not a private person but belongs to his people. Indeed, when Shasta/Cor (in The Horse and His Boy) says he would rather not be king, he is quickly informed that the “‘King’s under the law, for it’s the law makes him a king. Hast no more power to start away from thy crown than any sentry from his post.’”
As for the true subjects of the king, they understand that the presence of a rightful monarch assures them of their dignity rather than robbing them of it. That is why when (in Prince Caspian) the evil dwarf Nikabrik says he has had enough of human kings, Trufflehunter the Badger first identifies himself proudly as a beast and then speaks up boldly for proper order and hierarchy: “‘This is the true King of Narnia we’ve got here: a true King coming back to true Narnia. And we beasts remember, even if Dwarfs forget, that Narnia was never right except when a Son of Adam was King.’”
Hierarchy, properly understood, gives purpose, meaning, and integrity to king and subject alike.