Elizabeth was trained in Greek and Latin, and it was during her reign that the literature of Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Spenser flourished. Her first order of business was to put down the religious unrest that had been inherited from her sister, Mary. She insisted on a national church and tried to bring peace. In private she engaged in mass, but in public she allowed the protestants to have legal existence. This compromise was short lived, for Elizabeth was excommunicated by the pope for being a Calvinist. Like her sister, she never had children, and when she died in 1603, the throne was passed to the House of Stuart.
James was the first of two kings from the House of Stuart, who were descended from the sister of Henry VIII. Dubbed by Sir Anthony Weldon as the wisest fool in Christendom, James’ best gift to his country was his sponsorship of an English translation of the Bible. It was entitled the Authorized Version, and it was translated in 1611. James died of a stroke in 1625, and his son Charles became king. George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham and former courtier to James, influenced Charles to dissolve Parliament. This action caused a civil war and the people cried out: “Who rules the kingdom? The King. Who rules the King? The Duke. Who rules the Duke? The Devil.” Parliament won the war and King Charles was executed in 1649.
While this war was being waged, Parliament called for an assembly to meet at Westminster. The purpose of this meeting was to create a creed for the Church of England. The assembly numbered one hundred and fifty Calvinistic clergy and laymen. In 1648, Parliament and the General Assembly of Scotland accepted the Westminster Confession as the doctrine of England. After the victorious rebellion in 1649, England became a republic under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell.
Richard Cromwell succeeded his father in 1658. He had no wish to be the “Lord Protector,” so he left for France. Therefore, the majority of the people tired of the commonwealth, called for the return of the monarchy. This allowed the Second House of Stuart to return from exile in 1660. This dynasty put three kings and two queens on the throne: Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II, and Anne. It was followed by House of Hanover, in 1714, with six kings and one queen: George, George II, George III, George IV, William IV, Victoria, and Edward VII. (It was George III, who was accused of tyranny when the American colonies declared independence.) In 1910, the present House of Windsor followed the House of Hanover with: George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II. Prince Charles was born to Elizabeth II, on November 14th, 1948, and he was invested as the Prince of Wales in 1969. Charles will be the next monarch to wear the British crown.
British history has influenced Western Christian thought for a millennium, but do these names and dates leave you in a daze? If so let me remind you of a kingdom with universal authority. The House of David was established in 1010 B.C., and from this house came the sovereign king of the world (Matthew 1:6-17). Israel was warned that an earthly king would be a liability (1 Samuel 8:10-22), and in God’s own time he provided them with an everlasting king (Psalm 47:6-9; 1 Timothy 1:15-17). Christ Jesus invites us all to become citizens (Galatians 3:26-29). Let us pursue his kingdom (1 Timothy 6:11-16). Christian, are you up for the task?
“O worship the King,
all glorious above,
And gratefully sing
His wonderful love.” Robert Grant
1 Timothy 6:11-16