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Taboo of regicide

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snowybeagle View Drop Down
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  Quote snowybeagle Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Taboo of regicide
    Posted: 08-Oct-2004 at 02:04
How do various cultures with a tradition in monarchy view regicide?

David, before being crowned king, executed the man who brought him the head of King Saul of Israel.

Alexander the Great was supposed to have executed the treacherous Persian who brought him the head of King Darius because he said 'only a king may kill another king.'

In Jin Yong's historically based novella "Swordsmaiden of Yue" set during the Warring States Era, King Gou Jian of the State of Yue captured the rival King Fu Cai of the State of Wu and ordered his minister Fan Li to kill the captive monarch, Fan Li demurred saying it was not right for a subject (vassal) to go around killing a king, even if the victim-to-be is not one the subject swore fealty to.

Divine rights of kings is not something exclusive to Europe. The concept, in a variety of forms, existed throughout most of the world where monarchy exist, even if the monarch was elected such as the Holy Roman Emperor.

Ambitious men had been known to kill their kings (Macbeth, anyone?) in order to usurp the throne. The wiser ones realised that it was a bad example to set for their own subordinates and hence some did it secretly, or at least, after deposing the former ruler and formally crowning himself as the new ruler.

Regicide is a the deliberate killing of a king by one of his subjects. Logically, the culprit could hardly endear himself to any other king he could hope to curry favour. And if the culprit set himself up as king, he would always be fearful of his own subjects following his example.

This is not the case in cultures where the leadership position may be openly contested by some challenge in strength or other forms.

Some famous historical regicides were the executions or deliberate assassinations of
1. Henry IV of France in 1610 assassinated by Ravaillac;
2. Charles I of England in 1649 after sentence of death by parliament;
3. Gustav III of Sweden in 1792 assassinated by Jacob Anckarstrm;
4. Louis XVI of France in 1793, after sentence of death by parliament;
5. Umberto I of Italy in 1900 by an assassin;
6. Charles of Portugal in 1908, by Alfredo Costa and Manuel Buia, both connected to the Carbonria (the portuguese section of the Carbonari) and the Freemasonry;
7. ex-Tsar Nicholas II of Russia in 1918 by some of his former subjects.
8. More recently, King Birendra of Nepal was killed in the massacre of the Nepalese royal family in 2001 by his own son, the Crown Prince Dipendra.

None of the above was an example of regicide for the purpose of usurping the throne.

Hence, I would like to ask fellow historians : is regicide generally unacceptable in history? Or was it okay as long as it did not go beyond an "open secret"?

I read of some Roman emperors being regularly deposed by the Praetorians but I don't have any details concerning regicide there.

And I am most unfamiliar with the Islamic or Indian dynasties.

The issue here is not whether it happened, but whether how it was actually viewed in the different instances.
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  Quote JanusRook Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Oct-2004 at 05:29

Dead men can't commision history books so regicide would look almost favorable if it brought about a successful dynasty.

I think that the were some (the oppressed) that welcomed the death of their old king while others (those in power) were upset at it. Hence many civil wars that followed regicide.

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Unless otherwise noted source is wiki.
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  Quote Jalisco Lancer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Oct-2004 at 08:24
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Edited by Jalisco Lancer
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  Quote Evildoer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Oct-2004 at 08:46

Wasn't Caesar suppose to have killed the man who murdered Pompey, and built a bust in honour of Pompey?

I think the killings of murderer of the enemy king is just an act staged to gather support among his former followers. Plus it makes you look "so wise as to respect your enemies".  

The killing of Charles I of England was viewed with horror by the populace, while a large sector of the French people welcomed the guillotining of Louis XVI. I suppose it has something got to do with the culture of the people and the time period.

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  Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Oct-2004 at 16:18
Originally posted by snowybeagle

None of the above was an example of regicide for the purpose of usurping the throne.Hence, I would like to ask fellow historians : is regicide generally unacceptable in history? Or was it okay as long as it did not go beyond an "open secret"?


The obvious answer, it depends on the society. You mentioned Gustav III, though him being a popular king among the population, I doubt his murder was seen as some sort of mortal sin. The monarchy has never had any divine status, and if the populace has respect to him, it was because of his powers, not his position. In earlier times, during, before and some centuries after the Viking age, killing a king was if not commonplace at least not totally uncommon. If the king, who was elected, didn't behave properly it was seen as a good thing to remove him from his position, by killing not excluded. Ragnvald Knaphvde comes to mind, who was promptly killed when he didn't follow the by law establish practice regarding so called hostages. One or two kings were sacrificed too...
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  Quote vagabond Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Oct-2004 at 00:31

Interesting to look at how the sanctity of royal blood came to be honored in some places but not in others.  In several European countries there were still, until recently, laws (or in other places traditions) against simply touching members of the royal families.  A few years ago there was a diplomatic incident on one of Elizabeth II's world tours when someone reached out to steady her when she stumbled.  He was criticized for touching the Queen rather than thanked for keeping her from falling on her face. 

 

In many places in ancient times, the one who killed the king replaced the king.  One of the myths from (Ionia?) (Caria?)(I don't remember where)  is the tale of the king whose wife was the most beautiful woman in the world.  He bragged about her, but as she was kept in the retricted areas of the palace, no one else could see her.  He finally snuck his best friend in to see her - hiding the friend in a dark corner.  She saw, in a reflection, the friend sying on them.  When the friend fell in love with her (as she was truly the most beautiful) and snuck in to see her again to profess his love - she refused him because he had shamed her - no one could look on her but the king.  So, at her request,  he killed the king and became king.

What are friends for.

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One or two kings were sacrificed too...

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 There are many places where ritual regicide was practiced.  In some places it was necessary to sacrifice the king periodically in order to keep the Gods happy.  In other places, a substitutue was eventually used, who was treated like the king for a period of time and then sacrificed.  For those interested in comparative mythology, there is a good discussion of ritual regicide in Joseph Campbell's "The Masks of God"

In the time of your life, live - so that in that wonderous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it. (Saroyan)
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SJI Lasallian View Drop Down
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  Quote SJI Lasallian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Oct-2004 at 03:29

Originally posted by vagabond

In many places in ancient times, the one who killed the king replaced the king.  One of the myths from (Ionia?) (Caria?)(I don't remember where)  is the tale of the king whose wife was the most beautiful woman in the world.  He bragged about her, but as she was kept in the retricted areas of the palace, no one else could see her.  He finally snuck his best friend in to see her - hiding the friend in a dark corner.  She saw, in a reflection, the friend sying on them.  When the friend fell in love with her (as she was truly the most beautiful) and snuck in to see her again to profess his love - she refused him because he had shamed her - no one could look on her but the king.  So, at her request,  he killed the king and became king.

What are friends for.

 

If this is true, the King should be proclaimed 'great' as he 'gave' his power and wife to his friend...how generous...

"I adore in all things the will of God in my regard" -- Saint John Baptist De la Salle (final words)
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  Quote white dragon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Nov-2004 at 14:42
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