Divine Right, in English history, the right claimed by the king to rule as the vicegerent of God on earth, independently of the will of the people. The doctrine, though contrary in principle to the traditions of the English constitution, seems to have grown up throughout Europe partly from misapplied maxims of Roman law (see Allen, Boyal Prerogative), partly from the transfer to mediaeval kings of the attributes of the Hebrew kings of the Old Testament, and the use of a similar ceremonial at their coronation. The rise of the Tudor monarchy after the practical extinction of the old nobility in the Wars of the Roses, gave the theory a chance of practical application. But it never took root in the English mind. An elaborate exposition of it by Sir Robert Filmer in his Patriarcha
(written before 1648) bases it on the doctrine that the king of a nation represents Adam and Noah, to whom God granted the earth, as recorded in Genesis, and that he inherits their dominion by, primogeniture (a divine law), and rules the nation as a father rules his family. This absurd form of the doctrine was demolished by Locke, but it lingered on through the next century, and doubtless is now held by Legitimists. The power of "touching for the king's evil" (for which a form of service existed in the English Prayer Book as late as 1719) was ascribed to the king in virtue of his divine right as early as the reign of Edward the Confessor.