“His Tyranny Who Reigns”:
The Biblical Roots of Divine Kingship
and Milton's Rejection of “Heav'n's King” in Prose and Poetry
Kingdom and magistracy, whether supreme or subordinate,
is without difference called “a human ordinance.”
—John Milton, Tenure of Kings and Magistrates
READING MILTON'S POETRY AND PROSE SIDE BY SIDE RAISES PROFOUND questions that tend to recur. Why does John Milton, the antimonarchical rebel who in Tenure of Kings and Magistrates defends before all of Europe the beheading of Charles I, subsequently choose to portray God as a king in Paradise Lost? Why does the man who declares by way of condemnation in Eikonoklastes that monarchy was founded by Nimrod, “the first that hunted after Faction” (CPW 3:466) seem to confound his own position by later depicting the Father as an unabashed monarch? One prominent answer to questions of this nature has been that Milton (the political thinker) rejects Charles's earthly kingship while Milton (the orthodox Christian) simultaneously accepts—even embraces—God's heavenly kingship.
Tensions between Milton's representations of heavenly and earthly kingship, however, are not so much purged as highlighted by the strenuous and often contorted arguments put forth to reconcile Milton's parallel portrayals of Charles I and the heavenly King. One