Scotland v England. Men v women. Catholics v protestants. Truth v blather.
When Mary returns from France at 18 to take up her throne as Queen, a right old royal ding dong ensues. Her half-brother James is none too pleased about the homecoming Queen as he has been ruling the roost in her absence.
And then there’s her cousin, dear old Liz. Who is only the Queen of England. And Mary won’t stop harping on about how she reckons she has more right to the throne down south, being a Stewart and all that.
Both queens swing between being likeable and unlikeable in this tale. Liz is being driven slowly mad, having suffered with ‘the pox’ and under pressure from a court-load of men. She refuses to marry, fearing that a husband will take power away from her. Mary meanwhile is jolly keen to get married and produce an heir, one that will rule both countries. She too is bearing the load of a truckload of heavy-handed male advisers. Many of them with duplicitous motives. Sadly, when Mary does marry for love it goes disastrously wrong, but she does get pregnant and, longing to unify the people she finds herself in conflict with, she names the child after her half-brother and invites cousin Liz to be the child’s godmother. The two queens though, who might have been allies and friends in a harsh world, find themselves perpetually at odds. And the whole shooting match ends in more than tears.
Inhabiting corridors of power might at first seem luxuriously appealing, yet it clearly brings a whole mountain of pressure and pain. They say that power corrupts, and we can see this in the life of the biblical King Saul. Eaten up by jealously over the popular young David, he does his level-best to snuff out the wee giant-slayer. Then, one day, as Saul is on a murderous quest to get the young man, he slips into a cave to take a dump. Who should be hiding in the darkness behind a rock? Yes. Young David. (1 Samuel 24) And who should resist the temptation to bump off his enemy while he is indisposed? Yes. Young David. When Saul is finally killed in battle, rather than dance a jig and fill headlines with the news, David tells everyone to keep quiet. Not to be triumphant about the death of the king (2 Samuel 1 v 19-20). When he became king himself David made errors and misjudgements of his own. But he left his confessions in writing for us in the song we call Psalm 51. We are encouraged by the saint known as Paul to pray for those in power, and boy, do they need it. (1 Timothy 2 v 1-2) Surrounded by some who long to control things, and others who want to bring them down, it’s an unenviable task of ruling. We can see and hear this in today’s headlines. We may feel our prayers are insignificant, unlikely to achieve much, but who knows what God will do through our quiet conversation with him? King David needed prayers. So do our leaders.
When the people asked Samuel to give them a king, way back in the mists of the Old Testament (in 1 Samuel 8), Samuel warned them that a king would demand servants and wealth and power. It was better for God to be their king. Something eventually fulfilled when a very unkinglike king arrived bearing the name of Jesus. The king who was on the side of the people, whose heart was for the ordinary folks, the king at home in the gutters and the ghettos and grey mornings of life. Your king and mine.